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).