Friday, December 29, 2006

A quandry and the year in review

First, a question: if a water main breaks in your city, and the powers that be recommend not washing in the water until further notice, is it better to leave your children in the known germs from holiday camp and day care, or to take your chances with the maybe-germs in the water? Discuss.

Then, because everyone else is doing it, I thought I'd go back and recapture the first sentence from this blog every month over the last year. I started blogging in March, so you'll have to make up your own stories about the fabulous adventures I was having (and keeping to myself) previous to that.

March: Well.

April: My father and his wife came to visit this weekend.

May: I've been working on the first bit, I mean third, I mean half, no, huge honkin' chunk of my dissertation for a couple of years now.

June: I was just browsing the iTunes music store, on a quest to replace our broken tape of Sesame Street Platinum.

July: I love me some Sen. Ted Stevens.

August: Life has taken a turn for the busier over the last few days.

September: There's nothing in this article from the NY Times that is surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not depressing: there is a clear separation between new moms returning to work who are able to pump, and those who aren't.

October: Sandbags are useful not only during hurricanes, but also during chest x-rays for toddlers.

November: I finally took the plunge and have a post up at Begging To Differ: It is not a small irony that this, my first post at BTD, is inspired by Playboy.

December: Well, blog, I've clearly been avoiding you.

What can I take from this? Mostly that it's a miracle anyone reads this blog at all. I finally have a New Year's resolution: be witty and engaging in the first sentence of my blog each month. If that's too much to ask, perhaps I might simply aspire to use proper grammar in the first sentence... we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I woke up cranky this morning. I have a cold that's not on the downswing yet, I haven't been sleeping well for a few weeks, I've got a lot of work to do for school and rapidly decreasing time in which to do it, both kids have holiday potlucks at their respective schools tomorrow (at the same time, naturally, and both requested foods "appropriate to your family's traditions" which, I suppose, means macaroni and cheese for us), did I mention that the potlucks are at the same time?, there are random items to be purchased for several events that I need to remember long enough to make a list that I will then forget when I go to the grocery store anyway, and to top it all off, this is the dead week in college basketball, when the players actually have time off for exams, so I don't get my favorite winter evening distraction. (Okay, my second-favorite.)

So, I woke up cranky. I snapped at WonderGirl and was oversensitive with DT. As we ate breakfast, though, I had a moment to see myself and remember that my prickliness was not pre-ordained. I told DT and WonderGirl that I was feeling cranky, and I was sorry for being that way. They were instantly forgiving. I'm grateful for that. It is amazing how much that one action can matter: admitting that you're in a foul mood and acknowledging that you're over-reacting to other stimuli because of it. I'm still feeling cranky, but it's no longer directed at other people, it's simply my state. What an improvement.

More beautiful things from the last day:

  • The pictures waiting in my inbox of an old friend's new baby, and the knowledge that there is one more family who has dealt with pregnancy loss and now knows the joy and relief of a healthy, safe baby.
  • The email from Dr. Nice that my current results are so encouraging that I should start writing my proposal and plan on presenting it in February.
  • Going on a field trip with WonderGirl's class yesterday to see a puppet show, and having her unconsciously cuddle up to me during the sad parts.
  • Watching Rocco and one of his friends manic-ly perform their entire repertoire of animal sounds.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


It feels like a lot of threads in my life have been converging lately to convince me to spend more effort practicing intentional, mindful living. I've been impatient with the kids and with DT more than is warranted, and certainly more than I want to be. I've felt vaguely shaky and unsettled for the last few weeks, without being able to put my finger on the cause. I've been intellectually aware of how fortunate I am, in almost every way, without being able to work up the corresponding emotional appreciation for my situation.

At the same time, I've had the serendipity of finding several small, hopeful ways to adjust my perspective. DT and I went to a workshop on nonviolent communication that has given us some corny but useful ways to neutralize situations that often lead to arguments in our house. The facilitator also made a statement that has stuck with me: "Other people don't cause your feelings; the most they can do is to be the stimulus." It's a sentiment that I've always believed in, but that I'm not always able to internalize -- I am responsible for my own emotional environment, and when necessary, I can selectively let in things that improve it. Along those lines, one of my favorite bloggers, Karen of Chookooloonks, started keeping track of "kind blogs" which aim to be places of positivity and grace. Through Chookooloonks, I also found the blog Three Beautiful Things, a daily list of beauty in the blogger's world, which, in turn, gives me a daily dose of peace.

So, I'm working on it. I'm trying to be more mindful and to know that my perspective and outlook are just that -- mine. My goal is not to become an out-of-touch Pollyanna, but rather a balanced woman, wife and mother who has her eyes open and, when she has a choice, chooses joy. To acknowledge the internet folks who are helping me (without knowing it) I've finally signed on to Karen's kind blog effort with this blog, and I'll finish this post with three of my own beautiful things from this morning:

- When I heard WonderGirl come out of her bedroom after waking up, I went to meet her at the top of the stairs, where she was sitting and looking out of the window. Her first sentence was, "Look at this. It is such a beautiful sunrise."

- Empirical and theoretical results which match in my research.

- A good morning hug with DT which went on longer than normal.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It pays to be informed

I drive to school every day along a fairly congested surface street. There are several poorly-timed stoplights, where Rocco and I sit for one or two (or usually more) cycles. Sometimes we end up part of a truly modern phenomenon: a spontaneous, short-lived traffic community. When it happens, when we make a connection with Random Driver on Our Left, it's nearly always because Rocco is doing something cute. He has a sweet, flirtatious smile that gives the impression that it is only because he has seen You that he is interested in smiling, in fact, he's never smiled before, but You... You! are so wonderful that he's overcoming his natural shyness to give You the most genuine, innocent, slowly-spreading smile that has ever been given. He melts hearts, even in traffic. So, often, I'll realize he's flirting with someone in the next car and will catch the other driver's eye as they smile at Rocco or pantomime playing with him.

Sometimes the other driver will clearly be giggling at whatever odd object Rocco has decided he must clutch throughout the drive - a full-size Duke basketball, his ridiculously poofy winter coat, a wilted board book (upside down), a hat that he prefers to wear on his face instead of his head. Yesterday and today, I have to admit that I was hoping to avoid such an interaction. For some reason, Rocco has become obsessed with a booklet about the Mirena IUD that I brought home from an ob/gyn appointment. He turns the pages slowly and studies the diagrams and tables with a remarkably intent expression. I think it's funny, and tell myself that I'm doing my part as a modern mom to raise a male who will understand the importance of being educated about birth control; at the same time, I'd be just as glad if Rocco postponed any future traffic flirtations with the guys in the local waterproofing company's truck until he was done digesting the information.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hmmm, surprised it wasn't 100%...

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 91%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Quiz via Bitch PhD.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How I spent my NaProWriMo vacation

Well, blog, I've clearly been avoiding you. Not only did I not post every day in support of NaBloWriMo, I didn't comment on another blog every day. Also, I guess you're not surprised to hear that my proposal is not only not completed, it's, um, still blank. NaProWriMo remains uncelebrated.

But. But! Several things of note happened during November that didn't involve active writing.

  1. We celebrated WonderGirl's 5th birthday with an awesome Halloween redux birthday party, lots of wine and the coolest bike ever. Seeing her face (very) gradually register that the bike she was looking at in the park was actually her birthday present was one of the highlights of my year.
  2. My paper was published! When I looked at my Google Reader feeds after coming back from Thanksgiving, the first thing that popped up was my own name. On my paper. My paper! I've been too afraid to read it again, though, for fear that the typesetter added something crazy after our final approval of the proofs. It's published! Whatever else happens, I've contributed to my field. Hooray!
  3. We travelled to DT's sister's new place for Thanksgiving and had a truly nice time. WonderGirl got along very well with her cousin, which hasn't always been the case, and the adults allowed themselves, I mean ourselves, to relax and enjoy being together.
  4. My advisors let me know that they think I'm making good progress (fools!) and one of them actually suggested I might be done with the research part of my dissertation by May. She didn't share the drugs she was using, but it did feel good to think that someone, somewhere, thinks I'm going to finish.
  5. For some reason, I have incredible anxiety that I have a festering blob of skin cancer somewhere, but I've been too afraid for years to actually find a dermatologist and have my skin checked. I finally went to be checked this week, and the dermatologist found nothing that even rated a close look. After literally five years of being afraid (for no good reason other than a severe fear of all cancer), I can relax and know that I don't have an ugly surprise waiting in that department.

Oh, and I don't have any cavities. Do you think I can include that in my proposal?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

When you least expect it

My mother died nine years ago last spring. As I think (believe, hope) is common, I sometimes panic that I'm forgetting everything about her. I struggle sometimes to remember even the sound of her voice; I can bring it back most easily when I picture her on the phone in our kitchen, talking to her own mother, with her Southern accent more pronounced than usual. I try to keep Mom somewhat present in our family -- I talk about her relatively frequently with WonderGirl, and my clumsy attempts to answer her early questions about death have resulted in WonderGirl's firm idea that my mom is underground, playing games with other people who have died, such as the father of one of her preschool teachers.

I'm always grateful when something brings up unexpected memories of Mom. It helps to stem the tide of forgetting, or more precisely, the tide of worrying about forgetting.

I'm wearing tights today, and I noticed in the full-length mirror in my department's bathroom that there's a hole in the heel and a run up the back. Instantly, it reminded me of one of Mom's projects: collecting old hose and tights with holes and runs. She'd read somewhere that they made perfect stuffing for home-made throw pillows, so for months? years? she and I dutifully saved our dead hose in a drawer. When there was finally enough nylon/cotton volume collected, we eagerly zipped it into a pillowcase and created what would always be known in our house afterwards as The Pillow of Death. Given that Mom was a math teacher, and was all about real-world math problems and everyday estimation, we should have already guessed that a throw-pillow's worth of pantyhose weighs approximately 71 pounds. Although never proudly displayed on the couch, we kept that pillow in the den anyway, tucked away, our secret weapon in case of enemy invasion.

I remember that.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The aftermath

My predictions for last night were all completely wrong. My in-laws had what I will euphemistically call "car trouble" and didn't make it to our house, but will try again today. This is in some ways a good thing, because DT and I spent most of the night with the TV on, listening with one ear, and occasionally saying, "Holy crap!" as it appeared that the Democrats might actually have a chance to take over some seats. Neither of us really thought it would happen. Our little victory dances this morning would have been curtailed out of politeness if DT's parents were already here, but it was so much fun to hear Rocco imitate our woo-hoos of excitement that I'm kind of glad they're going to be a day late.

Of course, in our state, the Republicans kept solid control of everything. But at least now I can accuse them of being out-of-step with "real" Americans instead of vice versa.

Now, I'm just hoping against hope that the Democrats really do change some things. The legislative high road is pretty empty; I hope they jump on up there. Work with the Republicans to pass things that people care about. There is a part of me that wants revenge for a lot of the petty (and not-so-petty) crap, a part of me that would love to see impeachment hearings. However, as I told DT this morning, if there's a choice between spending time passing a livable minimum wage (or health care for kids) or spending time going after Bush, for God's sake, let's worry about the people that need it most first.

On some level, Bush is, finally, a comma. Suck it, Karl Rove.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The party line

I'm nervous about the elections today. I follow these things a little too closely, probably, and don't have a long history of happy Tuesday nights in November. 2004 was particular painful for me; DT's parents were visiting, and my intensely-conservative father-in-law had the job of trying to comfort me as I realized that things were not going the way I'd hoped. For the last two years, I've felt guilty for putting him in that position, and I've hoped that we wouldn't repeat the scene. Of course, he's driving down to visit us as I write this, and he and DT's mom should be here by the time the polls close. This doesn't feel like a good sign to me.

My first vote ever was an absentee ballot cast more against Jesse Helms than for his opponent -- not exactly an illustrious, or productive, start. I now live in a blue island in a red sea, which means that when I voted this morning, there were virtually no truly-contested races. My state senator and representative will certainly be Democrats, as will my congressman, and there is no way my governor won't be Republican. Because I'm idealistic about voting, though, and I refuse not to participate, I tracked down voters' guides from the League of Women Voters, the local paper and the local independent paper. DT and I shuffled the kids off to the polls this morning after we left the house, and we doggedly made choices through all eight pages of races, amendments and referendums on our Diebold machines. After agonizing for a few days over which of the five candidates (all without bachelors degrees!) I should select for our county school board seat, I discovered as I voted that we've been slightly redistricted, and I should have researched a different race.

My predictions for tonight: I will repeatedly (surreptitiously) check the internets while we catch up with my in-laws after the kids go to bed. My mother-in-law will pretend not to notice because she doesn't want to talk politics. My father-in-law will pretend not to notice because he doesn't want me to dissolve into tears again. When we do talk about it later, he will be shocked (for the third time in the last several years) that I voted for some Republicans. He will forget again before 2008 that I have ever voted for a Republican, and he will lump me in with "you Democrats." I will chafe and DT will remind him that the Democrats are way too conservative for us, at which point my father-in-law will say, "Huh. Let's eat dim sum!" We will eat dim sum.

Predictions for the races? I have no idea.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Grad student hack

I'm a fan of the website Parent Hacks. I often find little tips that are at least vaguely useful, but I've never thought of something I do that might help someone else. Or, at least, I don't really think my little parenting techniques are hack-worthy until I read the same thing, submitted by someone else. But I'm not bitter.

My point (yes! I have a point!) is that I have a grad student hack to share. I use Google Reader to keep up with blogs and news, and it only recently struck me that it would be a good way to keep up with the main journals in my field. Now I have RSS feeds for my favorite journals, and I don't have to remember how long it's been since I've checked for new articles. Now, unfortunately, I also have no excuse for not reading the latest relevant articles.

(Proposal update: HAH! But I did do my presentation, and it was good. So that's something.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 1 update

I'll sum it up: not good. I planned to give myself a good way to ease in to this NaProWriMo thing, namely that I would start by simply writing a report on a project I recently completed. It's not technically part of my proposal, but it has to be done, it's fairly straightforward, and it would get me in the writing spirit.

I wrote about five sentences.

Today probably won't be much better, as I have to spend time putting together a presentation for tomorrow, but I'm going to redouble my efforts. Surely I can write an entire paragraph. Surely.

Totally unrelated - if anyone has a suggestion for a Cinderella doll that will make both me and my soon-to-be-5-year-old happy, I would love to hear about it. I'm fine with indulging princess fantasies, but I'm not so keen on freakish unrealistic Barbie bodies yet. Googling phrases such as "cinderella doll feminist," "cinderella doll realistic" and "cinderella please let me keep my lunch down" haven't gotten me far, although I have now read several middling college papers on body image and have also discovered the importance of realistic, rooted hair in dolls.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I buy it for the articles, natch

I finally took the plunge and have a post up at Begging To Differ:

It is not a small irony that this, my first post at BTD, is inspired by Playboy. Generally speaking, I don't think Playboy and its brethren contribute a lot to our society: I don't condemn the women for posing or the consumers for buying, because some pretty basic human instincts drive both behaviors. I do subscribe to the idea that unrealistic sexual images can create barriers to real, healthy adult relationships, and that, in my mind, is a shame. That said, I may be buying the December 2006 issue.

Miss December (do they still name the Playmates?) Cindy Margolis posed for Playboy after years of demurring. One of her reasons? To raise awareness and money for RESOLVE, a well-known infertility organization. Margolis' three children were born with assisted reproduction techniques: a son through IVF and twins via a surrogate. Although infertility affects around 10% of the US population, very few celebrities go public with their stories. I certainly understand and respect their need for privacy, but it is incredibly refreshing to hear frank discussions of infertility from women such as Margolis or the Dixie Chicks. Kudos to Margolis for understanding that more public voices can make infertility less stigmatizing for many couples:

[It] is very important to me, to make fertility mainstream so everyone understands it.
Talk about giving back -- not only is she donating part of her profits to RESOLVE, she'll likely end up helping someone's husband give a "sample" in the pursuit of an IVF or IUI pregnancy.

Happy National Infertility Awareness Week, everybody.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


First, there was NaNoWriMo. No way in hell I'd do that - writing an entire novel in a month?

Then, there was NaBloWriMo. This seems more doable, and I may try: blog every day during November. Of course, it probably won't happen, with birthdays galore, Thanksgiving travel and, you know, November weather.

There is an obvious need for a different Na**WriMo, and friends, I'm stepping up to the plate. I'm going to have my own personal WriMo, NaProWriMo: National Proposal Writing Month. As I write that, it seems obvious that I should change the "Na" part, since there's no sodium involved. Oops, I mean, there's not a national component, as far as I know. On the other hand, I'm sure there are actually dedicated grad students all over the US who will, in fact, write their entire dissertation proposals in the space of one month, without even needing the motivation (which I apparently crave) of a fancy name for the process.

Here is my goal, then: to actually work on my proposal every day in November, except for the days we're visiting DT's family over Thanksgiving, since they wouldn't understand and really, why does a woman need a job when she has kids? I'm not going to commit to finishing in November, but I want a good draft. I'll be blogging my updates. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 30, 2006

In which I hope not to jinx my son's health

I think Rocco is over it, whatever "it" was. This weekend, our little guy was basically back to normal -- his cackle happily / screech unhappily balance was tilted back to the cackle happily side. He is walking just as well as you'd expect from any 14-month-old with an oddly-protruding belly, which is to say that he often falls down for no apparent reason. I think that's normal for him, though, because I'm pretty sure he's genetically related to me. He has been fever-free for several days, and he doesn't react with shock and disappointment at our betrayal whenever we try to feed him. He spent the weekend playing happily with WonderGirl, apparently thrilled to be allowed to act the part of her pet dog, as she led him around in circles, using a laundry bag as a leash. (Not around his neck, of course, he held his leash willingly. Gotta be some interesting gender politics stuff in that, but I'm too tired. Damn Daylight Savings Time.)

Friday was his first truly good day. He didn't seem either under the weather or recovering, his throat wasn't sore, he didn't erupt with random whimpers. It was the first day in probably six or seven weeks where he was fully healthy. As relieved as I was to see that he could actually be happy again, I was just as relieved that I was able to believe he was healthy. There was a nagging part of me that wondered if I was so used to worrying about him that I was overstating his illnesses. It was liberating to relax again. I could hug him without subtly feeling his belly for excess heat.

It's been hard for me to accept that we really don't know what was wrong with him. Kids don't usually stop walking for a week; it's odd to tell other parents about the experience and have no one say, "Oh, yeah, that happened to us... [insert reassuring story]." I kept waiting, but all I got was, "Wow. That's scary." In case you've happened upon this blog because your child has stopped walking, I have no idea what to tell you. DT thinks (and I'm inclined to believe him) that Rocco had a longstanding strep infection that led to an inflammatory process of some sort that made walking impossible. We don't know if it was a hip, both hips, his back, or what. The diagnosis of toxic synovitis was thrown around some, and it seems appropriate, if not quite as snappy as "refusal to ambulate." This was all complicated by a bout with roseola that started just as he kicked the strep infection. There's nothing like spiking a high fever just after finishing antibiotics to make you wonder what in hell is going on with your child.

All I know is that I'm thrilled not to be going back to the doctor for yet another copay, I mean, follow-up today, and I'm vaguely optimistic that when I take Rocco and WonderGirl for their well-child checks in a couple of weeks they may, actually, be well children.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The sound of one neuron firing

I haven't been doing much dissertating lately. With Rocco's mystery illness and doctor visits, WonderGirl's fall break and our recent (much-needed) trip away for a long weekend, I've been away from school quite a bit. Both Rocco and WonderGirl have class parties later this week (different afternoons, dodged a bullet there), and DT has needed to cover lots of extra clinic shifts lately, so I'm picking up WonderGirl from school most days, which means leaving my office by 2:45pm.

A better person would probably make this work. Someone else could sit down and get six solid hours of work out of a six-hour workday. It wouldn't be an immense amount of progress, but it would be obvious progress. Me? I end up spending more time than I'd like catching up on email, blogs, the most interesting forum on the internet, and frankly, my own sanity. My only alone time comes during the day, so that's when I take it. Lately, though, with all of the other things going on, I haven't had the alone time at school, and when I do have downtime at home, I spend it decompressing from parenting instead of spending it getting little incremental pieces of schoolwork done.

Again, a better person would snap out of this more easily than I have. My habit is to let a lack of progress wash over me like molasses. I get overwhelmed and depressed that I'm not getting anything productive done, so I sit around and mope until it's time to pick up the kids. Then, of course, I'm disappointed in myself that I still didn't get anything done. A month ago, I was feeling flush with optimism -- my paper was accepted and in press, my new project was moving steadily (if not quickly), and my work ethic was impeccable. Now, um, yeah.

Not much to report, except that it will be a freaking miracle if I do my proposal this semester.

In an effort to break out of this, I present my goals for today: grade the quizzes for the class I'm TAing, begin the report on my research rotation, email my advisor about the problem that has my research stuck. If there's extra time: stop beating myself up.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The workers unite

How the mighty have fallen. I just got a spam email from Billy Bragg.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Confessions of a reality TV virgin

We don't watch much TV in our house -- we do record The Daily Show and Colbert every day, but don't have any other regular habits. (When basketball season rolls around, we more than make up for our below-average screen time, but sadly, we're not quite there yet.) Last night, in a strange coincidence I can only describe as Unusual, the kids were in bed, DT was occupied, the dishes were washed (helps when you don't cook), lunches were made (helps when you forget to take your already-made lunch from the previous day), and I had time to work on knitting a hat I've promised to WonderGirl.

I turned on the TV for a bit of distraction, but not so much that I would mysteriously and consistently drop stitches, leading to a hat full of holes instead of yarn, which I would unsuccessfully attempt to repair, and which might, even now, be sitting at the bottom of a tote bag, cleverly disguised as a knotted ball of yarn with no hat-like qualities. For instance. In any case, the first channel I checked was showing Dancing With the Stars. I'd heard of it, and I am an upapologetic fan of Jerry Springer's radio show, so I left it on.

It was great. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I enjoyed watching. The dances were fun, Emmitt Smith was amusing; I actually Tivo'ed it for WonderGirl to watch later. Here is my question: have I completely lost my standards? Have I not kept myself in TV watching shape, and has my crap-ometer gone on the fritz? My only previous reality-TV experience was the first season of Survivor, so perhaps I'm just reacting to the genre. I don't think I'll make a point of watching another show, but I did leave it on until nearly the end.

I'm either pathetic or a pioneer, not sure which.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The girl hair conundrum

Proving that the Scheduling Gods have a sense of humor, DT is the parent who picks WonderGirl up from school on Tuesdays, aka Ballet Days. It's the only day he can reliably leave work early enough to get her, and (I think) they both enjoy the Dad/daughter time. She has a snack, then he takes her to ballet, gets her dressed in her regulation-pink leotard and regulation-pink tights, and makes sure she doesn't walk in the parking lot in her regulation-expensive ballet shoes.

When she started ballet at this studio, I knew it was a bit more traditional than the 8-week ballet sessions she'd been doing at the local Y. There were prescribed colors to be worn by each level of dancer, frou-frou Disney princess ballet skirts were scrupulously not allowed, costume fees were equal to the GDP of small neighborhoods (let's assume that metric actually exists), and the "real" recital by the older classes requires a ticket for admission.

Along with all of this came the entreaty that we pull our daughters' hair back into a bun for class. I never expected this to actually happen on WonderGirl's head; my sole bow to the request has been that I make sure she starts the day with a ponytail. Past that? Not much I can do. Then, two weeks ago, she left class with a typed, 11-point set of directions for making a bun. Two of the steps include hairspray; four include bobbie pins. The word "wispies" is used.

Watching DT read the steps was one of the funnier moments I've had in a while. The man can get blood from a 26-week preemie; he can execute the necessary joint locks to stabilize a 350-pound twelve-year-old; he can (somewhat) navigate the new Medicaid HMO system. He cannot, apparently, make a bun out of girl hair. I'm curious to see how far the studio will take things, because rarely have I seen him so riled with the injustice of a request as when he realized they would expect him to create order out of the chaos that is WonderGirl's head.


Rocco is perceptibly better. (Again, let's just assume "perceptibly" is a word.) He is standing a bit more on his own power and has taken a few steps here and there. He's not normal, though. We went to the doctor yesterday and had some reassuring bloodwork results. Our usual pediatrician expects it may take a few more days, but that the issue will resolve on its own. The current diagnosis is toxic synovitis resulting from a previous viral infection, of which there have been many. (The official ER diagnosis? "Refusal to ambulate." Uh, yeah. After making fun of the ER diagnosis, what did our pediatrician write on the billing sheet? Two guesses. Oh, look, you only needed one guess!)

Last night, he had the strength and energy to walk around in circles, cackling in shared hilarity with WonderGirl. (Circles on purpose, or left hip lagging behind, I don't know...) Watching them was good for my heart, and I'm feeling a bit more confident that he's going to be okay. Truth is, I'm exhausted from worrying, though. I want a boring, healthy week, and I want it now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More things I've learned

1. Unlike chest X-rays, sandbags aren't necessary for hip X-rays.
2. A child that stops standing or walking over the course of a couple of days is a scary thing.
3. I should trust myself when I think that the lab switched rapid strep tests and ask persistently for a re-test.
4. Pharmacists who work at 2:45am and fill your prescription in under 3 minutes are wonderful people.
5. Getting an X-ray at midnight is much quicker than getting one at noon.
6. Nurses who take 20 minutes to draw 5 cc's of blood from a one-year-old, then get irritated at the child's crying, making helpful comments such as, "It's not really that bad," probably should reconsider that career move from school counseling to nursing.
7. Although having a pediatrician in the family is wonderful when you're not sure if someone has an ear infection or not, having a pediatrician in the family when someone has more unusual symptoms isn't easy for anyone. The discussion over whether to head to the ER goes from, "What did the on-call pediatrician say? Okay, then I'm going," to "Well, it could just be viral aches, or it could be muscular dystrophy, or it could be arthritis, or it could be a really freaking huge worm that is eating our son FROM THE INSIDE OUT!"

Rocco is sleeping now, and we're hopeful that he will start walking again in the next couple of days. The current thought is that his strep infection is giving him hip pain and leading to his reluctance to use the lower half of his body for anything other than scratching me with his toenails. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Depression and mothering

I'll admit it. I read Dooce. I like her comic timing; I'm intrigued by her obsession with her husband's clogs; I like being able to read most of her posts in under a minute. Part of me, like about 200,000 other people, feels like I know her in at least a slightly personal way. That's why her most recent post, her 32-month letter to her daughter, took me slightly aback.

I was reading merrily along - funny plane trip story, check, story turns poignant and revealing, check, cute pictures, check, discussion of Leta's diet, check, analysis that the whole family will be glad they can go back and read later after Leta's grown up, check, sudden and cutting description of Heather's depression - wha? With just a few sentences, she nailed it. The end:

I had hoped that I would never find myself this low again — I would not wish this crushing emptiness on my worst enemy — but now that I am here I’m not quite sure what to do this time, except trust that you and your father will stick by me, will be here when I do feel better.

And so I apologize that my depression is a part of your life, but I also promise that I will do everything I can to fight it so that your memories of me are not painful. So that my memories of you will be in color.

My own mother suffered from depression, and there's really not much I feel like I can say about it. It was hard for her, and it was hard for the rest of the family. She resisted taking "happy pills," which to be fair, weren't quite as well-accepted then as they are now, and there is a part of me that has never understood that. She didn't want to artificially change who she was, and it was her decision. End of story. There wasn't the common lay acceptance then that depression has physical roots.

Now that I'm a mother, too, and I've had my own bout with milder depression after Celeste died, I can more vividly appreciate what my own mom went through and what Dooce describes. There is a spiralling pull of wanting to be a good mom but just not being able to do the things you imagine. Mix in an intense fear that your low points will be all your kids will remember. It's unforgiving. My heart goes out to depressed moms and dads, those in our family and those I've never met. I hope, as Dooce wrote, that they can also trust that they will feel better, and that their partners and kids will still be there. Years later, I'm still working on completely forgiving my own mom for not doing everything she could to mitigate her depression. Sometimes seeing things from both sides doesn't actually make it easier.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Finally, a secret handshake

Like so many other women who have dealt with infertility and/or pregnancy loss, I've wished in the past for a secret handshake, some way to affirm that, even though I have two kids, I have been there. Some way to affirm that I know.

Now, the good women over at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters have come up with a plan. Paz writes:

For anyone who has ever had a miscarriage, struggled with pregnancy, and all things infertile...there is a movement upon us that you might want to join. It's rather simple actually: a discreet ribbon on your right wrist to signal to others that they are not alone in their struggles.

As someone who has had 5 m/c but am currently 5 months pregnant (YEAH), I wonder who looks at my big belly with sadness because they are in the month-to-month struggle. I mentioned to a friend that I wished there was some secret nod or international sign as if to say, this belly was hardwon. Well, she posted this quandary on her blog and the response has been quite overwhelming...and a movement has been born!

The pomegranate-colored thread holds a two-fold purpose: to identify and create community between those experiencing infertility as well as create a starting point for a conversation. Women pregnant through any means, natural or A.R.T., families created through adoption or surrogacy, or couples trying to conceive during infertility or secondary infertility can wear the thread, identifying themselves to others in this silent community. At the same time, the string serves as a gateway to conversations about infertility when people inquire about its purpose. These conversations are imperative if we are ever to remove the social stigma attached to infertility.Tie on the thread because you’re not alone. Wear to make aware. Join us in starting this conversation about infertility by purchasing this pomegranate-coloured thread (#814 by DMC) at any craft, knitting, or variety store such as Walmart or Target. Tie it on your right wrist. Notice it on others.
Why pomegranate thread?
Pomegranates, a longstanding symbol of fertility, serve as a strong analogy to those suffering through infertility. Though each pomegranate skin is unique in colour and texture, the seeds inside are remarkably similar from fruit to fruit. Though our diagnosis is unique—endometriosis, low sperm count, luteal phase defect, or causes unknown—the emotions, those seeds on the inside, are the same from person to person. Infertility creates frustration, anger, depression, guilt, and loneliness. Compounding these emotions is the shame that drives people suffering from infertility to retreat into silence.
I think this is a wonderful idea, and I'll be buying my thread tomorrow. If this symbol becomes even 2% as pervasive as livestrong bracelets or pink ribbons, it is bound to help someone.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What I have learned during my extended blogging absence:

  1. Sandbags are useful not only during hurricanes, but also during chest x-rays for toddlers.
  2. We are always told "If the fever persists for more than x days, call your doctor." Why? So that your doctor can say, "If it gets worse, come back." When your child is spending the majority of his time crying and refuses to eat, it is fairly difficult to decide what "worse" means.
  3. "Worse" means "not breathing well." Luckily, we never saw "worse."
  4. A thermometer which stops moving quickly once it gets to the 97-degree range is a beautiful thing.
  5. A thermometer which then betrays you by shooting way past 97 degrees the very next day is... not a beautiful thing.
  6. A side effect of ibuprofen can be... wait for it... fever.
  7. A side efffect of fever can be heavy wine consumption for the surrounding area.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Oops, I did it again

I went to Kroger on Wednesday, aka Senior Citizen Discount Day. We better make that orange juice last, because I may not have the nerve to venture back into the parking lot for a long, long time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ibuprofen: it's what's for dinner

...and thank God for it. Tylenol can kiss my grits -- why do I even bother? After a couple of wonderful months, during which Rocco was apparently too busy to get sick, he's succumbed to Virus The Eighty-sixth.

What he would say, if he could talk*:
"Mom! Come here! No, don't come here. Pick me up! Hey, if you pick me up, I'll claw your face. Who told you to pick me up? Hey, is the stove on? NOW I'm happy. If you move me away from the stove again, I'll claw your face. Hey! Why am I suddenly not near the stove? How dare you try to feed me applesauce. What is this crap? Wait, I like that -- is that applesauce? Why aren't you giving me more? WAITER!"

But now, finally, the ibuprofen has kicked in, he's sleeping (albeit fitfully) and I can go fix myself a nice, stiff drink. Cherry-flavored, from a dropper. Ah, that's the stuff.

*Completely unrelated: Rocco spontaneously played peek-a-boo last night with WonderGirl, using his bath towel. His first two-syllable word is, apparently, "pee-boh." I'm trying not to take it personally that he doesn't yet distinguish "Mama" from "milk" or "more" or "maitre d'."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More free advice

A tip, especially for others with hypochondriac tendencies, if you notice a lump in your breast during a self-exam:

As your heart begins to race, your stomach drops out and your cheeks burn, go ahead and move near the sink. That way, when you palpate the lump more thoroughly to examine the borders, the milk that squirts out of the one gland that apparently hasn't gotten the post-weaning message swon't require extra cleanup.

Next step: sit down, take a deep breath and say a thank-you that your life didn't just change.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'd like to give the world a hug

We live in a heavily international place. (Tangent alert: I couldn't decide what noun to use instead of "place." "Community" implies interaction between people, which I don't often see. "Town" is misleading, since towns are small, while "city" is misleading, since cities are much larger than the area I'd like to describe. "Region" sounds larger than a city, and therefore is wrong, ditto for "area"... I think I may have hit upon something. People are disconnected from each other because we don't know where the f*** we live. Moving on.) Anyway, there are refugees from all over the world, along with academics from many of the same places. We like this on several levels: WonderGirl and Rocco are exposed to kids from all over on a constant basis, and our local grocery store carries seven different kinds of eggplant. Everyone wins.

The best part, though? Hearing a 21-month-old at the playground, standing in the familiar Superman pose at the top of the ladder, prouding proclaiming himself to be "Super JoJo!" in French. We can avoid having to pay for extracurricular language instruction for the kids - Super JoJo is going to save them if they fall on the slide and hopefully conjugate a few verbs at the same time.


Shit. I had just typed that post when a fellow grad student came into my office to talk. She just lost a baby at 15 weeks. No idea why -- pathology was normal, chromosomes normal, no obvious sign of infection. She's from another country, has no family here other than her husband, but like so many women who go through this, talking to her family on the phone only made it worse anyway. It sucks, but there truly is a line between people who know how this feels, and people who don't. I'm glad she felt like she could talk to me, and I hope she's serious when she said that it helped. This is a tangible benefit of being at least a bit open about my own history.

But argh, my heart is racing now. It's been a year and four months since I lost Celeste, and conversations like this just bring it all back. She should have been turning 2 in a few weeks.

Here's the irony: when I was pregnant with Rocco, I mentioned to this same student that I'd had two miscarriages. She was dismissive, to say the least, and clearly had the attitude that if you were healthy and took care of yourself, your baby would be born without any problem. It's a little unsettling to see her now dealing with those same attitudes. I have a bit of "I wasn't really wishing this on her" guilt.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On a much less-reverent note

Okay, I know I just linked to Bitch PhD on Friday, but I have to do it again. Guest blogger John Patrick has a wonderful primer on these points:

  1. Ethnicity is not pedigree. No more fractions!
  2. Ethnicity is as central to identity as gender. No more "zero-culture fallacy." No more "I don't you as "ethnic;" I don't care if you're black, or white, or green!"
  3. Relative vaginophobia.
Read it, but the language is NSFW.


What I remember:

It was the second week of classes, my first semester of graduate school. My probability theory class, which met from 9-11 am, was on break. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with WonderGirl, so I'd made my typical break-time trip to the bathroom. As we reconvened, an epidemiology student named Clark returned, wide-eyed, from the coffee stand, which had a TV. His information was muddled, something about planes, the WTC, the White House. The Washington mall was on fire. Planes were coming down all over. No one knew what was happening.

The rest of class sat there, unable to digest what he was talking about. My instructor waited a moment, then started teaching again. I wanted to get up and leave, but who leaves in the middle of a required class two weeks into the semester? (If you don't know how to react, I guess you keep reading My Pet Goat.) I wondered if my instructor pushed on because she was Chinese and didn't get the significance. I wondered if I did get the significance. I wondered if this was one of those times where everything changes, and if so, how much.

After class ended, I left school. I needed to see DT, who was working in the nursery of a hospital a few miles away that morning. When I got to the front desk, asking for the nursery, hugely pregnant, the receptionist tried to point me to labor and delivery instead. I couldn't explain myself, but finally found DT in the NICU, hugged him, then went home to watch the news and try to process it all. I listened to NPR on the way, as they reported the towers had fallen. It took several days for me to realize their fall was a surprise to most people -- in my experience of the day, it all happened simultaneously. I didn't know about the sick period between, where no one knew what was going to happen. I didn't know that a plane could enter a building and leave the building upright. I just didn't know.

I remember the next several hours, watching TV, with everyone in the country seemingly assuming that their location was the next obvious target. My school is near a large federal institution, so it was evacuated as a precaution. How many small towns are near nuclear sites, how many large cities have high-profile buildings, how many medium cities are symbolic targets of another kind? Everyone thought they were next.

Like so many Americans, I spent time on the phone, connecting with my family. We all needed to hear each others' voices, even though none of us, in fact, were next. I remember my brother's anger, remember thinking that I hadn't made it to anger yet, I was just afraid.

My most enduring memory of the day was a strange relief that WonderGirl hadn't been born yet. Whatever else was scary and uncontrollable, I knew she was okay. I remember having my first true understanding that there were situations in which I wasn't going to be able to protect her. That day, though, she was still cozy and unaware, kicking my internal organs, reassuring me that whatever else I couldn't do, I could nurture her a little while longer. My body was a buffer between her and whatever madness was going on. It was the one thing I could do while I waited to see what it all meant.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Guilt with a capital G and that rhymes with T and that stands for trouble

Last night, DT and I went to our very first PTA meeting at WonderGirl's new school. After the meeting (hilarious because it's a Quaker school, and people kept forgetting they were supposed to sense consensus instead of calling for votes, leading to cries of, "Aye. I mean, WAIT! We don't do that!"), every classroom had a back-to-school night, during which the teachers revealed the mysteries of our children's school day. It was Wonderful, Glorious, Inspiring. WonderGirl's teachers are apparently angelic geniuses, or genuis angels, I don't know which. There are good ideas oozing out of the walls in that classroom, and I truly wish I could have hired the teachers as parenting consultants around the time WonderGirl started, oh, interacting with other humans. In stark contrast to WonderGirl's previous preschool, the faculty and staff frame all of their requests in such a positive way that you just can't wait to comply: "The kids are doing a great job recognizing which snacks are healthy, so thank you for continuing to send healthy snacks so they can practice," or "We're having a wonderful time combining gross motor skills with math lessons, so we're looking for exciting, large maninpulatives for the children. We've had several parents graciously donate body parts and we're so grateful." To which I say, "Here! Do you need more? Please take my arm - it would be an honor to spend my life one-armed so that the children (oh! the children!) will enjoy math!"

The school is clearly the right environment for WonderGirl. We enrolled her because of its diversity (it's a mini-UN), its focus on social justice and on values which we cherish (conflict resolution, respect for all beings, smoothies), and its combination of academic flexibility and challenge. There have turned out to be more advantages than we had even considered, and WonderGirl is flourishing there, to put it mildly. But, here's the rub. We had planned for this to be a stopgap solution. When I graduate (WHEN, not if, dammit!), we planned either to move to a different city (and presumably to a decent school district) or move within our current location to a decent public school district. We never considered that this might be a permanent school, but now both DT and I are having a difficult time imagining moving her out. It just feels that right. The problem with the scene is that we have chosen to send our child to a private school, and for that, I feel capital-g guilty. Before we had kids, I earnestly argued that I would join a local coalition of folks working to make our local schools acceptable and would send our kids there; I didn't want to take advantage of our standing to opt out of the local schools, when so many other kids just don't have that option. Now? Apparently not. I am well aware of the fact that she won't shrivel up and die at our subpar local elementary school (which is, ironically, further from our house than her current school - so much for "local"). But. I guess my voracious appetite for depending public schools is sated when it comes time to send my daughter to one that is, frankly, not inspiring. My liberalism apparently has bounds that have surprised me.

In a coincidence that you might call spooky (or might pragmatically note is inspired by the start of school), Bitch PhD has a post today on the same subject, different side of the equation. To be fair, the situation Bitch describes is a bit different. Our local school is much less diverse, allocates its resources in dramatically different ways, and doesn't focus on building community and pursuing a life of simplicity, integrity and equality. WonderGirl's school has an aggressive financial aid policy and uses tuition from well-off families to subsidize other students with the goal, and result, of economic diversity. We chose her school for philosophical reasons, not just as a refuge from our public school. We didn't apply to other private schools, and I assume would have sent WonderGirl to the public school if she hadn't been admitted to this one.

I do think Bitch is right that parents today place too much importance on every decision they make, assuming it will determine the course of their child's life. (The care and feeding of that neurosis is another post...) In that vein, maybe we could have given our local school a year or two, then reassessed the situation and made a change if necessary. Maybe WonderGirl would have decided she hated school in those two years, maybe she would have made life-changing friends, maybe she wouldn't have felt physically safe, maybe she would have loved her teachers, maybe she would have been bored, maybe she would have been challenged. I have no idea, because now we've started down a path that is going to be harder to leave than I'd originally thought. I don't really know where it goes, and I suppose none of us, on any of our paths, do. For now, though, it's winding through some beautiful scenery and I'm going to enjoy it. I might as well, we've already paid tuition.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The human body is mad cool, yo

Big biology news today: three teams of scientists (from UNC, Michigan and Hahvahd) jointly published work that hints at the incredibly complex balance of cell proliferation, aging and cancer. The groups each worked with a particular tumor suppressor, p16INK4a, in different tissues. The gene's expression gradually increases with age, and its increased expression seems not only to prevent age-related out-of-control cell growth (cancer=bad), but also prevents stem-cell proliferation (stem cells=good). It's a fascinating and tricky balance. Tumor suppression is increasingly important as we age, but the flip side of that is a loss of the stem cells that are so important for renewing our tissues. I supposed the debate turns to whether we'd rather get cancer or have garden-variety age-related degeneration. From the linked NYT article, one of the lead scientists summed it up optimistically:

“There is no free lunch,’’ Dr. Sharpless said. “We are all doomed.”
From a science standpoint, almost as interesting as the research itself is the fact that three separate groups worked together on something so high-profile. The group from Carolina shared its knockout mice with the other groups, since they were all looking at different tissues. Cool, cooperation in science, putting the common good ahead of egos and careers, yadda yadda, right? Uh... then there's this gem at the bottom of the article:
Press releases by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the University of Michigan attributed the advance to all three teams equally. But the press release issued by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, where Dr. Scadden has an appointment, described him as the leader of the multi-institutional team, with the other two teams confirming his work. Dr. Scadden made no such claim in an interview, and acknowledged Dr. Sharpless’s generosity in lending his mice.
Smacks of the portrayal of Robert Gallo in And the Band Played On. Dude, if you didn't at least make the mice, you better get your institute's PR department under control.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's back to school we go

I have become what I have beheld and am content that I have done right.

Yes, I am now that scary advanced graduate student that no one wants to talk to. Last week, I began my sixth year of school here. Sixth. Our department's recruiting materials gaily indicate that most students take between four and five years to finish, depending on a student's previous coursework, wink wink, nudge nudge. In fact, during my now-considerable tenure, I have seen exactly three students finish in less than five years; one student that was a seventh-year when I came is still officially in the program.

Clearly, our department doesn't put a premium on efficiently graduating students, but it's a bit of a dirty little secret. Typically, when students get far enough along that they've lost their funding, they get jobs and only work on their dissertations part-time. They're not around the department much; they lose their office space; people forget that they're still in the program. They may not have degrees, but at least they're not flaunting that by being visible. I'm a little different. Rocco's daycare is right by school, so I spend all of my working time in the department, and I'm not easy to ignore. (Perhaps it's because of the red boa I wear whenever I'm feeling particularly brilliant and productive.)

Last week, our new students began orientation and it quickly became clear that I was like some sort of first-year-eating virus. It was a similar feeling to when I'd walk around the undergraduate section of campus pregnant: everyone avoids eye contact, just in case your "condition" rubs off on them. I'm okay with that, though. The new students will spend the next few weeks dancing around each other, figuring out who will study together, who will drink together, who will spend more time with her dog or fiance than with her fellow-student cohort. These negotiations will feel weighty and consequential. I won't miss that. I'll be the old one, eating lunch with the assistant professors and staring at WonderGirl's artwork at my desk when I'm thinking or in need of inspiration.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

On notice

You've been warned.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pumping as a class issue

There's nothing in this article from the NY Times that is surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not depressing: there is a clear separation between new moms returning to work who are able to pump, and those who aren't. The article draws a nice line between managers at Starbucks who are able to pump privately and conveniently in their offices and counter employees who must save up break time to pump in the customer bathroom. Is it any wonder breastfeeding rates are so low among women with less education and lower-paying jobs?

Where, exactly, is our commitment to families and children? Why on God's green earth are we expressing that commitment by obsessing over whether embryos should be flushed down the sink instead of used in research, instead of putting our collective energy toward creating policies that would encourage breastfeeding for all families, regardless of class? Why do we spend so much effort castigating women who can't/don't/won't breastfeed instead of actually giving them the tools they need to increase their likelihood of successfully breastfeeding?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

We have a burger emergency

There is a hilarious audio clip here, in which a stressed-out mom (her children are HUNGRY! don't you understand?!?) actually calls 911 to try to resolve an issue she has with... Burger King.


The woman apparently was given the wrong burger at the drive-through, had a confrontation of some sort with the manager, refused to just take her money back and move on, because, again, her children (think of the poor children!) were hungry and she had to go get on some freeway somewhere. What to do? Well, call 911, of course. Egads.

It's worth a listen, if for no other reason than to appreciate the Job-like patience of the 911 operator. Though incredulous throughout the call, she does calmly offer some good advice. She also asks the right questions, such as, "You want us to protect you from the wrong burger?"

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a girl thing

One of my buttons, which gets pressed frequently, is the idea that a large percentage of a particular child's behaviors can be explained just by looking in his/her diaper and checking out the genitalia. I would never deny that there are general differences between men and women, particulary in relation to physical size. Clearly, the brains of adult men and women are different, as well -- but it's impossible to know if the changes are due to socialization or if they actually cause emotional and intellectual differences in men and women. This point seems to get missed consistently.

DT and I always vowed to raise our children in such a way that they could become whoever and whatever was comfortable for them. I think we've done a fairly good job so far. WonderGirl definitely loves pink and spends a large percentage of her time modeling dress-up clothes and performing in imaginary ballets. She also loves bugs, plays with boys and, like Hammie, would jump from the fridge to the dishwasher if we didn't have a strict "no jumping from furniture to furniture" rule in our house. I hope and expect that Rocco will also feel comfortable exhibiting a blend of his masculine and feminine energies.

It's tired territory, so I'll just say briefly that I don't know why we, as a society, have so much invested in teaching boys to be boys and girls to be girls. My gut feeling is that there's an element of truth in it all -- girls are probably more likely (on average) to enjoy ballerina endeavors, for some biological reason, but who can say that for sure? The socialization starts early and is aggressive. Even my mother-in-law told me recently that buying presents for her granddaughters is much easier than for her grandsons because "girls like everything." One of her grandsons loves cooking and all things kitchen-related, but she's never indulged that interest with a relevant gift because... well, who knows? When I asked, she just looked at me with a bemused expression and repeated several times that it would be "weird." When we were shopping together for Rocco's recent birthday, she found a wonderful, soft pillow-type stuffed animal. It met most of her criteria for purchase: happy eyes (don't ask), fur that didn't come out when you pulled, and conservative political leanings. The only problem? It was purple. She danced around the issue for a good three minutes, assuming that I wouldn't want him to have it because, you know, it was purple. We ended up taking a different toy home for him - a nice, masculine puppy.

My real pet peeve, though, are parents who have two children, a girl and a boy, and ascribe all differences in their children to sex. As a statistician, I'm completely offended by this: if you have a sample size of 1 in each category, you simply can't draw conclusions. When I see differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, I assume that they're differences in Rocco and WonderGirl, not girls and boys. The next parent that tells me that their children were different from the beginning because they were boys or girls damn well better have at least three of each.

(Technical issue: I can't get the cartoon any larger, but if you click on it, you can read it.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good thing I never get embarrassed anymore

I have never been the world's most graceful woman. Not as a child, even though I took ballet for years; not as a teenager (ha!); not in my pre-mom days; and apparently, definitely, not now.

I just walked into a plate-glass window. While holding Rocco.

Luckily, we're both fine, although the young man on his way to work at the Italian restaurant by the dastardly plate-glass window certainly seemed concerned. I have to say, I've often wondered what it would be like to be a bird: wearing feathers (even to casual events), being able to employ vertical space, and using a beak to eat are all activities that I find intriguing on some level. Flying into a window? I didn't need that part of the avian experience.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Although I don't quite believe it's possible, WonderGirl started school this week. I've actually been a bit surprised by my own reaction -- even though she has been in daycare/preschool since she was a baby, it feels like a huge step. The cliches about time flying are feeling true (for the first time ever, quite honestly). I also lay in bed last night, thinking about my two growing children, each asleep in bed, and got almost overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility to them. Usually I am good at doing the daily tasks of parenting, and I usually manage to complete the medium- to long-term tasks that are required. I think, though, that keeping up with the "tasks" has prevented me at times from really considering the fact that DT and I are now the Dad and Mom. We're not playing house; we truly are a family, and Rocco and WonderGirl will think back on these exact times when they think of their childhood. I know that none of this is particularly insightful on my part, and it's something that I always know on an intellectual level. For some reason, right now, I'm feeling it viscerally in a way that doesn't always happen. It's a little scary.

Hmm, that's not what I meant to write about today, but there it is.

Moving on -- the good news is that WonderGirl is overwhelmingly in love with her school, her teacher, her new experiences, her lunchbox, the blue bars on the playground, everything. It is a honeymoon like I never expected her to have. Instead of being frightened or having a difficult transition as she came to realize that things were going to be different from her old preschool, she has flourished. She is positively looking for things to enjoy, and DT and I are basking in her reflected glow.

It reminds me of people traveling to unfamiliar places -- WonderGirl clearly takes after DT in that she is eager to soak up the new culture, learn the rules and integrate herself as quickly and as much as possible. She has a 4-year-old confidence about these things that I can't relate to at all. Her tendencies are encouraged by the attitude and philosophy of her school; there is clearly a lot of attention paid to making students feel welcomed. I would be lying if I didn't admit my own jealousy. I'm starting my sixth year in my department and believe that, after two days, WonderGirl is more a part of her school's family than I am. Perhaps if I wore ponytails and mismatched shoes more often I would be similarly welcomed.


One of the odd things about WonderGirl's move is that I truly have no idea how things work at her new school. Our family was/is a fixture at the daycare, and there is nothing there that could surprise me. Now, however, I'm reliant on WonderGirl to describe her new situation to me, and some things are clearly getting lost in translation. I hear all about recess (both of them! each day! hallelujah! says WonderGirl) but don't quite get the other classroom routines. Actual conversation as WonderGirl described the "centers" in the room:

Ruth: What center did you choose?
WonderGirl: Blocks.
R: Who did you play with? Were there other people in the block center?
WG: Not me!
R: I thought you said you chose blocks.
WG (looking at me like she is already tasked with caring for an aging, slow parent): I thought you meant this morning.

So things come out slowly (turns out she was at the listening center in the morning, then the block center in the afternoon with two other kids, DUH, Mom) but they're coming out. Meanwhile, I have to wonder if they truly do have "silent lunch" and if so, how much her teachers charge in consulting fees to share their secrets of coercion.

Monday, August 21, 2006

We're baaaack....

We're recently returned from a great adventure. Pitiful as this sounds, we just completed what I believe is our first vacation not to see family since before WonderGirl was born. It was wonderful. We spent almost a week at the beach, where WonderGirl got closer to her version of sea legs, Rocco proved that he has neither sense nor fear when it comes to the water (and, particularly, to auto-face-splashing), and DT's mom babysat one afternoon so that DT and I could ride bikes to a cute little wine bar, then ride home embarrassingly buzzed after one glass for people who did actually attend college. Typically, our vacations are enjoyable because they allow us to reconnect with family, but this one was actually relaxing. (Did I mention we saw a shark the last day? But still.)

The only downside to the experience was that the house we rented had a wonderful selection of books, including Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I've wanted to read for some time. I wish I hadn't read it; now I have an unquenchable thirst to use semicolons.

In further family-reading news, WonderGirl loved Beezus and Ramona, no surprise there, but appears to have missed any negative associations with Ramona's behavior. I may have unleashed something larger than myself and not entirely pleasant for the family.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ramona Quimby, age timeless

The Lovely Mrs. Davis is celebrating Sesame Street's 37th season with a blog carnival of sorts. She asks this question: What television, music, movie or book from your childhood are you excited about sharing with your own children?

This is timely for our family, as I am salivating (but not on you this time) at the prospect of WonderGirl's entry into the world of chapter books. We read to WonderGirl a lot, mainly because that's the only way we can get her to sit still and cuddle with us, and we absolutely need some cuddling to balance various other "joys" of parenting. Now, WonderGirl's beginning to read on her own just a bit. I think she's almost ready to appreciate two crucial points: the advantage of being able to set her own reading schedule instead of relying on us to read to her and the payoff of following characters and stories over a longer arc than that contained in a picture book.

To that end, I made a purchase this week to which I've been looking forward for a long time - Beezus and Ramona. I had a serious Beverly Cleary habit as a child, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I can't wait any longer to get WonderGirl hooked also, so I'll be reading chapters aloud to her tomorrow as we drive to the beach to begin our vacation. I'll read to her and remember my own mother reading to us on our long car trips. (At some point, I'll probably wish I'd picked a book with a slightly less implusive main character than Ramona.) Hopefully, when we come home, WonderGirl will want to read the next book in the series, and on some future trip, I'll watch her in the back seat, her expression changing as she reads it to herself.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Whoring myself for family

Our nephew just returned home to his own nuclear family yesterday after wrapping up an exhilarating five days with us. Perhaps he would use a different adjective to describe his time, but he's a typical understated, world-weary 13-year-old, so I'll spare him the embarrassment of appearing excited and confirm for you that yes, the visit was exhilarating. WonderGirl and Rocco were especially... um... exhilarated to have a new good-natured body on which to jump and climb, respectively.

While he was here, I did two things that surprised even me - played Advanced Civilization and visited the World of Large Soft-Drink Company Based in Atlanta, to which I refuse to link. Any company which can convince so many people to pay $9 each for the privilege of entering a "museum" and looking at their advertising doesn't need publicity from my blog. My whoring does have limits, after all.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An inauspicious beginning

Since my paper has been accepted, it's time to get cracking on the next topic for my dissertation. It will be in the same field as my first topic, but only barely - I'm going to change gears pretty completely, and (gulp!) do something that's even a bit more technical. In a way, I'm looking forward to this. It's refreshing to know that I get to start from scratch, since I don't know a damn thing about the theory behind my next project. At the same time, I can't feel behind, because I haven't been in a position to learn about any of this before. Ever.

...Which is why it was demoralizing when yesterday, in the course of some crucial background reading, I came upon this sentence: "This section is quite technical and can be skipped by the disinterested or intimidated reader."

I'm just hoping that my leanings toward the latter don't turn me into the former.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Where the heck have I been?

Life has taken a turn for the busier over the last few days. A roundup:

  • WonderGirl had her last day at her old school last week, and is in half-day camp for the next two weeks before we head off on an actual vacation, at which point she will start Big School. Before that happens, we have forms to fill out, committees for which we must volunteer (must remember to blog about the whole public/private school decision), lunchboxes to purchase and regressive behaviors to tame.
  • Rocco, bless his heart, has had yet another lovely mystery illness. He had three days of fever (which is, of course, not that big a deal when it's 120 degrees anyway outside), followed by a beautiful rash. Lots of little happy red dots, starting from his trunk and moving, inexorably, down his limbs. Now it's settled mostly on his face, but would only look truly dramatic if it was 120 degrees outside. Oops. Luckily he's happier again now, and has been fever-free for over a day, so he's back at daycare and I'm back at school for the first time this week.
  • The fact that I haven't been able to work is okay, because I just got word yesterday that my paper was accepted! Although I'm thrilled to know that I've made a contribution that is worthy of publication and that hopefully will make a difference somewhere in the world, I have to admit that my first emotion was simply relief. Not that it was accepted, but that this meant that none of my advisors could ask for any more changes. Stop the merry-go-round, I'm officially getting off!
  • DT's mom flew in this weekend, making both WonderGirl and Rocco officially Very Very Happy. She's the consummate grandmother - always has time and energy to play, and always sticks up for the kids vs. the parents. She'll be here for a few weeks (I think I mentioned her mini-colonizations on an earlier post) and it should be fun. I do sometimes feel a bit invisible when she's here, as I don't think she knows exactly how to fit me into her worldview. DT thinks I'm exaggerating, but last night, as we were all looking at the pictures we've taken of the kids since her last visit, she came to a picture of WonderGirl and me at the park and said, "Now, who is that lady?" We thought she was kidding. She was not. I'm actually happy, because now DT can never claim that I'm imagining things. Either that, or she really needs to go ahead and get that cataract surgery sooner rather than later.
  • Our nephew is coming to visit for several days, starting this weekend. We're excited and trepidatious at the same time - we don't really know how to entertain a 13-year-old boy, and neither DT's sister nor his mom are giving us lots of clues as to his care and feeding. It'll either work out nicely, or he will vow never to visit That Boring Family Down South again. Hopefully the former.
  • Rocco's birthday party is this weekend, and we just realized last night that we haven't planned at all. Not that he needs much, but with the way my mind is going right now, I would have been surprised when the guests showed up at the door, and potentially would have just spread Cheerios around the floor and hoped everyone had fun. Which is not, actually, a bad idea...

Friday, July 28, 2006

In which I ruminate on DT and what he'll be like as an old geezer

This morning, on the way to school, I had an NPR "driveway moment," or rather, a parking deck moment. I was listening to a Story Corps piece, in which pediatrician John Bancroft was being interviewed by his daughter, Carolyn. He related a story that was simple but profoundly touching, about a little girl who died while waiting for a transplant and her family's decision to give her organs to others.

It wasn't a surprising story - there was no twist ending, no sophisticated interpretation by Dr. Bancroft, just a spare story about a girl and her family and how, often, the best of humanity can be found in the saddest of circumstances. Both of the Bancrofts were crying by the end, as was I. It turns out that DT was also listening in his car and crying.

As I listened to Dr. Bancroft and his daughter, I was filled with a sense of listening to a potential conversation between DT and WonderGirl in 20 years. DT uses much of the same language as Dr. Bancroft - if I had a nickel for every time I've heard him marvel at how "resilient" children are once, I would have, um, lots of nickels.

It also struck me how much I take DT's pediatrician life for granted on a daily basis. As his wife, I easily see the downside of being a doctor. I've spent too much time calling and leaving multiple, fruitless, voice mails on his cell phone, trying to find out when he'll be home so I can plan dinner. I've spent too long sitting in the car in some parking lot with two tired, hungry children because he got stuck in clinic and couldn't meet us when he was supposed to or call to let us know. I've spent too many nights alone, both before we had kids and through the first two years of WonderGirl's life, when he was in the hospital all night twice a week. I've missed plenty of work time myself, since I'm the flexible one who gets called every time a child is sick at school. I've felt taken for granted, with the assumption that I'll take care of the practical things that need to be done on a daily basis, since we never know what will come up and prevent DT from being where he thought he'd be.

It's so easy to see those things, since they impact my practical life every day. I don't make myself stop often enough and think about why those things happen. Here's what I would say to DT if I could, if I thought there was any chance he'd answer his phone right now, during rounds:

I'm proud of you for wanting to work with patients who don't have lots of options for providers. I'm proud that you talk about sex with inner-city 12-year-olds, I'm proud that you write letters to grandparents to try to convince them to stop smoking around their asthmatic grandkids, I'm proud that you sneak around the nurses to give immunizations to kids who need them, even if they didn't make the proper kind of appointment to get shots. Although I still think it's ridiculous rationalization, there's a part of me that admires the fact that you resisted taking a sick day when I needed you to, because you were truly afraid they'd cancel your appointments and a two-year-old would miss an immunization, be unable to make a new appointment and die from a preventable disease. I'm proud to be with you when we run into your patients on the weekends, and they're surprised and pleased to see their pediatrician taking public transportation. I know you'd like to be working internationally and I hope you do someday, but I'm also proud of you for knowing that while our own kids are small, they need you here. I was struck by Dr. Bancroft's empathy for the family he was remembering, and I know that years from now, when you're reminiscing, you'll have similar families that you've carried in your heart. I'm proud that the man with whom I fell in love is still inside you, even though you've been bruised at times by malignant colleagues, idiotic departmental politics and parents who won't hang up their cell phones during appointments. I love you.

We've come virtually no way, baby.

Back to the breastfeeding wars... Jess has a pointed post up that's worth checking out. Apparently BabyTalk magazine's August cover, which shows a baby actually - wait for it - nursing! has caused a bit of uproar. Jess links this article, which has some truly sad quotes from women who are right there on the front lines, fighting for the breast to become solely sexual, and points out the lovely contrast between a reaction to a woman showing her breast while feeding her child and a woman showing her breast, oh, just for fun. Great, thanks, on behalf of those of us who are hoping our daughters will grow up in a more enlightened age.

Time for some more coffee.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Roaches. The Texas kind.

I just read Karen's post (different Karen than yesterday, but I'm definitely sensing a theme) about Texas cockroaches. It brought back Bad Memories.

I moved to Texas after college for a few years. The experience didn't start well, as within a month three things happened:

  1. DT, who was supposed to move down with me, and whose car was already packed to move (with both of his possessions) was offered a place at a med school in another state. Starting the next day.
  2. My mother's breast cancer recurred.
  3. My grandfather had a heart attack. While driving his Winnebago. Yes, I'm from the South. (Incidentally, he survived and took the opportunity to kick his 60-year smoking habit, then lived until he was 93.)
All of this left me feeling incredibly alone and wondering whether I'd made a huge mistake to move, whether I should pack up and head home right away. My best friend came to visit and help me through, which I appreciated. My only real memory of her time with me, though, was one night when I saw my first Texas roach. When it started flying, I thought I'd die. She didn't hesitate, just grabbed her shoe and chased that thing around my tiny kitchen. She won. Truly, I don't know when I've been so grateful to another human - that roach was just the thing to push me over the edge, and my friend saved me.

Ironically, for years I've remembered that story as an example of Friendship Between Women and What You'll Do For a Friend in Need, but I found out recently that my friend doesn't remember it happening. Not sure what to make of that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Babies everywhere!

A belated congratulations to Allison, Greg and their family on the arrival of their fourth child last Thursday! Anyone who survives pregnancy in Texas during this latest heat wave deserves a medal. In this case, Allison was fortunate to get a medal who probably sleeps in short spurts and poops a lot. The best kind.

I've been watching (only kind of obsessively - is that possible?) the final few weeks of Karen's journey to motherhood. After years of infertility treatment and all of the attendant fun and games that go along with having your RE on speed-dial, she and her husband are adopting from China. Their referral will be in the next batch that go out - which could be any day, I gather. I've followed her story with a bit of self-centered interest, because before I got pregnant with Rocco, DT and I had decided if we didn't get lucky fairly quickly, we were going to pursue adopting from China. Since I really didn't think we would get lucky, I had already started immersing myself into that world - I joined the relevant Yahoo group, started reading adopting-from-China blogs, looked into groups for adoptive families in our area and DT and I researched and chose an agency. I was full into the easy part of adopting, like fantasizing about how it would be when we traveled - would WonderGirl go? DT's mom? But she doesn't speak Chinese and DT's dad does... would we take him? The whole darn family? Just us? How old would our baby be? Counting backwards from likely dates, was she be born yet? In any case, we ended up going down another road, which brought Rocco into our lives, but I can never help remembering that if he wasn't in our family, we would be about as far along in the process as Karen is. She has had delays out the wazoo and pain and anxiety that I can't even imagine. She is still waiting to see her daughter's face for the first time, and we've had nearly a year with Rocco already. There's not much I can say about that, but here's what I can say: there will be a pair of teary eyes looking at this computer screen when she posts that she's gotten her referral. That's one family that has waited too damn long to be together.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The shape of a mother

A friend sent me the link to a wonderful site called The Shape of a Mother.

From the blogger's informational page:

It occurred to me that a post-pregnancy body is one of this society's greatest secrets; all we see of the female body is that which is airbrushed and perfect, and if we look any different, we hide it from the light of day in fear of being seen. That makes me want to cry. Sure we all talk about the sagging boobs and other parts, but no one ever sees them. Or if they do, it's in comical form, mocking the beauty that created and nourished our children.

It is my dream, then, to create this website where women of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities can share images of their bodies so it will no longer be secret.
There are some beautiful stories and pictures. Good for these women - it's about damn time women started celebrating their post-pregnancy bodies.

This topic is feeling quite timely to me, as Rocco is starting to wean and my humongous nursing almost-A cup breasts are dwindling back down to where-exactly-is-the-bra-supposed-to-go breasts. Evem though I'm back down to my normal weight, my belly sticks out further than my boobs do. I won't pretend that it's not sometimes a struggle to remember that while I may not look like (published pictures of) Angelina Jolie, my body is an amazing thing. My body has grown and nurtured two healthy children. I owe it more than being embarrassed at its inconvenient parts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Primary day

It's primary day at the polls here. I was planning on going to vote first thing. (Hah! Just a little joke - "first thing" is generally 5:45 now, when Rocco wakes up aggressively, DT goes to cuddle with him for a little while, I lie in bed feeling guilty for 20 minutes, then go get Rocco and DT goes for a run before the temperature gets above 100. I meant "first thing after all that," of course.)

In the past, I've always had WonderGirl with me when I voted. We would usually stop on our way to or from school; I like going with her because it makes me feel like I'm teaching her how important it is to take advantage of the opportunity to vote, she likes going because the poll workers always give her my "I voted" sticker. (To be fair, she was pretty disappointed with our first voting foray during the 2004 election season - she thought we were going "boating" and, let's be honest, no middle school gym can compete with that for a 2-year-old.)

This morning, I couldn't bear to mess with tradition, so I waited to go until she got up and we went together again. On the way to our polling place, we talked about one of the UU principles WonderGirl has been learning about in RE - if you believe in something, you should act on it. I told her that not everyone in the world is allowed to vote, and we shouldn't take it for granted. We even sang a song to that effect, and I kid you not, I got choked up. On the way out, we talked to an older woman who was also pretty emotional about voting, and who had also taken her daughter with her to vote for years.

WonderGirl will have plenty of time for cynicism later, and for questioning whether the Diebold machine I used today is really going to count my vote. Later, she can wonder if it even matters if it counts my vote. For today, though, that little girl has a taste of why voting is important, and she thinks that it's normal for adults in her community to feel emotional about having the right or ability to vote. As corny as it sounds, I wish more of us could hold on to that feeling. Kudos to all of the local people who have gone the extra step and are running for local offices in an attempt to make their towns better. If you believe in something, you should act on it.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rocco's week, in haiku (warning: gross)

Green, brown, carrot chunks
Diapers cannot contain it
Apoopalypse now

Friday, July 14, 2006

Not quite geeky enough. For once.

My basic stumbling block in grad school can be summed up as: I am too geeky and yet not geeky enough at the same time. My field is a bit of a merger between one hard-but-not-that-hard science and one quite technical field. I originally came from the less-technical side, where I felt a bit too analytical and out of place; now I am definitely having to pick up some arcane things on my own, and I feel like a bobblehead doll in a convention of Serious Math People.

If I could just learn to leave well enough alone, it would be okay. I could probably get on with life by continuing to do things in some patched-together good-enough kind of way, but then I get these whiffs of possibility. So, instead of running all of my simulations for my dissertation on my laptop or commandeering machines in our student computer lab, I spend two days trying to set up my computer and change all my code so I can use the department's Unix server instead. Or, when I need to put together a CV, I can't just do it in Microsoft Word and not worry if it looks a little strange. No, I have to spend a day searching for a LaTeX style file that does CVs and should theoretically make things easier. Only, all the examples I can find reference makefiles and Cygwin and putting files in search paths that as far as I know, lead to the witch's house in the forest where Hansel and Gretel ended up. I would say it's all Greek to me, but frankly, Greek is easier.

Do I ever learn and let go of the dream? No. But now I do have a pretty CV in LaTeX, which took multiple days to put together, and if you'd like the template, I'll give it to you. No translations required.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I have nothing to say and I am saying it. And that is poetry.

Julie has a sweet post up about her son's recent language explosion. (No, no one was hurt. Just some bruised dipthongs.) Before becoming a parent, I remember learning about theories of language acquisition in college, but I didn't really get the magic of it all. (Look, the value of a liberal arts education! A science geek learns about language! Now, of course, all I remember is "Chomsky." No, not his theories, just his name.)

Man, am I glad they don't charge by the parenthesis here at Blogger.

Anyway, soon after having WonderGirl, I became fairly obsessed with the idea of her picking up language. It seemed beyond possible that she would find a way to organize and interpret the random sounds we made for her and figure out which were meaningful in a directive sort of way, and which were meaningful in a Mommy-used-too-much-tequila-in-the-margaritas-again sort of way. She was a bit late with first words; this was partly because I think we refused to believe she was using words unless they were exceptionally clear and partly to teach me a lesson. When she did start talking, though, it was amazing. One of my professors described the process of a child learning to talk as: "One day, your kid says, 'Gah," and the next day he says, 'Dad, I was thinking just now about dinosaurs...'" and that is almost exactly how it happened with WonderGirl. I'm still not sure how she managed it, and her vocabulary and syntax still suprise me.

(Side note: We have assiduously avoided baby talk with WonderGirl, both the adding of "-ie" to the end of all nouns and the gratuitous doubling of words, as in "wipe-wipe" or "Boutros Boutros." She still calls dogs "doggies" and we don't worry about things like that, but I do tend to encourage her not to similarly modify every word. Yesterday, she made a comment about her "poopy" to me, at which point I reflexively said, "Not 'poopy,' WonderGirl, 'poop.'" I have officially lost all perspective.)

Rocco is getting to the Age of Words now also, and he seems to be moving a bit faster than WonderGirl did, which is good, because he still does that weird scoot thing instead of crawling, and he needs something to keep the other infants from making fun of him at daycare. He definitely says, "Ma mamamamamamama," to mean me. Or food. Or water. Or daylight. This week he started with, "Uh oh" although we're not quite sure where that came from. We never make mistakes or drop things, hence no "Uh oh"s in the QoD house.

This morning, I nursed Rocco in bed while DT dozed a bit more. After he was done eating, he rolled over to see DT, which is his usual drill - he blinks his enormous eyes and grins, trusting that we'll forget he was just screaming bloody murder in his crib, then dives at DT. Today, before commencing the ritual, he looked at DT and said, "Dada." Swoon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hard to comprehend

I have been somewhat obsessively watching the internet for news about the trains bombed in India this morning. I'm having two main reactions:

  1. I am incredibly grateful that my dad, who was traveling in India, returned last week. He wasn't in Mumbai, but still, I am beyond happy to know that he is safe and sound in a very boring town in New York. My family tends toward the worrying end of the spectrum, and it was already hard for me to act happy and supportive when he told me he was going to India. I knew I would be uncomfortable the whole time because my God, what if??? So now, I know that my dad is okay, but there are plenty of children in India right now who do not know that about their dads. Which leads to my second reaction...
  2. I'm disturbed at how relatively unemotional I feel reading the articles. It is almost impossible for me to understand what happened, or really feel the panic that affected families must be feeling now. Intellectually, we're all on this planet together and I do believe that we are all connected. Truthfully, though, while I am horrified and saddened by the attacks, but I know that I would feel more strongly if they happened closer to home. I wish that wasn't true.

I blame the metric system

As I may have mentioned previously, I share an office with seven other students. I shouldn't complain, because sharing an office implies that we have office space, which is not true for all PhD students in my school. Although many students in my department work from home, most of my work is done in the office, since the kids' daycare is just a couple of blocks away. All of my books, my notes, my articles, my old inspiring fortune cookie fortunes (cookie fortunes? just fortunes?) are in my office space. Working elsewhere is very difficult from a practical point of view.

While I do have an alarming number of officemates for a small space, they are all quite nice. They are also all international students. Most are Chinese, so our office is filled with conversation that is unintelligble to me. (As an aside, DT, who is American-born Chinese, says that Chinese is meant to be shouted across a restaurant. I now believe it is also meant to be shouted across grad student offices.) A typical eavesdropping endeavor for me produces gems such as: "(something something something) regression (something something) left-censoring (something something) bossy MDs don't know what a p-value is." (Not an exact quote.)

Besides being quite nice and quite loud, though, one of my officemates is also possessed of absolutely no body fat, and I have a hypothesis that this leads to temperature regulation issues. She won't say anything out loud about it, but whenever she's alone in the office, the thermostat magically goes up to 95 degrees. (I'm assuming that Farhenheit degrees are so unfamiliar that she just pushes the thermostat all the way and figures no matter how high it gets, it still won't meet whatever Celsius temperature she'd choose.)

We live in a very warm place, and still, the heater has been on in the office nearly all summer. Every morning when I come in, the office is 86 degrees, because the heater just can't get it any hotter than that. All of my other officemates are too nice to say anything or change the thermostat, although they look relieved and agree readily when I propose turning it down to an icy 80 degrees. I feel like the ugly American for not being able just to let her keep the office hot, since everyone else is dealing with it somehow, but I get so hot that I truly can't work. I have struggled to find a solution (turning the thermostat down a degree at a time to try to find a happy medium, subtly leaving a polar bear costume on her chair, stripping naked to work) but no dice.

Yesterday, I made a decision. I'm cutting and running. One of my friends just defended her dissertation, and I've requested a move to her office space. It's smaller, but with fewer people, and I'm hoping there's leftover good mojo since my friend was able to finish her degree while working there.

Most importantly, there's no thermostat.