Friday, April 18, 2014

Time to get out the bunny ears

We're hosting Easter this weekend and we're gearing up to decorate some eggs and spend some relaxing time with family. I'm not ready for Easter yet, but I will be. In the meantime, I'm enjoying these pictures from two years ago. Have a great weekend!

Did somebody say something about an egg hunt?

I can't believe how grown up this (not so) little one is getting. Maybe its the scarf...but I see the years flashing by and she is in highschool. It seems like just yesterday she was Izzy's age.

Getting her basket, ready to hunt for eggs!

This is the closest Izzy got to wearing the bunny ears on Sunday.

 Izzy's eggs were close by and easy for her to spot. She liked carrying around the empty plastic eggs.

Not done yet, Charlie was getting some instruction on where to look for his next egg.

Collecting the money he found in his eggs.

Trying to put the money from his eggs into his pockets...

This is my new favorite picture - maybe of all time. Iz was peeking through the garden gate, looking for eggs? the other kids or Gram?  

 Taking stock and making sure they each got 10 eggs.

 Transferring the candy from the eggs to a plastic bag so Gram can use the eggs again next year. Love the vest! Charlie is so wearing a vest next Easter.

Note the "C" on Charlie's eggs. This is a family tradition - everyone has plastic eggs with their initial on it and everyone gets the exact same number of eggs. You might imagine that in my uber-competitve family, this tradition arose as a response to a trend each Easter when we were kids to 'win' the hunt and get the most eggs. According to the rules, if you find someone else's egg, you are to leave it there and keep looking for your own initial. This rule was often overlooked in favor of hiding said egg in a spot that might never be found. (I won't name names, but the worst offender of this collected eggs with the letter "T"). And based on what I saw Sunday, I think this tradition has been passed down to the next generation.

For now, no one tampers with the eggs labeled "C" and "H" but they will, soon enough.

Izzy wasn't tired, but Gram must've been after hiding 80 eggs!

And Roxie was a good sport, as always - even though she didn't get to hunt eggs or eat any candy. Now the baskets are packed away, the last piece of stray Easter grass picked up, and all the Easter candy is gone (Mom is entitled to a few chocolate eggs). Until next year...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

For the love of science

This past Saturday we had another soccer game, but before the game we went to the medical center for a Brain Discovery Fair. Many of my colleagues help organize this event for kids ages 4-12 every year but this is the first time I took Charlie and Izzy.

This is a grad student that I work with on a couple campus committees and he loves science and research - can't you just tell from his face when he is talking to these kids?

We waited patiently until he had time to talk to Charlie one-on-one. It was worth it. Charlie learned about the human brain and even got to touch one!

Charlie learned that his brain is the boss of his body and tells him what to do (but I am the boss outside his body, he clarified). Like when he wants a Sprite, it is his brain telling him he wants a Sprite. Smart kid.

This interactive baseball display was a favorite with Charlie. It was designed to teach the kids about ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. The kids put on giant Yankees jerseys and took a swing at the ball on the tee. Then they put on arm weights and took another turn at bat. It was much harder to swing the bat with the arm weights - and how it might have felt for Lou Gehrig when his muscles got weak from ALS. A good lesson.

After the brain fair, we went upstairs to my lab and I got out some simple science equipment for them to play with - pipetters, weigh boats, funnels and conical tubes. They poured and transferred water back and forth, giving the bench tops a good cleaning in the process. It was fun. I should let them make a mess at work more often.

Having kids in the lab is always fun, no matter how old they are. Kids have a love and appreciation for science that is all too easy to lose as adults. I had a group of high school students in the lab last week for a tour and after watching Charlie and Izzy play, I think next time I should just let the high school students play with funnels and beakers and call it good. Whatever gets them excited about science, I say.

This particular AP Biology class began visiting the lab when one of the students, a high school junior at the time, started working for me. The student is now a college junior and still works with me and her former teacher brings a new class back to visit each year. The visits expose high school students to biomedical research careers, and remind us why we got into this work in the first place. It's a win-win.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring showers, flowers

This is our first Spring in our new house and it is full of surprises. Like this beautiful magnolia tree that has taken over the yard, the driveway. When it first started blooming I held Izzy up so she could smell the blooms, and we stood under the tree and looked up into a canopy of pink dappled with sunlight.

Now she has to stop and take in the flowers and the tree each time we come in and out of the house. She stops and smells the flowers, tells me how beautiful they are.

Sunday was a rainy day and many of the flower petals fell to the ground. Izzy ran to the driveway and gathered the petals in her hands and threw them up in the air, laughing out loud. I captured the moment.

She loves this tree. I love this girl.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


It doesn't truly feel like Spring in Kansas City until they turn on the fountains. 200 fountains! The JC Nichols fountain near the Country Club Plaza is one of my favorites, as is the big one on Meyer and Ward Parkway. 

These pictures are from 2008, when Ryan and I ran the Hospital Hill half-marathon together. We're about to go up a long, long hill and this is the celebration before the crash. It is a tough, hilly race and we haven't done it in several years.

I miss the days when we used to log a lot of miles. I miss the days when we used to run together. It's hard to find the time to train for long races these days, and sneaking out for a quick 3-4 mile run while the other person watches the kids is about the best we manage during the week. Our runs look very different now - solo or with a stroller. Sometimes when the grandparents have the kids on the weekend we squeeze in a run together. And we always run together when we go on vacation. It feels like a luxury, something we used to do when it was just us, before kids. All couples need something that bonds you together, reminds you of when you first started dating, something to share and enjoy together. Running is our thing.

We want to share our love of running with the kids, too. We're working on it, and Charlie has been racing since before he could crawl!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On my nightstand, books by local authors & resilient women

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I'm not sure when I bought this book but it's been on my shelf for years and I'd never read it. I recently heard it described as the female version of Catcher in the Rye, both in its story line and its cultural significance. It is not an autobiography but it bears resemblance to Plath's own fascinating and tragic life. It made me think of my grandmother and how women of that generation challenged norms and battled expectations at every turn. An American classic worth reading.  

2. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. I am only half-way through this novel, but so far so good. I heard about it because the University of Kansas selected it as the 2014 KU Common Book, a program designed to unify students and faculty around a singular reading experience. It is set in rural Kansas, the center of the map, the center of everything, in the 1980s and it is like looking back into my own childhood: 

"The Day After is going to be on television in November....I want to watch it, but I don't think I'll be able to because the school sent home a note." 

"She has bought copies of Tiger Beat magazine and taped up pictures from it on her walls...Deena has seen The Outsiders seven times, and has pictures of all the stars: C.Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio. She knows their names from the movie: Sodapop, Ponyboy, Johnny."

The Center of Everything is a novel about adolescence, family, and the social and political norms that shape identity in blue-collar middle America. Everyone can relate to this story.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've had this book on my reading list for over a year. I heard a lot of buzz about the book but didn't know what to expect. It is a real surprise with a twist half-way through and an ending that left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied - but not because it was predictable. I got lost in the narrative and in the characters and lost sleep over this book. I finished it in just a few days. Flynn is a KC native and a Jayhawk. What's not to like? 

4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I've given this book to several of my graduate students over the past few years and finally found time to read it myself. This is an incredible and unbelievable story about a woman, Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken for research in 1951 without her consent, without her knowledge. A whole biomedical industry and decades of research sprung up as a result of her immortal cells while her family suffered through poverty, abuse and poor health. I have used these cells in the lab myself and never knew the story behind them. A must read.

Reading something right now that you love? Let me know, I need some new books! 

Find my previous reading lists here

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kindergarten Roundup

I opened my email yesterday to find this announcement:


capitalized and in size fifty gazillion font so there is no way I could miss the information. Tomorrow is kindergarten roundup for Charlie. For those of you not in the know, this is when we turn in our official enrollment forms. Charlie and I go to the school together and then we are pried apart and separated, kicking and screaming (me), in preparation for the real thing. Charlie goes to another room with the other kids and listens, sings, learns something new. I sit in a room with all the other parents and cry. They say we are there to ask questions, get answers. But I know they are lying. We all just sit in a room and cry, then the kids are returned to us and we go home. 

This is my first roundup so I don't really know what will happen, but this is what I'm envisioning. 

It can't possibly be just 4 months until Charlie starts kindergarten. He is still just 4 months old! Why just yesterday I packed him into the jogging stroller for the first time, surrounding him with fifty gazillion blankets because he was way too small for the stroller and I just couldn't wait one more day to try it out. 

We can't be ready for kindergarten, Charlie still takes morning naps on the couch and doesn't even roll off.

I just gave him his first taste of solid foods last week...

And I picked out his very first Halloween costume not so long ago. No way my little duck is ready for school.

He still plays with soft lovies on my bed. I watched him play like this just the other day.

 The school got our email by mistake. That message was not meant for us.

And yet...some days I see it. I see a 5 year-old ready for school, new information, and a bigger world.

Charlie and I are going to kindergarten roundup tomorrow. One of us is excited. One of us is ready.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Soccer (season 2)

It must be Spring because we're playing soccer again!

Charlie played soccer in Brookside last year, but this year is a whole different story (he looks so much younger!). He is really enjoying it and understands the game so much better. And something else that's new...

Ryan and I are coaching! To make a long story short, no one else volunteered so we did. Between us we know enough about soccer to coach these Pre-K kids. It is mostly about getting and keeping their attention (not doing so well in the picture above!).

Two games in and we are having a lot of fun. It is a different experience as a parent to be out there with them every minute (one coach can be on the field at all times) compared with sitting on the side watching/cheering. It takes energy and preparation, but it is really fun. I honestly didn't expect it to be so fun!

Charlie had a big cheering section for Saturday's game - grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He loved every minute of it.

Izzy moved in on Charlie's post-game snack, she is quickly learning the benefits of being the younger sibling with the team. The most challenging aspect for us as coaches is handling Izzy during practices and games. We've had plenty of family help during the games and she has actually been really good during practice. She sticks right by my side or wants to be held, but otherwise doesn't complain or seem to mind.

Thanks Julie for these great pictures!