Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from C-Rex & Pebbles

It's always so fun to see all the kids dressed up at school. They could wear costumes or pj's to school today. Charlie had pj's on under his costume so he was doubly prepared.

I'm always amazed that everyone has a completely different costume. There was one lion and one tiger and that was as close to a repeat as they came. C-Rex was definitely a hit with his friends. Charlie kept telling me to please tell his friends to be gentle with his tail so it wouldn't come off. Perhaps I've warned him too much about not destroying his costume.

By the time I made it back over to Izzy's classroom they had stripped them down to paint some pumpkins. Talk about messy fun!

After awhile, Iz was more interested in painting her legs (and the wall) purple.

I think our last minute, hand-made dinosaur bone for her hair turned out pretty well. Thanks for leaving it in long enough for a picture Iz! We're trick-or-treating at cousin Haley's house tonight - oh boy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

You can teach a dinosaur to like sushi

We were craving sushi Saturday night. We had just left a Halloween party at Union Station's Science City so the kids were in their costumes. Why not? This was one of those nights when we had a really pleasant dinner out, just the four of us. Both kids ate really well and behaved, though Izzy did start yelling a bit. She just likes to hear the sound of her own voice sometimes - and she can get loud!

Watching Charlie enthusiastically eat edamame, tempura sweet potatoes, rice and miso soup (he wanted more of the miso soup once it was gone), I am reminded that kids can be taught to like and enjoy a variety of flavors and tastes. At home it seems like he prefers PB&J to anything else I fix and it gets frustrating. But out to dinner at a sushi restaurant, he basically didn't turn anything down and even wanted to try some of Ryan's sashimi (we told him he wouldn't like it, but we probably should have let him try it).  So what gives?

We were all eating out together, and sitting at the table closest to the window meant great people watching - there was a costume party going on at the bar next door so it was like our own private Halloween parade. Using chopsticks was different and fun for the kids. (Charlie did pretty well with his set of training chopsticks, even left-handed). It was late and we were all hungry and that had to have helped. And there was no begging anyone to eat anything. I didn't order the kids their own meal, just gave them this and that of what we were having so I wasn't worried about an entire meal going to waste. I almost prefer eating this way as opposed to ordering something bland off the kids' menu that they usually barely touch. Izzy is the exception, she still eats everything. But Charlie did too at her age, so I'm not factoring in her eating habits yet. She did really like Ryan's seaweed salad and also gave the chopsticks her very best effort.

So when I read about how kids are throwing out their fruit and veggies with the new school lunch program, and are either going hungry or hitting the vending machines as a result, I fault the parents. Getting kids to eat healthy should not be a choice or a value-added bonus dependent on your family income. It is a basic health matter, and even more -  improves kids' performance in the classroom and for all things later in life. Get with the program parents and do your kids a solid. Teach your children to enjoy healthy foods (that means you have to learn to like them, too!) and to eat something besides fries and ketchup!

I struggle to get my kids to eat healthy, just like everyone else and that was my motivation behind our CSA adventure this summer. All I can do, all any of us can do, is keep trying. I'm making this recipe for the kids tonight. Think they'll eat it??

Carving pumpkins

Charlie was very excited to carve a pumpkin this year. This activity is Ryan's domain. After the very first time Ryan and I carved pumpkins together back when we were dating, I've left this creative endeavor to him. My pumpkin was far from scary, laughable at best. My job is roasting the seeds and that works fine for everyone.

Charlie's job was cleaning out the inside of the pumpkin. He thought this sounded great at first...

But then he thought it was pretty yucky.

Iz was not very interested in the pumpkin carving. I think she was standing on this table to keep her cracker away from Roxie.


Friday, October 26, 2012

The dragon with the pink arm

I wouldn't say that Charlie's cast has slowed him down much at all. They cover it in plastic wrap at school and he paints left handed. He throws and eats with his left without a complaint. Maybe breaking your wrist is actually easiest when you are 3. Habits are less engrained and kids so readily adapt. I could definitely learn a lesson from my son.

Charlie's Halloween costume came in the mail this week (Shocked that I didn't make something? Me, too.) and he has wanted to wear it every minute since. His reaction to the costume was so amazing to see - pure, and barely contained delight! To be a kid is to enjoy each minute and activity to the fullest, to maximize joy! I think Halloween is going to become Charlie's favorite holiday. Being a T-Rex for a day was the greatest thing ever. Ever.

He was laughing out loud at the way his tail stuck out of the swing. He kept looking behind him to see it -  laughing and smiling and kicking his feet. Joy. I have now seen that word in action.

Can you see the strut? We were out for a run in the stroller and he wanted to get out and walk (I was more than happy to let him walk up this giant hill by the Liberty Memorial). He walked with his head high, swinging his arms, checking behind him every couple of minutes to make sure his tail was still in place. He would wait patiently to see if each person we passed would be scared of his T-Rex costume. Needless to say, the expressions on peoples' faces as they went by us were not ones of fright.

Looking forward to a low-key weekend. We're going to attempt a pumpkin patch - of course we waited til it was nice and chilly outside. Happy weekend!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Catching my breath

The last few weeks have been a blur. I knew the travel, presentations and deadlines would take their toll, but I couldn't predict the unpredictable (pink eye and a broken wrist) and know how hard things were going to get. I had an emotional couple days in Chicago worrying about Charlie and feeling inadequate at work and home all at once. But it's over and things will calm down - at least back to the frenetic pace we've become accustomed to of late.

Kids are amazingly resilient and Charlie's arm hasn't slowed him down a bit. I think he had one day of some pain and low energy, and now he is totally fine. He has trouble doing some things for himself with only one arm and gets frustrated, as anyone would. We get a new cast tomorrow and word is, he wants pink!

We took advantage of the beautiful fall day today and took some photos around the neighborhood. We got some really good ones, I'm saving my favorites for later, but here are a few...

Charlie was not very happy about putting this shirt on over his cast, but he did it. And he even smiled a couple times. In his own words, it was "a good, smelly day!"

Friday, October 19, 2012

There's no place like home

I want to be home. I'm finishing up 8 days of work travel in the last 14 days, and all I want to do is be home with my babies - make pumpkin bread, carve pumpkins, catch falling leaves, and snuggle.

I spent 11 hours today reviewing grants in a hotel conference room in Chicago. A room full of brilliant scientists, judging the work of other brilliant scientists. I'm not sure how I got here. I'm not sure I can ever get another grant funded. We made decisions today about which research projects are worth millions of dollars of government money - my money, and your money - and I'm not sure how I'm qualified to make those decisions. The whole process makes me feel small and not very smart.

I spent the whole day trying to keep my emotions in check, to not think about Charlie and how he just wants his mommy. It was torture, really. His first broken bone, and I wasn't there to dry the tears, to hold him and hug the pain away.

I think this is really what wears working moms down. It isn't the big roadblocks or the bias we encounter, it is the little things that add up and make us feel like we're not there for our kids when we should be. The little things that make us feel inadequate as a parent. You can't explain to your 3 yr-old why Mommy isn't there when he breaks his arm. He just doesn't understand. He will be ok in the grand scheme of things, but you might not. And that's what hits home.

I tried to make the most of this trip, staying out and talking way past midnight with the other scientists. I know  it doesn't sound like work, but to this introvert, it is. After 11 hours of reviewing grants and worrying about Charlie, all I wanted to do was retreat to my room and be alone. But I went to dinner, and I made conversation and I was social. I went to the bar after dinner and kept making conversation. I was part of the last group to close down the bar - because this is where the real connections are made, this is where the friendships are formed that lead to favors and life-long loyalty in a very competitive field. I thought of it as work and I forced myself to engage when I really wanted to retreat and hide. If I had to be here, away from my family, then I was going to make it count.

I'm not sure I am doing what it takes to succeed in science, and I'm not sure I am doing what my family needs to be happy and whole. How will I know? Who decides and who tells me what's working? There isn't an expert panel ready to pass on their judgment of my parenting. I almost wish there was. An expert panel can give you specific suggestions and recommendations for changes to ensure future success. The critique can feel harsh, but it ultimately leads to success. Where is my parenting review panel?

Ryan has done double duty in the past couple weeks while I've been traveling. We've had pink eye, a broken arm, many sleepless nights - it's so complicated. Ryan has to give a lot to make my career work. I know it would be so much easier for him if I managed the kids all the time and he could focus on work. That is a luxury many of his peers enjoy and I worry that his career suffers because of mine. For my career to work, he has to give and the grandparents have to be on speed dial at all times. It takes a village. Some days I feel like its worth it. Other days, I'm not sure. Some days I just want to be there when it matters. I want to be there when my kids need me. At the end of the day, that's all that matters and that's how I'll be judged.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meet Zip

This is Zip, my new Fitbit. Tragically, I lost my Fitbit Ultra a few weeks ago, and after going for several aimless, lost weeks without a tracker, I purchased the Zip. This is a new tracker from Fitbit that sells for almost half the price of the Ultra. It has a few less features than the Ultra that I already miss (no stop watch, no cheeky messages when you pick it up, no personal greetings) and has a replaceable watch battery instead of a USB charger. It comes in snappy colors and the clip comes on and off (I think I would really be likely to lose it without the clip).

 I will report back after a few weeks to let you know how I like the Zip. The lower price is a great option for someone wanting to try out a tracker. Which everyone should!

And...more info on the harms of sitting all day. Are you still sitting? One of the easiest and best things you can do for your health today, right now, is to stop sitting. Read about it here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family home

Dwell did a two part series on the modern family home here and here. Love the ladder for the kids!

Design delays...

Wondering what is happening with our new house? So are we.

We are in a big stall right now. Waiting for the subcontract bids to come in, waiting for the bank to approve our construction loan, waiting for the BZA to approve the building plans...waiting, waiting, waiting.

Unlike the design phase, this phase is no fun at all. And of course, the original plan did not come in under budget so we're having to make some adjustments. It's times like these you wish you had an unlimited budget and money wasn't an object. We don't want an extravagant house, but we do want quality materials and good design to be the foundation of our family home. Sigh. We're hoping we can make small changes here and there and still keep the heart of the design we love in the original plans.

I didn't realize those fun weekly meetings of dreaming and planning would come to an end so fast. The only consolation will be that we get this thing rolling soon and start taking down walls come November. Winter is coming fast. Hopefully I'll have an update soon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gaining steam

Check out what rolled into Union Station this past weekend....a real, live steam engine! This train was massive and immaculate, polished to a shine. It was only here for a few days so we went to check it out yesterday afternoon after I got home from my trip. I wasn't sure we could get very close to it, so I didn't bring my real camera - wish I had!

The steam train pulled out of town early this morning - but not before blowing the whistle quite a few times. It was a very startling way to wake up and scared Charlie. I'm glad to be home, 5 days felt like a long time. Feeling pretty tired, but hoping a few days at home will help me gather steam for the next trip later this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple fest!

Charlie's class has been learning about apples. For the last several weeks they've been reading books about apples, talking and reading about Johnny Appleseed, peeling apples, baking apples, you name it. They collected a variety of different apples over the past week and today they had a big apple tasting!

Everyone had a chance to try all the different apples and the teachers wrote down the apple critiques on a big piece of paper.

I'm just amazed at the activities they come up with in his class. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful learning environment for our kids!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lab 2.0

Pink eye, of course. Of course! I'm heading out of town this week, gearing up for the two busiest weeks of work and travel of my entire year, and Charlie gets pink eye. If I were a betting woman, oh what I would do with my winnings. I hve a conference this week, grant reviews next week. Why is it always everything at once?? When am I going to find time to take care of all the really important things in life - Halloween costumes and pumpkin patches, planning a bachelorette party, carving the pumpkins Charlie keeps asking about...??

I have to focus on work right now and put all that aside. It's a big week for me, a big week for my lab and all that we work towards on a daily basis. We're heading to a small scientific conference that is jam-packed with the best work being done in our field right now. Small, as in 500 people or so, but big on impact. This meeting is only held every 4 years and as a result, there is a lot of time and energy spent making it as good as it can be. I attended this meeting 4 years ago and 8 years ago and both times it's been a great experience. I remember so well attending the meeting 8 years ago - I was still a postdoc at Wash U, with no idea if I would ever get a faculty position. I think I had just found the posting for my current position and was wondering if I could really make that leap. I remember being in awe of many of the speakers and scientists at this meeting, feeling so very far from where they stood in their successful careers.

And now, 8 years later - I am one of them. I am on the organizing committee for this meeting. I am moderating two of the 12 scientific sessions and giving a 30 minute talk on my research. Two members of my lab are presenting posters. We will be very visible at this small meeting and I hope our impression is a good one. We toll away in obscurity day after day and now we get a chance to tell everyone what we've been up to. I hope our best is good enough. I always wish we had been more productive. I want to put an asterisk next to my name with the footnote **Has two children under 4 and gets very little sleep, please be kind!** But there is no such thing and I have to stand proud of what we've done and hope for the best.

And I am proud of this group. This is the second coming of my lab - my first group of students and technicians has moved on and I have new students, new techs that have never traveled together for a meeting like this. This will be a chance for us to bond and create new memories. I wasn't sure I could ever recreate the chemistry of my first core group - the ones that I worked with closely to get that first big grant, the ones that learned with me as I figured out this faculty gig. But this group is special, too. I feel good about the new direction we're taking in our research and the positive energy we have in the lab. Sometimes I feel like I don't do enough to foster that energy now that I have a family of my own. But I think we're doing all right. This meeting helps me take stock and recognize our strengths. I'm a proud mama in many ways...

I wonder where I/we will be in another 4 years? Crazy for me to think about. I really can't imagine it at this point, and maybe that's a good thing. Surprise me. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Farm Table dining with friends

We attended the Farm Table Dinner put on by Green Dirt Farm last Saturday night - something we've been looking forward to all summer! This is the fourth season of the Farm Table Dinners, and they are now so popular that the entire summer slate of dinners sells out in minutes once the online reservations open. To get our 6 tickets, we selected our top 3 choices and logged on simultaneously with three different laptops at the Roasterie on a Sunday morning back in April. It was well worth it. 30 guests sit around one long table inside a covered (but open) barn. Each dinner has a different guest chef - with the only stipulations being to use lamb and sheep's milk cheeses from Green Dirt Farm in the meal. Produce is all seasonal and sourced from local farms. Our chef was Michael Beard from 715, one of our favorite spots in Lawrence. I just love hearing a chef explain the thought and planning that goes into each dish.  It was amazing food and the perfect early fall evening out on the farm.