Saturday, December 20, 2014

The most dreaded day of the year

No, not the holidays. I am right up there with Buddy the Elf – spreading good cheer and joy this time of year. My most dreaded day of the year has, over the last decade or so, been my SDR (staff development review) that conveniently occurs every late fall. Even when I was promoted a few years ago, I walked into my SDR with dread. It is hard to explain how even in that one year where I jumped a level, that I still had a lingering amount of dread and frustration when leaving the meeting. And it was warranted. I had no idea I was actually being promoted because my written performance review (provided to me 24 hrs in advance) gave me nothing but dread and 24 hrs of mental preparation for going in and ripping someone. Because, you know, I am so prone to ripping people a new one. (Not.)
This year I had a lot of anxiety building up to the day of my review. I switched groups almost exactly a year ago after my SDR ( and had no idea how this year was being perceived by management . I thought that things have gone swimmingly the last year. My work load has increased substantially, my acceptance by others has skyrocketed (from my perspective at least), and my happiness. I have been the happiest I have been in my job this past year, maybe ever. I feel as though I am a valued part of a strong team and not the lone wolf looking for scraps. I have received praise and recognition from my coworkers.
But all that can go out the window in a heartbeat when you read that sheet of paper telling you your manager’s interpretation of your year. I know that far too well.
Last year I sat stonefaced, accused my managers of bringing up legacy crap and asked for an example of how, in the prior year, the issues they cited were still an issue. They flailed a little and landed on that I was trying to usurp the leadership of the current PI of this one project in my role as PM. Neat. Except that I was not the PM of that project and I was instead the Co-PI. Try again. Because if they were at all engaged with my work or even just read my input for the year, they would have known this. Instead I just shook my head and the meeting ended with an agreement that I should probably leave the group and head over to the one where I had been doing most of my work and that they would be very supportive of this.
I did it. It was hard to leap out of my nice cozy (most of the time) shell with a large-ish office overlooking the river over to a small-lish office with a door that opens to a window. But I did it and this SDR was to be my mental calibration. Was the entire year a big delusion of my self-worth at work? Was it time to jump ship and think about that move to Alaska that AB and I keep dreaming about?
Ah well. Sorry to AB, this year was not to be the year that I came home and started packing it in and sending off resumes.
I am at a happy level right now at work. I told my team lead a year ago I wasn’t looking for a promotion, I have enough stuff on my plate with work and in my home life that I just can’t see pushing it this year (or next for that matter). I will push to excel at the tasks I have and will examine opportunities as they come up, as I have every year. But as far as examining the criteria for advancement and striving to hit all those buttons. Not in the cards. 
But it is amazing how a well written, well thought out review of one’s performance can make you walk on clouds for days after. He noted actual metrics. I was told how happy they were to have me in the group. My review stated that I had made a difference to these people. That I was a valued part of the group and the management of the group.

I have friends who are or have been group managers and have heard horror stories of how much time writing SDRs takes and how they rip themselves to pieces internally over what is to be delivered - often only to be yelled at (I never yelled. I countered points diplomatically with my lips pursed.). I know it is no walk in the park this time of year for them either. (And this is part of the reason when I was approached about a TGM position for another group this year, I ran the other way.) But for those managers who take the time to be thoughtful and not start the majority of sentences with "You need to...". Yay you. You rock. It matters.  
I didn’t score the highest tier. But it didn’t matter to me what that rating on the last page was because there was genuine gratitude and appreciation for my work.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Moving on, nothing to see here...

I did a pretty half ass job at my Decluttering November goals. It just became a November that wouldn’t let up. I ended up home a few days with a sick kid, but even then, just couldn’t get it all done. I think my list was ambitious:
  • Master Closet (didn’t organize)
  • My clothes – purge (DONE – and ongoing, I threw another sweater in the Goodwill stack this morning)
  • Skadi’s bedroom, closet and bathroom (ignored completely)
  • My bathroom and the boys’ bathroom (didn’t really tackle with veracity, more like picked at it
  • Purge Silas’ clothes (DONE)
  • Get rid of the stuff I have purged (FAIL, nothing has sold that I listed, so it needs to go to Goodwill or get given away. But it is ready to get out of the house – if Odin would
  • Bonus – Leif’s bedroom. Because Grandpa came and stayed in Leif’s room, his room did get a good once over. But not the closet.
So for December I am going to continue on the organize path and hit the below items I failed at in November.
  • Get rid of the purged stuff.
  • Master Closet
  • Leif’s closet (it isn’t abysmal yet, so if we get on top of it now, it won’t be a huge job.
  • Skadi’s bedroom, closet and bathroom (Gag.)
Then the last one is the trailer. It isn’t something that I really WANT to do, but on our Thanksgiving tree cutting two night trip I made a huge restock list, I found loads of stuff that just needs to come inside or be thrown away. And there are some modifications I want – I want shelves in my “closet”. Stupidest thing ever, a closet that is useless (typical RV closet...) and I don’t need things hung up on that stupid hard to use rack. I want shelves in there. Of course I will need AB for that. I would love shelves in the cupboard where I keep plates and bowls and cups. And the trailer needs a good cleaning. Especially if we plan to be in it for nearly a week in December.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

In the genes?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my mom. She passed away 4.5 years ago after battling a rare form of cancer. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her - but some days - like lately - more often than not the thoughts of her go by. I have been examining this in my head as I am routinely transported back to when I was about 8 years old in my recent thoughts of her.

8 years old. I turned 8 on January 8th in 1980. Eight was a pivotal time for me. I recall turning 8 and having a sudden increase in awareness of situations around me. Of relationships. And that they weren't always equal. Some were great and some were bad. I had a very good childhood, but my relationship with my mom from childhood until I graduated from college I would only classify as mediocre and was often difficult and painful. It was very good in the later half of my life, but that was due to work on both our parts.

For the most part since AB and I have had children we haven't worried a whole lot about screwing our kids up irreparably. Mistakes have been made, but for the most part I think we are in check. We have a laid back philosophy and it has worked for us.

Skadi is 7 going on 8 and this strikes fear in my heart as I recall 8 as being that time when I realized that my relationship with my mom was different then my sister's. My mom and sister had that special bond and I coveted it. I also remember seeing the disdain between my mom and my grandma.

I had a great relationship with my grandmother - and she lived a mile or so from us. She was heavily involved in our lives and my parents relied on my grandparents significantly as they were very young. I spent A LOT of time at my grandmother's as a kid. My mother had a great relationship with her grandmother. But I recall hearing about the generations of "mother daughter issues" going back to my great grandmother and my grandmother (and probably before that) in my family. And it wasn't just perceived, there were real issues between my mom and my grandmother and then myself and my mom. I almost felt as though it was just expected that there would be problems.

I have made a conscious decision recently that it's going to stop with me. This is why I keep mentally going back to me when I was 8. What went wrong? What can I change about the inherent way that I interact with my kids, specifically, my daughter?

My daughter has never heard about the hard relationship my mom that I had when I was a kid. How my grandmother was my savior (and how my mom's grandmother was her savior). How I used to see the eyerolls between my mom and her mom. And how my mom never recovered from her lack of relationship with her mom. My daughter will never hear these stories until she is an adult and capable of understanding that there is no need to live up to them. My daughter won't witness the difficulties - but that is not by my choice. Of course if I had my choice, my mom would be here and we would talk about and work through the issues together and my daughter would have that fabulous relationship with her grandmother as I had with mine and my mom had with hers. I suppose then, the fact that my mom is not here, I am sort of copping out by skipping in talking about it?  And will this harm my daughter in the long run not hearing about the difficulties? And then what if I fail and she, unlike me, never had access to the information to work through in her own head?

When I was in my early 20's my mother stepped out on the limb and apologized to me. Admitted that I was actually a pretty good kid, but that she couldn't (for some reason I never knew) see that. I knew she couldn't. Despite the fact that I got good grades, was quiet and didn't cause a lot of problems, I didn't tend to do a lot right in her view. I wasn't a great athlete, like she wanted. I didn't choose the activities she liked. I didn't have the right friends. But my mom apologized when I was in my early 20's and that saved us and made us friends from then on. We didn't often act in a mother-daughter manner, more as friends. It worked better that way.

I am combatting the inner demons that say I can't avoid a difficult mother daughter relationship. That it is in my blood. That it is every generation. We share the middle name and with that name brings a difficult mother-daughter relationship. But it is a battle I am willing to take with confidence that I will win.

My prescription:

Every single day I hug my kids. And for a long time I hold them to me. They know that they can just be held. Not the quick, polite hugs. We do long hugs. My family wasn't a family of huggers - this is something I learned when I dated a guy in college who had a big Italian family. They all hugged and it was just a given that you were hugged and held close by people that you didn't necessarily even know.

I tell my daughter she is beautiful. I hear a lot of messages about not commenting on a girl's appearance. I grew up with that. I wasn't told I was beautiful (or pretty, or cute). (My sister was the pretty one!) I was told I was smart. I freaking knew I was smart, I wanted to be beautiful. Everyday, every single day my daughter hears that she is smart and beautiful and fun to be around.

One on one mother daughter time. Or mother son time. I think it is important - particularly with three children, that each kid has that one on one time with us. Skadi and I have our things. Pedicures on occasion. A trip to Target or to the grocery store. I can count on that girl to shop with me. Leif and I do sushi lunches and piano lessons. So far, Silas and I do sick days. One day we will have our things.

In March we are planning our first mother daughter trip. I have an opportunity to go to a conference in Denver, where coincidentally, much of my family lives and can pick up the entertaining my daughter when I need to be in the conference.

And no, I don't think this is going to solve everything, but it's where I am starting with my 8 year old.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


It's my most favorite time of the year. Living here has taught me to enjoy spring and summer. But I still get that special happiness that fills me when the weather starts cooling off, my favorite clothes are appropriate again and I look forward to the holidays.

Halloween has passed now, Thanksgiving - my favorite - is just around the corner and then my other favorite - Christmas.

It's also that time of year when the kids start having loads of days off again. We have conference week coming up, which means we have 6 days of half days. Then the week after that is Thanksgiving. And my tradition is that I take the whole week off and staycation it. The kids actually have school most of Thanksgiving week, but I will keep Silas home and we will have some special time.

I was called for Federal jury duty for Thanksgiving week (and the week after). But I think I will defer out of fear that I would end up sequestered over my favorite holiday. Which would just suck.

Goals. I had initially thought about painting our bedroom during November. But I haven't decided on the color and the desire just isn't there. So instead I am going to work a few decluttering things.

Our closet is hideous. You know one thing falls on the floor and doesn't get picked up - then another item does. And then before you know it you can't even get in the closet. Ok, maybe it isn't that bad... But it is nearing that.

And the other issue in my closet is that there is a load of clothes I don't or can't wear. I need to purge. And AB needs to purge too.

Skadi's bedroom, closet and bathroom. I don't even want to linger on this topic because it kind of makes me gag.

Oh and my bathroom and the boys' bathroom. Just general pick up and declutter.

Silas's room. I just need to purge all those 12-18 month clothes. Tired of pulling out clothes that doesn't fit him - or coming home on Friday and wondering how AB possibly squeezed him into those clothes.

The last thing is the stacks of everything I have been decluttering over the last few months. They need to go to Goodwill, get listed on Craigslist, be passed on as hand me downs, etc. Just general dispositioning is needed. I have stacks of stuff that I have pulled out of the depths that just needs togo go somewhere. Anywhere.

So there it is - November. The month when I have a little more time to go run around - will be the month of finishing up the clutter issues.

And maybe December will be the month of painting.

Monday, October 13, 2014

There is a kitchen in here!

It seems to take about a year and a half after each kid was born to re-emerge. I recall it distinctly with Skadi. Like an awakening where I had to drop those extra 10 lbs that didn't fall off naturally after childbirth. And my house was no longer good enough. It was like the fog of "the baby" lifts. I suspect it is all hormone induced. I was lucky to never suffer post-partum depression - I know people who have - but I think for me it was a post-partum fog.

The fog lifted last month and I have gotten down to business. My wonderful Master bedroom emerged last month and this month I found that I do have a kitchen. In fact, I have a great kitchen!

The goal for the month of October was to deep clean, organize my kitchen. It needed it bad. Two weekends in now and I would put it at 75% complete. I have emptied out the cabinets and moved stuff! I am not a rearranger at all - once a piece of furniture is in place I will nearly never move it. Well only on a rare occasion to clean under it (dare I admit). My mom was a rearranger and to be honest, it drove me nuts growing up.

But I went against my gut, listened to my husband's very rational complaints about the cookbooks located in the far back of the pantry, and I moved them! And I love them now! So rearranging isn't awful!

Most of the rest of the kitchen was just emptied out (4 huge garbage bags just this weekend!) and cleaned and put back. Phew! My pantry is lovely, the cookbook shelf is fabulous. The cleaned off and actually purposed as a desk in the kitchen, is lovely too. The rolling cart of crap has been cleaned off, but purpose yet to be determined. The lazy Susan still needs to be tackled as does the very tip top shelf of my glass cabinet that holds stemware we never use (it has been there since we moved into the house - apparently I don't feel the need to put my martinis in a martini glass).

We are hosting a Halloween party in two weeks and panic set in this weekend. Two weeks to get ready! It is always a huge undertaking that is fun and always appreciated by our friends after the fact. But two weeks is NOT enough time! AB suggested that we quit the deep organizing stuff (as beneficial as it is) and start putting lipstick on the pig in the name of the party.

So yeah. Time to lipstick that pig.

Then the last weekend of the month will be spent recovering our kitchen from the madness and finalizing those last couple kitchen things.

And then there is November. I have two thoughts. Back to the Master Bedroom for Thanksgiving week painting and Master bath pick up (easy) and Master closet purge (ugh). OR - I finish Skadi's quilt. I need to finish her quilt.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The fuzzy line - social engineering

When I was a kid, our neighbor on one side was a grandmother whose granddaughter would visit every summer for a few weeks. I loved when Dani would come to town. We had a special kinship. As I got a bit older, my school friends would come over and we would have a group play. But my mom saw that friendship with Dani waning as the other girls would talk about school happenings, other friends, things that Dani didn't know about. So not all the time, but occasionally, and more towards the end of Dani's stay at her grandmother's each year, my mom would tell my other friends that they couldn't play with us. At first I told my mom it was rude. She told me that they were being rude persisting in talking about things that Dani didn't know about. It took me awhile to get that.

But gasp - she would turn them away! It was about intent though, she wasn't trying to exclude the other girls, she was trying to protect and foster inclusiveness with Dani. But I can see how a mom on the sidelines would have seen this as my mom trying to social engineer my friendships or not be inclusive to their girls.

This morning I read a nice blog post about the social engineering of girl's friendships at that vulnerable time in their lives (mostly tween). The author gave pretty extreme examples - or maybe it is just because my daughter isn't to that point yet that made them seem extreme! (Like a mom sneaking onto a bus and securing seats so one posse of girls could sit together and telling other girls they couldn't sit with them.)

I thought the author made a number of excellent points, but I did quibble a bit when reading. In order to combat the social engineering and to foster an everyone is welcome concept, the author decided to start having large parties, where everyone is invited. Wonderful! Super! I got an inkling that she was aiming at "can't always do that all the time", but she didn't really say it. My impression was that it would go too far against her main point.

I would love to invite everyone over all the time. But it is not feasible for my house, my family, nor my wallet. There are times I want to have one family over. Or two families over. Or 5. I have made the decisions to limit the number of people invited over for any occasion based upon what I can mentally handle as an introvert, or who we may have things we want to chat about with, or it's our turn to host, or the food I have for dinner will only feed one (or two) more families.

We are planning our annual Halloween party and we are being forced to make cuts. I just don't have the space or the ability to be a good host with an unlimited invite list. And in order to have organized kids games, I can't include everyone my kids want to invite. It sucks. But I have to say, "I am sorry we can't invite her". I wish I had another option, but I am not renting a warehouse.

I wish I was in the mood to open my house all the time. But I am not. And I don't expect my kids to be either. The line has to be drawn and people, including other kids, will at times feel excluded and I am sorry for that. But it is life. My kids have felt excluded at times as well - we have a variety of friends and they by all means should get together without us. It used to bother my kids to hear about it - which they did because kids talk, but we taught them over the years that they don't need to be involved in everything. Just because you weren't included doesn't mean they don't like you, it means there are limits in life, which frankly, is reality. And at their ages, it doesn't seem to bother them so much anymore.

So anyways. I don't think the author's point was that we should include everyone all the time. But I think it bears mentioning that we also shouldn't feel bad about extending invitations to what is only within our reach for whatever reason. I was one of the kids on the outside, I know how it feels, it isn't my intention to do that to another child. I think it is important to distinguish our intents. Are we being hurtful in excluding, if so, we must step back.

So flipping the coin - we have a neighbor two doors up with a daughter Skadi's age. They were in kindergarten together. We speak to them on occasion when out and about, they have set foot in our house. But the girls can't play.

We have new neighbors on one side with a second grade daughter and she and her kindergarten cousin come over regularly and play. On the other side are grandparents with a kindergarten grandson and second grade granddaughter who are also over regularly. Add in another kindergartener two doors down. It is a great afternoon when there are seven kids out running between the four houses. My extrovert daughter thrives.

But down one more house is that family with a 2nd grader who isn't allowed to play. I feel bad for her. She has to see the six kids out running amuck and laughing and squealing. But her mom won't let her out the door to play.

Despite this, I did keep sending my daughter up, "why don't you see if Sarah wants to join in too?" And Skadi goes and knocks on the door and returns solo. I used to send her up once a week. It is more like once a month now.

But recently my daughter came back and said, "Sarah's mom is mean."

I am thinking she is a bit odd (aren't we all) and overprotective and might have some mental issues, but I ask why she is mean?

"Well she just opens the door and yells 'NO!' at me before I can even ask if Sarah can play with us," Skadi tells me.

That pisses me off. Don't yell at my child for trying to be inclusive of all the second grade girls on our street!

So we have quit asking Sarah to play as of this week because I will not force my daughter to interact with an adult who doesn't respect her enough to even be kind. And heaven help me if I ever hear that Sarah "isn't included".

Friday, September 26, 2014

A post about dogs

About 15 months ago we lost our first dog. The dog we bought when AB and I were serious. Together, planning a wedding and ready to take that first step bonding. Not ready for kids, ready for a dog. And we got a fabulous one. We lucked into our Winny when we ran across a batch of puppies called Belgian Shepherds. We were looking for German Shepherds, mostly. We ran home, looked up on the internet what a Belgian Shepherd was, it looked good. So we ran back, paid our $60 for a little black puppy who stole AB's sunglasses and took her home.

Aeowyn turned me into a dog lover. And she was an amazing dog.
Years went by - about 9 or so - and she started to show her age. Hips hurt, she slept a lot. So I decided she needed a sibling and I found one! A rescue. Also supposed to be a Belgian Shepherd - and she may have been 50% Belgian. But more Border Collie looking and acting. Freya. Freya wormed her way into our hearts and became a good dog too - after a little while. A little hyper and crazy, but wow, she loved us. And we loved her. Skadi especially. 

Then a few months ago in May we lost her suddenly to a surprise case of hemolytic anemia. We tried to save her, but it didn't take. For 4 months we were without a dog. We knew we couldn't get a puppy before going to Alaska for two weeks. And we had actually found an adorable little fawn colored Belgian Tervuren (which is later what we found out Winny was). But we couldn't commit and she ended up finding another home. 

We started looking for dogs and were stunned at how difficult it was. Granted we had a very narrow set of specifications - but we suffered a number of disappointments on our path. I could go on and on about the path we were on that was incredibly annoying. But that isn't what this post is about.

AB and I one night decided to give up the search for a dog. It wasn't meant to be. The right dog will find us. We were tired of people who were asinine about their so called "rescue organizations" and the need to conform to someone else's belief on what a good dog family looked like. (That would be, one without children, mostly.) Oh yes, I wasn't going there, steering back...

We had given it up. AB really wanted a puppy. I didn't. And I was the one who was going to be stuck with the large portion of dog care (or so I believed and still believe). A toddler and a puppy sounded utterly miserable.

Then I saw him and fell in love immediately.

And AB warned me - no way is it going to happen! So I put an application in since it was just another opportunity for someone to reject us.

A blonde German Shepherd. Friendly with young children, cats, house trained, learning to walk on a leash, kennel trained, a true rescue as he was believed to be abandoned and hit by a car, but better now. He was perfect.

And so he visited and he seemed alright. A bit attached to the Foster, but whatever. I saw it. I saw Winny in his eyes. We needed him.

And so the next day she brought him and dropped him off. For good. And with some Xanax.

And that first night AB and I sat there going WTF. "Trooper" was hyped up - the kids were afraid of him. The cat thought the devil himself had arrived. The dog stood on the top my freaking computer desk. I thought he was going to sail out the big picture window actually. He cried. He barked. And his foster didn't answer her e-mails. We presumed because it was the first time she had any sleep in weeks. I cried. What have I done to our family? AB said that tomorrow we would see how it went and evaluate it then all calm-like. I promised to never ever find another rescue dog ever. Ever.

The next morning wasn't much better. I packed my work stuff up, dried my red eyes and went into work. And left the spaz dog with my husband. I whined to a few colleagues and they all encouraged me to give it a little while - it's only been a day!

AB and I talked on the phone, he took the dog to a vet and got Prozac and a sedative. A local shepherd expert met him at the vet and offered her assistance and repeatedly urged him not to give up. We may be this dog's last chance. AB told her we didn't want him to get all attached to us only to pass him off to someone else. She didn't care about that - presumably because there wouldn't be another family on his list. It was about then that we found out he had gone to a foster who rejected him with a few hours claiming aggression towards the husband. If we, as experienced shepherd owners, couldn't make it work. He was done.

Now there is some pressure!

Then this happened.

And she declared that she loved him with all her heart and vowed to protect him for ever and ever and ever and never let anything bad happen to him again.

And we softened.

Then we went to the coast. And things went splendidly. A different dog suddenly emerged. There was no cat to harrass (and the cat got a break from spaz boy). And all of us fell in love.

Oh and he proved his desperate need to be with us at all times by swimming out to follow us in the row boat. That  was a short row. (Winny used to follow us on land.)

He is learning to walk on a leash, has had a bit of training, still thinks the cat is the most curious thing in the world, has some annoying habits that need to be broken.

He would lay down his life for every single member of our family. He is the first one to try to respond when Silas cries. He loves morning walks.

He is now our Odin.

September - 80% Done

It always feels so good when the goals start coming together. A bit addictive! I love seeing progress. I have to try to avoid tunnel vision though. I get this at work too. The “Got.To.Finish.It.Even.If.It.Kills.Me”mentality. Baby is crying and clinging, but got to finish this room! No. Stop. Go pick up the baby and sit down with him, feed him. At work it is, stop typing, stand up, grab bag, go and meet the bus so that kids aren’t standing alone in the house, eating. Eating chocolate and everything bad for them.
Last weekend I pounded on the Master bedroom hard. I scraped crap out of the corners. I started on one side – mine – and worked my way around the room. Huge bag of trash generated. A box and two bags of stuff for Goodwill. Laundry done. AB helped me empty out under the bed and we put the frame back under our mattress which elevates it about 8” higher than it was. (And got the frame out of storage under the bed.) AB built our bed and I wanted it tall. He made it tall. Then I birthed Silas and freaked out – our bed can’t be that tall! And logistics with the cosleeper made it next to impossible to have the bed that tall. So we took the frame out and it was normal height. But now it is tall again! And I love it!
The Master Bedroom is 80% complete now. It doesn’t include the Master bath, which has minor issues. Or the closet – which has bigger issues. I may be able to do the final 20% and tackle the Master Bath this weekend. Except Skadi has her final acting class for the month, which includes a presentation. Then her cousin is coming over to play. (Hey yeah, so she has a COUSIN who lives in the same town as we do and is her same age. Ok, so cousin like three times removed or something like that and that she just met for the first time over Labor Day, but cool!) I want to go to Michael’s, and PetSmart and Target and get groceries and then Skadi could use shoes (boots) other than her Keen sandals for the fall. Then Leif has soccer. And then I have this crazy idea of surprising the kids and going to Shakey’s after soccer because I love their pizza and the kids love the game room and Silas can scream and hardly anyone will notice and I wouldn’t have to pick up.
I will at least get the last 20% done, hopefully convince AB to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet in there. And I maybe will get to the bathroom, maybe not. I got home today and AB had started on the garage. And not just a clean of the garage but like massive reorganization. And I am excited. So I may abandon the Master Bath pick up for the garage.
Next month my goal is the kitchen. Now reason would state that my Master bedroom is all cleaned and organized that I should paint it. Because I want the Master bedroom painted. But the issue is that I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t feel like taping it off, draping everything and painting and doing all the edges. And I don’t really feel as though the month of October is the time to be stuffing myself inside a smelly room. And I haven’t convinced my husband of paint colors.
So hello kitchen!
Actually I need that bad before fall baking/cooking fun and our annual Halloween party. So starting next weekend, the first weekend in October, my kitchen is going to undergo a massive dumping and re-orging so as to confuse everyone in my house about where things will go.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Return to Goals!

Our summer camping trips are winding down now. Back to school. The kids activities are all swinging up and our weekends are back to being spent at the soccer field. A new one for us, Skadi has decided that she is interested in acting and she now has Saturday classes at the local children's theater. I hate to admit how well this new activity appears to fit her and I hope that she might find her niche.

I am very much looking forward to the cooler weather, to fall arriving and to weekends in the home where I can get things accomplished. I have high hopes for the house, but also realize I should scale back my expectations. Silas is at that stage where he is keeping us exceptionally busy and isn't terribly interested in organizing.

To this end, I have decided it is time to return to my Goals! Monthly Goals should suit me fine for the next 4 months. And conveniently it is the first weekend in September now. It's GO time!

September Goal - Declutter and purge the Master Bedroom and the Playroom. Come up with a plan for the Master Bedroom.

It is a perfect opportunity to purge because I have gone through my daughter's closet and drawers and we have two big bags of hand me downs. I have a friend who invited me to toss some baby items in with her stuff for a Church baby gear sale and another friend who is having a garage sale and I can toss a few items in there without the big huge scary obligation of a garage sale at my house. All this does mean that I have to get a move on.

Master: This weekend all the crap that has accumulated in the Master bedroom needs to be purged. I have clothes that don't fit in one stack, a box of baby stuff for Goodwill, baskets of camping clothes... the list goes on and is embarrassingly long. In the long term I would like to come up with a plan for the Master bedroom. Ideally we would rip out the nasty carpet - reality is that it will just be cleaned well. I would love to start thinking about colors and have some ideas in mind. Something for the walls? Well I never just go and buy things for my walls, they have to speak to me. Apparently nothing has ever spoken to me about my Master. And last - storage. I need somewhere to put the stacks of stuff. I am thinking shelves or something at the foot of our bed. Ideally, I would have a fabulous storage bench with seats on top for under our big window. But alas, I think it is a dream.

Playroom: Oh my goodness I need something that works in this room. I also would love doors right about now. And my kids need a change in attitude about picking up after themselves in there. And I need to break the new dog (Odin) of stealing stuffed animals from this wide open room, hauling them downstairs and chewing on them. And I need to break the cat of doing nasty stinky things to the Barbie dolls. I was the lucky one who put about what seemed like 830 Barbies and their clothes into the washing machine two night ago and ran it twice. The cat is "Lucky" he has 9 lives. He may have used one up Wednesday night.

So the playroom just needs to be picked up. The set of shelves and fabric bins I bought needs to be assembled. And I have stacks and stacks of my sewing and cross stitch stuff in bins and buckets. While that system is keeping that stuff away from the wrath of Lucky's rear end, it is an ugly stack. I have a perfect little alcove in there that needs shelves. I could have a built in shelving unit with not too much investment...

That's it. That's my September goal! I need to think about October still. It may involve ripping these crazy shrubs out in my backyard. The ornamental ones that are ultra-ugly unless trimmed. And they are never trimmed. And I will be da____ if I am going to pay someone to come in and prune bushes that I don't even like. So... how do I kill and remove bushes anyways?

Sunday, August 10, 2014


We spent our second week in Anchorage relaxing and hanging with family in Anchorage. Lots of low key fun.

Silas thought grandma and grandpa had some awesome toys.

They live in an awesome location as well.

Skadi's big purchase in Alaska - her dad bought her a pocket knife.

Pirate ship on the lake that grandpa lives on.

Waiting for a table at Moose's Tooth - yummy pizza!

Silas mastered the four wheeler.

Alaska Zoo - always a must do - but pretty run down.

One of my fascinations is the moose wandering Anchorage. This mama had a calf behind her.

Downtown Anchorage - hanging out for a bit.

Hans and I escapted for a long awaited dinner out together at the Double Musky. We have tried for years to get in and for a variety of reasons have always been thwarted. The Alaska version of Cajun.

After the Double Musky we stopped at Beluga Point (where I have never seen a beluga), and built a little fire on the beech.

One of the highlights for the kids - panning for gold at the Indian Valley Mine. We found a few flakes and Leif found a nice garnet.

Hike after the mining at Alyeska - the lowest elevation ski area.

Silas and Hannah

There's something up on that trail!

Don't worry, Leif will save his sister.

Two young bull moose.

The tree with a big butt.

The last night in Anchorage - the sky put a show on for my husband who didn't want to leave. Someday we will make our home here. It may be as soon as 5 years, it may be once Leif and Skadi graduate from high school and we have a 12 year old left in the house. Or it may be when we are empty nesters. It's hard to give up two good jobs in hand and mine affording me the flexibility I want to spend time with the kids and do the work I enjoy.

Insert picture of black bear - here.

We got up the next morning and I was outside in the driveway with the kids. They had (for days) been out riding the little four wheelers up and down the driveway. For some reason this morning I was out with Skadi, Silas and cousin Wesley. Skadi very non-chalantly says, "oh look there is a black bear there!"

Sure enough there was a black bear at the top of the driveway - Skadi says he was about 10 feet from her when he walked out of the forest. Only moderate panicking from me as I scootched all three kids in the front door and cursed that I had left my camera on the counter. I was able to mark one thing off my list new this time around - black bear in the wild. In my own head I collect wildlife sightings - I have seen brown bears, black bear, eagles, and moose in he wild in Alaska. I need to mark off polar bear and musk oxen. Thought the polar bear I hope to see from afar - Hans was able to see one before he left working on the North Slope.

Everyone's Favorites:

Skadi - "Going to the water park. Seeing a bear very close."

Leif - "Going for a long walk with Dad on the beach."

Silas - The four wheelers at grandpa's.

Hans - The octopus experience and fishing.

April - "Seeing wildlife and walking on the beach."

Saturday, August 02, 2014

North to Alaska - Part 2

So we headed from Homer towards Soldotna, which is a sleepy little town for 9 months of the year. Then it turns into an absolute madhouse during the summer as people swarm the Kenai River in order to slay salmon. And we were there right in the midst of it all. Of course we missed the peak of the run by a few days it sounds like, but we are skilled and didn't leave empty handed.

The first night we were there I finally managed to make it down to the river about 11pm. I pulled in the first salmon. Then Hans hit the biggest and finally landed our third - making "the most". Then it was dark and we crawled our way up to the cabin for bed.

Sun is setting about 11:30pm on the Kenai River.

Skadi is the type of kid that always finds a friend to play with. I envy her this. At the fish camp was no exception. She happened upon another little girl and the two played and played and played. This freed up Hans, my MIL and I to alternate with caring for Silas amd Leif to either fish or read depending on his mood. The child plowed through some serious book volumes on this trip.

So Hans and his mom spent a fair bit of time fishing and were skunked. Hans finally tired of this treachery and went to care for Silas. I took over the pole. Salmon on and in. It must have been a fluke. Then I caught another and for the trip we were now 3-2.

Hans and I have a very equal relationship - we aren't terribly competitive and if I am better than him at something it isn't a dig deal. All that goes out the window with fishing.

I knew we were now stuck there until Hans pulled in at least one more fish and quite possibly 2 - so that he could win.

His determination won out and he and Leif pulled in one fish - fulfilling one of our huge goals to have our nearly 10 year old feel the strength of these fish on the end of your line. Then he pulled in fish #7 to secure the lead for the trip.

 Coming down the path carrying his prize.

 Fishy kisses!
We wrapped up our Soldotna experience having restocked our groceries, frozen our 7 fish and saw a few moose. We enjoyed fishing at a fish camp as opposed to fishing in the public access areas where Hans and I have fished for the many years before. The shoulder to shoulder fishing just isn't fun - nor is it without safety concerns - we saw a man with a big old fish hook in his cheek at one point. Yikes!
We set out for Seward, Alaska to meet up with my FIL and his wife! One of my favorite places on earth. I have only been to Seward once before - about 18 years prior I suspect in 1996. I was anxious to take the kids to the Sea Life Center and to just have some time in a beautiful place.
Downtown Seward

Iditarod Mile 0

And imagine, they even have a nice park to play in!

The Sea Life Center - Silas loved the sea lion.
I missed it for unspeakable reasons (sigh), but Hans took the kids and grandpa paid a small fortune for the Octopus Experience at the Alaska Sea Life Center. An hour up close and very personal with an 80 lb octopus. Hans still ranks this as one of his top favorite things we did during the two weeks. He has footage of the octopus crawling up his arms and the kids feeding it shrimp. Apparently Skadi was a bit freaked out by it, but finally came around.

Skadi outside the Seavey dog sled experience. We were going to do it - Skadi was DYING to hold the sled dog puppies and was begging to pick one out to bring home. - but logistics just weren't working in our favor. And then we found it that it wasn't actually going to be Dallas Seavey to take us out. And Leif's interest then waned too.

We went to Lovell Point and hung out on the beach a bit.

Photobombed by my oldest.

Our girl with the fireweed. Love. 

Family of five selfie. Do you know how hard this is?

About 18 years ago Hans and I went to hike Exit Glacier. We had a great time wandering around the glacier and crawling inside the little side caverns.

Not anymore. Not only do you not get close enough to touch the glacier, but you would never walk into a side cavern. The glacier has receded an incredible amount.

Leif at Exit Glacier

Hans, my FIL, me, Leif, Skadi and Silas' Viking hat...

Sweet brother and sister.

Exit from afar.

 Two moose - a mama and a baby - on a side road after we took a wrong turn.
This wraps up a week out on the Kenai peninsula. After seeing the moose we made the trek back to the big city of Anchorage for the second week of our vacation.