Saturday, July 29, 2006

Happy Birthday Leif!

Dear Leif,

You are two years old today. Remember the day when I thought you would never talk? We anxiously awaited your first words? Where did that day go? You talk non-stop now and your father and I can hardly get a word in edgewise. Or how about you toddling about, falling down after every 6 steps? Well you still fall down a lot, as evidence by your perpetually bruised legs, but can you slow down a little? It’s awfully hard for us to keep up.

We go for walks every night and you enjoy that. Although you always persist in heading the opposite way then we want to go. Is this indicative of what is to come? Are you always going to seek to be contrary? I realize the sun is in your eyes, but if you don’t keep your sunglasses (sassies) on then it will be at some point on our walk. It is really cute the way you emulate Winny on our walks, albeit a little gross when you get down on all fours next to her and sniff the grass like she does. I know what she is sniffing and would really rather you not sniff it as well. You are very demanding with Winny and scream at her nearly the entire walk, “Winny stop! Winny heel! Winny come! Winny no!” I don’t really yell at her *that* much, do I? Poor dog.

We are truly impressed with your reading skills. Last night you sat down and read the entire “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” book to daddy and I. Today you did it for grandma on the webcam. We beamed the entire time. You love books and some of your favorites right now are your Trucks book, the Air and Space book I brought you back from the Smithsonian last year, Goodnight Moon, the Ernie potty book (and Bert REALLY does go on the potty).

You really like movies and have gone back to the old Nemo standby. I tried pushing Brother Bear on you last weekend, but you got very mad when the bears weren’t on. You picked out the worst movie ever last weekend at Blockbuster. You get this from me, I tend to also pick out the worst movies ever. This one was called Stuart Little 3. I am quite positive you picked it out because there was a mouse on the cover. But really, it was horrible. Let’s not get that one again. You like Little Einsteins and enjoy singing along to the songs as well as Sesame Street (Cookie Monster and Ernie are your favorites). You have mastered the cookie monster voice.

Your closest friends are Cate and Atticus. You also like Jonathen, Liam, Soren and Sebastion from daycare. Ok here’s something you can explain to me… why do you eat everything under the sun at daycare, but are picky as can be at home? You are the apple of your teachers eyes. We hear stories about you that both crack us up and frighten us. Example, you pulled a little girl’s hair at school the other day. Your teacher got mad at you and told you not to do that and wouldn’t pick you up when you cried. You went to your former teacher, Miss Sufia, who was over with her class and told her you hurt yourself. She, of course, picked you up to snuggle. Cunning little boy, you are!

Speaking of owies. We need to discuss the little boy who cried wolf. Every five minutes you have a new owie. You have my klutziness… but it isn’t *that* severe. Just because mommy and daddy aren’t paying attention for a second, does not constitute an owie. And not every owie needs a Nemo band-aid. If every owie did, you would be a walking band-aid. We can’t afford that many band-aids.

You really enjoy water play, swimming, TumbleBus (where you do the zip line all by yourself) and any other activity that requires you to get up and move. Unfortunately the TumbleBus is not at my beck and call, and screaming for the bus at 7pm will not yield results.

You are being a little tease with us as far as counting and ABC’s goes. Your father and I have heard you count to 10 twice now. Perfectly. But when asked to count to 10, you tell us, three, eight, eight, eight. You perplex us. You have portions of your ABC’s, thanks mostly to Choo Choo Soul I am positive. Oh well, you are learning. Mommy is just jealous is all, I would say you will understand someday, but alas, you are a boy.

You truly have a magnetic personality. You draw people in, engage them and make them laugh. You have a knack for this, which confounds me. All I can say is that you did not get this from me. It frightens us a little as we see your personality develop. I worry of your trusting nature, your extreme outgoing nature and your tendencies to get that glimmer in your eye that reminds me so much of your grandma! Yes dear boy, you have been graced with grandma C’s personality! That means you will always be surrounded by friends, you will have an incredible knack for making people laugh and bringing people together. It also means you will throw a mean party (fear in mommy’s heart) and will pack for a blizzard in the middle of summer. Oh wait, maybe that is just a C family trait…

Happy Birthday Leif!

Love, Mommy

Two years ago today!

Two years ago today

Two years ago I had no idea what experiences were awaiting me as my life as a mom began. I had no idea how to take care of a newborn. I was nervous, excited and scared.

Two years ago was really just yesterday. I am still nervous, excited and scared. But you have taught me to trust my instinct, to go with my gut, and love with all my heart.

Two years ago you came into my life and apparently someone, somewhere decided I had not laughed enough in my life to date. You have made me laugh more in the last two years than I did the first 32.

Two years ago my level of worry started growing and continues to grow everyday as I try to hold you close to me and shelter you, yet at the same time let you experience the wonders of life.

Two years ago you made us a family.

Today, you are two my sweet boy! Today, we celebrate you!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Simplicity in my Wonder Woman underoos?

“Yours is a complex sign, and you can't be expected to process things the way that other, simpler signs do. Give yourself a little space to move. Your sense of wisdom demands more than surface solutions.”

Another horoscope. No, I don’t *really* buy into them… well all the time at least. I love this one though. It reminds me of a guy I dated in early college. I still am not sure how we got together, we weren’t at all alike. He annoyed me much of the time and I strived to change him into what I wanted. (Stupid girl) Finally I grew to realize there are plenty of fish in the sea and we weren’t right for each other and we parted ways.

Why this quote reminds me of him goes to his obsession with “simple folk”. He used to routinely say, “I like Jeff, he is a simple folk” or “I like Mary, she is a simple folk”. After hearing this in reference to nearly each of his friends, I finally questioned him, why did he term people “simple”, what makes a person “simple”, why was that good, was it a compliment to the person or would you be offended if someone termed you “simple”. Because I would be! His answer was frequently that simple people were “good” people, which I then would counter “does that mean that complex people are bad”. I didn’t want to lead a simple life. His obsession with leading a “simple life” was probably one of the things that finally divided us. I wanted to solve problems, live a big life, do fantastic things and live up to my potential as a human. (Yes, I was an idealistic college student at the time.) He wanted to make a living, make ends meet, play music and hang out with friends at music festivals. In his own words, he wanted to lead a simple life. I did not.

My mind may have changed a little as I have grown up. Maybe it is a shift in priorities. Maybe it is seeing life through the eyes of my child on a much more simplistic level. Maybe it is discovering that what really matters is friends and family and happiness, and not how many proposals I get out the door… Oh yeah, who am I kidding… what if getting 18 proposals out my door makes me happy? And it does matter… to me. But at this point in my life I find myself more and more striving for simplicity in life.

I tell myself (and my friends) that I am at a good point in my career. If I never got another promotion I would be ok with that. Apparently I am also very good at kidding myself. When it comes right down to it, I am a goat, I seek to climb. Even when I don’t seek it, I still climb. I am competitive, I like to hold my own and I want to be recognized for what I do. I have an inherent and undeniable drive and ambition. I want to be Wonder Woman. As an 8 year old little girl jumping off the couch in my underoos, I believed I was Wonder Woman. There are days when that belief never failed or fleeted. Days when I can still feel that silky polyester under my clothes.

So where does leading a simple life fit in with saving the world from villains? Are they mutually exclusive? Will I forever turn every small task into a huge project with many levels? Or someday, will I just be able to sit back, enjoy the music and have a glass of whatever? (I would really prefer wine though, and do you have a cabernet? Maybe a nice Washington Cab from the Red Mountain or Walla Walla AVA?)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On horoscopes and proposal writing

“Believe it or not, you're ready to take a risk. Actually, it's not even a risk -- you know the price of staying exactly where you are is just too much. Move toward what genuinely moves you. Don't stop 'til you get there.”

I read my horoscope late in the day today. Maybe it is good. Because had I read this beforehand I might have freaked out wondering what I was supposed to do. Now that the day is mostly over I can step back and high five myself. (Because there is nobody else in my office…)

I got an e-mail this morning saying that my company has decided to move on my big proposal to an external funding agent. It is a high risk, high payoff venture. I was paid earlier in the year to write this proposal, then contracts backed out and said no. The person (wuss) who funded me to write the proposal stood aside and said, “oh well”. My team lead was irate and vowed to at least use this as lessons learned and “look here we have a bright young scientist with a great idea and we are just shoving it aside”.

The biggest problem is that it does not fit with the overall mission of my department. It is a super idea, if I worked at a weapons lab. But I don’t. I get it, I need to focus my energies elsewhere, on our tasks and problems at hand. Oh a whim last week I sent it to a sector manager who raised a holy living stink with contracts and single handedly forced them to define, in writing, how exactly contracts would deal with proposals of this type. (While I sat aside beaming that he liked my idea and it got his attention enough to investigate why it could not go out the door.) Once this was done this morning I was assigned a contracts specialist to work with me in getting it out the door.

It is proposal time. I just sent another concept paper off. It is likely to crash and burn, but I did get special permission from a sector manager to put it in. So while they may laugh and scoff at my proposal, the sector manager’s signature does grace it. And I know for a fact that it has caught the eye of two other managers since they have inquired personally about it with the caveat that “well you know this really isn’t the appropriate outlet for this, but it is an intriguing concept” and “have you thought about submitting this to XXX organization?”.

I was told when I started here that you don’t let a proposal call go by without responding to it with something. This is my something to this call. Also among that list of rules is to never recycle a proposal or concept with the same org or call two year in a row, quick way to annoy the hell out of the reviewers and make them think you think they are stupid and forgetful. Advice was to give each proposal a 3-4 year rest between calls… give the reviewers time to forget and come at it with a fresh face. Given this turn around I need to start digging back into my proposals archive folders and see what is worthy of bringing back to the top.

I spent the morning brainstorming with one of my teams after our teleconference. We have been given a minimum $50K seed money for this coming year. This kills me since the proposal deadline is next week. If you don’t think a funding agent knows ahead of time what they are funding, think again. I am up to lead this project (yay!), now we just need a project. What are we going to do? An hour of brainstorming and I think we are all just sick of hearing each other’s voices.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Project that is. Out of money. Spent. Kaput. Nada. And this project is a prime example of mismanagement, nothing to show for this year’s effort. The project manager role was offered to me earlier in the year and I declined mostly because 50% of the project was completely mind-boggling to me. I was tempted, but since I have never quite been able to figure out what they were trying to do I just couldn’t accept it. And I don’t think I am *that* stupid. Apparently neither could the external review committee as they instructed that if there was to be funding for FY07, then this “task” needed to go by the wayside.

We had a nice, quiet weekend. Ordered Thai food on Friday. Saturday we ran a number of errands, including buying Leif a tricycle at Toys R Us from AB and I for his birthday this coming Saturday. Of course at TRU he showed absolutely no interest in a tricycle, but oogled at the big kids “cycles”. While there I also let him spend his $30 gift cards from grandpa. My intention was to let him spend “some” of it. The other portion I was insisting on using for a bicycle helmet, something practical. Might as well get him in the habit early. We found the perfect bike helmet and knee pads with Sesame Street characters on it. Then Leif decided he was going shopping with the remaining.

My determination is that independence does not always need to be fostered. Because we really did NOT need a 3 foot long plastic dump truck that cost $9.99. He has two (albeit much smaller ones) already that he doesn’t use. He was pointed gently instead to GeoTrax expansions and Play-Doh.

Of course we headed off to Target afterwards only to find a tricycle that we liked far better and for $10 cheaper. (AB said he would return the other this week.) Apparently, despite the fact that it was 107-110F this weekend and yesterday, it isn’t the proper season for buying lawn sprinklers for kids to play in. Target had either a slip and slide (too old for Leif), or an infant/toddler Elmo sprinkler. I was tempted to go with the Elmo sprinkler, but I know my boy well enough to know that he will treat it exactly as he does the spray nozzle on the hose… pick it up and run with it. I want something stationary, that he will run through. Not something that he can chase me around the yard with.

A quick trip to Costco and home to vege in our air conditioned house. That afternoon we ran to get groceries then came home and made salmon fish tacos that were quite spectacular.

Sunday morning was C’s birthday party. We had a really nice time at their house. The kids played in the pools and ate watermelon. Then when the heat became intolerable we headed inside to visit, munch, eat cake, sing and watch C open her presents. A good time was had by all.

Sunday afternoon we lazed around the house, it was too hot to even clean. Thai chicken pizza for dinner and we ventured to the yard at about 7pm. No relief from the heat, but at least it was a change of scenery.

This week is progressing as usual. I am working on a white paper proposal that has to go out tomorrow, 1-2 pages. Easy right? Not when you are starting with a 13 page proposal and cutting to get to that 1-2 page limit. A bunch of data analysis work to do whereby I am struggling with the question of baseline correction… do I baseline correct this data or not and how does that affect “the answer”. The graphs are so much prettier corrected, but how many counts do I lose doing this and does that drop my efficiency too far.

TV, for the summer, is amazingly not boring this year. We finished watching all the Desperate Housewives we had recorded on the computer and are working on clearing the Grey’s Anatomy cue. I can hereby admit my obsession with Big Brother that I have had since season one. I know, pitiful. AB watches it as well and claims to be able to stop anytime… I don’t kid myself with such delusions. AB has some sci-fi shows that have resumed seasons that he is into. The best thing on right now is Entourage, which we watch faithfully. Take Sex and the City, sex changes all around and move them to the west coast, wa la Entourage. The best thing on network TV? Anyone see “How I Met Your Mother”? AB and I are really into that and have been catching all the reruns. I always liked Friends but couldn’t ever relate *that* well. I relate here. Recent college grads starting out life as professionals. Doogie Howser plays a lawyer and appears to be a most excellent young future Denny Crane. Who knew Doogie would play such a great scumball. AB and I are frightened by how much Lilly and Marshall remind us of ourselves 7-8 years ago, except I don’t think I was ever *that* skinny outside of high school.

I know, it isn’t cool to enjoy watching TV. Your brain turns to mush in front of the TV. Yadda yadda yadda. It’s a form of entertainment. We never forego actual interactions with friends in favor of TV (that’s what Tivo is for). (Oh hey, I used the word Tivo! That means I am going to get put on that weird Tivo list that logs every blog that mentions Tivo. Tivo! Tivo! Tivo! Thank you Site Meter for pointing this out to me.) I like veging in front of the TV with a book or magazine. I like the comedy. I like the drama. I like the local evening news. And yes, I like Big Brother too, damn it! There it is, shun me if you please.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I am learning to like the heat and to enjoy all the wonderful things that summer offers in this area. But I don’t expect I will ever, and I do mean ever, come to accept or tolerate 110F weather. This just makes me sick to my stomach. It is to the point it isn’t even safe to let my son go out and play in the afternoon when he wakes up from nap. The dog (big black shaggy thing) has not been walked in days because it is still above 100F in the evenings for her walk. She does go about as far as the mailbox and back only to return and collapse on the tile entryway.

AB and I did smarten up though and follow her lead… laying on the cold tile entryway really does feel nice. Too bad it is so hard.

Our air conditioner is struggling to keep up and last night our thermostat said 80F. We had a first of the season routine maintenance which indicated no foreseeable problems. So I am crossing my fingers that we aren’t starting down the road to no air conditioner.

Leif has been taking his baths outside in his pool the last three nights. He gets to “swim” (because there is evidently a huge difference between his kiddie pool and the bathtub) and I get a clean boy. Freaky thing about it is that at the end of the day, the pool water is warmer than his bathwater. Oh and did I mention that I can actually wash and RINSE his hair in the pool, whereas in the tub the neighbors can hear him scream bloody murder when his hair is rinsed.

Gah. Did I mention it is hot? Miserably, ugly, sickeningly hot.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Seriously! Good news is that I have some more work, data analysis, my favorite! It will be extensive and require me to sit at my desk with TORI in one hand. But it will yield a paper. I have done my preliminary data preparation to get it in the form I like to work it in and that is acceptable to the programs I use, instead of the funky output that the local software guys decided was appropriate. They apparently never consulted a scientist. So I played IT specialist this afternoon messing with outputs.

I got preliminary word to go ahead with my collaboration with a prof from a regional university. He is going to collect data on my advice, send the data to me to analyze, then he and I will decide if we can publish it at least. All of this without a contract or exchange of funds. Scratching each other’s backs I suppose… but I have seen pictures of him, he looks like the type with a VERY hairy back. Eww.

Let’s see… new Leif antics. We have harvested our first tomatoes of the year. Yum. I picked about five as Leif whined and whined “bite” to me. I tried to convince him they were not strawberries or rappies (raspberries). He didn’t care. So the other night as we went out on our walk, I munched on a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich and Leif ate a tomato as we walked. Strange child wants nothing to do with ice cream – I think the cold freaks him out. He ate the entire Roma tomato and every few steps told us how good it was. I was very careful in my response to him… he is so picky I am fearful of turning him off any foods.

We went to a BBQ last night and survived. Leif is such high energy I still worry about him freaking out or his toddler antics irritating people. And being that we knew relatively few of the BBQ attendees, I was nervous about this. He did well. A little obnoxious with hauling lawn animal ornaments all up onto the porch and announcing their names and sounds. He wasn’t interested in eating a whole lot, until the watermelon (gag) came out. I never buy watermelon because I don’t like it, I find the flavor very strong (says the girl who loves blue cheese, yes, I know… weird). Leif was particularly thrilled though with watermelon, even going so far as to steal our friends rind and nibble off hers.

Here is the one, slightly more horrifying move of the night. Leif needed his watermelon on a paper plate. He took his paper plate and uninvited, made himself at home in between two people we just met, on a narrow two person seat. Plopped himself down right between them. Then proceeded to drop the watermelon on the woman’s white pants. Horrified. Me. I didn’t know what to do, offer to pay for dry cleaning? (Which is what we did when he flung a ketchup covered plate at Red Robin onto a girls lap at the neighboring table, again horrifying.) She did say, no it was fine, it would wash. Still ugh.

This weekend we have loads of errands, Farmer’s Market, Target, TRU, Costco, grocery store and Home Depot. We also have a toddler birthday party on Sunday morning. K&V are having C’s 2nd party a week early since they head out on vacation the following weekend. At least here, four other kids will be in the same age group and so Leif’s antics shouldn’t stand out quite so much. I am a little worried about Leif when C opens her presents. Lately he is particularly enamored with presents. This stems from the Ernie Potty book where Ernie gets a present (guess what is in the big box?). On that page in particular Leif gets a twinkle in his eye and tells me he will howp open it. The other day when his birthday goodies arrived wrapped in green paper I thought he was going to do cartwheels he was so excited. Our gift in particular I am nervous about C opening. Leif has found it a few times in my (apparently) really stupid hiding places. Each time he finds them (yes, he got one too) he brings it out and excitedly tells us “I do this!” We take it away amidst much screaming. This time AB put them in the top of our closet where Leif stares longingly. Not hidden, but not accessible either. We probably should have just forgone all this agony and just let him have his when it arrived.

This morning I dropped Leif at daycare, he ran in, put his lunch away and then sprinted to the art corner where he immediately grabbed the play-doh tray and set to work. I had to beg him for a kiss bye bye. He kissed and then told me, “I like this!” and pointed to the Play-Doh. Yes, dear boy, I liked that too when I was little. Another thing added to the Target list.

Bummer to the n-1

Phone call this morning from the PI of the project that was cut.

PI: “Hi NM, just thought I would tell you that I was told the remaining money for FY06 to finish up our projects has been retracted by the initiative manager. Another project needs more money and he doesn’t care if we finish up or not. The subcontracts you are working on setting up with the university need to be cancelled asap. I am so sorry that I can’t continue to fund your work for the rest of the fiscal year.”


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So proud of my boy!

Reading is a huge part of my life. I love reading. I grew up an avid reader and devoured every book I could get my hands on. When I was a kid, there wasn’t always money for every whim and want, but there was always money for a book.

Leif has a ton of books from us, from my mom, from our friends. Books are the most awesome gift to give. He has gotten to the stage where I love letting him pick out a book at the bookstore. He does pretty well at picking out what he wants.

AB and I were in the kitchen the other day picking up and chatting. We realized Leif wasn’t around, underfoot, or begging for a movie. We walked into his room and there he was, sitting in the big comfy chair in his room, with a stack of books next to him, “reading”. I was so proud of him!


I am sitting on pins and needles as I wait to hear about proposals. Ok, so I only have one that I am actually waiting to hear on. The other two haven’t even been submitted yet. Gah. After hearing yesterday that one of my projects was cut I made a phone call and got some face time with one of the managers that listens (or not) to your great ideas, tells you how wonderful you are (or not), and then hands you a pile of cash (or not).

I went to him with three decent, albeit farfetched, ideas. One had already been formulated into a large proposal this spring, but difficulties were encountered in filing it and the company backed down on sending it out due to internal issues. The second was just a “I did some work on this for a couple months, sound interesting?” idea. The last was my farfetched surface analysis proposal that I submitted as a white paper earlier this year and yielded the statement “good idea” from the reviewers.

I had expected the middle one would be of interest since it was directly in line with one of the section calls. It was poo poo’d. The third was the one I was hopeful about but they always ask me “what are the limits of detection” and “how is this better than what we already have”. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know, truly I don’t. But it is a great idea!! Ok, so maybe it is a good idea.

It was the first idea that stood out to the manager. The one that falls directly under the little line that says “ideas supporting XXX will not be accepted for this call”. I knew it supported this agency, that is who the proposal was supposed to go out to a few months ago. I more was doing my part in exercising this as one of my capabilities and putting word out there. The manager told me to send it off to the XXX manager, if he wants to push it, they will support it. Preliminary word back is that there is an interest and it has been deemed potential high impact. Which is what you want to see written on any proposal review.

Cross your fingers for me, send me good vibes. The LAST thing I want to do is go searching for projects to start working on as of October 1.

The big ball has bounced...

And not in my direction.

So much for being fully funded next year. I am going to be officially looking for projects to work on next fiscal year. I have one proposal pending out there, but I am not sure that is enough IF it comes through. I was hoping that proposal would put me at the 110% committed level. I have one proposal to write and so apparently I need to kick that up a notch (bye bye amiable NM) and push Miss Pink Post-Doc aside to ensure I am the one that gets the go ahead. There is another proposal where I am listed as a key collaborator, but I don’t expect my expertise will be required immediately. I find it best to maintain myself slightly over committed because inevitably there is downtime on projects. Like right now for me, as I wait for contracts to come through and equipment to arrive. I hate downtime.

My one and only true surface science project, that I was really hoping would sweep me back in to the surface science world, was cancelled after one year. The lifecycle was scheduled to be three years. There is never a guarantee for funding the entire lifecycle of a project, but man it sucks when it is just cut. As usual with these kinds of projects I truly believe that it was an issue of the reviewers just not understanding the jist of what we were trying to do. They didn’t see it as integral to the project suite, but I do. I fear they have missed the point. Unfortunately I never read a copy of the final proposal. I submitted my section to the PI and he compiled and submitted it, never copying Wang and I (the task leads). I worry that he didn’t make a strong enough case.

I am keeping my mouth shut for now. I would like to meet with my mentor and see if he has suggestions on the best way to approach this situation. But I need to do this after next Monday… where I won’t appear to be whining to him to fund my proposal I submitted to him.

Gag. I am so not looking forward to trying to find work for next year, for a few reasons.

To be continued at a later date…

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just waiting for CPS to make a call

AB called when he got Leif home from daycare. Background: Leif scratched his hand sometime this morning and it was bleeding, we have no idea how. I put a Nemo bandage on it.

AB: "So I guess Leif's owee was a huge deal at daycare today."

NM: "Yeah he had shown his two teachers before I left today."

AB: "The kids all admired it too, repeatedly."

NM: "Ha!"

AB: "They asked him how he did it."

NM: "And what did he say?"

AB: "Mommy did it."

NM: "No seriously, what did he say?"

AB: "Seriously, he told them you did it!"

NM: "Brat."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

And on a lighter note...

We Tivo Little Einsteins for Leif. I appreciate the classical music and the art, as well as the exposure to different places, kids that are smart and can do anything and solve missions. Leif likes it and sings along and pats along with the tunes. This is kind of Leif's and AB's thing to watch together when they get home from daycare at 3:30pm and it is still 100F out. They watch Little Einsteins.

I hadn't seen an episode in a long time and had one playing for Leif last weekend. The credits started to roll and Leif started shrieking NO! AB tells me that no, I cannot in fact shut it off now, his favorite part is coming up. Favorite part? The show is over.

Well the show is only 24 minutes long, so to fill the 30 minute time slot they have to do something. AB then says "didn't I tell you about this train thing that is like porn star turned child entertainer?"

Umm no. You didn't. What the??

Up on the screen Choo Choo Soul starts up. Leif starts freaking out screaming choo choo and dancing. Evidently Choo Choo Soul is the real reward for sitting through the somewhat educational (or so I tell myself) Little Einsteins with daddy.

I probably wouldn't have such a hard time with it if it weren't for AB's comment about porn star turned child entertainer. No, he has no such evidence for this... so no heading to the website to see if any of you guys can identify her. *Sigh*

Apparently Choo Choo Soul is just a little guy secret daddy and Leif have
been keeping from mommy. I am sure it won't be the last.

Science and Gender

Today a woman I work with sent me an e-mail about a male transgendered scientist (Barres) who wrote about his experience in science as a woman. He wrote a piece in Nature magazine denouncing a recent assertion by a couple of Harvard professors that essentially women by nature have a lower capacity for understanding math and science and so the gender gap isn’t all that surprising. Barres is obviously in a unique position as a transgendered individual who spent his early career as a woman in science and later career as a man.

The recent articles today have had me thinking a lot about the issues that women in science face. Throughout my life I have run up against plenty of gender disparity with regards to my career choice. Why did I persist? It wasn’t that people told me I couldn’t do it. No, my self-confidence was never that great. It was that people told me I COULD do it.

I remember as a kid when someone asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be a nurse. My grandmother, a nurse, piped up and said, “no you don’t, you want to be a doctor!” From then on, I wanted to be a doctor, then an astronaut, then a doctor… But for the most part, I always wanted to go into science. I had some really fantastic teachers who always encouraged me, never told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. Furthermore, my parents stood behind me 100% in my interests and aspirations. They only wanted for me to be a success in whatever I wanted to do.

I had a main rival in grade school named Dawn. She and I were constantly the top scores in math and science. The first ones done with everything and done perfectly. We were fiercely competitive, to the point I remember her refusing to surrender her place in line in front of me to have our math quizzes graded when she needed to go to the bathroom. Yep, you know what came next.

It wasn’t two boys in our class that were the top of the class in math and science through grade school. Nope, two little girls.

My first experience with the word geek was when I was in 7th grade and I was so excited to join the computer club and learn LOGO. I loved computer club and never knew there was anything “wrong” with it until a woman that worked with my mom, whose son was *the most popular boy* in my junior high was having a party. I found out he wasn’t going to invite me to the party because I was a computer geek. Days later I quit the computer club and gave up one of the things I really really loved.

I decided at that point that I didn’t want to be smart anymore, I wanted to be one of the girls that the boys liked and that beating them at math scores and computer competitions was not going to be my route to that particular end goal.

I graduated from high school with decent enough grades, decent enough that I could get into any state supported university I wanted, I didn't apply private knowing I didn't have the money. I did this without trying and hanging out with people who didn’t know or care what classes I was in. They probably thought the reason I wasn’t in classes with them was because I was skipping.

I worked my way through college for a dermatologist. He served as a mentor to me and I often babysat his kids. One weekend his son asked me what I was studying at college and I told him pre-med, so I could be a doctor like his dad. He laughed at me and said, “No really, women can’t be doctors!” The little boy was in 3rd grade and I was shocked. He got an earful about that women can do anything they want and probably still remembers it. But really, it wasn't his fault. It was his parent's fault. I left there feeling more sorry for his little sister who was in kindergarten, and probably believed that her brother was right. My first inkling that my childhood was probably different than most other little girls was here.

My first real exposure to gender disparity in science came when I interviewed for grad school at Colorado State University. It was my first real interview of such and I never felt more like I was taking up someone’s valuable time than I did there. At first I didn’t see this as gender bias, but throughout the day it became evident. A man was also interviewing the same day I was. I was taken to lunch by a female grad student. She was not kind with her words about being a woman in that department and I believe it was no coincidence that we went to the same place for lunch as did the man who was interviewing. Only two professors escorted him to lunch.

Later that afternoon, I was meeting with the chair of the inorganic chemistry group and I asked him what classes I could be expected to teach? He responded that I would teach Chem 101. Would I ever teach an upper division class? “Not likely, women TA’s just aren’t as well received as men among the student body”. I will never forget that line as long as I live. I remember having a break in my schedule and calling my mom on a payphone nearly crying, telling her I did not want to come to school here and wasn't sure I really wanted to go to grad school. I was so close to walking out the door at that point, but for some reason I continued the day. I left, never feeling more dejected in my entire life.

My other grad school interviews were nothing like that and I ended up at a school with an amazing ratio of women faculty, THREE in a department of 12. Wow, one in four profs was a woman. So advanced were I thought. My class was 50% female to start out. But in the end, I was the only female to graduate with a Ph.D. in my class. Only one man dropped out. Why did the others leave? One was just a stupid dumbshit who on the first day proclaimed to us all that the periodic chart should be just made into a square box, the shape was just too funky. She gave a bad name to the rest of the women in the class. One transferred because she felt sexually harassed by her advisor. Two married and quit because they wanted to be wives and moms and not really scientists. (Both of them were not from the US.) And one other took her Masters and decided to go to work and earn some real money.

Oh and my second semester I taught upper division lab. I never really had any trouble garnering respect from my students. I had one student threaten me physically and I do not believe that he would have done so with a male TA. But he was psycho anyways. Otherwise, female students were often inspired by me (or so I was told) and my male students found me to be a quality TA (as shown by my teaching ratings) and the fact that I was awarded both department and university wide teaching awards. I won a research award at a national conference beating out many men from top universities. By the time I finished grad school I had my self confidence. I was as smart as the men around and had no problem proving it.

I interviewed at a company in Silicon Valley where the head of human resources asked me how my husband would feel about leaving Reno? Would he have ever asked that of a man?

Real life as a scientist has beaten me back down over the past few years. And you know this if you have read my blog. I work in an incredibly tolerant setting for a company with a very accepting and diverse philosophy. However, it is the individuals where this acceptance does not always resonate. Sexual Harassment training is scoffed at and joked about among the men I work with. It’s a joke to them. They all see nothing wrong with their behaviors. When I worked in the lab routinely, there was nothing wrong with them walking into the lab I worked in, seeing me and saying "Hi honey, I am home!" Despite the fact that I am a married woman and that line dripped of "she's the little woman of the group" to me. I wasn't invited to lunch with the guys and on every deployment (five while I was on that project) I was cut at the last minute for "lack of funds". None of the men were ever cut.

I jumped at a chance to leave my former group (run by a man) that had 75 staff members, three of whom were female scientists out of the nearly 50 scientist level staff. I endured being treated as an admin, not having an office when my male counterparts at the same level and with less experience than I did. I was told I would have to pump in the bathroom when I expressed concern about not having a place to pump when I would come back from maternity leave. When I said there were no outlets in the bathroom my manager told me to buy a battery pack. And I was passed over for a promotion because (I believe) I was on maternity leave. I was also removed as PI on a funded project, because I was on maternity leave. This was admited to me recently. Yet, my current team lead still cannot fathom why I made the switch to my current group, when I have so little in common research-wise with most of them. I have yet to tell him it is because my new manager is a woman. Since moving, I can honestly say that I have experienced, within my line management, no discrimination. We won’t talk about projects… but I am starting to hold my own. Although I will say that I believe I have had to work harder than my male counterparts to get to the same place.

It is different everywhere, many women cite no problems with being a woman in science.

What does this say to me? Two things. To encourage girls to pursue their interests in science we need parents and teachers to encourage them, give them praise and show them options. Once those little girls become women of science we need to treat them with respect, equality, and do our best to compare achievements with a blind eye to gender. We need to not be afraid to confront people who say and do stupid things. And we need to raise our little boys and girls with the belief that boys and girls can do anything they want to in life without bounds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The 10 Best Restaurants

There was a day when AB and I were huge foodies. We used to travel to a city and have reservations set at some of the top restaurants in the area, often months in advance (for example, Emeril's Fish House in Vegas - and it didn't live up to our inflated expectations... and it had nothing to do with my drunk BIL standing on his chair in the middle of the restaurant... AB finds it important to note that this BIL is NOT either of his brothers).

Our friend Andy posted on his Wine Press Northwest blog his top restaurants. I have decided to follow suit with AB's help.We have over the years kept a list of the best meals and dining experiences in no specific order. The list dates back to 1997 or so and some of the restaurants are now gone or under new names (so I found out on the trip to Reno...) So with AB's help, here is our list:

Top four in a debatable order:

Moose's, San Francisco, CA
We ate at Moose's in San Francisco when I was there for a conference. AB drove over from Reno to meet me. I had just won an award for my research, we had long standing reservations and I could not wait. We ordered their Market Fresh Tasting Menu which was about 7 courses prepared by the chef of local fresh ingrediants. Wow. NM's #1.

Restaurant Skadi, Mammoth, CA
AB and I ate here for our first anniversary. We headed south from Reno to go skiing. We asked the hotel for a recommendation and I still remember the guy at the desk telling me we *had* to try Skadi. And the description "Scandinavian Alpine"... who could resist. I had a seared duck breast with lingonberry sauce and AB had venison with a cranberry sauce. All the meat was taken from a local ranch where the animals were grain fed. Again wow. NM's other #1

Simon and Seaforts, Anchorage, AK
The views are supposidly outstanding, I was there in the winter, which means no light. So I will take AB's word for it. But where else can you get the freshest seafood than in Alaska? The clams were spectacular with a spicy broth. AB's #1.

The Saltry, Halibut Cove, AK
Photos here. Who can argue with a view like this in a region accessible only by boat or float plane? The salmon shark has forever been haunting AB and he is bound and determined to catch his own and cook it three ways as it was served at The Saltry. All the fish was fresh, caught locally and varied with each day. AB's #1... NM says... "oh yeah!"

And the rest:

Galena Forest Inn, Galena, NV
No longer Galena Forest Inn unfortunately, now a lodge. They were known for their wild meats and on the edge of the Toiyabe National Forest. We ate there after my defense as well as a few other special occasions while in Reno.

The Christmas Tree Restaurant, Near Incline Village and Mt. Rose, NV
The Christmas Tree is now called Tannenbaum and appears to be an event center. They had a mesquite grill that they cooked their meats over. It was just a few miles from Mt. Rose ski area and the perfect after ski get together place. Also the perfect place for a rehearsal dinner! That would be ours, AB and I had our rehearsal dinner at The Christmas Tree. The environment was fabulous, from the train circling the dining room, to the eternally decorated Christmas tree in the entry way and the fabulous stone fireplace with the Christmas tree made of rock embedded within.

Kan Zaman, San Francisco, CA
Middle Eastern food on the Haight, what could be better? Oh you wanted a hooka after dinner? You got it. Fantastic gathering place for larger groups. Belly dancers. And did I mention the hookas? Oh and the food... fantastic!

Indian Oven, San Francisco, CA
Indian Oven is on the lower Haight and is inexpensive and flavorful to say the least. Lamb vindaloo is AB's favorite and has since inspired him to take his own hand to recreating his favorite dish from there. You sit shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors and stand outside for a table. But it is well worth it. Oh and the naan was superb.

Tra Vigne, St. Helena, CA
AB has debated this one with me. He feels it deserves an honorable mention. Why does this make the list for me? Standing on the steps outside the restaurant looking at my boyfriend on his knee holding out a ring. That's why this one makes it top 10. The food was fantastic the first time we ate there, or was I just feeling like I was walking on air. Second time around? Not nearly as good. My feeling is that the place had gotten so much hype that it couldn't keep up. I do remember eating tuna carpaccio for dinner, drinking a 1997 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoying my first ever cheese course for dessert. A place I will never forget.

Himalayas, Boulder, CO
Nestled in a downstairs spot on the famous Pearl Street mall you will find Himalaya's. It is here that you can enjoy listening to a sitar as you enjoy your Tibetan and Nepalese food. My sister picked here to eat after graduation, I swear because she loved the mango lassies. I think it is one of the few things she and I have ever agreed upon!

Honorable Mention:
Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, CA
This is one that deserves a mention, if only so we can say we have eaten there. During the final episode of Top Chef... everyone watched that didn't they? If not, catch the reruns. Anyways, during the final episode of Top Chef I was able to point at Chef Jeanty and say, "I have eaten his food and I sent a steak back to him!" Not something many people can say about a world reknowned chef. I hate sending food back... hate it. But when you order your filet rare and it comes out well done... well you have to. The most annoying part of the night was how our waitor apologized at least 15 times for my overdone steak. Enough about the overdone steak... My seafood bisque was wonderful. AB had a good meal. But what was it? It had a fabulous French chateau feel, the wine was fantastic. I love French food, who doesn't? And while this one should have easily made it into the top 4, it didn't. I would eat there again and give them another shake and expect to be wow'd!

So what are your favorite restaurants? Please share!

Two dental visits in one day

Leif had his first dental appointment this morning. He actually did pretty well, until he had to open his mouth. Yeah that is evidently one concept that the Elmo Teeth DVD episode didn’t emphasize enough… the fact that he would actually have to open his mouth so the dentist could see the teeth. There was some struggling, but it wasn’t misery. Or at least I didn’t get the impression that it was unusual. He got an all clear report. There were suggestions for sealants at age three because he has very deep crevices in his back teeth, perfect place for decay. And since I am anal about tooth health and bound and determined my kids will not have to suffer the dental angst that I had to suffer, he will be getting the sealants.

I came back to work for a while, 2.5 hours for teleconference and a little time in my office before running off to the dentist myself. I had a cleaning and a bite adjustment. I will just say that after that bite adjustment I am even more happy with my new 7 teeth. Now if insurance (in particular AB’s former insurance company) would just get their act together and pay their measly portion. I don’t even want to hear anymore whining from them, my portion was nearly 3x theirs. They have every excuse in the book – “she isn’t covered”, then why did they cash my COBRA check for continued coverage. “The payment was late”, you cashed it before the due date. “The dental office billed it incorrectly”, rebilled. “We want to see the EOB from the other insurance company”, done. If it isn’t one thing it is another. Buck up Metlife and pay the damn $1500.

I was hesitant to have my cleaning because my benefits have all been exhausted (yes, even routine preventative isn’t covered, I triple checked). But I kept reminding myself how I wouldn’t let Leif get away without an exam because of no insurance, I need to set the example. Then I nearly walked out when I found out I was scheduled with Rose and not Samantha, my preferred hygienist. I willed myself to sit my rear in that chair even though the thought of Rose’s very clumsy hands in my mouth set fear in my heart. Yes, there are two people you don’t want to have clumsy hands, your labor and delivery nurse – or at least that is what Soil Micro Mom tells me, and your dental hygienist. Ok and maybe your hair stylist too…

Rose wasn’t bad. I am over my fear of her. Her hands slipped a few times and then she was surprised that my gums bled when a sharp pointy tool slides across them with an armful of force behind it… Anyways, I lived and I am quite sure that Rose has polished and scraped off my tartar and tartar on the teeth of those people close to me. Do your teeth feel cleaner today?

After my dental appointment AB and I made our way to a new sushi restaurant in our part of town. I hadn’t heard anything about it, which always concerns me about trying a new place. Here, word (both good and bad) of any restaurant spreads like wildfire. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but I have eaten in some really fantastic and top notch sushi restaurants before. But I can deal with it! The price was right, the menu was somewhat innovative. They had miso and charged for it (boo), but it tasted wonderful. The sushi chef is hidden away in the back somewhere, which was disconcerting. It was SUPER fast, which was another reason I was a little skeptical. But AB pointed out to me that in the roll that had the deep fried softshell crab, the crab was hot! It was made freshly. But it was decent. One thing I cannot figure out for the life of me was why there was krab in my spicy tempura shrimp roll AND in my softshell crab roll (in addition to the real crab). It wasn’t listed on the menu. It isn’t my favorite stuff although I accept its use in California rolls… I just don’t usually eat California rolls. But I would far prefer to have a smaller roll than to use krab to make it seem as though you are getting more. And I would really prefer the subtle flavors not be marred by the presence of fake krab stuff. But like I said, it wasn’t bad and we will go back (and request no krab).

I managed to make it back to work by 2pm today. I probably should have just called the entire day a wash and gone and done something fun. But I didn’t.
I got a concept paper in yesterday and am feeling quite good about it. The funding is through my mentor, we talked about the call, but I developed the concept myself. I am REALLY hoping this goes somewhere. If I could nail this $80K for next year I would be set for projects. My industry collaboration team has elected me (if not for my pleading) to submit this years IR&D (industry research and development) proposal. I popped an idea out there which was met with skepticism, but was handed two concepts to study and figure out which one would be the best and work it up.

There is a little concern here though with this call and this project however. Miss Pink Post Doc is working on this years IR&D. It ends Sept 30 and unless she has something else, she hits the unemployment line. Of course no one wants that to happen. My PM was not gunning for her hire, if anything he cautioned my CW who hired her saying that he wasn’t sure the project could support her. I could hear the “I told you so” chanting in PM’s head this morning. The IR&D funds barely cover the cost of her employment and it is a one year thing. We could, in theory, expand her project and ask for another year, or I can throw out a completely new concept and compete with her for the funds.

Well nobody wants the competition on the project and so our PM has a decision to make. Push forward the concept by an already successful member of the team who is trusted and liked by the client and whose project ended (that would be moi), or push forward the extension of a project that has not proven fruition and that the client has repeatedly scoffed at as a crappy idea. I will research the concepts and work them up, give my PM some time to sit on it. Then I will probably end up suggesting that Miss Pink switches to working for me on October 1. Maybe I do have a little amiable in my blood…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

He gets his grace from me

I am a klutz and poor Leif has inherited it. You would think that being that I was a gymnast for many years, I might have some level of grace. Nope. Not an ounce. If it is choreographed and practiced, then fine, but otherwise I trip over the cracks in the sidewalk.

Apparently Leif was lucky enough to inherit this from me as shown by his little exhibit in daycare today.

AB called: "Yeah, Leif banged up his chin today."

NM: "He did, how did he do that?"

AB: "Well... Evidently he went to change his own diaper..."

NM interrupts: "He went to change his own diaper?"

AB: "Yeah, I guess. So anyways, he gets his shorts off, gets his diaper off, throws it away."

NM: "Well at least he threw it away."

AB continues: "He couldn't get his new diaper on and so he took it and went running across the room to get help with his shorts around his ankles and fell face first into the fridge."

NM: "Seriously?"

AB: "Apparently!"

NM: "Is he alright?"

AB: "Yeah, he's fine."

And thus the source of all kids paranoia about being pants'd and exposed to their friends... with a little klutziness thrown in on top.

Monday, July 10, 2006

An ego rub

I got an e-mail recently that made me give a lot of thought to why I blog, what I blog about and the potential ramifications of blogging. We have all heard stories about the flight attendant who posted pictures of herself in her airline uniform on her blog, who was then fired. On the other end of the spectrum, you may have heard or kept up with the now defunct LANL blog (in my links to the left), which became a mainstay and often a voice of discontent among the famous national lab written publicly by a staff member. And then the personal aspect… there are just those times when you wonder could this person I have whined about wander over and find my blog? That has happened with some people I know both in real life and in my blogosphere. That’s one of those “oh shit” moments. Yeah, we all try to be perfect, but plain truth there are people we adore (and some we don’t) who occasionally annoy us and we move past it by whining about it. Once it is off your chest, phew! Relief! And you can go back to being friends (or not as the case may be) with the person again.

The e-mail I received was an invitation by a newspaper reporter to be interviewed for a story on "cool" bloggers in my area. (I had to throw the "cool" in there... it has been years since I have been termed "cool".) The link to my blog was passed on to her from a friend of mine. For about 30 seconds I was so flattered! Me, interviewed, about something I love to do? How fun!

Then at 31 seconds the “what ifs” set in. Anonymity, this is one reason I blog. Many of my readers are friends and family and know exactly who I am, where I live and plenty of details about my life (like who I dated my junior year in high school… yeah big mistake there!). So for that group of people, my moniker means nothing. However, for others, my moniker is my identity, with no connection to the small city where I reside. What this article would do in essence is serve up my name likely with my moniker, maybe with my URL and top it off with my location and served on a platter to my community. Even lacking the moniker and the URL, anyone reading the article could have googled my real name and found my blog in two clicks. No joke.

Paranoia? Here is my blog, with pictures of my son, his name (because I lack creativity in assigning titles and can’t come up with a good unique moniker for him) and add to that my full name (hence his last name) and our town? The fact that he is in a Montessori school (which I have stated a number of times) makes him frighteningly easy to locate. Reason #1, safety.

Reason #2 is that I am apparently just a bitch. I whine about people. I complain about my former post-doc mentor, I whine about coworkers, my admin (just recently). I laugh about people Miss Pink Post-Doc (who I really am growing to like even though her clothes just really freak me out), my friend and coworker C liking her romance novels… I come here and get it out of my system. Well for the most part, what’s left usually goes in e-mails to Soil Micro Mom and Vargas Girl. Yes, I am a bitch, I freely admit that here. But to my coworkers, my managers, my admin, C? Nope, I am that sweet woman that everyone enjoys working with and never says a bad word about anyone or anything. The person they can come into my office and confide in. I can’t blow my cover.

Reason #3… “Hello, media relations? Yes, I am a staff member here and my name is going to be in the local newspaper as a blogger, OK? Just thought I would let you know as required by that difficult to navigate system we all pledge allegiance to as employees.” Yeah, nuff said. I like my job (most of the time).

While the lure of the spotlight was appealing and flattering I put these reasons together and issued a polite decline to the reporter. She is correct in stating that any of these people cited herein could find this blog. I know they could, very easily. But then THEY would be looking for it and in my own mind responsible for what they stumbled across. As opposed to having the evidence presented in front of them in the local paper where curiosity would most certainly be sparked (I know mine would!). I consider myself an average person and I don’t Google my coworkers (exception, Google Scholar for publications). I don’t think I give people a reason to go search me out online. But it is a chance I take coming here and blogging. A chance that for now, I will accept.

Now the question is how drastically will this affect the way I blog? Had I started blogging differently (not being petty, not whining occasionally about work, and staying totally anonymous) way back in November of 2004... my answer would have likely been different. Lessons learned.

Where do they get these ideas?

Last night we were battling the flies thanks to AB leaving the back door open as he BBQ'd salmon. So we had a lovely dinner with the fly swatter being passed between us. Ick.

We were nearly done with dinner and so it came as no surprise that Leif asked to get down. He had a look in his eye... a glimmer of an idea. He ran off and returned with... (any guesses?)

The toilet brush.

He proceeded to swing the toilet brush wildly towards any buzzing fly (or bee as he calls them).

Yeah, that ended pretty quickly. We actually offered him a trade right off... the fly swatter in exchange for the toilet brush.

Where do they get these sparks of "genius"?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Who do I listen to?

This was my horoscope today. Exactly, word for word, as it appeared on My Yahoo.

Quickie: Luxury and excess are holding you back. Try to pare down to life's essentials.
Overview: You've been frugal and practical long enough. The stars say it's time to splurge. Drop some cash on a sexy outfit or a spontaneous trip. The fun and romance you'll experience as a result will be priceless.


Explain, somebody? Please? Stars are apparently colliding and the Universe is going to come to a grinding halt.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who remembers this?

Tanya, you HAVE to remember this.

Fish heads

What year did it come out? I am thinking this is at least 18-20 years old.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Leif funnies for early July

AB had sailing lessons tonight and so it was just me and the little guy. Sometimes it is obvious Leif tries to crack me up. Other times he does so unknowingly.

We were reading "Too Big for Diapers" with Ernie as the lead character. Leif is really getting into this book and points to the potty and tells me that Ernie goes pee pee and poo poo in the potty. Whereby I try to encourage him to be like Ernie. Tonight he looked at me with a puzzled look on his face, held his hands out to the side in an inquisitive manner and asks me "Wha-ba Bert?" I told him Bery used the potty too. He says, "no, Bert diapers".

Ok then...

Ok, so my vegetarian friends might not like this one so much... When we went camping AB and I fixed salmon for dinner. We have been careful not to confuse the fish we eat with the fish on Nemo or his goldfish. Don't want to freak the kid out you know. To this point we were completely unsuccessful at getting him to eat fish, which sucked, since we eat it a lot.

Leif and C were sitting over with K (C's dad) in the shelter getting ready to eat. K tells them it is fish and Leif immediately calls it NEMO and chows down.

Two and two.

Flash forward to now. Many times when he sees a fish pictures he says, "Fish, we eat it!" He does like fish for the most part now.

Yesterday we were going through his Animal Babies magazine and he came across a penguin. I tell him what the penguin is and Leif exclaims, "We eat it!" There was no convincing him that no, we don't eat penguin.

Today it was a book with an elephant in it. "We eat it?" he asks in an inquisitive tone. No, we don't, I tell him. It would be awfully tough. He points to the elephant and says "ela, no eat it".

How long till Labor Day?

I really, really enjoyed my 3.5 days off with AB and Leif. We really made every effort this past weekend to do something fun with Leif everyday. I want him to think back and (like me) remember his summer childhood experiences fondly. Ok, so he isn’t quite to that point of remembering his experiences yet I suppose. But how can you argue with grins and giggles?

So the next day off is Labor Day? How unfair is that? I think I am going to make the suggestion to AB that we head to the coast before mid-August for a long weekend. We plan to go either for Labor Day or the first weekend in October for Oysterfest. I would like to get one other trip in there at some point.

Work is fine. I ran into my old post-doc mentor this afternoon. Wow is he getting grey, in a very short time frame. We chatted politely about my trip to Reno last week. (He also went to grad school in Reno.) Then we parted ways, quickly.

I am having admin issues… not really “Issues” per se, just trying to figure out how to deal professionally and personally with one of the admin. That sentence sounds bad, but it really isn’t. My problem is that I adore Amy, she is about my age with a 2 and 5 year old. She wears cute clothes, likes to shop and I could so see us becoming good friends and enjoying hanging out. Her husband is a scientist hired into one of the groups here and she was a “trailing spouse” hired on as admin this past year. (double standards… but I won’t dwell…)

Anyways, my problem is that I like her, so I am finding it hard to push her on things that need to get done. Like 2 big boxes that were supposed to go out FedEx last Friday. She procrastinated them until this afternoon (missing today’s FedEx cutoff time). I bugged her a little about them, e-mail on Friday offering to help her get them to the warehouse… A phone call on Monday reminding her… nope. They went out today. I just have a horrible time getting “rude” with her.

And by “rude” I have to remind myself we are talking about “NM’s rude level”. I think I am being horribly mean, and typically speaking the other person sees a quivering young woman ending her sentences in “if you don’t mind of course”. Spine? Mine is missing… call if you see it.

I want Amy as a friend and part of me (the insecure 75% of me) says that if I start breaking her balls (figuratively of course) and requesting that she meet my level of perfectionism in the work that she does for me, that she won’t want to be my friend. I mean who would?


I worked with my friend C this afternoon in the lab. It was fun, it has been ages since I have worked in a lab it seems. We chatted about a variety of topics including books.

Books… We have amazingly never talked about books before, except when she declined my invitation to join our book club and I just made the assumption that she doesn’t read for pleasure. So it came as a surprise to me today when she talked about reading the 5th Harry Potter book and then chastised me when I admitted that I have not read HP. I know, sacrilege and yes, I do consider myself well read. I asked her what other types of books she reads and was surprised to find her a romance novel aficionado. Here is one of the brightest young nuclear engineers I know… and she likes romance novels? ;-)

Yes, I have a stigma… I admit it. How am I ever going to take her seriously again?? Ok, I am just kidding. I admitted to her that I have never, to my knowledge, read a romance novel. She gives me the name of her favorite that I *have* to check out. She would even loan it to me. I pulled it up on Amazon and couldn’t even finish reading the description without giggles and “give me a break” sneaking out of my lips. Oh my!

I know… to each her own. This will in no way affect the way I see C in our professional lives… no way at all… ok, maybe just a teensy bit, but it will all be giggling. Side story here… my mom and I always share books and make recommendations to each other. My grandmother, apparently feeling left out, brought a book to loan my mom to read. My mom was skeptical to start, but started in on the book. The next day she called me saying “Grandma reads ROMANCE novels!” We giggled and giggled about it.

Another class of books I don’t care to read? Murders. I am having a real Issue with the August book of the month, In Cold Blood by Capote. My Issue? I haven’t started it and don’t think I can. I want to go to book club this month, we have a rule that everyone should come even if they didn’t finish the book. But what if you can’t even start it? Frankly, if it were my choice I wouldn’t be thrilled if someone didn't even try the book, just assumed they wouldn't like it. Ahh, what to do. I am nearly halfway through Ada Blackjack and I can put My Antonia on the backburner and at least pick up In Cold Blood. Or I can just ignore its existence all together. Such decisions.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pictures from the 4th

Wow, look at that wall of water!

Fun, Fun!


Hiding in the Cabernet vines

A Civilized Life

We ate out and survived! The key? A MagnaDoodle. We bought a third today. Now we have one in each car and one at home. We went to a local Italian restaurant that is geared more towards being a family restaurant. The waitress earned an extra 5% tip when she brought our salads and brought Leif a “kids salad” consisting of plate of cheese, crackers and olives. She rocked. Oh and booths are a must have. As long as we can corner him in the back part of the booth, we are stellar. And for added peace and quiet a good artistic ability is necessary. The MagnaDoodle? Not for Leif. Nope, it’s for AB and I to draw whatever Leif demands. Which he will then giggle over and occasionally add to. Leif added what looked like wings to my pig this morning, I found it ironic, he just found it funny. And when you are tired of drawing animals and flowers then drawing a balloon, stating “one balloon” and letting Leif swipe it away with the erase lever and then saying “pop!” provides at least 8 minutes of sanity… well for at least one of us. (Thank you Keyboard Elmo.)

We’re back baby! (Ok, so it is not like we’re going to Anthony’s anytime soon…)

We have had a really nice weekend so far. Dinner out Friday night. Saturday we went to the Farmer’s Market and walked out with some wonderful produce and no money. Saturday afternoon we went to the new local grocery store where we tasted and bought some cheese (along with other groceries). Both evenings we went for walks and then let Leif swim in the early evening, while trying to keep him inside during the main heat of the day. (We are out of our abnormally cool weather and now over 100F.) Sunday morning we went to swimming classes. Leif was the only one there, so we pretty much just played in the pool. He was so tired, but cried and cried when we had to get out. He was so bummed. Sunday afternoon AB cooked Greek kafta kebabs. I picked up the house and did some reading. I am currently completely enthralled in Ada Blackjack by Jennifer Niven. Her first book, The Ice Master was one of my favorites ever. Ada Blackjack is equally as good and maybe even better since it is about the triumph of a woman over the elements. I finished The Birth House on Jo’s recommendation and LOVED it. V also read it and loved it and we have decided it WILL be a book club selection as soon as it comes out in the US in September. My book is going on vacation to my mom’s house where I know she will also enjoy it.

Once Leif was up we went to a local garden center which recently relocated and expanded. Really wonderful place. I wanted SO much there, but after AB spent $70 on rock for the concrete project, I restrained myself and purchased a few fabulous looking strawberry plants for $4. Leif was ga ga over the koi pond and feeding the fishies. He was bound and determined to put the food directly into the fish mouths. I worked to discourage this as images of the headlines in the local paper flashed before my eyes, “Toddler looses finger to goldfish at local garden shop”. AB was not quite so diligent and when one of the employees told him that the fish were so friendly that they might actually suck on Leif’s fingers, he started holding Leif over to feed the koi directly. I must note… I was OUTSIDE picking out strawberries. This would not have happened in *my* presence.

Our rock was delivered Monday morning. Hopefully now AB can get the rock down and our kitchen floor will no longer be covered in dirt all the time. In the meantime I have a four foot high mountain of rock in my driveway. We went to Costco for berries since we were starting to run low and I decided that raspberry ice cream is a must have for the 4th of July weekend.

Monday about 11am I made my way into work with the intention of working for 4 hours. I was surprised at the number of people working. It isn’t a paid holiday, but I expected far fewer people here. (Hence why I am in shorts and my flip flops – really I meant to actually change shoes before I left the house… ) I was greeted by two hours worth of training to accomplish. After that I met with my mentor for a question answer series on his newly established Initiative.

Today, the 4th, is my sister’s birthday. It is no coincidence that she was born on the 4th of July, it fits her personality. When we were kids she truly believed that the US was celebrating HER birthday. A common jab towards me was always “well the whole country doesn’t celebrate your birthday”. A slight wrench was thrown into this theory when we had a neighbor boy whose birthday was ALSO the 4th of July. They argued and argued about whose birthday was being celebrated.

Every year on her birthday we would have homemade strawberry ice cream. My parents had one of the old hand crank ice cream makers that you added rock salt and ice to and then churned away. Our ice cream maker didn’t stay together well and so my sister and I used to have to take turns sitting on the top of it while my dad churned on the 4th of July. Now I have the convenience of an electric model. We lived in Wyoming where (30 years ago at least) fireworks of all sorts were legal everywhere. We would gather with the neighbors in the middle of the street and light off fireworks. I remember sitting on the curb thinking how brave our dads were to be out there lighting off the fireworks and then trying my best to cover my ears for the ones that would “bang”.

Life was so much simpler than, or so it seemed. I want Leif to have memories like these. This summer I am really enjoying seeing summer through the eyes of a kid again, homemade popsicles and all! It was the thoughts of fresh strawberry ice cream that prompted the need for berries for raspberry ice cream. (I love strawberries, but any mushing or cooking that makes them “stringy” grosses me out.) We will have an angel food cake as well. No birthday was every complete in my family without angel food cake. I think I inherited my grandmother’s rule of “you always get angel food cake on your birthday” (even if you aren’t nearby). My sister will have an angel food cake at my house in honor of her birthday, even though she is 1600 miles away. Sure, she will have one at her house too… I confirmed a few minutes ago and yes, the angel food cake mix has been purchased for her birthday… but she has one at my house too.

Happy Birthday Ang!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Who knew having a kid would be so cool!

A new level of maturity seems to be emerging in Leif. It is hard to explain these sometimes seemingly subtle changes that we observe. It is almost like Leif wakes up and gets the point we have been trying to make for weeks and sometimes months. AB said it started Tuesday night. They had the best night together with very few battles or challenges. Leif wanted to play. He was hungry and wanted to sit and eat dinner, so they did and listened to the Sundays. And not only that, he tried foods he hadn’t tried before. This is a vast change (in our view) from recent actions where it is nearly impossible to get him to sit to eat for longer than 5 minutes when he announces “all done” and struggles to run free. Oh and did I mention that his appetite is comparable to a horse? He eats more than I do for dinner lately. Daycare keeps telling us to send more food. The child needs a larger lunchbox.

There is only one explanation for this recent change… my little boy is growing up and maturing. He is understanding more and more everyday as well as becoming more capable at expressing his needs and wants.

This morning I dropped him off at daycare. The drop offs have been far better lately and I am pleased to report that we get a hello every single day when we walk in the door now. Leif has his routine whereby he goes to the fridge and empties his lunchbox into the blue and red bins. Blue for stays cold (yogurt, lunchmeat, sandwiches, fruit) and hot for “to be heated” (pasta, veggies, etc). We are still working on which foods get heated and which stay cold, and the fact that his two little oatmeal cookies for dessert are neither of these and stay in the lunchbox. To minimize meltdowns the cookies have been going into the blue container.

Leif walked in today and his friend Atticus’ eyes lit up. Here came Atticus with his arms open wide. But Leif didn’t want a hug from Atticus and kept turning to me for “mo kissies” and “hogs”. I kept trying to convince him to go play with Atti. Finally Leif looked at me, waved and walked up to Atti where he was greeted with the biggest bearhug from a 2 year old. Leif put his arms around Atti and hugged him back. They embraced for about 30 seconds (I watched through the door) and then they ran off together to play. Awww! Tears!! My little boy has a friend he made on his own. And wow are they cute!

Every age is the best. I have heard that the terrible two’s are approaching. Leif’s doctor has stated that with her boys, it wasn’t the terrible two’s, it’s the “terrible 18 month olds”. So far I think she is right. And I think Leif is just emerging from this phase. I know, he isn’t yet two, who knows what is waiting out there for me on the other side. I may come back to this post and laugh at my na├»ve self.

Then again a lot of the things that I hear as complaints about two year olds may not bother me so much. I have heard that their striving for independence as well as dawdling be it perceived dawdling because of the desire for independence and doing things themselves or dawdling for no real apparent reason. I am actually a pretty laid back person and I enjoy seeing Leif attempt things by himself. Most mornings being late in, isn’t an issue. I am rarely really in a hurry. So maybe it is more how easily one gets annoyed by the slow toddler pace? Oh I am sure I will reach my limit.

But for now I see that things have improved this past week as compared to the last six months. For the most part Leif can convey what he wants, he is very verbal. He cracks me up the way he chatters away about random things. He loves to “read” and has recently taken to reading to me, which really just slays me. Last night he wanted to see Cookie on TV. So I put on a Sesame Street we have recorded to Tivo. We watched the couple of Cookie Monster parts, fast forwarding through the others. Then I asked him if he wanted to read. He leapt off the couch with such gusto and ran full speed to his room. By the time I got there he had a few books picked out. No more reading the same book over and over and over (crossing my fingers, knocking on wood…). Nope we read one and he says “all done” and finds another.

Last night I asked Leif to read “Open the Barn Door” to me. This was a gift from Rockergirrl and her family for Leif. It is one of his favorites and has been for awhile. If you haven’t seen it, the book asks the question “Who says [insert animal sound]?” Then you open the barn door or other flap to find the animal standing there. Leif obviously knows this book well.

The book’s version:

“Who says neigh?”
Open the corral flap to find a horse.
“A horse!”

Leif’s version:

“Who say horse?”
Open the corral flap to find a horse.

Apparently any book about farm animals has to have E-I-E-I-O inserted in ad nauseum. They MUST sing Old MacDonald at least 15 times a day at daycare.

Wow am I lucky to have such a wonderful little boy. I am pleased that he doesn’t seem to be a bully, yet he doesn’t appear to be bullied. He makes friends and loves to make people laugh. He has an infectious laugh and an addictive smile. Who knew having a kid would be so cool?