Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sewing, a dying art?

I sew. Not much anymore because of time constraints, but I can tackle reasonably difficult patterns and given time can make nearly anything I want to with fabric. I hate sewing clothes because everything I make turns out looking like I should be on Little House on the Prairie. And nothing really fits “right”. Yet, everytime I go to the fabric store I have to flip through the pattern books to see if there is anything I should try. Oh my goodness, have you seen the baby patterns? To die for. But there are two limitations to that for me, my time, and fabric is fricking expensive. I am a really good quilter, just wish I loved doing it more. I like quilting and I like the result, but it probably falls as #3 on my list of crafts I like to do in my spare time, should I ever be blessed with spare time. First would be cross stitching, as I mentioned the other day. Second would be pottery, but since I don’t have a wheel, or a kiln… So quilting is up there on the list.

I went to the fabric store yesterday to pick out fabric for the new baby’s quilt. I usually frequent Hancock fabrics out of preference. The larger chain store I find to be a thorough mess and I can never find anything, and it is always a madhouse. I know at Hancock I can walk in, browse by myself, see things organized and get help when needed. One thing I have noticed however, with this store, is the age of the staff and customers. I usually feel as though I am the youngest be a number of decades.

While I browsed fabric one of the sales associates came over to chat. She asked how long I had been sewing (a common question I get there mostly because of the age of the sales staff I think. I think I am an anomaly there.) I told her that I have sewed since I can remember.

No joke. When I was a kid, my mom made all of my sisters and my clothes. I used the scraps to make doll clothes and can remember at a very young age sitting at my mom’s sewing machine using it. Hot summer afternoons were often spent in the fabric store where my mom would sit at the big tables of fall pattern books and select pattern after pattern for my sister and I. Then she would buy the fabric, sometimes even with our input. The remainder of the summer was spent sewing clothes for us. She used to sew these tags in the backs of our clothes that said, “Made especially for you by *her name*”, which as I got older used to embarrass the crap out of me, despite the fact they were on the INSIDE of my clothes.

I think back to how much time my mom put into this, and how, as I got older, unappreciative and even embarrassed by this I was. My mom made us gorgeous clothes. As time went on, eventually she quit sewing so much for us. And I was thankful when we could go to the new indoor mall and buy cool clothes instead.

I loved Home Ec in junior high – do they still even teach Home Ec? It was girls only and we learned sewing and cooking. In both subjects I was always a number of steps ahead of my peers. I usually surprised my teachers with my sewing skills. I did sew a little through high school, usually with Vargas Girl in modifying our dresses for dances like Boosters so that they were a little unique. In college I went with a hippy guy who thought it was cool to make your own clothes and so I attempted some that made me viable as an extra on Little House on the Prairie.

When I moved to Reno from Colorado one day it dawned on me. I no longer had a sewing machine. I had always used my moms! How could I survive without a sewing machine? Within about 6 months I bought myself a lower end Viking that has served me well for the last 10 years. When the day came that I had a nicer machine than my mom, she realized that her machine she had since I was baby might just be bordering on obsolete and she went and bought a top of the line Viking with all the bells and whistles. (*jealous*)

I started quilting in grad school and used to make a few quilts a year. Just before Leif was born I made him a quilt (which he uses pretty much only as a pad to lay on, or puts Cookie Monster to sleep under it). That was the last quilt I made, despite AB’s suggestions that I finish the huge queen sized quilt that I have all cut out and placed neatly in a drawer. Unfortunately it isn’t from lack of motivation to finish it… I probably spent $80 on the fabric, it is the presence of a toddler in the house. The sewing machine would be an awfully cool toy. Fabric laying out on the ground to be cut? Yeah I remember how fun that was with my little sister. The hot iron on nearly all the time to press the seams? Not a hobby conducive to raising a toddler!

My mom has just started quilting and often seeks advice. I smile as I see her in that obsessive quilting phase that I entered ten years ago. Where I bought a quarter of a yard of any unique fabric I liked, where I had more patterns then time and where my iron was nearly always on. Her enthusiasm motivates me again. Which is good since I need to make this quilt for baby number two! Thanks to her, at least in the quilt realm, the second child will not get the shaft!


I am, by far and away, not a hugely patient person. AB has to sing “The Patience Song” to me on occasion, and is usually met by seething glares in response. Most recently, yesterday. What usually gets me is driving. Namely people being nice while driving. Weird huh? Stick with me for a second. A good friend of ours from Alaska, his dad was the chief of police (I believe). I have only met the dad in person a few times, he really kind of scares me (AB laughs when I say this). But I remember one thing he said to us regarding traffic accidents, that the vast majority of them are caused by people being nice. Stopping and waving people across only for the car to be hit from the other direction because the person didn’t look, or the person being nice being rear-ended because someone behind them didn’t expect them to be stopped. Things like that. So when I see that happening (and in my town people are way too nice) it drives me bonkers. Hence my meltdown yesterday when the cowboy in the Target parking lot felt the need to let 10 cars through. Oh and not to mention it is rude to those behind who have been waiting and waiting to get where they are going.

I digressed. My patience is in the mid-range level. I am not a hot head, but I am also not a pushover.

Today I went to Safeway to get a sandwich for lunch and pick up a few greeting cards. Oh and a chocolate donut that was beckoning me. I was checking out of the Express lane and I was owed a free sandwich coupon since my Club card showed me as purchasing 6 sandwiches. The checker didn’t have one on hand and so he called over to the manager to get one and they went scrambling.

The checker wasn’t gone five seconds when the woman behind me started proclaiming, loudly, about having to wait. I was shocked and a little taken aback. There was no employee to hear her proclamations and so I assume they were directed to me. I turned to her and said, “I am sorry you have to wait, but I am not leaving without my free sandwich coupon.” The woman doesn’t even look at me, but continues huffing and puffing and steaming and snorting about her valuable time. Then the woman behind her actually says, “ma’am you need to calm down a bit, he will be back in 30 seconds”.

The woman actually speaks to her then and says, “well I have changed lines twice already trying to get out of here”. Woman #2 and I shrug our shoulders. That just happens sometimes.

Cranky old biddy starts scooping up her items since she has now had it, after nearly 90 seconds. She drops things, she cusses, she gets her items over to the other belt where she is now 3rd in line there, just as our checker steps back into his station with my coupon. I thank him and smile at the woman who is now next. She says, “hey no skin off my nose, I get out of here faster now”. I look over to the cranky biddy with a steaming red face in the other Express aisle making sure she sees me leave, well before she is even “next” in line.

“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry…”

Some sad news

One of the lab fellows who was in my division here at the lab has died. Ron was the owner of a local winery and quite a personality. I actually didn't know him well personally myself as our research interests didn't often collide.

It comes as such a shock still. He died of heart complications while on travel yesterday. Even though I didn't know him well, it is still a shock. Very weird.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Playing hookey

Yesterday and today AB worked the backroom at a regional wine judging. There were wine judges from around the US there for this judging of regional wines from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and our buddies to the North: Western Canada. Yesterday was a hectic day and AB came home with a sore back and a tired brain. I mentioned in passing that if tomorrow was as bad that I could take the afternoon off from work and come help, I didn't have anything on my schedule.

I talked with V who also had worked the backroom at the judging the day before and she commented on how hectic it was as well. We agreed that I would go in for the afternoon with her and assist where I could. I had never done this type of thing before and so my goal was to simply be a go to person who could be ordered around, though I wouldn't be hauling cases around being that I am pregnant. I looked forward to the afternoon.

At 11:30am I skipped out of work and locked my door behind me. V picked me up at home and off we went. I had a little idea what to expect because V and her husband have been working these judgings for a few years now and we had heard about how they worked, as well as reeped some of the benefits of the judgings in the form of opened bottles that would otherwise go to waste. AB and I loved this as it gave us the opportunity to taste many wines we normally wouldn't in manners we normally don't. For a single varietal (grape such as sangiovese or chardonney) judging, having the opportunity to taste 10-12 wines of the same varietal at once is a very eye opening experience. Who knew 12 cabernet sauvignons would taste so incredibly different. Other things we tried were blind tastings where we tasted all the wines and then one of us would repour a select wine and see if we could identify them. I couldn't even with my notes.

This afternoon I learned how meticulous the judgings are run. There is lots of prep work ahead of time, sorting the wines by varietal, numbering them, there are two bottles of each wine to be judged, cross referencing them (as the tastings are blind), then everything hauled to the site of the judging. Oh and the glasses! I have never SEEN so many wine glasses! Then comes the work of the back room volunteers, glasses are labeled, red wines are decanted twice (once into a pitcher and then back into the bottle), then they are poured (50 mL) into each glass. They can sit around for awhile, but all should sit around the same length of time.

The whites, otoh, cannot sit around and timing is key with them. Since they are served chilled, not cold (unless it is ice wine), judging white wines while also judging red wines, as in today's judging, can really throw a monkey wrench into things. Timing becomes critical.

After the wine is poured then it is served to the judges. I have never worked in any type of food service and so this too was new to me. Walking out of one room with 16 glasses of wine on a tray and into another, balancing it and putting it down and presenting the wines in order to the judge is no small feat.

When a flight is done the glasses are emptied (the judges all spit and do not swallow the wine), labels removed from the glasses, glasses returned to the dishwashing area for them to be cleaned to continue through a total of 260 wines. 260 wines, 5 professional judges, 5 amateur judges (more on that later), and a moderator, I'll do the math... a potential for 2860 glasses of wine over two days.

Still think you want to be a wine judge? Yeah, I did too until a few years ago. I remember thinking what a cush job wine judges had, sit around and drink all day and write about it. Oh yeah, not to mention all the free wine you get for drinking when you aren't judging. What could be better? I decided awhile back that I like being a consumer, I like drinking my wine and not spitting, I like coming up with adjectives to describe wine only when I feel like it. Upon request I would write "cherry" so many times I would no longer be able to describe it. And there are also just wines I am not overly fond of.

But regardless there are oodles of wine lovers out there eager to have their day to play wine judge, and so the amateur, consumer panel came to be. A few readers of Wine Press Northwest were invited to submit essays for competition. Then those few winners were given the opportunity to come to the region, at their expense and be a judge for two days. A dream opportunity for many.

Me? I will just work in the backroom and when I hear which wines scored the highest, stroll over to that bottle for a taste. Ok, that would be the not pregnant me. The pregnant me just smelled the winners and made a mental note.

I had a really good time today and learned a ton. This afternoon was not nearly so hectic as the previous day and so I was able to ask questions and take my time. I smelled cork taint (wet newspaper) for the first time. Ok, so I have probably smelled and tasted it before and had no idea what it was. If 3% of wines have cork taint, well then I have drank many, many cork tainted bottles.

The professional judges were kind and courteous and friendly. Both AB and I, didn't get the same feeling out of the consumer panel. Our conclusion is that to them, I am not a scientist who took some vacation time to come take the opportunity to "volunteer" my time with absolutely no food service experience. Our feelings were that to the consumer panel, we were the wait staff. On the flip side, the judges knew exactly what hard work it takes to pull off a judging and be timely with everything. They know we are volunteers and there simply for our sheer love of wine, to learn and to support our friends when possible.

I am not sure I have worked so hard, yet had so much fun and learned so much in a single afternoon of playing hookey!

Long live the grape!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thirteen years ago

Thirteen years ago I went to a CU football game with my physical chemistry lab partner. I didn’t care much about the football game, even though I had season tickets. I had been flirting with my lab partner since we were just a few weeks into lab. Oblivious, he was. Finally after complaining to him I didn’t have anyone to go to the game with, he said I could sit with he and his engineering buddies. During that next week, after working on our lab report together we went to the Dark Horse for a beer. A kiss that night. The next week he invited me to go see Miss Saigon and I realized the jackpot I had hit. A man that would take me to a musical!

Thirteen years later and we have a toddler and our second baby on the way. Wow have things changed, our college team went from being top college contenders where we enthusiastically threw oranges onto the field to well… they suck and for the first time in many many years is most likely not eligible for a bowl game. 13 years comes and goes with many changes. But I can’t imagine my life with anyone else! I love you AB! Happy thirteen years!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Leif hiding

In my previous life

As a pregnant woman, my nightly dreams have become even more vivid and wacky. For those of you who know me personally, this is probably a frightening thought! I am already a very vivid dreamer, but add in pregnancy and we are in for a whirl. During the month before my wedding, VargasGirl (who has equally as wacky and vivid dreams as I do) and I shared daily e-mail accounts of our dreams regarding my wedding. I still giggle at her dream of my mom as an Amazon woman in a pink gingham dress.

Last week I had a dream about my time working in the dermatology clinic where I worked as the Mohs surgery histotech (a method for removing skin cancer) for five years. Three of those years part time while I was an undergrad – I did a job share with a woman who had toddlers and wanted the flexibility to go home to her kids at 3pm on the four days a week we worked and have summers off. It worked great. I had a good paying job through college, she worked a flexible schedule. When I graduated from college she quit and became a SAHM and eventually moved to California and I worked full time in the position for two years until I could deal with it no longer and knew a change had to be made in my life.

I loved that job in many ways. I also hated that job in many ways. Everyone has that job that defines them as an employee I believe, this was mine. I had a tremendous amount of responsibility, patients respected me, I came out of my shyness shell a significant amount and I really learned how to interact with people and console them – a trait that aside from my own son, doesn’t come natural to me. I gained experience in running my own (albeit small) lab as well. The downside came in working in a doctor’s office with three physicians and their all female support staff. There was as much bickering and hormones flying in that office as my freshman dorm. As hard as I find it sometimes to work in a male dominated field, it doesn’t hold a candle to that office.

I worked for a super doctor, in more ways than one. He was a Super Doctor in that he was sent all the hard cases and had incredible skin cancer cure rates, I saw more wacky stuff working for him than I ever hope to see in the rest of my life. I also met many local and even a few national level celebrities who were referred to him. He was super towards me to give me all his confidence in my abilities and sought to teach me everything he knew. Still today I believe my knowledge of dermatology and skin cancer probably surpasses many new practicing dermatologists. We spent lots of time together at work, often working until 11pm, we routinely lunched together and he treated me like his daughter. He had hopes and dreams for me (going to medical school at the University where he taught part time) and he was good to me and offered me lots of flexibility in my job. I adored his family and often babysat his three kids when he and his wife would vacation.

When I graduated college he held a twinge of disappointment (I am nearly positive) that I decided to go on working for him full time and had switched from talking about med school to talking about grad school. Our friendship changed somewhere along those lines during those last two years. I think it was my being there full time, him seeing lots more potential for me and my getting a much closer look at him as a shrewd (but very savvy) business manager and finding out later on how incredibly cheated I was on my salary. The mentor/mentee phase was over and I was now just his employee. AB still wrinkles his nose and talks about how much he hated the man when my time working for Dr. Stinkbug comes up in conversation. AB was of the opinion that when things started going sour with him I should have told him to take a hike and left him in a huge bind to scramble for a new histotech. Maybe I should have, but it was never and still wouldn’t be in my nature to do that to him. He was and I am sure still is, a good man.

When I dream about work, I dream about that place. I have never once dreamt about washing animal cages in the tox lab I worked at in high school, or the lab and university I worked in through grad school, and rarely do I dream about my current job. (Yes, there is my extensive resume.) Yet once a month or so, come rain or shine, I dream about cutting slides, assisting in cutting on people’s faces and stitching, running from room to room and consoling patients, making an effort to reassure them that their faces will recover. (Side note, please wear sunscreen.) I would dream that my slides are perfect, I dream of the stress and I dream of Dr. Stinkbug barking orders at me.

Surprisingly my dream last week was vastly different then previous dreams. I dreamt I was in Colorado visiting my mom, Dr. S found out and asked me to come in and cut slides for him one day. I tried to decline but finally went in. He introduced me with huge pride in his face to everyone in the office and then, with Leif in tow, I went back to my lab and tried to work. But instead of cranking out perfect slides, I couldn’t cut them. I was plowing through chunks of embedding medium and skin in the quest for the perfect thin slide that encompassed the entire length of the dermis and into the fat layer. I could not do it. Leif was being patient for Leif, but still he didn’t want to be there. The Petri dishes were stacking up and patients were waiting for their results. I could not get a slide made. I had forgotten how.

This is something that I have told AB I will never forget how to do, I will never forget how to cut frozen sections. The other night in my dream I had forgotten. Dr. S came over to me and instead of his face turning beet red as he yelled, he patted me on the shoulder as he looked into the cryostat at the mess in there and said, “it’s ok, you don’t need to do this”. And I picked up my son and left.

The dream was immensely satisfying to me. I don’t know if it marked the end of my being plagued with dreams of working in that place (even after 10 years of absence), or if it was just the mental acknowledgement I got from Dr. S (or really myself since it was my dream) that the stress is gone and I don’t need to plague myself with it anymore. I don’t know why the dream was so satisfying to me, but it was.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A sign it was time

This morning AB was getting Leif ready. He switched off the TV, which is unusual. I asked him what was up fearing something was on the news that was scary and/or not appropriate for Leif.

AB: "Oh it's a new episode of Little Einsteins this morning and I don't want to spoil it for Leif."

NM: "Thank goodness you got a job, you apparently really needed one."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting old sucks

Not me for once. Well yes, I am getting older, but I am not *that* old.

I got an e-mail this morning from my mom. Her message was to tell me that my nearly 84 year old grandmother was in a car accident and totaled her car. She is fine as is the other party. Yes, my grandmother is still driving. This is, however, her second accident in one year. Both of which she swears were not her fault.

My cousin was the one who called my mom. She was at work, her police officer husband at home sleeping since he was working nights. He got a call from his buddy telling him that my grandmother had an accident and will need someone to take her home from the ER. My grandmother was not the one to call anyone.

My cousin shows up at the ER with my grandmother wondering how she found out. (Duh.) Cousin tells her she is here to take her home and my grandmother asks her instead of taking her home, drop her at a car rental place so she can get a car. She can’t live without one. My cousin called my mom who told her to take her home and tell her to rest, then my mom calls her to talk.

Wow it sucks watching your loved ones age. When my grandmother visited in June of this past year I was shocked to see how little she was. When I was a kid she was 5’2”. She seemed almost proud that she is 4’8” now and everyone comments on how tiny she is. Her mind is sharp and she still kicks our butts (sometimes without cheating) at games. She doesn’t see herself in the mirror. She is tiny except for that 4” hump on her back. How can my strong Swedish grandmother be aging like this?

Par for the course when my mom called her later this morning the first thing she asked was, “how did you find out?” My mom scolded her for the fact that she had to find out from my cousin, who thankfully called her immediately. It sounds as though the conversation was a difficult one trying to keep my grandmother on track with discussing the accident and potentially her need to move out of her house and not her ailing dog.

Because this is her second accident in a year and due to her age she will be undergoing an assessment through the police department to see if she can retain her license. Despite the fact that she was ticketed she evidently had plenty to say about the other guy in the accident, he ran a red light and was speeding she said. It does no good for her to lie because my cousin’s husband will be getting a copy of the police report tonight when he goes on duty to find out exactly what happened. How bad is it that none of us believe her version?

Sadly I have to admit that about the best thing that could happen in this situation is that she lose her license. It will create a lot of scrambling on our part to get her moved into town to an apartment where there is public transit, teaching her how to use the bus system, and then booking her on buses to spend the holidays with family. But the costs of not doing these things and letting her continue to drive are far more costly.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some Leif funnies

I need something to cheer me up today. I have raging hormones that have turned me into a big pile of negativity spewing pooey (see the Nuclear Mom's Second Pregnancy blog in the side column).

Toddler OCD, a real phenomena
Leif and I have been working hard on looking for cars when we cross the street to get the mail. I ask him if there are cars coming, he looks and often points out the parked cars on our street, then when I reassure him they aren’t moving we agree we can go.

I can now rest assured that I have properly conveyed to him the necessity of looking both ways for cars based off my experience in driving to work this morning. Every time we stopped at an intersection Leif would YELL from the back seat, “CARS COMING MOMMY, DON’T GO!” Of course being a toddler and OCD just comes natural to toddlers he can’t just tell me once at each intersection. Oh no, no less than 23 times at each intersection was acceptable.

How to wake daddy according to Leif:

"DADDY, wake up!" screamed multiple times.

AB groggily rolls over with eyes open.

Apparently this has not been a success since he isn't up and out of bed immediately. Leif gets onto the bed.

"Put your blankey away Daddy! Put your blankey away!" Leif says as he peels the covers off AB leaving him exposed.


I am thinking it might be time to start thinking about moving Leif out of his crib. We had planned on keeping him in it until after the baby came, then making a big deal out of a NEW room and moving him then. Some people have agreed with this tactic, others disagreed. I think it is all in how it is approached.

However, the past two of three nights Leif has not been interested in going to bed in his crib. In fact, tonight he asked to sleep on the floor. Ok, once in the crib, he cried to sleep on the floor. I pulled him out, he layed his head on his pillow on the floor, asked for his blankey and told me goodnight.

And he was out. I am thinking this weekend we may pull the crib mattress out and put it on the floor and let him start by sleeping on that. Depending on how that goes we might consider a move sooner than anticipated to a new big boy room and turn the nursery into the temporary guest room, maybe over Thanksgiving?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reclaiming my house

This weekend I was amazingly successful at reclaiming my house from the clutter and dirt that had taken over. I cleaned the master suite and started laundry Saturday. Sunday I focused on the formal dining room (Leif’s playroom) and the library. I dusted and vacuumed, Leif helped. When I pulled the vacuum cleaner out he retrieved his little vacuum and followed meticulously in my steps matching the length and time of each stroke. He helped me pick up his GeoTracks. The library I was somewhat successful at, limited mostly by the loads of papers that AB “might” need at some point in his coursework. They are all stacked for him to sort. AB cleaned the living room Sunday while watching the Seahawks game and between the two of us the kitchen was cleaned.

Our west wing went completely neglected save for the accidental mopping of the utility room. Pregnancy brain is real. I was filling the utility room sink up with Oxiclean and hot water when Leif started doing something (I can’t remember what) that he wasn’t supposed to. I went running with every intention of returning to the sink in the utility room. A little while later I heard water splashing, sure enough, scalding hot water all over the floor of the utility room.

One major accomplishment Sunday was achieving dominance over the laundry. It has been months since every piece of laundry has been clean in this house. AND I accomplished this feat with a toddler in underwear!

That last statement implies there was success with the toddler in underwear. Which actually couldn’t be farther from the truth. Truth is I managed to time that last load of laundry to finish about 30 minutes before the next accident. So my house was really just 30 minutes of not a speck of dirty laundry.

Speaking of Leif, I couldn’t have more of a boy’s boy on my hand. Wow. He is just all boy. Lately everything is about being an airplane, flinging ones body through mid-air and wrestling. He has his tender moments too though, like last night when for some reason he insisted on going to bed on the floor instead of his crib. I layed down on the floor with him and he reached over and rubbed my shoulder for a few minutes. When we leave in the mornings there are always a few tears as Leif calls for “just one more piss” from Daddy. If he had his way AB would stand there and give one more kiss all morning. (Ignore the fact that when we get to daycare I have to beg for a hug and kiss as he is running off to get busy with his day.)

Then there is this morning where Leif came into the bedroom while I was getting ready and told me he wanted to “watch baby”. I stuck the VHS tape in the VCR and hit play as we marveled at the in utero baby on the screen. Leif took to pointing out the body parts to me, similarly to how I did for him last Friday, only when I did it, I pointed to the actual body parts. Leif pointed to empty space and would recite “baby’s arm” or at the face and say “look mommy toes!” It melted my heart. Also implied he is not my little all knowing oracle… and maybe, just maybe he says “sister” because it is easier to say and not because he is all knowing.

In other news, my former graduate advisor wrote me this weekend asking me to write a letter in support for him in his nomination for a Graduate Advising Award. I like writing, why then does this task leave me without words? My goal is to create a letter that is brief, poignant and memorable and that conveys how deserving he truly is. All I can come up with is a rambling mess of words and examples of his worthiness. It reads plainly like every other letter of recommendation out there. This is killing me.

The other thing that is killing me is that he told me in his letter that my former labmate, John, got a job teaching at a small State College in Colorado. Slacker John. The one I “promised” (with my fingers crossed) to help him find a job here and then never followed up because I couldn’t stand what my coworkers would think of me if I actually recommended him. He has yet to defend and still has only written one (poorly written) draft of his dissertation done. Ugh. I suppose I should take consolation in the fact that he has a 1 year temporary appointment making probably less than half what I do here. Still I dream of a comfortable job like this, in my home state, preferably with my husband bringing in a good salary… I still sit here shaking my head thinking of John in this position, and just a twinge of jealousy.

In other news from my former advisor I had recently expressed some discontent at how hard of a time I am having weedling myself into surface science projects here, my true calling. When I first took this position he was unimpressed and probably somewhat concerned at my willingness to jump into the nuclear realm. (I was job hungry.) In his recent letter he encouraged me to remain straddling the two worlds given the state of our international relations. This was important for me to hear from him. Like a child that is always looking for a parent’s approval, I seek his approval in my professional life.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Random blogging

Tomorrow is the day during all pregnancies everywhere that we wait for in anticipation. The ultrasound day! We are really looking forward to tomorrow. This pregnancy has had me fairly paranoid about a number of random things, but tomorrow should hopefully put my head to rest and reassure me that we have one healthy baby growing away. We won’t find out the gender because we love torturing our friends and loved ones, but really for the purely selfish reason of relishing that “It’s a (insert gender)” moment at delivery. Another thing to guess about!

Work is plodding along slowly. I finally came to the realization that I need another project to work on and so I set about in working on that yesterday. I e-mailed a handful of people in the area of my expertise asking if there are any openings on their projects for the coming year for a surface / vacuum / materials scientist. So far I have no takers. My former team lead came by to tell me he is in the same boat (great) and to encourage me to go over to the dark side since I have the radiation detection experience. I fear this. I worry about suddenly being on a project where travel is routine. If I have no takers by Monday I will have to wander over and talk to the PM for this particular multi multi million dollar project which I have avoided the gravitational pull from for years. I can already see it, “oh yes and I don’t want to travel more than once a month or so because as you know I have a toddler at home, I won’t be allowed to travel anymore in about 12 weeks due to our companies travel restrictions with pregnancy, oh and I didn’t tell you I am pregnant? Oh yeah, I will be out on maternity leave for about 12 weeks next spring.” Yeah. I can’t wait.

The advantage I have over others I suppose is that I am not looking for temporary work. I am looking to pick up a new project to replace my successfully finished project. About 30% time is what I am aiming for starting at the end of the month when my paper should be finished.

Leif is doing well. He does his best to crack us up daily. He has a new song that he sings regularly and AB and I struggled and struggled to learn the words. It doesn’t help that he speaks toddler language, so really getting what he is saying is difficult. The second hard point comes in the discovery yesterday that the song is really just a string of made up, but rhyming words! His teacher has promised to write it out for us because Leif really hates that AB and I don’t know this song when he wants us to sing it.

One of Leif’s funnier moments this weekend was when he announced to me that he too has a baby in his tummy. “You do?” I responded surprised. He then stuck his belly out and instructed me to “piss baby in my tummy” (kiss the baby in my tummy). I cracked up, and promptly did as he asked!

We are constantly impressed with Leif. He is working hard on the ABC's and has certain phrases down, "m,n,o,p" "s,t,u" and his favorite is "w,x,y,AND z". He is routinely counting to 14 without help or prompting if you have 14 things to count. What perplexes us though is his insistance that doing something on the count of three, like jumping or making the blocks crash is always "3,4,6!"

Last night I ventured out to get my haircut. I haven’t done this in ages it seems. Partly because I had a horrible cut last time and partly because I have been highly reclusive lately. But I ventured out to V’s stylist bravely last night. I left horrified. Seriously. I hated it. I even told the stylist I was extremely skeptical. I picked up Leif at V’s house and she worked hard to reassure me, but that was quickly eroded away by my husband who said, “woah” when he walked in the house. I said, “I am not sure what I think” and he replied “yeah, me either”. It is good I suppose to pride oneself with honesty, but there are times when it just isn’t the best policy.

The good news though is that the style vastly improved this morning when I styled it myself. At least today, I am quite happy with the cut. (AB still hasn’t told me he likes it, or offered a positive comment… but then again unless it was back to my waist I doubt he would rave. Dork.)

I am craving some free time lately. I have none. I have a little time in the evening after Leif goes down to blog a little and catch up on MySpace on occasion. About an hour to watch TV and then I am done for. My house is a disaster area. Serious disaster area. I am really hoping AB gets a job offer this week JUST so I can call our housecleaner back. AB’s intentions to keep the house clean while out of work were good, but they are just that, intentions. In the meantime I have 1” thick dog hair carpet on my side of the bedroom floor since Winny sleeps on the floor next to me. I am not sure when last our sheets were washed, my athroom sink is a frightening zone of filth. I struggle to get a load of laundry in everyday. My pantry is frightening as is my linen closet. I need a sign that says “Watch for Falling Objects When Opening” attached to the front of each. I think I am starting to nest. The mess is driving me insane. I fear that this weekend is going to be ALL about cleaning and that I am going to have to take time away from Leif to accomplish this. I hate that, but it is a must.

What I really want to do? Some crafts. I have marked off Thanksgiving week to be home all week (yay!) and my plan for that week is to make a quilt for this baby. (I will accomplish this by taking Leif to daycare Monday and Tuesday, thereby having some me time.) I plan to buy the fabric in advance and if I am lucky have cut my pieces so I can sew starting Monday morning. With any luck I will have a completed quilt by the end of the holiday week.

Even more than quilting, I have been craving some cross stitch time, I have a few gorgeous patterns begging for attention, UFO #1 Chat Noir (unfinished object) and UTO #1 Pates Baroni (untackled object) and my big prize UTO #2, The Orange Tree. I can’t even envision when I am next going to have a chance to sit down and tackle them. I took up cross stitching after one of my best friends, Vargas Girl, hooked me a number of years ago. I completed a number of small patterns… small compared to the above three that are each 50,000+ stitches. Then I delved into big patterns. I am not much for the ever present country style and cutesy cute patterns and so when I found sites that specialized in Vintage and Classic Artwork, my addiction was fed. I made a promise that I wouldn’t buy more until I completed one. That didn’t last long when I found Pates Baroni on sale for half price. Then I was browsing Golden Kite and found the Orange Tree and fell in love nearly immediately. Oh I also made the commitment to finish Chat Noir before Leif was born. Boy was *I* funny! In the past few weeks I have been seriously contemplating pulling out The Orange Tree. I am dying to stitch that. Then I think about all the work of pulling out my crates of supplies, going through my boxes of thread, buying the colors I need, spooling them all and organizing them… how to deal with Leif’s need to “howp” and I sigh and look at my dirty house and realize what REALLY needs to be tackled.

I also want to finish the October book club selection, The Red Tent, (that was already discussed). (Fantastic read, btw.) I am not even going to attempt the November book, Geek Something, Love maybe? I own it, but even putting it on my to do list is setting myself up for failure. I am a sucky book club member this second year. I haven’t been since June. Amazingly I have read most of the books, and on time too (with the exception of The Red Tent which I am SO close to finishing). For me 75% of it right now is purely scheduling difficulties, AB has class on my book club night. The other 25% of it is a mix between finding a babysitter (ok, I admit it, making the effort to find a babysitter) and feeling up to par (the problem with August and the partial problem with September). My FIL started the December book (Persepolis, The Story of a Childhood, a graphic novel) at the cabin this past weekend and told me he finds it worthwhile and interesting and that I should aim to read it, and I really want to. His endorsement is huge to me and seeing that he read 1/3 of it while “babysitting” Leif (as he napped) while AB and I dug clams, I am optimistic I can accomplish it.

What is occupying your time this Indian summer?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blogging with pictures take 2

A few more pictures. The top one is looking back at the cabin from out in the inlet in the rowboat. The second is looking out towards the inlet from the deck of our cabin.

Blogging with pictures

I have had no time lately to blog even a vacation update. So I am taking a few minutes of my lunch break (naughty me) here at work to get at least something up from our trip to the coast last weekend.

A rare, quiet moment with Winny dog.

A trip in the row boat.

Kissing grandpa (or in Leif speak, "pissing bompa").

Hanging with mommy on the porch.

Grandma asked for a kiss... not sure what she got.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Have a good weekend!

AB, Leif, Winny and I are packing up the car and heading over the mountains and to the coast for a long weekend! We are vacating tomorrow morning as early as possible in order to get to the cabin before low tide. I love low tide and want to spend some time clamming with my mom and stepdad and showing Leif starfish, crabs, sea snails and how to walk on oyster shells, because that is what our beach is composed of, oysters. Big, huge Pacific oysters.

I need a getaway. Work is wearing on me this week. I started a venting blog about work and felt myself getting all worked up again. Let’s just say f*$%ing continuing resolution and leave it at that. This is the time every year, when I stare longingly at the ads in the back of my C&En magazine at the new faculty positions listed and dream.

But I am headed out on vacation! Four days at the seashore with the family I love. I am anxious to see Leif interact with the new environment. I am nervous to take him out in the row boat. I am thrilled to sleep in and let Leif hang with my mom. I am looking forward to Oysterfest and the Washington State Seafood Festival. I am anticipating time with a few books on the couch. I hope there will still be blackberries to pick. (Although I will not be surprised if there aren’t.)

I shall return on Tuesday! Everyone have a super weekend!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Failure of the advance Christmas shopping tactic

AB: What a great hat you got Leif! I love it! I wish I had one like it.
NM: Well ok. (Goes to closet and pulls out matching hat intended for Christmas present.)

The upside, of course, being the wonderful feeling of seeing my matching boys in their hats out on our walk last night. It has just started to cool down enough that after the sun has set, a hat is a nice thing.

Leif loved his hat and would have taken a bath in it last night had we let him. He especially liked the fact that dad had one just like it.

The GeoTrax I bought this week on sale will go straight to the closet and will not come out until they are ready to be wrapped and put under a tree!

The sky is falling!

Last night while watching TV I told AB that I was planning on voting for our Democratic candidate for Senate, Maria Cantwell. As one of those notorious and very dangerous non-party affiliated swing voters, I expected a debate and was prepared for it.

I got instead a sigh, and my card carrying Republican husband admitted that he just doesn’t think he can bring himself to vote for the Republican candidate, Mike McGavick.

Monday, October 02, 2006


A Masters degree in Biostatistics from Harvard at age 22. How can that even be considered failure?

One of the really outstanding students I have mentored here at the lab e-mailed me today with such a somber voice that failure is the only word to put with her attitude and voice. She e-mailed me asking if she could use me as a reference in her job search as her plans for a Ph.D. from Harvard in Biostatistics “didn’t work out”. Disappointed? Only in the fact that she defended her Masters in June and didn’t even tell me so that I could send her a congratulations on your graduation card as well as a token graduation gift.

My goodness. If this is failure, what have we come to? I e-mailed her back with a hearty congratulations on her Masters and did my best to impart to her what a wonderful achievement she has in getting this degree. It made me sad for her, because I know her well enough to know that it is a huge blow to her ego to have to admit that she stopped short of her Ph.D. I knew there were difficulties from the get go in her program. She talked with me frequently about them during her first year, about the cut-throat nature of her colleagues, the unavailable nature of her professors. After her first year she was considering quitting. I believe it was me and one of the managers here at the lab who convinced her to plod forward, that it was just the first year crappola that she was encountering.

Even at my very small state school I had my fair share of that the first year. On the contrary though, I look back and realize that I was often the one dishing it out that first year. (Hanging head in shame.) But the recipients were so deserving. I mean if you can’t hack it during year one at a school that TRIES to keep its enrollment up, take a hint. (Is that justification?) Take the girl who was a year ahead of me who could not explain to her students how to derive the Ideal Gas Law. (She did graduate and is teaching math at a small community college in California.) Or the 57 year old woman who… oh goodness, I don’t even know where to start with her. When you raise your hand 3 months into Advanced Inorganic Chemistry and say, “wait, I thought a salt was NaCl?” There is a problem.

These aren’t the students that are at Harvard. C was valedictorian, graduated two years early from high school and then graduated ivy league at the top of her class in physics. The girl is amazing.

I think back to when C was selecting grad schools to apply to. Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, etc. Then she put University of Washington as her back up. She, not surprisingly, got into them all. But what shocked me was that in talking to her, UW had wormed its way into her top list and I remember her saying she kind of wanted to go there. But we all told C, you *have* to go to one of the others. You will forever kick yourself for not going! Just think of the opportunities when you finish with your Ph.D.! I wonder if we all pushed her too hard. If in her own mind, she didn’t know better what would be a good fit. And it was her fear of disappointment towards everyone else that pushed her to Harvard. I feel a twinge of guilt.

I sit here with my Ph.D. from a lower end state school. It was a safe bet. I was a decent college student who took a safe bet and went to a school that aimed to retain its students. Then I look at C with a foul taste in her mouth from her grad experience and her Masters from a school known for its competitiveness and I think how unfair. Because wow, she is so smart. And in my own mind, I look at this and can’t help but think how stupid they were to let her go.