Friday, March 31, 2006

My Personal Development Plan - Part 1

My company requires all employees to complete a personal development plan. I won't repeat my issues with the whole process right now (see my previous post if you want a whine/rant on the subject). While I believe that the self evaluation and develoment plan can't serve it's intended purpose if your "development goals" aren't things that you want your managers to be aware of, I think the process has some merit outside of the scope of your job and employee-manager relationship. In other words, It made me think about my real personal development goals for the next year. For this post, I'd like to evaluate how the previous year has gone. Yes, I know that many people do this at new years', but I kind of like the idea of going from birthday to birthday. Besides, for me there's a lot less to worry about in March than in December, so I might actually keep this up in the future :)

I started a new job. While I had a rough time adjusting to being a working mom (and to the separation from my daughter), things are going fairly well now. I had trouble at first getting comfortable around my new coworkers because of my natural introvert tendencies to hide away until I feel comfortable with people (getting to know people takes longer when you aren't comfortable enough to actually converse with them...a lovely vicious cycle), but things are definitely looking up. I wouldn't call myself an outstanding performer as of yet, but I've actually managed to benefit my team (who knew that old, rusty Visual Basic skills would actually be valuable these days...) and can certainly hold my own.

I made my goal of providing breastmilk to my daughter until at least her first birthday. Actually, she still nurses at bedtime, but I pumped for her right up till she turned one and was happy to drink cow's milk. That even included a 3-day business trip where me, my husband, and my daughter all survived the separation (and a hard-earned freezer stash of milk came in really hand). That was a lot of work, and the pumping took a lot of my "free time" (I basically didn't go out for lunch at all because my break time was spent pumping), but I made it, and feel confident that I could do it for another baby as well.

We got a better handle on housework after I went back to work. The first couple of months things were pretty bad (especially compared to my stay-at-home days). We hired help--a nice lady who comes once a month and scrubs the whole house top to bottom--she even dusts the lamp shades and tops of shelves!. As Charlotte's gotten bigger, the housework challenges have changed (from carrying her in the sling while I cleaned to cleaning while she played on the floor, to letting her "help" with some tasks...)

We got our finances re-arranged somewhat. The transition to 2 full time careers to 1 career and a stay-at-home-mom (drawing on savings to make ends meet) to 2 full time careers + 1 full time daycare hasn't been easy. My husband and I had to have a lot of discussions and a lot of work re-arranging our bills, paychecks, and spending habits, but we're on track and things are looking up. This will hopefully feed into one of my goals for next year.

Finally, I learned to knit. So far all I've actually completed is to knit the cuffs and bottom band of a crocheted sweater for Charlotte (that's 99% seam and some buttons to go). I first started on a shawl, but ended up ripping it out because it was really hard to see (funky yarn is not good for a first project). But, after quite a few test swatches, I think I've mastered the basics of the skill. I also bought a set of Knifty Knitters which are round knitting looms. Those have been fun, and I've made several hats, a couple of scarves, and some baby booties so far on them. I forgot to take a photo of my last project--hat and booties set for a friend's baby shower last weekend, complete with pom-poms on top and for the ties of the booties. Hopefully the sweater will get done soon, and I'll post a photo of it, modeled by Charlotte of course.

Stay tuned for the second part of this containing my goals for the next year :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kitchen Envy

I was accused over the weekend of having kitchen envy. Saturday I attended a baby shower at the newly-purchased home of A&A. The house is maybe 30-40 years old, but has a very nice updated kitchen. The kitchen boasts granite tile countertops and a double-oven, as well as newer light fixtures, including can lights over the breakfast area, and pendants over the peninsula/breakfast bar. It is really nicely done. I also noticed that the dimensions are similar to our own kitchen/breakfast area. I told my husband M. about it, and how I liked the arrangement of cabinets--basically cabinets on 3 sides, and a peninsula on the 4th that can be used as a breakfast bar. I'd previously wondered how that sort of arrangement would work in a kitchen our size, and whether it would feel crowded or not, etc. My mind was working on kitchen layouts and appliance placements on Sunday when we had friends over for dinner. They guessed, rightly, why I was suddenly thinking about it.

If I do have kitchen envy, it didn't start with A&A's kitchen. It's been going on since, well, since before we actually owned a kitchen of our own. I blame HGTV. We built a new house almost 6 years ago, so you'd think that we would already have a great kitchen. Alas, we built in a planned development from a builder who charges extra for every little thing. And many of the "standard" features they offered are what I would consider fairly sub-standard. Like the corner base cabinet in our L-shaped kitchen...What corner base cabinet in our kitchen? There is none. There are 2 "filler" strips of wood, and a whole cabinet's worth of storage space completely wasted :( The cabinets are particle board, and the shelves sag (sure, blame it on the number of dishes that I own...), and the sides are the paper "wood-print" design like on Walmart put-together furniture. The *fronts* of the cabinets are solid wood and just fine (we had to "upgrade" those though), though we have no knobs or drawer pulls, because that would have required a second mortgage. The upper cabinets are 42" tall and go all the way to the ceiling (another upgrade, for the storage space), but the they don't sit flush in places (ceilings aren't always completely level, I understand), and there isn't enough room to add crown molding around the top to cover the gaps.

Also, the color is not what M or I wanted--we would have chosen a darker cherry/mahogany stain had they offered us a choice. We had a choice of white-washed, pale yellow-y pine, medium oak, or dark oak. We have the medium oak--though most of the other furnishings we've picked out for the house have been in the darker reddish wood stain colors. (Apparently, later the builder started offering the cherry color because friends of ours in the neighborhood have it, for an upgrade fee of course).

*sigh* The kitchen isn't all that bad, but I do spend a lot of time in it, so the shortcomings are glaring to me. And though I have a lot of storage space in my kitchen, I still have to edit things more than I'd like (and we own 2 china cabinets and have a separate pantry, also full). I have a lot of dishes, cookware, and serving pieces--more than average probably, but I like dishes and cooking and we actually use the majority of this stuff (not every day, but often enough not to hide it away in the basement).

We aren't about to re-do the kitchen right this moment--probably not for many years. And even then, we probably won't be able to afford the fancy custom cabinets, high-end appliances, and granite counters that I'd love to have. But that doesn't mean I can't keep watching those design shows and checking out other people's houses and dreaming of the kitchen I'd like to have some day. If that's kitchen envy, then I'm guilty as charged.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Zoo Kids


Charlotte's Web

Gavin, Connor, Charlotte, and Shannon at the St. Louis Zoo

A busy weekend

We had a very busy weekend. Friday, we had a playdate with our friends S&P and their son Gavin. Gavin's just over a year old, and Charlotte loves to play with him--they live in our neighborhood and go to the same daycare, so they see each other a lot. We ordered takeout and let the toddlers romp, and relaxed.

Saturday morning I had a baby shower to attend. My husband at first asked if I'd be taking Charlie, but she's too wiggly and knows too much about presents to attend. She would have been terribly upset not to be able to open any of the gifts, or to play with them once they were opened. The shower was nice--excellent food, good company, and none of us brought our kids, so it was a nice, relaxing afternoon for all. M. was invited to a father's get-together, but Charlie crashed shortly after I left and slept 3.5 hours, so he never made it.

Sunday, M was feeling pretty groggy himself, partially due to a prescription decongestant he's taking to help with a sinus infection. We didn't make it to church because he was still in bed well past time for us to get ready. Around 10am, A&P called us to arrange a group outing to the zoo. Charlotte was a little fussy already, but we figured we'd be able to make it a little after lunch. She crawled in my lap around 11:30 and wanted to look at the comics with me, and ended up falling asleep on me. Either she was really tired, or the comics were really boring, because she hasn't done that in months. She ended up taking a 2-hour nap. Luckily our friends were willing to wait for us, and we got to go to the zoo after all. My husband slept all afternoon, too, so he didn't come with us.

The zoo was fun. Charlotte's been there before, but the last time was over Thanksgiving. Yesterday was beautiful--sunny and 55-60degrees. There were 4 adults and 4 kids--A&P with their 2 kids Connor and Shannon, P with Gavin, and me with Charlotte. Charlotte wasn't too keen on riding in her stroller for much of it--she wanted me to carry her or to walk (run away) herself. At one point, she and Gavin switched strollers, as Charlotte for some reason wanted to be in his (I had brought our regular Graco one, and Gavin had a umbrella stroller with a cloth seat--maybe his seat was more comfortable or something). She saw bears, giraffes, lots of birds (all of them "ducks"), lions, tigers, and got to pet goats and play.

For dinner, the 3 families all congregated at our house and made dinner--we brought our own meat (mostly steaks, and some salmon on the grill, and hotdogs for the kids) and shared sides (corn, yummy grilled asparagus, salad). I think Charlotte had a little of everything--including a whole hotdog plus part of my steak. She might be pushing 21 pounds by now, but I'm not holding my breath...

Today I'm sore and hungry (all the exercise yesterday helped my appetite apparently). Charlotte slept pretty well, and complained before daycare when I wouldn't make her a second bowl of oatmeal (she had breakfast waiting at school). If my husband weren't home sick, I would say it was a great weekend. All in all, though, I have few complaints :)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Turkey Tacos

This tastes just as good as making it with beef, and has quite a bit less fat and cholesterol. Toddler and hubby-approved :)

Total time: about 30 minutes (including chopping and simmering time).
Makes 4 servings

Meat filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1/4" dice at the biggest)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped (1/4" dice)
1lb ground turkey
4Tbsp Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning mix
3/4 cup water + 1 Tbsp Penzey's beef soup base, or 3/4 cup beef broth, or 3/4 cup water

Suggested Accompaniments:
taco shells or tortillas
shredded cheese
sour cream
chopped onion and tomato

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until it is transparent throughout and starting to brown. Add chopped bell pepper and garlic and cook about a minute or until it is fragrant (i.e. the kitchen will suddenly smell like garlic). Add turkey meat, and brown until fully cooked. There is no need to drain since turkey is extremely lean. Add the dry taco mix to the turkey, and cook for 2-3 minutes with the meat. Then add the beef broth, and stir well, scraping the bottom of the skillet to pick up any fond (the browned, stuck-on particles). Simmer over low-medium low, covered, about 10 minutes, stirring occaisionally. If the juice looks a little runny at this point, take the lid off and simmer a few minutes longer. Serve warm with your choice of toppings and warm shells.

Strawberry Smoothies

Makes 1-2 servings

1 banana
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (or one single-serving container)
1/2 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen (you can always add more...if they're frozen then cut down on the ice)
generous splash cran-raspberry juice (any cranberry-blend works well. If you have none, try orange juice or a splash of lime juice for tartness)
crushed ice

Blend well in blender or smoothie maker, and enjoy.

With the vanilla yogurt, this tastes a lot like a strawberry milkshake, without the guilt. Any combination of fruits and juice that you have on hand works well (fresh, frozen, or canned--drain the juice off of canned fruit). I like to keep the banana for creaminess, and change out the other additions. If you have sweet fruit and sweet juice, add lime juice for tartness. You could use plain yogurt instead of the vanilla, but you may want to make sure your fruit and juice combinaton is sweeter to compensate. Light, fat free yogurt works just as well as the full-sugar versions.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Saturday was my birthday. Despite popular opinion on the matter, it was not, in fact, my 30th birthday. I am a mere 29. Really and truely. If I follow my mom's advice, I will turn 29 every year after this one, but this was in fact my first 29th birthday.

I celebrated by first playing hookey from work on Friday. Charlie went to daycare, my husband went to work, and I went nowhere. It was wonderful. After my little rendezvous with Richard Simmons, I spent some time knitting for a sweater for Charlotte--the main part is crocheted, and the cuffs and bottom band are knitted. I have not assembled it yet.

The afternoon was dedicated to playing with the serger that I bought myself as a gift. We had a couple of arguments (mostly over threading, though there was a short scuffle over the rightful owner of the baby pants I was attempting to coverstitch...the serger was winning for a while, but a scissor-wielding human is hard to beat). Charlotte may get a shirt of some sort to go with her navy blue knit pants, but that will wait for another day.

I also baked myself a birthday cake Friday afternoon. I typically bake my own birthday cakes because 1) I like to bake and 2) my husband completely lacks a sweet tooth and it does not occur to him to provide birthday cakes unless I pester him to death for weeks beforehand (I've done that, but it's more fun to just make it myself at that point). This year, I used a devil's food recipe from my new favorite cookbook, America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It made a 3-tier cake, which is nicely sized for a crowd. Their basic butter frosting recipe claimed to cover this specific cake, but it was a pretty skimpy covering, so I added a coating of ganache made with chocolate chips and whipping cream over the top (usually I use Hershey's dark chocolate in ganache, but seem to have consumed all of my reserves....). It turned out well.

The afternoon of my birthday, we went to the mall and ended up buying Charlotte a stuffed cow at Build a Bear (she picked it out herself). She loved the place but wanted to pick one of *everything* except the hearts--she wanted a whole handful of hearts for herself. She did manage to kiss her cow's heart before he was stuffed. Several friends joined us at Yen Ching, my favorite Chinese restaurant, for dinner. After dinner, we all congregated at our house for cake. All in all, it was a fun day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New shoes

Toddler's feet grow at an amazing rate. Luckily, the price of their shoes is (fairly) low, or we'd be broke just buying shoes. The fact that we provide Charlotte an average of 5 pairs of shoes in any one size is completely beside the point. In her current size (a whopping 4--which is barely big enough to merit real rubber soles according to some manufacturers), she's got tennis shoes, brown loafer/boots, her red Cheerio Stompers, and a pair of black velvet dress shoes (a Christmas present from her aunt and uncle, who spoil her more than we do on occaision). She also has a pair of Speedo water shoes, but they're a 5-6 (the smallest size they come).

We'd been noticing that her current pair of tennis shoes ($5 on clearance at Walmart) were running a little tight at the toes, and actually had some time on our hands last night, so we went shoe shopping. There's a nice Skechers store not too far from us, where they have adorable kids shoes. The prices don't compete with the Walmart clearance rack, but the quality's better. We headed over after dinner last night.

Charlotte loved shoe shopping. Luckily there was only one other customer in the place, or it would have been a bit less fun. She had a blast opening up shoe boxes, and running off with their contents with that "catch-me-if-you-can" giggle. My husband and I split shopping and herding duties. We did manage to wiggle her Cheerio Stompers off long enough to measure her feet--she's a little over a 4, just like we thought. He actually found an adorable pair of tennis shoes on the clearance rack in a 5. There were several styles of sandals in diminutive boxes, as well. White sandals are great for little girls because they double for summer dress shoes so nicely. I found one pair that have led's on the sides that light up when she walks. M. found a pair with embroidered flowers on top, but the smallest they had was a 6 in those.

As bedtime fast approched, Charlotte's giggles and wiggles turned to squirms and grimaces, and she threw a temper tantrum when I had the nerve to remove the sandals I was trying on her. Did I mention that she likes shoes? I got to contain the screaming child while M. paid for her shoes (including the size 6 ones...probably for mid to late summer). She then screamed nearly the entire way home.

When Evanescence finally came up on the MP3 player's shuffle, Charlotte calmed down. That has worked since she was a newborn. She used to scream every time I put her in the car, but half a song into the Evanescence CD and she'd be calm or asleep. I think it helped that I listened to their music several times a week driving to and from work when she was still in-utero, and attended their concert a week before she was born (we sat in the pit of all places...luckily the crowds were fairly mellow).

There was a final tantrum when we got home and actually pulled the shoes out of the bag. She insisted on wearing the bigger sandals and then demanded to go down to the basement playroom. It was bedtime, though, and I'm stronger and know the magic rituals that calm her down and get her sleeping most nights (a little mommy milk doesn't hurt either).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cheerio stompers

We're getting more and more accustomed to our beautiful, perfect baby girl turning into an opinionated, demanding, misbehaving toddler. This morning started out well enough--Charlie slept through the whole night without fussing (there was an extended period of playing with her musical Glo Worm before she fell asleep last night, but nothing too horrible). This morning she was in good spirits, especially after a little morning mommy milk. The AM nursing session is on-again-off-again, and ever since she had a stomach bug 2 weeks ago, we're back on-again for a while I guess. Anyway, back to the story.

She picked out her own outfit from the closet--a half red/half purple corduroy jumper with a matching top printed with mice wearing clown costumes. I believe it came from the stash of garage sale finds from my mother-in-law. To complete the little jester outfit, I added warm white tights and her shiny red ankle boots (a $3 find on the clearance rack at Walmart). I bought the shoes thinking they'd make decent puddle stompers for spring time, since they appear to be made of relatively water-resistant vinyl (they're actually really cute, in a way that only such shoes for a toddler could be). It turns out they make good Cheerio stompers too.

I took her downstairs and sat her at her kid-sized table for first breakfast (she's a hobbit, remember, and eats at least 2 breakfasts most days...). I provided the halfling with a cup of dry cheerios and a dried apricot, both of which she seemed to enjoy, and started packing my lunch. Apparently the Cheerios make for interesting experiments in gravity as well as snacking--she was soon shaking them all of the table (and floor). M., my husband, was down by now and we both were taking turns telling Charlie to pick up her Cheerios, and not to brush them onto the floor. That actually worked for a while.

Then she hopped herself down off the chair, crushing a Cheerio under her boot as she hit the ground. Cheerios, when smashed, explode into little, lightly sticky, dust balls which then adhere to your shoes. We again admonished our little darling and had her help pick up the remaining Cheerios off the floor, with our help (she did actually comply). But as soon as our backs were both turned, Charlie picked more cheerios out of her cup, and was deliberately placing them on the floor to step on. She got yelled at (well, more like a firm "NO") and had her Cheerio privileges revoked for the morning. She sat down and threw a temper tantrum as only a toddler can--pounding fists onto the floor and everything.

It's kind of neat when Charlotte misbehaves. Some of her antics are really quite funny, and some are darnright clever. It takes a lot of effort some days not to laugh at her, since that won't really help enforce the rules. We do have a nice lady named Ruth who cleans our house once a month, and today happens to be her day. So the Cheerio remains should be gone by the time we get home. But I suppose that if/when the Cheerio stompers make an encore appearance, that we'll be the ones mopping them up.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Richard Simmons and I

I'm playing hookey today. I have been desparately needing some time away from work, away from Charlotte, and away from my husband to relax and recharge a bit. Not time away from home--I really am an introvert and a homebody, and my favorite place to bum around is my house. All of my favorite toys are here. Minds out of the gutter please! I'm talking about my sewing machines, the kitchen, books, my knitting project, and my laptop. I will either have to take a vacation day, or work 9 to 10 hour days over the next 2 weeks to make up my time, but it's well worth it.

This morning I slept in till close to 7 (what a wild woman I am..) and then woke up and dressed an unusually smiley baby. Charlotte was in a wonderful mood, maybe because I was in her room when I woke up, and she didn't have to hunt me down in the shower like she normally does. You gotta love toddler separation anxiety, where a shower door of translucent glass separating the two of us is enough to drive her to hysterics some days. I got her up and dressed, and immediately downstairs to her first breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. Charlie was thrilled to go to daycare, and blew me several kisses as she hurried out into the garage, a welcome change from her tantrums when I'm rushing to work most weekday mornings.

And then, the "me" time kicked in. I decided to workout before taking a (leisurely) shower (uninterrupted by little hand trying to force the door open), and headed down to the basement where my collection of personal trainers live. There's Denise Austin in a variety of clothing changes, Gilad's Bodies in Motion, some no-name yoga instructors, and of course, Richard Simmons. It's been a long time since I've really done any aerobics, and haven't even been on my bike since last fall, so I decided that today was cardio.

I decided on the original Sweatin to the Oldies, in all of its VHS glory. For those uninitiated, this workout is a playful romp of a couple dozen people of varying ages and sizes (varying mostly to the older and larger), who twist and mash potato while being cheered on by the always-peppy and ever-inspirational Richard Simmons in his short striped short shorts and mop of frizzy curly hair.

I haven't done this workout in years, and actually really enjoyed myself. I sang out loud to most of the songs, and bounced around the basement doing kicks and lunges and twists and acting quite silly. Luckily, we have nice dark curtains covering the windows and sliding door, or our neighbors would think I was some sort of crazy aging cheerleader trying to relive her glory days. (For the record, I was *never* a cheerleader). I've felt good all day thanks to my little dance session, except that now I have "Ain't No Mountain High Enough..." running through my head.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

So relaxing it's stressful

I am thinking about declaring tomorrow my own personal holiday. Well, tomorrow is St. Patrick's day, so it's already a holiday, but most companies don't give you the day off for that. It's also the day before my birthday, but again, not enough people celebrate the 18th of March to declare it a national holiday :)

My problem now is deciding what to do with my time off. I could sleep in, exercise, go to a movie, go shopping, try to finish knitting Charlotte's sweater, actually make something besides test seams with my new serger, read a book, bake myself a birthday cake, and any number of other things. The problem is I want to do all of the above, and probably more. And if I even attempt it all (which I do realize is insane), I will be stressed out beyond belief by the end of the afternoon. That's just silly.

I seem to have this problem a lot. I always feel like I don't get enough time to relax, and that I have a million things that I'd like to do during my free time. So I end up getting stressed out about what free time I have--worrying about what I should try to get done, and how much time to put aside for not doing anything. Yes, I'm a scheduler--I actually schedule downtime. If you have a personality like mine, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and if not, then you think I'm nuts. In any case, that's how I think.

I think things will keep getting better as Charlotte gets older, since she won't need constant physical contact with a parent in order to be content. Yes, that's an exaggeration, but only by a bit--we seem to be entering the terrible 2's, and screaming tantrums are a daily experience. Friends with older kids will probably laugh at me and start listing off things like soccer practice and school variety shows and piano lessons that will drain away what little free time I think I have, but I'll hold on to my illusions a little bit longer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Charlotte's latest words

Bubbles. She likes taking bubble baths, and knows which bottle holds the magic liquid. She also recognized bubbles in the fish tank at the doctor's office the other day.

Stinky. Now if only she would say this one beforehand..

Cookie. I brought Girl Scout cookies home the other day...guess I may have to buy more thin mints.

Hat--her favorite hats right now are the mixing bowls and a colander. Apparently we have the makings of a young Doña Quixote. Her rubber duckies also get to wear stacking cups as hats. She says "duck" very clearly too.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I got a new toy

I bought myself a birthday present, a serger. For anyone who doesn't know, I like to sew, and have been wanting a serger for years. I finally bought myself a nice sewing machine 4 or 5 years ago, which I absolutely love--before then I was using a really basic one that I'd had since I was 12. I had held off for quite a while on the serger because the ones that had the features that I thought I wanted were always pretty expensive--around $1000, which is a lot for me to spend on myself. I found one recently that does 2-5 threads, and a cover stitch, and was much more reasonably priced, and ordered it last Wednesday. I bought a Singer Quantumlock if anyone cares :) It arrived Friday.

So far all I've had time to do is play with it a little. This sucker is quite a bit more complicated than any of the regular sewing machines that I've used. I had talked to a salesperson in a fabric store, and she was adamant that I should buy a machine from a place that offers lessons. I tend to be pretty quick with reading instructions, and I'm an engineer, so I opted for price (online) over lessons from a local dealer. I'm beginning to understand her point. I tried for most of an hour Friday night to get it threaded, and one of the threads kept breaking when I'd try to sew.

Saturday I made a run to a fabric store to buy serger thread (I had a rainbow of colors of old thread loaded up the night before...some of it may have been contributing to the breaking since the threads were not great quality). The cone thread was $3 a spool, and my machine takes up to 5 at a time, so I stuck to black and white for now. That night after Charlotte went to bed, I tried to thread the machine again and get it going. This time I had a couple of AHA! moments (one, when I realized there were 2 "loopers" that looked almost identical, and that I was threading the wrong one--they're even color coded for me...oops), and actually managed to stitch a couple of test seams. Woohoo! Of course, I've only set it up for a single stitch so far, but now at least I have an idea what I'm doing.

Now I just need to find time to cut out a pattern or two and actually make something with it. I have the perfect model to sew for...she's about 32" tall and 20 lbs, and not terribly picky about her clothes yet....

Friday, March 10, 2006

Employee evaluations

I am currently stalling in filling out a self-evaluation form at work. I really hate these things. We have two systems--one tied to our salaries and a set of "business goals" that we set up, and another that is supposed to be for personal development. The personal development one is not supposed to have any bearing on your salary, but rather "to help you enhance your knowledge, skills, and abilities through personal development". We are encouraged to include areas that go beyond our current job. This is supposed to be for *my* personal benefit. Yeah right.

I think the idea behind it is good: require that managers provide time for their employees to figure out where their career is going. There are two problems with this, in my opinion, 1) that it is *required*, and 2) that it must involve discussion with your manager. How many employees are going to be completely honest with themselves under those circumstances?

For example, one of my longer-term goals is to find a way to switch to part time hours, or stop working altogether in order to take better care of my family. That goal does drive many of my decisions about training and my career, but not in ways that I'm willing to discuss with management until I feel comfortable asking for the part-time hours or to quit. How do you phrase, "I'm just here for the money" in a way that doesn't sound negative? Another of the things that I've kicked around is going back to school--cullinary school. It sounds like a lot of fun. Again, how do you phrase, "I'm considering a total job switch that would keep me from being employed by any part of this company in the future" on a plan that you discuss with your manager? If I were being totally honest about what I see as my personal development, I might mention that, but how would I honestly be treated by management if they don't believe I have a vested interest in sticking to my job?

When I left my previous job (at 8 months pregnant), my boss said that he wasn't sure if I was planning to come back to work anyway. I had originally approached him asking about taking 12 weeks maternity leave (*not* about quitting after the baby was born--that wasn't even a consideration given our finances). He assumed that since his wife, and many of my (99% male) co-workers' wives, were stay-at-home mom's, that I wanted the same thing. This sort of discriminatory attitude does not appear to be prevalent at my current job, but nor do I want to sow those seeds in case I change my mind later. I don't want to face another conversation like *that* again.

So, having gotten that off my chest, I suppose I need to go evaluate my strengths and weaknesses...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

How do you collect a urine sample from a baby?

Thursday was not one of my favorite days. Charlotte was sick Tuesday with a stomach bug, and running a fever off and on Wednesday. My husband, M., noticed that there were pink spots in one of her wet diapers, so I called the doctor in the morning asking about a UTI. They gave me an 11:30 appointment. I was wondering how on earth they would test her, since she doesn't exactly have the bladder control to pee in a cup.

As soon as we got into the examining room, the poor baby recognized the place and the nurses, and got very upset, fearing that she would get shots I guess. After being weighed (20 lbs, 3oz fully clothed...up a whole 2 oz from a month ago) and having her temperature checked (it was normal, but had run around 99 earlier in the morning), they applied the collection system. Basically, it was a plastic bag that was adhered to her diaper area. We put her diaper and her clothes back on, and she started to calm down. Then the waiting began.

She downed the contents of a pedialyte popsicle (unfrozen), and some additional water, and I took her out to the waiting room to play with the toys. After several minutes, she made *that* face....the one that means she was filling her diaper....and not just with urine. Her stomach was still recovering, so this was not a neat, firm sort of poop. Yikes what a mess. Remember that she had a plastic bag stuck down was covered. I had to help the nurse remove the thing (she had on gloves, and the adhesive was pretty stuck despite the mess). Poor baby--that was like removing a large bandaid, from a part of your body you don't really want things stuck to :( After all that, the test for the UTI came back negative (thank goodness), and they told us that she was likely just a bit dehydrated. Her stomach flu had the markings of "rotovirus" (sp?), which could linger for several more days. Basically, give her comfort and plenty of fluids. And expect to do a bit of extra laundry.

By now it was 12:30 and Charlotte had missed lunch at daycare, so we stopped at a Taco Bell around the corner from the Dr's office for food. No, Taco Bell isn't the first place you think of when you have an upset stomach, but it was there, and she likes it, so close enough. Lunch itself was fine, though a bit hectic for me (ever juggled a bag, a baby, 2 cups and a tray?). Towards the end, however, Charlotte pooped again.

I had not brought the changing pad or wipes with me from home that morning. I had grabbed 2 diapers from daycare before I left (thank goodness I brought more than 1...). And Taco Bell had no changing table (boy is that annoying...). So I got to change a baby on the floor of a fast food restaurant's restroom, using damp paper towels to clean an already irritated bottom. Yummy.

Charlotte fell asleep on the way back to daycare. It was naptime there, so I carried her in, and laid her down in one of the cribs to finish her nap. Yes, it was probably bad of me to take her back to school when I knew she likely had a stomach virus. But, I can't take a week off every time she gets sick, especially when she's getting sick nearly every month. I wish there were an better way (that also paid the bills).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

She's sick

Charlotte is sick again. This is her second stomach flu in a month's time. I got the call from daycare yesterday, and picked up a happy baby, who promptly spewed crackers all over herself and her carseat (the daycare workers thought she should eat something to settle her stomach...). She took a 3 hour nap after we got home and got her changed, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening snuggling on the couch watching movies and occaisionally running to the kitchen sink while she spewed. The couch was spared, though I went through 3 shirts and almost all of the kitchen towels (which is quite a feat..we have a lot of them).

Her daddy is home with her today. Her stomach appears to be much better, as she's kept fluids and toast down since about midnight, but she's now running a fever. At least she's in good spirits, if a little clingy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bye Bye Balloon

There is nothing so sad as the face of a baby who has just lost a balloon. I don't know what it is about the things that brings such joy to the little ones, but their faces light up when they get a balloon of their own to play with. Yesterday, Charlotte got 2, and didn't keep either one for very long. We went out for lunch after church, and got a balloon to take home from the restaurant. She held on to that thing for dear life until she fell asleep in the car halfway home. As soon as we got home, it was time to go over to a birthday party for a friend who was turnign 1, so we took the balloon to share. All of the kids at the party enjoyed it.

For dinner, we joined my in-laws, who were in town for the March Madness basketball games, at a mexican restaurant. Charlotte loved walking around the restaurant looking at all the colorful streamers and piñatas hanging around. As we were leaving, she got another balloon. The group of us stood outside for a while chatting, while Charlie shook her balloon, and pressed it to her face to look through it and hum into it. We all took turns looking at her from the other side, and getting our faces bopped. She had the ribbon around her wrist, and my husband and I also had a hold of part of it, but as we were walking to the car, she must have shaken the ribbon loose, for all of a sudden it floated up and away. She didn't cry or throw a tantrum at the loss of her toy, but she had the saddest face. We told her to wave "bye bye" to the balloon, and gave her a kiss before tucking her into her carseat for the ride home, where she promptly fell asleep.

Bright and round,
you float above me.
Your feet never touch the ground.

Your dance I command
as you bounce and bop,
safely tied onto my hand.

Now the ribbon is undone.
Bye, Bye Balloon
Away you fly up to the sun.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Our daughter has a fascination with belly buttons. She can find her own and anyone else's upon request, and likes the giving and receiving of raspberries. She has a bad habit of randomly lifting my shirt so that she can poke me in the belly and give me a raspberry. That wouldn't be so bad except that she will do it in public, and my belly and the public are never supposed to meet. She also gets very frustrated if she's wearing a body suit that she can't lift to see her own belly button.

Yesterday when I picked her up from daycare, one of the teachers asked if we'd every had any "trouble" with her outfit--a bright red jumpsuit with Winnie the Pooh on the front (who she was able to name that morning while pointing to her outfit). It turns out that she knows how to undo the snaps all along the front of the jumpsuit so that she can see her belly. She was unsnapping herself all day, unless she had her jacket covering it.

Oh well, at least one female in the family won't be afraid to wear a bikini in public.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Charlotte's newest words

Pooh (as in Winnie the Pooh, sometimes applies to other teddy bears)
Gavin (she calls him "Gavvy")
Snack (she's been saying this for a while, but we finally figured out what it was!)
Mine (did we mention that the terrible two's are starting?)