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:
  • - 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!
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.


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:

  • 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.


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.