Tuesday, November 3, 2009

daycare webcam

Usually, you don't find out much by looking at the webcam. Often the toddlers are outside or in a different part of the room. Today, though, I found out that LP is not wearing any pants. I can only guess that an incident occurred requiring removal of the pants he was wearing this morning, and that in our general disorganized bad-parent fashion we don't have any pants left in his cubby. Luckily, there are some in ELP's room in her diaper bag; I am really not concerned about pants-wearing in general, but it is cold out!

LP now has both bottom 2 yr molars, and ELP can almost sit up, can make cooing noises back and forth, and can almost laugh! Baby laughs are really funny; I can't wait!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I wonder what it's like if you don't have insurance

I just paid more than two thousand dollars of hospital and clinic bills, and those were just the bills that happened to come today ...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


We accepted our jobs in place A, ELP is learning to vocalize and smile more, LP said an 8 word sentence and counted to 11 on Saturday (though he was tired, and I think he was trying to do something impressive so we would let him stay up or something--typically he only has the focus for about 3 or less, but it proves he can theoretically do it). Now to find a place to live . . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

insufficient milk as an excuse to eat spiced apples

My pumped milk has not made up for what ELP has drank for the last few days, and I have been bummed about it, since it makes me feel less than perfectly healthy in some sense. With LP I never had this problem, though I had an oversupply problem for awhile! ELP has cut a bit into the frozen supply of LP's old milk which was left when he weaned suddenly.

So last night I was trying to work fenugreek into my menu because they say it helps make more milk. Though, some people mentioned fenugreek tea, which makes me wonder if they are talking about the leaves (methi) instead of the seeds (which is what I used because I think that is what helps, and also because methi didn't fit with what I was making). Anyway, dinner was great last night. Since we have hardly any space, I didn't feel like getting out the rice cooker last night, and without flatbreads and needing a quick dinner that precluded most Indian food that I make. So I made spiced apples to go on top of buckwheat pancakes. They were just cut up apples that we picked last weekend with my pseudo-step-sister and her kids (which was tons of fun, btw), which I cooked in a covered pot with a bit of butter, allspice, cinnamon, and fenugreek seeds. I was kind of hoping not to notice the fenugreek much because I thought it might not go well with apples, but actually it added something nice, and I was quite happy. The pancakes were from a buckwheat pancake mix that my uncle made and gave me in 2007 that has since been in the freezer, and it went excellently with the apples. Such a great dinner for so little time!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

must finish thesis

I have a lot of stuff to do on the thesis in a short time. I'm not sure if knowing that TE has more to do makes it better or worse. We still don't know where we're going to live a few months from now, and we lost our digital camera with ELP's one month picture on it :(. Oh well. I'm happy with myself because I just pumped 6 oz of milk. I am trying to build up some extra for ELP in case she has some long days at daycare and needs more, or if some gets spilled.

All is well with the little ones. LP talks really well now, and keeps saying "hi" to ELP, and likes to give her a pacifier. ELP likes to look at him blankly. She can smile a bit, sometimes. LP is talking like crazy--I think he put 6 words together the other day "kitty cat go up the tree" or something. He's sure that honey is an imaginary food that Pooh eats, and thinks it's funny to suggest that he might eat some. We've been taking the bus to daycare, and he loves it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

bye bye zombie

ELP just smiled at me on purpose! Crazy baby zombie days are over now, and she will now start to seem like a real person :)
We're all moved in to the apartment--that was more trouble than I thought. . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No scratching!

How am I supposed to focus on my thesis with this ringworm and bug bites? I have thrush too, but luckily it is not itchy, just painful. LP asked to nurse but I figured it would be a particularly bad idea with the thrush. So I have been instead been feeding his doll, Gus. Although perhaps that confuses him because we told him Gus can only drink water, hoping to avoid any more milk pouring by LP on Gus. In the past 2.5 weeks, I've been using fluconazole (and I'm on it again!), clotrimazole, and miconazole. What is wrong with me, and more importantly why don't we have medicines that work faster? Last time gentian violet killed the thrush for both of us, but I hate to stain everybody purple while ELP is still small and having visitors and pictures all of the time. If I put it on my ringworm maybe I should make some cool design. Anyway for now ELP is on nystatin for thrush, and now I'm doing once-a-week dosing fluconazole for 4 weeks. Hopefully that will kill everything, although I guess it won't do much for the bug bites on my legs . . .

Itch itch itch!!! arrgggh! No touching the ringworm!

ELP can lift her head during tummytime, and is awake maybe a couple of hours a day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

LP misses all the visitors

Poor LP doesn't want to go to daycare anymore. He has cried when we dropped him off 3 times in a row. I think he is upset that Grandma and all the other visitors left. Even though TE's brother and future sister-in-law left on Sunday, he asked about them again this morning. I think he doesn't realize that even if he stays home from daycare they will not be there, and we won't go to the petting zoo or anywhere else. We would probably watch the "big bad wolf" video, though, which he is now obsessed with.

I feel great. My jeans fit better than usual because I am fat. Too bad they can't just sell pants for people who have hips my size that are not also wide in the middle, but at least it's convenient in early pregnancy and postpartum! I also have 4 nursing shirts now--2 old ones that I don't like much and 2 great new ones my Mom got. So I look like a real adult now with nice shirts instead of a sloppy undergrad with stained t-shirts. Of course, the undergrads here are nicer looking then where I went to school, so they are probably still ahead of me, which is fine.

ELP is still very sleepy, and I am back at my desk for the second day today. Figured we may as well come in since we have to drop off LP at daycare near work anyways. Then ELP can go visit TE also during the day, between feedings, which is nicer than the alternate system of TE going in to work and me working at home but with ELP all day. Of course it doesn't matter much when she's asleep most of the time!

Monday, August 3, 2009

ELP wakes up

ELP has been incredibly easy so far. She slept almost all the time last week, including 4 hour stretches at night time. So I've been getting enough sleep. Today is time to start back to work. TE has a group meeting today and went in to work, and I am working at home.

Except now ELP is awake, and has been for maybe half an hour. So we did tummy time and I was watching her for awhile while I caught up on blogs. Maybe this is the end of her initial sleepiness phase.

At tummy time on Saturday and today, she could lift her head long enough to turn it to the other side. She seems pretty strong like LP was. She tilts her head when I talk to her, and looks at me on purpose. She eats really well too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ELP arrives!

ELP finally decided to make an appearance this morning just before 10. My contractions got serious (not extreme, but somewhat painful and to me obviously not my usual practice contractions) around 3 PM yesterday, and they were 3-5 min apart by 6, so we went in around 7 PM. They slowed down a bit when we relaxed in bed (not that I had been crazily running around in circles before that or anything), maybe to 8 min apart, but were still painful. There were a lot of people laboring here at the time, and my nurse really felt that the contractions were going to go away. She told me to go home and eat dinner (which I already told her I had eaten) and drink a bunch of water (though I had been drinking reasonably all day) and to lie down awhile and rest and they would go away. She said something about how the baby would come on her own time. And I'm thinking--yep, and her time is now. But I knew it would be awhile and I didn't have a choice, so I went home. I ate some pie, milk, and water, which was a bad idea because then I started throwing up. I was actually throwing up a lot yesterday and this morning. I think it was the surge of all the different hormones (I think estrogen or one like that makes me nauseous) as opposed to the surge of mainly Pitocin only last time when we didn't really get strong labor started on our own.
So then during the night the contractions were getting worse, but still 8-10 min apart. So I would start to fall asleep then wake up when the next one came. But she said not to walk around or try to speed them up. But by 4:30 AM this morning, it was blatantly obvious to me that they were not going away until the baby came. So I called again, and the same nurse talked to me and told me to take a warm bath and drink water to make the contractions go away (even though I tried to explain that it's hard to drink water when you keep throwing it up, and I told her that the contractions were not going to go away), and that I could come in but she'd probably just send me home. Then around 5 the contractions were still 7 or 8 minutes apart, but they were severely painful and I decided this is ridiculous and I called to say I was coming in. The nurse was like, ok but we might just send you home.
Then when we got in, I was happy that I had another nurse! But she consulted with the first one and decided I should probably be sent home. She checked me and said I was still 1 cm and 50% effaced like I had been yesterday, so this wasn't real labor and I wasn't making progress. Let me tell you--maybe you shouldn't expect to make a whole lot of progress when people tell you to try to rest, lay down, and eat and drink a bunch of stuff! So she was like, well you can walk around for 1 hour and then I'll check you, and if there is no progress we will send you home. At this point I asked for about the third time what kind of pain medicine I could get, since I had been up all night doing this and it was getting ridiculous. I had hoped to be pain medicine free this labor (last time I hardly had a choice, as it looked like perhaps the only way to help get the baby out faster and avoid a c-section), but I was getting really frustrated because they wouldn't just admit me to the stupid hospital and let me labor in peace, and it had been so long (probably in small part because they asked me not to walk around or anything). She told me again that there was no pain medicine, and I explained there was no way I could go home in this condition. I was in severe pain, very tired, and kept throwing up! She said if they sent me home, they would give me morphine and a sleeping pill, and that if I went into "real labor" I would wake up anyway. Not sure if that made me feel better or more frustrated. So we walked around for maybe 30 minutes, in much more severe pain during the contractions and some pain even between contractions, and threw up on the floor once, and I again went up to her and asked if there were any medicines we could take. I tried to explain how much pain it was by saying it didn't hurt this bad the last time until we were really far along. She said she could check me out then (instead of in another 30 min). That time, we were at 4 cm. She seemed a bit surprised. Obviously then she said she could keep me, and went about ordering an epidural.
Finally at 7:30 AM they started putting in my IV antibiotics! I was group B strep positive, so the guideline is to have 4 hours of antibiotics before the birth. At this point I knew there was little chance of that, and I was kind of annoyed they wouldn't admit me earlier and just start on the antibiotics. I mean, how many people have severe contractions for more than 12 hours on a second pregnancy, and turn out to not be in labor? It can't be that common . . . Not that it's a huge deal, just very slightly raises both of our risk of getting group B strep, and makes it so ELP had to get extra blood tests.
Maybe around 8:30 I finally got the epidural. I considered not doing it, because I think the strongest contractions were over, but I couldn't be sure, and I wasn't getting much (or any) rest between the contractions I was having. They never seemed all that regular (like exactly 2 min apart or something that the first nurse seemed to imply was a requirement for real labor). Anyway the epidural takes around an hour for them to get around to doing it, so it's not like you can just change your mind in an instant and get one. So I went with it and obviously felt much better. This one was a little less strong than the one I got with LP, which was really nice because I could still feel what was going on. LP's one had been with a doctor who hardly explained anything, while this one was with a specialized nurse, who was very helpful and made sure to get me to understand what was going on--no point to having extra doctor's training if you don't get to use it to make sure your patients do what they are supposed to . . . but I guess it's more important in special cases . . .
After the epidural, we were all very happy. The pushing was really easy. Too bad my sister and father had turned around from driving here when we were sent home from the hospital the first time, and then we decided not to tell them to come in for sure again until we got admitted again, which turned out to be really late in the game. So they missed the birth, but were here pretty soon afterwards. And I even got my regular OB doctor because she was on call this weekend! Mom and LP were in the room too, and she kept him distracted during the scary parts, although it was pretty calm for a birth, because she came out in just a few pushes. She was a lot bigger than we thought, but was still looking a lot thinner than LP because she was half a pound less and 2 inches longer. LP is adorable--keeps asking to hold ELP and kisses her!

Update: I forgot the best part--once the head and shoulders were delivered, the doctor told me to pull the rest of the baby out! It was really fun, and I got to pull her right out and put her on my belly! I have a great picture of it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

last week

ELP is still not here. We got some nice pictures of her at the ultrasound yesterday. She measured around 39 weeks, so she is a bit small. I weigh more than 10 lbs less than I did with LP, and I bet 2-3 of those pounds are just the babys' weight difference. I don't even look that huge.
I think she's coming soon, but we have an induction scheduled next week just in case. It's kind of sad to think that this is probably the last time I will be pregnant. Last week of super-smelling, last time I can carry a baby around with me everywhere I go without constantly having to attend to her needs (very much), and the last time somebody is sharing my space and wiggling around in it (last time I can feel someone else's hiccups!).

Yesterday I took the day mostly off to go to the doctor and play with LP and cook. I doing all this trying to get ELP to come out. LP is a cutie, and we went to the apple orchard to see the pony and the goats. He was kind of afraid of them at first, but eventually he pet them. Also, I used up some sorghum that had been around in the cabinet for a couple of years and made zucchini Parmesan out of the largest zucchini I have ever seen, that I got from the garden yesterday. If you don't know about zucchini, this is not a testament to my gardening skills--quite the opposite, good gardeners pick zucchini well, well before they reach this size so that they won't be pithy in the middle. I didn't even know that one was growing (actually I thought it was a melon plant anyway) until I eventually noticed a 2 foot long zucchini sitting there. But breaded and fried, you couldn't tell it was pithy. We ate a lot, and have a full gallon size bag of frozen zucchini Parmesan now. The lemon sorghum pie is good, but I probably wouldn't make it again. If I liked baked beans, perhaps I would get sorghum again, but I can't think of any other use where I might like it better than molasses (and probably not even then). So I am glad that's left my cupboard. Now, what to do about the besan flour, too little amount of teff to justify anything complicated, miso, Bulgar wheat, and millet that are lying around?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

not right now

The contractions stopped after a couple of hours after I ate a bunch of ice cream and lounged around for awhile. I wonder if they would have continued if I walked around a lot. I still wouldn't be surprised if we had the baby today, though.


I think I'm in labor. I woke up around 2 with contractions. My practice contractions have usually gone away pretty quickly, and not hurt at all, so I think this is it. The contractions don't hurt much yet, though, and some don't hurt at all, so I'll have to wait and see. Maybe 3 min apart though. I keep getting distracted and not timing them. It was nice last time when my water broke so I could come in whenever I wanted. If not, they want you to labor at home for awhile. The instructions on the internet were like, well you can labor at home more comfortably--but I have a nice new hospital ward to go to! They have wireless and a DVD player, and it's quite fun. And they can check on the baby heartbeat. I would rather hang out there. The only disadvantages are they make you wear a hospital gown and you can't eat much but popsicles and clear fluids. I think I will eat some ice cream now--I am starving!

At least I got all my results (or, the ones that are needed for the paper) updated last night from the little typo issue--I found out in the middle of the week that I had had a typo in the code for about 3 years! It was a really small typo but I had to redo a bunch of graphs anyways (mainly just in case). One small thing changed qualitatively, but other than that you could hardly tell. It was frustrating to find that out, though. I hate being wrong. But at least that is over now. Mainly just graph making and thesis writing to go!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

LP and ELP

ELP is coming soon. I think most family wants her to come over the weekend, so they can get here in time and stay as long as they like without missing work. My mom is coming tonight, and is going to pick up LP from daycare this afternoon. I know he'll be excited to see her, but I wonder if he'll be confused about where we are. He can put 4 words together! 4 words is rare, but he can do 3 words a lot--like Mommy shoes wet, Daddy milk please, cat up the ladder (that one he told me about a cat that was stuck in a tree in his book, and the firefighters came with a ladder to get it, but he thinks that the cat got up there by climing the ladder). One of his daycare teachers said he was incredibly patient for a toddler. It's hard for me to tell--I don't know many toddlers, and LP doesn't seem very patient! If he's in a good mood, I can see how he is quite patient--if he sees that you are working on getting his dinner ready, he can wait a long time without complaining, because he knows it's coming. But if you don't understand what he's saying, he quickly becomes frustrated. Now he's decided to ask for certain colors or kinds of bowls, cups and drinks, toys, etc., so his requests are quite specific and it's easy to get it wrong!

Update 7/19: he had a really good 4 words this morning--it was "no people on the train" His other 4 word phrases have sounded somewhat broken (they were really like 6 word sentences with missing words) but this one was very clear and correct. He loves talking!

Monday, July 13, 2009


The guy from D wants TE to name his price. Of course, it's unclear how high he can name a price, or what is even what TE wants to make. I think he will ask for a bit more than matching the salary at A. He still doesn't even have his offer from A, but I guess these things are slow. D looks like it is pulling ahead in the running, except the money for me is much lower. I don't really care. I wanted to get this all done before the baby, but I am losing hope of that. . . I think she will come next week, and the offers in a couple of weeks. It would make it easier to move, since we sold the house and will be doing extended stay hotels for a month or two or more . . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

good news, bad news

ELP flipped! I'm pretty excited about that. But they heard a minor heartbeat arrhytmia (which we sort of noticed a month ago), but we spent 2 hours at the clinic checking it out this morning, and the doctor says it is nothing to worry about. Luckily my mom is visiting and got to hang out with me for my marathon OB visit. She has been really helpful around the house, and it is significantly cleaner than when she came (despite our best efforts to clean it last week when it first went up for sale)!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

baby list

I have a baby list, but it only has stuff for me on it :). Really it's all breastfeeding stuff, so it's not just for me. Mostly I want some nice nursing shirts, but I also am eyeing a big floppy hat for baby which acts as a cover-up when feeding, so that could count as baby clothes for ELP. I think that's a great idea because I am not at all interested in covering my baby with a towel--they are not parrots and covering them with a cloth does not necessarily make them calmer (in fact, it really used to piss LP and me off). Maybe if ELP is really nice and flips around, I will put on some nice new toys for her on the list.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Monkey bars

Providing more evidence that ELP is smaller than LP was, I was hanging on the monkey bars at the playground yesterday. At this time with LP, I remember trying to climb a rope and being immediately stopped by a bad feeling in my abdominal muscles, like they were being stretched too much.
More interestingly, LP can also hang by his hands on a bar, and climb ladders! He can't hang on long; maybe a few seconds, but it seems pretty impressive for a toddler!

ELP is still breech. I am hoping she turns on her own, but the chances are now less than 50/50. If she doesn't turn on her own, we will attempt an external cephalic version in 2 weeks to make her turn, which has somewhat better than even odds of working. Otherwise, I guess I have to prepare for people to cut into my stomach, so I am sad and a bit scared. But C-sections do appear to increase the safety of delivery for breech babies, especially since people are less experienced in doing a regular breech birth (as they shouldn't be, since it is slightly more dangerous).

Friday, June 12, 2009


I should be happy that we both got jobs (at least informally) in the same place (A), but insead I am sad that TE has to reject his really great offer in place L. He even liked all the people he met there, and it was in his favorite sub field.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

finally some data

Not that it really clears anything up, but TE and I ranked our potential jobs on a scale of 1 to 10. It's not clear what 1 represents, but 10 is the ideal job. We also guessed about what the other would say. We were supposed to base the number on the assumption that we had the job offer (and guess about details if necessary) though for TE in Place D, there was a lot of guessing because he is looking at a few options, none of which are very clear or close to giving him an offer. (I think that unduly affected his choice of his rank for Place D.)

Here are my job rankings:
Place A: 9
Place D: 8
Place L: 5

Here is what TE guessed for my jobs:
Place A: 9
Place D: 7
Place L: 3

Here is what TE says about his jobs:
Place A: 6
Place D: 5
Place L: 9

Here are my guesses for TE's jobs:
Place A: 6
Place D: 8
Place L: 9

I was surprised we weren't that far off. If we are maximizing the sum of these numbers, or keeping both above a minimum level of 5, it looks like Place A is the choice, but Place D is better if TE gets an offer that looks closer to my guess of 8 than his guess of 5. Obviously, I think I'm right. It's hard to justify going to L if we have offers in A, but I guess we could still go there if we don't get offers in A or if TE gets a bad offer in D.

Monday, June 8, 2009

LP antics

I thought I should also update on LP's progress. Last week he put together 3 words: "No bite, Daddy." Daddy had been threatening to eat one of his strawberrys (which LP was holding up and taunting us with, pretending that he wanted me or TE to eat it and then moving it away). He has done it a few times with other words since then.

LP hears "no biting" a lot at day care, I think. He had his rubber duck trying to bite his finger, then he turned it around and told it "no bite". He's very serious when he says this, and seems to like giving orders. He seems a bit scared by his new stuffed alligator, though. It has a big mouth with teeth, and he will put his finger in and then say it bit him and run to me for protection.

In other news, we are getting the house ready to put on the market, and some friends came over this weekend and helped paint and wash siding and trim bushes. It was great to finally get something accomplished. We also had lots of strawberry pie. I've picked almost 3 gallons of strawberries this year, but luckily for me they are starting to wind down now, because ELP is getting bigger every day and I feel like I'm squishing her when I bend down for the strawberries.

possible job locations

So the job search is down to three places, all national lab sort of places. One place just called me and asked if I wanted to interview in person (I had said that we might be making a decision soon on other jobs). I told them we should wait until we hear back from other jobs this week until I schedule an interview, since I don't want to waste everyone's time. I also said I can't possibly interview beyond 2 weeks from now because of the birth, but they are willing to "work around that"; maybe do another longer phone interview or something. I don't know what to do about them.

Here are how the three places stack up:

Place A: Niether of us have a job offer here, but we are expecting to hear back this week. I am expecting to get an offer, but I am less sure about TE. Maybe I'd put it at 60/40 but there's just no way to know yet. He also could probably find a different job in A, but it wouldn't happen very soon.
Here are how the jobs at A would look:
Professional/Career: This job would probably be the best for me; TE would be changing fields a bit, which is alright as long as he likes his new field.
Location: It's a really great place to live, but far away from family. The cost of travel would be covered with the extra salary.
Salary/Benefits: This job would be the best offer for me; probably TE would be good too.

Place D: I have a job offer here and TE has a lot of leads but nothing that will be decided soon. I am confident if we moved here he would find a job in a reasonable time, but it's kind of risky to take that chance.
Here are how the jobs at D would look:
Professional/Career: This job would be great for me; I guess whether TE's job would be great depends on which lead follows through, but I think there are some great jobs for him there.
Location: We would be moving home, which would be really fun while the kids are young.
Salary/Benefits: My offer is fine but lower than the other two would be. I think TE would get a pretty good offer.

Place L: TE has a job offer here and I potentially have an interview. They will interview 2 people so I guess my chances are 50/50.
Here are how the jobs at L would look:
Professional/Career: This job would be not so good for me in the long term. I think I would be happy and productive, and it's not completely out of the blue, but it's just not the best career path to take in terms of my plan to be a professor; TE's job is exactly what he's looking for.
Location: Nothing great in particular about Place L, but it's not as far as A.
Salary/Benefits: My offer would be good. TE's offer is good, but I think he is worth more.

How am I supposed to compare?

Friday, May 22, 2009

I have a "two body problem" but I don't know what I'm supposed to solve for

Let's say TE and I each get jobs at each of the 3 places we are looking now (I know, it was 2 a week ago--another one just popped up . . .). Say each job can be assigned a number value corresponding to how good it is. Where would we go?
True, I can't really assign a coherent single number value to each job offer, but my main concern is that I don't even know what I should be trying to optimize.
I could:
a) Maximize the sum of both jobs (this sounds obvious, but maybe too simplistic)
b) Minimize the difference between the jobs (probably not, but at least one person wouldn't feel as much like they're trailing the other)
c) Maximize the geometric mean, or some other combination of the numbers, since presumably having a bad job is worse than having a less than ideal job
d) Maximize the highest offer (at least one person would be happy)
e) Maximize the lowest offer (at least niether of us would be too pissed off)
f) Weight the offers somehow by person, then maximize the sum, geometric mean, or other combination (perhaps me getting a better offer is more important than it is for TE, as he seems to think because my career goals are more specific, or perhaps TE getting a better offer is more important because I am a more optimistic person generally and will be happy with anything)

This is why the real world annoys me. It's hard just to clearly define the problem. How are you supposed to solve anything if you don't know what the goal is? In this case, I wonder if knowing the goal may actually be worse, because instead of just thinking "we made the best choice by randomly guessing what was best", if we had a rationale such as f) it might continue to weigh on us in future planning . . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

Is that a real question?

Do you really have to call me to find out if I authorized a charge that is more than an order of magnitude greater than my credit limit? Is it even possible for people to charge more than six figures without some fancy specialty credit card? Do the three zeros in the middle of the number make you suspicous at all, or do you just call people and ask ridiculous questions all day?

Not that I am mad or anything--I think they are cute--but it just seems like the system isn't working very well when they can't figure these things out on their own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Writing the Big Important Review

Although I am feeling really cool right now, I'm actually just one of three authors on what might be construed as one of the least "big and important" types of review articles: one in a specialized journal that has large parts about one's own work. It is so neat just to be involved in something called a "review", though! Like someone might care what I think!

So I wrote up my assigned parts and my advisor compiled the paper, rewriting them in the process. However, today I am going through in detail and finding out that he didn't rewrite nearly as much as I expected (unlike my preception of most of his cohort, he rewrites and rewords things many times and often completely redoes vast sections of anything his students attempted to write).

There's one minor issue with this realization, though: yesterday I saw some sentences that made little sense and left me confused, even though they were in my section. I was chuckling a bit about what they could mean. I found out today, this was almost directly copied from my text with only one substantial word changed! I feel a bit like I was writing gibberish, at least for a sentence or two, but in my defense, the changed word was rather important.

Back to paper reading!

Friday, April 17, 2009

pregnancy should be easy

A long time ago (I meant to write about this months ago!), I was talking with Alice of ScienceWomen and she told me how her university recently started a new parental leave policy for graduate students--6 weeks for birth mothers and 3 for fathers or adoptive mothers. I think I said "That's too much difference!" That was a bit negative--probably I should have said: "That's wonderful that they're working on these issues! That is certainly better than my university, but I hope they can give fathers 6 weeks soon." It's easy (especially for me) to focus on what is wrong with a plan or policy, but I don't know what constraints they were under in making the policy or the other options they had. Anyway, it is really frustrating to me that fathers can't take off the same amount of time as birth mothers.

When we had LP, I took off much more time than TE. I think the main reason was that there was a very short leave period outlined in our graduate handbook. It would have been ridiculous for us each to only take 2 weeks off unless we had no other options. You can't place a baby in daycare in this state until 6 weeks of age, so we would have needed a lot of extra help to go to work full time during regular hours by then. However, TE felt more awkward than me taking "extra" time off, mainly due to the cultural perception that the mother is taking care of the baby. Of course, that meant I took more time off and more care of the baby for a few weeks. It's a stupid cycle that would also be perpetuated by differential leave for fathers and mothers.

Another thing differential leave perpetuates is the perception that pregnancy and childbirth are debilitating for weeks. Women's bodies are designed to carry a baby to term, deliver it, and feed it. Pregnancy is a normal stage of life for the majority of women. Although myself and most of the women I know are quite priveleged, most women worldwide cannot stop what they were doing and treat themselves like a glass vase for 9 months. Nor do they typically need to, in the sense that pregnancy is not a disease and leaves a person capable of the vast majority of typical functions.

I realize that for much of our history, childbirth was a major cause of death for women, and it continues to be today in many countries. Moreover, there are many serious complications to pregnancy which can be debilitating for weeks or months. There are less serious complications that make it difficult to work for many people. However, I feel it's incorrect to portray pregnancy as inherently difficult. I think there is a classification problem in the way the media/popular culture often talks about pregnancy and childbirth, in the sense that they imply that certain medical issues are a direct result of being pregnant. They seem to be confused about how rare certain complications of pregnancy are or imply that typical pregnant people can't do most daily activities and are on the verge of major heath problems at any moment.

I don't have specific data, but based on my knowledge and experience, the following are likely to occur during pregnancy: some heartburn, minor changes in sleep schedules, slight reduction in physical abilities, and stretch marks. I don't know if it occurs in more than half of pregnancies, but minor morning sickness is common. Though I might think of these things as complications to pregnancy, I understand they could also be construed as inherent in pregnancy itself. But none of these things prevent a person from working or going about typical activites, and I find it quite condescending to women to suggest otherwise.

I see pregnancy as a condition which increases your risk (or creates a risk where there was none before) for many issues including certain types of food poisoning, severe morning sickness, preeclampsia, and others which which could prevent full time work or require extended periods of bed rest (which is not always the same thing for a theorist like me). I become annoyed when people imply that these problems are due to pregnancy itself, instead of complications. High cholesterol increases one's risk for heart disease, and diabetes increases the risk of many medical problems, but I don't hear people saying "well, he is taking the week off for high cholesterol" when someone is taking time off to recover from a heart attack.

I do feel that childbirth is a medical issue best dealt with in a hospital. But it only takes a day or two to birth a child, and in the absence of complications, after a few days a person would generally be physically able to return to a desk job. (The real problem is that now she has an infant.) And if a mother weren't physically able to return to a desk job after 3 weeks, then you'd better not send the father back then either, because someone will have to take care of the baby, which is extremely more demanding than pushing papers! If the policy for extra birth mother leave were aimed at only people with very physically demanding jobs, I would feel much better about it.

Back to the point, I know that pregnancy increases the risk of a person needing time off, and even after an uncomplicated childbirth a person needs to take some time off of work, depending on the level of physical activity required. But fathers (or a support person of some sort) should be taking at least those first few days off as well to help take care of the baby and the mother. If additional medical issues leave a mother unable to return to work, and the maternity leave policy is the only thing to save her, then the real problem would lie with the sick and disability leave programs (or lack thereof). That is what is needed when a medical problem prevents a return to work. If extra maternity leave is being used as a stopgap because medical leave is lacking, I suppose that's better than doing nothing, but it's not the way it should be.

Another issue here is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a newborn is a full time job in the sense that it's likely to (at least at first) take up 8 hours a day, and some people need more than a few weeks to get settled into it. I needed a few months (not that taking more time off work would have helped). So I can understand a desire to help women establish breastfeeding by giving them more time off than men. However, the father could step up to the plate and take over additional baby duties during the day so a breastfeeding mother having trouble would have support and extra time to take naps when she's been up all night--but this isn't as viable an option when he doesn't have adequate leave. So the problems of breastfeeding and more than half of the childcare once the father's leave runs out both fall back on the mother. Furthermore, while it's apparently exceedingly rare for a man to try to breastfeed (although possible with extra hormones or perhaps without), adoptive mothers sometimes try. And sometimes birth mothers decide not to attempt breastfeeding for medical or personal reasons. So if the real reason to give more leave to birth mothers than to other parents was breastfeeding, the policy is not precicely targeting the right group.

In general, it's taking care of an infant that keeps people from returning to work after the birth of a child. I agree that it takes 6 weeks or more of more than full-time work to get used to taking care of a newborn, during which time it would be great if parents didn't feel compelled to go back to their jobs. But with a different amount of leave for mothers and fathers, you're setting up mothers to take on more than their fair share of parenting for a few weeks. Parents following a 6 weeks/3 weeks leave policy will have to try very hard not to let those second 3 weeks (and the culture which makes a policy like that sound reasonable) set a precedent for the mother's childcare duties once they both return to work.

I understand a few reasons why they may have set up this policy as a stopgap for other problems, but if it were my family, I would prefer 4 weeks each (8 weeks total) to the current 9 weeks total that is differentially distributed.

P.S. Postpartum depression is a problem that might lead to birth mothers needing time off but not birth fathers, right? Apparently not--though certain people want to explain how women are deficient because of their crazy hormones (the smaller brain thing just seems silly nowadays so they had to come up with something new)--it seems that fathers are also often depressed after having a child. (I just found that out reading this blog a few weeks ago.) Major life events can be stressful and can lead to mental issues, and we need adequate leave for mental health issues as well as physical health issues, whether or not they are caused by childbirth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Easter weekend was great! We only took a few hours off of work, but we got to see all the various families over the weekend and didn't drive too late into the evening. On Easter Sunday LP had a bunny outfit (not that made him look like a bunny, but just an outfit with a big bunny face on it with matching socks) that was pretty cute. He found out that eggs have candy (or cheerios or grapes) in them. Then an empty egg was sitting around at home and he kept getting excited and asking to open it, so I had to put it away. He can say "egg" and "all gone" now.

We also got a new car battery, because the old one got an internal short. It was nice we were around people we knew so we didn't have to ask strangers for a jump :)

LP helped dye an egg and went on 2 Easter egg hunts. In both cases, he was the only one hunting and several people were standing by to watch. It must be odd being the oldest child, especially the oldest grandchild.

Now I'm planning a little trip without him. I thought we would all go visit a friend, but then my other friend's husband isn't coming and TE didn't want to take a Monday off of work, so it turned into a girl's weekend. I was thinking about bringing LP, but it seems tough to bring a squirmy lap infant when your lap is already full of another infant, and I am certainly not paying for another ticket for him.

Then, we have our anniversary trip! I can't remember what happened last year, but before 2 years ago we had been taking bike trips. It will be too hot for me this year on a long bike trip, and TE refuses to bike to a hotel in one of the next towns over. We're thinking of going to Chicago for a night. I can't decide if LP should come or not, but I think he should. I think he would like that medieval watch jousting and eat with your hands place. Has anyone been there? I would put it to a vote of the ~4 people who read this, but I already think I know what people will say about bringing a baby (I mean, a big boy!) on an anniversary trip, so I just won't ask.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


LP is doing great learning new words, and has a few he can put together in groups of 2, such as yellow ball (although he's not always sure which color yellow is), more bubbles, and bye bye mama. We are trying to tell him that a baby is coming, but what he learned is that my stomach is called "baby", but his stomach is "no baby", which he thinks is quite funny.

When the president comes on TV, I have been telling LP his name. He just calls him "mama", which he actually remembered last night upon seeing his face, without me telling him to say "Obama". I was wondering if LP knew his name was Obama and was having trouble saying it, or if he thought his name was actually "mama" or something with "mama" in it. That was all cleared up by his little joke:

TT: Can you say 'Obama'?

LP: Mama.

TT: Oooooo-ba-ma.

LP: Mmmm-ma-ma.

TE: Oooooo-ba-ma.

LP: Mmmm-da-da!

I thought it was pretty funny . . .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Heating a Trailer, Part 2

Electric Heating of a Bike Trailer for an Infant/Toddler, Part 2: Experiments Trump Theory

Winter is mostly over (we already used the old store-bought trailer a few times this year), so there's not much point in crunching the trailer heat loss numbers now. I suppose I lost interest because it was fun for me to think about how to set up the problem, and how much heat an infant produces, but once it came down to looking up constants and putting them together to get a real answer, it didn't matter too much for me. The reason? The trailer heating is not primarily a theoretical problem. The trailer exists, and the baby is there in it, and he is either warm or cold at the end of the ride. This can be easily determined by kissing his cheek or feeling his hand, yielding a result which is a more accurate indicator of what we need to know than the theoretical calculation would be. Of course, when we were using the trailer for the first time, it would have been nice to know what we were up against, but by the time I wrote up the first post we had already used it in realtively cold weather several times. By now I am pretty sure it works well down to at least 10 deg. F.

Experimental Methods:
In cold weather (approximately 20 to 30 deg. F), baby LP, 25-35 lbs and between 1 and 2 years of age, wearing a coat, hat, helmet, and mittens, was strapped into the car seat bolted in the trailer. He was covered by a blanket wrapped around his feet and another wrapped around most of his body such that he could still see out of the windows, but the blanket was placed near his face in an attempt to keep his breath near the uncovered parts of his face. If LP removed the mittens (a rare occurance on the colder days), we relativley quickly stopped the bike and replaced them, although this exposed him to more cold air. In warmer weather, the mittens were replaced with socks on the hands or nothing, one or no blankets were used, or the hat was omitted as we felt was appropriate. In colder weather, (coldest temperature so far was approximately 10 deg. F.), a 3 gallon jug (full at the coldest temperatures, otherwise partially full) of hot (approx. 110 deg F) water was placed next to the carseat and under the second blanket which was also wrapped around LP. Because the trailer was kept in an unheated garage, at the coldest temperatures, prior to loading LP into the trailer, the hot water was placed on the carseat under a blanket for several minutes to warm the seat and trailer. LP's hands and sometimes feet were checked after the ride to ensure warmth.

LP remained quite warm for the approx. 30 minute ride (longer in high winds or at very cold temperatures) for temperatures down to 10 deg. F, even when it was white windy. LP seemed to be starting to feel cold after a 2 hour ride at approximately 20 deg. F with no hot water jug. He also felt cold after a 30 minute ride at approximately 20 deg. F with poor blanket coverage. Although we have ridden in this area down to -10 deg. F, during this winter those temperatures were rare and generally coincided with poor road conditions. I was unwilling to pull LP in the trailer (at least for the first time) at a temperature below 10 deg. F unless the road conditions were nearly perfect, which did not occur this winter at a time when we needed to leave the house.

The trailer seems well suited to transport a fully blanketed and bundled person of 20-40 lbs or more, sitting next to 3 gallons of hot water, for at least 40 minutes at 10 deg. F, even in high winds. It seems likely that lower temperatures are possible. In this area, daytime temperatures of -10 deg. or below are very rare, so I believe with furhter testing we could approve the trailer for use virtually all winter.

My boss the big softie

A bunch of us are going to a converence soon, and my adviser suggested that we drive. At the time, I don't think he realized that I was the only one with a license and I would be pregnant for the trip. I sort of told him this, but also said I was for the driving situation because I figured one other person would have a license by the time we went. He got his license now, so we can share driving, and I think it will be a fun trip.

Now my adviser is worried about us, because he is worried about the new driver on the highway and the fact that I will be pregnant and on a long drive. He sent me an email asking me to be careful and stop and rest frequently. He was being sort of parental yesterday in telling the new driver not to bother driving in the left lane, and that "this isn't Europe" (though the new driver has never been to Europe and I bet he, like myself, has little idea what that was supposed to mean). Then he said something about how easy it would be to all get killed. That was a little overboard, but I think it's really sweet that he's so concerned about us and our safety. He is really quite caring, although it can be hard to notice when he's talking science, and I that just one reason why I like him so much as a person. I hope he doesn't feel too bad about "making" us drive, because even though we aren't much older than his kids, we can take care of ourselves. Now we need to think of some car games!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's a girl!

ELP is a girl, and I'm very excited! LP is learning to say "baby". Now we have to figure out some names . . .

For my interview on Monday, they are coming to pick me up at the airport with a limo, and a sign with my name on it! It all sounds very fancy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

boo calendars

I started using my computer's calendar program instead of paper but forgot to check my appointment time for my sonogram until this morning. I thought it was late morning but it was early morning, so by the time I checked I was late. I called to ask if I could get in, but they said they couldn't take me late because one of their machines is down. So now we have to wait another week :(.

Also, boo to administrators who send cryptic emails with little or no message and some large attachment in a slow to open format. Sometimes I wonder if the message is relevant and open the file. It is always a waste of my time. Why can't they just say what the attachment is and who needs to read it within the text of the email? Maybe these people are around to make us all appreciate the nice ones. There's an administrator downstairs who keeps dark chocolate on her desk for visitors and flags/highlights everywhere you need to fill out and sign on the forms she prints. Maybe I should create a reason to see her and take a chocolate.

My mom was visiting, and I always notice all the progress LP has been making when she's here. She tries to highlight his learning and help him pick up new things. It's fun to hear him say "bubbles", which is his first very clear complex word. He gave me a book this morning and mumbled something before saying "mama". I think he is about to start putting words together, such as "here mama".

Friday, January 30, 2009

the ratio between two wrongs could make a right

Remember our missing factor of N? It's just not there. Nowhere to be found. Goes away for our case. We can tweak the theory so it's there, but then it's wrong in other worse ways. So the new plan is to divide something with the wrong scaling by another thing with the wrong scaling. This way, the ratio is independent of N as it should be. Overall, I don't care that much anymore. I just want to move on. The ratio looks reasonable. People want me to study this problem, and it seems this is the only way to do it with this theory. Whatever. Good luck to me getting the paper through review.


What motivates people to make shoelaces with a circular cross section? Do these people not care if their shoes come untied?

Why do I seem to push cars more often when pregnant? I'm sure it's just coincidence. . .

Should I submit my proposal now or read over it one more time? I hate reading over things!

Why did LP wake up today to scream NO (sounds more like "nah") for 20 minutes?

I also want to note that LP can now distinguish us and calls me mama and TE dada! Yay!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


ELP can kick now! We are well within the cute-kicking regime where they are just letting you know they're there. Later, it's more like poking from the inside. . .

Also, I have a first draft of the proposal!

Friday, January 16, 2009


I am still not writing my proposal, but I thought this was funny and I really don't want to write my proposal so here I am. Three little clothing things:

TE tore his nice warm lined pants, and seemed unusually upset about it, so I offered to sew them. I thought I didn't know how to sew, but I do know enough to put thread through the rips (in a fairly timely manner) in such a way that it does not immediately fall out or otherwise fail to repair the pants. Apparently this is not self-explanatory; one must know how to thread the needle and other basic concepts, how to start and end, and not to do odd things that don't work. The repair has held so far and I am quite happy with myself.

Today, I didn't want to wear the same shirt as yesterday, but it was cold and I couldn't bear taking off the shirt and putting on a new (cold) one. So I just put another shirt on top.

Also today, I am walking around with my pants unbuttoned. I really need to get the maternity box out of the attic, but I couldn't have worn that stuff today anyway as it is too cold (I have 3 pairs of pants on, and don't think my maternity jeans would have fit over the extra bulk).

Back to proposal writing!

financial crunch and new cars

Now that we got our tax documents and everything was laid out in front of me, I calculated yesterday that our net worth had dropped during 2008 by about a third. Even though we have equity in the house and some money in savings/checking accounts, apparently that is mostly canceled by our large amount of student loans. The balance is mostly in relatively risky mutual funds of some sort, which lost more than a third of their value. It doesn't make me feel better that either or both of us may have an employment gap later in the year, that our daycare expenses make up a relatively large fraction of our paychecks, or that we now pay for LP's checkups at full cost (I had forgotten that our insurance only covers well baby care up to the state-mandated one year).
We'll be fine, of course--if we thought we needed that money in the next few years it would have been in a CD or something. However, we are considering doing something I never thought I would do--getting financing to buy a new car. We've decided that we really shouldn't let our lack of money get in the way of safety features such as side airbags and stability control, and with our other requirements such as excellent gas milage and enough space for 2 carseats (which is why our current car will not work for us after ELP comes), we have gotten way out of the price range we originally were hoping for. (It's not even clear to me that we have enough cash for our original price range without changing other plans or dipping our savings below a reasonable buffer value.) We are even considering a brand new car, which is about the same price as some slightly older cars with similar features. We might take a personal loan, but it won't be for the full amount and we may still need bank financing unless we contribute less than our regular amount to retirement this year. That seems drastic considering that, if the market is about to start recovering, we really need to invest as usual (or extra, which is not going to happen; unfortunately we invested extra last year). If the market is not about to recover, I figure everyone else will be in trouble too, so we may as well join 'em.
Ok, seriously, I need to write this proposal . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

first offer!

I got an email offer for a postdoc position (the formal letter will take a few weeks)! I want to cross out the $$ and hang it up on my door as was the custom in undergrad, but sadly nobody does that here. Also, I have no idea how to respond. The email was a bit strange, actually, and said: "Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I'll start making a formal offer letter for you. The salary is $$." It didn't ask or imply any questions of me so it's unclear what I would include in a response except "Thanks. I'll wait for your letter." Help?

paper and pencil day: missing N

Obviously, as a good little theorist, I love a nice paper-and-pencil problem (no computer). So you would think I would have appreciated the break yesterday when I got to try to work something out. However, my problem is a missing factor of N between different theories I am working with which should give similar results. As such, I wasn't really searching for something interesting or even relevant, I just wanted to know where the discrepency was. I ended up spending (wasting?) the whole day on the problem, and I still have no idea what's going on, but I now think it is not trivial. Actually, at this point I am really hoping it is not trivial because then I will feel like an idiot (although, at least then I could get back to real work).
This would lead me to a really great joke about physicists but I will not repeat it here because TE did not find it funny at all, and wouldn't even pretend it was funny after I explained it to him, so maybe my humor is not shared by everyone. Now the problem has lost most of it's appeal because it is frustrating and wasting my time, but it has gained back some because I really want to figure it out and quit working on it. I've decided to figure out where the N is by calculating things, so it's not even pencil and paper anymore, but at least I won't be going in circles all day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

another proposal

I had a great meeting for the postdoc in my hometown! I got TONS of questions at my talk (about 4 good ones, I think), and really enjoyed the people there. Did I mention my hometown is likely one of a few places where it is most likely for TE to find a good job . . . and that if TE does not find a job right away, my hometown would be the best place for him to be anyway . . . and that my mom wants to move somewhere smaller and for us to live in her house? Now I have to write a research proposal (boo!) but it thankfully does have a word limit, and they have been very helpful in discussing ideas with me. Also, hopefully this will mean that my previous half-hearted research proposal writing experience was not a waste (in that I can reuse parts of it or at least not feel like I'm writing my first reserach proposal ever).
Also, I have to write my thesis abstract, or a first version of it, b/c it is part of the application. They already want an essay about my research, so why the abstract? Just to rub it in that I haven't started yet?
In other news, I was very sick again yesterday, not quite as sick as before Christmas, but at least I am mostly better now. TE was sick with me this time, so it is not just morning sickness. I think it may have been shigella, but that is a random guess based on essentially no evidence or medical knowledge. Also, don't call me (you can call TE instead). My battery is no good. I have no excuse not to be writing a proposal or at least getting some work done now . . .