Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grandma and Grandpa Didn't Get Eaten By Bears

My parents survived their 41 day long trip to Alaska.

Their still-dirty-from-the-trip motorcycles make their garage pretty interesting to the kids:

These are Claire and Scot sitting on Grandpa's bike. Grandma's bike is the pretty red one in the background, but the size discrepancy isn't as amusing on her bike because she has a normal sized motorcycle, so I used these shots.

If you're interested in the nitty gritty details of my parents' trip, they have a blog about it. (It's a work in progress.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Did you miss me? I tried to supply you with a few posts while we were gone on vacation. I neglected to also supply some posts for the time after I got back but couldn't post because I couldn't even find clean underwear for everyone (or put down the book I started on the trip that I was almost finished with). But things have slowed a smidge, so here I am.


You know how most kids go through that simultaneously cute and exasperating phase where anytime you tell them something, they ask, "Why?"

Scott has entered this phase, with his own little variation. You tell him something and he asks, "Why not?" Even when it doesn't quite make sense. Here's an example:

Scott: [pointing at my recently drained can of Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper - mmmm] I want a drink.
G: Sorry Scott, it's all gone.
Scott: Why not?

It's an interesting perspective he's got there. I can't decide if this resonates with his easygoing nature or if it just screams of logical ineptitude and/or a lack of language skills. As his doting mother, I prefer to see a profound philosopher in the making so I'm voting for a display of wisdom beyond his years. Scott knows that what he can't do doesn't matter in and of itself. What matters is what's stopping him. Or perhaps it's more of an abstract declaration of "Carpe diem!" Or maybe he just needs to stop roaring like a dinosaur and making engine noises long enough to learn to speak better.

So next time life doesn't go your way, take it from Scott. Don't ask "Why?" but rather, "Why not?"

Monday, August 18, 2008


I love Claire, but sometimes it's really hard not to laugh at the twisted logic of a four year old.

We told Claire she had to do something. She kept telling us she "couldn't." We told her we knew she could and she needed to do it right away. After a threat of undesirable consequences from us, she finally yelled, "Fine, I will. Even if I can't." Because then, even if she had to comply, she was still maintaining that she was "right." And that, THAT is what's all important, right???

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's with this Sir Topham Hatt dude?

Recently the kids have been watching a lot of Thomas and Friends of which I more or less approve. In all of it though, Sir Topham Hatt just seems a little off.

For starters, he always rolls around in a suit and tie. And not just a suit and tie. He's got the full on vest and pocket watch thing going. Who wears a suit and tie around these days? Especially for a job where you drive around all day and visit train stations. Weird. Then when he does show up he always has two guys with him who are also dressed in suits minus the vest/pocketwatch combo. They just stand around staring at people. Are they mute? What do they do? I assume one of them is the driver. What does the other one do? Cigar lighter? Shoe shine lacky? Door opener?

And have you noticed that apparently if you want to get around the Island of Sodor you ride on Sir Topham Hatt's railroad or you don't ride at all? There don't appear to be any other modes of transport running around. Except for maybe the helicopter. Oh wait, apparently Sir Topham Hatt owns that too. So if you want your coal to get from the mine to the market, I guess you better be in the good graces of Monsieur Hatt.

On the upside, working with Topham apparently means that no matter what you are shipping, it can be picked up on short notice at any time, day or night. Seriously, engines are perpetually being sent off in the middle of the night to pick up a giant Chinese dragon on a couple hours notice or whatever. I'm sure for the right price he can make sure a small shipment of "stuff" gets picked up on 30 minutes notice wherever works for you and delievered in the next few hours.

Perhaps pulling all those all night trasfers is why Sir Topham Hatt is always getting ready to receive some really important peeps. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the queen mother cares enough to visit the Island of Sodor? I mean the island can't be more than 10 miles wide and apparently it's biggest feature is that most of it is covered in train tracks. Why is the Duke coming? Why is some weird Chinese envoy coming? Why is the railroad guy setting up the big meetings? Shouldn't the mayor or governor do that sort of thing? Wait, does Sodor have any kind of organized goverment?

Throw all that in with the way he talks to his trains like they are not quite equals but not just employees either and you have to admit the whole thing just seems a little shady. He's always talking to them in a not quite fatherly tone, maybe more godfatherly. And he always makes it sound like he's offering them their next assignment in stead of just telling them what to do. You know sort of like an offer you can't refuse.

All I know is something shady's going down somewhere on Sodor and I'm keeping my nose out of it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Do I Keep Trying?

The other day, I went to Wal-Fart. Gasp! I know!!!!

It was late at night and other stores were closed. That's exactly what you guys said the niche market for Wal-Mart was, right? So I thought, what they hey. I'm already out and I only need 4 random things.

The first thing was swim diapers. They had that. I had a heck of a time finding them because they were not, in fact, by the diapers, but other than that the swim diapers were a success. The happy story ends there.

Another thing I needed was a size 24 embroidery needle, so I was prepared for them to not have that because my need was pretty specific. Then again, they do carry sewing stuff unlike Target, so maybe I'd get lucky? Nope.

I also wanted tortillas, but not nasty, pasty Mission tortillas. I was prepared for them not to carry M's preferred tortilla brand since again, pretty specific. But at this point, in theory, it was still okay. I didn't really NEED the tortillas. I could make a special trip to a craft store for the needle. I had the swim diapers. So if I could find my final grocery item, I'd be saved a trip to the grocery store after the craft store.

All I was looking for was a package of mixed dried fruit. I was a little picky because we didn't want a tropical mix or the artificially sweetened craisins in the mix, but surely they would have that. I mean, what store wouldn't carry your basic prunes, apples, apricots kinda mix? Did I have unrealistic expectations? Seriously, tell me. Is that not as normal an item as I think it is? As I stood by the dried fruit staring at just prunes, just apricots, just raisins, tropical mix, or artificially sweetened berry mix, I started laughing. I'm sure the overweight man with B.O. next to me thought I was off my rocker, but Wal-Fart is just so consistent for me. Consistently disappointing.

Well, at least I had my swim diapers and in theory they should be cheaper there than anywhere else, right? Except for the 30 minutes of my life I lost waiting in line to check out were worth more than the 7 cents I saved. The checkers must actually PRACTICE to be so slow. When I finally got to check out, the checker watched me swipe my credit card, then turned and stared off into space for a long time while the credit card machine informed me that the checker needed to push the "credit" button for the transaction to continue. The checker JUST watched me swipe my card. Do so few people pay with credit that she forgot what step came next? Funny, Wal-Fart strikes me as the place where the clientele would rack up quite a bit of consumer debt. Maybe the umpteenth millionth time doing this credit card payment process just wasn't quite enough repetition to remember what she was supposed to do next. We'll just hope she was new. Or maybe she couldn't think about anything other than that Twinkie and cigarette she was planning on as soon as she got her break. Or maybe Wal-Mart likes to punish customers who use a credit card and therefore cost them credit card transaction fees by making them wait longer. Because, you know, anything to make a buck. If that's something Wal-Mart employees are suppose to aspire to, this lady must be "Wal-Fart Employee of the Month." Why don't they have the old lady handing out carts come run a freaking cash register so that at least they could make up for in checkout lane quantity what they lack in quality????

Anyway, don't worry. You won't have to read anymore rants about Wal-Mart for a long, long time because I WILL NOT be making the mistake of trying to go there again. Now excuse me, I have to go to the craft store AND the grocery store.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Claire, seething with rage, sits in her time out chair as punishment for trying to hit Daddy. Exasperated by her thwarted efforts to "punish" M for telling her what to do (The nerve! Like he was her parent or something!) and casting about for a course of action that makes her still feel in control, she yells:

"Scott, go hit Daddy!"

Because all that matters in the end is that someway, somehow, Daddy still gets hit. And by golly, if she can't do it, she'll find someone who can. If she can boss someone around in the process, all the better!

I'm thinking time outs aren't working very well. Does the remorse come with age???

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Resume Needs a Laugh Track - Part II

This is a continuation of my previous post about my work history.

So after I got married, I went back to my last semester of college.

GEEK TRAINER - That last semester I had a less-than-full load of classes. I just needed a few classes that I hadn't quite been able to squeeze in before, so I had time to also work as a teaching assistant in the engineering computer labs for Electrical and Computer Engineering 425: Introduction to Digital Communication Theory. I spent a lot of time working in Simulink and MATLAB. It was pretty funny when we moved to Texas and M and I ran into some guys at church who had been in the class I TA'd. People would see us all talking and ask M if he knew them from college and I would chime in and clarify that I had been their TA. Somehow, I don't think anyone saw that coming... heh, heh. Sexist fools.

After I graduated with my hard-earned degree in Electrical Engineering, I couldn't find a job.

I mean, sure I could have found a job if I'd moved out of state. Never mind that M was still in school. I'm sure I could have found a job if I'd been willing to have a 1 hour or more commute each way and commit to sticking around for at least a couple years. The honest truth was that I had already decided to turn down getting a master's degree because I knew I wanted to put having a family and supporting M's career first. I wasn't about to turn around and get a job that would get in the way. I needed to find a job that was okay with me possibly leaving in as little as 4 months. If M got an offer for an internship that coming summer, I knew we'd take it. If I got pregnant, I knew I'd be a stay-at-home mom after the baby was born (and we'd decided to, you know, start letting that happen). I couldn't lie to these potential employers and say I wasn't going to leave. So finding a job that was accommodating of all that was tricky. Some of you probably think this sounds crazy. You don't have to agree with my choice, but that's just what was right for me.

However, knowing that for me it was "the right thing to do" didn't make it easy. This was quite possibly one of the hardest times of my life. It was tough not to get bummed out. Between interviews and fruitless surfing of Monster, I played a lot of PopCap games to distract myself. I also managed to gain about 10 lbs. Obviously I have a lot to show for those 2 months.

During that time, I interviewed for several jobs that were perfect. They weren't exactly full-time engineering jobs (okay, I admit they weren't even close), but they were a good fit for my needs. I kept getting turned down for being "over-qualified." They kept telling me they were worried I'd get bored, blah, blah, blah. No one ever told me when I was working my butt off in school that getting a bachelor's degree would actually make it harder to get a job...

Anyway, all these "extenuating" circumstances are necessary for understanding how on earth I ended up with the next few jobs after I graduated with my engineering degree.

FACILITATOR OF VALENTINE'S DAY STALKERS - There was a florist shop just down the street from our apartment that was looking for temporary help for Valentine's Day. I had really enjoyed my floral arranging class the previous semester in college. It was temporary, but better than sitting around all day feeling sorry for myself. Why not? Because it turns out it was mostly a job taking phone orders for flower deliveries. Blech. I hate phone jobs. The silver lining was when a guy came in to order flowers for my best friend's roommate. This roommate had already told him she wasn't really interested, but he was persisting by sending her flowers. I tried to help him pick something out that would be her style and not too overbearing. Yah, I totally rock, cuz they're married now.

CHEESY ART MATBOARD CUTTER - Just as I was almost finishing up the temp job at the florist, I found a job. It was a half hour away in a nearby town. The commute was up a steep, narrow, snowy mountain road during February in a falling rock-y canyon. The pay was half what I was hoping for. But it was a job. So I took it and for a week I had to try to juggle both jobs until the florist shop one was over. Figures that there would be a dearth of jobs followed by a scheduling conflict for two. Did I mention the new job was cutting the matboard, or rather, running the matboard cutting machine at a company that made framed art? And was it cool art? No, of course not. It was "western" art full of cowboys and cattle and deer and eagles and all that. Stuff that makes you think of either going hunting or feeding your employer to a bear. When I wasn't choosing coordinating faux leather mats for posters of sweeping western landscapes, I was working with religious art. Lots and lots of Greg Olsen. Gag! But it was okay because I got to talk to my co-workers during my mind numbing job. Co-workers who were both dorky guys with a lack of social skills. It was occasionally interesting when one of the guys explained about why he kind of had two first names. I'm glad my mother never ran off with me because of a custody dispute and changed my name to keep a low profile for most of my childhood.

I have a fabulous trophy from my days up commuting up that mountain road. Once there was some falling rock that rolled out into the road a few cars ahead of me. The tires of the car ahead of me hit one rock and it started bouncing. There was nothing I could do to avoid it and I hit the rock. When I checked for damage, I saw none and the car ran fine, so I went on my merry way. Next time M and I washed the car, we discovered that the rock had broken through the plastic grill and lodged between the grill and the radiator. Then the grill had closed itself back up again so that it was hard to notice. I am SO lucky it didn't punch a hole in the radiator. But I'd been driving around with a rock a little bigger than a softball embedded deep in the bowels of my front end!

MATH AND CHEMISTRY TASKMASTER TUTOR - When the end of the semester arrived, M and I decided to spend the summer living at my parents house. Since neither of us had a job (or at least not one worth mentioning), we figured we'd come out ahead not paying rent and flipping burgers for $12 an hour in Silicon Valley all summer. Once we got there, M and I both got jobs tutoring a couple different kids in math and science.

OVERPRICED KITCHEN STORE EMPLOYEE/PUSHY BARTENDER - M and I both looked for a little more work than simply tutoring for an hour a day. I got a job working at a certain overpriced kitchen store in the local yuppie mall. This was with a certain store with a hyphen in the name and a variety of mispronunciations out there. They brought all the confusion on themselves, really, what with the excessively awkward name. But anyway, I had been very up front during the hiring process about my availability and the very first schedule with me on it had me working on Sunday. The ONLY day of the week I had told them I couldn't work (for religious reasons). The manager was all huffy about changing it like it was my fault or something. It only got worse from there. Turns out they would schedule me in for about 4 hours a week as "on call." Which basically means not often enough to be useful. The morning of I would have to call in to see if they needed me. I couldn't make plans in case they said yes, but they almost never did. And when by some miracle they actually would have me come in to work, I would spend the whole time making and hocking samples of margarita mix. After the first two weeks, the manager chewed me out for calling to ask about my schedule for the upcoming week. I know! How dare I call them on the telephone! "The thing was, um, I didn't get called in to work at all last week, so I couldn't check the schedule while I was there..." Apparently I was supposed to drive all the way to work on a day off at the beginning of the week basically every week so I could check which 4 hours of the week I could hope and dream that I would be called in to wander around accosting customers and pouring virgin margaritas. The job didn't last long (imagine that!), but I did get an awesome serving bowl set and an oil and vinegar spout with my employee discount.

CHAIN TUTOR - Finally, things started looking up for us that summer. M got an internship and I got a job working about 30 hours a week doing advanced math tutoring and curriculum preparation for a well known tutoring chain. It was great! I got paid a decent amount and I got to help kids with math - pretty much my dream job.

CHAIN TUTOR, THE SEQUEL - Then the summer ended and we moved back to Utah. I had to take a cut in pay and hours, but I got to transfer to a different location of the same tutoring chain. Oh. MAN. This experience cemented my refusal to live in Utah long term, or worse, raise my kids there. The kids in California had been sweet, cooperative, enthusiastic, and well-behaved. I mean, occasionally the kids would get a little chatty, but that was it. In Utah, I spent most of my time dealing with behavior issues. Believe me, you can't teach much about the quadratic equation when a kid won't even stay in his seat. These kids didn't need a tutor, they needed a drill sergeant. Seriously, don't spend $40+ an hour on tutoring for your kid if what they really need is a smacked bottom. In California, the kids went and got their own books from the shelf and were allowed bathroom breaks. In Utah, I had to have TA's get the books so the kids wouldn't disappear between the desk and the bookshelf. And in Utah, I couldn't even let the kids go to the bathroom unless it was an absolute emergency. Also, I was pregnant for both tutoring experiences, so I really appreciated that I could go use the bathroom in California if nature called by just asking another teacher to watch my table while my students responsibly sat and did their work. In Utah, things were so crazy, I had to wait for the 10 minute "passing period" which was always full of me frantically scribbling in the kids' progress binders. UGH. It didn't help that in Utah there weren't enough math students to keep me busy, so they had to have me teach "study skills" which was a code word for "kids who refuse to do their work." These kids didn't need me to lecture them about writing their goals on index cards, they needed to be thrown out on the street for a few nights to fend for themselves without a high school diploma. You can only have a useful conversation for so long with a kid who tells you that he doesn't need to do well in school because he's going to be a rock star. My brain still hurts just thinking about it. Eventually our discussions degraded into a long line of jokes about government cheese and living in a van down by the river. Where, oh where did the kids trying to get ahead in math go? The boy who was trying his hand at Trig to get a jump start for the new school year? The 10 year old who was doing Algebra? Apparently they don't exist in Utah. Or maybe their parents just all had the sense to move away from Utah...

Our income taxes were really exciting that year. Between M and I we had SEVEN W2's. It was even worse than the year before when we had to file income taxes in three different states. (This time it was only two states.) It was especially exciting because the matboard company didn't send me a W2. I had to track them down and pester them and when they finally sent me my W2, parts of it were handwritten. Nothing unprofessional there, no no.

Then, Claire was born and I took on a new role:

DOMESTIC ENGINEER - Which brings us to the present. *sigh of relief* I may complain about my current employment, but really, it's my favorite so far. I'm not sure if that speaks to the quality of being a stay-at-home-mom, or the horrors of my past employment...

I know my employment history probably pales in comparison to some. What's in your repertoire? Tell me about your most off-the-wall job.