Momentum

October is going to be – already is, really – insane. A lot of travel for our family in whole and in part (at least one of us is out of town for 19 of 31 days this month), a lot of big work deadlines, many of which are make or break it for me. Family stuff, big milestones – Bear turns one next Sunday, which I’m in some denial about. If I ignore it, it won’t happen, right? Honestly, that’s been my approach with a lot of my life lately. Head in the sand makes the world stop turning – the deadlines won’t pass, the baby won’t age, winter won’t get any closer.

As a result, I’ve sort of been floating along, letting momentum carry me. Not really actively steering this boat. It’s… not my favorite. I feel like I’m not trying hard enough. No, that’s not right – I am working my butt off, at home and at work and in my personal relationships. It’s that I don’t feel like I am doing things with intention. I only have time and wherewithal to react as things are happening, rather than to be proactive, or to set the tone or course myself. I’m just treading water, instead of trying to figure out how to get out of the ocean and… onto a boat or something. I don’t know, I’m a scientist, metaphor isn’t really my thing.

I’ve been mulling this over in spare moments for a few months now. Longer, probably, I mean I used to have monthly intentions/goals, just for fun, but really fell off the rails with that when I got pregnant with Eliza. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but goal setting hasn’t even really made it near (not to mention on to) my to do list lately. I know I’ll be more productive and happier and million things if I make time for that, but there are SO MANY other things I want to do in my limited spare time that I’m getting distracted by. And I find myself wasting time on little internal arguments I settled long ago – like, should I mop the floor and vacuum and meal plan this weekend, or should we go camping? Simple – CAMPING. Duh. Why am I fretting about this?

So, whatever, I need to make some lists. And get my shit together, prioritzed. And make a dentist appointment. And get my hair cut. And finish a few papers, and some blog posts, and that photo book for E’s first year.

—–

Ok, here is what’s really important: videos of my kid and my cat.

First, when you ask Eliza where her belly is, she flaps her arms like a chicken. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Belly

Next, Eliza is learning about animals: What do you say?

And finally, Kevin and I think it’s hilarious when Alfalfa enters or exits Eliza’s room. He sort of hovers over the baby gate. I really wish I could make this into an animated gif without exerting any effort, because I think that’d be better, but here are videos: Alfalfa arrives and Alfalfa departs.

[I don't know how to embed these properly on a wordpress.org blog - if anyone is inclined to help me do it, I'd love you forever. I'm guessing it's a plug in, and I'm guessing google could tell me, but it's well past my bed time, so.]

Posted in ephemera, Miss Bear | 7 Comments

What it’s like to have narcolepsy

Most of the time, it’s nothing. Most people certainly can’t tell I have it, unless I’ve told them what to look for. It’s not like the movies, I don’t just pass out cold into my dinner plate.

You know that terrible blonde joke, where the girl won’t take off her headphones? And finally someone grabs them off her head, and a few minutes later she falls over dead? Because the headphones were telling her to breathe. This is what it’s like for me when I’m tired: I have to actively tell myself to stay awake, constantly, every moment. Often that is not enough. It creeps up on me, until suddenly staying awake is physically exhausting, like when your muscles are vibrating at the end of a hard work out, and all of your focus is required to make any little movement.

In fact, this is what got me thinking on this topic. The last few weeks at the gym have been really challenging for me, because I’m getting incredibly sleepy mid-workout. Like, in the middle of a set of lunges, I have to stop and yawn repeatedly, so deeply that I can’t multitask. I have to rest between circuits because I need all my energy and focus to will my eyes open.

That’s during actual physical activity, which is the easiest time to stay awake for me. It’s much harder with passive or sedentary activities, like meetings, or in the car, or watching TV. I’ve dozed off in meetings, classes, during one on one conversations. Once I fell asleep at a punk rock concert. It’s so absurd it’s funny. It has to be, to offset the times when it’s not.

I remember in grad school, in one of our typically tiny classes where all five of us necessarily sat in the front row, I’d try all kinds of things to stay awake. Knitting, taking notes like my life depended on it. One day, desperate, I decided there was no way I could doze off if I were drinking water. So I’d take a sip and hold it in my mouth for a bit, then swallow, do it again. I fell asleep, and choked spectacularly, spit water everywhere. It was incredibly embarrassing. There were other instances in grad school, where my sleepiness became a legitimate hindrance – I don’t know if I’ll ever forget my advisor calling me into his office, and telling me I’d have a hard time in life if I couldn’t manage to stay awake during meetings. Then there are the times it’s scary – I have felt my eyes close for far too long while driving, I’ve gotten the nods and hit the rumble strips on the sides of the highway. I’ve gotten home and realized I don’t remember any of the trip.

I figured I just needed to try harder, that I was just being rude or careless, needed to listen harder or more actively, attend to whatever task was at hand. It wasn’t until my parents were in a car accident, because my dad dozed off at the wheel, that I decided it might be more than that.

So I had a sleep study done, at the recommendation of my GP. The study was kind of terrible – they plaster all these sensors onto your head, and there are wires everywhere, and then they expect you to sleep normally in a strange place. I figured afterwards that the results would be screwed up, because I’d slept so terribly, tossing and turning and asks asking ages to all asleep, when under normal circumstances, I’d pass out the moment I laid down. But no: the results were clear – narcolepsy. I’d fallen asleep in under two minutes, regardless of what it seemed like. My sleep cycles were out of whack, as they are in narcolepsy – I fell into REM sleep almost immediately, whereas that takes an hour or more in normal folks.

It turns out that a lot of my little quirks are actually classic symptoms of narcolepsy – a lot of the little things Kevin and I have always joked about. How I get really weak when I’m tired, can’t make a fist, can’t pick up the baby, can’t wrestle off a tickle fight. Turns out that’s cataplexy – loss of muscle tone, thought to be a symptom of REM sleep popping up at the wrong time. How I will sort of doze off taking notes or knitting, and keep on moving my hands in a silly little mimic of whatever they were up to before I nodded off – that’s automatic behaviors, again, a symptom, like how a dog will run in its sleep. I also will start dreaming before I’m asleep, start spouting off complete nonsense when I’m tired – hypnagogic hallucinations, REM sleep asserting itself at the wrong time. Kevin always tries to keep me talking when I do that, and eventually I always realize what’s going on and feel incredibly confused. All these little things were my funny quirks, they are why he and many others call me Snoozie. But they’re actually diagnostic criteria. Oops.

So, narcolepsy. Mostly funny, except for the part where it affects my job (rarely) or keeps me from driving very far (actually annoying). I have medicine I can and do take when I really need to – when I need to drive more than 20 minutes, or if I really need to have my shit together at work. But I don’t like to take it often, it’s a stimulant that really just masks the underlying problem. The most effective treatment for narcolepsy is frequent naps, ever couple hours, every day. So, basically, I’d need to be a trophy wife with no responsibilities. Instead, I’ll just keep being snoozie.

Posted in medical anomaly | 13 Comments

Getting to Know Yoooou (sing that, obviously)

I’m participating in the Crappy Day Present Exchange this month. Have you heard of this? It’s amazing. Rachel over at Doing My Best runs it, because she is a saint. Basically you pick out a few inexpensive treats or small gifts, wrap them individually, pop them in a box and mail them to a buddy. Someone else sends you a box. And then, when a shitty day sneaks up on you, voila! You get a present. What could be better? My crappy days now have an element of glee to them, because I have a small pile of warm fuzzies on my bookshelf (compliments of Linnea, who is wonderful). So, to facilitate the lucky person who drew my name, here is an old school getting to know you meme. Enjoy, or skip if you hate fun.

What is your favorite color? Green! All shades, from yellowy chartreuse to deep black forest.

What is your favorite season? Spring and Fall are my favorites. Windows open season.

What is your favorite treat? Creme Brulee, or ice cream with fruit on it, like sour cherry compote or poached peaches. Or lately, caramel frappucinos from Starbucks, oof, I need to stop that. I am not a crazy chocolate person, but do enjoy it (milk or white only). I love caramel, and frosting, and … ok, sugar, apparently.

What is your favorite scent? Not a big fan of scented stuff, but I love natural, light smells – pine, flowers, fresh cut grass, citrus. And that smell before it rains (petrichor! Word of the day!)

What is your favorite coping mechanism? Exercise is the most effective, but usually least used. Knitting while watching many episodes of a TV show in a row. Eating all the food. Holing up with a book.

What do you like to do in your free time? Read, knit, play with my kiddo, try to be better at life.

What do you not enjoy doing, and why, but have to do anyway? Cleaning. I hate cleaning. It’s such a Sisyphean task. I especially hate vacuuming. Why so loud, vacuum?

If someone gave you money with the instruction that you had to spend it on something
frivolous for yourself, what would you buy?
Possibly jewelry – I’ve spent a lot of time convincing myself (and my husband) that I don’t like jewelry, but I think I secretly do. I’d probably talk myself out of that, though, and into yarn or e-books.

Do you have any decorating themes in your home/office? Green. Every wall in our house is painted green or teal, except my daughter’s room (purple, used to be green). Most of our stuff (art, small kitchen appliances, towels, etc.) is green or has green accents. It might be a little weird but I like it.

Is there something that you REALLY, REALLY like? (Burt’s Bees, horses, cats, fairies,
unicorns, birds, patriotic stuff, babies, chocolate, Diet Coke, etc….)
Green things, diet coke, dinosaurs, chickens.

What is the VERY! BEST! present you have ever received and why was it the best? (The purpose of this question is to give people another idea of the sorts of things that make you happy.) God I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but honestly? Megan recently sent me a box with some chocolate covered pretzels, and she included a picture of ET in the box. I am terrified of ET. But I have never laughed that hard upon opening a present.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod? Lakes of Pontchartrain (The Be Good Tanyas), followed by Weight of Life (Avett Bros) and Boy with a Coin (Iron & Wine). Those are the songs I zone out to if I’m stressed.

What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year? Time: when I get to leave work. Or first thing in the morning when the day could be ANYTHING! Day: Saturday. Month: May, i.e. SUSIE MONTH.

What sound do you love? Wind in trees. Ocean. Thunderstorms. Nature sounds, apparently. OH OH and banjos. I like banjos.

If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for? I’m not so much a party thrower. But I enjoy hosting dinners and potlucks. Thanksgiving is my favorite – we host every year for anyone who wants to come, friends, family, coworkers, whatever. I love it. You should come.

What type of pets do you have? Two awesome cats, Squish and Alfalfa.

What is most memorable about your high school years? That I got a plaque for perfect attendance. Seriously. You can see it when you come in my front door, right behind the naked lady lamp.

What is your favorite food? Right now? Cauliflower. Can’t get enough. Whipped cream is a close second.

If you were on an island, who would you want to be with? Why? Hmmm. Someone sensible and resourceful and tolerant. Maybe my brother? He’s not exactly tolerant, but we can fight and make up because we’re siblings. I feel bad for not saying Kevin, but uh… I don’t know, I think survival skills might be important, and computer skills not so much. I’m hoping we can eventually escape the island, or make an awesome Swiss Family Robinson set up and then bring our spouses and kids over. Also, monkey servants. OK, I am really into this question.

If you had 1,000,000 dollars to give away, how would you do it? I’d give a portion to family or friends for pressing debt, and I’d invest the rest into some sort of Snoozie Endowment, donating earnings to my pet interests. Today that would be: vaccination programs, support for people who’ve gotten screwed because they were “just” gay married, maybe a merit based scholarship of some kind (for narcoleptics! yeah!). It’ll be something different tomorrow, I’m sure.

What was the last national park you visited? Rainier. We go a lot – it’s pretty close to us, and it’s my favorite place to camp and hike around here. I’ve also been to Everglades, Grand Tetons, Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, Olympic, Redwood, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Yosemite is my favorite overall (so far). 9/58 – that’s not great, considering how much I love them. I’d like to see more, and more often.

What book can you read over and over again? East of Eden. At least five times. I love it so.

If you could see 24 hours into the future what would you do with this ability?
Probably go slap out of my mind.

If you had it to do over again what would you study in school?
Possibly engineering. Or maybe pharmacy school without completing my bachelors, so it would have been free. But I think I would have gotten bored either way.

What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
Probably head cheese. I’ll eat just about anything my friend Nat prepares, though.

Posted in ephemera | 6 Comments

Eleven month old baby

Eliza is eleven months old, and continues to be awesome. She’s walking confidently, and banging her head on all kinds of thing. She can say a handful of words (uh oh, ball, bye bye, bird, more, milk) that of course only make sense to us and her nanny. She mostly feeds herself, and mostly eats what we eat (minus the spicy stuff – if we give her that, she rubs it in her eyes, which ends about as well as you’d expect). She can climb up on the twin bed in her room, but her dismounts are terrible. She loves – LOVES – going down the slide at the park.

She’s getting a bit more challenging, too. She throws her food on the floor and cackles, spits her milk out and splashes it around with her fingers. She is very into my glasses lately, and it seems like she is starting to understand that grabbing them or my hair makes me angry (and of course, that’s a GOOD reason to do it more). She cries out of anger now, if you take something away or redirect or refuse to pick her up.

We are realizing we need to start making PARENTING decisions, now – decide what our approach to some behaviors are, and apply them consistently. This seems to be hard for me, especially. If she is crying for reasons that aren’t hunger, tiredness, pain, etc., our normal reaction at home is to put her in her room for independent/quiet time. This usually always works well. But if we are out and about, at frisbee or camping or someone else’s house, my inclination is to quiet the child by whatever means necessary. Sometimes I think that’s appropriate – if we are at a restaurant, I don’t want my child to negatively impact other people’s dining experience (unless we at a decidedly child friendly place), and we’ll leave if the baby is being really disruptive. But other times, at frisbee or camping especially, I need to learn to let her be, I think. So, parenting in public seems challenging (BRAND NEW INFORMATION, Susie).

Regardless of that stuff, we know she is still an incredibly easy baby, by most measures. She plays independently, she usually sleeps well, she isn’t especially fussy. Whenever we talk about having more kids, one of the first topics we land on is how we know there is no way it’ll be nearly this easy. No way.

I’m saving all of my sappy whining about how my kid is almost a year old for next month, when my kid will be a year old, omfg. But don’t worry, it is ALL happening in my brain.

Anyways, some Eliza things I’d like to remember:
– Where’s mom? Her absolutely favorite thing right now is when we take her upstairs at night. Kevin carries her, and I come up behind them, and she just giggles hysterically and throws herself back and forth in his arms, looking for me.
– When she is really upset, she throws herself backwards, arms over her head, with no regard to her personal safety. This is both hilariously dramatic and kind of terrible.
– The squealy laughing noise she makes especially when she manages to get really close to one of the cats.
– Her adorable wobbly zombie walk. It’s almost gone already, and she’s really only been walking definitively (as her first choice means of getting places) since Labor Day weekend.

And here are some pictures of my baby being cute.

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Posted in Miss Bear | 5 Comments

Of Movies and Marriage

Kevin and I went to see Hope Springs last week with some friends, and I have Thoughts. They are mildly spoilery thoughts, so if this is a movie that you are hoping to go see, I guess maybe don’t read this? Except I think it’s pretty obvious from the trailers that the movie is about marriage counseling and intimacy issues. It is less obvious that the movie isn’t very funny – I think most of the funny parts are in the trailer (Carol? With the corgies?). Right, so: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as suburban empty nesters in their 60s, go for a week of intensive couples therapy at the hands of Steve Carell. The couple’s relationship has reached a level of brokenness that was both heartbreaking and, I think, common. They followed a routine carved from years of practice, slept in different rooms, share perfunctory words out of habit, rarely actually touched one another. The characters were a bit stereotypical in their roles – Kay wanted Arnold to notice she was desperately unhappy without her saying it outright, and Arnold was grumpy and taciturn and immune to subtext.

The thing about the movie, though, was that it was very easy to relate. I mean, I felt like I could fill in the entire blank space of their lives and relationship before the movie started. How they were so young and in love, and how they got married and played a bit of house – Arnold taking his briefcase to work, Kay tidying up and making dinner and oh here comes a baby! And they loved the children, but oh sometimes Kay just wishes no one else would ask her for anything today, or must some always be touching her at all times, really? And then Kay and Arnold forget to focus on each other for a few years, and it becomes a few more and suddenly BAM! The kids are gone, they are in their 60s, and they don’t even know each other anymore. And it’s been years since they were intimate – Arnold stopped asking a while back because Kay was so consumed by the kids, and Kay doesn’t know how to ask because that wasn’t how it ever worked before, and everything is just a mess. They are so deep in their ruts that it’s impossible to climb out, even though they can both see the way a million times a day.

So the movie picks up there, basically, with these two people who have shared their lives but don’t know how to start talking to each other again. And you basically go to therapy with them. It is painful and awkward and terrible, as Steve Carell deadpans questions about intimacy and sex and communication. And the whole time, as the viewer, I’m sitting there relating. I think it’s impossible not to – I was painfully aware that my husband was also relating, and that the two other couples we were with were, too. We are all sitting there, inevitably thinking about our own marriages. Either how we hope they will never get like this, oh we are safe because we talk, we touch! Or about how they might be headed that way or there already, in small ways.

Kevin and I had a really tough first year of marriage. I think a lot of people do – you think you know what you’re doing, but it’s different and harder in a thousand tiny ways. We lived together, albeit with many roommates, for over a year before we got married, so I think we both thought there wouldn’t be much of an adjustment. We had our finances melded for a long time before as well, we’d had the big discussions about kids, money, religion, even housekeeping styles. We were in agreement on all of it! No problems!

The big thing we didn’t know how to do was communicate when things were shitty. Like, say, when you just moved across the country in the middle of winter to a barren desert where you don’t know anyone, and you both just finished school, and started your first real jobs, and bought your first house, and it’s just so empty. And you are supposed to fill it with warmth, somehow, but you aren’t feeling real warm at the moment. (Answer: buy some cats, and relax, dudes.)

We figured it out (thanks, Squish!) but it took a lot of time, and it got to where we weren’t barely talking to each other first. And boy, starting up again? That is the hardest thing either of us has ever done, bar none. Harder than this whole baby thing, that is for damn sure. And so watching this movie, we are both sitting there, feeling that difficulty just wash over us again, but from the other side. I think I’d forgotten how hard it was, bridging the distance we let develop between us in just a few short months. Now, a week later, it is mostly unfathomable again – no way did that ever happen, we enjoy each other way too much, it’s ridiculous. But, it did. And this movie – oof, it brought it right back. We talked about it on the way home, a really good conversation about how that can happen generally, how it happened to us, and what we will do if it ever happens again. I’m glad we watched it, watched it together.

Posted in retrospect | 6 Comments

6 Quick Takes

1. My baby can walk. She’s been taking steps, all ‘look ma, no hands!’ for almost a month, but this past weekend? She is hustling across the whole room, arms out, wobbly, but walking. it is hilarious and heart breaking. She’s getting faster and more coordinated by the hour, and she is perceptibly taller and skinnier and just cut that shit out, baby. You are my baby!

2. Yeah, ok, fine, my baby is going to turn ONE in less than five weeks. Not cool, time! I think we are mostly ignoring her birthday, though. No party, as Kevin and I will be out of town on alternating weekends for all of October. I think we will just make her a cupcake and let her go to town, snap some pictures and call it good. I’d love to be the kind of mom that throws parties and has themes and invitations and a smash cake, but… I’m not. At all. And that’s just fine.

3. We got new next door neighbors and I am SO excited. They are approximately our age, with a six year old daughter. The woman and I talked easily about all manner of things for over half an hour when we dropped by some blueberry crumble bars (BE MY FRIEND!) and I’m so hopeful that we connect. It would be so wonderful to have a really great friend in close proximity. I am terrified I’m going to scare them off with my enthusiasm. At least I am too busy to totally humiliate myself by annoying them every day?

4. I have been in a funk lately. I think I’m on the way out, but we shall see. I’ve decided the funk is a result of a bunch of small things – not playing frisbee, work stress, not getting to take advantage of our proximity to outdoor adventures this summer, feeling behind at a bunch of life maintenance stuff – just a million stupid little things. I’m working on them, or at least identifying them. Before Eliza, I used to do monthly ‘intentions,’ just goals like ‘don’t eat candy’ or ‘don’t play with your phone in social situations.’ I miss doing that stuff – I think it made me pay a lot more attention to my actions, so I wasn’t just stuffing cookies in my mouth without even tasting them, or leaving the reusable grocery bags at home every single time. I’m going to get back to this.

5. I really want to do the next post in my vaccine series, or another toxicology post, but I haven’t had the spare time recently. Or maybe the motivation (see #4). I do have a short list of requested topics, though, so if there is something you’re interested in hearing about, let me know.

6. I finally got some duck eggs at the farmers market, to see if I am able to eat those without horking (I recently developed an allergy or sensitivity to chicken eggs, which is TRAGIC). I finally forced myself to eat one on Monday, when I could afford to spend the afternoon puking – and it went fine! No queasiness, nothing. I’ll probably try it another few times on the weekends before getting back to my two egg a day habit, but I’m excited at the prospect. Plus now I can continue reading Erica’s blog without tearing up at her food pictures. Runny yolks, I am coming for you!

Posted in ephemera, Miss Bear | 11 Comments

Science communication

A conversation on twitter today got me all jazzed about, among other things, science communication. Which, duh, I’ve obviously been jazzed about that since… well, forever, but SPECIFICALLY, today, I am thinking about how we scientists report our findings.

If you are unfamiliar, research science is reported in peer reviewed literature. What’s that? Basically there a bunch of scientific journals, like Science and Nature and a bunch of others that aren’t as well known outside of specific fields. So basically, when I finish some piece of research, something I and my colleagues deem reportable, we write it up and submit it as an article to one of these journals. A journal editor then sends it on to several reviewers – scientists. They read it and offer comments as well as an assessment of the validity and relevance of the work. The editor then based the decision of whether the research is published on those comments. Thus, peer reviewed.

So there are a couple of issues here. First – peer review is an imperfect process. Is not as if scientists are paid as reviewers – in fact, that would be a conflict of interest – but that can often mean that we do it in our very limited spare time. It’s also frequently the case that reviewers are not necessarily experts in the specifics of the research they are reviewing. Toxicology is a very broad field, for example – I am an expert in a handful of chemicals, a handful of experimental techniques, and a handful of computational approaches. It isn’t often that researchers other than the ones I directly work with publish studies that fit perfectly in my particular areas of expertise. Sometimes this can be a good thing, with reviewers offering a fresh perspective, but it can also be bad – they might not know the intricacies of an experimental approach, or the necessary caveats for interpretation. Despite those issues, the cream rises to the top over time as good, solid, repeatable research gets cited, and poor research does not.

HOWEVER. There ARE major issues, in my opinion. One obvious one is how science is reported in the media. This is actually not the thing that is bugging me today. The other big problem that is making me CRAZY is that as scientists, we are not well trained to communicate our results. In fact, we are trained to do it POORLY. We are told that you can’t publish negative results – there aren’t a lot of studies showing “no association” or “no significant effects.” It is notoriously hard to get stuff like that published, because what’s the point? What’s the relevance? Where’s the headline? So a lot of times, people overstate their findings, or rather, the significance of their findings. That’s how you end up with headlines screaming “Eggs: worse than cigarettes!”

And, worse, it’s even harder to get studies designed to show negative results FUNDED. Getting research money these days is incredibly challenging – grant funding rates are abysmal, well below 10% of applications get funded. So career scientists spend a huge portion of their time just writing grants and writing grants because you need several at a time, and so few get funded… Ahh! Anyways, to get a grant funded, you have to show the relevance of the research – this is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. In my fields, that usually means – what’s the bottom line for human health? Unfortunately, that ends up being “Why is X BAD for human health?” So, all results in publications and grants end up being put in that context, even if that requires significant leaps. Like, from maybe an experiment done in cell culture at an exposure much higher than anything humans might actually experience, to “Therefore, methylethylbad is a significant danger to human health.”

Even worse, and specific to my field, is when scientists bandy about loaded terms. Like “low dose” – this phrase gets used all the time in studies and in science reporting. “Even at low doses, there is a significant effect…” but rarely do authors define the term. And far, far too often, “low dose” does NOT mean “a dose comparable to real human exposures.” Far too often it means “a number the authors thought was small, because it had a lot of zeroes in it.” The peer review process doesn’t do a good job of catching that sort of thing. And as scientists, trying to stay afloat, making those statements is sadly reinforced all the time. DRIVES ME NUTS.

Posted in Grumpy Toxicologist, Science! | 3 Comments

Ten months old

Eliza is ten months old today, which all of a sudden seems terribly close to a year. Or maybe I said that last month. I’m not going to go back and check, because I don’t have time to read every post about the bear, and that is inevitably what would happen. Also, these monthly posts are kind of a boring litany of documentation, primarily for me and for the grandparents. So… sorry?

We just got back from a trip to Pennsylvania for a family wedding last night. It was the Bear’s fourth flying trip, and second time going to the east coast. She did pretty good with the planes and time zones, but not as good as she did in June. She finally got to meet her cousins Hank (2.75) and Lucy (5 months), and my brother and SIL, and a bunch of extended family. It was great to see the pile of cousins rolling around on the floor of our cabin, and I can only imagine how much cooler it will be when Eliza and Lucy are developmentally closer in another year or so.

Eliza celebrated the family trip by taking some first steps, and also possibly saying some words. She started saying ‘uh oh’ last month I think, and I guess that is officially her first word (since the context was correct, and you can tell she intends to say it). This month, she has started saying ‘ball’ and ‘bye bye’… maybe. They sound very similar to each other, but it seems like she has the context and intention thing again. She says ball when she grabs a ball, pretty much every time. She says bye bye when she waves, pretty much every time. My SIL the speech therapist signed off on them as official words, so I’m going with it. It’s pretty cool – this child, that we MADE, can basically walk and talk. WHAT?

The first steps, she will take one, maybe two, before flopping onto her hands and crawling away fast. She did it straight off when we got to PA, in front of grandparents and everyone, which was really awesome. I doubt I’ll get a video of it for a few more weeks as it’s pretty inconsistent still.

The week before the PA trip, some of our friends from Georgia visited with their 11 month old, Esther. The two babies are very very close developmentally – Eliza is actually a little further along with movement, and Esther is more social. But it was the first time I’ve seen Eliza PLAY with another baby, for an extended period. So neat! They handed toys back and forth, and chased each other around, and just looked at each other and made noises. They pulled all the tupperware out, raced up the stairs, and played in the baby pool. It was really, really neat to see. I know that eventually, the small age differences (3-12 months) between Eliza and our nearby friends’ kids will fall away and matter less, but I’m feeling really impatient right now.

What else? Baby girl has five teeth, now – two on top, three on bottom. I’m ready to say Eliza’s eyes are officially turning brown, but Kevin disagrees. Her hair is getting lighter – I think it will be blonde in the sun, but turn brown eventually, like Kevin’s did (he was blonde until the end of high school, just from the sun). It’s still very short, but I think it will be straight and fine and soft, like ours. I think she will be right handed. I think she will be strong, with good balance, and terrible coordination, like me. She is starting to get whinier when she doesn’t get what she wants. She is still sleeping reasonably well, but only 9-6 or so (usually a little less). She naps twice, most days, and is still fairly tolerant of us dragging her around with no regard to her schedule or needs. She eats food, all kinds, pretty happily, but has also started throwing it on the floor for fun. Except cat food, which she eats all of, every chance she gets.

And now, pictures!

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Posted in Miss Bear | 4 Comments

An awkward love story

It all started at the going away party for my tonsils. And then, after I got my tonsils out, I woke up and had a boyfriend. THE boyfriend.

Ok, fine, oversimplification. It started many years before that, my freshman year of college, but we just kept getting derailed. First Kevin dated my bff from high school, even though I told him it was a bad idea. Before they broke up, I started dating a guy from the climbing wall. Once he graduated and moved away, it almost happened – Kevin read my favorite book and went to a coffee shop with me, things I know now were obvious Moves, for him at least. But I was already distracted by someone else, the jerk I’d date for a few years.

After I broke up with the jerk, when I was already halfway through grad school, I had to claw my way out of the hole I’d descended into, and the first thing I did was start playing frisbee. And drinking like an undergraduate. And enjoying being single for the first time in college. My close friends told me later, they sat Kevin down and gave him a talk about how I was single, finally, and he should wait a little while till the wounds scarred over. This is hilarious to me now, on many levels. Regardless, we saw each other many times every week, at frisbee, and hanging out afterwards with all the frisbee kids that summer. I wasn’t paying him any attention, though.

Until the fall. I’d had strep throat on and off (mostly on) for about six months. It was just a fact of life at that point – always on antibiotics, I just carried on with school and frisbee as if I weren’t sick, because who has time for that? But it got to the point where I’d decided to have my tonsils removed. The surgery was the week of Thanksgiving, because I’m a masochist. I decided to throw a going away party for my tonsils, because it sounded like a good excuse to get tanked with all my friends. Kevin came by, he was planning on just staying for an hour and then moving on to another party. But instead, we drank beer and sang pop music. I remember, he knew all the words to a bunch of Kelly Clarkson songs, and I thought that was hysterical. And I remember thinking, why do we never actually hang out? I like this kid! He ended up staying at the party, because he’d had too much to drink, but he never made a move. No game, that one.

So then it’s Thanksgiving, I get my tonsils out, and he offers to drive me back to Athens since I’m totally drugged up on Lortab (no shit: they gave me two liters of Lortab. I spilled some on my laptop and fried an early version of my dissertation, ’twas grand.). In the process, he plays disc golf with my brother, and eats left over thanksgiving food while watching football with my parents. Then he drives me home, and chauffeurs me around for two weeks while I slowly recover. Somewhere in there, because seriously, he has NO GAME whatsoever, I decide to take the bull by the horns, and I jumped him. And then, later, because I’m wonderfully awkward, I sent him a text message asking if we were dating, or what exactly?

And he said: “I assume we are in a serious, exclusive relationship. I am, at least.”

And that’s how it’s been, ever since. And all our friends collectively sighed, and said FINALLY.

Posted in ephemera | 8 Comments

Musings from a conference (not THAT conference)

I’m on a business trip to my hometown (y’all, I always forget about humidity), ahead of a family wedding in the northeast this weekend. I gave my presentation this morning, did pretty damn well if I don’t say so, and it’s funny remembering me of a few years ago. I’d have needed a tranq dart to the neck for any hope of speaking slowly enough to be heard, and I’d probably have pissed myself. Now, easy peasy, and it’s even kind of fun.

During the afternoon session of the conference, one woman presented about science communication and community engagement, and I was struck by something. One of her main points was that there is a very dichotomous dialogue between researchers and lay people, except that it actually parses into “good guys” versus “the government.” This came up again and again in focus groups she worked with – “get the government out of this, they are making it worse! They are covering up what’s really happening!” Her take home was that as academic researchers, if you want to really engage stakeholders (i.e. lay people and community members), you have to clearly establish early and often that you are NOT the government.

So that’s well and good, but it got me thinking – I am often very snarky about that sort of hard line anti-government attitude as it seems really ignorant to me, BUT I tend to kind of pass the buck – I say/think that the scientists are all fine, we aren’t biased, we are doing our best, it’s just that CONGRESS is screwing it all up in every possible way! And here’s the thing: isn’t that basically the same damn attitude, on some level, as the one that makes me roll my eyes? I don’t know shit about politics, when it comes down to it. Honestly I think everything I know I got from reading All the King’s Men. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that Congress and various bits of government aren’t working all that well, it’s not exactly sunshine and rainbows – but science isn’t, either. And it’s not for any simple reason, and it’s not necessarily because it’s broken – it’s way more complicated than that. And if I’m going to get all peeved when non-scientists try to conjecture or even just sum up something *I* happen to be an expert in, maybe I should stuff it when I feel like waxing philosophical about the inadequacies of Congress, etc. – maybe it’s a little more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Posted in ephemera, Science! | 5 Comments