Friday, December 22, 2006

Sloppy Santa

This year we can get away with slacker Santa practices. Next year probably won’t be so forgiving. I have worked the past few months to store all presents out of Leif’s view. Leif is getting a number of GeoTrax additions for Christmas from Santa. AB and I decided to minimize the number of presents he had to open by setting these out for him unwrapped, when we open gifts. Therefore, unlike his other gifts, they were unwrapped and in a box in the guest room. (The gifts from mommy and daddy are wrapped, in a box in our closet.) This also jives with the practice when I was growing up, Santa never wrapped our presents.

This morning I was getting ready in the bathroom, Leif was watching Polar (Bear) Express for the 7329th time, or (once again) so I thought. AB had just gotten out of the shower. Suddenly Leif came running in squealing at the top of his lungs, “MOMMY LOOK!! A TRAIN!!” and in his hands he held one of the GeoTrax parts to be from Santa.

He was SO excited! I couldn’t help but be filled with joy at seeing the excitement in his eyes. Too bad it wasn’t when we PLANNED on doing our Christmas exchange. Thankfully Teddy Grahams still work as an effective distraction. The train is back in the guest room in the box it was being stored in awaiting Santa’s arrival this evening.

Travel update: We are flying into Denver tomorrow. The airport is open and we are checked in for our departure. Also I was relieved to see that the same flight we will be on tomorrow, has today left Seattle and is scheduled for an on time arrival in just a few minutes. Cautious optimism. At this point my biggest concern is with getting our rental car. We have reservations, however it is impossible to get guarantees and with people leaving the airport and driving instead of waiting for flights, I fear we could lose out on our car. But there are other options we can exercise if necessary! I am just really looking forward to finding myself at my mom’s house surrounded by snow with nowhere to go!

Reasons not to share

AB had suggested early on after I told him I wanted an iPod for Christmas that we buy one nice video one and share. I didn’t want to share. I wanted to be selfish and have my own. The main reason being that I didn’t want it left sitting on his desk or in his car all the time. And in fact, there has already been one night when he has asked to borrow mine since he left his at work.

And here is the other reason I wanted my own… I am sitting here listening to Prince. I don’t have to listen to any comments about the music I choose to put on MY iPod!! (Except now from you guys, since my secret is out.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Dog

(I got most of my Christmas cards out, some late, to most people. I didn’t include my Christmas letter to most of those people who read my blog as it would be horribly redundant on what we did this last year and the news of our upcoming new arrival. But I thought I would post it here, mostly for posterity sake. Enjoy.)

Yes, it is me again, the Carman dog, Winny. You will notice that last year’s Christmas letter was missing. Apparently even my youngest (so called) master was too busy and so this year it falls back again to me, the family dog, to get the letter out. They think all I do is lay around all day and beg for walks at night, truth be told I have a lot more going then “they” think.

The latest: “NM” continues her job at XXXX as a scientist. “AB” has just started a new position with the XXX Group working as a project manager and in business development for this analytical chemistry group. And the up and coming Master Leif (who thinks he is my full master already) has been busy enjoying his days at his Montessori daycare where they evidently fill his day with lessons on “how to boss the dog around”.

Truth be told, the only interesting being in this house (outside of myself, of course) would be Leif. He turned two years old at the end of July and has embraced everything about being a toddler. Honestly, I don’t know why the term “toddler” is even appropriate, there is no toddling about… he full out runs and has a belief deep within his being that the next step is flying. And not just flying on the airplane to go to Colorado for Christmas either.

Masters AB and NM continue to marvel at the way this bossy little creature learns. (Yawn) There is much song singing, reciting something called the A,B,C’s and counting with some strange emphasis on the numbers 5 and 9, because they were evidently left out of Master Leif’s vocabulary. Leif loves swimming and wishes everyday was “swimming day”. Following swimming, tumbling comes in at a very close second on the list of favorite activities. He has just started music class and specializes in playing a drum (Master NM fears this may only encourage ambitions as a rock star, Master AB hopes rhythm is learned and not inherited, as for me, my ears just plain hurt).

I probably should not neglect one small piece of family information. Master NM’s tummy is growing large again and I fear the impending doom as another small Master enters the house next March and will likely take to ordering me around in just a matter of time.

(There I am done! Can we go for a walk NOW????)

On Writing

Something my dad said in an e-mail got me thinking. He said that if I ever decided to give up life as a scientist I should go into writing. I enjoy writing, I enjoy the process, the editing, the creating. My grammar could use help most days. And I thank goodness for the spell checker. But nonetheless, I love doing it. I have never known if it is one of those things that I would love as a profession, or grow to despise doing and resent turning a hobby into a job. I guess lucky for me, I have plenty of opportunities to write in my current position, it is just boring technical writing.

I went through a phase in junior high. You know that phase, the one where boys suddenly exist and it is no longer cool to be the smart one? I asked my dad for a typewriter for Christmas, much to my step-brothers horror… why would anyone ask for a typewriter instead of some cool toy? I got it and pounded out story after story on that thing for a few years in the name of preparing for my life as a writer. I still have the typewriter and every time AB suggests it hit the dumpster I come up with excuses along the lines of “you never know when you might need to type something up that you can’t use a computer for”. That excuse is soon becoming the relic that my typewriter is. I am not sure I can even get replacement ribbon for it anymore.

That typewriter was going to make me into a famous author one day! I had dreams of writing novels that would make the best seller lists. That dream faded, but not completely. I still think how cool it would be to be a novelist. Particularly as I sit at my desk and daydream about how cool any other job in the world would be then the one I have.

Unlike many of my counterparts in science, one of the most enjoyable parts of graduate school was writing my dissertation. It took a lot of focus, but I really did enjoy it. I still look longingly at the occasional ad in my Chemical and Engineering News that seek professional, full time scientific editors/writers for large journals. If telecommuting ever became a mainstay for that type of position (since moving my Alaskan husband to a large metro area like New York is out of the question) I would be hard pressed not to take the leap.

Time… that is what I am lacking. Ambition… I have an overabundance.

A White Christmas!

Colorado is socked in by a blizzard! I have seen estimates ranging from 1-3 feet of snow in Northern Colorado today and tomorrow. Wheee! I can exclaim being that we travel on Saturday, and not today, and hopefully all the passengers who are now stranded at or waiting to get into DIA will be gone by Saturday.

Of course nothing is guaranteed weather-wise in Colorado. But it is supposed to stay cold through Christmas day according to the forecast. We get wimpy snowfalls here, when we get snow at all. (Although right now we have a “severe weather alert” for tomorrow morning saying we may get up to 2” of snow!) Leif hasn’t seen much snow in his life. At least compared to what I grew up with. Seeing a few inches around here and then snow in Alaska last Christmas just isn’t enough for a toddler. I am thrilled that there will potentially be feet of snow for him to play in.

I have had e-mails and plenty of people stopping by my office to talk about the storm that is making headlines knowing that we are headed there in a few days.

I ran out for lunch today and since I live in constant fear of my son starving to death I added a few Satsumas to my bag (I didn’t have enough “healthy” options before) and also bought a package of Handi-Snaks. The pretzel and plastic cheese ones. These lately have proven to grab his attention since he can “dip it”. I now have enough snacks for the plane ride to feed the entire cabin.

This morning AB announced to me that he is ready for us to get out of here for a little while. Whew. Happy to hear him say this. He finished the book he was reading and was so concerned with not having something to read while in Colorado that he asked me to order the next book in the series and have it shipped to my mom’s. And all I could do was sit and say, “ok honey” and think about the four “perfect” books I bought for him for Christmas and that will be under the tree in a few days.

It seems as though most everyone I work with is sneaking out of here starting tomorrow. With every passing day our parking lot gets emptier and emptier. I made my way over and talked to my Co-PI on my big project a little while ago. Our project manager met with our DC sponsor the other day and has some additional requests for our project. We needed to discuss those and dole them out appropriately. I also figured it was time I tell him I am pregnant and let him know when I plan to be out this spring. He is kind of oblivious… Frankly, most single 50-some year old scientists are a little oblivious about the women they work with.

My goal in the next few days is to continue my daily laundry ritual. Between Leif and I, there are neverending stacks of clothes to be washed for the trip. I just have very few clothes (compared to my normal wardrobe) and between Leif’s occasional accidents and the fact that he just likes to use his entire body to paint with at daycare, laundry is going every night. I have been packing some every night and hope to have packing pretty much done come Thursday night, since Friday night we are celebrating our Christmas at home.

Tonight our house/dog sitter is stopping by to get the key and her instructions. Tomorrow I am taking my former student out for lunch to celebrate her getting and accepting her first formal job offer. She will be in North Carolina working as a biostatistician. She is home visiting family right now.

The days are growing very short as the solstice arrives. Sunrise today was at 7:37am and sunset is at 4:13pm. It is hard going home in the pitch black at 5pm. I love the winter but I do miss those long days where the sunlight never seems to fade. Heading to Colorado will buy us back a few minutes.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One hectic weekend preparing for two hectic weeks

We had a really good weekend. I was particularly thrilled because AB was done with classes for the semester and that meant I had another set of hands in wrangling Leif, getting him into the bathtub (and then out of the bathtub) and in putting him down to bed at night. I am so, so proud of him for working towards his Masters in Engineering, but wow will I be happy when he finishes this spring!

We were lazy Saturday morning and spent some time on the webcam with my Dad. We ran out to pick up a Christmas gift for my stepfather. He was the one person (aside from me) that AB was responsible for buying for. I can never come up with good ideas for him, my mom never has ideas for him and so when AB offered to buy for him I didn’t question it once. And he only needed a little help. My stepfather is now AB’s responsibility when it comes to gifts.

Saturday after Leif got up from nap we ran to the grocery store to get a few things that I wanted for meals this week and some more snacks for Leif to have on the plane. Maybe I can no longer laugh/whine about my MIL trying to stuff my husband with food… as a mom, it comes naturally with your sons. A deep set fear that your son will waste away to nothingness. We have individual packets of Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, yogurt covered raisins, chocolate for bribery… or I mean “rewarding positive behavior”. I will buy juice once past security. And Leif should be set for food on our 3 hours of flights. (1 hour to Seattle, 1.5 hour layover in SeaTac and 2 hours to Denver).

We had king crab legs for dinner Saturday night that were to die for. We like crab. But king crab this time of year is just amazing stuff – and a remarkably inexpensive price. When I was a kid I was horribly picky, but usually wanted to try weird stuff. Heaven forbid I try any normal stuff. My parents liked crab and so I think it backfired on them when I tried it and liked it. I am sure they expected I wouldn’t. I bought two king crab legs the other day at $9.99/lb. And they looked fabulous. I told AB I bought them and his response was “you only got two legs?” AB is the “meat” buyer in the family. I have pretty much given up buying any and all meat and fish since what I pick out is never right. But you can’t go wrong with king crab this time of year.

Saturday night dinner and AB was unable to finish his one leg. I joked about his “you only got two legs” comment the previous day. Leif is showing signs of maybe liking crab. He liked it when I handed it to him, but didn’t like it when AB handed it to him. Give it time… I am sure he will become as big of a crab fiend as AB and I are. And then maybe we won’t have leftovers from two crab legs.

That night AB and I settled down in front of “You, Me and Dupree” for a few good laughs... before I fell asleep on the couch midway through.

Sunday morning we got up and took Leif swimming. He was so excited to go and see C since they had been in San Francisco for the previous week. When we were waiting to go in, it was obvious that they had missed each other. There was much squealing, hugs, kisses and silliness. They had a great time swimming and we headed to IHOP, where our morning took a nosedive. The pumpkin pancakes tasted fantastic, how could they not after we had stood/sat in the place for an hour. At least it was an easy nap transition as Leif was out in the car within 3 minutes of getting in his carseat. We scrapped the idea of the gift exchange, put it off till the afternoon and went home. I sat down with a huge stack of gifts, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows and the last half of the movie from the night before. AB ran off to do “some shopping”.

We had a quiet Sunday evening with dinner and then decorating Christmas sugar cookies. I do have one story about that to illustrate my concern about my son’s mental state.

My 2.5 year old is a little compulsive about cleaning. His teacher routinely jokes about this compulsion and says that she wants to see what kind of dorm room/apartment he has when he is her age. My response is that he will be in therapy saying “my parent’s house, it was a pit and I was forced to clean since I was two years old!” He is a little overboard compared to the rest of the class with his compulsion. It scares me.

We were decorating cookies and Leif dropped the shaker of red sprinkles. There were red sugar crystals on the floor, mind you, not a ton, just a circle of them. Leif jumped down saying, “uh ho, messy!” He ran to the utility room and DRAGGED the vacuum cleaner to the kitchen. I told him we would clean it after decorating cookies. No dice. He wanted it cleaned up NOW. Ok, we plugged in the vacuum cleaner and I attached the wand for him to clean. AB didn’t mind the noise then since it was coincidentally the same time that “Please Daddy Don’t get Drunk This Christmas” came on.

When Leif was done with the sugar crystals (and vacuuming up his dinner mess he discovered down there), I reached over and shut off the vacuum. “Nooooo!” He squealed. “Floor more messy.” As he pointed under the cupboard lips and under the bakers rack. The frosting was starting to harden.

So while Leif vacuumed the entire kitchen and dining room floor, AB and I went over and decorated cookies. Leif was happy as a clam. Finally he admitted he was done and agreed to letting me put the vacuum cleaner away. I have a clean floor now thanks to my 2.5 year old. And I am sure there will be some therapy session at some point where my son will have a repressed memory about vacuuming the floor while mommy and daddy frosted and decorated cookies. Sigh.

Friday, December 15, 2006


19.5 years ago my mom took a job as an admin for a small toxicology research lab. She became the office manager, then the QA manager, took over the accounting, and finally the lab manager for a the growing lab, a pretty good sized small business in Northern Colorado.

Today she finalized the paperwork for the purchase of this business from the chief toxicologist who started the lab.

I am just so proud of her. I don't think my mom ever saw herself as the owner of her own business, let alone the owner of a prospering lab with both government contracts and contracts with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

She has her head on straight with it, knows the company inside and out and I have no doubt she will excel and prosper in this position.

Congratulations mom! You deserve it and you make me proud!

The Concept of Time

As adults we don’t think much about the concept of time. For us, it just flies. I remember as a child, how the time would drag along. Having two weeks off over the holidays was a TON of time. The summers were never ending and it took forever for Christmas to arrive. Now there isn’t time for anything.

I realized this morning that I have no idea when kids learn the concept of time. That not everything is instantaneous, and that there is a difference between a day and a week. I learned this after hearing much sobbing when we pulled into the daycare parking lot.

Literally, the turn into the lot and there was sobbing like Leif suddenly had the most hurt feelings in the entire world. I hurried to park the car and get back to him to see what triggered this. He didn’t want to get out of the car and go into daycare. Immediately thoughts of “what happened yesterday and who did this to him” entered my mind. After a few minutes I get him calmed down enough to tell me.

“I (sob sob sob) go airplane (sob sob sob) see grandma and bompa (sob sob sob).”

My heart broke for him. AB and I have been talking the past few days about how we are going to go on the airplane to see grandma and grandpa for Christmas next week. Never did I think about the fact that “next week” means nothing to Leif. Somehow he became convinced that today was the day we were going to go get on the airplane to go see grandma and grandpa.

His two teachers and his former teacher from last year all talked to him about the fun things they were going to do today, music class, movie day, etc. Luckily he was the first one to arrive and they could take this time with him. After much reassuring he gave me a kiss and hug goodbye and went off to help make snack.

I got in the car and called AB. New tactic with regards to vacation… we don’t say a word about airplanes until next Saturday morning.

Christmas Music

Much to my happiness, Leif is ultra-excited this year about Christmas music. This morning as we drove into work, I flipped my XM radio between the five available Christmas music stations. I came across Perry Como’s version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” and Leif was stoked. I smiled as he squealed at the top of his lungs “PEAR TREE!” while mumbling along to the rest of the lyrics. He hit the main points, “turtle doves”, “rings”, etc. At the end he yelled with a huge smile on his face, “good song mommy!”

This just filled my heart. Every night we have been singing the Twelve Days of Christmas before bed, Leif likes it and the repetitive nature (while rocking) seems to calm him some. Plus for the first time in my life I have someone looking at me and telling me he likes my singing!

My two favorite Christmas recordings go back to when I was a kid. John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together (which I swear there was a Muppet Show that went along with this, but I can’t find it on DVD, the Muppet Family Christmas is not the one I am referring to) and John Denver’s Christmas. Yes, I admit it, I am a John Denver fan. Growing up in the Rocky Mountain States that is just a requirement. Laugh if you must.

The Muppets Christmas is still the coolest Christmas cd ever. Gotta love the little things…

We Wish You A Merry Christmas…

Gonzo: Now bring us a figgy pudding.
Gonzo: No, figgy pudding, it’s made with figs.
Miss Piggy: Oh OK. Sorry.
Gonzo: And bacon.
Miss Piggy: What?

And John Denver’s Christmas cd contains my single favorite non-traditional Christmas song of all times, Christmas for Cowboys. It is funny that I like this song since I have always had a serious aversion to anything cowboy related. But this is the vision of Christmas I can relate to in my heart, not the big city Christmas. Second to this song is Aspenglow on the same cd. The last few Christmases where we have been in Alaska have been especially dear to my heart as we have spent Christmas eve and day (and a few days after usually) at my in laws cabin about 1.5 hours outside of Anchorage. Remote, quiet with lots of snow. Aspenglow is my theme song there.

My favorite traditional Christmas song is Silent Night. This is traditionally played at Christmas Eve services and sung during candlelight services. It is a magical experience to me, to be gathered in a church, holding a candle and singing this song. My biggest problem is making sure my tears don’t hit the flame on my candle and put it out. We haven’t attended a candlelight service in a few years now mostly because of Leif. The candlelit services are usually later in the evening and we try to hit the earlier ones so he can be home and in bed at a reasonable time. But this day will come again soon. I do have to say though, this morning on my drive into work I heard the worst rendition of Silent Night. It was by Stevie Nicks. She is an odd duck, but I like her music for the most part. It was the most flat, boring, monotone singing of this song I have ever heard.

My single favorite version of a song is Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLaughlin singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. This song on its own doesn’t normally rank even in my list of favorite Christmas songs, but this version I just want to crank it and dance around my living room. Who am I kidding? Just ask Leif, we do crank it and dance around our living room.

I also have a few offbeat Christmas songs that I enjoy. The one that kills AB, and not in a happy, funny way, is John Denver’s “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas”. I grew up laughing and singing this song. From the first time AB heard it, he was horribly appalled. Ok, so I can see why. It is a pretty sad song, I admit it. But it is also dark and humorous in a twisted way. When I play the cd at home, it is flat out guaranteed my husband will silently get up, walk over to the cd player and fast forward it within seconds of it coming on.

AB likes Christmas music. But he doesn’t love it the way I do. He has grown used to the Muppets and John Denver (save for the one unmentionable song), and he likes the Barenaked Ladies Holiday cd (there are Hanukkah songs on it), but his preference is for classical Christmas music. It is our compromise in my car since he could care less hearing Wham sing “Last Christmas” or Madonna sing "Santa Baby" on Holly. Ok, so could I. He used to have a rule that the Christmas music couldn’t come on until the day after Thanksgiving and goes away the day after Christmas. I did inform him recently though that carrying, laboring and birthing his child (soon children) has earned me a little bit of a grace period with the Christmas music. Really, how else could he really respond?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Merry Christmas, from your government

Continuing resolution status… new deadline February 15th or September 30th. Why can’t we just tell our congress people that they have a job to do, at a deadline and you can’t leave until it is done? At lunch today there were tales of “the old days” when our congressmen worked hard to meet their deadline, because the air conditioning went off on a certain day and no one wanted to be in DC without air conditioning. Let’s turn off their heat right now.

Best case scenario for those of us depending on new or more money this year is the Feb 15th deadline right now. Although I particularly like this line of bullshit:

“They are considering declaring continuing resolution for the entire year and just starting work on the 2008 budget.” (Hence the September 30th deadline.)

Yes, let’s just declare that 2007 will not happen. It is the end of 2006 and 2007 is just a wash. I could go into a tirade about appropriations committees, new leads taking over committees, Omnibus bills, etc. I got a whole e-mail about it. Who knew that getting a degree in science would require that I learn political science? I sure didn’t, but I know a whole hell of a lot more about it now!

Here is what it comes down to right now. There are people who are pending funds, who are hundreds of hours behind in their chargeable hours goals and if this does not change by sending the additional money that was promised in the budget for 2007, there will be layoffs. Simply saying “well we have new leads taking over committees and so they don’t really have time to get up to speed so let’s just ignore it” is just plain unacceptable and irresponsible. If you weren’t up to speed on the appropriations for your committee you should not be the new lead.

I voted for a Democrat senator this last time around and so I had a hand in this too. I believe that change needed to be made. But damn it, quit making me regret my decision!

Signed, one of the much sought after swing voters.

13 days and counting

I can’t believe that in a week and a half we will be hopping on a plane and going to Colorado for the holidays. The madness has already started on both sides of the family and in record time we are already saying, “next year we are staying home”. Usually that statement doesn’t make its appearance until having been somewhere for a few days. Nothing is a surprise, all the issues are minor, and when it comes down to it, I look forward to spending time with and seeing our families. It’s just all the baggage that rides along with the visit.

I am very nearly done with all of our Christmas shopping. AB has to pick a few things up, we need to come to a decision with family members on a joint gift and there are a few little regional type gifts I want to get to take with us. I need to wrap and package up a couple boxes to ship and get those in the mail.

On Saturday we took Leif to see Santa Claus with our friends and their daughter. They both seemed excited to see Santa from a distance. Leif was pretty wound up, whether it was just from being at the mall or from seeing Santa, I don’t know. When C sat on Santa’s lap we were struggling to keep Leif back and not charging C and Santa. Then C climbed off Santa’s lap and it was Leif’s turn. Things changed quickly when he was within 5 feet of Santa. Suddenly he was shy and a little scared. His picture is one of the very few I have of Leif NOT smiling! It is a cute picture, but there wasn’t anyway he was going to crack a smile. Santa was great, real beard, friendly, kind and took some time with each kid. I hope Leif was listening well when Santa told him to go to bed early on Christmas Eve!

Sunday I was a slug all day, in fact, I didn’t even take a shower until mid-afternoon when Leif had a poopy blow-out of epic proportions and instead of running us out of tp and wipes, he got to shower with me instead. (Which was real pleasant for me…) What really threw our Sunday off was Leif’s adamant refusal to nap. He may not need a nap daily, but I need him to nap! I suppose not too surprisingly this meant that he was asleep in bed at 8pm and slept in until after 7am. So maybe there is a light at the end of naptime, but it is dim, very, very dim. This “no nap” thing is going to be short lived, I assure you.

Leif has said some funny things lately. He still chooses to call AB by name on occasion. Usually after getting out of the bath in the evening he yells for him. On the flip side, apparently AB doesn’t use my name regularly to call me. Because Leif has picked up calling me “sweety” and “honey”. The other day at daycare I just about died when he told me “bye bye sweety!”

And I am not sure I should admit to this one… but Leif was putting the broom away the other day, saw the vacuum and said, “daddy’s vacuum”. It is just another vacuum joke AB has added to the repertoire. The first being a story about how about 6 months after buying a new vacuum I had to ask him how to turn it on.

I am struggling with books right now. I want to read a really good book. Actually, I am reading a good book, Persepolis 2, but that will be finished in another day or so and I am not counting it. I have a stack of books next to my bed that I haven’t read yet, including my January book club book, Snow. I have picked up nearly every single one and put it back down again. Nothing is striking me. I want to read a really good book, kind of like I want to watch a really good movie. I don’t know how long it has been since I have rented a movie I can honestly say, “this is really good”. For AB it goes back to Return of the King. I am sure there has to be something that we have seen since then. (You can probably assume that “Lonesome Jim”, the movie we rented this weekend, was NOT of this caliber and what spawned this discussion. I am tired of movie drivel.) Recommendations?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Things I never thought I would do/say:

"Would you like to watch me go potty and then you can go too?"

Turn up Daryl Hall and John Oates singing "Jingle Bell Rock".

Read a book about poop, with enthusiasm.

Send my son into daycare carrying his breakfast, in a Starbucks bag, neatly packed by Starbucks.

"Yes, maybe a minivan is a good option."

Buy shoes from Lands End.

To my stylist, "I don't care as long as I can pull it into a ponytail".

"Yes, I would like help to my car with my groceries."

Wear yoga pants to work and be completely fine with how I look.

"But you had macaroni and cheese for lunch, are you sure you want it for dinner too?" And secretly be excited.

Be worried that the daycare teacher actually believes Leif when he says, "I eat chocolate lots at home".

Rewind a commercial five times. I bought Tivo so I wouldn't have to watch commercials. (Leif's favorite thing on TV right now is the Pampers commercial with Silent Night playing.)

Have Sesame Street ornaments on my Christmas tree. And all on one branch.

Have no clue whatsoever to get a teenager for Christmas, consult their guest list, and then declare that I will not buy any of that crap for them.

"No, Kurt Cobain only died a couple years ago, I remember I was a senior in college." (I was a senior in college in 93-94.)

Moving Along

While continuing resolution has not ended as “scheduled” today (new talk is “well into January”), things have picked up a little, making me an extremely happy person. It has been a rough two months in this field. One that has, more than usual, caused me to question whether this is really where I want to be. The verdict is still out on that, but my inclination to do something else isn’t based any longer on pure boredom and lack of interesting projects. What is truly frightening is hearing stories at our last directorate meeting a few days ago about people who are in really bad positions, used up their vacation time and have flexed “hundreds” of hours. In a normal company, that screams layoffs, but it hasn’t happened because it is “that time of year” (not Christmas, I don’t work for that great of a company. Continuing resolution). Instead all our projects will likely pay, literally, next year. It was rumored to be a bad year fiscally, but the rumors were confirmed by our ALD the other day. Expect a bad year and help your coworkers find work, he said. However, we are still expected to grow our business volume in the directorate by another $7 million. Go figure.

Let’s see if I can help that out some. Next week is going to be a busy week as Friday the call for proposals from one of our bread and butter clients is coming out. I have a number of meetings scheduled to discuss potential proposals. And luckily, this client allows us to charge business development for them on our existing projects. Phew, funded time to develop proposals. A welcome rarity.

I picked up some work this past week doing some computational modeling for one of the senior staff scientists here. I really enjoy doing computational modeling, but rarely have the real opportunity. Mostly because there is a group here devoted to and specializing in computational modeling, and I am not part of that group. So getting the work can be a challenge. I had a second chat with a relatively new strategic hire yesterday that is fairly sure he is close to landing his first grant since arriving. He came by to “make sure” if it comes through, that I will be available to do his modeling and stated that he wrote into the budget a new computer devoted to modeling for me so that I am not relegated to working on my laptop when simulations are running, and my favorite software. Yippee!

I also had a recent and extensive e-mail exchange with a staff scientist. I was honored that when he needed some advice on a topic, he came to me. I provided my advice to him. He e-mailed me back saying that my recommendations were where his inclinations lay, but he needed concrete proof. The thought of my three to five paragraphs as being concrete proof to a scientist five who was reviewing a proposal and basing his thumbs up or down on this proof freaked me out some. Where is my self confidence that I left graduate school with? (Oh and the poor saps who wrote this lame proposal will be receiving a thumbs down… do a little research people, the individuals reviewing your proposal do theirs!)

So all in all, things are looking up this coming year for me here at work. It isn’t nearly as bleak as I feared a matter of weeks ago. I still have issues and fully expect 2007 to be full of changes on the work front, the level of the changes is the only variable.

Feeling Groovy, a tale of two music teachers

Upfront warning, this post has the potential to be a very un-Christmaslike post. If you are one of those people that thinks everything this time of year should be in the holiday spirit with kindness, go ahead and hit the “Next Blog” button up top.

Still with me? Leif has two favorite songs right now, Jingle Bells and Feeling Groovy. I am pretty sure the kids will be singing Jingle Bells, with bells for their holiday school party. I can’t wait. (Leif’s version of Jingle Bells goes something like this… “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, HEY!” repeat) Feeling Groovy is a kind of weird addition, but after playing a Simon and Garfunkel compilation, the song stuck on him. Now you put on any Simon and Garfunkel cd and you will be graced with squeals for “Groovy song!”

Both of these songs conjure up childhood memories for me. The first one, Jingle Bells, goes back to when I was in kindergarten. I had started piano lessons earlier that summer. My kindergarten teacher knew I was in piano lessons and asked me if I would like to play a song in the annual Christmas pageant. I jumped at the chance to perform. My mom talked with my piano teacher, Mrs. Connoly, who I remember balking a little about how this would usurp her lesson plan. I quite possibly might not be ready to “properly” play Jingle Bells in time for the pageant. But she agreed to teach it to me, reluctantly. She was a crotchety sort, but I did like and respect her.

The day of the pageant arrived and in my tote bag I carried my show and tell item, a Frosty the Snowman snowglobe and my primer piano book that held my music to Jingle Bells. I decided to go down the slide that day after arriving at school. I climbed the long ladder, got to the top and my tote bag fell out of my hand. Crash. I was devastated. Not only was my snowglobe broken, but my sheet music was sopping wet. I went in crying to my kindergarten teacher who assured me that my music would dry by the time of the pageant and that I could tell everyone about my snowglobe at show and tell. Still I cried and cried. My eyes were so red for the pageant.

The pageant time came, sure enough my sheet music was dry. I walked up to the piano, sat down and played Jingle Bells. Awww, the end. (Of the nice, happy holiday story part of this entry.)

The flip side of the story is Feeling Groovy. If Mrs. Connoly was my nice music teacher, Mrs. Peacock was her antithesis. Mrs. Peacock was my elementary school music teacher and the single person in the world that I can truly say I despise still to this date. There are very few people, if any, other than Mrs. Peacock, that if I ever happened to come face to face with I would likely tell her exactly how I felt about her. She was an awful, miserable person. She was small and mousey with brown, straight bobbed hair. She was never happy. I wouldn’t say that Mrs. Connoly was an overly happy person either, but it was different. She was a prime and proper French woman who instilled respect naturally.

Mrs. Peacock was a young woman. My guess when I was in 1st grade was that she was in her late 20’s. I could fill this blog with stories of Mrs. Peacock from every single year of my elementary school existence. My mom, who was always either my sister’s or my room mother, knew her through the school. She laughs now to hear my sister and I speak of her with such extreme rage. She knew Mrs. Peacock wasn’t liked and used to comment about hearing her scream in the classrooms at the kids, but said she never knew it was *that* bad. It was. Music class was not fun. For our annual play productions she always picked the popular kids over and over to play the lead speaking positions. Every year I tried out with hope and belief in my heart I would be selected for a speaking part and never once secured one. It was a popularity contest with her and I am sure my speech impediments didn’t help my case. But I do remember truly wanting a major part of a play. I was often some animal in the background who might get to dance or flutter across the stage, and *never* had a sanctioned costume.

When I was in first grade Mrs. Peacock came in and said we were being prepared for our spring concert where the first, second and third graders all got together in the auditorium and sang to the rest of the school during the day and then at night with the parents watching. This was a huge deal every year. I was introduced to the song Feeling Groovy when it was on our list of songs we would be learning. Most of the songs were songs we, as kids, knew and enjoyed singing. There were murmurs about “why are we singing this weird song” in reference to Feeling Groovy. I remember Mrs. Peacock telling us we were singing it because our parents would just light up when they hear their kids singing one of their favorite songs. She beamed. We sang the song at the concert and I remember looking out and looking for any parents beaming at their favorite song being played. (I knew it wasn’t my parent’s favorite song… my mom was listening to Donna Summers and Saturday Night Fever and my dad was listening to the Rolling Stones and The Cars.) I didn’t see it. She lied to us I told myself. I asked my parents that night if it was their favorite song and they said no, but it was a nice song to sing.

I like the 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy). I really do. But when it plays, I am plagued by memories of Mrs. Peacock.

Because I can’t let this post die without portraying exactly how awful this woman was, here is one anecdote and then I will stop there.

One day in 2nd grade, I was in music class and she was talking. I put a Kleenex (it was unused) in my mouth and was swinging my head around making the Kleenex fly around my head, making my friends around me laugh. I remember her devil eyes seeing me, squinting and seething and shooting me with laser beams. Yes, I knew I was doing something I probably shouldn’t be doing and I should be paying attention to her (truly it was unlike me, I didn’t normally make waves in class). What followed then was a scream from the top of her lungs, my name. I looked at her and removed the Kleenex from my mouth. “Do you know how so disgusting you are? You put that nasty Kleenex in your mouth and think it is cute. You sicken me,” she bellowed. She could have stopped there, but she didn’t. She added onto the end, “Knowing your mom I am sure she just allows you to be a disgusting little child and do things like this all the time, but I do NOT in my classroom.” I was heartbroken, she was talking about my mom. I could deal with her yelling at me, but criticizing my mom as a parent crushed me and ruined elementary school music for me from that point forward. My classmates all stared at me with their jaws dropped. Did they agree with her? Did they think I was a disgusting person? The tears welled up in my eyes, but I refused to let them flow. I also refused to sing the rest of the day, week, month and after that very rarely did I open my mouth in music class. I may have opened my mouth (usually when picked out of the crowd as “not singing!”) But she could not force any noise to come out.

Thank goodness for Mrs. Connoly... who countered some of the peacock's nastiness and therefore my love of music wasn't completely scarred.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My new nephew

I am posting these pictures here so that hopefully my MIL can see them as she is having trouble with her e-mail receiving pictures. Since these are not my pictures, and my blog is open to the public, they could come down in reasonably short order. (But isn't he so darn cute??)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dear Leif

Dear Leif,

Christmas is approaching and we love watching you get excited by these new experiences. We decorated the Christmas tree the other day and I couldn’t tell if it was wonderment and amazement or you were just purely convinced we were nutcases to decorate a tree in the house. At first you helped with gusto and decorated two branches, each with 4 ornaments. Mommy is doing really good at resisting her Martha Stewart side to distribute the ornaments evenly across the lower half of the tree. You tired of this activity quickly until daddy pulled out the ladder to put the star on the top, then you were determined to help again!

Halloween is now over and we haven’t trick or treated in over a month now. Halloween and Christmas really are very different holidays since we thankfully don’t live in Tim Burton’s world. Really and truly, bulbs we have put on our Christmas tree have nothing to do with pumpkins. They aren’t even orange. Calling them “moons” is a little more acceptable. You are really loving the Advent calendar right now and adding a piece each night is really very exciting to you. Stopping at one piece is, however, nearly impossible.

We rented The Polar Express last week and it won’t be going back anytime soon. At least until we get it recorded off the TV and onto the computer and burned to DVD. (Blame daddy for the commercials, mommy just wanted to buy it.) You call it “Polar Bear Express” and ask for it routinely. The hot chocolate scene is really amazing and I do see the hint of disappointment in your eyes when mommy doesn’t tumble across the floor to delivery your hot chocolate to you. Although there was a day…

Little things everyday continue to amaze me. I had thought when you were younger that you had inherited my extreme picky nature regarding food that very nearly dominated my life as a kid. I don’t know if it is the vastly different attitude that we have opted to take regarding you and food as compared to how my parents approached food with me or if you truly just did inherit daddy’s “garbage disposal” tendencies, but wow what an eater you have become. When Grandma visited in September she marveled at the things you ate… and mommy beamed to get the compliment. (Hey, I take them where I can get them!)

Your favorite thing to eat right now is grapefruit. Like mommy, you would eat it at every meal if you could. Who can blame you? I can’t. They are fantastic this time of year. However, this obsession is proving to be a little un-kidlike. On Sunday you helped me enthusiastically make cinnamon muffins. After they got out of the oven I put one in front of you at the table. You looked at it and asked for a grapefruit. After eating the half of a grapefruit you got up and left your cinnamon muffin sitting there untouched. Oh don’t worry, it is gone… mommy ate it. Last night the vast majority of your dinner was steamed broccoli. You called them trees and ate all the tops off leaving the little stumps. Also leaving your steak, potato and macaroni and cheese untouched. I am not complaining in the least! I am just a little surprised is all. Today you squealed with delight to see that you had leftover trees in your lunch!

One of your favorite games to play lately (thanks to daddy) is “shark attack”. Nice, huh? Blame daddy when you have a fear of sharks someday. You have a stuffed hammerhead shark that you like to chase us around the house with screaming “shark attack”! Once again… thank you daddy.

You are increasingly curious about mommy’s growing belly and have started to comment on it pretty regularly. Usually while we are reading stories each night before bed as my lap gets smaller and smaller by the week. I am pretty sure you haven’t any real idea why my belly is getting bigger even though you do acknowledge the fact that there is a baby in there. I do want to assure you however, that despite the fact that other parts of mommy’s body are getting bigger along with my belly, it doesn’t need to be acknowledged (particularly in public, like at Taco Bell on Saturday) and there are most certainly not other babies growing in these other parts.

Your potty training was coming along nicely… until Sunday. You had three days with only one potty accident during this time. (We won’t talk about the poopy issue. New toy, new toy, new toy…) Then came Sunday. Nuff said.

One of your favorite things to do is still reading. You insist on doing a lot of the reading and are proving to be a very “skilled reader”! Your favorite books to read aloud are the Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Panda Bear, Panda Bear books. You have just started really enjoying books that are longer and more involved than most of your board books. Although Tails still reigns supreme. (Mommy will pull it out of its hiding place again really soon, I promise.) “In The Night Kitchen” is a favorite, which you call “the Mickey book”. Mommy hopes that means you will foster a love for cooking as your grow. But right at this moment, “How the Grinch stole Christmas” is number one. Dr. Seuss books aren’t always the easiest to read, and some are quite long. (Or maybe I am just being introduced to the world of non-board books.) But after a week of practice, mommy nearly has it perfected AND in the perfect Boris Karloff voice. Give me another week and I will have it memorized.

You are such an amazing little boy Leif! Mommy and daddy are really looking forward to Christmas this year with you.

Love, Mommy

Slacker or pregnancy brain?

I am normally really not a slacker. So I don’t know what is with me lately. Pregnancy brain? I had two bills I forgot to pay mid-month. I never forget them. Then this next one puts me on Santa’s bad list… The other day, two admin from my former group (the group I was in TWO years ago) stopped by my office and dropped off a card for someone named Ken.

Ok, first off, can I just say I hate this tradition of card passing. When I had my son, I didn’t get a card with everyone in the groups signatures (despite the fact I had always signed everyone else’s cards AND always pitched in $5 or so for a gift card for births and weddings). But that is water under the bridge and something I am only an eensy tiny bit bitter about. I just think the whole organized card activity takes up a lot of time and sets a bad precedence for when something isn’t recognized. And in a group of 70+ people, you can’t recognize everything.

Anyways, they hand the card to me and say it is for Ken’s wife. I tell them I don’t know a Ken. (Afterall I haven’t been in their group for two years now.) I hold it out for them to take it back. They said, “oh yeah you do, you have at least seen him around, shorter older guy, his wife is sick”. I tell them “I am sorry to hear this, but I don’t know who he is”. The older admin rolls her eyes and says, “just sign it please, we need more signatures”.

Am I silly here? I had a nice thought for this person Ken, and I am truly sorry that his wife is ill. But what does a card with a bunch of random signatures from people he doesn’t know do? I grabbed the card, they ran off to a meeting. I signed it and set it on the corner of my desk to return to them later. Then evidently I stacked a bunch of papers on top of it. And then some more on top of that. So “the other day” above? More like “the other week”.

Oops. I ran upstairs just a little bit ago and fully intended on handing it to one of the admins in person with my apologies. I wasn’t very disappointed though when they weren’t in their office and I could just drop it in their mailbox… anonymously.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Obsessive? Me?

Every year I pick a book up for AB for Christmas. He enjoys reading a lot, but so infrequently has the time for it. Traveling at Christmas seems to be the exception to this rule when we are both afforded the luxury of a little down time while spending it with family. Particularly while visiting my family, it is a good idea that AB have a good book to absorb himself in. Not that there is anything wrong with my family, of course.

This year I was at a loss as to what book to get AB. He hasn’t mentioned anything in particular. Actually the only book he did mention was the sequel to my December book club selection, Persepolis. But since I knew he would sit down and read it in an afternoon, it wasn’t a worthy candidate for vacation reading. So instead I ordered that the other day, it arrived last night. Leif squealed “Happy Birthday!” while AB opened the box. I went to the bathroom last night, saw it sitting on the floor and was surprised to see he had already read almost a quarter of the book between the time it arrived (5:30pm), when we ate dinner, and when he had to leave for class at 6:40pm. So I am not the only obsessive one.

AB is a sci-fi fan. Not fanatic. Just fan. He loves all the classics, but is fairly particular about the books he reads nowadays. He just doesn’t have the time to sit down and read every single book that looks interesting. He likes the latest Dune books by Herbert’s son and usually purchases those in hardback immediately upon release. That is the only set he is compulsive about reading. He likes Kim Stanley Robinson, but lately has been less than thrilled with his/her books. He read The Sparrow from my book club and then read the sequel and enjoyed those. All of these together and I could not for the life of me come up with a decent book to order for him for Christmas.

I performed a few searches online and sorry to say, every single book or cover looked like a bunch of cheese to me. (Sorry sci-fi fans.) I actually enjoy some limited sci-fi. Two of my top favorite books are considered sci-fi: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffeneger. I also enjoyed The Sparrow and KSR’s Antarctica (because I am a polar expeditions buff, a little obsessive about adventure stories in the extreme poles). Still what I saw out there struck me as cheese. Cheese somewhat akin to those sweeping romance novel covers with some bare chested beast of a man bending over a voluptuous woman lying on some chaise. Ok, so I may buy books based off the covers… I did start out college as an art major (2nd to biology).

I decided to wander (in the cold) over to the building next to me that houses the real geeks of my directorate today in search of advice on this conundrum. Wow did I get a wealth of information. I could have saved myself a fair amount of time had I just started out over there. Lesson learned, most scientists like sci-fi.

I placed an order for four books today. I fear I may have just doomed my husband’s final semester of school. I only intended on getting him one book. I bought the first book that the nuclear physicists all declared the most real science in a fiction book. (Which I know is always a problem for AB being a scientist.) It got rave reviews and was evidently published before Frank Herbert died and earned accolades from even him. That gave me the thumbs up since AB thinks Herbert to be “the man”. The other three books comprise a trilogy.

The minute this trilogy was mentioned I KNEW it was for AB. The title was the only thing I had to hear before the “ding ding ding we have a winner bell” went off. I knew I had to get it. I raced back to my office and found it, well most of it. The first two books for $6.99 each in mass market paperback. The third book for $69 available used from private sellers on Amazon. I was certain this was a mistake, a misplaced decimel point and did a little more research. It wasn’t wrong.

I headed back out (in the cold) to the building next door to ask more questions. Is the third book really necessary to the trilogy? (The responses filled the building with roars of laughter and adamant “YES’s”.) Ok, so I figured that… otherwise what is the purpose of a trilogy. I was filled with advice not to buy the books unless I can get my hands on the third. AB would kill me otherwise. Of course these are also my friends and there were offers to loan him the third book. A last resort… neither AB or I like to borrow books unless they are from family (who usually don’t care if they get them back). AB is hard on books and me? It just takes me forever to get through a book anymore.

The obsession set in. I hiked back to my office. (Yes, I do actually work throughout the day.) I started my search. There *had* to be some used bookstore somewhere that doesn’t realize the value of the book. Doesn’t there? I searched… and searched… Apparently $69 is the going rate for a USED version of the book and furthermore, used book stores are quite savvy in knowing what books (particularly out of print books) are worth. I felt dejected.

Because I knew it was SO perfect, I finally decided to just order the first two books and keep my eye open for the final book of the trilogy and if I don’t find it, take one of the nuc guys up on their offer that he could borrow it. I was somehow compelled to try one more search.

Which was not in vain! I don’t know how but I found the book for about $12 (₤6), new, in the UK! A quick check to find out that yes indeed it was in stock and new, and capable of being shipped to the US! I plunked down my credit card number quickly, secured the copy and felt incredibly gratified. A paperback book for $25 (including shipping)? I would normally balk. But I was obsessed… just a little.

Now, I have the perfect gift for AB. And one he would have NEVER suspected in a million years.