Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Anyone up for a run?

The second half of 2008 was crazy for the Science family, and I personally let one of my favorite past times, running, fall by the way side. My mental health and my booty size have both suffered.

Rather than rest on the ample cushion of my laurels, I am rededicating myself to a new year of running. That means that starting January 1st (okay, really it will be January 2nd), I'll be putting up a new running counter. I will also be choosing a new half marathon to train for. I'm thinking April should be good timing.

I just want to invite anyone feeling similarly motivated to train with me. Pick a race in your area, whatever distance you like, for sometime in April or May. We'll train together virtually.

Need a training schedule? Check out Cool Running. They've got 12 week training program for anything from a 5K to the full marathon. Need a good way to track your runs and figure out running routes? Try Favorite Run.

Drop a comment, pick a race, lace up your kicks and let's get our butts in gear!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow day(s)

In Dissertation City, it usually snows about once a year. That snow usually sticks around for about a day before melting off. My grad school friends, who all seem to come from snowy places, MOCK the residents of Dissertation City because an inch or two of snow and the city shuts down. School is canceled, the roads are treacherous, anyone who can stays home from work. Wimps! my friends say. Dissertation City does not have much in the way of snow plows or salt trucks.. because it only snows one day a year.

Usually.

The past few weeks have been freezing around here, and on Wednesday the snow arrived. Not a lot, of course, but 3 or inches, enough to make the roads terrible and to shut down Bean's school. So I have been home, snow bound, with a sick toddler for 5 days straight. It's been great to have so much time with Bean, but I am STIR CRAZY.

On Friday I was able to get to the grocery store, which was very lucky... we got another 5 inches yesterday! This morning we trudged through the snow to get a couple of things for our elderly neighbor. But that's been about the sum total of our outings.

We made cookies for the neighbors together (she "helped" roll the dough). We have sung Christmas carols. We put necklaces on the dog. She played dress up in my closet. She has memorized the pages of November's issue of National Geographic. We have exhausted all of Bean's books, she is sick of coloring. This morning, desperate for a break, I broke down and let her watch a few minutes of Frosty the Snowman on TV. If we can't get out of the house again tomorrow, I don't know what I'm going to do... possibly gouge my eyes out.

On the bright side, I've been incredibly productive during her naps. The house is freakin' spotless and I organized all of our closets and cupboards.

On Wednesday we're flying to California to see my parents. The Dissertation City airport has been a complete and total mess, and I'm just praying that the gods of flight will take pity on us and give us a safe flight with minimal delays. If we can even get to the airport...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On pregnancy, childbirth and being a woman

In case you all aren't regular readers of Dr. Jekyl and Mrs. Hyde, over the past few months Dr. J has written a really beautiful series on infertility and IVF. Dr. J has been really honest about how painful her experience with infertility has been, while pouring on the black humor as she psuedo-liveblogs her IVF experience.

This past week Dr. J wrote a really amazing post, from which I will quote liberally:
For anyone who wonders why people would go to such lengths just to put themselves through the difficulties of pregnancy and birth, I would say this. Imagine that you were born female but that you never had menses. "Lucky you," your friends would say. "It's awful, and inconvenient." Meanwhile, every women's magazine you read has an article about menstruation--readers' stories of when they got their first periods, debates about maxipads with wings, the Eight Signs That You Should Visit the Gynecologist. When groups of women are together, they talk about PMS, or about sex during their periods, pro or con.

You would feel jealous. Not because having a period was such a desirable thing, but because it was such a fundamental part of every other woman's life that to lack it was to be excluded. And wouldn't you sort of hate your friends for telling you not to want what they all had?

Take that sensation and convolve it with the knowledge that most women enjoy aspects of pregnancy and birth, and say that it was a life experience they wouldn't miss--it was defining. The fear that you will never have that experience is real.

Though Dr. J is talking broadly about both pregnancy and childbirth in this post, it sums up in a way I have never been able to express how devastated I was that Bean was born by C-section.

I personally really enjoyed my pregnancy. It wasn't always easy, but it was an amazing experience to grow my child in my belly, to nourish her and protect her. The culmination of my pregnancy, and my ultimate gift to Bean, was supposed to be a natural birth. It was something I had hoped that Husband, Bean and I would all experience together, and I imagined it would be a powerful event.

When, just a few hours into my labor, the doctor told me I had little chance for a safe vaginal birth and would have to have a C-section, I was devastated. I cried and cried. The doctor, the nurses looked at me like I was insane. But I lost my chance at the birth I wanted, and knowing that VBACs aren't always possible, I knew that I might not ever experience a natural birth.

Afterwards, when I tried to talk to Husband and others about how heartbroken I was, the response was always the same "But at least you have a happy healthy baby!" "It's the product, not the process!"

Of course that's true. Given the same circumstances, I would make the same choices, putting Bean's health and safety above my desire for a vaginal birth. But it doesn't mean that I don't still feel a sense of loss over the once-in-a-lifetime experience that I missed.

As time has gone by, the sadness I feel about my childbirth experience has lessened. The wound less tender, the anger less sharp. But it's still there, and the sadness seems to bubble to the surface every time I see a movie or TV show about with a birth in it.

Maybe I'm the only one who felt this way after a C-section, but thanks to Dr. J for putting this to words.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Haiku War

The Haiku War between Bean-mom and I rages on...

Bean's holiday celebration
Little face upturned
Your eyes impossibly bright
Reflect our shared joy

Midnight in the nursery
Your tiny body
Lies so heavy on my chest,
I welcome the weight

ScienceMama says...
The label says they're
Long and Lean, but my heart says
Jeans don't shrink your a**

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seriously, whose idea was this?

Why does no one see the irony in doing a Gingerbread Village display, made from 1,000 pounds of gingerbread and 800 pounds of icing, as a fundraiser for diabetes research?

Holiday bliss

On Monday night Husband’s schedule got all screwed up, and so Bean and I went to pick him up from lab in the early evening. On the way to pick him up, I spontaneously decided that we should take Bean into downtown Dissertation City and show her all of the holiday decorations.

We arrived at the fancy downtown shopping center just in time for their nightly “snow” fall. They played loud music to announce the event, and then bubbles came cascading down into the atrium. Bean ran and chased the mock snowflakes squealing.

After a quick bite to eat, we took Bean outside. In front of the shopping center was a talented young woman playing violin, her fluffy brown dog sprawled at her feet. Bean squirmed down and began dancing in front of the woman, smiling at her. When the song finished, Bean begged “more, more”. The woman obliged and Bean danced for two more songs, each time clapping and shouting “hooray!” at the end. Bean also got to pet her adorable dog, who kissed Bean’s face and then rolled over on her back to let Bean rub her tummy.

We strolled up the tree-lined street and found the center square had been set up with both a 20 foot tall Christmas tree and a carousel. Bean pointed to the carousel and signed “Please?” After the carousel ride (Bean rode a blue pony and was not at all frightened by the up-and-down motion), we saw a man with his horse drawn carriage. He let little Bean pet the horse, and she was very excited to do so. As we walked away, she asked “more horsey?”

We stopped to have one last dance to the violin music before calling it a night. We kept Bean up more than an hour past her usual bedtime, but it was pretty much one of the most wonderful nights of my life.

And that is why I love the holidays.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

As promised...




As the winner of the Dr. Isis Naughty Monkey giveaway, I am dutifully fulfilling my obligation to post the evidence of how hard I can rock a pair of heels. And, incidentally, how hard my toddler can rock them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Delusional parenting 101

A couple of friends who have babies the same age as Bean were getting together to take the kiddos to a Tiny Tots Symphony Performance of the Dissertation City Opera. I was really excited to bring Bean because she LOVES music, and the event was billed as an interactive performance geared towards very small children.

The morning started off great. Bean was very excited to go "see music", and dutifully put on her dress and allowed me to put clips in her hair. She sang ABC's all the way to the symphony hall.

And the first couple of minutes of the performance went exactly as I had imagined. She sat in my lap, we sang with the talented musicians and singers, there were action songs. But after the novelty wore off, Bean was all wiggles and writhed her slippery way right out of my lap.

Before I knew it I was following her up and down the aisle, past all the children sitting perfectly in their parents laps, and back to the stairs. Up and down the stairs Bean went, back and forth, back and forth. Dancing to the music sometimes, but not looking on stage even once. I tried pathetically to get her interested in the music again while nearby parents gave me knowing looks. Good luck, sister the other mothers seemed to say. But at least she wasn't screaming.

Until she decided that she wanted to slide face first down the stairs on her stomach. At this point I tried to pick her up, but that little Bean was more slippery than a greased pig. As she tried to wrest herself from my grasp, Bean somehow smacked her chin on the ground, biting her tongue in two places.

I picked up my poor wailing Bean and hauled her out of the concert hall. Once her bloody tongue had been inspected and deemed to be still intact, I let her burn off a little steam by chasing her around the lobby. When Bean said she was ready to go listen to the music again, I took her back in, just in time for the last song.

She clapped wildly as the musicians took their bow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting back in the saddle

After my house flooded and we spent 3 weeks couch surfing, and then countless more weeks trying to put our life back together, I kind of fell out of my normal routine. One of the casualties of that loss of routine was my daily run.

I am not one of those people who is just naturally a size 6. In fact, sometimes I think those people have made a pact with the devil (a pact I would totally make if the devil would only offer). As it is, if I don't exercise on a regular basis, my jeans don't fit. And I get grumpy. I am a much happier person all around if I A) get regular exercise, and B) don't have back fat.

As life has finally (at least temporarily) settled back down, re-instituting my daily run has been a top priority. In order to find a way to fit that into my day, while still allowing Husband to work late in the lab, we've stopped carpooling.

For the past several weeks my new routine has been to leave the house at 6:00 a.m., drive to the park and ride, take the bus into work, work for a few hours, and then when my lab work offers a break (and when the sun has actually risen) I go for a run. This schedule allows me to work a full day, get in a run, and still pick up the Bean on time. This schedule has pros and cons.

Pro:
I get my daily exercise, which will stop the current expansion of my giant butt.

Con:
I leave the house before Bean is even awake, so I don't get to see her before work.

Pro:
I get an hour or two of alone time in the lab, which is a great way to be productive.

Con:
Bean and I have had to give up nursing in the morning, which has been a little hard on both of us.

Pro:
I get to run when it's light out, which is safer and slightly warmer.

Con:
I spend the first couple of hours each morning dressed in my running clothes, unshowered. Not too great for everyone else.

Pro:
I'm not tempted to skip a run, so I'm running consistently.

Con:
Sometimes when packing my clean clothes to bring to work, I make mistakes. Like forgetting socks. Or in todays case, packing a black lace bra to wear under a white shirt, forcing me to wear my coat all day.

Pro:
I love running! Eleventy!!(11!!)!!

Con:
Other times, like today, the fire alarm goes off while you are using the shower at work, forcing you to dress quickly and stand outside with wet hair. In the cold. In your white T-shirt and black bra.

What big eyes you have


I have no idea where she gets those gorgeous peepers from...

Haiku War

After an understood day of armistice last Friday, Bean-Mom and I return to our Friday Haiku war.

Sometimes it's curly,
other times wispy and wild
Hair cannot be tamed

Owie! she insists
in a concerned little voice
No Bean, a freckle

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bullets

-This weekend, my in-laws taught Bean to say Psych! as well as it's proper usage. So her newest game is to hold out a toy (or a piece of food, or a tissue, or a piece of trash she found on the floor...), and then as soon as you reach to accept the item, she pulls it back and yells Psych! at the top of her lungs. This is followed by 30 seconds of adorable maniacal laughter. Then she offers you the item again...

-Bean's report card yesterday said that they are working with Bean on her inside voice, as well as walking when indoors. Bean currently has a collection of bruises that she has acquired by running full force everywhere she wants to go and then tripping and falling into something. She's kind of a clutz (like her mama...).

-Last night on the way home from school, we passed a house that normally has blue Christmas lights strung on the balcony. The owners hadn't turned them on yet, and Bean was sorely disappointed. More blue lights! she cried More blue lights! She didn't want to hear my explanations for why the blue lights were off.

-It is time for me to break out the cold weather running gear. Stupid cold city.

-I ran a very expensive experiment yesterday. The last time I tried it the dumb cells did not behave. I should know tomorrow whether or not it worked this time. Fingers crossed because money is tight until our new NIH grant comes in (April?).

-I have been reading some really great papers this week. I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading good papers. It makes me happy. It reminds me why I love science (even if sometimes I hate bench work).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random bits

Last week Bean said her first swear word (and I would like it noted that it wasn't my fault!). Husband walked in the door with Bean on his hip to find that Pup had an accident on the bathroom rug. Dammit he said. Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit Bean parroted for the next 20 minutes. Luckily she seems to have forgotten her newest vocab word.

Our Thanksgiving holiday was totally awesome. We trekked down to Husband's mother's house for the annual eat-stravaganza. Husband's niece, who is six, was there this year and she was an awesome older cousin. Bean and her cousin played together virtually non-stop the entire weekend. It was really great to see. Their favorite game was one in which they took turns running from one end of the house to the other and then threw themselves onto a tumbling mat in a kind of belly flop.

The luxury of four (virtually) stress-free days with my child made returning to the daily grind of work/school jarring for me, and apparently heart-wrenching for the Bean. She wailed when we brought her to school yesterday, crying Mama! Mama! with giant tears rolling down her chubby cheeks. But as usual, when it was time to pick Bean up from school, she ran away from me, desperate to play with one. last. toy.

Last night during dinner, she sang bits and pieces of Jingle Bells.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Resurrected: Haiku War

Hit me on the arm
So you can kiss it better
Somehow I'm not mad

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stories I will tell at my child's wedding

Scene: A tired but happy scientist/mother picking up her toddler from pre-school. Mother enters stage right. Teacher is reading books to children. When scientist/mother enters, teacher stops reading to greet her.

Bean Teacher: Lately Bean has been wearing shirts. Do you still have onesies for her?

ScienceMama: Yes, a few.

Bean Teacher: Would you mind putting Bean in onesies for a little while? She's been tugging at her diapers lately.

ScienceMama: Oh yes, she's been doing that at home sometimes too. We've been trying to teach her that her diapers are dirty.

Bean Teacher: Today she stuck her hand into the back and got poop on her hand...

ScienceMama: [Mortified silence]

Bean Teacher: ... and then wiped it on another child's mother.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meme from Dr. Isis

Dr. Isis has tagged me for this meme, and I have no choice but to oblige her (or suffer the consequences).

5 Things I was Doing 10 years Ago:
(1) Being angsty
(2) Dating Mr. Wrong
(3) Studying my butt off
(4) Trying to please everyone but myself
(5) Taking care of business

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:
(1) Go running
(2) Start my very expensive experiment
(3) Make a fantastic, nutritious dinner for my family
(4) Walk the dog
(5) Cuddle my adorable and brilliant child

5 Snacks I Love:
(1) Chips and salsa
(2) Trail mix
(3) Cheese
(4) Coffee
(5) Does chocolate count as a snack?

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
(1) Go on a romantic weekend getaway with my husband
(2) Go on a sunny beach vacation with Husband and Bean
(3) Make bigger annual donations to my favorite causes/charities
(4) Get a massage
(5) See my extended family more often

5 Places I've Lived:
(1) Under my parents roof
(2) In a very bad neighborhood
(3) 2 blocks from the beach
(4) In a craftsman-style house with 3 other science grad students
(5) In Bean's first home

5 Jobs I've Had:
(1) Coffee barista
(2) Hostess at a snooty restaurant
(3) Department store clerk
(4) Kickass mother
(5) Is a post-doc a job?

On making a truly kickass Thanksgiving turkey

The year-end holidays are my absolute favorite time of year. I love the time with family, and especially the traditions. My family isn't really big on the sentimental trappings, but I am a HUGE sap. So a traditional Thanksgiving meal is kind of a must for me.

A traditional Thanksgiving meal, though, is a rather daunting task for some. Why? On its face, none of the elements are particularly complex... except, it seems, the turkey.

This weekend I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving gathering for my parenting group. I was shocked that every single parent there said they had never done a turkey! I think because everyone remembers a terrible turkey or two, it feels like a rather daunting task. Well I'm here to tell you how to make a kickass turkey. And it's way easier than you think it is.

The major hurdle that you must overcome when roasting a whole turkey is that the breast meat cooks much quicker than the thigh meat. So if you don't keep this in mind at all times when prepping your bird, you're guaranteed to make a dry, tasteless turkey. Which is a damn shame when it can so easily be avoided.

I've done turkeys several different ways, herb rubbed, deep fried, the high heat method. But the past two years I have done a cider-brined turkey and the results are absolutely fabulous. I've done this 4 times so far, and each time has been a success. And the best part is it's much simpler than any of the other methods I've tried. So here we go.

1. Brining the turkey.
One of the best ways to avoid drying out your turkey is to brine your turkey. To brine your turkey you simply soak the turkey in a salt (or sugar + salt) solution prior to roasting. Salt ions from the brine enter the turkey flesh, dragging water along for the ride. The extra water in the turkey meat will help buffer the long cook time needed to fully cook the thigh meat.

There are lots of recipes for various brines out there. I most of them use much more salt then you actually need, resulting in very salty tasting meat. This recipe is one that I've adapted and works fantastically well.

3 quarts apple cider
4 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
3-4 dry bay leaves
3 Tbsp black peppercorns
optional: 1-2 Tbsp mulling spices, or 1 cinnamon stick and 1 Tbsp whole cloves

This should be plenty of liquid for just about any size turkey.

Now to the business of brining. To brine your turkey, you'll need a couple of food grade plastic bags big enough to hold your turkey. Luckily, Reynolds makes turkey-sized oven bags that are suitable. There's two in a pack, and I always double bag (just in case). Drop your turkey into the bag, pour the brine around the turkey, and then close up the bag with twist ties (eliminating as much air space as you can).

Brine that sucker overnight in your fridge. Or, if you're tight on fridge space, in a full size cooler packed with ice on your back porch.

When you're ready to roast, take the turkey out of the brine, give it a quick rinse, and you're ready to go. The brine goes down the drain and the bags in the trash... we won't have any further need for them.

2. Prepping the turkey.
If you're like me, you have fond memories of Thanksgiving stuffing from the cavity of the turkey. Moist, meaty and delicious, stuffing that is cooked inside the bird is SO good.

But you probably also have memories of dry, tasteless white meat.

While stuffing your turkey makes for delicious dressing, it ruins the bird. Putting stuffing in the cavity of the bird reduces air flow through the bird. Reduced airflow = longer cook times = dry turkey. DO NOT stuff your turkey. Yes, your stuffing will be slightly less delicious. But your turkey will be exponentially more delicious. Do the math.

Instead, I like to put a couple of aromatics into the cavity. Some peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, some cloves, a bit of chopped onion. Just enough to be, well, aromatic, but without stuffing the bird and reducing airflow. There should be no more than about 1/2 cup worth of stuff in that bird.

Set your bird, breast side up in your roasting pan. For best results, invest in a halfway decent roasting pan with an elevated rack. This, again, gives the best airflow, keeps your turkey up and away from the drippings, and gives you nice crisp skin all over.

If the grocery store hasn't done it for you already, tuck the tips of the wings down into the birds armpits and tie the legs together.

Now you're ready to roast.

3. Cooking the turkey.
Preheat your oven to 325 deg. Estimate that for a 12-17 pound bird it's going to take somewhere around 3-3.5 hours for that baby to cook, depending on your oven. Drop that baby in and keep your oven closed.

Once the skin has started to turn a golden brown (around 45 minutes into the roast), you're going to have to put a piece of tin foil over the breast to keep the skin from burning. Then leave it alone for another 1.5 hours.

You will know your turkey is done when a thermometer stuck into the center of the thigh (but not touching the bone) is 180 deg. I take my turkey out when the thermometer reads 170 because the temperature will continue to rise as the turkey rests.

4. Let that turkey rest.
Your turkey is going to come out gorgeous. But don't start carving immediately. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before you carve. This will give people plenty of time to admire how lovely your turkey is.

5. If you're feeling bold...
This year, to complement the cider brine, I did an apple cider reduction to drizzle over the platter of carved turkey (in place of a more traditional gravy). It was met with rave reviews.

Cider reduction:
1 quart cider
1 Tbsp mulling spices (in a tea ball, or in a little cheesecloth pouch)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt

Combine your ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered ~20 minutes. Remove mulling spices and continue to simmer until cider is reduced to ~1/2 cup. Remove bay leaves. If you've got some decent pan drippings, add a Tbsp or two. Then drizzle over platter of carved meat and serve.

All right. There you have it. The mother of all turkeys.

Now, while I admire my own handiwork, inquiring minds want to know:

Have you ever made a turkey?
How do you do yours?
Will you be making the mother of all turkeys this year? (If so, I want to hear all about your dazzling success!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The honeymoon is over

Last night I was starting the laundry and from the living room I heard "Uh-oh."

Uh-oh
says Husband, laughing.

Ouchie! declares Bean.

Can you show mama?
asks Husband.

I heard the clomp clomp clomp of Bean's little feet as she ran down the hall saying Ouchie Ouchie.

When I looked down, I saw Bean holding out her stuffed monkey. This monkey had an unfortunate run in with our dog Pup quite a few months ago, and since that incident his head had been rather poorly attached. I could see now that the head had come clean off, and Bean offered up the poor headless body with great concern.

Ouchie she said.

Oh it's okay, Bean
I replied and kissed the poor beheaded monkey on his gaping neck wound.

All better
I said, handing the lifeless corpse back to the Bean.

Bean gave me a look as if to say Are you out of your f*$king mind? His f*&king head fell off! before walking away, leaving me holding the pathetic body of her forlorn little toy.

I thought I had 13 more years before Bean was rolling her eyes at her totally lame mother, but it's looking like the honeymoon is already over.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bittersweet

Tuesday night was a glorious glorious night, the importance of which simply can not be overstated. Husband and I watched CNN on pins and needles, and when they announced Barack Obama as President-Elect Barack Obama, I quite literally cried.

Among the many, many reasons that I support Obama is my basic and unwavering belief in the dignity of all people, and my belief that when we strive to live as a community we are all better for it.

And that is why I was devastated to wake up Wednesday morning to hear that Californians had passed Prop 8. Prop 8 amends the California state constitution to define marriage as specifically being between one man and one woman. To see that so many people voted to institutionalize discrimination (in California of all places), it left me disheartened.

The passage of Prop 8 stands in stark contrast to the election of our first African American president. For anyone who doubts that a gay marriage ban is anything but a tool for discrimination, I would point your gaze towards Arkansas. On Tuesday, Arkansas voters passed a law that bans unmarried couples from adopting children.

I know that so many states have already passed similar laws, but I never thought that California, the home of my liberal heart, would betray the very values of diversity and equality that I was raised with.

This election has been bittersweet. I am hopeful for positive changes under an Obama presidency, but watching California voters fall for the fear-mongering and hate of the religious right leaves me wary that we still have a long way to go before we see true equality.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!


Thanks to AcmeGirl for the tag. Bean was enthralled at a recent Halloween-themed event by the pumpkins with kitties carved into them. So Husband kindly obliged her kitty-loving fancy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Six random facts meme

Thanks to ScientistMother for the tag. And now six random facts about ScienceMama.

1. I am still in close contact with every single one of my friends from high school. It makes me very happy.

2. I am happier when I exercise on a regular basis. I am not currently exercising on a regular basis. My favorite jeans tell me this is a problem.

3. I have not had a haircut since last December. My split ends tell me this is a problem.

4. Husband and I met while working in the same lab. I am on one of his papers.

5. I used to suffer from chronic migraines. I have only had one since I got pregnant with Bean.

6. I work fewer hours in lab as a postdoc (and mother) than I ever did as a graduate student. I try not to feel like a terrible person. It doesn't always work.

Funk... and not the good kind

Get up (get on up)
Get up (get on up)
Stay on the scene (get on up)
Like a lovin' machine (get on up)

Bobby, should I take 'em to the bridge? (Go Ahead!)
Take 'em to the bridge? (Go Ahead!)
Take 'em to the bridge? (Take 'em to the bridge!)
Should I take 'em to the bridge? (Yeah!)
Hit me now!


Husband is pretty much not going on the job market this year. Long story short: certain experiments are bastards and his paper is not finished. He will miss the vast majority of deadlines for this year's TT jobs. He will have to wait until next fall before he can do a full blown job search. This will delay... everything.

It's disappointing, but it's fine. I am... regrouping.

Get it together, right on, right on
right on, right on, (right on, right on)
right on, right on, (right on, right on)
right on, right on, (right on, right on)

In other news, Bean likes James Brown. She knows how to shake what her mama gave her.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Mother of All Ironies

A friend of mine just passed along this link. In short, over a million dollars have been donated to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin's name over the past few weeks.

I regularly give to Planned Parenthood anyway and couldn't resist making my own donation for Sarah. I only wish they would have allowed me to include a personal message to Sarah in the card she'll receive...

Sarah, I can't express it any clearer: you are not a role model to women, you do not represent me or my values. May the discord of your own hateful rhetoric ring in your ears for the rest of your days.

I remain,
The Mother of All Scientists

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gratuitous cute baby pics












































The (now) annual trip to the pumpkin patch.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On extended breastfeeding

The Bean is coming up on 18 months now. Damn does the time fly fast. She is not a baby anymore, but a firecracker of a little girl.

We are still breastfeeding. I committed to breastfeeding full time for her first year. Right around her first birthday, I stopped pumping at work (which was incredibly freeing). We quickly dropped to nursing just twice a day: first thing in the morning and last thing before she goes to sleep. I figured we'd use that schedule as a transition for awhile until she felt ready to stop nursing altogether.

Well here we are six months later and we're still nursing twice a day. At Bean's last checkup, the doctor asked what my plan for weaning was. Um, I don't have one.

It's actually pretty freaking awesome to be able to nurse Bean at this point. Nursing is no longer the centerpiece of my life, but we still get to enjoy that quiet time together each morning and evening. It's so nice. Especially on weekend mornings when Bean wakes up and I'm dying for just a few. more. minutes. I can bring her to bed and let her nurse while I grudgingly admit that I have to wake up.

And at night, nursing is usually followed by a few minutes of cuddling before I put her to bed. This is a rare treat, as my go-go-go daughter rarely sits still for more than a minute.

So, while I doubt that we will nurse past her second birthday, right now I would be loathe to give it up.

Unfortunately for me, it's decision time. My doctor has recommended a particular medication for me. I know I need it. But I also know that it comes through in breast milk. And I also know there are not adequate studies on the long term effects of children exposed to this medication via breast milk. My doctor doesn't view the decision as an either/or prospect. She thinks that since there's no data showing a negative impact of this medication that it should be considered safe. I strongly disagree.

I know that it is almost impossible to monitor the long term effects of a drug on normal childhood development. Even for something as common as hormonal birth control, they really can't say whether the exposure via breastmilk might have a subtle effect on, say, sexual development. Virtually all medications have warnings about pregnant and breastfeeding women, and that's because we just don't have the data to be able to what is safe and what isn't.

So for me, it is an either/or decision. And for now, I'm choosing breastfeeding.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hippie U

I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Hippie U. Hippie U is full of a lot of different types of students, not least of which are the 90s version of a hippie: the yippie (part yuppy, part hippie). Yippies are the kids that drive a brand new hybrid (that their parents gave them), live in a commune and grow their own organic weed in the basement.

Living in a town of yippies has its high points... recycling programs were top notch. Composting on campus. Plenty of organic, locally grown produce. A fantastic farmers market. A generally easy going, friendly attitude around town. But the yippies also have a lot of hip causes. There were plenty of Che posters in windows around town, though most of the people who hung them only seemed to vaguely understand who he was. "Free Mumia" was the most frequently seen graffiti in town. Hippie U had a policy of only cutting down trees for new buildings in the summer to avoid students chaining themselves to trees. Animal rights was another very hip cause on campus, and there were occasionally protests or information tables on campus.

I recently heard from my undergraduate adviser that an animal rights group had been passing out "wanted" posters around campus with the pictures, names and home addresses of scientists doing animal research. This included a young faculty member in the department who works with mice.

Later that week, that young researcher's house was firebombed as he, his wife, and two small children slept. The family was forced to escape their burning home through a second story window.

Shortly after that, protesters firebombed the car of another member of the department.

Since the two attacks, Hippie U has raised security in the various lab buildings on campus. But I have a hard time imagining how any of the faculty, postdocs or students can possibly feel safe. How could you possibly work another late night in the lab, how could you feel safe in your own home, knowing that this group was willing to set fire to a home with sleeping children inside?

And what of this poor researcher? He's spent his whole life working to get where he is today, doing research he hopes will help humanity. But with the safety of his family at risk, what will he do? What would I do? What would you do?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Speaking of idiots...

...anyone catch the debate last night?

Husband predicted last week that the media had so hyped Palin as an idiot that as long as she didn't use the N-word or physically implode during the debate she would be hailed as a champ. And sure enough pretty the entire world is claiming that she did a good job.

Are you f*cking kidding me?

I swear to god, I actually found her attitude offensive. Her "I'm just a mom from Alaska and I share your values and hardships" attitude made me want to smack her in the face. The Republican party is not working for the middle class...

And who the hell was she winking at?

I thought that Joe Biden did an good job. He talked about real issues. Unfortunately he was about as personable as a snail. But he's intelligent and well-spoken, I agree with virtually everything he had to say. I was also a little disappointed that he didn't go for the jugular.

The debate was something of a letdown. She did a good job of listening to her debate coaches. She wasn't forced to deviate from her script, which was a disappointment. I fear this may have alleviated some people's fears about her. I can only hope that enough people weren't fooled.

An aside: As a mom, I found it extremely strange that after the debate had ended, Sarah Palin did not take her infant son from her daughters arms. I'm assuming she's had very little time with her son over the past week, and I found it very odd that she wasn't rushing to try to hold him. He's still a tiny infant... I found it weird. I wonder if she was told not to hold him... I've never seen any pictures of her holding him.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Science: 268 ScienceMama: 0

I'm a complete idiot.

I'm known in various circles for my propensity to break glassware (usually with important samples or toxic chemicals inside... the Bottle of Formaldehyde Incident of '03 was hard to live down). I've got a weird brown spot on my middle finger from a time when I was handling formadehyde without gloves. I once accidentally splattered DMSO in my mouth (a tiny flick off the inside of an eppie tube lid, but still... it made my tongue feel weird). I mean I've always been an idiot, prone to accidents, but seriously guys, this one takes the cake.

Yesterday I VERY CAREFULLY cut out bands on the UV box wearing eye protection... instead of a face mask.

Today, I look like I fell asleep in a tanning bed. Or went snorkling on the sun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Something good

Every once in awhile, you have one of those moments that you know you will always remember.

Like watching the man you love holding your child in his arms, teaching her how to blow on a dandelion just right. Her squeal of unparalleled joy as the little white tufts break away and float down to the grass.

Then watching her shove the naked dandelion head into her mouth, dandelion seeds caught in the river of snot dripping down from her nose.

Bliss, I tell you. Bliss.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On mortgages

In light of the recent financial implosion, I have found myself thinking more and more... Was I a sub-prime mortgage?

Husband and I bought our condo right as we were getting married. Our landlord had decided he wanted to live in our apartment himself and evicted us (though we thought we had a lease that protected us, he argued that we didn't... it was a mess). Finding ourselves suddenly and unexpected forced out of our apartment with a newly adopted dog, we were sick of getting burned by dishonest landlords. And with a dog in tow, your rental options are ever narrowing. So we decided to see if we could buy a place.

We had been saving for a down payment and we were able to put 10% down, taking out a second mortgage for the other 10%. We paid off the second mortgage in less than a year. We borrowed about $100,000 less than the lender said we were qualified for. We were relatively conservative. And yet, 3 years later with rising food and gas costs, and fixed (NIH scale) incomes, we're definitely on a tight budget.

What if we hadn't been so aggressive in paying off our (high interest) second mortgage? What if we had actually borrowed as much as the lender told us we could afford? We'd be in big trouble right now. Despite our efforts to be to make smart choices, we'd be in a bad spot.

It was very tempting, as we shopped for a place to buy, to look above and beyond our agreed upon price range. Though we told our realtor what we were willing to spend, she was constantly sending us listings that were above our target price range. And they were so much nicer! What's $30,000?

We stayed conservative and bought a place that was at the low end of what we had figured we could spend... but what if we hadn't?

I think of the families whose homes are now in foreclosure, and I know that there but for the grace of (insert deity here)... We made relatively conservative decisions, but I often wonder if we had come asking for a loan 10 years ago, would we have been approved? Were we a high risk loan?

Though we used a reputable lending company, the lender definitely tried to lend us more money than we could have realistically handled. How many families were given a false sense of security when loan officers talked to them about how much they could afford? Predatory lending indeed.

I watched Bill Clinton on The Daily Show the other night. He said that the current mortgage crisis rose from the ashes of the Dot Com bust... speculators had to put their money somewhere, so they started speculating on real estate and development... they needed more customers to create demand and growth, and the lending institutions helped provide them. How much of this was deliberate? How much of it was bad judgment and greed? How much was ignorance? I don't know, but a lot of families are now paying the price.

Most of the financial analysts will blame the poor judgment of the families now in foreclosure, they blame predatory lenders. But what they don't talk about it just how widespread predatory lending practices were. It wasn't just the internet lenders. It was the credit union down the street and the big name national banks.

So what now? I support the idea of a bail out, because if we don't bail out these banks, everyone will suffer. And I mean everyone. I don't support Paulson's version (no oversight is what got us into this mess in the first place), but I do support a bailout plan. And I feel strongly that a moratorium on foreclosures should be part of that plan.

Even if I weren't dealing with my own set of home-related woes, the crumbling financial system and mortgage system is terrifying. If Husband gets a job this year and we put our house on the market next summer, will there be anyone lending to buyers?

It's a pretty frightening time to be a homeowner. Good thing I'm too poor to have anything invested in the stock market.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Trailing spouse gets the shaft

Husband is still deeply entrenched in the writing of his paper (and still doing some "final" experiments for it). He's been working crazy hours trying to get his experiments done, the paper written, and because of this his time with the Bean is way too scarce.

A few nights ago, as we were settling into bed, Husband says casually Maybe I don't want to do this tenure track thing after all. I don't want this to be my schedule for the next ten years.

Of course everyone goes through this kind of thing at every possible decision point in their career. And most postdocs are constantly asking the "is tenure track right for me?" question. Or, if you've already answered that question with a resounding HELL NO, you're wrestling with the even more amorphous question of "what the hell do I do with myself now?"

So I cooed reassuring things in Husband's general direction until we had satisfied ourselves that it wasn't a decision to be made in bed on a weeknight.

But, um, I'm a planner. I cannot handle open-ended, no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel plans. It makes me feel unsettled to not have a plan.

I will support Husband in whatever career path he chooses, but it is driving me f*cking crazy to not have a plan. When will he get his paper out? Who knows! Is he applying for tenure track positions? Who knows! Will we be moving next summer? Who knows! What kind of job can I find if/when we move? Who knows! Can we afford to have a second child? Who knows! Are we facing a future as assistant managers of the local video strore? Who knows!

The life of a trailing spouse. I know, I volunteered for the job. But that doesn't mean it's not really annoying. I can't plan my career until I know what Husband's plans are. And until he knows... I'm up a creek.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting the hell outta Dodge

The theme for today was "chucking it all and heading to Mexico."

Husband and I spent the day joking about our newest plan. To leave it all behind: stress at work, Husbands impending job search, our stupid broken condo, our evil neighbors... and just run away to Mexico. The little savings we have should get us there, and once we arrive we'll live in a shack near the beach under the names Paco and Rosa (we haven't decided which one of us will be Rosa). I'm pretty sure the smattering of high school Spanish that I can still recall would allow us to blend right in.

Bean, or Pinto as she will hence forth be called, can run naked on the beach picking up shells and possibly eating them. I figure she doesn't need to wear clothes until she's maybe 5 or so, right? Little Pinto would grow up bilingual. I could have a little vegetable garden, and maybe some chickens. Husband could work as a handyman (he's very handy). It really doesn't sound so bad.

What's your secret escape plan?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Waiting

Life has seemed frozen in time since the flood. Every day is a terrible day of waiting and praying. Of stress and fear. We're waiting for the HOA to begin the repairs. They have the money from the insurance company, and yet nothing has been done. Almost 8 weeks we've been waiting with concrete subfloors and holes in the walls and duct taped carpets.

The last time I spoke to the president of the HOA, he yelled at me in the parking lot. He told me if I didn't like what the board was doing, I should get a lawyer. So we got one. But it's a slow process, and nothing is happening. So we wait.

We're waiting to see whether the first floor neighbors insurance company will sue us. We can survive this if we don't get sued. If they sue us, put a lien on the house, we'll be sunk. I lay awake at night and worry, but I know it could be months, a year before we know what will happen.

I hate leaving the house because I'm afraid of running into my neighbors. I dread taking the dog out, taking the trash out, checking the mail. I hate being home, and I set our deadbolt against them. Don't ask me why.

Living in a condo is a terrible situation. Your biggest (or in our case, only) investment can be held hostage by some dude with a third grade education and a chip on his shoulder. I regret the day we first laid eyes on this place.

Time seems frozen, but it's not. Bean is growing and changing. She's talking like crazy, she dances and sings gibberish songs. She gives eskimo kisses and real kisses. She tries to ride the dog like a pony. She's a very different girl than she was even two months ago. Last night Husband and I realized that all we have at home are "baby" toys. We promised this weekend to go find her a truck, some blocks, puzzles. Real big kid stuff.

I'm trying my best to focus on Bean, and not on the mess our lives have become. She's changing so fast... if I don't pay attention I'm going to miss it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yes, we are thirteen year old boys

Husband made some off-color joke to me tonight. So to put him in his place, I playfully threatened to put my knee where it counts.

Hey hey! he said. Watch the jewels!

I prefer to call it junk I reply.

One woman's junk is another man's jewels he says.

At which point I promptly kneed him in his junk.

There will be no puns in my house.

*Scene*

Best. T-shirt. Ever.

Today I saw pretty much the best T-shirt ever. A young faculty member on the shuttle, a plain white T with iron-on letters...

Reviewer #2:
I'll see you in the parking lot


I can only imagine that the guy's grad students gifted him this homemade treasure. I think I might commission one for Dr. Isis.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And now for something completely different

Okay, so I've been mulling over this one for awhile, but frankly I was too lazy because it's a somewhat involved post... and let's face it... scientists are lazy. If we weren't totally lazy, why would this exist?

As some of you may remember, I attended a week long scientific conference back in June. As at most scientific conferences, the talks and poster sessions ran rather late into the night (seriously, 11:00 is late for me these days... my toddler wakes up at 6:00!). And, as at most scientific conferences, a good percentage of the attendees would go socialize and talk shop at the bar after the sessions closed.

At the close of the last session, one of the conference organizers (a relatively big name in my little subfield... let's call him Giant Perv) announced that the entertainment for the evening would be a (crappy) DJ spinning (crappy) tunes at the bar.

So I get to the bar with my labmates and a couple of other girls and we get ourselves a couple of beers. After about 10 minutes, Giant Perv walks up to our table and starts trying to get us on the dance floor. I figure he's just worried that the entertainment is a flop (which, um, hello? I'm not dancing to Men At Work). So we beg off saying that we'll dance in a little bit. Giant Perv accepts this and heads over to the next table of hapless grad students.

As soon as Giant Perv leaves the table, one of the women I am with tells a horror story about the last time she came to this conference... apparently Giant Perv likes to hit on grad students and post docs, using the dance floor as his opportunity to grab a little a**. She said that last time she was at this conference, he had literally dragged her onto the dance floor.

When it was time for our second round, one of the grad students and I went up to the bar to order more beers. As we're walking past the dance floor towards the bar, Giant Perv grabs my forearm.

Time for that dance he says. I try to beg off, but he literally isn't taking no for an answer. He's grabbing my forearm for godssake and pulling me onto the dance floor.

What I didn't realize was that by "dance" Giant Perv meant "swing dance". To Shakira.

I did a lot of swing dancing in college, and I'm not half bad. I can rock a pair of three-inch heels and make it look good. Nonetheless, I was not super stoked at the idea of dancing with this guy. But rather than make a scene or yank my arm away, I danced.

As we danced, I felt that old uncomfortable feeling of dancing with a stranger. Where do you look? What do you say? As I prayed for the speakers to explode, I tried to concentrate on where to put my feet.

I'm a terrible follow I said, laughing uncomfortably.

You're not in control here he said. I'm not going to let you tell me what to do.

Um, creepy much?

When the dance was over, he complimented me on my dancing, on my dress, asked me if I wanted a drink. I said no. I was so uncomfortable that I decided to leave the bar altogether.

Why wasn't I able to say no when this guy pulled me onto the dance floor? I didn't want to make a scene, didn't want to alienate this guy. He's in my sub-field. There's a very good chance that he'll be a reviewer on my future paper (for which I have yet to collect data). So I sucked it up, danced with him though I didn't want to. And when he continued to make me uncomfortable, I had to leave.

But in fact, I did say no. He chose to interpret my refusal as coyness instead of discomfort. He chose to continue hitting on me as I was trying to leave.

In every field, there's a guy like Giant Perv. The guy with the reputation for hanging out with all the young, female grad students. Who use conferences as an excuse to flirt with or otherwise harass women who are younger than them. Guys like Giant Perv use the power differential between Established Scientist and Lowly Grad Student (or Groveling Postdoc) to get a little action.

And frankly, guys like Giant Perv can get away with it. What recourse is there, really, when a female student or postdoc is harassed at a conference (or even at their home institution)? There are rarely any consequences for bad actors.

No big take home message here, it just sucks.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Good news and bad news

The good news is that the insurance company came back and said they are approving the claim.

The bad news is that our HOA board has become openly hostile to us, and it's unclear how much fighting we're going to have to do to actually be treated fairly when it comes to the insurance payout and repairs.

The good news is that the neighbors' damages will be covered by insurance.

The bad news is that that one of them has told us (rather rudely I'd like to add) that their insurance company is definitely going to sue us.

The good news is I've lost 6 pounds in the last 4 weeks.

The bad news is that I've been getting stress migraines and I'm too nauseous to eat.

The good news is that my friends got together and sent us gift cards for groceries as a little care package. Husband keeps calling them our food stamps.

The bad news is that it turns out there are a lot of people in this world who'd rather spit on you than be a decent human being.

The good news is I could probably fit back into my wedding dress now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Floods, insurance and waiting

We're still waiting to get a response from the insurance company about whether or not they will cover the flood. In the meantime I am floundering, trying to stay sane and not just have a complete mental breakdown.

Sometimes it feels like I'm drowning and everyone around me is watching and commenting about how nice the weather is. Like everyone is telling me to just man up and smile and pretend like everything is fine while the life that Derek and I built together crumbles around us like so much drywall.

I'm expected to act like everything is normal. But I'm spilling samples and dropping gels. I'm crying as I take my timepoints, wondering if their will be a lien on our home, if we'll be sued, if we'll lose everything we have and more because of some tiny part in our stupid washing machine that just... failed. Because I had to wash the damn laundry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Doing dishes

I'm doing dishes in the bathtub because I'm classy like that.

Home repairs rule!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Proud


This is why postsecret always makes me cry...

Home

After a brutal weekend of Laminate Flooring 101, the Science Family is finally back home. We had help from some very generous friends and got the floors laid in 2.5 days. Sunday night was spent purging our home of drywall dust, laminate sawdust, and duct taping our carpets down (yes, my house is now held together with duct tape… no it’s not as funny as you think it is).

We can’t do laundry. There’s no food in our fridge. Our bathroom floor consists of cement subfloor covered with waterproof plastic.

But we’re home (!).

Friday, August 22, 2008

I think I'm paranoid

I took birth control pills for approximately 11 years straight before Husband and I decided we wanted to get pregnant. When Bean was born, we decided not to reinstate the pill until I was done breastfeeding so that I wouldn’t be exposing Bean to hormones via the milk.

Well it’s 16 months later (holy crap!) and I’m still breastfeeding. So we are using other, less effective methods of contraception. And even though we’re very religious about using said methods, I can’t help but freak out every single month waiting for my period.

Oh god, it’s been 33 days. I’m totally pregnant. In fact, I feel kind of nauseous and tired today. And I have been craving Ben and Jerry’s. I’m totally pregnant, aren’t I? Sh*t Sh*t Sh*t.

And so here I sit today. Nauseous and anxious. Knowing I’m not pregnant, but ohgodwe’dbetotallyscrewedifIam… So anxious was I that I actually walked my not-pregnant butt over to the hospital pharmacy.

Can I buy a pregnancy test here?

No, I’m sorry, we don’t carry them replies the pharmacy tech in her most sympathetic voice, as if I'd just asked to schedule my first chemo treatments.

So I walked, humiliated and with a very full bladder, back to lab. Argh. Husband is going to mock me for days when I make him stop to pick up a pack of pregnancy tests on the way home.

The take home message, my friends, is that the pill rules, all other forms of contraception leave too much to my paranoid imagination.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Swearing

My first year in grad school I roomed with a Biochem grad student. He was a decent guy, but his choice in friends was somewhat questionable. One guy in particular, let's call him Assface, was a real piece of work. He was your average let's-drive-drunk-and-crash-a-freshman-dorm-party-to-pick-up-chicks kind of guy. You know, a real quality character.

One night, as my roommate and his friends are pre-partying in preparation for a night of underage booty scavenging, Assface tells me that I shouldn't swear because, get this, it isn't ladylike.

Now, I am rarely what I would call ladylike. It's not really high on my priority list. But the reason this comment really chapped my adorable behind is because Assface definitely cursed plenty, as did my roommate, all his friends, and pretty much all human beings between the ages of 12 and 35. It was clearly not the cursing that bothered Assface. It was the fact that I was a girl who cursed/curses like a grizzled old truck driver.

So of course I told Assface to "F*cking bite me".

**Fastforward 7 years.**

I'm in the office of my boss, Dr. DNA. Dr. DNA mentions that her neice, who works as a technician in a lab on campus, has been having problems with a certain biochemistry grad student in her lab.

Is his name Assface? I ask.

Why yes!
Dr. DNA replies. How did you know?

So I regale her with several stories of Assface-related chauvinism. ...and one time he told me I shouldn't swear because "it isn't ladylike!"

Dr. DNA considers this but briefly. Well I don't think you should swear, she says, but that's because I think there are so many more descriptive and eloquent ways to express yourself.

Eloquent perhaps, I respond, but when I say that all this insurance bullshit is making me balls-to-the-wall batsh*t f*cking crazy, I think you understand exactly what I mean.*

*Disclaimer: Actual real life response to my actual real life boss may have involved significantly less bravado and fewer curse words. p-value << 0.005

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Naked baby


Because, come on. There's nothing better than a naked baby.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And furthermore

I decided I am also allowed to swear as much as I want until my house is fixed.

That is all.

I realized...

...I may never feel the same way about a washing machine again. I felt a sense of dread as I loaded our laundry last night.

Am I suffering from PTSD? If so, I think I should use it to get out of laundry duty for at least a few weeks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the road again

When our apartment first flooded, a couple of our closest friends triaged us, taking us in and letting me cry on their couch.

The last 8 days were spent as refugees (or Fugees, as it were), staying with friends from our birthing class. They were generous to take us in with approximately zero minutes notice.

Hey Phebes, remember your offhand offer of help if we needed it? Um, yeah... we're on your front porch.

And indeed, Phebe and her family took us in and even trusted me to use their washing machine! We've spent the last week living like crunchy hippies, reading to each others kids, cooking communal meals, and making BIG pots of coffee.

The Bean, for her part, has shown remarkable resilience through all the disruption, sleeping in her travel crib without complaint. She's cheery even, and has been training Phebe's son in the fine arts of throwing food to the dog and screaming to get your way.

But rather than overstay our welcome, we're trying to spread the love around a bit. So this morning the Science Family moved for the third time in two weeks, dog sitting for some friends while they're in Vegas, and then probably taking advantage of them for a little while after they return.

Meanwhile I'm leaving more threatening messages around town, with the insurance company, with the board, trying to get some movement on the insurance claim so we can start the repairs. I'm pretty sure the property manager is avoiding my calls at this point, and no one is calling me back. I think they know I'm desperate and possibly hormonal... given the chance I might start breaking some skulls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In which I compress 6 days of the most stressful days of my life into as few sentences as possible

The flood left Science Family homeless, but some wonderful friends let us invade their home, toddler, dog, cats and all.

The floors in our condo were a complete loss and had to be torn out in order to start drying the subflooring and the walls. Damage estimates for our unit are around $10,000. Water obeys the laws of gravity, so unfortunately the two downstairs units got it even worse than we did. The damage estimates for those units were around $15,000 each.

Initially the president of the homeowners association (a real piece of work named Bob) told Science Family that the flood damage would not be covered by the condos homeowners insurance because (according to him) I was negligent for leaving the house before the washing machine had finished its run. However, in the days that followed it became obvious that the policy probably would cover the damage... but Bob and other members of the board acted deliberately to try to keep Husband and I from getting information about the policy. In fact, they did several illegal things to try to prevent a claim from being filed.

With state law in hand, we finally forced the board (under threat of legal action) to file the claim with the insurance company. We got a claim number this morning. So a week later we're just now getting the process started.

Hopefully the insurance company will send an adjuster out soon, and hopefully the insurance company will agree that this should be a covered event. My major concern at this point is that without the support of the board (who are technically the policy holders), we are going to have to be sure that they don't have the ability to influence the insurance company's decision in any way.

It's going to be a long process, I suspect. But I'm pretty damn proud of the way I handled myself and stuck up for my family when the board was trying to bully us. I'm also amazed at how many people rushed to lend a hand when we found ourselves homeless. It takes a disaster sometimes to show you who your real friends are, and apparently we have many.

I'll return to more hilarious posting once my life is a little more stable. In the meantime, may I direct you to Dr. Isis? That's a good place for a laugh.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Flood, Part 2

Wedding photos: Rescued by firefighters.
Cats and Dog: Safe.
Science Family: Thankful for their friends.

Flood

Condo: Flooded.
Damage: Intense.
Floors: Decimated.
Walls: Soaked.
Number of units damaged: 3.
Insurance: Doesn't cover flood caused by washing machine malfunction.
Savings: Paltry in comparison.
Science Family: Devastated.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lab before bedtime

It never fails.

Last night after putting Bean to bed, making a (delicious) dinner for Husband and I, packing Bean's lunch for school, and folding a load of laundry, I treated myself to an hour of deliciously trashy TV. (The Cleaner. Have you seen it? It's garbage TV but Benjamin Bratt is gorgeous and I'm kinda diggin' it.)

9:00 rolls around and I decide to enforce bedtime for Husband and I. So we're there standing at the mirror brushing our respective teeth and I'm of course thinking about my experiments for the next day. And that's when I see it: there are my restriction digests, still sitting at 37 degrees. The last thing I was supposed to do before I left work was add ethanol to those babies and stick 'em in the freezer. But I didn't. And the sample is precious. And star activity will ruin the experiment.

The age old question: is it worth it to run back to lab in the middle of the night (yes, 9:00 is the middle of the night for me these days) to save your experiment? In this case, because the sample took 5 days of prep, the answer was decidedly yes.

Age old sub-question: is it worth it to put on pants for said trip back to lab? In this case, because I am lazy, the answer was decidedly no.

So I hop in the car and head back to work. As I roll up to my building (a parking space even!), my stomach drops. The department has been hosting an evening seminar series on Wednesday nights which, if my calculations were correct, would currently be in the coffee and cookies phase in the lobby directly outside my lab. What better way to say I don't give a sh*t about this department then to walk through the seminar crowd in my pajamas? Awesome.

So I take the back stairs into the building and sneak into lab via 6 other labs. I remove my (possibly overdigested) samples from the incubator and sneak back out the way I came.

Now this tragedy of missed sleep and embarrassing pajamas could have all been avoided if I could just remember to finish my freakin' experiments. But it never fails. Whenever I have a long incubation and think I'll just take that out last thing before I leave, I always always forget.

I need some sort of, I don't know, timer or something. Oh wait, I have one of those. Clearly I need something else. Like a functional brain, or adequate amounts of sleep, but I'm not sure that working mothers can legally acquire either of those things.

Fine. I'll settle for an appropriately used post-it notepad and a total lack of faith in my ability to remember anything at all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Boooo!!!

Oh internets, I am injured. According to my expert opinion (and that of my lab mates and the internets), I have shin splints in my left leg.*

I tried to deny and even ignore my injury. This, it turns out, was a BIG mistake. I don't like missing out on runs for any reason (Yes I am obsessive compulsive about running... I log my mileage to tenths of a mile. Was there ever a question?). So when I have a little pain, I prefer to soldier up and walk it off (or run it off, as it were). I can actually run through quite a bit of pain and it kinda makes me proud. So I ran and I ran. At first it only hurt when I ran. Then it started to ache during and after my runs. It'll go away, I thought. Last Thursday I was hurting even before my run. So I told myself I would take it easy, but I actually ended up doing a harder, hillier run than usual. By the end of the 7 mile run, my right knee was feeling all weak and wiggly. Whoops.

For the rest of the day on Thursday I was limping. I couldn't run all weekend. I still haven't been able to run. This morning I tried to put on a pair of heels (because I am a moron) and found that I couldn't physically walk down the stairs in them.

ARGH! With no one to blame but my idiot self, I am feeling pretty pissy about the whole situation. It makes me very antsy when I can't run. I'll give it till the weekend. If my leg still isn't better I may break down and actually think about making a sports medicine appointment, but I suspect they will just tell me to rest it. Bollocks says I.

*My uncle, the runner, says it's the pavement that's killing me and scolded me for putting ~800 miles on this pair of shoes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

By popular demand...





Family weekend

This past weekend the Science family was on a road trip. My aunt and uncle own a blueberry farm (um, awesome much?), conveniently located in the same town where Grandma K (Husband’s mom) has retired with her partner. Every year in August, my aunt and uncle have a harvest party to which they invite all their friends and family for an all-you-can-pick blueberry smorgasbord. So we packed up the Bean (and all of her Bean-related accoutrements) and hit the road for some extended family fun.

We left Thursday night so that, as we hoped, Bean slept the entire drive down. This was NICE. In fact, this may be the only sane way to travel with a toddler. On Friday Bean got to show off all her new tricks to her two loving and easily impressed grandmas. We took Bean to a kick*ss park where she tore around like a maniac and bravely slid down many a slide. She has also recently started saying and signing “Thank you”, so she ran around the playground picking up trash, handing it to me and thanking me for taking it from her. Aw, my little garbage collector. Mama is so proud. But perhaps her proudest moment was when she climbed (supervised) into the grandmas’ backyard fountain, diaper and all. We let her stomp around for a while until her diaper was so heavy with water it was almost tripping her. Absorbent indeed!

On Saturday was the blueberry party. Husband and I usually help my aunt and uncle set up before the party according to our assigned gender roles. He’ll be out in the garden lugging tables with my uncle and carting the kegs. I’m usually in the kitchen helping my aunt cook something or another. This year was no exception, except that I also had a Bean under foot as I cobbled together a blueberry cobbler. To keep her busy, I put blueberries around the kitchen for her to scavenge, hid toys in drawers, and pulled out Tupperware and pots for her to bang. I also worked quickly.

After the set up was done and the party was started, Husband and I scooped up the Bean and took her out to the fields to pick blueberries. We stood her in front of a bush. She didn’t react. So I grabbed one off the bush and fed it to her. She looked at me like You’re sh*tting me. These things grow on trees? and immediately began grabbing blueberries as fast as she could, shoving them into her mouth gleefully. We finally had to drag Bean away from the fields so she wouldn’t make herself sick on berries. More! More! she signed as we walked back to the house.

My uncle is a crazy long distance runner, so he and his running buddies regaled me with a few enviable stories of recent races. These are runners for whom a 2 hour run is an easy day, and iPods are verboten. My uncle was sporting the silver belt buckle from his most recent 100 mile finish (26.5 hours). It was easy to get tangled up in their heady tales of all-night runs. Their easy camaraderie reminded me that I need to find a dedicated running buddy again!

On Sunday we piled the Bean (and about 20 pounds of blueberries) back into the car for the long drive home. This time Bean was awake for most of the ride. I can’t tell you how many times I sang “Twinkle, twinkle” and “I’m a little teapot” yesterday. She adores action songs, and I have to admit it’s pretty cute to see her play along… At least the first 20 times or so. But we made it back in one piece, with a few shreds of sanity in tact.

But now our little family vacay is over, and it’s back to the daily grind. And I’m glad at least that Husband got some quality time with the Bean in the middle of his work related insanity.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New T-shirt

I just saw a pregnant woman who was just starting to show... maybe 4 months along. She was wearing a shirt that said "BabyFat".

I thought to myself I should get myself one of those next time I'm preggo so people won't just think that I'm letting myself go.

Then I thought to myself, Why wait till I'm pregnant?

When I'm running I wear running clothes because they are the most comfortable. They're made from wicking fabrics, they don't bunch, they don't chafe. But they also don't leave anything to the imagination. Sometimes, like this morning, when I'm running past a group of construction workers I want to make excuses for myself. I had a baby! That's why my I look like this!

Usually I just settle for running faster.

Officially a...

I used to read this now defunct blog called Officially A Mom. It's too bad that it's gone because it was pretty d*mn funny, but it has been dead for awhile.

Recently the phrase "officially a mom" popped into my head... Why? Because with Husband out of town, I was forced to drop a deuce with the Bean in my lap. I am officially a mom, I thought. But then, I've thought that before.

-Realized I hadn't plucked my eyebrows in 6 weeks: Officially a mom
-Breastfed in a gas station parking lot: Officially a mom
-Saw spit up on my shirt as I was leaving the house but said eh, f*ck it: Officially a mom
-Baby spit up in my mouth (it's a long story): Officially a mom
-Had to stop in the middle of doin' it because the baby was crying: Officially a mom
-Realized I was the lady in the grocery store with the crying kid: Officially a mom
-Frequently use the phrase "BM": Officially a mom

When did you know you were Officially A (insert stereotype here)?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Being a single parent is hard

Husband was away last week at a conference. Um, being a single parent is hard. I don't understand how people who are actually single parents can survive. I mean it literally does not compute. I was absolutely exhausted from chasing the Bean around all week without being able to tag out when I needed it.

How did I cope? Caffeine, chocolate, and (apparently) cleaning my house from top to bottom.

Bean is at a stage where she's both exploring and clingy. She alternates between running full speed around the house, throwing toys at the dog, and gripping my leg, begging "Upp! Upp!" as I try to make her dinner. She's also developing her tantrum technique... so let's say you think it's a bad idea that she runs around the house with a toothbrush in her mouth (I have nightmares of it getting lodged in her throat someday)... you can try to trade her for something else, you can try to distract her with a song, but eventually you gotta strong arm it away from her. This now results in a full-fledged kicking, screaming tantrum. Awesome. We are now officially in toddler mode.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday night

Me: Ask me what I did tonight.

You: Okay ScienceMama, what'd you do tonight?

Me: Dismantled, scoured, then reassembled the entire fridge.

You: Um... wow?

Me: While vaguely watching/listening to trashy TV, thank you very much.

That's right, motherhood has turned me into a wild woman. My Friday nights are spent cleaning my fridge. Don't try to get in the way of my good time, you might get hurt.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Confessions of a trailing spouse

The coming year is going to be a stressful one for our little family. This fall, Husband is going on the job market for a tenure track position. It’s going to mean a lot of single parenting on my side. A lot of late nights and stressful deadlines for Husband. In theory we were supposed to be making plans for baby #2 somewhere along the way, but obviously that's not happening any time soon...

Husband has been working some pretty extreme hours over the last month or so, trying to finish up some experiments so that he can (finally!) publish his work before he starts the application process this fall. This week he’s leaving for an international conference where he’ll be presenting his post-doc work for the first time and (hopefully) networking with people who will likely be seated on selection committees.

When he returns from his conference, the month of August will be spent hammering out a paper and hopefully submitting. This will mean more long nights and working weekends. It’ll be hard on both of us. Husband will be missing out on a lot of quality time with Bean, and I’ll be stuck with a lot of single parent duty while he’s working. We will probably have to figure out a way to split our commute as well so that he can work as late as he needs to (this month we’ve been carpooling in the morning and he’s been bussing home late at night, but his hours are limited by the bus schedule).

If the gods are kind, he’ll get his paper submitted by the end of August (this will likely be a Hurculean task, as Husband’s boss is both a perfectionist and a reluctant writer). Then Husband can focus on getting his application package together. Husband will most likely submit somewhere between 50 and 100 applications to universities across the country.

Once his applications are in, it’s a waiting game to see who is interested enough to invite him for an interview. With any luck, Husband will be invited for a handful of interviews, and perhaps receive an offer or two. Hopefully somewhere in there Husband will be able to negotiate a job for his trailing spouse (that’s me!). And we’ll hopefully be moving to our semi-permanent location next summer.

After talking to a lot of friends and family recently, it occurs to me this is a bizarre process that non-scientists think is pretty weird. One of the major issues that non-scientists don’t understand is why Husband and I expect to have virtually zero control over where in the country we end up.

The tenure track job market is a lot like the lottery. Hundreds of post-docs go on the job market each fall, only a fraction of those post-docs will end up with jobs. Getting a job isn’t just about being the best (though that helps)… it also depends on a lot of factors that are basically out of your control. Does the university need another person working on (insert model organism here)? Are they interested in your particular subfield? Do they already have someone in the department working in that subfield? Do the folks on the selection committee like your boss? Do they like the other people who wrote your letters of recommendation? Does your work involve some big piece of equipment that the university will never be able to afford?

It’s a crap shoot. No matter how much I believe in Husband and what he does, I have no idea what his chances are on the job market this fall. All we can do is wait and see. Where will we end up? Who knows! But chances are we’ll have very little control over it. As a control freak, I find the situation a little distressing.

Maybe I should just start buying lottery tickets.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bean at 15 months

Since Bean was born, I've asked my mother what I was like at her age.

"Oh I don't remember," she sighs. "There were so many of you, you all just kind of blend together in my mind."

And I can hardly blame her. There were 5 of us for heavens sake, I'm sure she was barely coherent for a lot of those years. But I don't want to forget.

Bean you are determined. You are a do-it-yourself kind of girl. When it comes to learning new skills, you won't stop until you get it down. Last week Husband taught you how to clip the buckle on your carseat. Now you won't stand for someone else doing it for you. You have to do it yourself.

But you're a happy little dictator. You're easy with the smiles and a wonderful mimic. If Mama sticks her tongue out at you, you are happy to reply in kind with a wag of your own tiny tongue.

When we ask you where your nose is, you touch your nose and say "beep". When we ask after your ears, you point proudly. When we ask where your tummy is, you lift your shirt and rub it gleefully. When we ask where your mouth is, you stick your tongue out and touch it with a giggle.

You're always on the move, little Bean. You're curious and active. Last night at our parenting group, all the other babes were happy to sit in the grass and play with toys. Not you. As usual you were running around, finding stairs to climb up and down, up and down. You found 16 different ways to go down the stairs... backwards on your knees, forwards holding Mama's hand, face first on your belly... The you ran around the garden looking at flowers and picking up rocks. We saw a little bumble bee flitting on some flowers and we stopped to look. You were enthralled. When you got to the herb garden you plucked a basil leaf and held it to your nose, sniffing exaggeratedly just like Daddy taught you. I gave you a spearmint leaf and you sniffed it before shoving it in your mouth with a grin.

You've started saying "upp!" when you want to be held. You will run to me and grab my leg. "Upp!" you plead (or demand). Your tiny voice is so adorable I always oblige. You run to the couch and look behind you... "Upp?" you ask.

You've got so many signs now I can hardly keep track. Diaper, banana, eat, cheese, grape, all done... just to name a few. And of course the most important sign: more. You use "more" to get more food, more hugs, more trips down the slide.

Your teachers say you are half ballerina, half linebacker. You've got bruises on your little legs and scrapes on your knees. Dirt under your fingernails and finger paint in your hair. But you're petite and lovely, your sweet little face can melt me in a second.

When you sleep, you curl up in a ball with your bottom in the air. You clutch your soft little lovey to your face and you sigh in your sleep. You've started sucking your thumb on occasion, though it's not clear if it's a habit that will stick around.

It's so much fun to play with you and teach you. You love learning new things, and you're proud of yourself when you have an opportunity to show off.

I love watching you grow, little Bean.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At least I think I'm funny

Last night Bean woke up crying. I tried to look at the clock but found I couldn't see it... my eyes were mysteriously swollen shut. While Husband tended the Bean, I stumbled to the bathroom and pried my eyes open. Sure enough, my original diagnosis was correct. My eyes were tender and red, and the lids so swollen they had lost their creases. WTF? I grumbled.

Best guess: an allergic reaction to something. I took an anti-histamine, put an ice pack on my face and went back to sleep.

This morning I looked like I had been mugged in a back alley. Though I could now open my eyes (an improvement to be sure), my eyes were still so puffy they were literally convex. Too bad I'm giving lab meeting tomorrow (for which I still haven't finished preparing) and couldn't stay home and hide all day.

"What happened to your face?" our grad student asked me.

"Botox," I answered.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cold

Yes, it's July.
Yes, it's gorgeous outside.
Yes, I'm wearing a sweatshirt.
Yes, they totally over air-condition the lab.
Yes, I have a space heater running.

Yes, I know that's freaking ironic.

Monday, July 7, 2008

And THAT'S why I married him

In keeping with his usual tradition of thoughtful gifts I didn't even realize I wanted, Husband gave me a fantastic gift for my birthday.

On the morning of my birthday, we started the day exactly the way I wanted to. A cuddly nurse-y cuddle fest in our bed with the Bean scrambling around in a manic giddy mood. Hugs and kisses and tickles etc. It was very Hallmark and exactly what I wanted.

After breakfast, I heard Husband and Bean in the hallway. "Take it to mama" Husband told the Bean. A giggly conspiratorial little Bean came back to the bedroom clutching an envelope. She started to move towards me, but when I caught her eye, she squealed and ran back out of the room. Husband scooped the little rascal up and brought her over to me.

Husband, as if by some sort of psychic trick, had gone out and gotten me a gift certificate for a haircut, facial, and body scrub! And not just anywhere, but at the salon I went to on our wedding day. *Swoon* (And before you cry shenanigans, he got the certificate before I wrote my last post.)

So I'm planning and plotting some sort of relaxation/beauty day for myself, hopefully followed by an actual date(!) with my husband. I might just plan it for our 3rd anniversary in August.

Yay for pampering! I've never done anything like this before, and I think it's going to be a real treat!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Motherhood: Redefining luxury

I remember once when I was little, maybe 7 years old or so. I had woken up early for no particular reason, and I wandered down to the kitchen where my mother sat reading the newspaper. Every morning my mother woke up at 5:30 a.m. and had a cup of coffee with the morning paper.

I sat down next to her and probably asked a bunch of annoying questions trying to get her to pay attention to me. My mother finally told me to take my cereal and go watch TV.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because every morning I need just a few minutes to myself" came the reply. With 5 kids running around the house, there weren't a lot of moments that my mom could take for herself. Apparently 5:30 a.m. was the only time she could get.

The all-consuming nature of being a mother leaves you with little time for yourself. I deliberately wake up early on weekdays so I can get those same quiet moments over a cup of coffee that my mom needed. On weekends, there's no time whatsoever. Naps are the only break, and that time is usually spent accomplishing some chore or another that can not get done when Bean is awake.

While I was away at my conference, I woke up early to try to beat the heat for my runs. I went out running at 5:30 a.m. and when I returned I would shower and dress at a leisurely pace before the 8:00 a.m. breakfast. It was entirely weird to be able to shower for however long I wanted to. I didn't have to bargain with anyone for enough time to shave my legs. When I got out of the shower, I had plenty of time to blowdry and curl my hair. I even plucked my eyebrows and put on moisturizer. I haven't been that well groomed since the Bean was born.

Time is my number 1 most precious commodity these days. There simply is never enough. What gets pushed by the wayside is any and all "me" time. I would love to just go get my haircut. I would love time to take care of myself.

Or better yet, for someone else to take care of me. (Hah!)

Another year another birthday

Tomorrow I'll be 29.

In the months leading up to this birthday I didn't really think that 29 was such a big deal. And I mean it's not. But it is. This is the last year of my 20s. I will be 30 on my next birthday. Which also isn't a big deal. But it is. 30 sounds like grown-up-ville.

Pre-Bean, I might have taken the opportunity to make some sort of last-year-of-my-20s resolution. Taken some sort of amazing trip, or blown all my money on a new fabulous wardrobe, or gone out dancing with my girlfriends wearing too much makeup and too little clothing. But I'm a mom. So it's kind of impossible, impractical and tacky (respectively).

Instead, I'll be living it up with my little family. Here's what I'm hoping for in terms of my birthday. I'm hoping Bean sleeps in till 6:30 a.m. I'm hoping to relax and nurse her in bed, followed by family cuddle time (until she gets impatient for breakfast). I'd like to take a long walk with Husband, Bean and Pup. I'd like a picnic in the park followed by some shenanigans involving the Bean and a playground. I'm hoping for a family dinner at a local restaurant wherein the Bean eats her food instead of wearing it or throwing it at others. I'd love to end the day with fireworks, but realistically that's just not happening. The sun sets about 3 hours after Bean's bedtime, so there's just no way we're going to get to see them. I'll settle for an evening on the couch watching a movie with Husband.

Not exactly the kind of birthday celebration I was having a couple of years ago, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I hope the rest of you have a fantastic 4th of July. Have a beer for me!