Saturday, December 29, 2012

Playdates

Since moving the kids to public school I have struggled with playdates. Actually it is since I moved Leif to public school a year and a half ago.

During this time we have found one boy whose parents willingly let him come over and play on a regular basis. Of course this year the boys are in different classrooms and not so close anymore.

Maybe it was being in a small private school that gave parents more trust in each other? Maybe it was that I worked "with" (at least for the same company) as many of the other parents? Or were we just a much more trusting bunch?

Last year (when Leif was in 1st grade) Leif picked out a few boys in his class and I sent notes home with them through the teacher requesting playdates and sending my phone number and e-mail address. Not a single taker.

This was near opposite of our experience at the Montessori school where the kids' social calendars were things to be reckoned with. Playdate on this day with this family, on this day with another, sleepover with E on this Saturday...

I started Leif's second grade year in the same manner - he picked out two kids (a boy and a girl) he was close with - and is still close with - and sent in a sheet of paper for each with my phone number and e-mail address and a note requesting a playdate. No reply.

I volunteered in Leif's class for the Christmas party and Leif introduced me to the boy who said, "you sent home a pink piece of paper with your phone number!" Probably so - I didn't remember it being pink. I told him I would love to have him over to play with Leif still.

He dropped his head and said, "yeah, I am not allowed to go over to anyone's house".

I decided to inquire - "at all, like ever? Or are you just grounded or something."

He replied, "ever, I can't ever go to anyone's house".

How sad.

If this is the 2nd grade mentality - you can imagine that the kindergarten situation isn't better at all.

Skadi has a girl in her class two houses away from us. She walks home from the bus stop with us and her mom. Her mom loaned me her Doppler so I could listen to the baby's heartbeat whenever I wanted. We exchanged phone numbers - but the little girl has never been allowed to come to our house.

At open house this year Skadi introduced me to another little girl and her mom. We exchanged phone numbers and her mom has never returned my phone calls requesting a playdate.

I had started wondering if it was just me? Do we come off as creepy? Am I way too lax in that if my kids were invited to another family's house for a playdate one Saturday afternoon that I would be dropping them off and waving goodbye? When I was both my kids' age I was constantly walking to someone else's house to play. In kindergarten it was 4 houses down, or my friend whose grandmother lived next door.

My kids are still used to the small Montessori reality that we lived for so many years - and thankfully I still have phone numbers for many of those kids. But it seems nowadays that unless you know the parents pretty dang well - playdates are off limits.

Other thoughts/experiences?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Elf on the Shelf


 
We have done this tradition for at least three years in our house – maybe more? Basically when it hit the shelves, it hit our house. My kids have latched on to our elf Mina in ways I never expected. One of the worst punishments ever is having to go tell Mina what you did, because just maybe she might pass the information onto Santa who could lower their ranking from good list to bad list.
 
Our Elf has morphed as our kids have grown – from simply moving around the house and the kids had to find him/her (we haven’t assigned a gender to Mina) to this year being a bit more of a prankster towards Leif and into dressing up – like Skadi. We don’t bend over backwards… some nights the elf is lucky to change shelves and some days she packs the kids’ lunches (soy sauce, mushrooms, nasty stuff they will never eat) or makes breakfast (a bowl of candy for each kid – which, no, they don’t get to eat). Or sets up a science experiment from the kids' science kits.
 
There is a ton of bashing out there of the Elf on the Shelf tradition and I routinely see citations from friends on Facebook that he is “creepy”. There are two divided camps – the people who have one and whose kids love it and those who proclaim it “creepy”.
 
Every time I see someone proclaim it “creepy” I want to post back, “so what is your opinion on Toy Story?” Are Woody and Buzz and their friends creepy because they come to life and play around the house and get into mischief? $1.9 BILLION in gross revenue surmises a guess that those of the “creepy” camp bought into a little bit of the Toy Story mania that started in 1995. The difference here? Adults actually playing it out and a story that the Elf reports transgressions to Santa? Is that what makes it creepy? Really, I just don’t get those statements. But whatever.
 
This year Leif told me that he thinks that the elf is actually just a stuffed animal that parents move around. My response to him was, “but isn’t it more fun to play along and believe?” He nodded and I haven’t heard another word out of him. I expect that when baby #3 is to the age in a couple years of engaging with Mina (3.5 or so?) that I will no longer have to set my phone alarm with a reminder and that Leif at least will embrace the tradition and will relish in coming up with hiding places and pranks.
 
Skadi is full on into the Elf tradition this year. I have leveraged this to my advantage – she must get dressed before finding the elf. Because, well, we wouldn’t want Mina to see her nakey. So every morning she whips out of bed (sort of) and pulls off her pj’s, finds clothes and goes racing around the house. Then screams an announcement of where Mina is and giggles about what mischief he/she is up to now. The other night, Mina made it to the top of the tree somehow and is hugging our angel. A few days ago Mina graffiti’d Skadi’s gingerbread house a bit with frosting by writing her name and the word “YUM” on the lawn. Hilarious laughter. Leif’s favorite was when we hadn’t yet decorated our tree and Mina decided to help us along – by decorating it with Leif’s underwear. And occasionally there are notes – but not too often because it is really hard to disguise my handwriting and the kids are getting wise to that. Laughter and frivolity from my kids – not creepy.
 
Honestly, whether or not another family embraces or rejects the Elf has no bearing on my family. We love it, we go with it and have fun. I might leverage it to my advantage in certain cases and maybe that makes my holiday season a touch easier at times (like I don’t have to tell my daughter umpteen times to get out of bed and get dressed) and there are certainly people out there who think that is wrong – just as there are people out there who think that driving an SUV is wrong, or putting my kids in daycare is wrong. Get over it. It works for us.
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Crying Over Spilled Milk

I got an e-mail from Skadi’s teacher yesterday.
 
My daughter is opposite my son – she is a food snob and wants nothing to do with the school lunches. “Their cheese pizza is gross mommy, it doesn’t taste anything like what pizza should.” So every day I pack her a lunch. She is also a milk fiend. We have been out of milk boxes and I have been a slacker about going and buying more (plus, they are freaky expensive) and so lately I have been sticking her milk in a sealed cup of some sort – a Sigg, a Camelback mug, something of that nature.
 
Well I won’t be doing that anymore!
 
Her teacher e-mailed me letting me know that her milk spilled in her lunchbox, which was in her backpack. She “instructed me” to wash her bag tonight and told me that she wouldn’t send home her library book or folders or any work until the backpack was washed since there was an odor.
 
Nearly all my communications with her teacher are via e-mail and I have to say that the first third of the year went by with me bristling every time I got an e-mail from her. Her written communications aren’t the best. Then I had Skadi’s parent teacher conference and my opinion of her changed – she was warm and friendly and actually seemed to like and appreciate my daughter and her strange sense of fashion and wow, she really is a VERY, VERY smart little girl (too bad she doesn’t choose to show it very often)! Then I got the choppy e-mail from her regarding the milk incident and I tried hard not to bristle again.
 
I responded that the bag would get washed tonight and I was sorry to hear about the spilled milk and left it at that.
 
Then Skadi got home.
 
“Mom, my library book got ruined and Mrs. W said that we have to PAY for it!” she tells me.
 
At this point I am confused – there was no mention of the ruined library book in the e-mail. But Skadi is adamant that she needs to pay for it. So I send back a quick e-mail – “Skadi tells me her library book was ruined by the milk. Obviously we will pay for this, please tell me who I should contact to send a check to or to plan for a replacement book.” And she replied quickly with a name – and yes, the library book was ruined.
 
Ok, so all that is dealt with despite my being a little irksome that the ruined book wasn’t mentioned the first time around, we are moving on. Then there is bedtime.
 
I went in and Skadi had all her change piled onto her bed and proceeded into a conversation I would NEVER have with my money-grubbing son.
 
“What is this for?” I ask her.
 
“I am getting all my money together to take to school to pay for the library book,” she tells me.
 
“No honey, mommy will pay for the library book,” I tell her, grabbing the change to put it away.
 
“No. Mrs W says that I will have to pay for it and I AM going to!” she grabs the money back.
 
“Honey, mommy will pay for the book, when Mrs. W says that you will have to pay, she means ‘your family’”, (or at least she dang well better mean that).
 
“No mommy, I have my money, I will pay,” she insists again.
 
“Skadi no,” I tell her. “You are my daughter, I am responsible. You save your money.”
 
“But mommy, I don’t want to waste your money,” she cries.
 
“You aren’t wasting it honey!” I tell her, “I was the one who packed the milk in the leaky cup.”
 
“Yes, you are right, you did do that, it wasn’t me,” she said.
 
The conversation went on a bit longer as I finally got her to accept that *I* would pay for the book and that she wouldn’t.
 
I left impressed with my daughter’s determination to pay for the ruined book, something we are pushing with our kids "take responsibility", but at the same time dismayed at her teacher. Why does she tell Skadi she needs to pay for a book, but didn’t convey that to me in the e-mail? She is 5 years old, the spilled milk was an accident, but it made a strong impact on her day. Why, oh why, could she not have dealt directly with me on something that was ruined and needed replaced?
 
I think I am back to bristling at my interactions with her – starting to think the conference meeting was a good show put on for my benefit.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Groomers

Leif has a friend named Izabella. Cute little girl – I see her at gymnastics. They enjoy each other’s company but Leif is at that stage where most girls aren’t really worth his time or energy and he gets horribly embarrassed at anything involving kissing or boyfriend/girlfriend. Hans has taken to harassing him by saying “smoochie smoochie” at random times just to see the flood of red up our son’s face.
 
Last night’s dinner conversation:
 
Me: “So who did you play with at recess today.”
 
Leif: “Cody had to stay in and do his work so I just rolled down the hill until N came and chased me.”
 
Me: “Sounds good. How is Izabella?”
 
Leif: “Good, she wanted me to play with her at recess, but I didn’t.”
 
Me: “Why? I know she is your friend, is everything ok?”
 
Leif: “Yes, but she and Adriana wanted me to be the groomer.”
 
Me: “Groomer, what do you mean?”
 
Leif: “You know, groomer.”
 
Me: “Well I am not sure, like a dog groomer.”
 
Leif: “No mom. You know. Dad was one once.”
 
Me: “I don’t think dad was ever a groomer. He cut Winny’s hair once recently since we don’t want to stress her out at the groomers.”
 
Leif: “No, that’s not it. He was a groomer in your wedding.”
 
Me: “Oh a GROOM! They wanted you to be the groom!”
 
Leif: “Yes. They said it was just pretend, but I don’t trust Adriana, she might make it for reals or something bad like that.”
 
And at this point the conversation just dissolves because I couldn’t stop laughing.
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I just can't even start to explain...

It must be terrible fun to be a 2nd grade teacher and get to read the wacky stuff kids write. This is what came home today.

One sheet of paper with the question at the top, Leif's responses below:

"What do you notice about nonfiction?"

  1. You can't have that much underwear.
  2. You can't go in public naked.
  3. You can not fly.
  4. You can't shoot underwear in public.
  5. You can't surprise a robot.
I just do not even know what to say.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Red Man

Skadi has a set of favorite bath toys. She likes to switch from the Master bath, to the Master shower to the bathtub in her bathroom pretty regularly. But one thing is constant - her toys.

The mermaids come as no surprise. These little girls follow her everywhere.

The weird one though, is "the red man".


That would be Mork.

No matter what, the red man must be there with these girls.

I don't know if he is a bodyguard, father figure, boyfriend?

I tell her his name is "Mork" and she tells me that's a funny name. I told her that he says "Nanoo Nanoo" and she thinks I am even weirder. And when I told her he is actually from Planet Ork and not Earth she thinks I am completely full of it.

For awhile Leif decided he was going to latch on to Mork to drive the airplane that he likes to play with in the bathtub. True that he fits. And might be true that he was the only male action figure around that fit in there. But the fit my daughter threw about not getting the "red man" was legendary.

I suppose I should be a good mom and not cave to her wills. But there is that park of me that found it all so humerous... that I couldn't resist telling Leif that "no the red man is Skadi's special bath toy" and found him an action figure that would fit in the plane.

I have been wondering if I can find an old "Mork and Mindy" episode around anywhere...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How things change...

Way back when I was a naive undergraduate I worked for a physician. It was probably my biggest learning experience in a job ever. My first really professional type position. And the physician I worked with became a strong mentor for me over those 5 years I worked for him.

I remember one lunch we went to he told me about his ex-wife. They had gone to medical school together, but the marriage couldn't survive two medical students and two careers at critical points. He told me that she was moving home, giving up medicine (after hundreds of thousands of dollars of school debt) and was opening a deli.

I remember wondering how this could even be? Is it that these people you hear about just never really know what they want? Are they just flakey? Why in the world would you go to years of schooling and pay so much only to hit 40-ish and call it all quits? What is wrong with them?

Naive. I think if everyone who switched gears mid-stream stopped and paused in college with 20-20 hindsite, very very few people would ever graduate - or at least graduate in 4-5 years.

I work with a nuclear physicist who I cannot imagine him doing anything else in life. Neither can he. We travelled together recently and in his mid-40's, nuclear physics is all he ever wanted to do and all he ever wants to do - even at the expense of having a family, traveling, etc. Nuclear physics is what makes him happy.

He is rare. I think the vast majority of us are NOT like him (at least I hope) and while we aren't necessarily inclined to start over, maybe it is just a slight modification on what we did to get to the mid-career level.

My best friend jumped ship from HP and then bought a flower shop. But I look at her and working at HP isn't what you would peg her for when you meet her. The flower shop suits her perfectly!

Maybe my physician's wife - maybe running a deli in her small town is what suited her.

I never really questioned my own career goals in life - I wanted to be a scientist of some type throughout much of my schooling. Though right now I have to admit right now that science, totally interesting and love the knowledge, doing it is far less interesting to me.

A scientist friend of mine was forced to leave science due to medical issues a few years ago. She finally has her health nearly back and is contemplating what she wants to do with her life - and working in a lab isn't it.

As AB and I ponder our path forward this coming year between his contract end, a possible new job for him or even maybe a move for the family, I start wondering what I want to do. I still love technology and can't imagine running a flower shop, or a deli myself, but I can't help but wonder what else, in the area of technology advancements is out there?

A note on comments

I have been receiving a number of comments on my last post. I really appreciate this.

However, if you want me to hit publish on your comment then it needs to NOT come through as Anonymous. There were a few that seemed legit with no links in them and with honest sentiment (I think - or else you are fooling this pregnant lady). I *almost* wanted to hit post...

But the fact that they are Anonymous... just won't do it. Contact information isn't posted publicly. Just your name. Go for it. Comment... but let me know who you are.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The lies "we" tell

There is a family at our former preschool that we got to know on a somewhat decent basis – only through school events and birthday parties though. The husband works for my same company, but in a position far removed from my own. The wife, works for one of the same contractors as my husband. Our kids are the same ages – though the older ones are opposite genders and never really got to know each other. Our younger girls though were fast friends from age 1.
 
The husband would tend to take their kids to birthday parties where he and my husband hit it off well. They frequently talked about “we gotta get the kids together for a playdate”. Well believe it or not, after 4 years of saying this, it never happened.
 
It wasn’t for lack of trying on our part – after about the third time I invited the kids over to play and it just didn’t work out, I have to admit, I quit trying. AB kept insisting, “we should have them over for dinner sometime”, and I would usually retort something along the lines of how he and the husband tend to get along, but I had nothing in common with wife and I wasn’t sure they really wanted to do anything with us – that maybe they were just “talking the talk”. And AB would shrug and accept whatever my reason was for that day.
 
Well then as things happen, we left the school and moved Skadi to public kindergarten (OMG the horror!) and they kind of fell off our radar.
 
Then last weekend I escaped to Target for a few things and lo and behold ran into the wife with the two girls.
 
“Hey guys, good to see you. How are you doing?” I ask.
 
“Good,” wife says seeming apparently uncomfortable and like she wants to run the other way.
 
“I haven’t seen you girls in ages, how is school?” I ask.
 
“I thought you guys moved far away?” littlest 5 year old pipes up.
 
(Duh, I didn’t quite grasp it.)
 
“Nope, we are still here, Skadi is just at another school,” I reply.
 
“Mom and dad said you moved far away,” she says again.
 
(At this point I am assuming she is mistaking us for someone else.)
 
“Nope, we are still in our same house,” I said. “You should come over for a playdate sometime, Skadi would love to see you!”
 
I smile at wife and realize the arm waving.
 
Her arms waving. As in what you do to your spouse at a party when he starts inviting your boss over for dinner and not realizing it is your boss… or something like that.
 
“Oh,” I stopped. “I guess we will have to talk about that.”
 
“Well, we will see you later!” says wife and hurries off down the aisle.
 
Ok.
 
WTF?
 
Analysis?
 
AB assumes that it was just easier to push of little girl’s incessant whining (which we heard every day we picked our daughter up from preschool) for a playdate with Skadi by lying and saying we moved away then to actually make it work? But why wouldn’t they want to just make it work, get the girls together?
 
Have we at some point offended them?
 
Do they not realize what a freaking small town we all live in and that we were BOUND to run into each other at some point?
 
Analysis welcome.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Goulash Post - everything mixed into one

It has been a crazy end of summer and start to the school year. I have a list of blog topics, but know that I am either not going to get to them, or that they are old now and out of date.
 
I will try to hit the high points and not be too spastic:
 
Skadi and Babies:
 
Skadi has an ongoing fascination with babies. If we are at a store and she sees a baby bucket carrier she is over peering into it. I have been trying to catch her as I recall what those early days were like with a new infant and having a potentially germy, sticky kid you don’t know walk up and start peering into the carrier. Ick. Not that my daughter is germy or routinely sticky, but I don’t want her to weird parents out.
 
She came with a theory this summer about how babies get into their mommy’s tummys: “God picks you and says, ‘you there, you are going in a tummy’ and the baby gets to pick if they want to go to that mommy or not. And as soon as she says yes than God puts her in a bag with a parachute and tosses her off the cloud where she falls and falls and falls into the mommy’s tummy! And that’s how babies get into tummies! That’s how I got in your’s mommy, God pointed to you and I said “yes” and he flung me out of the cloud. It is good you were standing still at the time so I could get into your tummy instead of land on the ground.”
 
Skadi also has an innate belief in reincarnation – she believes that her grandma, who died when she was three years old, went to heaven and is in the waiting line to be tossed off a cloud and into someone else’s tummy. And who knows, maybe she is already a little girl somewhere!
 
Sometimes it is hard not to believe every word she says when she recites these stories and beliefs. I am positive she has “lawyer” in her future.
 
Twohead:
 
This remains my favorite Skadi-ism and one that I honestly hope she never loses. Though I am sure it is just a matter of time. Yes, Skadi still calls foreheads, “twoheads”. Unless you are big like daddy, then you have a “forehead”.
 
Camping:
 
We have had a busy summer of camping. We aimed to get our trailer out every other weekend. We only missed a few of those.
 
 
We had one interesting camping trip this summer with a few oddities. Actually it was a pretty miserable camping trip because of all the mosquitos, and I couldn’t wait to get home. But during the trip we encountered a few new things. First off while we were traveling about 10 miles from White Pass – this is major mountain area, not a field, not flatlands, but windy, hairpin road with steep mountain valleys and hills on each side – about 20 miles to Mt. Rainier entrance – we came around a hairpin turn in our Sequoia towing the trailer and nearly hit a calf. As in a baby cow. No idea where in the world it came from or belonged.
 
Anyways, we got to where we were going after a bit of a scare slamming on our breaks for this lone calf in the road. We happened to be camping on a small, shallow river that had an island and a few little spits of land into the river that were super for the kids (except for the bugs). They immediately started playing in the river as AB and I fished.
 
AB and I caught nothing. Leif on the other hand managed to catch, with HIS BARE HANDS, two sucker type fish in the shallow areas. He was terribly proud of himself and hugely popular among the children at the shore. And not very happy with us when I told him that he could, in no way, keep the fish and we would not be eating them. “Sucker fish aren’t good to eat,” we told him. Well he suggested, he could just keep them in a fish tank? We made him throw them back. Mean parents we are.
 
Kindergarten:
 
I can’t believe it, I have a 2nd grader and a kindergartener!
 
This year we decided to change things up. We pulled Skadi from her private Montessori preschool/kindergarten/1st-2nd grade school and stuck her into public school! We took her from the mouth of privilege and snobbery and put her with the rest of the world in public kindergarten and the onsite before school care (since she is in PM kindergarten) with germy, sticky toys.
 
And you know what? The child loves it.
 
It is a different world for her. It is a different world for me – one where instead of talking to her teacher daily, I have heard from her 3 times by e-mail throughout the year. She has a whole new cadre of friends. She brings home library books – waving them in the air from the moment she gets off the bus. She recites her addition tables and identifies words. She is completely pleased with her new school and chatters incessantly about her day.
 
Orlando:
 
Way back when, we told the kids “if mommy’s team wins this big award, we will go to DisneyWorld!”
 
And then it happened. I got the news we won and Leif and I jumped up and down in the kitchen squealing about DISNEYWORLD!
 
We went to Disneyworld almost 2 years ago and had a pretty good time. It could have been better, but we weren’t prepared like we will be now!!
 
So after months of wrangling for permission to even go to the awards and then further wrangling about using 3 days of vacation time while on travel (and taking a hit on what work will pay for because of this - aka manager discretion) we have tickets (airline and park), hotel rooms, dinner reservations, I have a formal dress, AB needs a tux and I need to confirm the babysitter for the night of the awards.
 
On our list:
Day 1: Epcot (girl’s breakfast with the princesses while the boys ride rides), dinner at Chefs de France
Day 2: Hollywood Studios (family breakfast with Disney Jr characters), Fantasmic in the evening.
Day 3: TBD, dinner at a Cuban restaurant
Day 4: Magic Kingdom, breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Day 5: TBD (beach maybe), switch to SeaWorld hotel for awards.
Day 6: SeaWorld, Mommy’s award ceremony.
Day 7: Universal Studios
Day 8: Fly Home
 
Cannot wait.
 
 
The Nugget
 
Have you made it this far? Stuck with me? Well then you are awarded with a nugget.
 
Head on over here and check it out.
 
Carman Baby #3 to arrive in April 2013! Officially will be announced at some point in the coming few weeks on Facebook.

Work blah-ness

Work continues to go reasonably well for me. I have switched over to the "Project Manager" ladder from that of “Scientist and Engineer”. This was initially a hard decision for me. I spent a few years getting rave reviews annually as an S&E3. Then conflicts with a coworker started to gurgle and I suddenly (despite doing the same job) wasn’t exceeding expectations anymore. Nope. I stood up for the project and our very demanding client at the expense of a coworker's perceived security blanket and was immediately noted as a trouble maker and my annual rating suffered, despite the fact that I was bringing in millions of dollars of project work. No, that wasn't the official excuse, it was actually couched as “well you aren’t doing science anymore” – but given that I was doing the exact same thing the year before and received exceeds expectations I knew I was both a victim of the elusive moving target of promotion and also “getting my due” from the coworker experience.
 
I made a commitment to get back to the science and stop doing the work that people were coming to me to do (lead projects). Well that next year was a hard one for funding. But those people with funding, didn’t stop in asking me to lead things for them and I got to do some really neat little projects and even mentor young staff in their learning to run a project! Then the next annual review came in and once again, I was barely meeting expectations, but was recognized as an “incredible project manager”. Right there and then I requested to be moved over to the other career ladder then upon noting that the elusive moving target to the next level had swung completely out of my reach. And with the usual quickness of government moves, I was transferred over about 6 months later.
 
I take issue with the S&E ladder and promotions here. For so many years I was “right there” for the promotion. But routinely criticized because I didn’t have my own area of research – I was not an expert at anything really, just did good research for a number of different clients based upon their needs. I had a good reputation for delivery. A Jane of all trades. Someone who could walk in and take whatever research (as long as it wasn’t bio) forward and provide results, present the results, build on the prior research, etc.
 
Now further down the road and I am seeing all these people with their niche areas of research and funding scrambling for work. What exactly are they  encouraging by forcing people to hone in on one area of research in order to get promoted? What happens when you have one client for your niche area and that client goes belly up? I have known too many people who were laid off this year when their clients quit providing and they couldn’t switch gears. I see it ongoing into FY13. That type of promotion? Not sure I want it.
 
I have been here 10 years and I have this place pretty well figured out. I have accepted that I will never promote to the next level, but am working my tail end off to promote within the project manager sphere.
 
But you know what? I could go anywhere and manage projects. I could go somewhere where the project manager actually has the authority they are supposed to in the project manager model and not in some obscure space where no real authority exists without one standing up in manager after manager’s office and pounding my fists that “something is wrong here”.
 
AB came home the other day with the mildly grim news that his contract with his current employer will end in Sept 2013. The big question of the day was would he wait till his end of contract to start looking (thereby securing his end of contract bonus) or start looking early. And when is early?We knew this job was not permanent from the start.
 
Then we started talking different options. Maybe not just the “next contractor in line” here locally. What if… since my job was no longer reliant on “being a scientist and having a lab”. What if we jumped ship?
 
Then AB went “home” to Alaska for a funeral. And the talk became more serious. There are numerous engineering firms in Alaska, I could “probably” secure a position as a project manager… and AB is very employable as an engineer. And the idea began to grow with us. Maybe we put off the backyard renovation in favor of saving money to move? How much would we need to move? Could we find an employer or two that would pay relocation? What about a headhunter?
 
And the idea of moving to Alaska grew with me. AB and I asked ourselves, what do we have here? The answer? Our friends. We have our friends. Sure we have a nice house in a good neighborhood and good schools. But the only thing not replaceable is our friends. But we would be moving somewhere with FAMILY. We haven’t really ever lived near grandparents – wouldn’t that be nice for our kids? Ok, so I have a flexible job with good benefits. But really, is that irreplaceable? I don’t know.
 
And so the idea took root.
 
And then AB got a phone call out of the blue the other day offering him the position of his dreams (for this location and what he has currently been doing) at “name your salary” and the expectation that he would be in that role for 2 years after which he would move up the management ranks and “into town” (eliminating his 1 hour each way commute). We hmm’d and ha’d it. We kicked it around for a few days until we finally agreed that he had to at least explore the option. AB sent in his resume with a salary request that made us both chuckle a bit. I mean, if they want him, maybe they would consider it? And if not, if they just laughed us away, where would we be? The same position we are now. Not a bad place.
 
And so now we wait.
 
And AB has a bit of a fear that they will actually accept it and his current company (a subsidiary of this parent company offering the job) will immediately know and may counter offer. Then what?
 
As I put it to AB – we make a decision.
 
So Alaska? On hold and potentially put off indefinitely.
 
That’s ok. I like my job. I have work this year (many people I know do not). I have interesting projects I am working on that are going somewhere and a relationship I am building with a potential new client.
 
But that itch to try it out somewhere else needs scratched. Wanderlust again.
 

Friday, September 21, 2012

What she gets from me

Recently I posted a picture of Skadi on Facebook. I don't even remember which one it was. But a number of my elementary school friends piped up raving about how much she looks like me at that age.

"Really?" was  my surprised response. She looks nothing like me I thought. Strawberry blonde hair is about it.

Still I thought more about this and even pulled out pictures to compare. No way.

Well maybe...

See when I see my daughter her personality shines through so strongly and brightly that her outward appearance falls to the background. When you ask me about my daughter I will answer, "boistrous, adventure loving, physical, she'll take you down when you aren't looking, outspoken, strongly opinionated, will run over the top of you, but will stop if you show signs of pain"... and I could go on and on.

Not my personality. I was always described as "shy, quiet, spoke only when spoken too, embarrassed easily, will cry if you look at her wrong..." You get the idea. A wall flower.

Skadi and I are 100% different... except for that rail thin little body and strawberry blonde hair. And she is lucky - she has these beautiful hazel eyes that get loads of compliments, lips that actually exist and her eyelashes aren't red, they are black.

But one area she did inherit from me is her eclectic music tastes. Her brother desires to only ever listen to one thing - Les Miserable. And sing along. He can recite nearly the entire musical and dreams of playing the role of Gavroche before he grows up. Skadi always one to out do her brother begs not to listen to Les Mis anymore but tells him, "I plan to play Cosette and she has a bigger role."

Anyways. Skadi, she has my musical tastes.

I admit it, the other day she told me one of her favorite songs was the one I play about "doing crafts".

Give up?



Yeah, not one of my finer parenting moments...

Also among her favorites are "I Want Candy" and "Follow Me".

When I was a kid my favorite song was "Cat Scratch Fever"...

The other day Skadi asked me to play "the bell song".

"The bell song?" I asked her.

"Yep, the one about the girl," Skadi replied.

"OH! The Belle song!" I said. No problem. I can do this. We recently went and saw Beauty and the Beast the musical, I will just download the album from iTunes!

So I did.

And then we painstakingly went through every single dang song on that album.

"NO MOM! The BELLE song, you know!" she kept saying. (Though she did latch on again to Gaston...)

I gave up. I surrendered.

Then one day when I was driving her into school I turned up a song that popped up on my existing playlist.


"YAY MOMMY! The BELLE song!" she exclaimed.

Yay me!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The cabin for the 4th

We made our annual trek to the cabin back over 4th of July. I can't believe that I never got photos posted from that. Well here goes!


Leif log jumping - he loves doing this.

Rick Clamming

Clams!

Oyster beds, seeded and natural.

Skadi found "Patrick Star"!

Leif found a starfish eating an oyster.

Hans getting geoducks.

Geoducks!

Two rock Crabs

Skadi on the logs.

Baby starfish.

Jellyfishing!

Kids with the cabins in the background.

Our harbor seal.

Seal and cabins.

Annual trip to see the dragon. (I need to compile all my dragon pictures).

A deer that Leif took a picture of.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Office Products Addictions?

My mom, when she was alive, coveted office products. She collected them. My stepfather will never ever ever have to buy any type of office product again.

"You know for as much as your mom cleared out everything else and avoided clutter," he said once, "what we all didn't realize was that her 'thing' was office products. She hoarded office products!"

The other day I took the kids to Michael's. I had a few small things I wanted to buy, but one of the main reasons was guilt. I felt guilty with respect to Skadi because AB and I get sucked into these games of Fortune Street with Leif and Skadi doesn't care to play Wii at all. So she plays by herself, or draws, or whatever. It isn't like she complains about it, but I felt the need to give her some kits and some other fun things to do for those one or two evenings when AB and I give in and play Wii with Leif.

We were wandering the aisles of Michaels when it struck Skadi.

There in the clearance bin was a PINK tape dispenser.

And the child went nuts. Yes NUTS!

"MOM!! I HAVE TO GET THIS! A PINK TAPE DISPENSER!" She squealed at the top of her little lungs. I was wondering what other shoppers thought about my daughter's freak out over this pink tape dispenser?

She grabbed it and held it fondly.

Then she HUGGED the tape dispenser. Seriously. She HUGGED it.

I immediately saw my mom's influence on my daughter. Is this office products addiction genetic?

I agreed that she could get the most fabulous pink tape dispenser that she was cradling in her arms.

We went home and I stuck it on the counter that bugs me in the kitchen. I have this "desk" in my kitchen that since the day we moved in has become a landing space for everything and serves no real actual purpose. When people state they want a desk in their kitchen, I cringe. I want the actual counter space as kitchen prep area instead.

Anyways, I put the tape dispenser on the counter. And yes, she has used it routinely.

The other day one of her friends came over for a playdate. The two giggly little girls were wandering around the house when they made their way through the kitchen.

"Oooooh!" Kait squealed, "I LOVE your tape dispenser!"

"Isn't it fabulous?" Skadi squealed back. (The girls are in the squealing phase.) She picked it up, "you can hold it if you want!"

Kait takes it and turns it over in her hands and declares it "cool". Then they put it down and wander off to go giggle and squeal about something else.

I think I am missing something here. But it may be the best $1.50 I have ever spent.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I never thought...

Back when I was in high school I knew I would go to college and expected I would live a decent life, similar to my mom's. I had hopes of being a physician, but not a whole lot of confidence that would happen. I didn't know what else was out there, but I never thought I would go further then getting a college degree.

When I was in college I knew I had to do something after graduation. I didn't just want to work away in a doctor's office for the rest of my life, no way. I had to do something, I needed to move on, but I honestly never thought I would actually graduate with an advanced degree!

I confessed to my husband a few years ago that when I started grad school my goal was to get out of town and try something new for a few years, I never thought I would actually finish! When I started, my goal was to write a paper. So that when I had a family one day, and grandchildren, that I could point to that paper that I wrote and my grandchildren would think me smart. And my name would live on long after I had passed. Somewhere buried in the journals of a library. My "publication list" pales in comparison to many of my friends and colleagues due to the nature of my work, but it goes beyond a single entry.

Once I made it through grad school my confidence increased dramatically. When I didn't get the same answer as the back of the book, I checked my work and went on, knowing that the answer in the back could very likely be wrong. And I was often right. I hope for a good and stable job, but I never thought I would be where I am now.

I started at the lab shortly after the group I was joining had won an R&D 100 award. I was proud to say I worked with that group. They were proud of their accomplishment. I occasionally met others who had won the award, but the Oscars of Innovation are few and far between. I never thought I would win one.

Then on Thursday, I found out we did!

(Link to the press release, official announcement coming next Wednesday.)




Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How I Do It - Food

Food is a challenge in my house. I have blogged about this before in passing and anecdotally. I was an incredibly picky child. I remain a somewhat picky adult. I try to hide it. It embarrasses me. But there are some foods I just simply cannot put into my mouth.

When I was younger I swore up and down that I would not battle my kids over food like my parents did with me. I spent many nights sitting in front of my dinner plate until late. I refused to do that with my kids.

Of course it would figure that my kids would inherit my pickiness. And I would marry someone who claims to be the anti-picky. (He claims this, but you can be in on my secret - he has his own food issues... )
So basically food is a big issue in our family, unfortunately.

So I could go into the picky issues... but I think I will skirt that for now and hit the basics.
Grocery Shopping:
I used to have time to do little grocery shopping trips over lunch when I worked in my office 40 hours a week. Now that I spend less time in my office a week I find it very hard to carve out time to run down the street to the grocery store. So my fixes have been:
  • Amazon.com - Subscribe and Save. There are certain dried goods that I can get there, for cheaper and if I "subscribe" I save an additional 15%. I can get one box of my cereal that I eat daily for $4.39 at the grocery store. Or I can get 6 boxes sent to me automatically (and I can cancel shipments) for $20.
  • Honey Do - I despise hauling my kids to the grocery store. If I do, I end up with more crap in my cart and spend significantly more. If I just need a few things I sync it to my husband's phone and he grabs the milk and eggs on his way home.
  • Farmer's Markets in the summer - the kids love it and here I will let them go nuts. Plus, it humors me to see my son talk kale with with one of the vendors.
  • Once a month trips - where I need to improve drastically is planning these. I need to use coupons. I need to have a list and stick to it and quit browsing.

Meal Planning:
  • We have a deep freeze and we do a lot of preparations of foods ahead of time. We make and freeze; chicken pot pies, spaghetti sauce, red chili, green chili, cod in Panko, and calamari in Panko.
  • I have a white board in my pantry - I keep a running list of dinner options because how many times have you asked your significant other what he wants for dinner and he responds, "I don't know, what are my options" or "I don't know, what do we have?" And you reply, "I don't know." And it becomes pizza night? (Not that there is anything wrong with that...)
  • On my white board list right now (in addition to the items in the freezer); Salmon, Tacos, Stroganov, Raviolis, Chicken Breasts, Halibut, Fish Tacos, Gnocchi, Shrimp, Frozen Pizza
  • I try to keep my fridge and pantry stocked so that I can make just about anything I happen upon a recipe for.
  • Pinterest. There, I brought it out. I have a Pinterest board for cooking and when I need a new idea I go there.
Actual Cooking:
I wish I did cooking, but it seems as though what I do is "meal prep". I try to plan meals ahead, but so often it is walk in the door and figure out dinner. I have a crock pot and I am ok at using it, but not great. I struggle with everything tasting the same or it being a novelty substitute for real actual good cooking.
  • Once a week Leif is responsible for planning and executing dinner (with me). I try to get him to do most of it. We have had some interesting foods - egg pie (a few times, he likes quiche), meatball sandwiches a few times, chicken nuggets (note that this is where I jump in - we make panko chicken breasts instead, if he is going to learn to cook then he is going to learn from raw ingredients - within reason for a work night), nachos (yes that counts), fish, macaroni and cheese homemade (flop) and hamburgers (his favorite).
  • For the most part I get the weeknight cooking duties and AB gets the weekend. He enjoys BBQ'ing and for the most part that is the only time we really do red meat - I don't cook red meat. It's not that I have an opposition or anything... nope, this is where my husband's pickiness comes in... he is VERY particular about how his food - particularly his meat - is cooked. 
  • Breakfast - whatever I make on the weekend we double or triple the batch and make and freeze enough for during the week. Pancakes? Freeze fabulously. Crepes, separate them with parchment paper and freeze for easy weekday breakfasts. Muffins too!
Content:
I like to think I am not over the top with food. But some people will read this and think I am a total slacker and criticize that my kids eat white sugar and flour. Others will read this and think I am a health nut.

Whatever.

My mother died of a rare digestive cancer. Some part of me has wondered how much of this has to do with what she ate on a regular basis. I don't think I will ever know what caused her cancer, but I can't help to think that my kids and I are at a greater risk for this or other digestive cancers. I am a huge advocate for "everything in moderation". But some moderations are smaller than others.

By my typing this I hope no one thinks I am being critical or self righteous. It isn't my intent.

Used very sparingly if at all:
  • Pop, Soda, Carbonated drinks - my son makes this easy, he won't drink carbonated drinks at all. AB and I gave them up years ago. Though we do indulge on a rare Jack and Coke or a Pepsi at a movie theater.
  • Partially hydrogenated anything - I am sure I miss it on occasion, but we avoid it.
  • Fast Food - (Pizza excluded) It is a treat to have when we are headed out of town.
  • Canned vegies - attempt to use fresh when at all possible with the exception of canned carrots (because for some freaky reason my daughter loves those things) and an occasional can of green beans to serve as a vegie for the kids when AB and I have fixed something we have no expectation of the kids eating.
  • Fruit Snacks - my kids used to be slaves for these. Then I made a rule that I wasn't buying them if the kids weren't shopping with me. And since I avoid taking them grocery shopping... well they have fallen out of favor.
  • Store bought cookies - face it, homemade taste better and they aren't THAT hard to make.
  • Cereal - believe it or not my kids are not cereal fans. Skadi will eat Frosted Mini Wheats (pink ones) without milk. Leif would rather have oatmeal. I eat Puffed Kashi. AB is the only one who seems to miss cereal. True confession - I buy a box of Lucky Charms to keep in the trailer during the summer as a treat when we are camping.
Used in moderation:
  • Red meat - my husband has a hard time with vegetarian, but he can be limited to no red meat except for 1-2 times a week.
  • White bread - I buy whole wheat for everything but hamburger buns and hot dogs. So far my kids have yet to notice a difference.
  • Pasta - I love it, the kids love it, but I try to limit it to 1-2 times a week. One night being spaghetti night, the other can be macaroni and cheese or white cheddar shells and cheese side dish.
Used a lot:
  • Fish - A lot. Really a lot. The kids love salmon, cod, halibut and trout. They also love calamari steaks, are learning to love scallops and shrimp.
  • Fresh vegies - I push and push them and amazingly they are starting to sink in with at least one child. Leif loves baked cauliflower, Skadi loves broccoli, Leif does kale chips, fresh peas and carrots. AB and I try to do salad most nights.
  • Chicken breasts - truth be told I could care less for chicken breasts. Ok, I might even go so far as to say I despise them. They have no flavor, little texture and just blah - I would prefer a thigh or drumstick anyday. But we buy the breasts bulk at Costco and use them. A lot. But the kids love chicken tikka masala, breaded chicken cutlets, Chicken Satay, etc. And they are easy. Way easy.
  • Rice - of all types. Even boxes of rice pilaf. The kids love it and I like it too.
  • Fruits for side dishes. My kids will do fruit salad. Skadi only likes apples, bananas and oranges for some reason - she is weird. Though she will eat most fruit dried. I haven't figured her out. On a day when her fruit and vegie intake has been light, we slice up and apple for her side dish.
So there you have it. How I do meals... How do you do it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How I Do It

Recently I posted complaining about blog posts that aim to tell us all as parents how wrong we are doing things. Helpful? Notsomuch.

I am going to try and go against the grain - post a series of blog posts about how I do things.

Perfect? Far from it. And recently I posted about not really reading blogs anymore and that was sort of true. I really do enjoy reading posts from other moms on how they make it through the day, their work, school, food, etc. There is even a local magazine that features a mom each month and I look forward to picking it up so that I can read the recurring article about "How She Does It". Sometimes I even know them. So I guess it is my turn. You might find a nugget, you might not. You might walk away thinking I so do NOT have it together - and you would be right. But at least it is honest.

So before I embark on this I thought I would give you a little background. Most of you who read my blog know me. You know that I work, you know I have two kids, you know I am not terribly worried about being private or hiding things. You know that you will walk into my house and what you see is what you get. I don't hide behind a facade of perfection.

But to put us all on the same page, here is where I am starting from:

Challenges:
  • My husband works four, 10 hour days, one hour from the house. That means he walks out of the house at 5:30am and returns right on the dot at 5:30pm. Friday is his day off.
  • Kids - two of them. Cuteness abounds, but don't let them fool you, they are rascals and seem to have inherited not only my hair color, but my klutziness.
  • Animals - two cats, two dogs. Because we are nuts. Enough said.
  • Food - my kids are picky as hell. One is starting to come around. The other takes stubborn to a new level.
  • Work - I work 40 hours a week. I am very, very lucky to have an employer who allows a flexible schedule whereby I can telecommute as needed. I have more guilt in my own head about this though. Somedays I feel like I am cheating, but then I sit down and count out the hours and realize that maybe I should have charged more than I do.
  • Travel - with my (flexible) work comes the requirement that I do occasionally have to travel. It is June and by the end of July I will have travelled 5 or 6 times this calendar year.
  • New job responsibilities - which means a new career ladder to negotiate. I am officially management now.
  • Job politics - you get it, I don't need to elaborate.
  • Lack of family nearby - luckily I have a few friends I can rely on, but living in a region without family support with two working parents can be incredibly difficult, which makes #5 above very handy.
  • Work-Life balance - I tend towards being a workaholic. I have trouble putting things down, picking up my keys and leaving for the day. I thrive on work success. Now to balance it and let things out of my tight fist...
  • High expectations - I have them. I hold myself up to high expectations, others for the most part not as high as I hold myself.
So there it is - where I am coming from.

I won't tackle each one of these necessarily. Some will be combined. But we will see where this goes...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A rite of girlhood - or so I thought

When I was 5 years old I begged and begged my mom to let me get my ears pierced. We talked about it pretty extensively - how they pierced ears (by sticking a needle through) and how it would take SIX whole weeks to heal and how during that time I would have to wear the boring "studs" and not take them out and clean them so so well. Oh and not until I was 12 would I get to wear earrings that "dangled".

One day my mom and my best friend's mom took us to Market Square in downtown Casper.

I don't remember who went first. But I remember the tears welling up in my eyes and I remember the pain. But I remember that I was NOT going to cry.

My best friend didn't have as good of luck - she got one ear pierced and sometime later her mom took her back down to get the other.

I took such good care of my newly pierced ears, cleaning them twice daily, rotating them so that they didn't get stuck and grow into my ears.

My dad wasn't a fan of pierced ears and from my mom's tales, her taking me to get my ears done did NOT go over well.

When staying at his house one summer when I was an early teenager, I pierced my own ears again. I experienced the silence when he discovered my pierced ear.

--------

I have been secretly buying little earrings - pink "gem" Disney studs, ladybug studs and I have my collection of earrings from when I was a kid set aside for my daughter.

At 5 years old, I kept expecting her to request pierced ears and looked forward to the happy day when I explained to her the process, how it hurts a bit, but doesn't later, how she has to clean her new holes well, rotate the studs and not wear dangly earrings.

A few months ago while watching me get ready, the topic came up.

"Wait mommy, you are putting your earrings THROUGH your ears!" she noted. "Why is that?"

"Well I have my ears pierced," I announced, "so I put earrings through my ears! See!" And I proudly showed her all my earrings and the holes in my ears.

She got this freaked out look on her face and quickly said, "I am NEVER doing that!"

"You don't want your ears pierced?" I asked her.

"Never, no way!" she answered without hesitation.

"Well maybe you will want them done later," I told her.

"Nope, never," she declared.

I dropped it confident that she would revisit the topic in a week or so after thinking about it and she would BEG me to take her and get them pierced.

Nope.

Every few weeks she sees someone her age with pierced ears and whinces just in looking at them.

And every couple weeks she begs me not to hurt myself by putting earrings IN my earlobes when in fact I can simply borrow stickers from her to put on them instead.

And I sigh and then reassure her that I am in no pain and that I actually like my earrings.

And she shrugs and declares once again - because I haven't heard enough - "no way am I EVER getting my ears pierced."

And she is stubborn enough... yeah I am no longer picking up cute little earrings to stash away for her.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Camping, and dams, and fish and swimming and even a rattlesnake!

On Friday we packed up the trailer and headed out north for the long weekend. Our destination was the Coulee region. It is an area that we have never been and so we aimed to explore.

We pulled in early evening to our campspot.

AB and I rolled our eyes a little. Yes, I told them the trailer was 26' long - actually I fibbed and said 30', because I wanted to make sure there was extra room. But we were alloted a narrow sliver for our trailer, a picnic table and a firepit. No more. And strict dog rules. Sigh.

I told AB we wouldn't be there much - we planned to be out exploring!

Our first evening there we got to know our neighbors across the way. The brought over shots of Jagermeister for AB and I - which I hadn't done since college. We talked trailers, we talked fish and when they were up yapping and partying till midnight, I can't say I was as irritated as if we hadn't gotten to know them a bit. Super nice people.

We got up Saturday morning and headed to the Grand Coulee Dam. AB and I were thrilled to finally see the monstrosity and the kids just were along for the ride. We arrived, joined a tour and I saw a different side of my kids, particularly Leif.

He was enthralled, in rapture, completely devoted to learning the details of the dam and doing math in his head to figure out the numbers that our (drama major failure - according to AB) tour guide was spewing. He took it all in. Eyes were wide.

By the end of the tour I am pretty sure Leif knew more about it then I did since I spent so much of the time amazed with his need for information.

We picnicked and then headed back to the campground intent on a few diversions on the way back. Dry Falls - where my miniature scholar read every single panel describing the lava flows, ice age floods and the animals that perished as a result (favorites being the wooley mammoth and the saber tooth cat skull at the visitor center).

We contemplated doing something else that late afternoon, but decided to have a leisurely afternoon back at the trailer, mostly thanks to the kid's request.

We got back and noted a bunch of "kids" (ok - probably 20-somethings) now in the other spots on the other side of us. I was sure they were up to no good - then I admired their very organized camping methods with Rubbermaid bins, I felt for the woman with the about 4 month old (I remember camping with Skadi at four months - that was my last time in a tent.)

Then our kids did something unlike them. They wandered off.

In little time Leif had joined a badmitton game with other 1st and 2nd graders. Skadi had found two girls and was requesting her swim suit and life jacket.

And AB and I were left sitting by ourselves.

Of course, I picked up my Kindle and went to the "swim beach" to sit and watch Skadi in the water. AB chatted with the neighbors, he wandered the campground and finally ended up at the swim beach with me.

Leif met another boy his age named Jonathen from Seattle and they became inseperable. The boys came to the trailer with Leif requesting his fishing pole and the two spent hours over the weekend standing on the docks fishing together, helping each other get knots out, casting to the exact preferred spots and discussing the merits of each of their techniques.

I don't know what happened this week, but my view of my son? Completely changed. He is a kid who can pick up his fishing pole, wander off, check in when he is supposed to and be his own kid. He is... ummm... Independent?

(Nope, he never caught anything, the lake we were camped on was not stocked that spring due to budget cuts.)

So I mentioned rattlesnake in the title, didn't I?

Despite AB's and my desire to get away from the clogged in, packed in like sardines campground we were at, we didn't get out much. The kids had made friends and were seeking to maximize that time with their new buddies.

We did make it out to fish a stocked lake and catch and cook one trout - which Leif declared as the best tasting fish EVER. Then on Monday, we got up and started packing up while the kids (looking like complete ragamuffins) ran off to be with their friends.

Once we had everything packed up and had decided on the Gingko Petrified Forest for a drive home attraction, we begged the kids to return to us.

Leif returned with tears about departing from his new friend Jonathen. I scribbled a note out and sent Leif back with it detailing our e-mail address and he returned with a similar note in response. And no more tears.

We got in the car, noisy neighbors helped guide us out - because men and trailers... well suffice to say I could sit comfortably in the car while Hans was effectively steered out by loads of testosterone.

Oh, I didn't say, but the young kids I expected to party all night? Yeah, no, I was wrong. Way wrong. In bed early and then distributed their load of split firewood to any and all who were staying beyond Monday. Yes, my lesson learned - looks can be deceiving.

We drove finally to the Petrified Forest. For years I had been wanting to go there. Yes, I am an amateur rock hound and love anything of ancient times.

We walked along with the dogs looking down into rock cairns with steel grates covering the petrified woods. I longed for my chunk of petrified wood lost when I was 13 due to a rock collection mishap (ok, the rock collection fell out of my closet and onto the head of the woman who was helping my mom pack the house up - and my mom tossed the collection in its entirety. I still haven't recovered.)

We had been talking about snakes all along because Freya was obsessed with them and while fishing the day before had cornered a number of bull snakes and according to the kids was bitten once.

Leif and Winny were leading the way.

Bad idea.

They passed a rock cairn and I was directly behind on the very narrow path. I stopped dead when I heard the rattle. Leif stopped as did Winny. I couldn't see where Leif was and I yelled at him to walk forward, quickly. He did, exactly as ordered, looking back and saying, "mom, it's a rattlesnake, a big one, right there."

I edged forward and peeked over the cairn and saw it. I put it at 3' long with a solid 1.75" diameter. One foot - at most from the trail.

AB and I calmly and rationally thought about this.

Ok, I can't lie. I freaked.

I grew up in rattlesnake country and remember when my dad would bring home rattles from working in the mines. Or being out camping and finding a rattlesnake and someone dropping a rock on its head. It wasn't uncommon.

But my son! My son was within a foot of at least the tail!

Another couple came along and confirmed for my husband that I was not just a completely crazed lunatic. Confirmed that yes, the snake was there, though now, coiled up and about 3' off the narrow trail.

They helped us forge a trail down and around the snake, giving it a wide berth and joining our son on the other side.

"You know it's tail Leif?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"How many buttons did it have?" I asked.

"12-15," he said.

He vividly described the diamondback pattern, said his heart was pounding and talked about little else the whole way home.

And that... is the rattlesnake story.




The fire siren

I used to be all about reading the mom blogs. Many rang true. Many sounded the same. Many were just whining. Many were smart.

Maybe it is just because I am crazy busy anymore (I can't even keep my own blog up), but I haven't "followed" the blogs in a while because so many seem to have gone off the deep end or become too commercial. And maybe after reading this post, you will think that of mine.

Despite the fact that I haven’t stayed current with the mom blogs, every once in a while a Facebook friend will post a link and I will click and read. But what drives me up the wall lately about so many of the blogs that get posted are the black and white nature of them. No shades of grey. And frankly they can be a bit vicious sounding.
Because us parents need one more thing to worry about. Yes, I need one more person out there writing some pedantic article about how I am DESTROYING my children! Just pile on the guilt. Is this what we as parents should be doing to each other?
My mental list (ok, actually it came from my phone, where I have been making a list preparing for this post for a few months… but more on that later.)
#1
A few months ago there was a post about how boys are “objectifying girls” by teasing them. Oh my goodness, if you are the parent of a boy, you need to take control of this! Your son is objectifying my daughter.
Umm, how about that little boys don’t know any other way in the world to interact with a little girl? Despite us as parents imparting our decades of wisdom… How about that this centuries old behavior (yes, I know old behavior doesn’t make it right) may imply that this is human nature? My dad spent his kindergarten year teasing and pulling a little girl’s braids. That little girl became my mom.
And girls? They feed it right back. You think your daughter is innocent? HA! I have heard the same crying from my son – “Sarah” is teasing me and bugging me and she won’t leave me alone at recess. And gasp – I have uttered the same words back at him, “probably because she likes you!” Because really, will a little girl (or boy) waste their time on someone they don’t like? Not usually. I know, I was once a little girl (my kids find that hard to believe). And the light bulb went on with my son.
#2
Or what about the post that said we should not tell our daughters they are beautiful? No, because we need to value them as intelligent beings!
Come on, this isn’t 1940. We have come a long way. Sure, we still have a long way to come. But I tell my daughter she is beautiful every single day or her life and most of the time, multiple times a day. And if she hasn’t heard it enough? She asks me, “mommy, will you tell me I am beautiful?” And then mommy guilt swoops in because I was remiss.
And maybe I am oversensitive to this because growing up I don’t remember being told I was beautiful. I am sure I probably was, but it isn't standing out. I do remember one time I was upset because all the boys said one girl in the class was cute and no one said I was cute. My dad, well intentioned, replied to me, "You aren't cute, your beautiful." Of course at age 8, all I really heard was "you aren't cute"... and my feelings were further hurt by my dad's good intentions.

After that I strived and strived to be cute/pretty/beautiful all the while hearing what a gorgeous little girl my sister was and how smart I was. I freaking knew I was smart. Nobody had to tell me THAT!

What needed to be reinforced within me was that I was beautiful.
#3
Next on this list? This one popped up a few weeks ago - how we are all ruining our children’s lives because of our smart phone addictions. Before you assume that I am sitting there playing games on my phone instead of giving my kids attention consider this…
  • My phone enables me to work from home 2 hours a day. I pick up my daughter from preschool at 3pm, meet my son's bus at 3:35pm and they are home with me. And my phone. I take work calls while at home, at gymnastics lessons and while sitting at the park. I return quick e-mails during these times as well. Am I 100% there with my kids? Nope, but I am most of the way there and they aren't sitting in an after school program. (Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that, if I didn't have incredible flexibility with my work, my kids would be there too.) My kids are NOT suffering because I am not staring at their adorable little cherubic faces 100% of the time. My kids instead see that I am needed and relied on by others in my daily work, and that people come to me because I am a resource to my coworkers. And dang it, they are proud of me!
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  • I fix dinner. My kids are running around doing kid stuff during this time. I have my phone in one hand. It buzzes. It may be a work e-mail coming through... or it could be that my seven year old darted in and played his move on Chess.com. I pause. Slide my phone on, evaluate my move options (probably not enough since my son has recently taken to stomping me at chess), make my move and hit submit. And my son? Loves it. So maybe an alternative would be to have a chess board out on a table… and for some that works. But when you have a little sister, two cats and a dog? Let’s just say that online chess games that may take 3-4 days to finish fit our lives better.
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  • As a mom that works from home a portion of my week and from my description above, you can guess that I work to get my 40 hours a week in sometimes. So I wake up, first thing I do is grab my phone and start responding to my east coast clients. My clients? They love it. They don't have to wait until nearly noon their time to get a response from me. So yes, my phone IS in my hand first thing in the morning.
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  • Not to mention, have you checked out everything you can do on these aps lately? I can file my flexible reimbursement, check the bank account and transfer funds between accounts, check my travel schedules, figure out what the weather is supposed to be like at 5:30pm for t-ball, make a grocery list and sync it to my husband's phone (even adding last minute items) for him to grab on the way home, make a playlist JUST for my daughter for our morning commutes, track my period, send a quick message to a friend I have who battles depression knowing it might make him feel a bit better to get a nice "thinking about you" message (where I would never have time to write out a card and send it and even phone calls are hard), dictate verbally a message to my sister in law to see if she can watch the cats this weekend, get a note from my coworker telling me he is running late for our meeting (like usual), hear about my neice's new bike, read a few pages my Kindle book, put a Dora video on for my daughter while we wait at the doctor's office, make a list of things we need to pack for the upcoming vacation, comparison shop on Amazon, and check my personal e-mail at work so that I don't have to use my work computer to do this.
My phone = a sliver of organization in my life.

#4

One of my best friends recently posted on Facebook a link about how kids need to be isolated from from the social media that seeks to destroy them. Yes, you get it, I am paraphrasing. But as I read the post, it seemed aimed at making us parents who are proud of our kids, paranoid. We are DESTROYING them!

We approach the internet with an open mind in our house.  We believe that our kids need to be taught about it. Parents need to be careful and mindful. But the reality of life is that we are entering an era where I believe (and I may be proven wrong) kids who don’t understand how to use the internet, social media and other emerging technologies will be at a distinct disadvantage. The ability to quickly pick up technology is an advantage to adults in the workplace, why are we viewing this as a detriment in our children?

I remember when I was a kid and my mom would send our annual school picture by snail mail to our distant family that I never knew, never met and wouldn't know if I walked down the street next to them. It was a struggle for her as a busy mom, just to get these out. I wish I would have known those people. I wish that I had the opportunity to know those kids in my extended family whose families don’t use the internet (I will call out my cousin here who has a 3 year old and an infant... heed my beggings to join Facebook and update me on my adorable second cousins!).

The internet and social network has offered us the possibility of connecting and letting our children who are so often forced to grow up so far away from family and other people that care about them to be part of their lives. I wasn’t blessed with loads of family nearby for a good portion of my preteen and teen years and my children have it even worse – their extended family isn’t even within driving distance. But my kids know that I can snap a photo on my phone and it can be out there to be shared with the people we love and care for within minutes. Sure, I could send it by e-mail and I do for some people. But it is easier to post it to Facebook where grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins can see at their convenience.

But what about the strangers? What about the ever changing privacy laws? Is private, really private?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't have anyone on my Friends list that I don't know well enough to sit down and reminisce over a cup of coffee. I am friends with a few high school girlfriends' husbands who I haven't "really" met, but I trust my girls! I just don't believe that the general public is that bad. I also do NOT cross certain lines and at any point if my kids requested not to post anything, I would honor it. But as it stands now I get more requests from my son to post certain sayings, jokes and pictures on the internet than I am willing to do...

One of our goals for the summer? When he was 1 year old I registered his name as a domain. Our goal is to get that up and running as a website.

I, in no way believe that my kids will look back and struggle with the fact that I was so proud of their beaming faces that I shared it with my friends. I have connected with a lot of friends from high school with kids the similar ages and it is so fun to see their kids grow and the faces I knew decades ago reappear in their offspring. I hope that my kids will have distant contacts with their extended family who will share memories with them when I am someday gone.

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So there it is, my four pet peeve hot internet topics from the past few months.
At work I recently took a class aimed to help us all in communications, particularly difficult conversations, the ones where you have to confront someone. First rule is to not assume. All of the above posts that boiled my blood – that aimed to make me feel guilty for my parenting – have one thing in common. They assume. Sure we all know that if you assume you make an ass of you and me. Still we do it. Give a person the benefit of the doubt. The example from class - that person speeding down the road? Yes, they shouldn’t be doing it, but maybe they are on their way to their child at the hospital. Apply this in your writing. Apply this in your daily life. Have confidence that what you write is of quality enough that you don't need to blow the fire siren to get someone's attention.
Don’t assume that you are the only one who has thought about consequences. Remember we are all doing our best. Remember that we will all make mistakes. Remember that kids are resilient. We aren't ruining them, we aren't destroying them, we are all doing our best.