Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wanderlust Take Two... or Three?

I was a bit surprised to see that my last blog was from nearly two weeks ago. A bit surprised, but not totally. See my team had this big review in DC and we have been working literally night and day to prepare for it. Since I defended my dissertation, this may be the most important presentation I (actually we) have ever made in my career to date. We did it! We got compliments! We were successful in conveying our information! Phew!

While in DC I had hoped to connect up with good friends who moved there recently. Unfortunately it just didn't work out. On conference travel a person is a bit more free to wander around and meet up. But when meeting with a client for two days, the constraints are greater. But that's not to say that I didn't think about them often while there.

I really like Washington DC a lot. I have been there three times in the past year alone and I don't see this visit schedule declining at all in the coming months. I enjoy the Metro and moving through the city easily. I absolutely love the history and the museums and monuments. And I love the good food.

All these are things, I remind myself, that as a resident of a city you don't necessarily view as positively. The Metro probably gets tiring - a friend of mine who recently returned from an offsite assignment in DC cited that everything was hard. Getting groceries was hard, taking kids to a park was hard. That we don't know how easy we have it in a rural region where you hop in the car and drive a mile (if that) to the grocery store. I can see this. I have been in big cities to know that the convenience of public transit as a visitor translates into limitations as a resident.

The museums and monuments? Well just as I don't spend my time in wineries all the time (contrary to popular belief, of course), we wouldn't spend all our time learning through immersion. Same with the food - a different cuisine experience each night is fine while on travel, but not realistic as a family.

I wondered what it would be like to pick up and move? Ok, not the whole logistics aspect - that's a pain and my friends who moved in August are still living this pain. But picking up and starting over in a new town where establishing friendships starts at square one, getting to know the area, the endless options... it all seems somewhat romantic I guess! An adventure!

On the way home we flew into Atlanta. This is a part of the country that I have never been in. I didn't order iced tea at lunch out of fear it would be sweetened. There was lots of big hair and people I had trouble understanding. But it was different! And gorgeous as we flew in and out and saw all the trees. What would it be like to live in the South?

Oh then the mountains of Colorado, we flew right over those and I could identify the ski areas from the sky. And the snow. I love the snow. I miss the snow. Maybe we will get some this year.

Then I thought about the area my children were growing up in - very little snow, very little history I want to share with them at this age, though maybe when they are older they will appreciate growing up in the area that produced the first plutonium for the atomic bombs... no scratch that. Nevermind. Very little recent history, though a significant amount of interesting geological history. Yes, that is what they will learn!

I was a bit down as I ran to my flight in SLC. My poor kids, growing up in an uncool place. Sure, it is great for raising families, but at what cost?

Then we started approaching Southeast Washington and I was filled with fondness. AB and I both have very good jobs. I love what I do - I am very lucky in that aspect. Look at all the crops out there finishing up the remainder of the season. Wow, we are lucky to live in a place with access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And our friends.

I am not sure we would ever find friends like those we have made here. Not to mention, the schools! How could I forget about the high quality schools we have?

Snow? We can drive to that. Museums make for a fun vacation. Eating out? So we don't do it much here, but my kids will grow up to be great cooks and to know good food from the ground to the table.

Wanderlust? Nevermind. I am fine here.

Monday, October 18, 2010


This year we signed Leif up for the semi-competitive soccer league. It's semi-competitive at this age - competitive in another year or so.

Leif missed the age cutoff by one day. In order to play U6 (since he is 6 years old) he would have had to have been born after July 30th. His birthday is July 29th, so he is the youngest on the team. I debated filing a petition to have him "play down" so he would be with the kids in his year, but I didn't. He is a soccer kid and is used to playing with older kids at school.

Then his team didn't have a coach.

And AB - being the good sport that he is - finally raised his hand and volunteered.

It's been a learning experience. AB's patience is running a bit thin at this point.

There is one boy on the team who is good, and quite serious. The others... including my son... have decided that being competitive isn't all its cracked up to be, listening is optional and making Coach put his hand over his eyes and shake his head is funny.
Here the kids are warming up. Look at AB's stride. This is where he is walking over to say something like "come on guys..." See the boys are very concerned about which ball they kick during warm up. They were sorting out the balls here "wasting time".

We have 7 kids on our team. They play three on three with no goalie, which is actually a step back from the summer YMCA team. So this means that there is plenty of time on the sidelines.

Here Leif is getting ready to do a goal kick. He likes to take his time setting up his goal kicks. (AB is looking a bit frustrated here.)

"Kick the ball Leif!"

Half time is always fun too... AB is trying to talk to the boys about listening. They just want to blow his whistle.

Oh well. As long as the kids are having fun!

What my kids did not get from me...

The tree climbing gene. I didn't get one. I never had a desire to climb up a tree pretty much ever.

AB might even tell you a story about the day we went for a walk and I got stuck in a tree. About four feet off the ground.

My kids didn't inherit that fear.

Skadi begged and begged for me to put her in the tree. She had refused to put shoes on earlier so I told her no, she couldn't go in the tree because she didn't have shoes on.

She was back 30 seconds later.

Fancy shoes and all.

I don't balk too much when she decides to hang out in the tree. I just grab the camera. Because being in a tree means smiles. And stillness. I am not chasing her for a picture.

Nope, I can get cute smiley pictures, like this:

Or this:

Or cute serious pictures like this:

All the while I am ignoring what is going on in the other tree. Something I want no part of at all. Something that I think is just wrong. Because I shouldn't have to look up and search for my son and find him 15' off the ground in a tree.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If at first you don’t succeed…

Increase the numbers!

So we heard the other day about Skadi’s new best friend, Linda. The key point to take home regarding Linda is that SHE does not have to go to school every day. Linda told her mommy that she didn’t want to go to school anymore and so Linda gets to stay home every day and do nothing.

Well that creative tactic didn’t work so well in trying to convince me not to take her to preschool.
So this morning I was introduced to Lala.

Lala also doesn’t have to go to school and also gets to stay home. This means that Lala gets to go play with Skadi’s best friend, Linda, ALL the time. And poor Skadi misses out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homebound weekend

It is incredible how productive a person can be when they are stuck at home. That would be me this past weekend.

Friday night Skadi fell asleep early saying she wasn't feeling well. By 11:30pm, she was up. Every 30 minutes she was up. Until 4am.

We would just start to fall asleep when she would yell again, "MOMMY I FREWUP!"

And AB and I would start the routine all over, AB swapping out towels under her head or changing sheets as necessary, me pulling off her jammies, wiping off her face, getting her a drink of water and comforting her. It was a long night.

We aren't used to this routine. My daughter, like me, gets carsick. But viral stomach stuff isn't a common visitor in our house. I read on Facebook updates from friends whose kids are sick, once again, with the stomach flu and I give thanks that it isn't us. Now, viral respiratory crud knows our address well.

I felt awful for my daughter, but figured I might as well make the most of the weekend stuck at home by actually doing some of the things I have been talking about tackling.

My October goal is to organize spaces. Namely, the kids' drawers and closets, their toys (I am itching to get rid of lots of plastic things that reside in the bottoms of toy buckets - I can't watch Toy Story right now, it might ruin my mojo). I also have stacks upon stacks of things to go back into the pretty play room. I need to go through all that stuff first. I refuse to put things back that we won't use or will just be clutter. I am not getting rid of the kids' Geotrax, the play kitchen and play food or the Little People things. Those items got a free pass back into the playroom. Everything else has had to prove its worthiness. Also on the reorg list is the garage... AB and his sister have been working that.

Accomplished? Skadi's dresser, her closet, her bedroom toys and 80% of the toys sorted for the playroom. Four large Rubbermaid bins were filled with size 2T clothes and baby/toddler toys. Not to mention the garage was worked to the just over 50% point. (Can you tell I am in earned value mode? Percent completes. I deem this project to be on schedule with a positive cost variance... I haven't spent any money on this project... yet.)

On top of the reorg going on in the house we also tackled spaghetti sauce this weekend and ended Saturday with 19 containers of fresh (now frozen) sauce. AB and I started this ritual either before or after Leif was born. We can't really remember. But in the 6 or so years we have perfected our recipe and even the kids don't care for the bottled stuff. We eat a lot of spaghetti sauce throughout the year - this should last us about 6 months we figure. I like knowing that this staple of ours all fresh at the peak vegies and no sugar.

I think it was Alice Waters who said, "if you have to add sugar to your spaghetti sauce then make pesto".

On Sunday we started the morning with homemade pumpkin pie (described yesterday) and load after load of laundry.

Of course the downside to this extreme productivity in a germ laden house is that come Monday night child #2 started vomiting. AB and I felt the nausea worm over us that evening and both woke up and told respective employers we would see them Wednesday.

As I am feeling much better I am thinking I can attempt continued organization efforts upstairs.

Or I could just go watch Glee instead.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Conversations with my kids

Skadi: "Mommy, what is on your two head?"

Me: "My what?"

Skadi: "Your two head, what is on your two head?"

Me: "What is my two head?"

Skadi: (Reaches up and touches my forehead.)

AB: "She must think you have a small forehead."


Sunday, 7am I walk out of the bedroom and Leif is sitting there. It appears that he has been up for awhile, but he has been getting scolded for waking us up at 6am on the weekends. He is to play quietly until we get up and only come in and jump on the bed if he really needs us.

Leif: "Oh good you are up!"

Me: "Yep, I am up."

Leif: "Can we make a pumpkin pie now?"

Me: "Umm, a pumpkin pie?"

Leif: "Yes, I was thinking about pumpkin pie and I would like some."

Me: "Ok, let's go make a pumpkin pie."

And so we did.

Meet Linda

Skadi announced today that she has a new friend. After a bit of a pause, she told us that her friend's name is Linda.

Linda doesn't boss her around like some friends do. (She has been fast friends recently with a new kindergartener who apparently friends the younger kids so she has someone to boss around. But Skadi's teacher said that she is getting wise to this and the friendship is on the rocks.)

Linda has long hair down to her toes.

Linda was sick this past weekend. Poor girl.

Linda doesn't want to go to school anymore and HER mommy said that she could just stay home.

Linda also has big feet.

And long arms that hug Skadi really good cause they are so long.

Linda lives next door to us also and Skadi can go over there and play whenever her brother is mean to her.

Linda's mom makes her hair beautiful every single day.

Monday, October 04, 2010

My favorite kitchen items

You know in cooking magazines how they interview famous people or celebrity chefs and ask them what their five favorite kitchen items are? I love that. I love reading what they pick and making snap judgments on whether they are (in the case of the famous people at least) serious cooks or not. "Ha! They picked a strainer? How boring!"

You will note that no one has asked me this question before. Nope, I am not famous. I have written a few journal articles and long reports. A dissertation about 9 years ago. But nothing that you would have picked up and enjoyed for light reading.

Given this, I may as well preempt the question and go ahead and tell you what my favorite kitchen items are. I am sticking with small items, not appliances, because yes, my Professional Kitchen Aid mixer is near the top of the list. But I don't know anyone whose Kitchen Aid isn't at the top!

#5 - Bamboo utensils. I have had all types. Wooden, plastic, rubberized, silicone, but nothing beats bamboo. Wooden splinters. After awhile so done silicone. Plastic gets hot and melts. Yes, bamboo will burn, but plastic also scrapes. When reaching my utensils I nearly always go to the bamboo ones.

#4 - Stainless Steel Nesting Bowls. Ok, mine aren't All Clad, but they are thick and heavy duty. Not wimpy stainless steel bowls! Love them. #3 - ok, no amateur / home cook / chef isn't going to throw a good knife into the mix. Mine is the Henckels Twin 8" Chef knife.

#2 - Long before I had kids I thought griddles were silly. Who needs a big old pan when you have a good skillet? This was also before I had a nice gas stove too. Now I have a nice gas stove and two kids who gobble up pancakes (with chocolate chips in them) and the All Clad griddle is my Sunday morning time saver.

#1 - My baby. The one that prompted this post as I lovingly scrubbed her this evening making sure to remove all the sticky residue... my Flame colored 7 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven. I don't know what it is about Le Creuset - must be the colors - same thing happens in the Target dollar aisles - but the colors beckon me. I want another - in Cassis.
Invariably AB comes in and asks me what I am blogging about. I told him. So now here are his 5 favorite kitchen items. (His are in no particular order, because he listed them off for me and took off. So they are appearing in the order I uploaded them.)
Immersion Blender - We don't have this one, but we have a nice one with all the attachments. Great for quick BBQ sauce or puree'ing just about anything in the kitchen.
A good cutting board with a trench for the juices. Carve away and the juices collect for sauces and not all over the counter!
A mortar and pestle. Yes, we have like three of these. And big heavy ones too. And you know what? AB uses them all. I am quite positive that he has spice mixes in at least two right now. He also added in a spice grinder ( aka coffee grinder) - but that is just about the same thing and he only gets five choices.
A mandolin. My mom bought AB his mandolin - this brand actually - with the agreement that he would not cut himself. Guess what he did the first night? He was watching for his fingers and forgot about the heel of his hand. We all learned a lesson that evening and the mandolin has taken no more victims. Of course, I avoid the thing like the plague because it scares me.
As I said above, every cook has their favorite knife. For AB it is the 10" carver with fork. Great knife.
What are your favorite kitchen items?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

2010 nearing the end

It’s that time of year with the change of seasons, the coolness of the weather (hello sweaters, I have missed you!), the end of the fiscal year 2010 that reminds me that there are only 3 months left in 2010. The real 2010. Not this fake business of starting 2011 three months early.

Fall is my favorite season. I used to write “by far” on the end of that sentence. But I have to admit that living in this region has altered my perception of the seasons. I have blogged about this before, somewhere, some long past day. I am less fond of winter here than anywhere I have lived previously. I love winter, I love snow. We don’t get that much here. We get grey, dreary, foggy, rainy crud with cold. Living in Colorado it wasn’t unusual to have a foot of snow one day and a sunny 60 degree day the following. Here it is the same old all the time. Grey, dreary, so foggy I am hoping I am walking the right way to my building fog, and cold. Not to mention a serious lack of understanding regarding driving on ice or snow (on the occasion that it does snow).

Ok, you get it. Winter leaves a bit to be desired here aside from the fact that I get to wear sweaters.

Spring. I never really cared about spring before, but now I love it because it means an end to the dreary, grey foggy crud. Then summer… what’s not to love about summer when you live in a major agricultural area?

Anyways. Fall. It’s the last hurrah, the last full season of 2010 before the rainy, dreary grey crud sets in. Inevitably I look towards the next three months and start planning the countdown to the holidays, the activities, the travel… the last hurrah of 2010.

On 2010 Goals

I got a lot accomplished with my goals method this year. And I still have a bit of time left. 2011 will be better, I know it will.

In August I meant to paint to my dining room and redecorate a bit. We started on this and then AB got a bee in his bonnet. (I love that saying.) He decided to replace the nasty flooring in the playroom with bamboo laminate. It is now complete, but the dining room redecorate went on hold. Then when success was in sight for the playroom it went on an even bigger hold when I decided that part of the dining room redecorate WILL involve installation of hard wood floors. We need a bit of time to save for this renovation, AB needs a few weekends whereby floor install is not on his list, and then new floors in the dining room (and office across the foyer… you can’t do one and not the other) will be mine!

So that takes us to October goals… I need to get the playroom reassembled. Yes, I know I can dump everything we pulled out of there back in likely this Sunday. But I have a fear of this. Because in the stacks of stuff, we have baby toys and way too much crap that the kids don’t use.

October is going to be the organization month. My goal is to go through the kids’ toys and throw away, donate, give away the stuff that is going unused. Then I need to settle on an organization strategy for the playroom. I am planning clothesline style art hangers for the kids’ (read Skadi’s) art. I am also moving the big, huge photos of the kids up there. And I am loading my sister in law up with whatever she is willing to take furniture-wise from that room.

In addition to organizing the playroom I also need to go through the kids’ dressers. Change out the summer stuff for winter stuff. Remove the stuff they have grown out of, etc.

AB’s October goals? (Yes, he IS jumping onto my goals bandwagon!) It’s to organize the garage. Oh and I think he wants help with that.

Also on the October list, now that I have a new sewing machine (thank you Freya dog…) is to resume and finish my quilting project.

November goals? Dare I say replace the floors in the dining room and office? No. I probably shouldn’t. The thought of having my dining room torn up over Thanksgiving isn’t appealing to me. Not sure…

On 2010 travel remaining

I am headed to DC for a week at the end of October for a major project review. I always enjoy traveling to DC and am hoping for some good food while there. I have a layover in Minneapolis. Last time I did this route I was running to the next gate. I am hoping we land with time for me to stop and grab a Minnesota Vikings jersey at some random vendor in the airport for Leif. I told him I would try my best. Then he asked for a Minnesota Vikings helmet. Umm no. I am not hauling a Vikings helmet to DC and through my maze of flights home (DC to Atlanta to Salt Lake City to PSC) four days later. Though I am sure that my coworkers would enable to do this… and that I could count on them to never ever let me forget about it…

I am headed to a conference in Orlando the week before Thanksgiving. Well of course you have to take advantage of this and include personal travel. So AB and the kids are flying down on my last day of the conference, we are switching over to a Disney hotel and are looking forward to 5 days in the wonder that is Disneyworld. The free vacation planning DVD arrived the other day and has instilled loads of excitement and anticipation into my kids. We are doing the official countdown. Since we return the night before Thanksgiving the logical next step here is to talk about holidays…

On the 2010 Holiday Season

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is about food and friends and family and bringing everyone together to be thankful for what we have. One of my most favorite memories of Thanksgiving was the one when I was about 8 years old, in the kitchen helping my mom cook. I loved that she baked homemade bread for Thanksgiving and I loved having my own little ball of dough to shape and bake. Thanksgiving… I expect won’t be an easy time for me because I have so many memories of the holiday as spent with my mom. This will be my first without her.

I am normally the go all out person for Thanksgiving. This year it will be truly impossible since I won’t even have been at home for the 11 days prior to prepare. AB’s sister and mom will be here and aren’t expecting much. We have prepared them for the fact that there will be no cooking at the Thanksgiving magnitude done on Thursday. I am not sure what we will do. However, we WILL cook our Thanksgiving meal on either Friday or Saturday. This is going to be good for me this year to do something completely different for the holiday that will likely remind me the most of my mom.

Christmas will be in our house! AB and I have agreed that we have no intentions of traveling for the holidays potentially ever again. At least until our kids are grown and we travel to them. We have traveled for so many holidays and have done our share of it. I don’t really expect anyone to come to us, it would be nice, but I won’t be disappointed to host Christmas for my family here in town. I am thinking I will be taking nearly two weeks off and keeping the kids home with me. Yes, my sanity may be called into question at the end of this. I am looking forward to a real Christmas tree, lights on the house, Mina the elf making her appearance the day after Thanksgiving, shopping, planning our Christmas meal, the Living Nativity, Christmas Eve service and teaching what the holiday means to my kids.

Skadi has asked for a “big doll” and I haven’t started looking for one yet, but I have ideas. Leif asked for Wii games and I might have made a mistake in redirecting him. AB rolled his eyes at me when I suggested that maybe he should consider something other than Wii games since he has a lot. Something like maybe a Nintendo DS, for example.

Onto FY11

I have had a few really good years in a row. I am successfully managing a high risk, high visibility (within the community) multi-million dollar project. There are down sides, like I have never seen so much drama among grown men. But all that aside, I love it. I love the project, I adore my team, I feel a part of something important and it is just awesome all around. Except for the occasional bickering. Women, don’t be fooled, men can be every bit as petty and snippy as they claim we are!

I hosted a student this past summer on that project and it was a lot of fun to get her perspective of the project as a wide eyed, na├»ve, “going to be senior” at one of the top engineering departments in the nation. Nothing like hosting a college student to really, really make you feel old.

I will never forget sitting at coffee with her after her first exposure to a team meeting where she said, “I have never been involved in anything like that, it was really eye opening”. After a little while she also went on to say, “it is apparent that there IS really a gender bias in the workforce, I didn’t think it was real.” She explained further that all her classes in chemical engineering are 50-50 women and men. “Where have all the girls gone who have been in these programs?” She asked me. I told her that at my age… sigh, nearly 20 years ago when *I* was in college, that wasn’t the case. We also talked about the potential difference between being an undergraduate and the fact that most of my guys have either a Masters or Ph.D., like me. Ten years ago when I was finishing grad school (yes, that old thing again), I was the only female Ph.D. graduate from my department. My class didn’t start that way, we started almost 50-50.

Anyways… enough about gender disparity and feeling old, back to work stuff.

I have been trying to figure out a career path forward the last few years. I walk this line between managing and leading technically. I have struggled with knowing that in order to push through the next barrier I have to surrender an aspect of my career that I really enjoy. Which would it be? So I just continued to walk the line, maintaining the status quo, denying the path forward in my head that I kept gravitating to.

Last week on a whim, I picked up the phone and within minutes found myself sitting down in a high up manager’s office talking about career options. A few e-mails on the topic later per his request, I had an appointment with another manager. I got a few good ego strokes from the both of them, a few new things to write on my FY11 goals and most importantly an interesting new path forward. I am reminding myself of my mantra as a grad student, “I can only trust my career to myself”. It is easy to rely on your managers/team leads to push your career, to expect that they will recognize your every good move (and ignore your boneheaded ones), that they can read your mind and see what makes you truly happy in your day’s work. Easy. But wrong.

If you want something new, take that bull by the horns. Rely only on yourself.