Thursday, December 24, 2009

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda...

I always used to wonder why airlines overbooked. I mean, really, who misses flights? Do that many people cancel at the last minute, or are there that many people who just forget, or just biff it all together?

Way back when my flying experience was close to nill, or amounted to a trip every few years (my family all lived nearby), flying was a BIG deal. Something I looked forward to in a way. The thought of not being 110% prepared never crossed my mind.

I suppose now that we fly a few times a year (Leif has redeemed frequent flier miles twice now), and I travel on occasion for work, flying isn't something I look forward to and is more commonplace. We know what we can take, we know how to negotiate airports with small children, flying just isn't something we get worked up about.

And now I know how a flight can get missed, because I did it.

See we were waiting in the long line at Delta the other day where a single person was manning the counter. We had checked in our 24 hours in advance and were there to check our loads of luggage (two car seats and three bags for the four of us). We stood in line about 20 minutes and finally got to check our bags.

AB, Leif and Skadi were on one confirmation and I was on another (with no bags) because I redeemed miles for my ticket. We get the luggage checked as I searched and searched for my ID.

I felt that pit in my stomach as I thought to the day before.

I had picked up the kids early and run to the bank to deposit two checks. I wanted more cash so that I could leave the housecleaner a tip. So I slipped my ID into the teller canister with my checks and deposit slip. My cash, ID and receipt came back in an envelope and two suckers as well for the kids. I tossed the envelope in my cup holder and unwrapped the lollipops for the screaming banshees occupying the back seat.

We got home and I scooped up the stuff and went in and finished getting us ready. I cleaned out my scary purse - getting rid of the crumbs in the depths and all the piles of change that I know can be a magnet for a rescreen.

That morning AB came down the stairs and announced, "well that was a near miss! I changed my pants and forgot my wallet was in the other pants!"

I rolled my eyes at him because that would have been JUST like him to lose his wallet on the day we were leaving.

We got in the car and left.

So when I felt that pit of my stomach at the Delta counter I knew exactly where my ID was. It had slipped out of the envelope in the car into my cup holder.

And we had taken AB's car to the airport and mine was at home.

T minus 45 minutes until lift off, could I make it? AB, Leif and Skadi headed through security hoping we could secure a bump (just in case) because that would mean a free ticket and a reprieve until the next flight in case I didn't make it back.

I ran to the car and jumped in and started driving while I should of how this could have happened.

I should have checked my purse when AB commented on nearly not having his ID. I never don't have my ID in my purse though, but why did I not check for it?

I had no problems zooming home at 5mph over the speed limit. I ran to my car and saw my ID and jumped back in. I pulled into the airport with 10 minutes to spare, I was going to make it.

Then the phone rang and AB announced I had 40 seconds. Actually "nevermind, they just closed the door. We missed our flight."

The tears came immediately. I missed our flight? AB had opted not to get on without me.

We made our way to the counter while AB did his best to argue that we would have made it had they not decided to leave early to no avail. We were supposed to all be through security by the time it indicated on the ticket and I hadn't made it.

Rescheduling for the next day was going to run a hefty $842 per ticket for the next day and there were no mileage tickets. We briefly contemplated jumping in the car and driving, but were then presented with the option of rescheduling for Christmas morning at a modest fee. We took it.

And that... is how you miss a flight.

I spent a lot of time kicking myself, while alternating with knowing that things happen for a reason. There was a horrible storm in Colorado wreaking havoc with the roads we were to drive. Maybe we narrowly missed a car accident? My kids' noses were running like fountains - maybe we spared my immune compromised mom from illness? My mom wasn't feeling well after her chemo, maybe it was better that we scootched our trip two days on both the arrival and departing?

Things happen for a reason and I am choosing to believe that we were meant to spend Christmas eve in our home.

Skadi and I put the Christmas tree back up this morning and redecorated it (after Lucky had knocked it down a few days before). I have shrimp bisque on the stove simmering and fresh Dungeness to go steam. And a Christmas eve service to make it to with our friends - our local family.

And the kids are watching Santa make his way around the world knowing a stop at their house is planned. Last minute trip out for Santa gifts (Skadi declared a need for a train from Santa - apparently THIS is what she has been asking for at each Santa sitting) and stocking stuffers was a success. We will drag kids out of bed and put their stockings in their hands on the plane.

And we will be thankful for what we have and that we are on our way to be with our family.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile...

Last year I delved into Christmas music – what does it for me (John Denver) and what does not (Band-Aid). After ranting to one of my high school turned Facebook friends about Christmas music I thought of another bitty pet peeve of mine.

Certain Christmas shows.

I like the vast majority of Christmas TV including all the classics and even a few of the new ones - Like "Shrek the Halls". “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Polar Express” tops my list simply because of the message.


I can quote The Grinch like no one’s business, but my favorite line is:

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

And I love to shop. I even love to Christmas shop.

But despite someone else’s meanness, the spirit of Christmas remains and will always be strong and present. It’s a notion that I WILL instill in my kids. My kids WILL be 80 years old and still hear the bell ring and not because they are getting senile.

We are Christians and so the core meaning of Christmas to us, is that Jesus was born. And despite the above two movies not being religious centric, it delves at what it means to anyone to hold your beliefs. No one can take them from you and furthermore that the spirit of Christmas resides within us.

My pride swelled the other night after reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to Leif and he said (without prompting) - "it means that Christmas will always come no metter what".

And it is nothing anyone can ever take from you sweet boy.

Now let’s venture over to the dark side.

The shows my children will not be watching:

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Christmas episode anyone? Or frankly how about any of those kid shows where the kids have to rescue Santa for Christmas to happen. I am fine with all the Dora, Diego, Little Einsteins, etc., shows that on every other day of the year they have missions and puzzles to do to make something happen. Fine. But don’t tread on Christmas. Don’t even IMPLY that Christmas may not come if Santa isn’t rescued. Don’t tell my kids that they have to chose which tool to use to rescue Santa and if it is wrong the entire world will suffer a fate of no Christmas. Or at least don’t do this if you expect me to let my kids watch.

Ok, so as an adult I am taking it to an extreme and embellishing just a little.

You get it, this is what yanks my chain and you have seen the many numbers of exhibits of this on TV.

My kids WILL look back when they are 80 and remember that their mom believed in Santa as the spirit of giving and generosity and they will understand this if I have to pound it into them. Their stockings will always be filled – just like my stockings have always been filled.

“Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Earlier in the year Leif came home from school with a question in mind… is Santa real?

Or he phrased it more like, “Isaac said that Santa is just your parents dressed up. Is that true mommy?”

Easy and very truthful response.

“No, neither mommy or daddy dress up like Santa. Aren’t we the ones that take you to see Santa at the mall? How could we dress up and be next to you?”

Ok, so maybe I took his question too literal. So I backpedaled a little.

“Not everyone believes in Santa Claus, but I do and I hope you do too. I truly believe that Santa is the spirit of giving,” I went on honestly.

Leif assured me that he believed in Santa and I dropped it there after half pondering talking to the kids’ teacher (Isaac is an older child in the class) and considering speaking to Isaac’s dad at work just to give him a heads up that his son is spreading fibs – I also pondered keeping Leif in a bubble, but that isn’t terribly feasible and I am sure CPS would be onto me quickly.

The other day after seeing Santa at school Leif came home and had this to say:

“It wasn’t a normal Santa though, something weird was his beard and it wasn’t real hair,” he said.

“What do you think about that?” I asked him probing gently.

“I think it was just someone dressed up to be like Santa,” he said. “And you know what? All the kids in line in front of me asked for pencils, but I asked for the Batman Wii game!”

“Why did all your friends ask for pencils?” I asked him perplexed.

“Well they must have asked for pencils, because it’s what they got,” he said.

“Did Santa give you a Batman Wii game?” I asked.

“No, he just gave me a pencil too,” Leif said.

We went to the mall the other day for a quick trip and noted that there was no line for Santa… and the kids actually looked alright! No huge obvious stains. Leif wasn’t in Christmas themed clothes, but he looked nice enough. Skadi had her Christmas dress on (like she does many days lately), though she had navy blue tights with flowers on – so did not match the Christmas dress – but she had her boots on, so it wasn’t horrid. We jumped quick into the very short line.

As we stood there a grin grew on Leif’s face.

“Mommy, look!” he said. “It’s the NORMAL Santa!”

And both kids beamed after hanging with Santa for a few. He was a good Santa too – more friendly than the prior year’s grump. And he did look, “normal”.

I guess I have a few years left while his measure of the real Santa resides in whether or not there is a fake or real beard.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On being happy

For the first time in my career here at the lab I have had two things happen - I scored the top level on my annual review and I have been thoroughly happy doing what I do daily. It was truly a banner year for me at work. (Wish I could say that about other areas... but, we will take what we can get and continue praying for success in the other.)

My stats:

I racked up over $3M in funding last year.

I have two journal articles in the works, two more scoped for the coming year. (My directorate doesn't tend to publish, so this is big.)

I am working on a dissertation style report with a few "grey beards" at the lab.

And I was selected by both product lines to pilot a new program.

I posted on FB sometime around Thanksgiving that I was thankful that I had a job that after having a week off, I was happy to go back to it. And this isn't a reflection on my time at home with my family!

There are people all over the US without jobs - my best friend in Colorado being one of them. I truly am lucky to have a secure job AND be happy in it.

I tend to do a lot of varied things in my position. I do a fair amount of project management. I have my own projects I am PI (primary investigator) on. And I routinely get tapped for odd jobs - like the report above.

A number of the old timers at the lab are retiring and they carry around a vault of information in their heads. Information that would be horrible to lose. One of the older managers in my directorate got funding to do an info dump out of his and a few of his colleagues heads. He selected me to lead this effort with him, organize it and get it into a form of a report and out the door. It requires a lot of solitude work in a cavernous style computer lab whereby I listen to people talk and take notes, I take things they write, I refine it and compile it in a sensible fashion (or I hope to). Very dissertation style (300 pages plus) save for the fact that it isn't my research, and I don't have to edit it! Instead I have money to pay an editor. It is truly one of the more fascinating things I have done at the lab - and I am learning an absolute ton.

It's things like this that I love. But are also my downfall.

My downfall into why I was not promoted this year despite my stellar review.

It's called a niche. And I don't have one. I have the reputation in my team / group / directorate / building as someone who is versatile. Can work on nearly any project doing a multitude of things. I work as a chemist, a nuclear physicist, an engineer, a manager and a writer. But I can't put my finger on a single thing where I am an expert.

I am a Jane of all trades.

In many environments this is a sought after quality. And though I have not gone without a charge code in the past few years that I have embraced my Jane-ness... this is still something that is not valued for promotion in my group.

I am missing that check box that says I am an expert in a narrow area of science. That I am the lab go to girl for X. Instead I have the reputation as someone who is easy to get along with, good to have on a project and gets things done.

While I was hanging out in the cavern the other day an old friend of mine came by to visit. I worked with him on the first project I worked on at the lab when I was a post-doc. He was always a huge advocate for me and took on a mentor role for awhile.

No one else was in the cavern and he immediatly jumped into that area, "so what's up with your career this year, you get promoted?"

I told him no and why and he went on to cite the injustices of the world - or at least those of our management. He cited all the reasons why I was being gyped /abused / neglected, etc.

I finally had to jump in - in an effort to prevent myself from being made feel bad for something I didn't really feel bad about to start with.

"You know J," I told him, "I got an in-grade promotion that basically amounts to two nice raises, I got a great review that my managers read off to me and I am REALLY, REALLY happy doing what I do everyday. I have two kids who need me, I am not a superwoman, I can do my job easily and do it well. I am happy."

As a goat, climbing comes naturally to me. It is hard sometimes to see others zoom past me. But when I step back and look at what makes me happy? My work does. Keeping my team members together and employed, keeping my clients happy, and knowing that I am the go to person not because I am the only one who can do that work, but because the people want ME to do that work.

For the first time in my career, I am really happy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mina is back!

That’s right, Mina the elf made his/her return right after Thanksgiving.

I was quite impressed with Leif that he remembered the elf, remembered the routine AND the rules. I purposely hadn’t filled it in his/her name on the line in the book because I wondered if the same elf would return each year, or if the kids would latch onto a new elf being assigned.

When I suggested that it might not be our old elf, Leif latched onto this in a not so great way.

“It’s BOOK!” he cried. “Cate’s elf came to our house instead, I know it! I am going to tell her that her elf came to our house!!”

This had disaster written all over it and AB and I both sensed it simultaneously as we both jumped on the “you know, it looks like the same elf” and AB was busy saying, “I think it is Mina again!” (Thank you AB for remembering the dang elf’s name.)

We then all settled on agreeing that it was in fact Mina visiting us again and reviewed the rules (for the less rules inclined member of the house…) and Mina went about her way observing the kids’ every move and then flying all the way back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa.

There was the one day when Mina played a HUGE trick on the kids and went back to the EXACT SAME SPOT as she had been the morning prior.

And then there was the morning where Mina hid in a really, really hard spot for a 5 year old and he was certain that Mina was spending a little extra time up with Santa reporting how wonderful they had been the day before.

Mina has been helpful to me in more ways than just keeping the kids behaving slightly on the better than bad side. Leif normally comes and complains about every.single.thing that Skadi does that isn’t to his liking. Well lately he just goes and tells Mina so that she can pass it on to Santa. Wheee!

Skadi isn’t so good with the rules yet. One morning Mina was hiding in a particularly hard spot for Leif – like umm, right in front of his face as he went into the bathroom. He had given up finding her and here Skadi came running carrying Mina and squealing, “I FIND MONA! I FIND MONA!”

Yes, she calls her Mona.

Mina (or Mona) is a funny elf and hides in hilarious spots. Like hanging from Daddy’s dinner table chair. There was much concern all through dinner last night that Daddy might accidentally bump Mina and not get any Christmas presents. The kids both determined that there is no way that they want Mina to sit on their chairs as that is too big of a risk.

And then there are the crazy concerns:

Skadi: “What if Mona knocks the chair over? And it makes a loud noise? And she hurts herself? And she no come back?”
Leif: “OR she can’t fly back to tell Santa we were good!”

And the things I hadn’t really thought about:

Leif: “Mina is going to be so lonely when we go to Colorado! She won’t see us and what if she tells Santa we just went away!?”
Me: “Well maybe Mina will come to Colorado.”
Leif: “How will you pack her, you can’t touch her?”
Me: “Well maybe she will leave and fly there the same night.”
Leif: “But what if she can’t find us?”
Me: “We can make sure to tell her exactly where we will be.”
Leif: “How will she know where grandma and Bompa live?”
Me: “I will tell her the address.”

And then there is the just plain cute:

Skadi: “I want Mona hug me.”
Me: “We can’t touch Mina.”
Skadi: “I want a hug her.”
Me: “Well let me talk to her and see if she will accept a hug as nice.”
Skadi: “I love Mona.”

Truly this has become one of the funnest things to do around the holidays. I recommend the Elf on the Shelf – or even just buying a little elf and doing it yourself without the guidance (and commercialism) of the book.

Monday, December 07, 2009

My two readers

So Leif brought home a book the other day from school to practice reading sentences. He hasn't been so into reading to this point - dyslexia may play a role, or just lack of interest. Somehow though his teacher managed to psych him up for "a challenge". She took me to the side and encouraged me to just let him read a page or so at a time as he tires easily when reading.

That first night he sat down and read the book. He was so proud of himself!

And we are so proud of him. I have always been a reader and I just love that a whole new world is opening up to my little boy.


The flip side is Skadi who is much more like me as a kid with books. Leif enjoys books, but Skadi loves herself a stack of books. And lately she wants to do the reading.

I spent the other evening laughing out loud while she read a book to me. It amazed me how she had every word on the page memorized PLUS! The plus being all the silly things I say on any given page. There is one book "Hug" with only one word in most of the book. Well you have to ad lib there. And then the few pages of "Where the Wild Things Are" that have no words... well you have to add in there too. I had never thought about the fact that the spoken words are associated with the page and not words on the page.

About midway through I stopped giggling and just listening. Apparently my lack of giggles didn't go unnoticed...

Skadi: "why the surly look on your face?"

Me: (surprised) "What?"

Skadi: "why the surly look on your face?"

Me: (Laughter.)

I still have no idea where she heard that, I certainly don't use the word "surly".


As Skadi was "reading" one of her books there is a snake on a page.

Skadi: "Yikes, a snake!" she recites. "I don't like snakes I step on them".

And I hate to say that she isn't joking.

Over Thanksgiving break she and Leif and I went out for a walk (where I snapped the picture in the new header that I had to change to black and white because Skadi was wearing a purple shirt and Leif a yellow one - but it works black and white).

Skadi was bringing up the rear through the field while Leif and I examined a dead snake. Surely Skadi had to see us there. Right? RIGHT?

NM: "Umm Skadi watch where you are walking!"

Of course she stops dead ON the snake.

Leif: "SKADI! You are stepping on the snake!"

Skadi: (slowly looks down, screams and runs the rest of the way to the park.)

She talked about stepping on a snake for days.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Skadi's new bedroom

She wanted "pink and pink and pink and pink and blue". We compromised with pink and pink and green and green and periwinkle.

AB thought he was going to lose it doing the pink. The addition of the green provided a nice balance though.

He kept asking while painting why we didn't do "tester quarts". Umm because was there going to be ANY pink that was suitable??

Skadi however, loves her princess room.

Once finished she immediately had to get on her Cinderella garb and play.

She CAN be a total sweetheart at times.

This should be proof and I will come back here and remind myself how sweet she can be.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My miniature INS agent and her earrings

The question of the week from Skadi has been “are you American?”

We went to the grocery store where she piped up and asked the checker, “are you American?”

She has repeatedly asked me if I am American and everyone else around her, including her daycare teachers who have assured her repeatedly that they are at least, legal to work in the US.

AB had his mom on the phone and held the phone up to Skadi to say hello. No hello from her, instead my mother in law heard, “I am Skadi Jeanne C-----, an American. Are you American?”


We put up the Christmas tree (or rigged it up as the case was) and decorated it on Sunday.

I no longer have to worry about the kids eating the little metal hooks used to hang ornaments.

Nope, now I only have to worry about my American daughter shoving them through her ears so she can have “beautiful earrings!”

When she failed to succeed (thankfully), and about the same time I realized what she was doing, she handed the object in her hand to me and asked me to put her earring in her ear.

I got my ears pierced when I was five and after I had repeatedly asked for them. I am setting the same goal with Skadi. Two and a half years to go (at least).

Monday, November 23, 2009

My week

Thanksgiving is my week. After about my first year at the lab I started saving my personal holidays to use during Thanksgiving, whereby I could then supplement these two days with 8 hours of vacation time and wa-la... a full week off with minimal expense on my part.

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday of the year and one that I really enjoy prepping for. I remember back to 1st or 2nd grade when the neighborhood boys came to get me for sledding one Thanksgiving day and I declined the offer in favor of cooking with my mom.

I enjoy puttering about the house, working on small projects, improving little things, thinking about Christmas presents and prepping for the big meal. Or little meal as the case may be. We always cook more food than we can possibly eat because it is thoroughly impossible to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal for just a few people.

This time around I hadn't taken much time to plan for my week. Many factors playing into this... first the plan to host Thanksgiving for my mom and stepdad and then that not working out. The second is work. I have never been so busy and overwhelmed with work. Third is the kids, they keep me hopping. Fourth is that this year is just moving by so quickly that I am still (despite the fridge full of groceries) having trouble believing that Thanksgiving is really here.

I did think ahead enough when we found out my family wouldn't be visiting to declare it a good time to paint Skadi's room. So we are tackling that. (Pink, green and periwinkle with flowers. The pink is done.)

Aside from that the plans are:
-Make jerky (aka pemmican) with Leif (done and it turned out superbly).
-Clean the fridge (done)
-Dermatologist appt (done and I have the wounds to prove it)
-Cook/bake (will start with cranberry zin sauce tomorrow)
-Entertain children for six days straight.
-Check work e-mail multiple times a day (ongoing)
-Keep checking my phone for signs of work distress (ongoing)
-Empty (and quit paying for) the storage unit (still need to inform AB of this one).
-Christmas shopping started and/or done (good start)
-Photo for the Christmas card (working on tomorrow)
-Abandon town for the snowy hills this weekend for a day of sledding/scouting ski areas/retreating to nature.

You will notice a number of different things on this list from previous years. The work aspect... cannot seem to abandon it all this year. And the Christmas shopping (normally nearly finished by now) and the photo (normally with cards in hand at this point). Also there are fewer projects.

This year there is more simple struggle to stay on top of what is at hand as opposed to undertaking new things.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Skadi McBeaners


Every pool of standing water has fishies in it. The sink has fishies. As does the toilet bowl. As does the bathtub.

Fishies, you should know, are any floaty things.

Shreds of toilet paper in the toilet? Fishies.

Strange floaties in the tub? Fishies.

At first it was kind of cute, but now it is bordering on a strange compulsion.

"DON'T FLUSH THE TOILET ANYONE!" she screams. "THERE ARE FISHIES IN THERE!" (And she looks SO serious as she eyes us all directly and points at the bathroom.)

And it is highly traumatic if you ignore her pleadings. So for now we tiptoe around and wait until she is out of earshot to flush the toilet.


And then we fish out every little bit of shmutz out of the tub as she points to each one individually. Specks really.

("Who do you want to ask, the *speck*? There's no one here!")

Not sure where this came from since we just recently went to the aquarium where she saw ACTUAL fish in the water.


The Witch Costume

Back about mid-September or so I picked out a fabulous (inexpensive) witch costume for Skadi. It was perfect. Purple and pink tulle with stars and I paid a little extra for the matching tights.

Then it arrived and was deemed to be highly offensive.

Would NOT wear it. Would NOT touch it.

She would get a little brave and talk about the witch costume. We would pull it out... and then quickly return it to the hiding place when the screaming hysterics would start.

I gave it up and she wore Leif's bug and tiger costumes on Halloween.

But something happened this morning and not only did she ask to see the witch costume, but she (*gasp*) put it on.

Then she modeled it for pictures.

And wore it to school and proclaimed the entire time that it was Halloween.

Her teacher, Miss Kaitlynn, was the one who broke the news to her that it was no longer Halloween and so right then and there she stripped the costume off and handed it to me to take home.

I got at least one wear out of it!


Speaking of stripping

I can't keep clothes on this girl.

She comes home and strips down to "nakey bum" status. She and her dolls. No one wears clothes. I have a great picture of Skadi practicing her Mardi Gras greeting at the park the other day.

I thought maybe for awhile this was limited to home, but apparently not. In order to fall asleep Skadi needs to strip herself down to her panties for nap.

I am optimistic that someday the importance of clothes will become apparent.


Skadi speaks

"her" (Everyone is a her.)

"Papernose" (Kleenex/facial tissue)

"warm legs" (Leg warmers)

"You hurt my feelings." (What it says. This is the standard reply to anything she doesn't want to hear.)

"Weifer" (her brother)

"Not you" (aimed to me most often)

"You are not nice at all." (Again, reply to anything she doesn't want to hear.)

"Chicka maow maow" (??? Frequent statement.)

"Coca" (You are coca. Her name is Coca. My dolly is Coca. Coca is my friend. Etc.)

"GO WAY CAT!" (Ever since Lucky thought Skadi was trying to play with him and batted at her, she no longer trusts him anywhere near her.)

"Freya here." (The chosen animal who should reside next to her at all times. Either chosen or she has learned to keep Freya near to prevent her from chewing on her dollies - who are all named Coca.)

"I share this with Coach Brett, I need a baggie." (Breakfast on Monday morning.)

"Tonia did it!" (4th Branch teacher who is highly coveted for her hair styling skills.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Back in the saddle in a sense

When I was hired on 7.5 years ago I was told all about the glories of travel.

When I started my team bought me a laptop and an international plugs kit. And I started dreaming about the places I would go with my international plugs kit.

My laptop is a boat anchor somewhere and my international plugs kit is still shrink wrapped.

The team I joined at the time talked real big... but then when it came down to it, the more senior staff got the international trips and got to specify who went along. (And it was never me.) And I got stuck with trips like to DC (a few times) and New Jersey and Bloomington, Indiana and Seattle and Lincoln, Nebraska.

All actually were quite cool with the exception of Lincoln. I was a lone buff awash in a sea of red. I was verbally attacked at lunch as a representative to DOE about my not funding them (I was a junior scientist at the time and completely perplexed). And my host's idea of a good evening was to take me out for Scottish dancing. And I was 3 months pregnant with Leif and still nauseated.

But aside from that trip, all my work trips have been very interesting and good for me. I discovered that I really like Washington DC. I discovered that New Jersey was truly beautiful and that you should always plan to BYOB to dinner as some counties do not serve alcohol in restaurants. Bloomington was a fun little college town and Seattle... I always love going to Seattle. My visit back to Reno was also good in that it grounded me and brought Reno back down to it's proper 4500 foot resting spot instead of remaining high in what once was to me.

I have been lucky that during those periods of time when I don't want to travel, I have easily gotten out of it. Like for the first year and a half to two years after having each child. Skadi is now 2.5 and this stint of no travel is up.

There is something appealing to me about occasional travel. I couldn't do it on a very regular basis. But I like the anonymity of travel. I like escaping to the big cities and eating good food and maybe taking in a show. I even actually enjoy going out to dinner by myself. One time in DC I went to the opera - my only opera - and saw Placido Domingo as lead in Idomeneo. I like the quiet escape of a nice hotel. Of watching whatever I want on TV. Of picking a restaurant without compromise. A quiet serenity.

I don't like leaving my family. I really don't like flying. And I don't like worrying about who will be there if something goes wrong at home.

So, it's good that I don't travel regularly. But every once in awhile? It's a treat.

I am headed back to DC this Sunday. For me it is kind of a neat trip and a first in that I am not representing other people's projects. I am representing my projects.

In taking a tally I have learned that the vast majority of my coworkers under this program will also be going. Not only to the same review, but on the same flight there and in the same hotel and at least one of them is on my same flight back. There will likely be about 10 or 12 of us. And this bums me just a tad because it means I don't get my little bit of anonymity on this trip. And that I may have to compromise on dinner sites. (I was always glad I never had to travel with one coworker on my first project here - his favorite place to eat - every.single.night - was rumored to be Applebees.)

Three nights. I did the good lead scientist thing and contacted another one of my clients to let her know I was going to be visiting the area and she jumped on meeting up. So all in all, I am most excited about day three of my visit where she is taking me to tour around her headquarters and meet her people. Leif hopes I may get to go on a sub. I explained (again) the whole confined space entry thing, but did promise to bring him something back from the Air and Space museum.

Is it just me...

or is foul language making more of an appearance lately?

Actually I know it isn't just me because we had this conversation at book club the other day.

One friend mentioned walking along with her daughter who is practicing her sounding out of words and she notices she is sounding out words in the parking lot. V-a-n and then s-t-op. And then she quickly works to divert her daughters attention when she sees a bumper sticker at eye level with the f-word. See what a prude I am with cursing, I can't even type it on my blog!!

I didn't even scream it when that 8 lb frozen cinder block of a roast fell on my toe the other day.

A coworker a few years back told me that he was in the car with his 8 or so year old daughter who said, "dad, they spelled organs wrong on that bumper sticker!" To his horror it was "orgasm", not organs and all he could do was agree with her that they were silly and had spelled it wrong.

I thought about it today as I was driving home listening to XM radio and was reminded that they are not subject to fcc regulations. Must be better about thinking about what song is on.

Then a few days ago we were out shopping at Costco and the language coming out of the guy behind us in line! I want to say he was oblivious to those around him, but truly, I didn't get the impression he even cared.

Naughty language to Leif and his friends is saying "stupid" or "hate".

And I get busted for "stupid" pretty frequently. Apparently I think a lot of things are stupid.

I am just going to sit and enjoy this stage for a little while...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Reprieve... issued by Daddy

I think it might be something about daddies and their little girls' hair. My mom said that my dad always liked my hair long as a little girl.

I was ready to give Skadi's hair the big chop. A short little bob or something.

Then AB looked at me like I had lost my mind.

And he reminded me how much she loves having the option to do her hair "fancy fancy".

And he mentioned something about the holidays and pictures.

And we compromised at a "good trim".

She lost about an inch.

I think Leif lost about the same despite my asking for a "light trim with longer on the top" and I would have appreciated the front being somewhat straight... but I suppose I can fix that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

To cut or not, that is the question!

I remember my mom's voice so well as she complained about my hair.

"If you don't keep your hair tied back nicely, you will have to cut it off," she would say.

And I would cry.

Because I really, really, really wanted long hair. Short hair would make me look like a boy and I wanted nothing to do with looking like a boy. Ever.

So I would keep my hair pulled back and brushed, until the next time, which was usually just a week at most away. My hair was a long battle with my mom.

Skadi has just recently decided that she doesn't want her hair in "ponies". For awhile there I got away with hauling hair bands into daycare and letting them tackle it since she wouldn't allow me without serious bribery.

(The result of bribery is below... "if you don't let me do your hair, we won't get to go to the pumpkin patch with Cate." I know... I shouldn't threaten anything I am not willing to follow up on, but it works.)

This is contrary to this past year and a half or since she had long enough hair to stick in itty bitty ponies. She loved having her hair done.

And she loved having it done in wacky ways too.

And she has beautiful hair if she would just let me keep it brushed all the time, like this:

But this is a rarity. It is most often coated in some unknown substance (usually yogurt or snot).

And it just looks bad after a day at daycare. Oh who am I kidding, it looks bad after an hour at daycare. Even her school pictures where I braided her hair in French braids, the pictures taken a mere 30 minutes after drop off show a different picture from the neatly groomed little girl I dropped off.

I am thinking the scissors are going to meet the hair this weekend. I am actually taking her in to get it cut and I am angling for a shortish cut. I thought I might have to convince her, but so far she is on the bandwagon to cut her hair.

She even said, "like a boy hair?"

I replied, "no, not that short" envisioning myself at her age and how that would have sent me over the edge.

"Oh," she replied quietly.

"Unless you want it like a boys," I told her reminding myself that boys are wearing their hair longer these days. I let Leif's get pretty long and scraggly between trims and if he didn't inherit AB's AND my fine straight hair, I would let it get longer.

"Ok," she said.

I am taking that as indifference on looking like a boy or not...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Learning in progress

I am certain that as a teenager he won't make a similar mistake.

Leif: (Crawling all over everything in Skadi's daycare room, being highly obnoxious.)

Me: "Leif stop it."

Leif: (Rolling around the floor and taking apart the mats in Skadi's daycare room, being highly obnoxious.)

Me: "Leif, I said stop it. Stand up."

Leif: (Climbing onto a table and standing up. Oh and being highly obnoxious.)

Me: "Get off of that now. The next time I tell you, you are losing your Wii privileges, do you understand?"

Leif: (Sheepishly nods while I talk to another parent.)

Me: "Let's go guys."

Leif: (Walks out of the daycare room and crawls onto a table and jumps off.)

Me: "That's it, you are done. No Wii privileges."

Leif: "But mom! I didn't hear you! I was ignoring you and plugging my ears to you while you were saying no Wii privileges earlier!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This is Halloween

We are holding our first Halloween party this year!

I expect it will be very different from every other get together we host. I am expecting the same people that usually come over and who we celebrate with. Maybe a few new ones (apparently they like to RSVP at the last minute?).

One main difference is that *I* am dressing up. Yes me. And AB too. I waffled on this. Waffled a lot. I thought about being a witch - easy enough and a black dress is always flattering. Then Leif started selecting costumes for me (Boba Fett anyone?). AB got in the mix too (Slave Princess Leia... thanks for at least the vote of confidence honey). Skadi, sigh, which makes me a touch guilty, thinks I should be a purple witch.

What it finally came down to is that some wee little part of me has always loved Princess Leia. Leif loves Princess Leia. My husband likes her too. I was never Princess Leia as a little girl... nope, I was Gene Simmons instead.

And then I got to thinking that this may be my one and only chance to go as something that matches my son (who is Captain Rex the Clone Trooper). And Leif is digging that thought big time. Leif match mommy? What a great idea! He picked out the Ventress costume for me, but I had fear about pulling it off. We settled on Princess Leia.

AB soon jumped on board and ordered a Jedi robe. And Skadi will likely be a bug. (The witch costume has been nixed and should never return to her sight.)

Our party will have a number of firsts... AB and I in costume. My dad is visiting. And then there is the food.

Yep, you see right. Mummy hot dogs. Hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent roll strips. Not exactly the fare you might expect to eat upon showing up at my house!

Add to the list cocktail dog spiders (also using Pillsbury crescent roll strips). Witches purses (ok, those will be yummy, though not terribly gourmet). Chicken wings. Sandies that look like witches. (Yes I totally could make sugar cookies... or not - hey take a look at my schedule between now and the party!)

You get the idea. Things that kids will not only eat, but find cool. (Hopefully.)

I guess my reason in posting this is almost a sort of warning to the friends who are attending... don't expect fancy! An apology to the parents for all the mass produced, but very fun, stuff that their kids will eat. And a declaration to the effect of let's just all have fun and forget about calories, high fructose corn syrup, etc. And I should also say that even though my son knows all the words to, and will ask repeatedly for "This is Halloween"... he has not seen "The Nightmare before Christmas". Though it is my favorite Halloween movie and I have been so tempted.

What you get in return? A night with friends. Worn out kids at the end of the night.

And maybe most importantly, one more wear of that Halloween costume!

Have a Happy Halloween!

The purge urge

I don't think I am a packrat. Or I tell myself I am not.

My grandmother, she is a packrat.

My mom is not.

I think I fall somewhere in between the two. I keep a big plastic bin in each of the kids' closet and I put special things in there. Their class pictures, copies of their school pictures, milestone momentos (first name printed for the first time, first shoes, going home outfits...). I toss things in on a not terribly regular basis.

The other day my husband commented that we needed more book shelves. We kind of do. But his idea is to LINE the office.

Umm what? So that all our creased back, mass market books are on exhibit to everyone?

I like having SOME books out. I have a good sized stack that is unread, I want those out. We have a few hardbacks that are nice to display. I have a few that mean something to me (like Hans Blix's book with a nice sentiment to me and his autograph in the front). My favorite books are up there and so are AB's.

But every single book I have ever read? Please don't make me put them out. I could use more bookshelfs for stuff... not books. Not to mention that I want to impart some sense of style into our home and lining one wall with cheap bookshelfs is not my way to achieve that. Sorry honey.

We have been hauling boxes from storage and unpacking them.

You might guess that a recent load was boxes upon boxes of books. I actually started making a stack of books to get rid of through either exchange at the used book store or donating to Goodwill.

It hasn't stopped there.

I wore a pair of shoes to work the other day that I have owned for about a year. They are cute, but kill my feet. I avoid wearing them because they hurt. This has prompted me to put a box in my closet and to start putting stuff in the box for Goodwill.

AB came home the other day with tales of a coworkers highly successful garage sale. That might work too.

The next goal is to put a box in every room of the house, particularly as I unpack boxes. Stuff that doesn't work, we don't like, doesn't have a function? Goes in the box. Those lamps with no lampshades? In the box. Ancient camera equipment? Box. Books that were bad the first time around? See that box over there?

Then the boxes, once full. (Or mostly full.) They will go away in search of new homes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The professor pedestal

I can never remember what I have and haven't blogged about. I did a quick search and it doesn't appear that I hit on this topic... and it should have been fairly recent.

A few months ago or so I was walking down the hall at work when smack in front of me was a face from a different time and place. I stopped her.

"Are you Mary Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah?" I asked her (she has one of those many syllabic last names that I finally mastered after months of practice).

She looks at me blankly in her very mousey all too familiar way and says yes.

"I was in your Inorganic Chemistry class at CU back about 1993 to 1994," I told her.

"Wow," she replied, "that was a long time ago."

"Yes," I said trying not to say something snarky about making me feel old, "I am sure you don't remember me, it has been awhile."

She admitted that she didn't remind me and then asked what I was doing here. I told her I went on from CU (after she gave me a sucky grade in Inorganic Chemistry) to get my Ph.D. in physical chemistry and then came here for a post-doc and was hired on permanently. She asked me what I did here and I did my best to impress her. Then I asked her what she did - "oh, I am a contractor, just trying to get hired on permanently".

You know how your college professors are up on a type of pedestal? How you admired them from afar... ok, I went to a college where classes of 250-500 people weren't terribly uncommon. They stood up there all knowledgeable and experienced-like and you couldn't help but put them on a pedestal. Even the bad ones.

Or in Mary's case... the really, really bad ones.

Our Inorganic class for majors was six students taught by mousey Mary Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah and much complained about by myself and the five other students. It was an optional class for majors and wow did it suck. Wow.

We learned how to make slime.

I learned how volatile ether is while working in a hood with another girl. She was using a flame and I was using ether. And the entire hood flashed. (Our TA should have known better.)

I remember my final project was to synthesize something and one of my final characterization steps was Phosphorus NMR. Mary Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah asked me why in the world I would use P-NMR to see if my substance had formed. I remember looking at her wondering if this was a joke? "Umm, because if my substance goes from signal to no signal than I will have functionalized the protons next to the P," I remember saying. And she seemed surprised and said, "yes, that would work!"

Of course she had to run it for me because I didn't have access to a P-NMR as a student. She... ahem... was supposed to run it for me.

Still I held my professor up on a pedestal until recently.

That pedestal? Crumbled.

It cracked when she told me she was trying to get hired on permanently. Then it collapsed under its own weight when she started asking me for work.

And I remembered her as a professor. And I remembered how she never ran my sample from my final project. And I remembered how she gave two B's and four C's out to her class of six senior chemistry majors. (I didn't get a B.)

And work?

Really sorry Mary Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah. I am funding myself and I am able to keep my project teams funded through continuing resolution this year, which is a first EVER. (Anyone notice I haven't whined about continuing res this year??) But no, I will not be picking you up on my projects.

And maybe I derive just a wee bit of pleasure from this.

Skadi update

One of the hardest times with many kids is that Terrible Two’s stage. Leif would be the exception to that, the two’s was a fabulous time with him. He just hit the “terrible” time later than normal… he hit the “Terrible Threes”.

We are officially half way through Skadi’s Terrible Twos. She can be terribly trying sometimes. But the flipside to this is that for all the rotten-ness, there is the complete opposite to balance it out i.e., the incredible joy and amazement she brings. Not to mention the giggles.

A Potato?

One of Skadi’s favorite things to do is to style my hair. Of course she usually likes to redo it after I just get done styling it. On those days she asks to do my hair when I am not expected to show up somewhere looking halfway decent I let her at it.

This is a genetic trait… I remember styling my mom’s hair most evenings while sitting in front of the TV. My sister and I would argue over who got to sit behind her on the couch with a brush and rubber bands and barrettes in hand. Hopefully the whole spitting in the hair part (since my mom wouldn’t allow us to use water) is not genetic and Skadi will not read this until she is old enough to know better.

She is a little brutal with the brush. It tends to make a “whack” sound as it connects with my head at the roots. I spend a lot of time saying, “ouch, gentle please!” Oh and should you think that AB escapes this torture because I had very little hair… think again.

Skadi: “Would you like a high pony so you can dance?”

Me: (A high pony tail is a requirement for dancing?) “Umm, ok.”

Skadi: (Pulling my hair all over the place.) “Oh, you have a potato in your hair.”

Me: “A potato?? Is that what you said?”

Skadi: “Yes, you have a potato in your hair.” (She says this so matter of factly.)

Me: “Where Skadi?”

Skadi: (Major pinch to the ear.) “Here.”

Me: “That’s my EAR!”

Skadi: (Giggles.) “Oh, okay!”


Miss Opinionated

Skadi: “Mommy, I no yike this song!”

Me: (Ok, that’s fine, so Angel Eyes is a touch slow and isn’t her style, I hit to skip song button.)

Skadi: “Mommy, I no yike this song either!”

Me: “What, you don’t like John Hiatt?”

Skadi: “I no yike John Hiatt mommy.”

Me: “Ok.” (Searching the car for anything but that one cd that has been in the cd player nonstop
for a few years because the kids like it. Ah ha! Queen! I pop that in.)

Skadi: “Mommy, I no yike this icky song.”

Me: “Skadi, EVERYONE likes ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.”


Me: “Fine.” (I hit the XM Radio button.)

Skadi: “Mommy! I YIKE this song! Crocodiles!”

Me: “Noted, you DO like Elton John’s Crocodile Rock.”


Uses for boxes

While I am on the Skadi topic I should note that a few weeks ago? Found the binkies. Three of them, stuck in a box in Leif’s closet. You may remember that she had thrown them away herself… or at least I could have sworn she did. Apparently she threw one away and put the others in safe keeping? They hit the trash before she could see them.

Oh and speaking of boxes…

Me: “Skadi do you want Tinkerbell panties?”

Skadi: (Playing and ignoring me.)

Me: “Ok, here’s your Tinkerbell panties, please get dressed now.” (Freaky thing that Skadi and Leif are about at the same ability and willingness to get themselves dressed. Oh wait… wrong. Leif still insists regularly that I dress him, not that it happens. Skadi refuses help.)

Skadi: “NO MOMMY!” (Picking up Tinkerbell panties.) “I NO WANT TINKERBELL PANTIES!”
And with that she walks to her closet, pulls out a shoe box, opens it up and puts the panties in the shoebox and puts the shoebox in the hallway and walks back in her room and resumes playing.

Me: “Ok then, I guess YOU get to pick out your panties.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The makings of an entrepreneur?

Me: "Leif, you still have money left over from Seattle, we should decide what you are going to do with it. Is there anything you still want?" (Fully expecting him to cite the coveted Batman Lego Wii game.)

Leif: (Thinking for a minute.) "Actually I think I want to buy another piggy bank."

Me: "Another piggy bank? Why, don't you like yours?"

Leif: "I want another piggy bank so I can get more money! I saved enough money for the trip to Seattle, if I have two piggy banks I can save enough money to go to Australia!"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Skadi speak - pronouns

I am raising a feminist.

Everything Skadi refers to is a "her". Her dolls are naturally "her". The dogs are (rightfully) "hers". The cat (wrongfully) is a "her".

Even Leif is a "her". Any unknown person is a "her" as well.

Taking it to another level...

If there is a couple on TV, like say Giselle (the princess) and Edward ("that guy") on Enchanted - it is "that's her daddy". Princesses looking for true love? They are looking for "hers daddy" and it is very disturbing in this path to finding their true loves, I mean "her daddy" because Skadi will lament (with her hands open and face up), "hers can't find her daddy!"

I think I need to ask her about AB and I...

A chilly weekend

It was the perfect weekend to stay in and get stuff done. And that was exactly what we did!

After being gone last week there was a ton of laundry to do, lots of Ikea goodies to assemble and set up somewhere and lots of food to catch up on preparing.

There isn't much need, in this day and age, to "put up food for the winter". But it seems to be a fall ritual that AB and I have fallen into. Every fall we make buckets of spaghetti sauce. The goal is to get about 50 cups prepared and frozen, which gives us about enough for a dinner use every other week. There are a ton of varieties of spaghetti sauce out there, some very inexpensive. So some people probably wonder why we would spend a weekend making spaghetti sauce?

Because it tastes so much better. And I know exactly what I put in it.

Green chili isn't so easy to find. But AB started making green chili every fall long before we even lived together. In fact, I remember his first batch when he lived in Spanish Towers in Boulder with his roommate. It was so freakin' hot.

And I think it gets hotter every year. And every year he swears to control it. And every year I sweat through it. And many unsuspecting green chili tasters have come to despise AB at his annual chili cook off at work.

This weekend was no exception. He swore he was going to make a "medium" and a "hot" version. There was nothing "medium" about the chili that resulted this evening.

I made a big pot of red chili on Saturday night. Mine isn't nearly so involved since this is one staple I make that is based off of cans.

Still on our list for this fall is our second batch of spaghetti sauce, pumpkin breads and chicken pot pies. Nectarine pies have been done, 20 cups of spaghetti sauce complete, a few GALLONS of green chili and a couple dinner servings of red chili.

This weekend has been one of my most productive weekends in a long time. I told AB that I look forward to being moved in and settled so that I don't feel as though I have to work on that every weekend. But he asked me if that would ever happen. Would I ever feel as though my house was decorated and each room complete?

Maybe, but I don't envision it happening terribly soon.

I jumped off course on my monthly tasks to address each room. September was to be the garage. And it has been, and still is. And because the garage isn't terribly fun, I haven't been a rallying force behind AB on this one.

I also had planned to paint Skadi's room. And I really would like to pick out colors in the next week and then maybe tackle that either next weekend or the weekend after that. Skadi is excited for it, she asks for her walls to be painted "pink, pink, pink, pink and blue" (the ceiling is the blue one). The time has just been short though. Still I would like to get to this sooner rather than later as things start amassing in her room.

This morning Leif (since he had lost Wii privileges) spent a good portion of the morning helping me put together our new dining room table. He is getting to that age where he can be a real help. And he even seemes to enjoy it. It took us about an hour and AB's assistance at one point to lift the table tops and flip the table over, but we did it.

The table came from Ikea and addresses me "need" for a table where I can seat more than 4 people. You never know what you are going to get from Ikea. Some stuff is super and some is utter crap. Must to my amazement, the table (despite not being my first choice in stain) is super. AB even likes it and I admitted that ignoring the price, it is probably nearly exactly what I would have aimed to buy had I had 5x this much to spend.

"No tablecloths," AB said. "I like the wood. I want one of those runner things too before you put anything in the middle, I don't want it getting scratched up."

Fully extended it would have to sit diagonal in our dining room. With the leaves it seats "10 people", though I suspect it is more like 12-14. I also bought a bench to go on one side instead of chairs. In fact, I haven't purchased chairs yet because for now I can seat 4 on the bench if need be (ok, four kids or four of my friends with skinny butts), three of anyone else. Then I can walk the four dining room chairs from the other table over. The matching Ikea chairs weren't terribly comfortable and emitted an air of cheapness that the table did not. I hope to buy some chairs that might dress it up a little and blend the style of the table with the rest of the furniture in the front two rooms.

Piles of laundrey done, table put together, a few boxes unpacked, Skadi's room organized and summer clothes put away, food made... it was an eventful weekend!

Walked right into that one

In the car on the way home Leif said something funny.

Me: "I sure am lucky that God gave me you instead of some other kid who isn't nearly so funny!"

Leif: (Silent for a little while.) "God gave me to you?"

Me: "Yes, I believe you were picked just for daddy and me."

Leif: "God put me in your belly? How did God put me in your belly?"

Me: "Umm, well" (Stammering and deciding to ignore the later question.) "Yes and no."

Leif: "Then you lied?"

Me: "No, I didn't lie. I believe that God picked you to be in my belly and to be my little boy."

Leif: "Oh ok. I don't remember being with God. How long was I with God?"

Me: "I don't know." (Wow, this is tough.)

Leif: "Where was I hanging out with God? In the sky?"

Me: "In God's kingdom."

Leif: "So I went from God's kingdom, then he decides I move from his kingdom to your belly and then I come out at the hospital?"

Me: "Umm, yep, I think so."


Me: "I had the weirdest conversation with Leif today."

AB: "What was it?"

Me: (Repeat the above first two lines.)

AB: "You walked right into that one and I cannot help you at all!!"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

One of the many reasons I love my son

Leif woke up this morning and there was some change in his bed. I am sure it fell out of AB’s pocket the night before when he read stories. Leif was not so convinced.

Leif: “MOMMY! The tooth fairy came!!”

Me: “What?” (It was still early.)

Leif: “The tooth fairy came, see!” (He holds up the 42 cents he found in his bed.)

Me: “No, I don’t think so. You didn’t lose any teeth yet, I bet it fell out of daddy's pocket last night when he read to you.”

Leif: “Check mom! Look in my mouth and see if I lost any teeth last night!”

Me: “Nope, I don’t see any missing.”

Leif: “Oh, I bet she just decided to check in and prepare me.”

Me: “That’s probably it.”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Conversation with a Seattle Starbucks Barista

Me: "I would like two kids chocolate milks with ice and whip."

Barista: "Do you want a flavor in those?"

Me: "A flavor?" (Thinking this is unique, I have never been asked about a flavor on chocolate milks before... would Leif drink a raspberry chocolate milk?)

Barista: (Looking at me like I am an idiot.) "Yes, a flavor, do you want a flavor in those."

Me: "Nope, just chocolate milks please."

Barista: "Then yes, you do want a flavor." (Rolls her eyes.)

Me: "You mean chocolate counts as a flavor in chocolate milk?"

Barista: "Yes, it does. Otherwise it would just be milk." (She says as she picks up two hot cups.)

Me: "Chocolate milks please, not hot cocoa."

Barista: (Doesn't pay attention.)

AB: "Why is she starting hot drinks?"

Me: (Shrugs.) "I have no idea."

Barista: (Rings up hot cocoas.)

Me: "If you are going to make those hot, would you make them 100 degrees please."

Barista: "Since it is a kids' drink we don't make them as hot."

Me: "I know that. I order a few a week during the winter, which is why I also know that my kids will whine if they aren't 100 degrees since you never listened to me the first time around when I said CHOCOLATE MILK WITH ICE!"

Barista: (Picks up the cups and writes a HUGE 100F on them and slams them to the counter. HUGE eye roll) "Anything else ma'am?"

Me: "A grande non-fat pumpkin spice please, two oatmeals with brown sugar only, a pumpkin loaf and a brewed coffee."

Any surprise that my latte was super heated, my oatmeals had everything BUT brown sugar? Of course how can you get back at me with pumpkin loaf and brewed coffee? Those were the only things I ordered that came as ordered.

I am a HUGE Starbucks fan. You kind of have to be in Washington state and especially given that we have a number of spots, even in our smallish town, where there are Starbucks in stores and freestanding on the same blocks. My kids know Starbucks and learned about Starbucks long before they ever learned about McDonalds.

Don't act like *I* am the stupid tourist who has no idea what I am ordering.

(Stepping off pedestal now.)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Or maybe this is my favorite...

This one was a complete accident. But so very perfect. Now I will go to bed.

My favorite

I didn't get a ton of great pictures this weekend. And so many of Leif have him with the cheese grin. But I did get this one and it's my favorite from the entire weekend I think. More later, but just this one for now because I am tired.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Q & A with L & S

I dated a guy once whose parents asked he and his brother questions when they were kids and then wrote down what they said. I always thought this was a cool thing and the insight gained from how my kids respond is both hilarious and at times very enlightening!

Me: "Leif why is the sky blue?"

Leif: "Because that's the color it's supposed to be."

Me: "Skadi why is the sky blue?"

Skadi: "It's NOT BLUE, it's YELLOW!" (See what I mean... this says so much.)

Leif: "Did I get it right?"

Me: "Yes, I guess you got it right."

Skadi: "GUYS! I said it's not blue, it's YELLOW!"

Me: "Okay Skadi. Leif, why does it rain?"

Leif: "Well see first the clouds get full of water and so full they are about to burst and then they explode! And when they explode, the water comes out as rain called evaporation."

Me: "You mean condensation, right?"

Leif: (Breaking into song.) "The water travels in a cycle yes it does... the water travels in a cycle yes it does, it goes up in evaporation and comes down in condensation - yes mommy! You are right, condensation!"

Skadi: (Not to be outdone in the singing department...)"Old MacDonald had a farm EIEIO..."

Me: "Leif where are you going to live when you are a grown up?"

Leif: "Is elephant meat a protein? I think it's a protein. Is it a protein mommy?"

Me: "Yes, elephant would be a protein, but I imagine it would be really tough."

Leif: "Well I want to hunt elephants this afternoon and if I catch one you can cook elephant meat for dinner, okay?"

Me: "I think you would have to go a long ways from home to hunt elephants."

Leif: "Nope, just to Antarctica for snow elephants."

Me: "Skadi what is your favorite animal?"

Skadi: "SNOW elephants!"

Me: "Leif, what is your favorite animal?"

Leif: "Bears cause I saw one remember last summer in Alaska."

Me: "Yep, we saw bears."

Leif: "A bear would eat a snow elephant."


Me: "Ok, no one is going to eat a snow elephant."


Skadi: "I have a baby in my tummy."

Me: "Nope, only mommies get babies in their tummies."


Me: "What's the baby's name?"

Skadi: "Little baby."

Me: "You could name her Skadi Jeanne."

Skadi: "I the ONLY Skadi Jeanne."

Me: "You are right about that."

Leif: "When Niranjana and Cate have my babies, they will have twins like Ms. Amanda and we will all live at our house with our babies."

Me: "Yikes. I guess you finally did answer my question though."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not like it's rocket science...

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, a teacher or a doctor. I think that is pretty on par with kids who grew up in the 70's and 80's. AB wanted to be a lumberjack as a child. That might be more on par with a little boy growing up in Alaska, though I am not sure about that.

It has recently come to Leif's attention that he can choose what he wants to be when he grows up. For a month or so he was stuck on being a policeman. This didn't come as a huge surprise to me because Leif is all about following the rules. I am trying to remember why he changed his mind. I do remember it being a sudden change and a dawning on him that policemen may occasionally find themselves in danger. AB and I weren't disappointed when he changed his mind - not that there is anything wrong with being a policeman - it probably just wasn't what we envisioned.

One day a few months ago in the car he announced to AB and I that when he grows up he wants to drive submarines. AB? Not so thrilled with this. We are supporters of the military, I have projects that support and forward the mission of the military. But knowing where we are in today's world it is hard hearing that your child wants to go into the military.

Ok, so that is our view as adults. From Leif's view, he wants to drive a submarine and it has nothing whatsoever to do with going into the military or fighting in a war (though that last part likely would only make him more eager, being the typical invincible little boy).

"I don't think that you want to do that," AB told him.

"Yes, I do want to drive a submarine," Leif said.

"Why do you want to drive a sub?" I asked him.

"Because I can work with you mommy!" he announced and I remembered that he thinks I spend my days driving submarines up and down the Columbia River.

"How about you become and engineer and you can work on submarines," I suggested, "mommy has got connections there."

Leif agreed that was fine.

The other day Leif announced that he changed his mind, he doesn't want to drive submarines anymore.

"Do you work with rocket scientists?" Leif asked.

I thought for a minute. I know a rocket scientist - AB's best friend's sister is a rocket scientist. But nope, I don't work with any rocket scientists.

"Well I have decided I want to be a rocket scientist," Leif said. "Maybe we can work together after I am a rocket scientist, okay?"

"That works Leif," I told him.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Parenting Manual?

Just thought I should let someone know that I didn't get one.

Maybe I wasn't paying attention when they were distributed. Or I didn't get the e-mail saying where to pick it up. Or the mail didn't get me mine. Better yet, UPS didn't get it to me. That one is more believeable.

One of Skadi's teachers, my least favorite actually, comments all the time that I am THE most laid back parent around. She tells me this when my daughter walks in nearly daily in some new "costume".

Maybe I am laid back. I like to think I am smart in that I pick my battles and I don't give a rats ass when other parents look at my daughter and smirk. Because trust me, many things with Skadi are just not worth the battle.

But when the teacher says this to me I wonder if I shouldn't be picking more battles with her? Am I raising a spoiled child? Are we all giving too much in the name of keeping peace in the house?

I admitted to Leif tonight (as well as a few other nights) that no, life hasn't always been fair to him because I have been the one solely to put Skadi to bed for the last year and a half or so. And yes, I understand that I could start to make it up by putting him to bed four nights in a row and then her two nights. Then I remind him that he had both of us to himself for 2 years and 8 months. But this isn't tangible to him. And it's easier to just say honestly, Skadi's screaming constantly is just too much to handle when it follows quickly with vomiting induced by the screaming and laced in there for good measure - the asthmatic wheezing.

It's just easier and Leif I am really sorry that it hasn't been fair.

Except we did start picking this battle a month or so ago and have had amazing success with it. 40% of the time AB is able to put her to sleep and Leif gets me - which is a huge step in the right direction.

I also thought that the binky was going to be a misery to be rid of. AB kept saying we didn't need to push it, so what if we have a 2.5 year old with a binky at night and for naps? Then one day she threw them in the trash and we were done.

So I keep telling myself that there is some evidence to the fact that we are doing the right thing. Making suggestions on what we would like her to do, keep repeating them and eventually let her decide she wants to go this route. Because there are nights when Skadi requests AB and not me. She is coming around.

Is this laziness? Or being too laid back? Or is it understanding my daughter?

I don't know. But I am sure the answer is in the manual.

(Maybe the parenting manual is hiding with the Olympus Camera manual as well that has the warranty card I need in order to send the camera in for warranty work? It wasn't hiding with the scanner cord that I found yesterday.)

It isn't just my daughter that causes me to question my parenting. It's Leif too.

Leif has such an easy going personality (guess he gets that from us). But he does have one downside to his personality. He is a touch obsessive and maybe compulsive too. He gets on something he likes and he attacks it with vigor. It becomes all consuming.

The first evidence of this was Finding Nemo. Then entered Curious George. It was TV first. But he had the personality that accepted with minimal meltdowns that he was not going to get his way. Not Skadi's personality. TV was just ALL he wanted to do. Ever.

I am not that bad of parent... I didn't fall for it.

Next was the computer. I told myself it was better than TV because it engaged him and if he was using the Leapster then it engaged his intellect as well. And it bought us some peace and quiet to focus on the whiney little sister if Leif was on the computer or on his Leapster. We talked about limiting his time on the computer kind of like we did with the TV.

Next was soccer and we rejoiced that he was obsessed about a sport and not technology. Then we backslid when we bought a Wii and have entered into the new plane of Leif's OCD nature.

AB and I have wrestled with how much is enough? When is too much? How often is enough?

AB came home from a birthday party this weekend with the closest thing to an answer we had seen outside of what is probably in the elusive manual:

"Their boys only get to do the Wii on Friday evenings," he told me about other parents we know and admire (they have three boys).

We tossed around the validity of this and set into the week with good intentions.

Then OUR life hit.

And the fact that on weekday mornings AB is gone long before we get out of bed. I have to get ready and it is just easier to let Leif go play Wii while I shower and Skadi watches Dora and Diego on our bed. Because no, I am not going to "force" Leif to watch Dora and Diego with her. Nor am I going to have him take care of her in the playroom because that is just a recipe for him getting whaled on by her and ending up in tears.

I put him downstairs on the Wii while I vowed to get ready fast so that he would only be on there for what, 20-30 minutes? Then I would make him stop and come help me get breakfast reasy. Then that would be it for the day.

Or so I told myself.

But wow, when you get home and are trying to get dinner on the table. And Skadi is done watching her show and is now playing babies on the floor. And so the TV is available. And Leif has done a good job working on his nightly reading work. And I have picture forms to fill out. And a Scholastic book order to finalize. And dinner to start. And mail to go through.

And he looks at me longingly and says, "now that I have finished my reading, and I was good at school today, can I do a Wii game?"

And surrender is easy.

I never thought of myself as laid back. In fact, at work I tend to be the opposite. And I like my life organized. And I am a list maker. I show all the signs of being type A... until it comes to my kids.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Things I wonder

Leif is enrolled in Spanish class for the fall. It was a big of a cramp to my style in that he has to be there by 8:25am on Tuesdays for Spanish. But he loved it so much this past summer, he really missed it in August and still talked about Spanish through that month. When she sent out the enrollment information, I knew it was a must do.

This morning he was up early and ready to go in order to get to school in time for Spanish.

We arrived at the school and Senora Susan was setting up in the commons.

"Senora Susan!" Leif yells. "Hi Senora Susan!"

He was ready for class and beaming to join her in walking around to get the other kids.

What I wonder... do you think he understands that Spanish is another language that people speak? And not just a different way to talk? He knows that things "translate" - like "did you know naranja is orange in Spanish?" And "did you know diez is ten in Spanish?" So he knows that there are equivelent words. But I am not sure he has ever heard anyone speak Spanish outside of Senora Susan, or the occasional counting to ten exercise in class.

Just something I wonder.

Conversations with Skadi

"MOMMY! LOOK NOW!" Skadi yells.

"What?" I reply.

"I have a poley poley in my tummy," she says.

It is amazing how fast your mind moves. Poley poley = rolly poley. In her tummy. Oh no, she ate a rolly poley?

"What did you do Skadi?" I groan.

"Mommy! I have a poley poley it's on MEEE!" she states.

Ok, the poley poley, I mean rolly poley is ON her.

"Where honey," I ask her as I head over.

"HERE, IT'S HERE ON ME!" she points to her belly button.

Me laughing, "nope, that's your mole, you have a mole on your belly button," I tell her. She really does. The belly button stump fell off and revealed a little brown mole on her belly button.

"No, it's not a mole mommy," she says, "it's my poley poley!"


Skadi at 9:15pm... long after bedtime.

"I want a blankey," she says.

I pull her Dora comforter on her.

"No, I don't yike dis one!" she screams. And actually, she normally doesn't like blankets on her at all at bedtime.

I didn't take the time to try and convince her. I just grabbed her soft green snuggly.

"No, dis one no cover my yegs!" she cries.

I grabbed the one I made her and put it on her. Two milliseconds it lasted.

"I no yike dis one," she says.

Ok, I took issue with this. I MADE it for her. "But it's green and yellow and has doggies and kitties on it," I lament to her.

"I said I no yike dis one," she whines.

"I will go find your pink one," she has a pink soft blanket that grandma bought her that is usually reserved for only the best dollies not in time out. I found it and returned.

It stayed on her for about five milliseconds.

"No mommy," she says, "I want a black blankey."

"You want a black blankey?" I ask making sure I heard right.

"Yes, a black blankey," she says.

"I don't have a black blankey Skadi," I said with my head in my hands.


Most commonly heard from Skadi's mouth:

"It's not funny!"

"You making me very sad."

"Mommy, daddy told me no."

"Daddy, mommy told me no."

"Freya, come here!" (Then she feed Freya whatever she can find. The dog is getting fat.)


"Thirty minutes." (As in she will do whatever you are requesting in 30 minutes. And if you believe this I have a bridge to sell you...)

"Let's go for a walk!"

"It's NOT funny, I said!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

My love of music

AB commented the other day that he had never been to a big rock concert. I immediately jumped on the fact that in fact he had. When we were dating, he went to Seattle to visit his best friend. We were in college and he went for a break. I was jealous. I had never been to Seattle. While there they saw The Beastie Boys in concert. (And he bought me a bottle of wine, but it didn't make its way back to Colorado... likely story, huh?)

This got me to thinking about music.

My first concert was Rick Springfield at the Casper Events Center, followed by (in no particular order) Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and I think we saw Poison too.

When I was in 7th grade I managed to secure tickets at Mile High Stadium in Denver to go see Michael Jackson. He looked about a half centimeter tall from our nosebleed seats. But yes, I saw Michael Jackson in concert.

Once I hit high school my concert list improved.

I scrounged $4 to pay for a ticket to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. My high school years were full of local punk rock shows. Among the best was seeing All - formerly the Descendents.

College improved my concert list substantially more.

Enter Paul Simon, The Grateful Dead (twice), many festivals that included the likes of Mark Cohn, John Hiatt, Michelle Shocked, Nancy Griffith, The Wailers, Hot Tuna, Tuck and Patti, Social Distortion and Little Feat to name a few.

Then my world changed...

I have seen Richard Thompson at least seven times that I can recall and it may have been more. I saw him at the Chataqua Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado for at least five years running (judging from who I went to the concerts with - Scott, Scott, Scott and Michael, Ande, and finally AB). Then twice in Reno. The second time in Reno and last time I saw Richard in concert was a few weeks after September 11th happened and he gave a very heartfelt speech about how special it was for him (a Muslim) to be playing music in front of the American crowd, decrying the acts of terror that had occurred. I remember tears all around.

Favorite artist. And I feel quite confident that this will never change.

The year we got married I stressed and stressed about what RT song I would have played at our wedding. His songs are beautiful... but not the thing that wedding songs are made of. Most are tragedies. I finally gave up and admitted defeat when I couldn't hone in on a song that represented what I wanted. RT didn't make an appearance at my wedding.

AB isn't the Richard Thompson fan that I am, though he has come a long way. He has always liked Thompson, but a favorite? No dice.

Until this song came along.

This would have made it into the wedding.

There are a few more concerts I would like to see someday... would love to see Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and well... I am quite positive I will frequent RT's concerts many times more.

New resolution as of today... my children will listen to more music. Their horizons WILL reach beyond The Chicken Dance (which I did NOT allow at my wedding - but damn it is cute seeing my kids do it), The Monster Mash and The Yellow Submarine.

"Three Dollars"

Somewhere, somehow, Skadi has picked up the phrase, "THREE DOLLARS!"

For a minute I thought maybe AB or I had slipped a Better Off Dead reference out there that she picked up ("I want my two dollars.")

But I don't remember that.

She likes to scream "THREE DOLLARS" when she is mad. Usually at Leif.

And we know she is mad at him because when she isn't mad she calls him, "Weifer" and when she is mad, it is just "Weif".

And if she is really, really mad it is "WEIF, THREE DOLLARS! HEAR ME WEIF?"

Ideas? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

"Teal isn't a color anymore"

It is funny to me how some things affect Leif deeply. Things that I wouldn't normally think about.

A few months ago - about the beginning of summer I think, his class was learning about the planets.

It was a brutal day for Leif when the teacher announced that the 9th "planet", the one called Pluto, was recently declared "not a planet anymore". This bothered Leif a lot and generated lots of follow on questions.

(For the record, I still live in denial and Pluto will always be a planet to me.)

"I don't think Mars is going to be a planet any longer," he said.

Another time he expressed concern that "Earth maybe won't be a planet anymore either like Pluto, and then what happens to us?"

And then they moved on to studying different things... however, the fact that things we once believed and relied upon are subject to change.

"I think that maybe a triceratops is not going to be a dinosaur anymore," he declared one day.

Another day he said that maybe Spanish wouldn't be another language anymore.

Then today he was listing off (correctly) the colors of the rainbow in order of energy. I was highly impressed.

"Where does teal fall?" AB asks him. (I rolled my eyes... why complicate the matter?)

"Dad," Leif says, "teal is not a color anymore."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

To walk or not

85.7142857% of the evenings we go for a walk. Skadi is generally quite thrilled about this and anxious to choose her mode of transit (trike, wagon, back pack, or walking). Leif on the other hand fights it. He wants to stay home and do Wii. And once we get out he wants to head to one of the two parks within walking distance.

The one night a week we don't go for a walk is pick up night.

It was pick up night tonight.

Skadi at dinner: "Okay everybody let's go for a walk!"

AB: "Nope, no walk tonight, it's pick up the house night."

Skadi: (Lip sticking out.) "I DON'T YIKE THAT YOU TELL ME NO WALK!"

Just a wee bit of attitude.

Subject Matter Expert?

Leif: "I told Miss A that I know she has two babies in her tummy today!"

NM: "You did? What did she say?"

Leif: "She said, 'how did you know that' and I said, 'from my mom!'"

NM: (Hoping that was ok.) "What did she say then?"

Leif: "Nothing, but I just told her how rough it was when I came out of your tummy."

NM: (Glad I didn't have anything in my mouth for fear of choking.) "You said what?"

Leif: "You know, I told her how rough it was when I came out of your tummy." (Very matter of factly confirming that I did hear correctly.)

NM: "Rough in what way?"

Leif: "You know."

NM: "Nope, tell me how it was rough."

Leif: (Clearly annoyed with me.) "Because I liked to go on all the big slides and all, but I was really too little."


(Hoping this was explained in detail to Miss A. Wondering if I should relay this conversation to her tomorrow as a means for explanation?)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Keeping it simple?

One of the problems with being a scientist like I am is that it isn't always the type of work you go home and brag to the kids about. You know, like a policeman - "I caught 15 bad guys and put them in jail!" or like a fire fighter "I saved a doggy from a burning house!" or even a teacher, "I taught 26 children how to read". It's a little more abstract...

Leif knows I am a scientist - kind of like Professor Wiseman on Curious George - but he has just started asking me about my day and what I did at work, what I study as a scientist. He is still young enough that I can couch it all quite simply and phrase it in a way that makes it sound fascinating!

"I work with submarines," I told him awhile back.

This maybe wasn't the best idea.

"Did you go on a submarine today mom?" was the common question on the way home.

"Can you show me the submarines?"

"Do they put the submarines in the Columbia River?"

"Do you drive the submarine up and down the Columbia River?"

The notion that I direct a team of people exploring an issue with submarines is completely foreign and not exciting at all. Neither is the fact that none of us will EVER see the inside of a submarine EVER because of something called "confined space entry" also makes no sense whatsoever. (Kind of doesn't to me either.)

The other day Leif overheard AB and I talking about a proposal call open that is out for chemical weapons research.

"Do you have weapons at work mom?" he asked suddenly, we didn't realize his ears were perked.

Question time. Honesty or not?

"What I do at work sometimes involves understanding weapons," I told him homestly.

"AWESOME!" he replied.

Today we were walking home from the park.

"Do you have arrows at work mom?" he asked me.

"Arrows? No honey, I don't have arrows at work," I replied.

"Well you said you work with weapons!" he retorted.

Oh if it were that simple!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Now SHE had it going on.

At least when I was a kid. My sister and I used to watch this video over and over, then go get our metal skates on that strapped over our tennis shoes and we would Skateaway ourselves.

My sister was a far better skater than I ever was, and she had the curls going on too.

I think about the last time I rollerskated was 25 some years ago. I do have rollerblades and both AB and I have hit the pavement (literally and figuratively) on our rollerblades within the last decade.

When I was a kid we frequented the WagonWheel in Mills, Wyoming. It was a sketchy hang out 25 years ago... I can't imagine it has improved much, but apparently it's still in business. I spent many, many "free skates" at that place. We also went there for my dog obediance classes. And they had these horrible round tables that were misery to get in and out of on skates.

And it had this funky smell to it. Really funky.

A funk that must permeate every single Roller Rink because the scent invaded my brain and transported me back 25 year on Saturday.

Leif was invited to a rollerskating party at the local Roller Rink. I recalled back to the Wagon Wheel days and how no one was allowed on the floor during rollerskating with regular shoes on, so I even tossed in a pair of socks to fit me and we headed off to the party.

I entered a time warp. The skates were updated a bit... though the "retro" skates that I remember wearing served as decor around the perimeter. Some people wore rollerblades. And I was happy when the staff encouraged me to go out on the floor in my shoes to help Leif.

I may as well have been in 1982 when the music started playing. And the disco lights came on. And the UV lights came on. And the giant screen showed "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Oh Mickey".

It was a nice enough crowd. I didn't know them at all. The girl is in Leif's class and is one of the "offenders" - i.e., one of the girls always trying to hug and kiss Leif. And he was the only boy (except her brother).

Leif and I walked the perimeter the first time. Ok, so I walked and carried him on jelly legs. By the third time around he was scootching himself along on his skates. About the 5th time around I walked beside him as he held onto the edge and scootched himself around. This was of course the time where I could have gone and got skates for myself. Instead I claimed I needed to stay vertical for Leif's sake. (I was one of the only parents not on skates believe it or not.)

Midway through the party a number of girls came by hoping to skate with Leif as they held their hands out to him. I was quite proud of my boy for not falling prey to their evil ways and instead latching onto me. Just like a good boy should!

When the two hours was up we took of the skates and vacated into the bright sunlight.

"That's where I want to have my party next year," Leif told me.

"Really? We'll see," I replied really thinking to myself 'no way in hell'. I am counting on a short memory for this experience.