Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Boys scare me

One of the admins I used to work with was recently telling me about one (of her three) sons. He is four and recently confessed to her that he has “bad thoughts”. Brandy asked him what his “bad thoughts” were. He told her that he has bad thoughts about breaking things, like that sometimes he just wants to pick up a lamp and smash it.

Brandy was, with reason, surprised by this admission and furthermore, quite concerned. She promptly went to the book store and bought a book called “Raising Boys”. She was appalled! I agree with her, as a little girl I was never inclined to just break things for the sheer pleasure of demolition.

One summer (1997 – I remember because it was a great California vintage year) we went to the Napa Valley with a number of friends who were living in San Francisco. One friend was working for an architect who had bought a house in Napa, with the intention of demolishing it and building a new house there. We had permission to stay in it and if the desire struck, tear it to pieces. Never have I seen 6 or 7 grown men (well they were 24-26 I guess, so grown is debatable), take so much enthusiasm in tearing apart the inside of a house. It was like a dream come true to them. Well to the ones who didn’t do the grappa droppa.

Leif has just started frightening me with a show of this “boyish” behavior. The other day we were sitting with a toy and Leif had it in his hands. A glimmer in his eye showed up and he says to me, “I break it”.

Umm no, I tell him, we don’t break our toys.

This time he has the glimmer and that willful charmer smile, as he looks at me and repeats, “I break it”, just like he is trying to charm me like a snake into admitting that OK, yes, you can break it.

But mommy is immune to snake charming. Much to his surprise I didn’t even succumb when he said, “pees I break it”. THAT only resulted in the toy being removed from his hands and put away.

Probably a bad move… now he won’t tell me out of fear of my taking the toy (or other) he desires to break. He will just do it.

Boys scare me.

I am not your freaking admin

My office is the only actual office on the first floor of my building. Couple this with my being female and there is an immediate assumption that I am here to serve. If someone stops in with a quick question, I try to do my best to provide a qualified answer, something like “well I think, but I am not sure, that person’s office is inside the vault, if it isn’t, you might check with one of the admins upstairs in room X, they will know”. In my own mind that is akin to saying “I am going to be helpful to you, but this isn’t my job”. In a polite manner, of course.

Today I am sitting at my desk, kind of. I have my laptop on my lap, working away. My desktop is busy running simulations, so everything is essentially locked up.

A small, thin, older woman who I didn’t know comes into my office, barks at me, “I am late would you call Jane Doe (who I had no idea who this person was) and have her meet me outside”. She starts to turn around.

I don’t often get just really rude interactions like this. Most people are at least pleasant and say please. Please would have garnered at least a little less rudeness in my voice.

“Actually, I have a phone here, you can feel free to borrow my phone to call this person, but I am busy,” I tell her.

“Well I am running behind,” she whines to me. When she sees me look at her blankly knowing that I don’t give a rats ass, she succumbs. “Well can you at least look her phone number up for me on PopFon?”

“Actually no, I can’t,” I tell her honestly. “My computer is running simulations and is locked.”

She huffs at me and puts her hands on her hips. This I love, “you are incredibly unhelpful”.

“My projects don’t pay me to be helpful to random people walking by my office, they pay me to do science,” I tell her.

“Well I thought you were an admin,” she says while walking off.

Can I just note that at no point was there ever a please, a thank you, a sorry to bother you, nothing. This just leads me to believe that admins have to be the most abused people around. I am always conscious of my pleases and thank you’s when working with my admins (or someone else’s), apparently not everyone is. Hug your admin today. Or wait, don’t do that, you could get in trouble for sexual harassment. Just say “thanks”.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Random weekend

Don’t you love it when you skim a previous post and ask yourself if you were even speaking English? The one about the fair struck me that way. And I can’t even blame alcohol. Onwards, I guess.

Our weekend was pretty uneventful. We have been having a horrible time getting Leif to sleep. Any ideas on convincing a 2 year old that sleep is a good thing? We are pretty die-hard Sleep Lady fanatics to this point. However, I have found that she just glosses over this age group and recommends the Sleep Lady shuffle. Which yes, worked wonders when he was 18 months old. But now Leif has willpower, he has desires to stay awake, he has words to tell us exactly what he thinks and wants (and that isn’t sleep) and the Sleep Lady is just old hat for him.

I guess the one good thing that has come out of his staying up until nearly 9pm is that he is sleeping in until after 7am. Of course then this becomes crunch time for AB to get him ready by 8am when I need to be scootching out the door. And believe it or not, I miss my morning time with him. So I don’t need the nearly 2 hours afforded to me from a 5am wake up, but I would take a half hour of snuggles that comes with getting up around 6:15am. Sunday he slept until 8am. (Of course the trade off for this was that AB was up with him off and on from 4-6am.)

I guess my biggest problem is that I am having a horrible time accepting, no believing, that my son doesn’t need to go to bed before 9pm as he lies in his crib yawning at 8:15am.

The whole molars thing could be adding to this nighttime fiasco. He has two that are wrecking havoc in his mouth now. Which made for a very *pleasant* Sunday. Couple the lack of sleep with the fact that it was not “swimming day” and it made for one very unhappy little boy. He went and put his red swim trunks on over his green dinosaur pajamas in a great show of protest towards the municipal pools closing for the summer. (Fashion sense comes courtesy of dad.)

The return to work this morning was nice and easy. I worked up the guts to e-mail off my preproposal and copy it to a whole litany of interested people here at the lab. Weeks of prepping three little pages to leave the confines of the internal labspace have finally come to fruition. It is out of my hands. I was surprised to get a quick note back from the point of contact for this section already confirming receipt of the proposal and a promise to look over it as soon as possible.

I got another e-mail from the product manager for my big project indicating that our annual review would be held in late October in Berkeley. I am envisioning an extra day to take the BART into San Francisco to go Christmas shopping, calling on friends for a dinner out. Of course the realistic side of my brain laughs and reminds my frivolous side that I will get to attend this review IF the project manager my project was tasked under can’t attend (quite likely), but then if his “right hand man” (aka my co-PI) can’t attend (very unlikely). Then I get to go. Yeah right. Better not even get my hopes up.

On a better note, I finished My Antonia, which was good and have moved onto reading my September book club selection, Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. I started it yesterday after lunch and am already nearly halfway through. I love books like that. Easy, fast read. But it is incredibly thought provoking and will make for good discussion. Of course, then it dawned on me that AB has class on book club night again this semester and how the hell are we going to work that. Leif is such a growly little bear lately that I won’t even think about leaving him with a babysitter or dropping him with friends unless his mood changes, drastically. So I guess I am reading the book club book now for my own personal fulfillment. Ok, so that IS the idea behind book club, read and discuss books that you maybe wouldn’t otherwise – and there is no way I would have picked up this book otherwise.

Today is obviously a boring blog day. Inspiration anyone?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The weekend

The other day Leif and I were on our way into daycare when he saw a woman standing in the hall holding a baby. He announced to me a few times “baby, baby, baby!” We kept walking after saying hi to the baby. We were nearly 10 feet away when Leif stops, thinks for a second and breaks into a full sprint back screaming at the top of his lungs, “PISS BABY, PISS BABY!”

It only took a little explaining that my son has just recently acquired the inability to say “kiss” and opts for “piss” instead now. Lovely. He really did used to say “kiss”! A cow is also called a “pow”. But a cat is a cat, a kitty is a kitty, and a car is a car. V offered up a good explanation yesterday as to why this might be, other kids? There must be another kid in the class who calls a kiss, a piss. Makes sense. Leif is quite the loyal subject when it comes to what the other kids in the class are doing (or eating).

This week really did fly by for me. AB started back to class this week and so it has been a huge schedule change for the whole family. At any other university this would be planned and expected. However, you see at our local university (or maybe it is just AB’s department), they are very fly by the seat of their pants. AB went to class the first night, not really knowing which class he was taking, when it would be offered or if they would be offered. This pretty much suits AB’s demeanor (can I rule him out as being analytical?). It would drive me insane to be in that type of program. AB knows though that he can push for classes to be moved to different dates or times and it will happen. So consequently this week has been very up in the air. I am hoping next week that the class schedule will be nailed down a little more.

AB is in one class that he is really excited about, which thrills me. I love seeing him come home from class with a smile on his face and anxious about the material. The other class he is debating taking, which he isn’t required to take to fulfill his credits to graduate in March is a modeling class that his advisor is really pushing. He is sitting in for the first few weeks “just to see”. If I had a spare $100 I would be willing to place a wager that he will end up taking the class for credit. He keeps mentioning things like “well IF I were to go into a Ph.D. program, it would be good to have”. He is hooked. Hook, line and sinker.

Good news too, I think, on the job front for him. He made a contact this week with his former company’s competitor. Something he has been debating on doing since being laid off in May. But at that point, he wasn’t desperate yet and still clinging to the idea of finding a job as an engineering intern or student and not returning to analytical chemistry or lab management. I guess enough time has gone by without getting a bite on the engineering bit, summer is nearing an end, there is an end to the unemployment paychecks in the distant future, he is damn tired of cleaning the house, and probably MOST of all, the contact was enthusiastically returned with a big round of ego boosting. AB thinks it is a possibility that since he knows nearly 50% of the employees in the company he could have an offer this week even without an interview. I am a little more skeptical… at least they will bring him out and talk to him in person first, won’t they? AB doesn’t think so… he had interviewed the potential manager for a position at his old company awhile back. And supposedly they are hard up for employees.
Believe it or not, this position isn’t exactly a slam dunk for AB though. It isn’t what he really wants to do. He is tired of being a lab chemist, tired of managing chemistry projects and teaching high school kids how to run equipment we learned inside and out in college. He wants a new challenge in life. He wants a career, not just a job. But maybe most of all right now, he wants somewhere to get up and go to everyday. And there, is the kicker.

I took off early yesterday and picked Leif up after nap. We are ran home, grabbing AB and trekked off to the local county fair. When I was a kid, the local fair and rodeo week was a huge deal. It started with a parade through downtown Casper, WY. We used to go sit at my grandfather’s barber shop to watch the parade. I remember scrambling for candy on the streets thrown out by the parade participants. Tootsie rolls were the best. I remember the Shriners riding their little mopeds and cars around in formations, the high school bands marching, the dance and gymnastics teams and the classic cars that carried the fair and rodeo royalty. Later on I participated in the parade, one year riding on a float built by my parents and their close friends for the YMCA (where my mom worked). It was a great float that won first prize that year and then went on to compete at Frontier Days in Cheyenne.

The fair was something we went to nearly daily when I was a kid. We would wander by the booths in the Industrial building, go and pet the animals, look at the 4-H crafts, eat fair food and the highlight was riding the carnival rides. I remember my sister crying when any number of people dressed in animal costumes or clowns would come up to us. I would get my picture taken with them, all the time being brave, so I could show my sister to be brave. We have more pictures of me standing next to some mouse, bear, or other barely identifiable creature, with my sister next to me sobbing.

We had a demolition derby which I enjoyed attending and would place bets with my dad on which car would survive. And then there was the rodeo. I had a serious aversion to “cowboys”, wanted nothing to do with them. So going to the rodeo each night was not my highlight aside from getting to stay up past my bedtime. I looked forward to getting my big glass of freshly made lemonade and that was about it. When the calf roping started my mom would take my sister and I out to wander the fair. We would return about the time it was over with fresh goodies. And then closing out the rodeo was usually some little known country singer. Fair and rodeo week was a huge deal living in Casper, WY.

I don’t remember that there were local or regional fairs when we moved to Colorado. Maybe we just weren’t into it, or maybe I was just 13 and too cool for the fair and rodeo.

I think I looked forward to attending the fair here this afternoon more than AB and Leif. I had a great time, Leif enjoyed the animals a lot – the pows, rabbits and sheep. He rode a pony and some carnival rides. The pigs really frightened him though. Pictures in the next post!

Everyone have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

2 years and 25 days

That is how long it took Leif to finish one standard sized bottle of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo.

An unconventional life

Have you ever dreamed of living unconventionally? For me, since I was a kid I dreamed of living off in the mountains somewhere in a log cabin. I would plant a big garden, my husband would hunt game for meat, we would fish. I would wear my hair long and live in flannel shirts, jeans and hiking boots (or Birkenstocks). We would live somewhere where it doesn’t get hot, where the snow piled us in and forced us to light our big river rock fireplace each morning and drink hot tea or cocoa all day. I would do pottery, or draw. I see this place in my mind. Sometimes we run a bed and breakfast with a six little cabins we rent out. Sometimes it is just us.

An unconventional life is about as far from what we live right now as you can get. We live in a neighborhood where the houses are six feet from each other, our neighbor’s house looks an amazing amount like our own, even though we see the subtle differences (they have four bedrooms and we have three). A kid (second on its way) and a dog, two cars (one an SUV), a mortgage, and more home improvement projects on the “to do” list than we know what to do with. We live a very good, happy life with goals, to own a vacation piece of property (hopefully a cabin in the mountains), to buy a boat, to buy or build our dream house in a few years. Some pipe dreams, some may come to pass.

But where does this place I see in my mind fit in?

This morning I was flipping through my Sunset magazine (my favorite magazine) and came across an article about a young couple who bought a dilapidated cabin in Juneau and renovated it. They boat in to their house. Their young daughter rides her tricycle on the large patio they built. I read this article with a twinge of jealousy.

My uncle has just recently retired and he and my aunt moved to Sitka in June. They bought a house on the edge of town where my aunt dreams of planting roses and my uncle fishes all day. My other uncle bought a cabin in the mountains when he was in his 30’s to be away from civilization… and well, he should be. We all prefer he stay up there for our sanity and his safety and others safety as well. I have a cousin who just located us last year (strange, long story… my maternal grandfather’s granddaughter from his first marriage – for family, Jack’s daughter) who is doing the backwoods life with three trips into civilization a year. This is the extreme… I don’t think I want to live that way. But I see this trend in my family and wonder if it is genetic. A longing for the wild, for wilderness and a sense of solitude. What is it that makes us desire the remoteness, the need to commune with nature?

My husband has it too. AB maybe even more than I sometimes. We look for houses and he talks about buying 1-2 acres just so our neighbors aren’t breathing down our necks, while I cringe at the thought of maintaining 1-2 acres in this region where tumbleweeds rule.

How do we get to the point in our lives that we can live out this dream, before we are too old to enjoy it?

What is your dream life like?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My two year old is more mature

I work on a project that I love. I really like all the people I work with. I like the science and I really like our client. All in all, it is a great project. Too bad my task has completed and I am hanging on for consulting on a somewhat regular basis per my project manager’s request.

Lately another task has moved to the spotlight. This one is run by my coworker who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sean Connery, seriously. However, unlike the sophisticated, refined Connery, my coworker acts like a whiny two year old. He is a few years from retiring and while I really do like him, is probably the most grumpy, stuck in his ways scientist I have ever met.

As the spotlight has shifted from my task, which was transitioned to one of the clients plants and is now undergoing negotiations for licensing, it has moved to Sean Connery’s task. The biggest problem is that Sean Connery does not, under any circumstance, feel that he owes any explanation to anyone, that he is the scientist who knows all, and suggestions from the client on how to pursue the problems are viewed as a personal affront to his credibility. For the last 3-4 months, we all have heard him say “I quit” nearly every week at teleconference.

My project manager (an amiable amiable – imagine my polar opposite on the people scale) is in his back up mode daily when he walks into each internal meeting lately with his hackles bristled up. This morning he and I were waiting for others to arrive and he tells me that he raised his sons (currently in their early teens) to not quit. If they start something, they finish it. I was raised the same way. I remember quitting a Wil E. Coyote latch hook rug and my mom being disappointed in me for quitting, and so consequently I was disappointed in myself. Whenever I think of quitting, I remember that stupid latch hook rug.

He goes on to tell me how it just grates on him when Sean Connery says flippantly, “I quit”. It’s obvious it grates on him, his face turns red, his neck throbs and he raises his voice. Internal meetings and our teleconferences have become an exhibition sport for me and two other team members as we observe the volley of words and the seething glares, all the while trying to muffle our giggles at the ridiculous spectacle they are making acting like two year olds. My project manager stoops to Sean Connery’s level, when we all just really want him to say “You quit? Fine then, leave.”

Today Sean Connery announced that he will work on his task up until September 17th. At which point he will be taking a little vacation and returning to work on a different project. He can no longer take the client and our project manager “cutting down his credibility as a scientist”. This is obviously not true. But fine. Frankly, as much as I like Sean Connery, I am glad to see his era on this project coming to an end. I adore the guy really and I respect him as a scientist. And there is only a little selfishness in my anticipation of his departure… having to do with my likely return to this project to fill some awfully big shoes. I realized today, the real reason the past few months that my project manager has requested that I stay as involved as possible in this project and particularly Sean Connery’s task. I get to be the next 007.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dandies and Chicken Drumsticks

Leif has an obsession. Band-Aids. Or what he calls, Dandies. He needs to have a Dandy on everyday, somewhere on his body, irregardless of the presence of an “owie”. If he bumps his head, he runs to our bathroom yelling “dandy!” And no matter what he insists, I will not stick a band-aid in his hair.

All last week Leif wore a Nemo band-aid on his shin. A place that band-aids NEVER fall off. Note to self, the knee is the best place to place a non-injury band-aid. That Nemo band-aid had seen better days after nearly a week, despite its apparent inability to remove itself.

This morning Leif happened to note an “owie” on AB’s foot. He told us about it a few times, each time suggesting that daddy needed a dandy. These requests went unacknowledged. Finally, Leif took matters into his own hands. He sat down on the floor and set to peeling off his beloved Nemo dandy from his shin. He finally got it off (those things stick!), then walked it over to AB’s foot and stuck it on. “Here daddy,” he said.

It sounds silly, but in my emotional state, I nearly cried. How generous! He took something that he loves, that sets him to a screaming and crying tantrum lest we suggest removing it from him, and offered it up to Daddy’s owie.

My little boy is thoughtful! *Sigh*

Leif isn’t a big fan of meat. Chicken, pork, beef and fish, he could really care less about. Now at daycare on the other hand, life is different and he will eat whatever is placed in front of him. At home we get a very polite (said tongue in cheek) “NO WAY!”

Yesterday AB stuck a chicken on his BBQ rotisserie. I make an effort to always offer Leif what we are having for dinner first before resorting to macaroni and cheese or other. In this case, chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy. We had no actual hopes of him eating this except maybe the corn. But I figured I would cross that bridge when we got to it.

I stuck a chicken drumstick in front of him, his first ever, and he stared at it some. Then I showed him how to hold it by the “handle”, pick it up and bite it. It took some practice, but he got the hang of it. When nearly 1/3 of the drumstick was done, we marveled. AB asked me if I had been eating some of it. Umm no. At 2/3 gone, our jaws were dropping.

When we looked over and he was sucking the end of a bare bone we were mystified! New dinner item on the list… chicken drumsticks!

We had a busy weekend especially given we didn’t have anything planned really. Saturday we went to the park and played. AB enjoyed his iced cinnamon Americano, I shared an orange juice and pumpkin loaf with Leif. I only really intended on sharing the juice, but who could resist his open baby bird mouth. After nap we went to open swim at the municipal pool where we had a fantastic time. After an hour we needed to go and Leif cried and cried that we had to leave. He loved it and would have stayed until we were booted.

After swimming I was craving beef and we had pretty much none in our house, and especially none that was thawed. So we changed clothes really quick and decided to venture a try at Outback. I called ahead for seating (was told there was no wait, but opted to put our name down anyway, thankfully). We arrived there to a full waiting area. Leif being the entertainer decided to entertain the waiting area. I was somewhat pleased to see that the people who were most receptive to his entertainment tactics was none other than my lab director. I said hi to him and he seemed like he just might recognize me. Or he just figures that anyone who calls him by Dr. “last name” probably works somewhere under him.

Aside from dinner taking a year and a half to arrive after ordering, the meal was good. Leif was reasonably well behaved. (Thankfully we were sat across the restaurant from my lab director so when Leif started acting up, my horrified face wasn’t seared in his memory…)

Leif calmed down when the table next to us was brought a dessert with a candle. He then became obsessed with telling everyone “Happy Birthday!” The neighboring table had long since left when we were finishing up, our waitress came by to see if we needed anything else and Leif, much to my horror, announces to her “Happy Birthday!”

You see one thing I inherited from my mom is the loathing of having anyone acknowledge my birthday at a restaurant. The last thing I want is a bunch of strangers singing some stupid mixed up corporate version of Happy Birthday to me. And thank you I can pay for my own dessert in exchange. Thankfully AB agrees with me on this. No, it wasn’t my birthday, nor Leif’s, nor AB’s. But our waitress assumed that it MUST be someone’s birthday at the table and brought us an ice cream sundae. Ok, so it wasn’t that mortifying. There was no singing and there was a free dessert, even though I swore up and down there were no birthdays at our table. We stayed long enough to eat the dessert and watch Leif dance to Funky Town in the middle of the aisle, entertaining even more patrons. If you are a parent, it will come as no surprise to you that upon arriving home 15 minutes after bedtime routine starts, missing bath and having such an exciting evening at Outback Steakhouse, made for a misery of a bedtime. But bonus? He slept in until 7:15am. Bliss.

Sunday was swimming lessons. As Leif put it, “Swimming day AGAIN!” It was a nice last swimming class. Sitting in the cool water was a welcome relief to the 100F weather. This week is the county fair and we are anxious to take Leif to see the animals. He will be over the moon. It is also AB’s first week of back to classes, his last semester and he will have his Masters in Engineering. Many hopes that this might just yield him a job he is happy with and doesn’t set us on a hunt to find two new jobs in a new place to live.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stone Soup

I am sure it seems a strange topic for a warm summer day. With this pregnancy, soup is one of the few things that actually sounds good to me. It started with a Campbell’s chunky soup that AB picked up that was a tomato base with pepperoni, pasta and mushrooms. Then I moved onto the Italian Wedding Soup a few times, which I have always really liked. Today I headed off to a local specialty soup café for lunch.

Many people I work with rave and rave about this place. I realized its popularity when I arrived at 11:30am and within 10 minutes, the line was out the door. I do have to say though, that while it is good. It fell short of what I was expecting. Part of this is my typical foodie nature, I love good food and I seek out really good food. The other part of this I fear, was my reading the menu.

I envisioned a wide selection of soups and breads, where I would struggle to decide which to have and would probably end up having to try more than one. In fact, the menu was comprised mostly of sandwiches with two options for soup, the weekly soup (a corn chowder) and the daily soup (chicken and rice). I knew in an instant that with my sensitive stomach that the corn chowder would be a no go, but the chicken and rice sounded like the just the thing. Where my skewed view of the café probably came in was seeing the Friday soup of the day: “Ivar’s Clam Chowder”.

I immediately started wondering if the soup that I ordered was homemade or out of a can. It was good soup. It was very plain. Exactly what my stomach needed. I gobbled up every drip of the bowl I ordered and felt amazing afterwards. But let’s go back to the Ivar’s thing… and I love Ivar’s clam chowder… from Ivar’s. If you are familiar with Washington State you probably know that Ivar’s is a pretty famous and tasty chain that specializes in fish and chips, other fried seafood delicacies and clam and salmon chowder. It really is quite good. But I just have a mental block when it comes to a specialty soup joint serving someone elses soup! (Or chowder as the case may be.) Especially when you can get said chowder at the mall, the grocery store and Costco.

I grew up with homemade soups. My grandfather’s ham hocks and beans was the first soup I can remember gobbling up. Simple soup, soak your Great Northern beans overnight and pick them over. The next day sear your ham hocks in a large stew pot. Pull them out and add a diced onion. Saute until translucent. Dump in a bunch of water, replace the ham hocks, add the beans and simmer all day until beans are done and salt to taste. This is my ultimate comfort food and one I make every single year where inevitably I buy ham hocks (or shanks) and the checker wrinkles their nose and asks what I might be making with THOSE! Make it even better with a batch of homemade corn bread. My grandfather was a back woods Southerner.

I grew up with my mom making a homemade chicken noodle soup straight from a chicken carcass and with thick doughy noodles. I can reproduce that soup to a tee, and it is spectacular. AB keeps every chicken carcass with the hopes that I might just get an inkling (like every month) to make homemade chicken noodle soup.

Every Thanksgiving I make my cream of mushroom soup where (since I am not a huge turkey fan) I could just eat bowl after bowl as my main dish. I make a mean red chili with beans and AB makes the most heavenly pork green chili each fall. Seriously yumm. AB also rocks at clam chowder. And my favorite soup out? Two of them… a local Italian restaurants minestrone topped with a dollop of pesto (it’s the pesto that sends it over the edge for me) and I will admit to drooling over Olive Garden’s Pasta Fazziole. The best soup I have ever tasted in my entire life? Bistro Jeanty's seafood bisque. Too.die.for.

Soups are really easy to make, incredibly versatile and yummy. I need to expand my soup repertoire. But for me, soup isn’t something you just make from a recipe. I get ideas from recipes. In my house, with the exception of my very basic ham hocks and beans recipe, soup is a big pot on the stove where you throw everything that sounds yummy.

Oh and the absolute best part of my lunch? The lemon poppy seed shortbread cookie. Now that, I need a recipe for.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Our adventurous honeymoon

Today someone posted on our internal watercooler site asking for recommendations on travel to Costa Rica. Since AB and I went there for our honeymoon in 2000, I chimed in. I can now, after 6 years, look back on this trip with fondness. However, our week in Costa Rica was not the paradise we had been looking for. That said, we would go back in an instant. (Oh and I did not speak 90% of this story on the watercooler site.)

We managed to get to Costa Rica the night before a general civil strike began. The purpose of the general strike was to interrupt tourism and bring attention to the causes of the people of Costa Rica. I can’t remember a single one of the demands…

We woke up to news the next morning that instead of riding a bus to the east side of the country from the capital, we would be flown there. Our first thoughts were, ‘hey civil strike isn’t so bad!’ I get pretty serious motion sickness, so I had been a little concerned about a four hour bus ride. I’ll take a one hour flight instead! We spent about three days in the Tortuguerro Canals. Supplies were lean because they couldn’t get things shipped in due to the strike. Supplies mainly being alcohol. There was PLENTY of food to go around… beans and rice for all! Beans and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Oh at lunch and dinner we did get shredded lettuce with some oil and vinegar drizzled over. I later found out that our beans and rice wasn’t due to shortage of supplies… nope, this is a Tican staple.

Near the end of our stay in Tortuguerro we were notified that we would have to vacate our cabana, new guests would be arriving. Where would we go? We were supposed to go to the volcano next? Nobody knew anything and suddenly people quit speaking English. They had no intentions of flying us back to the capitol city or to our next destination and we were just out of luck. We made efforts in trying to figure out how to contact the American embassy. We were feeling as though we were just left on the east side of Costa Rica without any resources. Our stay was done at the resort we were at and they plain didn’t care how we got to our next destination or IF we got there.

I was paranoid. Miss Plan-it-out was nervous and angry. My new husband was just beside himself, what could he do?

I don’t quite remember how it happened but we got word that we needed to go get on a boat immediately, which would take us by water for about an hour or so to a little town. We would get on a bus there that would take us to another local town about an hour away. We would be able to lunch there and then a private driver would pick us up and drive us all back roads (since the main highways were blocked) to our next destination. Shady? Yes, but what choice did we have? We had to at least get somewhere near civilization!

It all did pan out. Boat ride, bus ride, and car ride. The car ride was one of the best parts of the whole trip driving through all these little towns on the backroads with our own driver, who spoke little English. Fascinating.

We made it to Arenal volcano, or at least to our resort 25 miles from Arenal. We rejoiced in arriving to our destination. Smoked a Cuban cigar, ordered a bottle of wine and enjoyed the weirdest tasting beef with our rice and beans that night.

After a few nights near Arenal we were driven back to the capital city on the highways. The roads had just reopened that day and they were jam packed. Many, many tourists had been unable to get back to fly out for about six days. The capital city was packed. We went to our hotel and that night ordered a fantastic meal in the hotel that did NOT include rice and beans. I still remember the Caesar salad made table side and the bananas flambé.

Of course our travel perils weren’t over then. Nope, we arrived at the airport along with every single other tourist scheduled to fly out for the previous six days. We were offered $1000 vouchers, two of them, to fly to Panama, spend the night and fly out the next morning. We bit.

We arrived in Panama without the required Visa documentation, were not met at the airport by the promised American Airlines representative to take us to our hotel, hmmm what else? Oh yes, we were in Panama and didn’t even get to see the canal. We flew out the next morning. Panama to Miami, Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth where we were grounded due to tornados. I just wanted to get home. I sat down and nearly cried. Finally DFW to Reno and I was never so happy to be home. We had $2000 in vouchers in our hands that subsequently went nearly unused because of the extreme difficulty in using them. I still have them in a file somewhere and they might still be worth $500 or so after all the expiration fees are deducted. Vouchers suck.

So with all of our Costa Rica travel difficulties recounted, yes, I would go back in an instant. In all this recounting I failed to mention the awe of being woken up by howler monkeys, peeing in the early dawn with a toucan sitting four feet from my head watching with amazement, seeing Arenal volcano erupt while sitting in a hot springs pool with a swim up bar, seeing a very rare tapir mom and her baby, tasting a cacoa bean directly off the tree, admiring the local women scrubbing their front patios as we passed through the tiny villages on the back roads. Monkeys, birds, crocodiles, caiman, sea turtles, and sloths in their natural habitat. What could be better?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Peer pressure and a loyal marketing subject at age two

For the past few weeks when I drop Leif off, we empty his lunchbox into the fridge and he diligently shows me Soren’s yogurt, “Mommy see Sorens?”. Soren gets the Danimals drinkable yogurts while Leif has to live with Tillamook (which is darn expensive yogurt). Leif = enamored. Silly mommy, evidently I did not pick this up that Leif just really, really wanted these Danimals yogurts himself. I don’t know what I thought. Other than maybe, oh something like, “put back your friend’s food where it belongs!”

I can see why he likes them, bright colors, puffy writing, small portable size… marketed straight to a two year old of course!

I finally got the message the other day as we were cruising the dairy aisle. Evidently mommy is a little slow on the uptake and lucky for me “I want” has not yet entered Leif’s vocab. There was much squealing as we cruised right on past the Danimals drinkable yogurt packs. Silly me, I stop, what exactly was provoking the squealing? I follow the finger waving until, ah ha! Mystery solved. There were many grins and claps when I succumbed and bought two four packs (in exchange for Gogurt, which I find just kind of nasty anyways to slurp yogurt out of plastic tubes).

This morning we went into daycare and emptied his lunch into the fridge. I had one overjoyed child on my hands when he reached into HIS lunchbox and pulled out the Danimals yogurt cup. He pranced around the room with it and showed each teacher saying “See mine!” each time. Miss K finally got him to put it in the fridge so he would have it with lunch. She also said that she would be sitting he and Soren next to each other so they could mutually admire each other’s yogurt.

So yes, my son caves to peer pressure and the ploys of marketing. But it eventually falls on mommy’s shoulders as the consumer. What? It isn’t like it was candy! It’s yogurt!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A sense of purpose

My horoscope today:
"You have a clearer sense of purpose today than you've had in a long time -- use it!"

Yesterday morning we woke up, like everyone else around the world, to the news that a major terror plot had been foiled. I don’t kid myself that terror plots aren’t foiled week after week. Wow, I love living in one of the many countries with advanced intelligence to thwart such evil. I am not an overly political person (like AB). I have my opinions and can effectively debate them (thanks AB) and I find myself to be pretty middle of the road, a fiscally conservative, socially liberal woman who believes in a woman’s right to choose, gay rights to marry and that my money is my hard earned money and I will manage it thank you very much. I believe in the minimization of government and it’s impact on our daily lives while maintaining safety and security around the US and abroad when necessary. I am in the minority of people that actually like our president despite not always agreeing with his every move. I feel privileged to be born in this country and raising my family here.

However, things like this scare the living daylights out of me. (Just what they want to hear, right?) The knowledge that someone is so incredibly intent on harming us that they would take explosives to this level of planning. It makes me sick. It makes me want to hug my family close and hide from everyone. We just want to live a good, happy life. A simple life?

Those of you who know me, know that I work as a scientist and likely in what field I work. I entered this field in the post-9/11 aftermath because there was a huge shortage of US born scientists and because of the serious black hole of semiconductor jobs available. It wasn’t my original calling. I never expected when I went to grad school that this is where I would be or what I would be doing. Back then it was just a job and something I could move out of “when all this ends”. Over the last four and a half years it has become what I do, and over the next 30 years it will likely have become how I have made my life.

My mentor labeled me recently as “adaptable” and probably to a fault. I can pick nearly anything up and run with it. My level of knowledge may never reach the expert level, but I am competent in a very broad range of subjects. I was a physical chemist who never took a radiochemistry or nuclear physics class who came to work side by side with nuclear physicists and engineers. I was an expert in vacuum technology who has broken in as a supercritical fluids nut. (And they are ALL nuts.) And today, I am a theoretical surface scientist who has been pulled into explosives work.

Today my adaptability paid off. Today, the day that a major explosives plot was uncovered my gears have been switched. I sit here thrilled with the prospect of taking over the lead on a project for one of the preeminent explosives detection individuals in the world as he jet sets off to solve the present day problems. I sit here with mixed feelings as I see my career take off in a new and fascinating direction. Why? Because someone wanted to kill us. Mixed feelings. If this all went away, I would be out a job.

To hell with it. Go for it! Put me out of a job, I could always teach.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is it done yet?

With all due apologies to Rockergirrl… I am ready for the summer to be over! September may be the new August, but I am ready to move onto the fall.

I was never a summer person. Ever since I can remember I lived for winter. For skiing and sledding and playing in the snow. For hot cocoa and fires in fireplaces and a big bowl of something hot and yummy. It is only since moving here that I have really grown to love the summer. The long days, the delicious, fresh produce, the BBQs. Summer here does offer a lot to love. Far more than our winter days – and the REAL winter days, are few and far between. Winter here is a dreary, grey, rainy, sleety, foggy mess.

But here is what it comes down to for me. It is hot and I am tired of picking tomatoes. Tired of staying on top of deadheading my flowers. Tired of wondering if that plant would do better if I dug it up and moved it over there. Tired of my air conditioner running all.the.time. And tired of paying for my air conditioner to run all.the.time. I am tired of sitting in my office freezing when I dress for the season. And tired of roasting when I where long sleeves to survive my office, but then eventually have to leave my office.

I want to take Leif to the harvest festival to pick out some pumpkins. I am already considering options for Halloween costumes (he wants to be a train… or at least that is the only costume he responds to in the catalog). I want to cook chili and hear the football game on in the background. I want to decorate for fall and Halloween. I want to cook hearty meals of braised lamb shanks and white bean soup. And I am really ready for the weather to cool down.

Last night was just muggy. It was hot and overcast, getting ready to thunderstorm, and we were slaving away picking tomatoes. I have never in my life gotten the yield of tomatoes we have this year. Nearly bordering on ridiculous. When in one night we can pick off of our own plants an entire fruit box full of tomatoes, that is a lot of 'maters'. AB is going to be busy with batch number two of spaghetti sauce.

I know, why make spaghetti sauce from scratch when you can buy it for dirt cheap? Because we love it. I love that there is not a teaspoon of sugar in our sauce. It contains exactly what we want (tomatoes, onions, garlic, red bell peppers, cayennes, hot Italian sausage, mushrooms, basil and oregano). I love the way it makes my house smell while it simmers down to a thick sauce. AB has mastered his sauce making technique over the years. We nearly had enough last year to make it a full year without buying spaghetti sauce, but were about 2 containers short. Oh and Leif LOVES it. Saturday night he helped himself to FOUR servings of spinach pasta with sauce. He ate well over twice as much as I did. The kid gobbles the stuff. And OMG did I mention it is heavenly? Delicious.

Salsa is on the list too. AB is talking about making a yellow tomato, pineapple and ginger salsa as well as a traditional hot as hell salsa. The main issues we have with salsa is how to store it. If you can it and process, the flavor changes drastically. How about freezing? Does anyone freeze salsa?

Fall is obviously nearing as my grapes are undergoing verizon, or venison, or veraison. Oh hell, they are changing! I found one very exposed cluster that was raisins. But the other more protected clusters are starting to show signs of purple. Which also reminds me that I need to order the grape spiral and the fine mesh for my food mill, that this time a year, gets loads of use.

Signs of summer winding down are all around us. I am enjoying this last hurrah of summer 2006. But will be welcoming fall in the door with big open arms. Embrace me!

Monday, August 07, 2006

How to save $30

AB NEEDS new tires. No two ways about it. When one of the tires finally wouldn’t hold air anymore I was actually somewhat pleased, he *had* to get new tires. No, I don’t relish spending $300 on tires, but the thought of my most precious cargo (my husband and son) riding in a car with unsafe tires just really freaks me out.

AB relented and finally agreed. This morning he called Les Schwab and then Costco. He ends up at Costco getting a quote and phones to tell me the low end tires at Les Schwab were $30 less than the mid range, brand name tires at Costco. It’s a toss up. I tell him, “you are there at Costco, just do it there”. We hang up.

AB calls me irate nearly 2 hours later.

AB: *Explitive* Les Schwab.
NM: Les Schwab? I thought you were at Costco?
AB: Yeah well they were going to take 1.5 – 2 hours, I didn’t want to wait, so I figured I would save $30 and go to Les Schwab.
NM: And?
AB: And I am so fricking irate right now. I have been waiting two hours, I have my meeting at the university, so I left with the spare on. But they didn’t put the other tire back in my car so I have to go back and get it.
NM: Why do you need to go back and get it?
AB: Because my RIM is attached to it.
NM: Oh. So they were changing the tire and you left?
AB: No…

(long story shorter, the tires were still under warranty, they thought they could fix the tire, spent nearly an hour to discover the radial was separating and it was not fixable, not only that but he couldn’t drive on it. They said since they were still under warranty they could give him 30% off… one tire. But since he has an AWD car you can’t just buy one tire, you have to buy new all around. So he decided to do that, but wait, they only had the top of the line tires in stock at nearly $140 more than he was initially quoted and it would be another 2 hours to put those tires on.)

NM: So what are you doing?
AB: Going back to get my rim, going to my meeting and then going to Costco to get new tires.

I am not giggling, really I am not.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

String Bean's Stats - 2 years

35 ¾” tall – 80th percentile
27 lbs 11 oz – 40th percentile
Head – 50th percentile (Finally a normal sized head measurement!)

He is a tall, skinny boy. No surprise coming from his father, who is tall and was a string bean. Then he met me. And I fed him good food.

He is very healthy. In fact, his doctor commented that she hadn’t seen him since November and had actually wondered if we had moved or changed doctors! Nope. Just healthy.

He was not thrilled to be measured or weighed and was quite positive we were setting him up for torture. I was happy he took his blankey (he calls it his wonky, and it is a horribly battered, torn and miserable piece of cloth…) into the office as he was able to sit and cling to it for additional comfort.

He passed the question answer stage with flying colors. “Does he put two words together?” Yes, he routinely says 3-4 word sentences. Example yesterday “I do big toot!” Yay, I am so proud. “Does he have 20 words?” Easily, he is very verbal (and vocal as the waiting room could attest to). “How is his diet?” Evidently great at daycare! Oh, you wanted to know about home too? Umm yeah… is he supposed to eat more than 1 or 2 things at home?

All in all he is doing great! We will opt for the Hep A vaccine at his next appointment. They expect it will be required for kindergarten admission by the time he is that age, and we just think it is a good idea. My grandmother contracted Hep A while working as a nurse and it was miserable for her. Hep A is on the increase and if it can be prevented I will subject Leif to yet another shot. But not this time… since I promised no shots. I know… he probably doesn’t comprehend, but since I touted up the “no shots this time at the doctor” even though he probably doesn’t remember his last shots. I just couldn’t do it this time around. AB agreed.

The real announcement

I can't slip anything by!

Yes, you read correctly in the below post. We are expecting number two next March. March 18th to be exact, which means I am totally off the hook for buying AB an anniversary gift… but I should note that he is not and on top of the anniversary gift there better be a nice aquamarine enhanced piece of jewelry as a birthing gift. ;-)

I actually hadn’t really intended on divulging our news until after my first appointment next Tuesday. But an important thought in my yesterday’s blog entry was how do you deal with two children. How do you love them equally, like them equally, etc. This is in relation to myself as a child and sibling as well as a mother.

We are thrilled beyond belief. Already I am finding this pregnancy very different from the first. With Leif I just wanted more time. More time to plan, more time to prepare and 40 weeks gave me that time. Now that I know what is on the other side, I just can’t wait for it to go by. The other major difference this time around is my horrible, horrible nausea. I am so sick. Sick enough that I fear leaving my house or office, I fear meetings, I skipped book club the other night. A friend of mine encouraged me to call my doctor, which I did this morning and while listing off my symptoms and explaining that I know this is to be expected, the nurse interrupted me and said she had faxed me a prescription to my pharmacy. AB is picking it up for me. I am really hoping for some relief.

Because I don’t want this blog to turn into a whiny pregnancy blog, and I know that many of my friends and readers are really just not all that interested in pregnancy, I plan to minimize the talk here. I have started a new blog to post all the gory details in and it can be found here. Visit if you want, ignore it if you rather.

And thanks everyone for the congrats!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom and I have gotten to a point in our lives where we are good friends. We talk regularly, we opt to spend vacations together, we greatly respect each other, and I am proud to say she is my mom.

I was a lucky kid. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we had what we needed. I grew up in the two parent, two kid, dog, cat and fish household of the 70’s. I had a Lite-Brite, Barbies, and loved to do gymnastics. We had two trees in our front yard, a swingset and sandbox in the back yard. My mom was a SAHM and my dad worked his rear off in a uranium mine to support us. Life was good. I played t-ball and then softball in the summers. We skied every winter. We were a busy, active family.

Things did change when my parents divorced about 1984. I didn’t see it coming. I was entering a very selfish phase where I just wondered how it would affect ME. I was twelve when my parents divorced and for those of you with experience with pre-teen girls, you already know this is a time of pure misery. It wasn’t just that my mom saw me as a misery, I was miserable.

Mother daughter relationships are difficult. Simply put. There are days I want a girl so bad, and then the days I think about how awful I was with my mom so often and I hope for a second boy. Boys always love their moms.

My mom and I battled a lot from junior high up through much of college and beyond. Early on, a lot was about my curfew and how strict she was with it. Some about my choice in friends. In one instance I felt that her expectations of me were just so incredibly high. At the other instant I just wanted her to look at me and tell me she cared. That I didn’t ruin her life by ending her teenage years short. I wanted her to love me as much as she did my sister. I wanted her to talk to me on the phone like she did my sister. I wanted that when we talked on the phone, and my sister would call her and call waiting beeped, that she would come back to me, instead of leaving me on hold in favor of my sister every single time.

I have grown up. I am now a mom, soon to be of two, and I wonder how in the world you can ever love your children the same? Each child is of a different personality, and from my own experience in different professional development classes, I have learned that not all styles meld. Fact of life.

My mom and I just really needed to find our friendship. I believe that one of the key contributing factors to finding our friendship was that I moved away. Everyone expected me to be the one that never left Colorado. But I left the state for grad school, which was one of the single hardest things I have ever done. It was also one of the single best things I have ever done. The first few months, I called my mom nearly daily, telling her of every little event in my life. Finally, I cut the strings. I started talking to her once a week on the phone. I started making my own decisions without consulting her. Suddenly, I became a much happier person.

I don’t want to sound like my mom made me miserable! She didn’t. But we were stuck in a rut of parent and child. And I was no longer a child. We had to break out of that in order for me to grow as an adult.

Our friendship has evolved over the past few years into something that is so valuable to me, it is beyond words. I see that my mom has great respect for me, she is proud of what I have done in my life and she likes me. I have tremendous respect for my mom as a hard worker, determined and through thick and thin, she still maintained to my sister and I that we would go to college and make something of our lives. She was the model of a strong female role model. And she is a super grandma!

We like the same things in life, good food, good wine, and having opportunities in life. As much as she still wants to make sure I have everything I need, she has also stepped back and let AB and I live our lives as husband and wife without interdiction.

I think of the little things I will do differently if I am blessed with a daughter. My mom was never into girly girl things. And I WAS (and maybe still am) a girly girl. ;-) There are little things, like taking her to the makeup counter at Macys to get makeovers or shoe shopping or prom dress shopping that I look forward to doing with a daughter. But I cannot for the life of me come up with major things I would do differently than she did.

Thanks Mom!

Dear Leif

Really, kiss starts with the same sound as "cat" and "kitty" and "kooky". Not the sound that starts off "pat" or "pajamas".


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Keeping busy

I wish I could say I was keeping busy with work I actually get paid for, but alas, no charge code. My big proposal is going out and each day it is getting more and more exciting. Today I was offered a collaborator from the same industry as the funding agent. An in. And I get to maintain the IP, I just need to farm out the thin film analysis to their lab. Oh and bonus? They are located in Vargas Girl's hometown. If this is funded I could be flying there on a somewhat regular basis. Wahoo!

We are looking forward to Oysterfest and Seafood Festival 2006 already. We have the cabin for that weekend AND my mom and stepdad are buying tickets tomorrow to come up and join us! I am really looking forward to that, we had such a good time with them three years ago at the cabin.

Leif is as busy as can be and has most recently decided to start acting like a two year old. It really is just overnight that they become obstinate, disagreeable little two year olds. He cried and cried for most of our walk this evening. The best that AB and I can figure out is it had to do with getting the mail and likely that *I* opened the mailbox instead of letting him do it. Sigh.

This is a boring post. I just am tired, very, very tired. Oh and Big Brother starts shortly...

Surviving a Monday

Not being able to get ahold of spouse all day because adorable son knocked the phone off the hook. Annoying.

Spilling my drink down my leg in my car at lunch. A little more than annoyed. (At least non-machine washable pants don’t absorb moisture… they just wrinkle up in a really funky, nasty and probably irreparable fashion.)

Legal speak, cost analysis, more acronyms than I know what to do with. Frustrating.

Finding a financial specialist who will act as project manager who has not asked me for a charge code? Priceless.