Sunday, September 18, 2011

Working the new normal

I mentioned a week or so ago that moving toward the new normal was proving to be a challenge. That packing up from work, leaving early and then knowing what to do with myself once home, was difficult.

Leif has challenges, according to his present and former teachers, with transitions. I think I know where he gets this from.

I struggle with it too. When I work, I like to have lots of projects and lots of things on my plate, but I tend to spend large chunks of time on one project and work it until all my outstanding to do items on that project are dealt with. While everything else festers sits idle. I claim myself to be a multitasker, but I wonder if I am more just a person who dislikes idle time? A person who fears boredom?

Say for example I am working project X and someone from project Y calls me. I have to fight my gut response that says, "what! Don't you know I am fully entrenched in something that has nothing to do with you or your work? Go away!"

Ok, so I would never ever say that. And I probably don't think it in those terms. But when I break it down and acknowledge my annoyance with phone calls on topic Y, while working topic X, this is where my annoyance stems. I can't transition to what you are talking about on this topic!

(And what is it lately with the increase in phone calls? Doesn't anyone e-mail anymore? My phone seems to ring off the hook lately at work.)

Ok, back to the topic at hand. The new normal.

My problem for the first few weeks is that I came home to work and didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing. Should I be doing laundry? Or fixing dinner? Or answering work e-mails? Or sitting in front of the TV with my kids? Or should we go to the park? I really want to sort photos. And I really need groceries... Argh! And before I knew it AB would be home and I would feel like I hadn't used my time wisely.

This last week I have kept a list on my phone of things I *want* to do. Ok, also on it is my list of things I *need* to do. I planned out my days and our dinners and the kids activities. I checked things off my list (yes, I have been known to put something on my list just so I can check it off). And happiness ensued.

Dinner gets made. The house gets picked up. Homework gets done. Books get read.

I enjoy work. I am good at what I do. I just need to apply my same strategies for a happy work life to my time at home.

The groove isn't worn in yet. But the wheel is working it. Once I get our schedule down and the new normal sets in, then I can set about changing and adding things.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On the importance of the whole package

AB and I are suffering foodies. We love good food, we love eating out. The food I can cook, but wow I get tired of my kids questioning and turning their noses up to everything. We occasionally seek to eat out, but we truly do not live in a restaurant town. There are a few places that are angling to take the area a little more in that direction. But it is bad. AB and I reflect on our years of dining out in Northern California fondly. We used to eat at some fabulous places both there and on travels.

Now that we have kids, those adventures are fewer and further between.

The other night we had AB's sister babysit and we had reservations at a local restaurant, Picazo 717. We have eaten there twice before. The first time was fabulous. The second time we shared the paella and were less than enthused. This was the third time.

If you have read my blog before you know that I have secret dreams as a food critic. I would be the undercover type...

Anyways... we had fabulous food at Picazos last week. Really the food was solid. I didn't care for the clams, but that's just me and the fact that I think I have become horribly spoiled having a family cabin on a great clamming beach.

What sucked? The service. It was so so bad that AB and I were contemplating dropping our normal 20% tip to 10%. I can't stiff a wait person, my sister is a waitress and works her butt off. But it says something when I look to drop below that 15% mark.

Indulge my critic-ness... or scroll past. I just need to get this out.

  • 20 open tables, 3 of them occupied, we were sat at a small little two top next to two guys sitting at a 4-top. And I am talking SMALL two top. We were awkwardly close (I should have asked for a different table.)
  • The hostess spills my water and doesn't even return with a rag to wipe it up.
  • Waitress doesn't speak to us for 15 minutes, seriously we were ready to go find a wait person.
  • When she arrives she asks for our food order. I asked her what the specials were. She recites them and asks for our order. We sent her away while we contemplate our plan with the specials in mind. (She didn't ask for a drink order, but we didn't think to ask for drinks...)
  • When she finally returns we tell her we are doing tapas and salads and place the order. I call her back to ask for a glass of sangria since she never asked if we wanted drinks. Which they didn't have any sangria then. So I went back to the wine list.
  • After what seems like ages she brings a huge tray out with all our tapas and salads and then declares, "I don't know what YOU are going to do, all this food won't fit on this table." I said, "yes, the table is VERY small". She had the tapas on the table, I sent her back to the kitchen with the salads since there wasn't room and she suggested we don't uncover the clams until ready to eat so they don't get too cold. Duh. Doesn't seem like this took too much forethought... but I was suddenly wishing I would have sent her back with the tapas and not the salads. Oh well, my stomach will survive.
  • We finish the tapas, but she has disappeared again. Seriously like 20 minutes pass between being done and AB deciding to flag down the hostess to see if she can find our waitress.
  • She returns and asks if we want our salads now. Umm yes.
  • Salads were delicious.
  • She clears our plates and announces, "thanks for joining us, I will be back with your check".
  • "How about dessert?" I ask her. "Oh, your choice is X, Y or Z, what did you want?" Z we answer, with two Spanish coffees. She leaves.
  • Comes back with dessert that has ice cream topping. AB asks her if the coffee is on its way? It is.
  • 5 minutes later she comes back and asks if the Spanish coffee is a bar drink. We tell her it is.
  • 10 minutes later (dessert is gone) she comes back and says that the bartender only has Kahlua, will that work instead of "whatever else is supposed to go in"? YES, we tell her, just bring them.
  • Coffees finally arrive.
  • Check arrives. Dinner in right at 2.5 hours.  
Her saving grace tip-wise was that she didn't charge us for at least $25 worth of food. Did she know she sucked it up royally?

Some people can get by with being given sucky service. But for AB and me, our opportunities to eat out are rare, we can cook food as good as ANY restaurant in the area, I will wager that hands down. Our indulgence with eating out is having the quiet atmosphere to sit and talk, not having to clean up, not having children whining and having someone wait on us. Food for us, is only a minor part of the package. When the rest of the package is screwed up, it isn't worth it.

Adventures in bedtime

Each kid has their own bedtime ritual. Leif goes to bed and we do a chapter book. AB is reading the classics to him while I work my way through Harry Potter series with him. AB and Leif have read Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer (which AB has deemed highly inappropriate, but that's ok I guess) and they are now on Robin Hood. I never read the Harry Potter books at the peak of popularity and so they are new to both Leif and me. We are on the "Goblet of Fire".

Skadi gets in bed and we read three short books and then we go to YouTube. AB and I discovered awhile back she wouldn't fall asleep to books being read to her, but she would fall asleep to music. Actually, AB would sing her to sleep. When it was my turn with Skadi I would start singing, she would tell me to stop and go get daddy. I got even with him one night and pulled out my phone. YouTube has loads of songs.

Recently we happened upon a video that Skadi likes (click on it, it is only 20 seconds long...):

Skadi thinks this is THE funniest thing EVER. Ok, it is pretty cute.

Skadi has figured out that you can link to "related" content on YouTube and so lately her obsession has been "baby pandas" in general. And there are a freaky number of "baby panda" videos on YouTube and they are very adorable.

Invariably though this does NOT put her to sleep. I need to somehow switch over to a song. Last night I put the kibosh on "baby panda" movies and navigated to the stand by "Rainbow Connection" with Kermit on the log.

"NO!" Skadi screamed, "I DO NOT want to watch any videos that don't have baby pandas in them!"

I stiffled my laughter.

She got mad at me and then rolled over and promptly fell asleep.

See songs work every single time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's on your playlist?

I'll post mine... if you post yours!

I am tiring just a bit of my current play list. I tend to update it whenever I am on vacation. Last good update was July 4th. One of my goals for the year is that whenever I sit down at the computer that I tack a stack of cd's with me and upload them. It actually doesn't take long and iTunes organizes it for me. Slick. As long as I remember where that stack of cds is...

My kids have their current favorites. Leif is full on into Les Miserables and while part of me wants to brag a bit about this I have to admit that he is nearly driving us all up the wall with it. We like Les Mis. We probably love Les Mis. But not like Leif. The last time we came back from the cabin he was a bit nauseated in the car playing his DS, so we agreed to put on Les Mis. Oh my goodness. We finally put a stop to it most of the way through the second complete play. And he was disappointed.

Whenever we get in the car that is his first request, "can we listen to Les Mis?" And my answer is becoming more often "no". I gave him my old iPod loaded with only the Les Mis soundtrack. He has his headphones, he can (and does) listen to it whenever he wants.

But oh, there was that other day a week or so ago when "Pepper" came on. (Butthole Surfers) And Leif said, "I LOVE this song Dad! Mom plays it all the time!" Ok, I don't play it ALL the time, but it is on my current playlist. He was overly humored when AB said to me, "you let Leif listen to the Butthole Surfers?" Yeah, the Butthole Surfers is a new favorite saying... joy.

Skadi on the other hand has embraced rock, both classic and contemporary. Her current favorites are "Say Hey" by Michael Frant, who she just calls simply, "Michael". Sigh, my daughter is on a first name basis with a rock star. Her second favorite is ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and the new favorite is simply identified by his name... "Uncle Kracker". Is it bad that my daughter loves, "Follow Me"? Am I corrupting her little brain to think that affairs are ok and that marriages are unhappy??

My favorites? I have always always been a big Richard Thompson fan and he will forever be my favorite. But Mike Doughty is moving up near Richard. (Yes, *I* am on a first name basis with Richard... or at least in my dreams...) I will always be a Dylan fan. And the Rolling Stones - yes when MTV first came on the air I do remember my mom's look of horror when I declared Mick Jagger "cute".

So here's my list...

Breathe Me, Sia

Bittersweet, Big Head Todd & The Monsters

Pepper, Butthole Surfers

Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan

Radar Love, Golden Earring

In a Big Country (Radio), Big Country

Anchorage, Michelle Shocked

Friday I'm In Love, The Cure

Tiny Dancer, Ben Folds

Buckets Of Rain, Bob Dylan

Walking In Memphis, Marc Cohn

Sweet Child o' Mine (Rick Rubin New Mix), Sheryl Crow

Grey Ghost, Mike Doughty

Lay, Lady, Lay, Bob Dylan

Grease, Frankie Valli

Say Hey (I Love You) [feat. Cherine Anderson], Michael Franti & Spearhead

Steal My Kisses, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

Heavy Things, Phish

Maggie May, Rod Stewart

Bubble Toes, Jack Johnson

The Gambler, Mike Doughty

Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Come on Eileen, Dexy's Midnight Runners

Peaches, The Presidents of the United States of America

Dream Cafe, Greg Brown

Punk Rock Girl, The Dead Milkmen

I Melt With You, Modern English

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, Timbuk 3

You Can't Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones

Landslide, Dixie Chicks

1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Richard Thompson

Walkin' On the Sun, Smash Mouth

Stayin' Alive, Bee Gees

I'll Fly Away, Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch

Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant

Follow Me, Uncle Kracker

The Cape, Eric Bibb

Cannonball, The Breeders

Tainted Love (7" Single), Soft Cell

Lips Like Sugar, Echo And The Bunnymen

Whip It, Devo

Pretty In Pink, The Psychedelic Furs

Persuasion, Richard Thompson

Hey, Soul Sister, Train

Let's Go To Bed, The Cure

Under My Thumb, The Rolling Stones

Save Tonight, Eagle-Eye Cherry

Centerfold, The J. Geils Band

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Looking for the groove

We are all two weeks into the new normal. Leif riding the bus to and home from school and me meeting him at the bus with Skadi and the three of us having afternoons together.

I want to say it is an easy transition, but it seems to be perplexing us all at times. I keep wondering when this is going to become the normal feeling, because it sure isn't yet.

I have to admit that I might be a bit of a workaholic. Not the one that works long hours. I was FAR from working a 60 hour week. Nope. I was 40 hours, but the vast majority of time a very productive 40 hours that makes me very proud.

I am very lucky that I love what I do (for the most part). I have my days... and my people... that make life far more difficult than it really should be. But for the most part I am really, really happy with my work life and well after I get home each night, my brain is still working.

I admit that the change to getting up and walking out of work 2 hours early a day isn't coming easy to me. I know it will get easier and I do think that the fiscal year end (read crazy ridiculous government rules imposed) has a lot to do with it and I am waiting until well into FY12, after October 1, before I start making any meaningful judgments.

I love, love being home with my kids in the afternoons. But I need to get better organized. I have a list of things on my phone I want to work on, need to do and dinner ideas. But somehow I get home and actually feel a touch lost. I have trouble turning work off, even when I am not checking my phone for e-mails. My brain rolls along wondering if person X is getting that presentation done, if contracts specialist Y is  talking to that vendor, if client Z is trying to get ahold of me or who is up working in the lab and if they will lock the door at the end of the day. I worry about what people will think when they hear I am not working full time - will the managers I work to impress suddenly shy away from me? Will people be reluctant to work with me because they will view me as unreliable? Or will it go largely unnoticed?

My list of things to do in the afternoons is so often errands - go return the soccer gear to the YMCA, take Leif to the doctors, take Skadi to get new glasses, go get new paint samples from Home Depot - that I just don't feel as though I have really sunk into a good routine. I think I will. Actually I know I will.

I keep eyeing the 4:30pm tennis lessons for ages 4 and up and the club... and thinking about that stack of cds I want burned onto my computer... and the photos files that I have intent to organize during my free time and not to mention my goals. I am organized in every other aspect of my life... I need to apply it to my after schools planning!

We will get there, I am sure of it. I realize that I am so very lucky to be in a position to be able to scale my hours back and not to have to rely on after school care, but I need to sink a bit more into it and the new routine.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Soul Sister

Ok yes, one of my favorite songs… Hey, Soul Sister… can I admit that here?

In the past few weeks in discussions with friends and actually online as well, we have hit on that “right person”. Who is it and how do you know?

I know my right person… my husband. We have this super marriage. A marriage that when others are in groups and venting about their significant other about all I can find to say is, “I got nothing.” (Now if they wanted to switch the topic over to work? I could so bend some ears there.)

I am lucky. Very, very lucky.

My husband supports me in everything I do. He gives me his opinion, even though I may not want it, and then he shuts up when I ask him if I asked for his opinion. We talk all the time. He has heard my stories 6832 times and I have heard his 6833 times. But we still learn from each other. We are a team and ever proud of being a family together. And I pray to God that he never finds a reason or desire to leave me.

We started dating when we were in our senior year in college, just before we each turned 22. Those first two years were rocky. We broke up a number of times. I always swore (before him) that I wouldn’t go back to a failed relationship. But something kept pulling me back each time. Then I decided to go to grad school. He followed me a few states over and by that action, I knew we were in it for the long haul, though we didn't marry for 3 years after that.

I dated a lot (read too much) in high school. I look back now and realize that I wanted someone so badly that I dated anyone who took a second glance at me. I hope I can infuse in my daughter a stronger sense of worth in herself and less of my early dependence on feeling like I was someone because I was with someone. With only a few exceptions I went from dating one person a prior weekend to having a new boyfriend the next. It wasn’t until a particularly stifling year and a half in early college that I decided I needed to be brave. I needed to be by myself for one full year. I needed to figure out who I was.

And I did it. When AB came along that senior year, I was ready.

Is he my soul mate? See I am not sure I believe in a soul mate. The whole one person for each person out there and if brought together, sparks will fly and all will be good in the world, doesn't really jive with me. And AB agrees with me.

I, in no way, believe that if the stars hadn’t aligned bringing AB to Colorado for college (because his dad decided to get his graduate degree at the same university) and then bringing me to the same university because I was dating Mr. Stifler who wanted to switch universities… or say I hadn’t put off PChem Lab that one year, maybe I decided to take it on a whim the semester prior… or say I hadn’t looked over in PChem Lab on that first day and said to myself, “OMG I so cannot be lab partners with Wayne again, I have to pounce on someone else” and AB was standing there… that we wouldn’t have been perfectly happy with someone else.

Who that someone else would have been, I have no idea.

Would I have gone on to grad school by myself and dated one of my fellow grad students? Or would I have moved along single into a job and married one of the many single (probably for a reason) nuclear physicists or engineers I worked with?

There have been other people who have come into my life that I believe, if circumstances were different, that we could have successfully made a go at it and been happy. Does that make me want to jump ship and test it out. No freaking way. I have my small list of guys in the back of my head that on a rare occasion I think back on, “if things would have been different… where would we be now?” And I think it would have been good, but I am in no way kidding myself that that list of guys is also guys that I never actually dated either.

So maybe, just maybe, I did luck out and find my soul mate. I don't know. But I look forward to spending the rest of my life with that fabulous man that is driving our children up the street right now as I sit here typing.


This week there have been a lot of changes in the house. I have spent my week resisting the urge to fill in the space. The beloved space. The space I have craved for months... yes, actually years.

Years ago when Leif was little I said it was my goal to reduce my hours once he left our quiet peaceful private school for the hustle and bustle of the public school. I remember once my mother in law made the statement - "it is best to work when the kids are little, be home in the afternoons when the kids get older and can get in more trouble". That spoke to me way back when. And so it became my goal to reduce my hours to be home when they headed out into the world.

This week that goal was realized. On Tuesday, the first day of school, I sent my boy off on the big bus. He quickly friended a 4th grade girl who according to her mom, "loves to mother" and miracles of all miracles, he has made it successfully to school AND home every day so far this week! (Knock on wood.)

And so at 3pm when I am at work, or in a meeting, I have packed my things up, stood up and walked out.

With my managers concurrence of course.

I have to admit it has been a very weird feeling as quite often I am one of the last ones left in my hallway. Not because I work long hours, but because everyone else manages to get in WAY before me. Now I get in later than them, and I leave early. At least Monday through Thursday. Friday's AB is off and so it is his day to field the kids while I get to have my long day at work.

I tell you what, those two hours less at work are noticeable! My day seems so short. I feel that I have just enough time to get done what I need to get done. Anything extra? Well that is for Fridays. I actually love Fridays at work. It is often very quiet and I usually have a last burst of energy before the weekend to plow through my lists. Monday then becomes my busy day as everyone works off my productivity the day before the weekend.

I get home and those 2 hours at home make a world of difference. I can get settled in, go meet the bus, pick up the house, unload the dishwasher, make dinner...

Our Wednesday night pick up night? Nonexistent. Because by dinner time, my house is picked up and ready for the Thursday housecleaner. Yay me! Domestication?

I expect the downside is that my husband will gain weight since I have actual time to cook stuff... like manicotti (last night) instead of just throw together whatever is in the fridge.

The extra time I have in the afternoons affords a lot more flexibility for the family. Easier to get out for a walk in the evenings. Easier for my husband to justify time at the gym since he doesn't have to help me come home and scramble.

One other advantage? My daughter will spend less time at preschool a day, hopefully resulting in fewer opportunities for her to lose random privileges at school. Well, I can hope at least!

I am oh so tempted to add swimming, or gymnastics, or tennis lessons (just saw that option in the court club's newsletter) for the kids. But no. I am resisting the urge for a few weeks to settle in.

But I may do myself a favor and venture to the gym... just maybe!