Oh, Jen had a bunch of Christmas book suggestions, and mentioned I should order them used off amazon, and as usual, she was super right. I got a big pile of Christmas books for about $4 a pop. I might be most excited about Angelina Ballerina, as I remember that one fondly from when I was little.
We went and saw Santa and the reindeer today at our local nursery. Last year Eliza surprised us by screaming when she sat with Santa – we weren’t expecting that, since she has never displayed an ounce of social anxiety or stranger danger. This year we talked it up a bit, and took a family picture with him first. She didn’t get upset, but she breathed like Darth Vader the whole time.
All right, my man cold and I are passing out now. Thanks for stopping by.
Eliza is right on the cusp of “getting” Christmas this year – I think she definitely could, if we introduce and reinforce the concepts, but right now she has no clue about any of it. We also haven’t exactly landed on our holiday approach – I mean, which traditions we will try to have in place for our little family, versus what we grew up with, etc. I feel like we need to have that reasonably well figured out by next year, but that this year we still have a pass. This year, she’ll get it a little bit, the parts we make a big deal out of, but the whole anticipation and understanding and so forth will still be beyond her.
OK, there is a huge rabbit hole I can go down here, about which traditions we want to stick with, what we believe in, all of that, but I have a point here and that isn’t it.
I am excited about showing Eliza Christmassy movies, and reading her Christmassy books. There are tons of both, of course, and to help narrow down what I’d like to show her, I figure we can use them to reinforce the Christmas stuff we’re hoping she can understand this year: that Santa is going to come one night and bring some presents. That he flies around in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. Magic. That part.
I know, I KNOW that is just the materialist entitled privileged part. We will build on that, I swear! I will add in charity and maybe tell her about some religious stuff (we aren’t religious really, but that is obviously a huge thing for a lot of people) and add in holiday cheer and I swear, we will do all of that. (I am feeling a wee bit defensive about this, apparently? I got into some coffee earlier, I’m betting that’s why.) BUT this year we are just doing a little dose of Christmas magic.
SO HERE IS MY QUESTION: Can you recommend any Christmas movies (cartoons, preferably) or little kid books that focus on that part? The magic? Santa? That would be good for the toddler set. I have How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman, and I’m working on getting the claymation Rudolph movie (which, by the way, go read this, it is my favorite thing on the internet), but I’m wondering if there is a PERFECT movie or show for this purpose. Because my kid LOVES MOVIES OMG (cartoon ones at least).
And here is another question, for people who don’t care about that, or to make up for my little temper tantrum a few paragraphs ago: What are your favorite holiday/winter movies?
I personally have a major thing for Bing Crosby movies – The Bells of St. Mary’s, White Christmas, Holiday Inn. Except not the part where they do black face, omg. Also every year, as the holidays ramp up and Bing Crosby music reasserts itself in my daily life, I look him up on wikipedia and am devastated anew to learn that he was perhaps kind of a jackhole in real life. One should not be allowed to have twinkly eyes and a delightful affect if one is also a douchebag.
Also, I love It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Snowman. Walking in the Air is the song I think of when I think of Christmas.
We had a lovely day – Kevin’s parents are visiting, so the girls are in heaven. We walked to Starbucks this morning despite the cold (it was about 20 when we left the house, foggy with hoarfrost on everything), then played all day, and had dinner at a friend’s house. Somehow I didn’t eat dessert, so I declare Thanksgiving will continue until I find some pie. Hope y’all had a lovely day!
So I wrote a post a few weeks ago about what I know of my parents’ lives, hoping my mom would swoop in and fill in the blanks. Wellllll she totally did. It’s a work in progress (apparently it takes some time to chronicle an entire life at the whims of one’s daughter, who knew?), but I can parcel out some of what she told me today. I asked about a lot of stuff, including my grandparents, so we’ll start with them.
My maternal grandfather, Russell Borus (“Pop”), was born in 1912 in Chicago. His mom (Helen) divorced his dad (Arthur) and moved with Russell and his brother Frank to Jersey City, NJ.
“That part is really murky, because no one knows and no one would ever talk about it. His mom remarried, and Richard Bennewitz (“Dickie”) worked for Bethlehem Steel in Newark.
“Pop graduated from high school in Jersey City. He used to drive the ice wagon, which was pulled by a white horse named Babe. He later had a sales job of some sort in Manhattan. He spent a year working on a boat, swabbing decks and whatever else, some trader marine vessel. Traveled all over the world on that boat.
“Pop enlisted in the Army in the early 40s and trained in the signal corps at Fort Pendleton in California. There were always stories about how people gave him their gas rations to go check on their homes near Yosemite and other places in the winter. He had a girlfriend that is in some old family movies. Nancy [Ed.: my aunt, my mom's older sister] would remember more details and have names, dates. Pop served in Tinian [Ed.: one of the Northern Marianas, along with Saipan, very near Guam. In the middle of the Pacific] in the signal corps and always had stories about diving for cats eyes (I have some in my jewelry box) and he had a small sail boat. He never saw combat and always said he had a good war.” [Ed.: I hope we can find out more about all this - that chain of islands was the site of a lot of critical occurrences in the Pacific campaign of WWII. Tinian was where the Enola Gay took off from, and there were big battles on Saipan, Guam, and Tinian.]
My maternal grandmother, Viola Babcock, was born in 1916 in Jersey City, NJ.
“Viola grew up in Jersey City, an only child. I really know nothing about her childhood although I learned as an adult that she considered herself abused (locked in closets and hit with a hairbrush. I don’t know of anything else along that line). Viola had one year of art college (Beaver College) in NY somewhere. Her mom was ill and she had to quit and help care for her, I think. Her mom was in a wheelchair and had MS. Her parents lived in Rumson, NJ, and her Aunt Lillie and Uncle Harry lived in a house right next door. Viola’s mom died in 1951 [Ed.: the year before my mother was born]. That was also the year that Viola’s Uncle Harry and Pop’s brother Frank died in a commuter train crash, on the line that went from Red Bank, NJ to NYC every day.”
Viola worked as a secretary and a portrait artist, though I’ve only seen the landscape paintings that are hanging in our house and my Aunt’s house.
“Her paintings were oils of landscapes, portraits (some done in a chalk kind of medium?), and watercolors of roses, mostly. I like the snow scenes best.”
I never knew my grandmother – she passed away when I was little, in 1986 – but I have heard that she was sort of a difficult woman, stern, had a lot of rules.
“Viola had an awful temper and didn’t like Pop’s parents, and begrudged him visiting his mom on Sunday afternoons, when she lived five minutes away. Viola would throw things when she was angry. After an argument with Pop about his mom, she threw a cooking pot at Pop and it made a circular dent in the kitchen cabinet. Holidays were never a nice family affair, as Viola complained a lot about having the relatives over at Thanksgiving or Christmas.” [Ed.: I am SO THANKFUL that Kevin and I both get on well with each other's parents, and even more so that our parents get along with each other. We are so lucky.]
“I realize I don’t know how my folks met, or how long they went out before being married in a small ceremony at home, Oct 2, 1947. My folks were a lot older than the folks of my friends. It always seemed like they were ten years older somehow. Maybe they met after the War; I don’t know. They did grow up in the same city, but I don’t know what high school Viola went to. Pop went to Dickinson HS.”
Pop had a sales job by then, selling insurance in Rumson, NJ. My Aunt Nancy was born in 1949, a couple years after my grandparents married.
In 1951 (apparently a watershed year for my grandparents),
“Pop opened his own real estate and insurance business in Fair Haven at 600 River Road, right in the center of the business area. He worked at that business all while I grew up and eventually sold off the insurance side to his partner, just keeping the real estate business (The Borus Agency).”
I’ll stop there, before getting into my mom’s childhood.
On my way to work this morning, I heard a story on NPR about Plan B emergency contraception (Levonorgestrel), and how the efficacy at preventing pregnancy is reduced in women who are overweight or obese. The story reported that levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B…
starts losing its effectiveness in women weighing as little as 165 pounds and loses it completely in women who weigh more than about 175 pounds.
A later airing of the same segment I heard on my way home stated that this effect was independent of BMI – so a tall woman who is not even overweight might also experience a reduced efficacy. This text doesn’t appear in the linked story, and I haven’t read the primary study the story references – I didn’t have time today.
Because I was busy making a quick PBPK model to illustrate the impact of differences in weight on levonorgestrel pharmacokinetics.
All but approximately three of my readers just got really confused, so here are some key terms and a very fast primer. Pharmacokinetics is the fate of a substance of interest once it is introduced to a living organism. For example, when you take medicine, say a pill that you swallow, how that drug is absorbed through your GI tract, distributed through out your body, metabolized, and eventually eliminated in your pee or various other routes. PBPK models: physiologically based pharmacokinetic models are mathematical descriptions of all the physiology and biochemistry that influence pharmacokinetics. So to make a model, I describe physiological aspects of the body like the volume and composition of organs of interest, and rates of blood flow to those organs. Then I add biochemical details, like how water or fat soluble the substance of interest is, how quickly it is metabolized and in what tissues, how quickly the substance is absorbed or eliminated in various tissues, and so forth. I incorporate all of that information into differential equations (calculus! fun!) that allow me to simulate exposure scenarios I am interested in.
For levonorgestrel, I was interested in what the blood concentration might look like based on changes in body weight (and associated organ volumes, blood flows, etc.). I focused on three scenarios for a 5’4″ tall woman: a normal BMI, overweight BMI, and obese BMI. I used the low end for each (18.5, 25, and 30, yielding body weights of approximately 109 lbs, 147 lbs, and 176 lbs).
I built a model with explicitly described liver and fat tissues, as well as arterial and venous blood, and the rest of the body lumped together into tissues that are slowly perfused (bone, skin, muscle) and rapidly perfused (brain, visceral organs, etc.). I incorporated chemical specific information for levonorgestrel from the wikipedia page (protein binding, bioavailability) and from the literature (rates of metabolism, Kuhnz & Gieschen 1998).
I made a pile of assumptions that, given enough free time, I could vet against the available literature (i.e. actual data). For one, I assumed that in a 5’4″ woman, as weight increased, some tissue volumes increased and others did not – for example, I assumed that the liver size would be similar in a woman with a BMI of 18.5 or 30.0, but that fat, muscle, and blood volumes would be greater in a woman with a BMI of 30 than a BMI of 18.5. I would need to revisit and expand on these assumptions, especially if I get a look at the original study and it DOES say the observed (lack of) effect was independent of height. I also had to estimate rates of absorption, which I did by visually fitting them to data on blood concentrations in the drug pamphlet (you know, that thing that comes with your prescription drugs that is covered in teeny tiny writing that you immediately throw away). I can provide a lot more detail here, but I think I’ve already provided more than all but three of you care about.
SO ANYWAY. I did a couple of simulations to illustrate my point. Did I ever say what my point is? It’s this: I WAS NOT SHOCKED BY THE NEWS STORY. If you give the same amount of a drug to people of different sizes, without accounting for the size difference in the dose given, you will sometimes see a change in efficacy. That is: if you give a 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel to a 109 lb woman, a 147 lb woman, and 176 lb woman, they will have different blood concentrations of the drug. THE DOSE IS NOT WEIGHT ADJUSTED. Thus, if there is a threshold below which the drug ceases to be effective (LIKELY), it is possible that this might be breached, resulting in some effect (or lack thereof), like…. pregnancy, here. Look, some pictures.
First, here is some evidence that the model I whipped up isn’t complete crap. Predicted blood concentrations of levonorgestrel following a 1.5 mg oral exposure. This is where I visually fitted the oral absorption parameters. If I have time, I can find more pharmacokinetic data to better optimize these parameters, but this is sufficient to support my point.
Next, the point: here you can see model predictions of blood concentration of levonorgestrel after a 1.5 mg oral dose in women with three different BMIs (18.5, 25, and 30).
So there is definitely more fiddling I can do to make the model a hell of a lot better – for instance, if I can get my hands on the weight info for the women represented by the data in the first graph, as it is pretty unlikely that they had an average BMI of 18.5 (109 lbs! That was me in 9th grade! Haaaa!). But, my point is that body weight exerts a SIGNIFICANT impact on maximum blood concentration – it is almost 50% higher in the BMI 18.5 woman compared to the BMI 30.0 woman. That’s potentially a big deal, depending on what the therapeutic index is, and what the outcome is.
Now, as I said, I haven’t read the original study, which is kind of a big oversight. I will. I do think that the pharma company that makes this drug should have addressed this issue before the drug made it to market, but you need a large population exposed before some of these effects come to light – human variability is a big deal, and it’s not like you can do clinical trials for a drug like this on zillions of people.
BUT. Think about all the medicine you take. SO MUCH of it never takes weight into consideration – it’s just “for adults, take two pills” or whatever. Kid medicine does – you choose the dose based on which weight range they fall into – but not grown up medicine! For most stuff, it’s ok – the therapeutic index is wide enough that it doesn’t matter. But it ticks me off. Imprecision BUGS THE SHIT OUT OF ME. Dose matters! Look at the graph! Yes, it is impossible (at this point) to account for all of human variability, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least TRY to account for something as simple as BODY WEIGHT, does it? Maybe my friend Robin can swoop in here and tell me why I shouldn’t care this much. I hope he does. As it stands, I have had way too much coffee and spent way too much of my day on this mess.
Also, I accidentally saw some of the comments on the article on NPR.org, and now I think humanity is a lost cause, someone please get me some cake.
We are mainlining Doctor Who right now so that we can watch the 50th anniversary special before Kevin’s parents get here on Wednesday. We’ve been watching two episodes a day for a bit, which, compared to the zero (0) television I’ve been watching since approximately when Hazel was born, well, WHOA.
Hazel has been sleeping pretty well for a week and a half, and I feel AMAAAAAZING. My brain is working! The fog has lifted for the first time in a month! I’ve been getting a lot done at work. I’ve been able to watch a little TV. I’ve (gasp!) stayed up later than both my kids! Ok, only by half an hour or so, but it does WONDERS for my headspace.
Hazel will get booted into our bathroom for the next week though, and then she’ll bounce back and forth every couple weeks when people visit, and then we go to LA, and then and then and then. So I’m sure that’ll disrupt the already nonlinear progression of infant sleep, but I’m hoping she can roll with it. I’m excited to do all the stuff and see all the people but I’m a little nervous about the impact it will have on Hazel and my sleep.
When we used to drag Eliza all over creation, she did reasonably well, but even when it hit the fan, the burden was spread more evenly over Kevin and me. Now it’s mostly on me – not because Kevin doesn’t want to help, but he just can’t very easily. We stopped working on Hazel accepting bottles from him at some point because it worked better for me to feed her, so now he hasn’t tried in months. Especially now that I’m working full time, it’s challenging to find a good time for him to even try to give her a bottle. No big deal, honestly, except that there isn’t a whole lot he can do for her at night right now. It’s certainly worth it, to see our friends and families, to go on adventures, but it costs me a good bit more this time. I suppose it ends up costing Kevin as well, after a rough night, as he ends up on Eliza duty while I stare blankly into the distance, holding Hazel. Ahhh, parenthood!
Anyways, I didn’t mean to go off about that, I just meant to say: oh, it’s so nice to be well rested! I’m sure it will come and go over the next year, but it’s nice to taste sanity after a few months without. Just knowing it’s there waiting for me is helpful.
Also helpful: good TV shows that I get to discuss with my buddies. Same with good books. Having brain power left over at the end of the day is so refreshing!
She had an OK night, but still finagled some parental bed real estate this morning. Good thing she’s cute.
Nine and a half years ago, I had the most unbelievable summer. Somehow, I’ve only mentioned it here in passing, a long time ago, but here is what I said:
“…moved into a 2000 Nissan Frontier with my friend, Meredith. We embarked on a three month journey around the country, which is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Peaked at 20, such a shame. We spent time in West Virginia (New River Gorge), Philadelphia (this kid we met at the NRG paid us money to move him from his dorm in Philly to….), southern Illinois (there are rocks there. seriously.), Wyoming (Wild Iris in the Wind Rivers Range), British Columbia (Squamish), California (Yosemite, duh), and Idaho (City of Rocks). I could spend an eternity talking about this trip, and probably should at some point. This was the defining experience of my life thus far; it is when I found my confidence, it is when I learned about friendship and adulthood and dumpster diving, it is when I tore the ligaments in my wrist that kept me at UGA for grad school.”
I found the journal I kept during the trip, and I ran across the photoalbum (an actual ALBUM!) the other day, so I’m going to post some excerpts. This trip was, as I said, a defining experience. But since I said that back in 2009, I’ve had some bigger things come along, and the memories are getting crowded right out of my brain, as memories sometimes do.
Got to Roger’s at 6ish, after missing US 19 and making our own route for a bit – and paying an extra $1.25 toll – damnit. This place is pretty nice – someone’s yard, basically. Roger is kind, sits around and bullshits with everyone. Alex is here too, and Bash (a friend of his from Chapel Hill). Played Dominoes Muthafucka last night, then spades. And it rained
The truck was comfy – see how long till I detest it. Today we are climbing easy, maybe trad a bit and I’m excited.
Climbed at Butcher’s Branch today. Beautiful, gorgeous day. Sunny and shady and breezy and warm. Trail was switchbacks, murderous for me on the way out – I just go slow, get winded so easily on that stuff. Anyway everything was vibrantly green with sun filtering through. Crossed a pretty creek waterfall, unfortunately these are allegedly sewage runoff so no refreshing dip after climbing. The rock was beautiful also, great features and colors.
Went swimming down at Summersville Dam – very nice, more enjoyed the ride though. Alex and Mere. Good talk about life, and what you’re supposed to do with it – we three have so many opportunities, and some would say we’re squandering them, wasting time and not appreciating how we got here – we are so fortunate to be economically comfortable, sound body and mind, etc. – so lucky to have been born to this, rather than where 90% of humans are… and here we are, rather than trying to help others in some way… we are taking the summer off of our ridiculously difficult lives as college students to climb, and forget about the world, what day it is, what terrorism is currently occurring and where, what hunger or disease is ravaging what country… live in my bubble of happiness. But what should I be doing differently? It can be construed as indifference of selfishness or maybe ignorance/naivety. I’m not sure… from that extreme, even establishing my life, working for my own livelihood is selfish. And maybe I am just selfish – I want others to have happiness and opportunities, but not at the expense of my own. I just want everything to be good magically.
Everybody, be kind. I was 20, and hanging out with English/Philosophy graduate students. I’m betting this will only get worse.
Today had me thinking about watershed moments and big historical events. I was asking my mom what she remembers about some from her lifetime, and there are so MANY – the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, the moon landing, MLK’s assassination and the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, Vietnam. I’m sure there are more after that, but, uh, I’m a little fuzzy on U.S. and world history in the 1970s and 1980s, sooo.
Anyway, it’s got me thinking about what the watersheds from my lifetime are – the most obvious, of course, is 9/11 (and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). Others are the dot com bubble, the global financial crisis, and all the recent strides in marriage equality (I still feel like we are waiting for The Moment on that one. Come onnnnn).
But I wonder if there are other things that don’t feel that huge to me right now, but in 50 years will prove to be historically significant? And things that felt really big at the time, but will end up being fairly minor or mundane.
Like, I don’t know – Obama’s election in 2008. It felt like a sea change, at the time. Like a huge, big deal. Like history was happening and I was experiencing it, and WOW. And on some level, I think that’s certainly the case: we have a black president! That IS a big deal. But some of the rest of it, the hope and change and everything I felt so swept up by at the time? It feels kind of like a river that turned into a stream that turned into … I don’t know, an overused irrigation canal. This metaphor got away from me. Anyways, it felt like it was going to be a big historical Thing, and now it seems like it’s actually just politics as usual.
Wow, this went in an unexpected direction. But it is my bedtime, so I’m leaving it, even though I’m sure I’ll think of a bunch of obvious things tomorrow, and also that I’ll be embarrassed at my limited world view and lack of awareness of current events.
Whoa, so Thanksgiving is a week from today, huh. This month (year) is flying by while I busy myself whining about being sleepy. Like, what, I’m expecting to not be sleepy someday? Well, Snooze, bad news: you will ALWAYS be sleepy no matter what, because narcolepsy.
Right, ok, Thanksgiving. Kevin’s parents are coming to visit next week, and Eliza is going to be soooo happy to have her Mammo and Bappo here.
We have hosted Friendsgiving every year we’ve lived here, so this will be a bit of a departure for us. We are still celebrating with friends, but we aren’t hosting and it’s a slightly different crowd – primarily Kevin’s coworkers. It will be nice not to have to deal with cleaning up afterwards, though I am a little bummed we aren’t hosting. Partially because that means fewer leftovers, which is half the fun.
I’ve been too busy/tired/fried to participate much in the menu planning, but I think the hosts are providing a couple of the dishes that are critical to my thanksgiving experience: stuffing, candied yams, and cranberry sauce. I am pretty particular about all three – I want them to be just like my mom and aunt have always made them. The cranberry sauce is classyish, while the other two recipes are less so (stuffing mix, and canned yams with marshmallows. COME TO ME). I think I’m going to make some just for us.
3 cans (14 oz) cooked yams, drained
3/4 stick butter or margarine, cut up
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
Bag mini marshmellows
Preheat oven to 350°
Beat with mixer until well blended. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Put marshmallows on top and heat under broiler for 3 minutes.
Pepperidge Farm stuffing
Celery, chopped fine
½ med onion, chopped fine
½ cup walnuts, chopped small
2 apples, chopped small
8 oz sliced mushrooms
water and butter as directed on package of stuffing
Melt butter and water together in saucepan. Add all chopped ingredients in large bowl and mix together. Place in large glass casserole and bake till warm in 350’ oven.
Whole Cranberry Sauce
12 oz bag cranberries
1 Cup Orange Juice
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon orange rind or zest
Put all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture boil down. Serve warm or cold.