Thursday, March 30, 2006


from my daughter, sung to a catchy, syncopated, jazzy tune:

I'm a fairy princess,
I'm a superhero of love and peace,
love and peace,
love and peace.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Childhood, feh, who needs it?

I read a disturbing article in the Atlanta paper yesterday. Apparently, there is a burgeoning market for tutors and academic preparation centers for children who have not yet started school. From the article (note, registration is required, but why aren't you using Firefox and Bugmenot anyway? Huh?):

Kwavi Agbeyegbe intends for her sons to get ahead. Education is a top priority in the Agbeyegbe household. Her husband is a doctor. Agbeyegbe's sons are headed to private school, she said. And maybe Harvard after that.

Agbeyegbe's oldest boy, Weyimi, who still uses a stepladder to climb into his red racing car bed, started preschool tutoring at age 2.

Weyimi, now 3, goes to Kumon for 45-minute sessions twice a week carrying a book bag bigger than he is. He has homework every day. Even holidays.

"When I was looking for a house I wanted to make sure I was close to a Kumon," Agbeyegbe said. "Some children can't sit down for 20 or 30 minutes to be tutored. If your child can, why not?"

Weyimi's 4-month-old brother, Timeyin, who spends his afternoons cooing and watching Baby Einstein DVDs, is also Kumon-bound.

Parents are not only signing up their kids for frequent tutoring at age 2, they're actually taking out loans to do so:

To help make preschool tutoring affordable for a family on a budget, several tutoring companies offer financing, which means some parents are taking out student loans before their children get to elementary school.

SCORE! Educational Centers, which report the pre-k set makes up between 10 percent and 15 percent of its 82,000 students nationally, allows clients to take out a Sallie Mae loan to pay for tutoring expenses.

Last year, some 18,600 parents borrowed for tutoring at SCORE and other companies, according [sic] Hugh Rosen, a spokesman for Sallie Mae.

My first reaction, of course, is, "What in the world are these parents THINKING???" As the parent of a 4-year-old, who clearly is never going to amount to anything because we haven't enrolled her in any super-duper-double-cool tutoring programs, I have some conflicting second reactions. I feel for the parents, who are obviously driven by a desire to give their children the best start possible. I understand that drive. I also feel for other families who are friends of the parents, who have probably found themselves in a competitive circle that will probably be hard to escape without changing social circles. Neurosis loves company.

It might seem strange, but I don't feel sorry for the kids. My guess is that they probably enjoy the sessions, because 3- and 4-year-olds seem to enjoy most things. If they don't, they let you know, and the parents probably wouldn't be taking out loans to finance their kids' misery. (I recognize that this might be naive, but I'm going to hold onto it anyway. It's my version of faith in parental motives.) I have to assume that the extra work is fun on some level.

The part of this that truly makes me sad, though, is the idea that learning at that age must follow certain rules, that there are expectations for what a 4-year-old should know. With our daughter, we have followed a pretty loose philosophy - if she's interested in something, we follow it up. Could be an aquarium trip, often we find cool internet resources, mostly we just talk as a family about the things which pique her interest. We read together a lot, and we encourage her to try things for herself instead of coming to us first. That's about it.

Before she was born, I worried quite a bit about how I would approach my daughter's education. My husband and I are both academically inclined, and I was afraid of how I would react if she was not - I would have guessed that I would be susceptible to these sorts of preschool tutoring schemes. Instead, the opposite has happened (so far). My daughter is curious and creative and happy, and I'm happy. I really don't know how she'll do in school, but I cannot fathom stifling her natural tendencies right now by telling her what I think she should be learning. She only has one chance to be little, and I'll be damned if I'm going to put any pressure on her. Instead, I'm trying to let her teach me how to learn again.

[The more I think about it, the more I think the parents' social circle probably plays a large role in this. We are lucky that our daughter's closest friends come from families with similar approaches, so there is no pressure on us from that sphere. There was one family who was doing flashcards with their son from an early age to try to teach him letters, but we've naturally grown apart.]

Monday, March 27, 2006

Next blog

Sometimes when I'm looking to kill a few minutes while eating lunch at my desk, I'll give in to Google and hit the "next blog" button here on Blogspot. I almost always regret it - I usually end up finding a mishmash of blogs in other languages (which is obviously fine, but it just serves to remind me that I never became fluent in another language, which I regret), blogs dedicated to "viagra for women" "shania twain poster" "brad pitt poster" etc., and strangely, blogs full of chicken recipes. I click through these until I get to a blog that doesn't have the "next blog" button in the same place for convenient clicking, then I quit and go back to my real life.

But every now and then, I run into a gem like this.

Keeps me coming back.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

An admission

On more than one occasion, I have mixed a margarita in a baby bottle because the ounce markings are so clear and convenient. Of course, I transfer the margarita to a sippy cup before drinking - I'm not ridiculous.

That is all. Carry on.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rip 'em up, tear 'em up, give 'em hell Duke

It's a sad and sleepy day in the QoD household. We are Duke graduates and fans, and man, do I hate knowing that today is the first day of the far-too-long offseason. We were able to go to the Duke-LSU sweet 16 game last night, and have decided that our presence is decidedly unlucky for Duke teams on a national stage. This is the first time we've managed to knock off the men's team by attending a game, but we've brought bad luck to the women's basketball team a few times now. We took our 4-year-old daughter, who enjoyed the experience, but was shocked and sad when I told her that because Duke lost the game, we would be watching other teams play on Saturday instead. Sigh. She's taken so well to our pro-Duke propaganda, it's startling.

On the not-as-pretty side, what is it about JJ Redick that can make middle-aged men into such fools? We were sitting near one drunk, obsessed guy who appeared to have come only to heckle Redick and not to watch basketball. What's the point? Is his life that empty?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Weight, weight, don't tell me

There has been a lot of discussion on some blogs I frequent about this post from MIM. Basically, she argues that if you get married looking one way, then your appearance changes over time, you have engaged in "false advertising" and have deceived your spouse.

There are so many depressing issues raised by this that I don't know where to start.

CityMama wrote a well-reasoned reply, with which I largely agree. Read what she said, because she's more eloquent than I am, plus she has a cool picture of Jane Seymour, and who doesn't need that?

There is a part of me that believes that if you married someone who was obsessed with your looks, well, you can't be surprised when there's not a lot of relationship left if your looks change. Worrying about the details at that point seems silly. I have known multiple women who were mightily stressed about the first time they spent the night with a man because he would see them in the morning without makeup. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I can't imagine going to such trouble to look a certain way for someone else, and more importantly, I can't imagine being attracted to anyone who would want me to do that. So there's that.

Several commenters seem to argue that staying skinny is a question of self-respect. I have a hard time with that. I do believe that it's important to stay healthy, and that not worrying about your health is a warning sign of other issues. However, that's not what the original post was about - she was saying it would be "unfair to her husband" if she got larger. That has nothing to do with staying healthy because she believes it's important.

On another level, I find it very sad to think that it could be important to a marriage that both partners stay the same person as when they married. My husband, D., and I started dating 14 years ago - how incredibly boring would our lives be if neither of us had evolved physically, mentally or in any other way since then? Does D. really want to be married to someone who has thumb-tacked Smiths and Pink Floyd posters over her walls or prefaces all major observations with "you know?" D. had an intense head cold the weekend we got married and could barely talk - should I be crying foul now that it turns out he does actually speak?

I'm being a bit flip, and I do understand that things like hygiene play into attraction, but isn't a smart, funny, considerate man much sexier than Viggo Mortensen? Okay, maybe Viggo isn't a fair point of comparison - but you get the point.

Notions of which I need to disabuse myself:

  • Vacations are for relaxing. In truth, vacations are for accumulating large amounts of laundry (I'm seeming a bit obsessed here, hmmm, must think about the implications), causing an infant's already-complicated biological clock to veer completely off-kilter, and reading no more than 20 pages of a book you've been saving "for vacation."

  • Because your advisors aren't emailing you regarding the tables for a paper, they are also not emailing each other about the same tables. Rather, in all likelihood, they will decide (without your input) that the tables should include information that you cannot calculate without significant coding work and re-running several days worth of simulations. This will not seem to be incompatible with sending the paper off three days later.

  • If one of your advisors sends an email that say, simply, "Are you around? Can you stop by to chat for a minute?" it might be good news or, simply, a chat. Perhaps about the exciting fact that your college's basketball team is in the Sweet 16, or about your recent vacation. No, there will be no "chatting," there will be long discussions about where exactly your graduate career is going and the fact that yes, you do in fact have to keep all three advisors instead of paring down to a manageable two, or God forbid, one. Like a normal student.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Poor me

I haven't been able to update for several days because we're off on semi-vacation. My husband has a meeting in a beautiful, snowy locale, so we took a few extra days and went skiing. My daughter turns out to be somewhat of a natural, if lazy, skier, and my five years off from skis left me a little more cautious (which is difficult to imagine) but didn't take away my ability completely.

Mostly, it's been wonderful to see some snow, get away from the house, and do something completely different. I haven't even had any emails from my advisors, wondering where the tables are for the paper we're writing. Ahhh..... I think I like the concept of spring break.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Laundry quandry

Hypothetically speaking, is it more important to sort laundry by the color of the garments, or by the type of stain present? For example (again, hypothetically only), if the baby throws up on his own medium blue clothes, as well as my white shirt and green pants, but also poops a bit on a bright red onesie and extensively on blue pants, do I:

a) sort by color only, washing the smelliest things first
b) sort by type of body fluid only
c) burn it all?


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bienvenido a Miami

You Are Miami

Sexy and beautiful, you turn heads wherever you go.
A little spicy and a little exotic, you're fully aware of your unique appeal.
Totally high energy, you keep the party going early into the morning.

Famous Miami residents: Anna Kournikova, OJ Simpson, Enrique Iglesias

Okay, this couldn't be more off the mark.

Unless "keep the party going early into the morning" really means "wake up with the kiddo at 5:45am" and "sexy and beautiful" means "showered yesterday" and "spicy" means "didn't shower today."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You know you're a grad student if...

Charlotte's Web has a good list of ways to tell if you're a grad student. The ones that made me laugh nervously:

  • more than 25% of your textbook is "left as an exercise for the reader."
  • you have ever brought a scholarly article to a bar.
  • professors don't really care when you turn in work anymore.
  • you have given up trying to keep your books organized and are now just trying to keep them all in the same general area.
  • you reflexively start analyzing those greek letters before you realize that it's a sorority sweatshirt, not an equation.
  • you find yourself explaining to children that you are in "20th grade".
  • you start refering to stories like "Snow White et al."
  • you wonder if APA style allows you to cite talking to yourself as "personal communication".
I would add several ways you know you're a grad student with kids:
  • You have taught a section or lab with stickers on your shirt and did not know it.
  • You assess potential babysitters by their CPR certification and whether they were conscientious students in your class.
  • You spend more time in the lactation room than in your office.
    • Corollary: You can pump hands-free and read journal articles.
      • Double corollary: You know which types of articles are more likely to decrease your milk supply.
  • You have never helped with a Saturday recruiting event for your department.
  • You feel more comfortable eating lunch with the junior faculty than with the other students.
  • You can only participate in IM sports after the kids' bedtime.
  • You start running simulations for your thesis at 3am when your infant wakes up to eat.
  • You are not kidding when you hope that you graduate before your oldest child.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

That new-blog smell

Well. Here we are.

I am officially the 245th million (245 millionth?) visitor to the World of Blogging. (Motto: As much fun as Disneyworld, but you don't have to pay to park.) Why, you may ask (if there were any of you reading this) am I beginning to blog? My reasons, in random order:

  • I do not find the chance to use parentheses enough in my daily life. Hence, I must supplement here. (Make sense?)
  • I am too lazy/unmotivated/busy to keep a journal, but blogging will be fun! And easy! And it will allow me to work through some of the noise of life, leaving me a saner, more peaceful, centered person. I will probably grow a halo.
  • During a difficult time in my life, I found a great deal of wisdom, perspective and hope in certain blogs, and I wonder if I might be able to return the favor somehow.
  • "Blog" is just so much fun to say, and typing it is even better. It's like finger calisthenics.
I have spent some time (less than I should, but more than was my natural tendency) deciding what my focus here will be. My husband helpfully pointed out that my one true area of expertise is being in school, and unfortunately, he is right. I am currently in the middle of my second foray into grad school, after having a few other careers thrown in the middle. My first experience in school was immediately after college, and I was in the wrong field. (I know that now, but there was much tooth-gnashing at the time.) This go-round, I entered into school a bit more intentionally, then complicated the experience by having a baby during my first semester. Now, as I am finishing my 5th year (yoiks!), I am lucky enough to have two healthy children and a dissertation that is beginning to take shape.

All of this leads to the topics on which I am intending to focus: getting through graduate school, having a family and enjoying the intersection of the two. Plus, there will probably be lots of drivel.