Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dress for Success

Lynn sent me an email this week. Lynn's a sorority sister, a commercial interior designer in Milwaukee. She writes that one of her colleagues walks around the office in just his socks and her firm has a dress code that does not allow employees to wear jeans in the office, even on Fridays. It also requires women to wear stockings, year round.

Oh wow. Her world is very different than mine.

I know some industries require dressing up. People who are client facing should dress nicely. It's professional and it shows respect.

I worked today. I'm fairly dressed up for a day working at home: jeans, black boots with a moderate heel, red sweater and makeup. Mostly though, I dress up when I see my clients. The Pinks call this Getting Fancy as in Mommy's Getting Fancy today so she must be going to play with the big people. In tech, where I work, people who aren't customer facing can wear shorts, t-shirts and flip flops year round. This is California.

I am currently working with a client that employs 80,000 people around the globe. Its corporate headquarters is in the Silly Valley and I go there about twice a month. It's an entire city within a city. There are more than 50 buildings on the campus and I am oddly fascinated by this. More than anything else, I love going there to eat. There are cafeteria-style restaurants with good, healthy, interesting food that I don't have to prepare myself. I also nerdily think it's cool that with a few keystrokes on my laptop, I can reserve a conference room in any of the buildings worldwide.

One of the best things about this client is that they make it easy to work anywhere, anytime. This means that I wear pajamas to work a lot. I have a phone and network connectivity. I have collaboration software. I walk downstairs into my home office and get to it.

This is my tenth year consulting. It would be hard for me to transition back to dressing up and going into an office every day.

I don't know what to tell Lynn, except that I'm sorry this is going on in her workplace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recent Random Revelations

1. Parent-teacher conferences are not my favorite. The Net Net: Thing 1 loves writing. Thing 2 is competitive. Eldest Daughter is in the advanced math group and her teacher is struggling with how she will teach advanced math and regular math at the same time. I'm not comforted by this.

2. I much prefer the low-key synagogue we belong to now rather than the ones of my childhood. Also, The Pinks have to go to the bathroom more times during the short family services than they do the rest of the day combined.

3. Some wacko tried to sue L'Oreal because she dyed her hair brown with its product and then came to the realization that blondes have more fun.

4. Many people show more cleavage at Halloween parties than they do at the pool.

5. Pro Prop 8 demonstrators really get under my skin. I hope their children come out or that their spouses decide to switch genders, like my friend C's husband did. (Microsoft has great benefits, btw. Every employer should be so progressive!)

6. The new school principal did not deliver on her promise eight weeks ago to put temporary computers in Eldest Daughter's classroom to replace the ones that were stolen the first week of school.

7. The season finale of Project Runway was not worth watching because the remaining designers were lame and I'd not be caught dead in their clothes.

8. When I am stressed, I crave warm baked goods like Banana Bread and also eat huge bowls of carb-laden pasta.

9. The owner of the salon where the colorist took me for a ride has not yet responded to the very nice letter I wrote her three ago alerting her to this horrific event. (This post refers to the event, not the real letter I wrote the salon owner which was, trust me on this, really nice.)

10. Having a set of twins makes people think you are an expert in assisted reproduction technologies.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winners' Circle

It was a good day in the House of Pink!

Eldest Daughter was elected to Student Council. This is especially sweet as I ran for class secretary when I was in fifth grade and lost, partly because I spelled secretary wrong on all my posters. I lost to Jeff Hawkins and clearly this still bothers me. Strangely, I was at a park 200 miles from here last summer and struck up a random conversation with another mommy. She was married to Jeff. Fortunately he was not with her. I claimed not to remember him.

Dave played in a golf tournament benefiting our local soccer program today. He's a pretty good golfer in general although frankly, I wish he'd play more. He belongs to a prestigious club in the city and does not get there very often. I sent him to short game school at TPC West 10 years ago and although he loved what it did for his game, he hated it.

Fast forward to today: his foursome won!

I am so proud of them both. We're celebrating in our house tonight!

P/S If any of you want to play mid-week, please email Dave. I really wish he played more; it's a great outlet for him. He just has to be home by 2pm to pick up the kids at school unless he gives me lots of advance notice.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Minnie Me?

Dave is brilliant with pumpkin carving. We have books of patterns and a set of special tools just for pumpkin carving. Each year he takes great pride in turning our pumpkins into masterpieces. This year he had a template created from the My Friend Paris book series and here's the outcome. Pretty good, huh?

Tonight we went to our neighbor's Halloween Party. Everyone needs a neighbor whose house is decorated perfectly, who is a seemingly effortless hostess and who is downright nice. That would be Tracy. Did I mention that she has two beautiful daughters, too? And abs that rival Dara Torres'? It was a nice evening catching up with some of our neighbors and having adult conversation. If you need window treatments, check her out. She made most of the drapes in our house, and Thing 1's bedding.

As a bonus, Rosa sat The Pinks. We hadn't seen her in a month or so and not only were The Pinks thrilled to hang with her, she organized their drawers just the way they like them and finished putting away the laundry. I miss Rosa!!!

As is typical of fall Saturdays, we spent part of the day at basketball and soccer. Thing 2's end-of-season soccer party followed the game. (I have got to stop volunteering to plan things!) In between sports we saw Eldest Daughter's former dance teammates perform at the Halloween Street Fair. Seeing the dances but no longer being a dance team parent gave me an odd sense of disconnect, almost an out-of-body experience, which I'm trying not to dwell on. It just feels like that part of our life was a lot longer than six months ago.

It was another Chamber of Commerce Day here -- blue sky and in the 80s -- which made for a perfect night on Tracy's patio but a hot day on the soccer field and dancing on the asphalt.

Interestingly enough, there were two artisans selling glass pumpkins there. I took a special interest in these. One created pumpkins in brighter colors, less lifelike and more artsy. The other employed more sophisticated glass-blowing techniques and used more texture than did Cohn-Stone. Having just become a fan, I viewed these all carefully then decided that I liked the ones we procured last weekend best.

I am looking at a full day in the office Sunday and so I must go to bed, before it actually becomes Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dancing Queen

For the last four years, not including this year, Eldest Daughter has danced competitively.

This has meant that she has taken 5 dance classes a week and spent six to eight weekends out of town for dance competitions or performances. The weekends prior to those events she had extra rehearsals. We spent very few weekends skiing these past four years because winter is competitive dance season.

The friends we made through dance team are very special. Not only were her team-mates her friends, the mommies I spent many weekends with were mine. It was at the Tremaine dance competition that Shanta and Julie changed my life by introducing me to The Brow Bar. I perfected my knitting skills and taught others to knit while at dance competitions. I became known as The Carpool Queen, the mommy who orchestrated complex and efficient carpools to minimize our drive time between school and dance class.

Eldest Daughter learned to be comfortable on stage in front of as many as 1,000 people, how to be a part of a team, and how to turn it on even when she was hopped up on Motrin, fighting the flu. She took classes from famous choreographers and grew from a timid six-year-old to a confident ten-year-old with stage presence. She got a tremendous amount out of the experience and for that I am grateful.

The highlight of each season was our annual trip to Disneyland and the performance on the Carnation Stage. We made it a family event, having the cousins and grandparents come a few times, too.

This year she decided that she'd had enough. Between dance, Hebrew and an academic math team, the child had no downtime. I'm glad she was able to make that decision. She loved performing and being on stage. (My eyes used to fill with tears when she performed -- the joy on her face was that obvious.) She loved her dance buddies, older team members who served as mentors to her. She loved running around in sweats and slippers with her friends at competitions and staying up late to watch the high schoolers perform. She loved the awards they won every single time and it made the long hours worthwhile.

But she did not love rushing from school to dance through dinner and into the shower and to bed. I thought she'd miss it but no, she's filled her dance card (bad intentional pun) with a community theater workshop and guitar lessons.

Tomorrow is the first dance event of the season, a performance at our local Halloween Street Fair. I'm a little sad that she won't be there on stage. But I'm also looking forward to watching the other kids, and to being a groupie.

Break a leg Jack! And Cate ... and Erika ... and Steph ... and Rachel ... and Nicole ... and Kelly ... and Ava ... we love you guys!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Brow

I'm worn out. I'm working like a nut. Our weekends are insane with soccer, basketball and religious school, and the social activities of season. And now I have a cold.

I'd also be remiss if I did not mention that the current state of my hair is adding to my stress level. In case you're wondering, my hair is now brown with garish, unintentional, asymetrical orange streaks. I'm sure the oh-so-fabulous provider of the $360 plus tip highlights did not mean for it to turn out that way. However it did after I washed it at Tahoe, using the kids' shampoo we had in the shower and not the special shampoo for colored hair that I have down here. I'm wearing a lot of hats until my next appointment (at a different salon) in three weeks.

But back to the brows. About this time last year Julie and Shanta introduced me to the most fabulous thing, heaven for busy women: The Benefit Brow Bar.

It's drop-in access to an aesthetician. Brow Bars are located in Macy's, and you just stop by, add your name to the list, then continue with your shopping until it's your turn.

I went yesterday, in between dropping Eldest Daughter at Hebrew and a volunteer commitment, and felt so much better afterwards. It's a little weird having your waxing done in the cosmetics department, where the whole world can watch but hey, after the indignation of childbirth, this is cake.

I'm still sick but at least I look a little better. And I feel a little better, too.

As an aside, the mall crowd seemed unphased by the current economic news. I was shocked to see how many people were out in full force, loaded down with bags of the latest fall fashions and waving their credit cards this way and that. Maybe I live in the wrong zip code?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An different kind of pumpkin patch

Last November my husband spotted some blown glass pumpkins in a San Francisco gallery. They came many sizes and shapes and we had purchase paralysis so we didn't buy any. He's been thinking about them ever since. So much has he been thinking about them that he researched them extensively and nearly a year ago calendared where we'd spend October 18, 2008.

These particular pumpkins are made by the Cohn-Stone Glassblowers in Richmond, California. And every October Richard Cohn and Molly Stone open up their studio and set up an outdoor pumpkin patch to showcase their designs.

Today was the day! We met our friends Fabio, Danielle and Gian Luca there. The Pinks were fascinated by the glass-blowing process and even the wild one stood in front of the artisans for a long time, just watching the liquid glass take shape. The mother in me was thrilled that we escaped without inadvertently breaking anything.

Have you ever seen glass being blown? It's magical and we're enthralled by it. Dave and I have been to Venice twice and Murano, the island outside of Venice where all the Venetian glass is blown, twice. The first time we were so overwhelmed by all the choices that we bought nothing. On our second trip, for our 10th anniversary, we did pick out a piece together.

This pumpkin patch was truly a sight to see -- hand-blown pumpkins in shades of orange ranging from nearly salmon to day glo, and red and gold and bronze and green and white and pink. There were glass birds and even some glass fish in the fountain. The smallest ones were perhaps 3 inches across and the largest were closer to 18 inches.

We each picked out a pumpkin and now we have our own little pumpkin patch nicely displayed on the half wall between our kitchen and living room.

After the studio tour we headed to the Richmond Marina Park and enjoyed the city view while eating a picnic lunch. It was a great Fall afternoon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Choices

On Monday I made my semi-annual trip to Safeway. (How could that be? Yes, I really go to Safeway just twice a year. Dave is much better at grocery shopping than I am and he doesn't mind doing it. This is reason number 759 why I married well. The monotony of buying staples bores me to tears. I save my shopping for our farmer's market, which I religiously do every Saturday, Trader Joe's, and the occasional butcher or fromager. He does Costco, too, because I cannot be trusted in the book aisle.)

During said trip to Safeway I stuck to my list and emerged with just 14 things. Why? The economy. Sport shopping is out of vogue.

Our suburb is pretty insular. Sure there are FOR SALE signs on quite a few pieces of residential real estate and you just know a bunch of them are in foreclosure but the parking lot of our elementary school is still filled with gas-guzzling SUVs and women in designer duds, myself included.

However, a few weeks ago a friend confessed that she was walking away from her house. With her husband, two kids and golden retriever. This hit me hard. Someone I know is really and truly affected by this.

I want a new car. I don't really need a new car but I still want one. A year ago I figured out which one I wanted yet didn't execute because it was the same hybrid SUV that everyone else wanted. And I wasn't going to pay above the sticker price for it. Today that car is still in demand but even if it weren't, I wouldn't buy it. It just doesn't feel right.

It's about making choices right now. We're doing ski team because that's family time spent in our vacation home, where we pay the mortgage regardless of whether we use it or not. We're going to the beach over Thanksgiving because that's been planned since before the economy went south. But we're not seeing the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker this year, nor indulging our every Amazon fantasy, something we've done mindlessly in the past. One Click Ordering? My former best friend!

I did write a letter to the owner of the salon where I got taken for a colorful ride. It's been two weeks and she hasn't responded. She probably doesn't know what to say. Now I'm faced with the decision of whether to dump Alex because I disagree with his employer's business practices. (For the record, my letter was very nice, not at all like the letter I composed in my head to the colorist.)

Fortunately the Pinks are at a good age. There are so many things we can do without large-scale conspicuous consumption. The youngest ones get a weird thrill from cleaning; one washes windows, the other has a sweeping fetish. This I must capitalize on.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Frigid Fall

The Pinks and I did 24-hour turn to Tahoe this weekend. Dave stayed down in the Bay, having volunteered to work the local LPGA event.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Thing 2 had an 8a soccer game Saturday morning so following the game, donuts and a quick bubble bath, we headed north.

En route we learned that while McDonalds' are very clearly marked from the freeway, Burger King's are not. And the only fast food joint that all three Pinks will eat is Burger King. When we finally found a Burger King, it was home to a pro-Prop 8 gathering of picketers. As you'll recall, I'm adamantly against Prop 8, which bans same sex marriage in California. I made faces and shook my head violently at the sign carriers as we drove by and told my kids that they could marry whoever they wanted and that Mommy and Daddy would love them and their spouses just the same. I'd make a great lesbian mother-in-law!

We did our ritual stop at Ikeda's in Auburn, where I stocked up on marinated tri tip, pesto chicken, stinky cheeses, guacamole and enough strawberries to get us through the weekend. This picture of Eldest Daughter and Thing 2 taken there is a rare occurrence; they don't often hang together. Thing 2 is wearing one of my most favorite shirts. Each Pink has one and it reads: Sister For Sale: Potty Trained & Ready to do Housework. At Ikeda's we also picked up Eldest Daughter's friend from sleep-away camp, who joined us overnight.

The seasonal ski renting exercise at Granite Chief was fairly efficient and we arrived at The Snow House, which is really a mountain-facing condo, just before dinner. Them skis are sharp -- I did a good number on one of my fingers while loading them into the car. Mid October is about as off season as it gets at Tahoe. The Village was nearly deserted and I literally think there were no other occupants in our 31-unit building. It was cold and dark, and getting colder and darker. We literally ran back and forth to the Auld Dubliner for dinner then curled up in front of the fire until bedtime.

It was 18F when we got up the next morning. For the record, a blue sky does not mean it's warm outside. After a quick breakfast and tidy up, we fled the mountains. One of the reasons we rushed back to the Bay was to see my mother-in-law, who was home just a few days between cruises in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Sadly, she was sick on Sunday and it was not to be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Provisioning

It was a tough week.

Monday was Parent Teacher Conferences at school. There we learned that Thing 1 writes well, Thing 2 is competitive, Eldest Daughter's teacher has no clue how she's going to teach basic and advanced math in one class and that our new principal failed to deliver on her promise five weeks ago to temporarily replace the computers stolen from Eldest Daughter's classroom on the second day of school.

Thursday was Yom Kippur and I enjoyed celebrating the holiday with my family. However, we arrived at services just before they started and the prayerbooks were all gone. Not being able to read along gave me extra time for reflection of the year's actions. It was a good experience but one I'm not up for repeating any time soon.

I'm two weeks into a new client engagement. This is a client I've worked with before and the work is interesting but a new project means I'm drinking from the firehose. I go through this every single time and always recover but it's stressful nonetheless. At least I do not work in financial services.

Tonight, however, I am preparing for a quick run to Tahoe and back. All ski team members rent their equipment during one weekend and this is it. I love this picture of Thing 2 on the Funitel last season. The Pinks and I did a provisioning run to Trader Joe's we stocked up on bottled water, fruit leather, granola bars, cereal, pasta, pasta sauces and nuts. Just the thought of fresh snow makes me giddy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Class Auction Project

The Pinks go to a public elementary school that raises more than $250,000 each year through its auction. The funds supplement things our tax dollars do not cover: a full-time librarian, art, computers, and a music program.

Each classroom is expected to do an auction project. This year I'm leading the effort for Thing 2's class. I did Thing 1's last year and Eldest Daughter's the previous year.

I've seen some incredible creations during our five years at this school. I would love to have taken home the lemonade stand but alas, none of my children were in that class. There have been hand-painted game tables, intricate birdhouses, tiled garden benches, filled bookshelves and toyboxes. The quality of the output is mind-boggling. A granite sculpture sold for a few thousand dollars one year. It was gallery quality.

This summer I finished my 30th quilt so I guess I can call myself an accomplished quilter. I used to have free time to quilt but having twins changed all that. I just quilt for special occasions now: significant birthdays, babies of close friends, etc.

My favorite quilt story is of the one that now hangs in Neeracha's house. Nine years ago I saw the most beautiful quilt hanging in Habitot, the children's museum in Berkeley. It was up for raffle. I bought 20 tickets because I had to have it. A month later I panicked and realized how heart broken I'd be if I wasn't the winner. So I went back with my camera and photographed it from every angle. Then I studied it long enough to figure out how it was made, drove to every fabric store in the East Bay to get the right materials and replicated it. I had it all done except for the borders when Neeracha became pregnant with her second child and I offered to make her a quilt.

We spent the better part of two hours in her local quilt store picking out a pattern for her quilt and all the fabrics. At the very end of our time together that day I pulled my precious quilt out and chose the right border for it. She took one look at my quilt and said, "I want that one." And so I gave it to her and made another one for myself. I still love it. For those of you who have been to our house, it's the one hanging in the hallway between Eldest Daughter's and Thing 1's rooms. (No, I did not win the Habitot raffle.)

The last quilt I made was for Thing 2 -- it's a bright log cabin design made of fabrics we bought in France. There's a picture of it above.

I've decided to help the kids create a quilt for this year's class auction project. It's been a challenge narrowing down all the options. In first grade the children study community so the design is based on our community. My inspiration came from Freddy Moran and Gwen Marsten's Collaborative Quilting book and this weekend I pieced the first five houses and some trees. They're happy and scrappy and I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Courtesy Taste

The Courtesy Taste is the same as the No Thank You Bite. Amanda, Neeracha's nanny extraordinaire for many years, taught me this one while we were all in Tuscany together a few summers back. Every child has to try every food being served, even if their response after that is, "no thank you."

Friday night we had dinner at our neighbors. Their kids are both older and younger than ours and we love the vibe at their house. As we hung out in the kitchen before dinner I watched Dan make some sort of bizarre rice dish and I thought: not my thing. I was going to take my Courtesy Taste and be done with it. Wrong.

It turned out to be surprisingly tasty and I had two servings. I'm sharing it with you, giving full credit to him.

Brown Rice with Tomatoes and Green Beans
  • brown rice, Dan used Trader Joe's
  • green beans, steamed
  • cherry tomatoes, two colors, cut in half
  • garlic, chopped in mini food processor
  • splash balsamic vinegar
Mix all ingredients well. Serve. Invite Leslie over.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Having Twins

Scared you, didn't I? I've already had a set.

A few years ago Dave came up with the idea of Eldest Daughter writing children's books. She has plenty of fodder, after all: twin sisters. Together, we wrote the first two books in the My Friend Paris series and they are now reality. I'm Having Twins is the story of the year I was pregnant with her sisters. My Twins Are Coming Home is the story of what her life was like after they were born. They are sweet stories, written from the perspective of a four-year-old. It's been a fun family project, all the way down to art directing the illustrations together and having hypothetical conversations about who will do the voiceovers in the big screen version.

This afternoon Dave received an email from an associate producer at The Bonnie Hunt Show wanting to learn more. Wow. We are officially in over our heads. I called media-savvy Kim and, during a commercial in the vice-presidential debate, she agreed to be our publicist. Stay tuned. Does anyone know where to get media training for a 10-year-old?!

P/S They are for sale on Amazon. If you want signed copies, email Dave.