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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 Weeks

Evan had his 10-week appointment today. Apparently his head is flattened a bit on the right side (he definitely favors that side while sleeping or lying on his back)! LOL! So, we're supposed to give him more tummy time (which he hates). We'll see how that goes.

He also has a bit of a rash (ringworm) on his face, so she gave us some anti-fungal cream for that. We have no idea where he got it from, but I guess we all carry fungus on our skin. Babies just have more sensitive skin, so they can break out into a rash more easily.

He also got his first round of vaccinations, which included two needles and one oral. He did awesome with the needles! He only cried for a couple seconds after each shot.

Otherwise, he's doing awesome. Here are his stats:

Weight: 10 lbs 5 oz (6 lbs 9 oz at birth; 13th percentile*, 55th percentile for corrected age**)
Height: 61 cm (51 cm at birth; 75th percentile, 97th for corrected age)
Head circumference: 38 cm (32.5 cm at birth; 8th percentile, 38th for corrected age)

*calculated using this website
**His age if he was born on his due date (so, 5 weeks)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Resolution Recap

It's that time of year: to look back on the resolutions made in January and see how things went. Here is a list of my 2010 resolutions, and how I did.

1. Get rid of extraneous crap in life.
I think what I really meant here was to get rid of things that I felt obligated to do, but hated doing. I edited my Facebook friends list, and deleted a few people that I just didn't feel comfortable being "friends" with. This actually turned into a small drama when a couple people confronted me about being deleted (get a life!). I also ended up shutting down my Nature Network blog. It was just too much of a reminder of how much I disliked research. Finally, when we moved to our house, we got rid of a ton of stuff. So, I think I did pretty good on this resolution.

2. Find one (or more) fun activities to keep fit.
At the beginning of the year I started swimming and I loved it. But, then I got pregnant and we moved, and I basically haven't done it since. In fact, I didn't do much on anything to keep myself in shape this year. Mostly because I felt like ass most of my pregnancy. So, I didn't do too well on this one.

3. Read 20-25 books.
Even with Evan's early arrival, I managed to squeeze in 20 books by the end of the year! According to my records, the worst book I read this year was Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson et al. (rated 2/5), and the best book was Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (rated 4.5/5). Looking back, I think the most memorable book was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

4. Further career in education & outreach.
I did a lot in this area, even though it wasn't officially part of my job description. I created some earthquake-related hands-on activities for a workshop in May. I worked my ass off to have two open houses at the local observatory, both of which were extremely successful. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to convince the "uppers" to continue with similar events, and the observatory doors will close on December 31st. I wrote my first grant application, and I pretty much have a job lined up for this coming summer (more on this later once it becomes official).

5. Buy a house & host Christmas.
We bought a house in February and moved in at the end of April. Since then, we had the kitchen renovated, all rooms painted (except the bathroom), and the soffits and gutters replaced. My mom is here right now, and my dad is joining us tomorrow for the holidays. So, I can check this one off the list!

6. Work on confidence.
This one is tough to measure. I didn't do any specific "work" on this area, but I do feel better about myself in general. I think the pregnancy had a lot to do with it because all of a sudden I wasn't focused on how my body looked. I still feel the same way after the pregnancy, but we'll see if it lasts.

7. Work on anger.
Again, this is tough to measure. I have a feeling DH would say I didn't do too well on this, since I was on an emotional roller coaster during my pregnancy, and for the 4-5 weeks after as well. But, I think Evan is really teaching me to be more patient, which is a big factor with anger!

8. Have more fun!
Hmm...not sure how to measure this one either. I feel like I'm having more fun these days, or at least enjoying our life as it is instead of thinking it should be something else. Perhaps learning that lesson is even better than the original resolution.

9. Graduate from beginner-level knitting.
Let's see...I finally finished the baby blanket, and it took me about 8 months to finish a tote bag, but at least it was something other than a scarf! I also knitted squares that spelled out Evan, and I knitted a hat for him too.

10. Work towards a family.
We welcomed our little boy, Evan, on October 19th!

I think I did pretty well this year! Next post will be my resolutions for 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

My Dad gets to town tomorrow night, the Christmas dinner menu is planned, and we're very excited to experience our first Christmas with little Evan.

Fig. 1: The best Christmas gift under the tree this year.

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas! I hope the holidays are filled with friends, family, joy, and laughter for everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2 Months

Evan is two months old today! What has happened in the last month?

- On his 1-month birthday, he had what we thought was a seizure and we took him to the ER. He ended up spending a week in the hospital, with us at his side the whole time. He underwent a barrage of tests (CT scan, Xray, MRI, EEG, EKG, ultrasound, spinal tap, blood/urine tests and more) and thankfully they found nothing wrong with him. Now we think he probably just breathed in a bit of spit-up into his lungs and it caused him to convulse for some reason. It hasn't happened since, and we hope it never happens again!

- He has started to become much more interested in his surroundings! He looks around at everything, and stares intently at things that catch his attention. He holds eye contact for what seems like forever, especially during feeding time.

- We have started using his play mat, and he loves it! He loves batting and grabbing at the toys, and looking at himself in the mirror.


- He's not a huge fan of tummy time because he gets frustrated so easily. He's already trying to roll over and can get up on to his side, but can't roll over the whole way. He also practices his crawling technique!

- He grabs at my hair, nose, and mouth. He also loves to grab DH's glasses and take them off his face! Not sure why he doesn't do that to anyone else that wears glasses...weird!

- He can hold his head up for a few seconds! It's so cool to see how strong he is getting.


- When he's awake he's really awake these days - wanting to play and interact. He tends to be very active in the morning and early afternoon, then sleeps a lot more in the evening.

- He can make a zillion different faces! It's hard to imagine what might be going on in that brain of his.


- He has been giving us these HUGE smiles in the past few days! He has been smiling for a while, but nothing like these! I haven't been able to catch one on camera though. Mostly because I'm too in awe when I see it.

- He has started to "coo" - making really cute noises. Mostly of the "heh", "ah", "wah", and "hoo" variety.

- He has started to respond to people! My Mom waved at him and said "Hi" and he made this cute "heh" noise and smiled right at her! Then, another time, DH asked him if he wet his diaper, and he made this pathetic little "hoo" sound, and gave a little pout-y face - like he was saying "It's not my fault, Dad!". So cute.

Can't wait to see what the next month will bring!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1 Year

One year ago today, I lost Baby G for the first time. That day was absolutely devastating, but we are so very thankful that he came back to us and now have a beautiful, funny, squirmy, little boy for Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

8 Hours

Last night, Evan went 8 hours between feeds! We fed him at about 9:30pm, went to bed around 10:30pm, and he didn't wake up to eat until 5:30am!! Woohoo!!

Not sure if this was a one-time thing, or the start of something very wonderful, but time will tell. He has been sleeping longer after his last feed before bed (6-6.5 hours), but the jump to 8 hours was quite surprising.

Not only that, he then went back to sleep until about 10am! We were actually to the point of feeling like we slept too much!

DH starts work tomorrow, so we'll see how this whole thing goes when he has to be up at 7am to get ready.

Friday, December 10, 2010

12 Months of Blogging

I've seen the 12 months of blogging meme going around, so I thought I'd join in the fun. Here are the first sentences of the first posts of each month (along with hyperlinked titles):

January - 2009 in Review - DH and I got back from our Christmas vacation last night.

February - Vacation Planning - It seems that January/February is the time where DH and I like to plan vacations for the year.

March - And the Torch Goes Out - I don't know what it is about the Olympics, but it is always so emotional.

April - A Losing Battle? - Last time, I posted about how I'm not feelin' the outreach program I've been trying to develop for the last few months.

May - The Heebee Jeebees - Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed this ENORMOUS centipede-type bug just hanging out beside the scale in the bathroom.

June - The Big Ultrasound - We are very excited to find out if Baby G will be a boy or a girl, and the ultrasound is scheduled for July 3rd.

July - Living the O Life - At our book club meeting the other day, one of the other ladies told us she was reading Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant.

August - August Scientiae: A Reflection - Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere!

September - 28 Weeks - Well, Baby G has been with us for 28 weeks as of yesterday.

October - Misery Wars - Misery wars are awesome, aren't they?

November - Mom Guilt - I never knew how acute Mom guilt could be.

December - Activities - This is going to sound really dumb, and like I'm a clueless parent, but now that Evan is awake for good portions of time I have no idea what to do with him!

2010 was an eventful year, with buying a house and having a baby being notable events! It's fun to go back to see how much has happened in such a short time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Upcoming Transition

DH goes back to work on Monday. I'm scared - how am I going to do this on my own?

Okay, so thankfully I won't be totally on my own. My Mom arrives on Friday and will be here for three weeks. I'm hoping it will be a nice step between both DH and I being home and me being home by myself come January.

Still though - it scares me that I'm getting closer to being on my own. My big worry right now is the feeding. Evan is getting fed primarily by the bottle, and I am pumping. That means I'll need to find time to pump when Evan is not preparing to eat, eating, or screaming/trying to calm down after eating. Right now, DH is usually feeding him or holding him while I do it. Evan seems to have a radar to the pump, and practically every time I try it when he's sleeping or calm, he starts crying/screaming/etc..

I worry about other stuff too - like how am I going to console him all day long? DH and I switch off so we can get a break and eat, have a shower, go to the bathroom, and do simple chores around the house. How the heck am I going to do it all on my own? I can seriously see it coming down to me having to choose between having a very quick bite to eat (i.e. a granola bar) or brushing my teeth.

I'm sure we'll figure out a new normal, but right now I'm frickin' terrified!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let it Snow!

It started snowing yesterday...


...and it pretty much hasn't stopped. You can get a good idea of how much snow we have so far in this photo:


I'm loving the weather though - mostly because I get to stay inside and enjoy it from the warmth of our house with a cute (though sometimes screaming) baby in my arms.

Schools are closed already (yay for a snow day for the kids!), and the snow is supposed to continue to fall for the next few days. Hopefully things will clear up for my Mom's arrival on Friday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grump

Someone's been a big grump the last couple days. I'm not saying who...


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Activities

This is going to sound really dumb, and like I'm a clueless parent, but now that Evan is awake for good portions of time I have no idea what to do with him! Apparently, I so do not have the mothering instinct :P

I mean, we read to him, talk to him, and we do tummy time with him, but that's about it. I feel bad not doing things with him during all of his waking hours. Any other ideas of what kind of activities we could/should be doing with him?

In other news, we're making slow progress with breast feeding (BFing). We now get 1-2 good feedings in a day, which is much better than before. At this point, I think I'm the limiting factor. Mostly because (TMI alert) my nipples hurt from not being used to BFing, and I end up having to pump anyway because I tend to have an oversupply of milk (which completely defeats the purpose of BFing so I don't have to pump anymore). In any case, I don't intend to exclusively BF because it's nice that DH can also feed Evan (especially at night!), so if we can get to the point of doing 50/50, I'd be happy.

Fig. 1: Evan's new fun thing to do: touching/hitting mommy's face (photo courtesy of my friend Theresa).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Results

Well - we got the results back from all of Evan's tests, and everything is NORMAL!! We were discharged today and are at home with the little guy now. We're still not sure what really happened, but we're happy to know it wasn't anything serious.

The poor boy had to undergo a barrage of tests - from blood and urine tests, to a spinal tap, to an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, short and long EEG, and an ultrasound. That's more tests than I have had done in my entire life.

I am feeling a bit nervous to have him home because I don't want the same thing to happen again. But, I guess that's one of the things you have to get used to as a parent. The worrying never ends!

Thank you to everyone for your support. I really really hope this is the last time Evan sees the inside of a hospital for a long, long time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Update

Well, nothing has been found with Evan so far. He had tests done on his blood, urine, and spinal fluid to check for infections, and those all came back negative. His jaundice levels are still elevated for what they should be, so they are keeping an eye on it to make sure it keeps going down. They will also do an ultrasound of his liver and spleen today to make sure those aren't a factor. Elevated jaundice levels are quite common in premature, breast-fed babies, so we're not particularly worried about it, and the doctors don't think it had anything to do with the seizure-like activity we saw.

To determine whether the episode was a seizure, he had a short (25 minutes) and long (48 hours) EEG done. The short one came back normal and we are waiting for the results on the long test. He is scheduled to have an MRI done tonight to look for any developmental issues.

So, we're basically waiting for results right now (like always, it seems). If those tests (EEG, MRI, ultrasound and blood tests) come back normal - and we should find out tomorrow - then the episode will be attributed to him breathing in fluid after spitting up and we'll most likely be discharged. Fingers crossed this is the case and we can go home soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nothing Conclusive Yet

Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts and words of encouragement. We really appreciate the support right now.

Well, many tests have been done on Evan to see if they can figure out a) whether what happened was a seizure or not and b) if it was, what is the cause.

Every test that has been done has come back normal. But, we met with a neurologist today and he's still not convinced it wasn't a seizure. So, Evan is going to get an MRI and another EEG done in the next day or two. We're not sure what to think, but we're both concerned and scared.

We've been staying with him the whole time (we got a cot put in his room on the first night so we could both stay), and will continue to do so. If anything, he'll know that his parents are here for him - whatever he needs.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scared To Death

Last night was the worst night of our lives. At about 9:30pm, Evan spit up a rather large amount of milk (even though he ate about 2 hours earlier), and seconds later his eyes were rolling back, his body was stiff as a board, and he was convulsing. That lasted for about 5 seconds, and then he broke into this huge wail, and his body was still stiff. By the time we got to the hospital, he could move normally and was very sleepy.

We ended up taking him to the emergency room where we spent the night. He got a bunch of blood work done. They did a CT scan to rule out any bleeding or swelling of the brain (that came back normal, thank God). They also did a chest X-ray, and found some "streaking" which could be evidence for fluid in the lungs (that could be from him sucking in some of the spit up).

We got transferred to pediatrics at about 6am and have been there ever since. He has gotten more blood work done and they did a spinal tap on him this afternoon to check for infections. He will have to wait until Monday to get more tests done (EEG, ECG).

We are absolutely scared, upset, freaked out, etc. etc., right now. We'd like to stay with him in the hospital, but there is one chair that pulls out into a make-shift bed in the room so we're not sure what we'll do. I can't imagine leaving him alone though, and neither can DH. I'm starting to get really scared that this is going to be Evan's life - that he'll be in and out of the hospital for various things because he was born early. It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

Any positive thoughts or prayers you can send our way would be much appreciated.

Friday, November 19, 2010

One Month

It's hard to believe that Evan is one month old already. It's even more hard to believe that he should still be in my belly!! Here are some memories from his first month of life:

- He decided to come early, and quickly, into the world! Born 5 weeks early - on October 19th - the labor was 4 hours from me realizing my water broke to the midwives placing him on my stomach.

- Because he was born early, he had to go directly to the NICU after he was born. I only got to hold him for a few moments before he was whisked away for them to take his measurements in the next room. Luckily, DH went with him, and I could hear his sweet little cry so I knew he was alright.

- He spent 2 days in the NICU, another 2 days in the NPCU, then we spent 3 days with him in the hospital before we took him home a week after he was born. It was a very stressful week (at least for us parents), but now it seems like years ago.

- In the NPCU, he made eye contact with DH for the first time while feeding. We also gave him his first bath there, and he started to smile. Well, as a reflex, anyway ;)

- During our stay at the hospital with him, he decided enough was enough and ripped out his feeding tube all by himself!

- Breast feeding has been a very big challenge. Right now I am exclusively pumping and feeding him breast milk from bottles. At first this was very difficult for me, because I was so set on breast feeding, but I'm coming to terms with things and relaxing a bit more about it all.

- He is a lot more alert than in the early few days. He opens his eyes wide, taking in the world. I often wonder what he sees or what he is thinking.

- Evan has found his voice - and what a voice! He likes getting our attention, especially if we don't give it to him right away.

- He looks like a total angel when he sleeps.

- One of my favorite things to do is sleep with him on my chest. It's relaxing for both of us.

- He likes sucking on our fingers to calm himself down.

- He has started to grab things when we hold him, like our shirts, my hair, or DH's chest hair - ouch!

- We *think* he has started to smile at us for real (at least he's awake and looking at us when he does it now).

- He looks absolutely hilarious when we try to burp him. He just gets this grumpy look on his face, and he constantly looks up at us, like he's saying "Alright - are you done already?".

- The cats have been so good during this whole thing! When Evan cries, Isaac gets concerned and sits near him until one of us soothes him. Isaac still sleeps with us all night every night. Izzie hasn't been nearly as interested, but we make sure she gets her petting time in.

- It has been amazing to see DH with him. He's definitely a great dad. He's also a great husband for putting up with my crazy hormones! I'm so thankful he was able to take a decent chunk of time off (7 weeks), but wish it could be more.

It has been a crazy month, with lots of ups and downs. We can't wait to see what the next month has in store!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

5 hours

Last night, Evan slept in a five-hour chunk, from 10pm to 3am. I got so much sleep in a row that I actually felt kind of groggy and ill when we woke up to feed him! It was definitely nice (especially since he then slept from 3:30 to 8am), and made up for him screaming his head off practically all evening.

The in-laws are coming to visit this week - they will be the first family members that Evan will meet! My Mom is coming in mid-December until the new year, and my Dad will join us over Christmas.

And, for lack of content recently, I hope to make it up with cute pictures:

Fig. 1: Are you ready for some football? Because Evan is!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Changing Goals

Apparently, even though we're home all day long, there are far less hours in the day than ever before. How is that possible?

For example, I'm the type of person to set goals for the day. Before Evan came, I would have goals like: respond to X number of emails, finish writing section of grant, read Y papers, etc.. Then I would get home and cook dinner, do some knitting and/or reading, watch a ton of TV, read and comment on blogs, surf the net, and still feel bored.

Now? I'm pretty stoked if I can shower before noon AND be able to run some sort of errand in the afternoon. Like today - I went to Michael's and bought a photo album. Woohoo!! My next goal is to print photos to put in the album, but that's a goal for another day (or maybe even week).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mom Guilt

I never knew how acute Mom guilt could be. I'm sure the crazy hormones in the early weeks after birth don't help either.

We've been having issues with breast feeding. The biggest problem is that Evan is so young. Being born at about 35 weeks means he didn't develop the suck/swallow technique very well. This means, even though he can latch on and feed off the breast, he isn't very efficient at it and he gets tired quickly. He can be on the breast for 15-20 minutes, working as hard as he can, and not get very much milk.

So, in order for him to be able to breast feed, he needs to be bigger and stronger. In order to make sure he's getting enough food in order for him to grow bigger and stronger, we've been supplementing with bottles of pumped breast milk. But, this means that he's not getting a lot of "practice" on the breast, which could lead to him not wanting to breast feed at all in the future.

All of this has caused me a lot of anguish. Each time we try to breast feed, it is extremely emotional and frustrating. I typically end up crying, and feel like I just want to give up. I worry because I know he doesn't get much milk from me, and so we have to supplement with a bottle. I get frustrated being attached to the pump, because it means less quality time I'm spending with him. I worry that my milk supply either won't keep up with his demand or will start to deplete.

I talked to my midwives about this yesterday, and they eased my mind a bit by saying the important thing right now is that Evan is growing and getting stronger. If that means he's getting breast milk from a bottle, then so be it. Hopefully, once he gets strong enough, he'll be able to breast feed. And if he doesn't end up being able to for whatever reason, there are other solutions.

Now a confession: I haven't attempted to breast feed for two days and I feel a lot better emotionally. I've been able to feed Evan from a bottle and I feel more connected with him. I know that I should try breast feeding again soon, but I am so nervous because I don't want to deal with the pressure of having "successful" feeds.

Before Evan arrived, I knew I wanted to breast feed. What I didn't realize was how agonizing it would be if I couldn't do it for some reason. I feel okay with where we are right now, because it's acceptable for it not to be working because he's young --- but then I think about a week, two weeks, a month from now and I'm already overcome by guilt if it doesn't work (or if I decide not to push forward).

This whole mom thing is hard. I just want to give Evan the best, and I feel my best might not be good enough.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!


As you can imagine, things are still a bit nutty around here, but we're doing well. Evan is making giant strides - his weight is back to what it was at birth and more (he was 6 pounds 6 ounces on Thursday, and today he was 6 pounds 10 ounces!). We're settling into more of a routine at home, and sometimes have time to do things other than changing diapers, feeding, or bathing Evan :) DH even raked all the leaves in our yard today and I managed to have a long bath!

I'm hoping to get this blog more regular again in the nearish future, but in the meantime I'll try to at least post updates on how we're going.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home!

Just a quick update to say that little Evan came home with us last night!! He's doing so well here - much better than at the hospital. Probably because his parents are much less stressed :)

He was one week old yesterday - welcome home little man!

Fig. 1 - mommy happy to be home with Evan. Yes, that might be the dorkiest shirt ever (or at least that I own).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baby Update

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and words of encouragement! I love my readers :)

Evan is still in the hospital, but he is doing really well! He was taken out of the NICU on Wednesday night, and put in what they call the NPCU (basically a step down nursery for healthier babies). His glucose levels evened out, so he is being fed either by breast milk (either directly from me or a bottle), or formula - no IV.

He has a bit of jaundice, so they've been using lights to treat that. He was under the lights last night and the night before, but hasn't been under them during the day. We're hoping his levels stay down now, but it's a waiting game.

The biggest reason he's still in the hospital is because he's young and can sometimes have trouble feeding. He gets tired and falls asleep (which is so cute, but of course we'd rather have him eating enough!). So, we just need to get that to be consistent and then he'll be closer to coming home with us.

Emotionally, it's been a roller coaster for us. It's hard because we weren't expecting him to come early (of course), so weren't really prepared for him to have to stay in the hospital. Another reason it's hard is because he's such a big boy, so it's difficult to keep in mind that he came 5 weeks early and needs to develop more. Leaving him at night to come home is really sad, but we know it's for the best that he stays where he is right now.

Will post another update soon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Surprise!

Well - Tuesday certainly turned into an interesting day!

At about 2pm I felt this gush of fluid, and by 6pm Evan Michael was born!!! It went crazy fast - I called DH and my midwife at about 2:30. DH came home, packed a bag for me, and we met my midwife at the hospital by 3:30. They did a bunch of checks, and sure enough I was in labor. By the time the on-call OB checked me (I don't remember what time) I was 8cm!! They asked if I wanted an epidural, but I figured if I got through to that point without one, then I'll just go for the glory. That was the only interaction I had with the OB.

Let me be frank - labor SUCKED!! It was excruciating, and pushing was really really difficult. But, I didn't have the choice and just kept plugging away. I think I must have said (and by said, I mean screamed at the top of my lungs) "I can't do this anymore!!" and "I just want him out!!" about 1000 times! But, I did it, and he came within 4 hours of my water breaking.

He weighs 6 lbs 9 oz (2980 grams), and he looks to be doing alright for the most part. He had some initial problems breathing and his glucose levels were low, so he was put in the NICU. However, his breathing is great now and his sugar levels are getting better. We don't know right now how long he will need to be in the NICU. Will keep everyone posted on that.

Phew!! What a frickin' crazy day!



So, let's see - for the pool I'll take all the entries that are in there as of right now (11:30am Eastern Time on Oct. 20th). That means the winners are:

Birth date: October 19th - closest guess was RB with November 11th!!

Weight: 6 pounds 9 ounces (2980 grams) - closest was Nicole with 7 pounds 4 ounces!!

Length of labor: 4 hours - closest was RB again with 3 hours!!

Congrats to the winners (and I'm sure thankful some of you lost with your huge weight and long labor estimates)! Please email me at mrscomethunter "at" rogers "dot" com to claim your prize (of course, it might take a while before we're settled over here to get it all done, but you will be getting them!).

Monday, October 18, 2010

35 Weeks

Tomorrow I will be 35 weeks pregnant! I can't believe how fast the past 8(ish) months have gone by.


Fig. 1: (top) Me at 34 weeks and 6 days (photo includes me in a pink top as per Cath's suggestion). (bottom) Mr. Greedy of the Mr. Men series. Does anyone else see a resemblance?

Not too much new is going on pregnancy-wise, although my symptoms seemed to have reverted back to what they were in the first trimester: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, etc.. Otherwise, right now I just feel like it's a waiting game to see when Baby G will make his entrance into the world.

So, with that in mind, I thought it might be fun to run a pool! Here are the categories:

1. Birthday (the due date is November 23rd)
2. Weight
3. Length of labor

Prizes will be given out for each category ($10 gift card to your favorite online store).

Here are the rules:
  • Prizes will go to the first person who guesses closest in each category (this is so I don't end up with a 10-way tie and have to spend hundreds of dollars on prizes. It also makes it advantageous to enter early!)
  • No "without going over" rule
  • You can win in more than one category
  • Enter your official guesses in the comments of this post by 5pm Eastern Time on October 25th
  • You must use some sort of identifying name when you comment (i.e., don't use "anonymous")
  • In order to receive the prize, you must be willing to part with the contact information needed to get the gift card to you (I imagine this would be different depending on the store)
  • If you do not claim your prize within 5 days of the announcement (or decline the prize), the prize will go to the next closest guess (and so on, until someone claims the prize!)
I'll announce the winners as soon as I can after the birth! Have fun and good luck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Update to "B.Ed?"

Thank you all for your comments on yesterday's post. I did respond to everyone, but wanted to write a separate update here as well because many of the comments were based around a couple similar themes. There is also some new information regarding the outreach position.

1. If I don't accept, can I defer or re-apply?
As far as I know, I could not defer my acceptance until 2012. A friend of mine emailed me yesterday about the second issue (she is also applying to B.Ed. programs, but not here), and said re-applying after declining might very well hurt my chances. Something to think about for sure.

2. Daycare for Baby G
It's not putting Baby G in to daycare that I am worried about - he will be going if I attend this program or if I get a job (and, at this point, it will be one or the other). It's the cost of daycare that I am more worried about (because if I go back to school, we will be living on one income).

3. Future Job Security/Family Life
Even though the job prospects right after getting the B.Ed. may not be ideal, once I get a teaching position it would be pretty secure. Also, being a teacher means I would get the same holidays/time off as our child(ren), which is good for our family. These points are definitely something to think about. The program is only 8 months long, but the long-term benefits could be really great.

4. Flipping the Coin :)
I love EGF's advice! The problem is I would love to do both sides of the coin (do the B.Ed. and take the outreach job).

5. Waiting
The friend who emailed me also made another great point - it would be easier to go back to school once the kid(s) are older. Daycare is less expensive for older children, and of course they start school these days at the age of 4 (or younger?). This would give me the opportunity to try out the outreach position to see if I really like it, while not hurting my chances of getting in to the program and saving up money so going back to school wouldn't be such a kick to the pocketbook.

New information: I received an email yesterday from the professor who is applying for funding for the potential outreach position: he has received official word that the money is coming through!

What does that mean for me? Well, the outreach position is pretty much (99%) guaranteed to exist next spring. However, even though the people involved have said they would like me to take on the position, there is nothing in writing --- and there won't be for some months, I'd imagine.

What it comes down to: the outreach position is pretty much guaranteed, but not quite. If I have the choice between taking the job and going back to school for a B.Ed., at this point I would take the job. BUT, the position is not 100% guaranteed - should I still apply for the B.Ed. program?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

B.Ed?

Around this time for the past four years I have contemplated applying to the Bachelor of Education program so I could become a primary/secondary school science teacher. The applications for the September start date are due the December before, which means one must really think ahead to what the upcoming year will bring.

I first considered it about half-way through my PhD when I just wanted to give up. But, my (stupid?) pride got in the way of that. I just had to finish what I started.

In my last year of my PhD (2008) I didn't apply for the 2009 start date because I was sure DH and I would be moving out of the city.

In 2009, I decided not to apply for the 2010 start date because I was sure we'd either have a baby by then, or at least I'd be pregnant and wouldn't be able to finish out the year (which is true).

So, here I am again. Should I or shouldn't I apply for the 2011 start date? I keep going back and forth on this, but I really need to make the decision soon so I can put together the application before December 1st if I decide to apply.

Reasons For
  • First and foremost, I would love to teach science! It's been a passion of mine for many years now, so to be able to officially teach would be wonderful.
  • As of right now, I have no job to go back to after Baby G arrives.
  • My (paid) maternity leave would last until next November, meaning I'll at least be bringing in some sort of income for the first couple of months of classes.
  • The program is only eight months long, so it is not a huge time commitment
Reasons Against
  • Finances: yes, my maternity leave would last until November, but what happens after that? With our expenses right now we would just get by on DH's salary alone, but if I went back to school we'd also have to pay for tuition (ugh!) and daycare for Baby G.
  • Because of the above, I would probably have to find a part-time job (perhaps tutoring?) in order to supplement our income. That would mean I would be in school full-time, then have to work as well. That's a big time commitment, especially with a little one.
  • There is no guarantee I would get a job after I finished the program. It seems to be a struggle to even get on the supply (substitute) teacher list, let alone getting a permanent position.
  • There is a very good chance that there will be an outreach job at the university for me in the spring/summer. Even though it's not teaching in an official manner, it would be education related.
I guess the question I need to answer is does/should my passion for teaching outweigh all the logical arguments against it? Lots to think about, and very little time to decide!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Week 5 Winner!

I won this week's NFL blogger pool, getting 11 out of 14 games correct! Here is my prize:

Fig. 1: The illustrious NFL blogger pool trophy.

I'm pretty stoked about this win because a) I've been doing pretty crappy (only 5-6 points) until now, and b) I smoked the rest of the pool by at least 3 points. This allowed me to jump from 15th place overall to 9th. Hopefully I can get another few good weeks in!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knitted "Felted" Tote

Way back in March I started knitting this tote bag. Well, after making small dents in it over the past few months, I sucked it up the last 2 weeks and got all the parts knit up. I even bought nice bamboo handles for it:

Fig. 1: All the parts knitted, ready to be felted.

As the caption for Figure 1 says, all I had to do was felt the pieces, then sew them together. One felts a piece by putting it through a hot cycle in a washing machine. This causes the stitches to blend together and the piece to shrink.

Usually a top loading washing machine is recommended, but I have a front loader. So, I Googled how to felt in a front loader, followed the directions, and after four permutations, nothing was happening to my bag!

After posting my mishaps on Facebook and Raverly, asking advice from my knitter friends, I figured out that I had used the wrong type of yarn. Apparently acrylic yarn can't be felted - one is supposed to use, you know, real wool. Duh.

Well, I certainly wasn't going to let almost 8 months of work go down the drain. So, I decided to knit up the bag as-is, but with knitted handles (I figured I would save the nice bamboo handles for when I totally don't screw up a project). Figure 2 below shows the final product - not bad, I suppose. It is cute, but it's not very sturdy. So, I will have to figure out what I can tote around in my tote bag that's not too heavy.

Fig. 2: The "finished" product (or as finished as it will ever be).

Next project: a baby hat for Baby G, using this pattern as recommended by Wool Free and Lovin' Knit!

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Eyes! My Eyes!

A couple weeks ago, DH and I went to a local antique mall searching for a bookshelf or something for our front entrance. We didn't find anything that would work, but we did find this (those of you on FB have seen this already):

Fig. 1: Quite possibly the ugliest couch ever.

Have you ever seen anything like it in your life? The shape, the fabric, the random wood circles - it all just comes together, doesn't it? The best feature is that part in the center of the couch rotates, so you can store stuff in there! How convenient! Oh, and those round cushions? They're reversible, so you can choose to have the patterned fabric, or be a bit more conservative and keep the yellow going.

It can be yours for just $800!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Which I Say "Screw It" and Give Up

I'm done.

I'm giving up on the observatory thing.

I've been thinking about it since the meeting with the department head. There is just no point to continue to work so hard for something no one else supports. As much as I would like to see the observatory remain open and used for public education and outreach purposes, there are so many other ways I can use my time in this way.

So, that's it. The observatory is closing its doors on December 31st, and may not ever be open again. I put a year into this project, on top of my full-time workload, for no pay and definitely no recognition. I wrote up a business proposal, I put together a steering committee, I organized two very successful events, and got the word out there about the observatory. I did my best, and although I'm disappointed, I don't consider any of it a failure.

If I end up getting a potential job (that I'm still not going to write about much until it's set in stone), we might revisit the idea. After all, the observatory isn't going anywhere, is it?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Misery Wars

Misery wars are awesome, aren't they? People sure love to one-up each other, or to downplay the excitement of others.

These misery wars tend to fall into a few categories (if you can think of others, please share!):

The "my-life-sucks-more-than-yours-so-ha" war: in which the second complainer "tops" the first complainer.

"Ugh, it's so hot here!"
"Well, at least you only have to deal with dry heat. The humidity here makes it so much worse!"

The "know-it-all" war: in which someone who has been-there-done-that relays stories about how horrible what you're about to go through will be.

"I didn't sleep very well last night."
"You should enjoy your time to yourself now - just wait until baby arrives!!"

The "I-can-make-anything-about-me" war: in which someone twists your innocent comment into a tragic story about their life.

"So excited to go to Vegas this weekend!"
"Flying sucks though - the last trip I went on they lost my bags and I didn't get them until I got home. Totally ruined the trip. I hate traveling."

The "mwa-mwaaaaaaaa" war (aka Debbie-Downer war): in which someone totally rains on your parade.

"We just bought a house!!"
"Sure, you're excited now, but just wait until you get a leak in your basement, find mold in your attic, and have no money to spend on anything else."

This competition has become even more evident in my life now that I'm expecting my first child. People just LOVE to tell me how much life is going to suck once the little one arrives. Here are just a few (real) examples:

"Only two more months of work left!"
"You think raising a kid won't be work?"

"It will be so interesting to watch their development."
"Yeah, until they're teenagers and they're telling you they hate you all the time."

"You're house is really nice. Just wait until the baby comes though - you'll never live like this again".

I want to get little trophies to give out to people who just love to win misery wars.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Director/Environmentalist?

For some reason, James Cameron (director of Titanic and Avatar) and his visit to the oil sands in Alberta has been making the news pretty consistently over the last few days.

Am I missing something here? Who gives a crap about his opinion on such things? Does he have some sort of expertise that I'm not aware of? Why are we holding press conferences to hear his opinion after three whole days of touring the area?

I don't get the whole celebrity champion for a cause thing. They don't know ANYTHING!! I get that it can bring attention to a cause because of their celebrity status. Sure, we can use them as spokespeople...I guess...if you're into that kind of thing and somehow have great respect for these people. But, when they take it upon themselves to "investigate" an issue and then hold press conferences about it? Come ON, people! Should we really be taking their opinions to heart on such matters?

Maybe celebrities should stick to their day jobs, and let us scientists do our thing too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday, Yummy Sunday

For some reason this weekend I was really motivated to cook some more adventurous meals. As we were planning our menu for the week, DH suggested we try making a beef dip (my all time favorite sandwich that I must get if I see it on a restaurant menu). I was intrigued and found a highly rated recipe to try. Then, as we were grocery shopping on Saturday, I had a flash back to this amazing crepe place in Montreal, and wanted to recreate the meal too. I also had a strange craving for cherry Jell-O.

Needless to say, Sunday was a day of good eatin':

Fig. 1: Crepes stuffed with granny smith apples dusted with cinnamon, brie, and topped with maple syrup. Crepe recipe from allrecipes.com, stuffing was recreated from memory.

Fig. 2: Homemade beef dip sandwich (made in the slow cooker), served with fries and au jus for dipping. Recipe from allrecipes.com.

Fig. 3: Jell-O cake (layers of graham crackers, cherry Jell-O and whipped cream). Recipe from my Mom.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Alyssa 2.0?

I'll admit that I haven't been keeping up with technology so much in the past couple of years. Yes, I have a blog, a Facebook account, and check my email every 13.26 seconds. But, I've never used Twitter, I've never downloaded a Podcast, and I keep track of the blogs I read by clicking on them over on the right hand side as opposed to subscribing to them through some sort of reader.

Just this past week though, something has come along and has made me think about expanding my technology repertoire again: Netflix.

For those of you who don't know what Netflix is, first let me ask...

have you been living under a rock??

Erm...cough...cough...anyway....

One of my online friends (see? I'm not that behind the times) who lives in the US has been raving about Netflix forever. But, it hasn't been available in Canada until just last week. I signed up pretty much immediately and watched my first program (interestingly enough, about how technology has affected our society) within 5 minutes.

It was eye opening. To be able to sit on my couch, choose a TV program that I would never have access to given our lowly basic cable package and watch it without much effort and very little cost was amazing. There really are great things about technology!

On the same day, I posed a request to my Facebook friends. I have become bored with the music I listen to and wanted some recommendations. Well, Cath suggested that I download some Podcasts - something I've never done! So, now I have a 2-hour program sitting in iTunes that I can listen to at my leisure.

Also, because I live almost across the country from my parents, we are starting to replace phone calls with video chats over iChat. As great as this is now, it will be even more fantastic once Baby G arrives. He'll be able to meet his grandparents from 3000 km away!

I'm also considering a Kindle, though I'm not entirely convinced I would enjoy that more than the real experience of a book. Does anyone have one, or some other reader? How do you like it?

Now I'm wondering what other wonderful technology is out there that I should try out. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Evolving Roles

There is a job possibility for me when I come back from parental leave. I don't want to get into specifics because it's not official or anything yet, but it would involve working with some of the same people (staff/faculty) I've been working with as a student and/or post-doc, and supervising graduate students as TAs.

One of my concerns about the position is that I really won't have any peers, or anyone I can connect to on a personal level, because I'll be working at the same institution. On one hand, I'll be working with professors, and I don't feel like I'll be on the same "level" as them because I've worked for/with them as a student and now a post-doc, and don't think they will change their perception of me. On the other hand, I'll be working with students, and I don't feel like I can/should make a personal connection with them either.

The job is right up my alley, but I'm still wondering if I'll be happy in such a situation. I know from my PhD experience that having social connections with people I work with is also important. I don't want to feel isolated like I have for the past few years.

I think maintaining a professional relationship with the students will be relatively easy, as there is such a high turnover rate for TAs. But, what about the flip side? How would I navigate the student to post-doc to staff role at the same institution (with the same people) so other staff members and professors will see me as an equal now?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

31 Work Days To Go

Not that I'm counting or anything, but I have a maximum of 31 work days to go before I start my maternity/parental leave on November 15th. Of course, things could happen to make me leave work early, like having to go on bed-rest or Baby G arriving early, but planning for the longest length of time is probably best.

Now, here's a strange problem - I am running out of things to do! I seriously don't know if I'll have enough work to keep me busy until November 15th. Back in August, I listed everything I need to get done before I leave work. Here is my progress:

1. MSc paper - I passed the latest draft on to my MSc supervisor at the end of June. I have sent her a couple emails, reminding her that if the paper isn't submitted by the time I go on maternity leave it never will be (it's been over 5 years in the making). I haven't heard a thing.

2. Post-doc project - this is basically on hold until I get some vital information from our collaborators. I have been asking for it for weeks now, and nothing has come of it.

3. Outreach how-to packages - these have been written up and sent to the appropriate people. The equipment has also been transferred to someone else.

4. Post-doc lit search - this still has to be finished, but is a small project.

5. Education conference - the lit search has been done. Other people have signed up to take over my organizational role.

6. Astronomy outreach - all events are done. I may or may not meet with the department head about the observatory project again before I leave.

7. Post-doc association stuff - the only things I have left to do is attend one more meeting and a post-doc get together (both next week).

So, as you can see, I have very little to work on right now. The days are starting to drag by because I'm getting pretty bored, and it seems it will get worse as I check off more and more things off my to-do list. I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean, how often do we get to say we don't have enough to do?

What I'm guessing will happen is I'll get what I need for #1 and #2 too late and all of a sudden be freaking out that I won't have enough time to get it all done!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Crucial Confrontations: A Book Review

A while back, I was looking for books about dealing with confrontation. I ended up finding one on Amazon that had really great reviews: Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Paterson et al.. I picked it up from the library and excitedly started to read.

It started off on the right track - promising that I will learn various techniques on how to deal with sticky situations. Confrontations don't have to be aggressive or scary (which is what I'm always afraid of), that they are merely interactions in which one holds someone else accountable for their actions.

However, as I continued to read, I noticed a common theme: they were great about defining what problems people encounter in confrontations, but not specifically how to address them. They would say that the problems should be addressed, but no concrete advice was given.

A lot of the information is also plain common sense. What I ended up learning was that my confrontation techniques were just fine. It's more that I need help when other people have bad techniques (such as abuse of power/authority, choosing wrong issue to confront, confront for no reason or don't give reasons, etc..). The book did not address this whatsoever.

I noted a couple weeks ago that I'm starting to realize that self-help books aren't helpful at all (unless you're the 1% of people that the advice is tailored specifically for). This books was one of the reasons for that post. I was questioning my confrontation abilities, and thought I could learn about this from a book. But, when I read the book, nothing helped, and then I felt even more confused!

I think this will be my last "self-help" book I read in a while. I just think they make me question my abilities too much, and that's a bigger problem than where I started!

I would not recommend this book to anyone, but there were a couple of interesting nuggets. 2/5.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Big Boy

Because I've been measuring big, I had an ultrasound done a couple weeks ago and also did a gestational diabetes (GD) test last week (where I had to fast, then drink a God-awful orange drink, and had blood drawn 3 times). The test results are back and all is good!

My blood sugar levels are well within the normal ranges, so that's great news. No GD for me! As for my ultrasound, my fluid levels are "generous" but still within the normal range. Baby G is measuring a bit larger than average: he was already about 3 pounds 6 ounces at 27.5 weeks! So, it sounds like he's going to be a big boy.

The fluid levels and the size of the baby could mean I end up going into labour earlier than expected, but we'll see. I'll be getting another ultrasound done sometime in the next three weeks to keep an eye on the measurements.

Overall, I'm happy with the results! I'm glad I don't have to deal with GD, but a bit scared at how big this boy is going to get!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Noncommittal

So, I had my meeting with the department head yesterday to discuss the future of the observatory. I was hoping for an indication of whether or not I can still push ahead and develop an education/outreach program for the facility. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get an answer either way.

During the meeting, held with another professor in the department who is supportive of the program, the head brought up a few of his concerns. Each time, either I or the other professor had a reasonable answer. Yet, by the end of the meeting the head was still not convinced the initiative is worthwhile, and I got the feeling he will never be convinced but doesn't want to be the one to say "no".

Where does that leave me and the program, then?

Well, he wants to discuss it more in another month or so. Before then, he wants us to come up with a proposal that outlines what outreach can be done at this observatory that can't be done on campus, how it can be tied into the priorities of the department (research and student recruitment), what we need in terms of support, and what our plans are to prove the viability of the program.

If you've been keeping up with this particular sub-plot of my life, this might sound familiar. About a year ago, I was asked to write a very similar document.

In addition to the proposal, the head also wants us to prove the viability before he commits any funding to the project. This is a Catch-22, because we're not allowed to use the facility before December 31st. But, if we wait until after this date there is a whole host of issues that arise: I'll be on maternity leave; the weather is awful until about the end of March; the telescope won't be maintained (and so will basically degrade); etc..

So, here I am again - I have to decide whether to jump through another hoop, or just give it up already. On the one hand, writing the document won't be too difficult or time consuming. So, jumping through that particular hoop won't be particularly onerous. On the other hand, a year ago I told myself I would give this project a year, and if nothing comes of it, then I should move on.

I have put a lot of time and energy into this project (for free), put together a draft of a business proposal, put together a steering committee, ran two very successful events this summer, and still haven't been able to convince anyone to give me the full go ahead. I've done everything that's been asked of me, and still no progress.

Is it worth it for me to jump through yet another hoop? Maybe after this, I'll actually get backing from the head; or maybe another hoop will appear and I'll have to rethink this whole thing again.

Lots to consider (but nothing at the same time). I'm not going to rush into any decisions right now. I'll just sit on it and see how I feel in a week or two.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meeting

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be meeting with the department head to discuss the possible future of the nearby observatory slated to shut down at the end of the year. Two other professors, who are big supporters of the program, will also be there (which I am grateful for!).

I'm not really sure how it will go. The head seems to be supportive of outreach stuff in general, but I think he's hesitant about this particular project for various reasons (funding, technical support, etc.).

In the end though, all I want is either a yes or no to go ahead with the program after December 31st. If he says yes, then that's great, and we can start going to other university VIPs with the knowledge we have the backing of the department. If he says no, then that's honestly fine by me too. I know I have done my best to create awareness of the observatory, the two open houses this summer were a success, and I did all I could do to keep the facility open. No regrets.

Stay tuned for an update!

PS: It's our two-year wedding anniversary today! Happy anniversary, honey :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

True (?) Happiness

For some reason, lately I've been doing a lot of self-help related reading. I read through the Living Oprah blog, and have been reading a couple books about handling confrontation, worry, etc.. As I've been reading, I have started to wonder if this kind of thing really helps. Does the advice really make us better, more well-rounded people? Or does it just make us question the way we do things and make us feel worse about ourselves?

In the same theme, have you noticed that there is a very concentrated focus in our society on finding "true" happiness, finding "our calling", living our best life, etc.? What does that even mean?

I like my life. I have hobbies I enjoy (knitting, reading, writing, cooking). I love my house, and spending time at home. I have a great husband who I get to share my life with. But, sometimes I catch myself wondering if it's all enough. Could I be happier? Should I be doing more to have a better, more fulfilling life? Should I be traveling the world out of a backpack, going white-water rafting, practicing yoga, meditating, making hand-crafted greeting cards, or donating all my time to a worthy charity?

Is it me, or does all this pressure just make us feel worse about our lives? At what point do we just enjoy what we have instead of trying to make ourselves, or our lives, better (and "better" according to who?)? Do we really need a push to find true happiness, or is all this stuff just a bunch of crap creating more stress in our lives?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby G Knitting Project

Last month I mentioned I was started a knitting project for Baby G's nursery: knitting squares with the letters of his name and make a wall hanging.

Well, I finished the squares last week, and got around to blocking them on Monday night. This was the first time I ever blocked something, so it was kind of exciting!

Fig. 1: One of the letters in Baby G's name, and the other colors I used to make up the wall-hanging.

Now I have a decision to make: do I hang the letters separately, or do I sew them together somehow? If I go for the latter, do I sew the pieces directly together or put some sort of a boarder between the squares?

Thoughts?

Now I'll go back to working on the felted tote bag. I'm really excited about the final product, but to be honest the knitting is pretty boring, since it's just the same stitch over and over again. I think that's why I keep putting it down. Hopefully I can get it done before Baby G arrives though (not because I'll need it, but it would be nice to have it finished).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Living O Update

Back at the beginning of July, I wrote about our book club's side discussion about Oprah. Specifically, what it is about her that makes women base some pretty major life decisions on what she says/advises?

The conversation came about because one of the book club members (Andrea, a regular commenter on this blog) had recently read the Living Oprah book by Robyn Okrant, and still felt many of the questions that came up in our discussion were unanswered. So, I decided to read the Living Oprah blog myself to see if Robyn had any insights in to how Oprah's advise and suggestions affect women, and why some women take her advice without thinking or doing their own research.

I finished reading Robyn's 2007 entries a couple weeks ago. She posted pretty much every weekday for the entire year to share her thoughts about each Oprah show. Not only that, she gave herself completely over to Oprah: every suggestion Oprah made on the show, Robyn had to do. It was a very interesting, funny, and sometimes frustrating read.

One common theme that came up (which we discussed at the book club) was Oprah's contradicting advice. One day she would get everyone to sign a contract to live their best life (exercise, diet, meditation, etc.) then the next day she would be giving out cake and ice cream to her audience. These contradictions seemed to frustrate Robyn quite a bit - and for good reason! First, it was difficult for her to follow Oprah's advice. Second, she felt that even though she was living her best life, Oprah was not practicing what she preached. Robyn brought up an interesting point a few times throughout the year: should we hold Oprah to her own standard she sets on the show? Does she have to follow all her own advice, or is she purely a way to get this information out there?

Another interesting thing that happened to Robyn was how her outlook about life and herself seemed to become more confused as the year went on. A number of times she mentioned that she had never thought about her appearance more than during that time. She had never been the type to ask her husband if she looked okay, but she started constantly worrying about her looks and if she was put together enough. This kind of behavior extended to how she was eating, what her house looked like, what activities she was involved in, and if she was spiritual enough. It was interesting how the more advice she received from Oprah, the more unsure she became about her own life and decisions.

Robyn mentioned a few times how Oprah would not follow up on certain challenges or stories, even if she promised too. For example, the 2007 season started off with Oprah getting everyone to sign up for The Best Life Challenge - but she never returned to the topic to see how people were doing! Interestingly enough, this was one of my beefs with Robyn's blog as well. She would write these great posts, but would rarely follow up or reflect on them. Perhaps the book is better for this? Or maybe she is more reflective in her posts after 2007?

I am continuing to read the rest of her entries to see if she has any more concrete thoughts on how the experiment affected her. If I find anything interesting, I will let you know, but I just wanted to share my thoughts about the blog up to this point.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Depression at the Undergraduate Level

A couple days ago, I attended a teaching workshop that focused on issues facing current undergraduate students. One reoccurring theme was that today's students suffer from stress and depression much more than earlier generations. Some of the causes could be heavier workloads, too many other things taking up their time (cell phone, internet, etc.), not taking care of themselves physically (sleep, diet, exercise), and lack of ability to deal with emotions.

A lot of time was spent discussing what the signs are for depression and what can be done to help, such as making students aware of the issues in the first place, knowing who to call for help on campus, and being sympathetic.

Although it was interesting, I was left feeling even more confused on how to deal with these types of situations. How do we as teachers (i.e., not trained psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.) tell the difference between a student who is just having a rough day from one who is truly suffering? What about students who try to take advantage of such situations (for example, I went to school with someone who's "grandmother" died 3 times - all during exam times)? How are we supposed to know when to just lend a sympathetic ear, or when a student needs more than that?

Has anyone else been to a workshop like this one? Did you get any concrete advice?

Has anyone had to deal with such a situation in their classroom or lab? If so, then what did you do? Did you feel you did the right thing?

In a more general sense - do you believe that more people suffer from depression these days, or is it just more accepted/more diagnosed?

If anyone is interested in seeing more of what was discussed during the workshop, one of the speakers has his PowerPoint slides available here for download.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

28 Weeks

Well, Baby G has been with us for 28 weeks as of yesterday.

Here's the deal: I know I'm supposed to be grateful for being pregnant, especially after the loss we experienced in December. I know this whole thing is a "miracle", and I should be happy, and glowing, blah, blah, blah...but, you know what?

Pregnancy is HARD!!

Hard on me emotionally, mentally, and (duh!) physically. I've definitely learned that I'm not one of those women who LOVES being pregnant. At this point, I'm just trying to get through it without killing someone.

So, in honor of getting to the 28 week mark without being arrested for manslaughter, I'm allowing myself to vent. If you don't think I deserve to vent, then sod-off and don't read on.

I'm so tired of:

- not being able to eat the foods I used to love. From the nausea in the first trimester, to random food aversions in the second (and now third), there have been a lot of things I haven't been able to enjoy like I used too. Spicy foods in particular.

- not being able to have a glass of wine with dinner. I generally don't drink that much - maybe a glass of wine or two a week - but to not even have the option is brutal. What's worse? I've actually been craving beer lately. I can't even remember the last time I wanted a beer, but here I am.

- having to sleep with 4 pillows so that my hips don't hurt, or so I don't roll on to my back (because then I can't breathe).

- (TMI alert) having to get up 3-4 times a night to pee.

- not being able to breathe properly. I get out of breath walking from my car to the office, or walking up the stairs at home.

- not being able to bend over without a) being in pain, b) feeling like I'm squishing the crap out of Baby G, and/or c) looking like a complete fool.

- the frickin' heat!! This has been a record-breaking year in terms of hot temperatures, high humidity, and low precipitation. Yay.

- generally feeling like ass most of the time. If it's not back pain, it's Baby G kicking me in the ribs, or feeling nauseous, or being super emotional, or being exhausted, or, or, OR.

- my belly getting bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER. How is it possible that this baby is going to grow more? How is my belly going to stretch anymore? I still have another 12 weeks(ish), and Baby G is supposed to triple in weight by then. HOW????

Not that I want Baby G to be born premature, but I'm pretty much ready to be done with pregnancy. I seriously cannot believe that I have another 2-3 months of this.

If anyone says shit like:
- you should enjoy this time before the baby comes...
- it will all be worth it when you see Baby G for the first time...
- at least you CAN sleep now...
- just wait until the baby comes...
- just wait until the baby is X, Y, Z age...

...or any other "helpful" comment we like to tell other people, I will frickin' lose it.

That is all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

September Scientiae: Missing Out?

Karina, over at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist, is hosting September's Scientiae. She asks bloggers to write about "...what types of tools other people rely on for their research."

I had to think long and hard about this question because, honestly, my research is pretty boring when it comes to necessary tools. Why? Because I basically sit in front of a computer all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. It bores me just thinking about it, let alone writing about it! The only thing I could think of to write about was how I use the internet for pretty much everything. Boring!

This makes me sad, and it sometimes makes me feel like I'm not a "real" scientist. I read other blogs where they talk about having to spend time at the bench, or their equipment breaking down, or traveling to do field work. DH also has a very hands-on job: he's in the lab all the time, designing things, building things, fixing things.

Even though my masters and doctoral work were categorized as observational astronomy, I did very little observing myself. Most of my research was based on archived data. If I did get new data, other people (professional observers working at the telescope(s)) obtained it for me. I did do some observations using the local telescope, and I did take two very short trips to use another telescope on my own. But, that's about it.

During my two short post-docs, I really wanted to pick up a small project or two that involved using my hands, being in the lab or field, even if it was on the side. I was involved with such a project during my first post-doc (with my PhD supervisor), but the project was only in the initial stages that all I was able to do in the four months was to order some of the equipment. In my current post-doc, the plan was to go out in the field once or twice to help install or fix GPS equipment. But, then Baby G came along, and the trips were postponed, and it just hasn't worked out.

It makes me wonder if I missed out on something. It makes me wonder, had I had these types of experiences in grad school, if I would have enjoyed that time more and not want to jump the research ship so readily. But, maybe this is why I enjoy outreach so much. I get to be out there, interacting with people, showing them stuff that doesn't involve me sitting in front of a computer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Few Good Links

Maybe it's because I'm feeling rather beaten up over some things that have been going on at work lately, but there have been some amazing blog posts recently about how people really suck about judging others. These posts really made me feel better (mostly because misery loves company), so I wanted to pass them along.

Stephanie, over at Yarn Harlot, discusses the different expectations of mothers and fathers. It all starts with her saying "...someone who asked me, straight out, if it bothers Joe that I go away like I do, leaving him with all the work." and she goes into a wonderful rant from there that I agree with 100%.

Slackermom (one of my new favorite blogs) describes for us what it truly means to be a slacker mom. I think it's something we should all aspire too.

Dr. Girlfriend discusses the importance of graduate students knowing more about possible, even - gasp! - alternative, career paths. When is the ideal of the ivory tower TT job going to come crashing down? When can people choose an "alternate" career path without being seen as a failure? When are we going to stop using the word "alternate" for any career path besides the TT?

If you're feeling judged lately, head over to these blogs and take a read, and let's stop judging every little freakin' thing we do, eh?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conflicted

As Baby G's arrival comes closer, I am starting to think about maternity leave more. As of right now, I don't have an official job to go back too. However, there are a couple things in the works that will hopefully change that:

First, the observatory thing - if we can convince the university VIPs to keep the observatory open after December 31st, someone will need to start organizing events, applying for funding, etc.. This is something I feel very excited and passionate about, and has been a pet project of mine for the last year. So, I feel very attached to it, and would love to see the program flourish. The question is, how much time can I dedicate to it after Baby G arrives? Is it something that I can keep my fingers in a bit to begin with and then jump back in with both feet at some time in the future? Or would I need to basically forget about taking more time off if we get the go-ahead?

Second, there is a potential for a different type of outreach position to receive funding in the next while. If the funding comes through, I have basically been offered the job (if I want it) and that they would be flexible with a start date. If the observatory thing is also approved, I could incorporate the duties associated with that into this job. The question here would be when would I like to go back to work? Would I like to go back part-time for a bit first, or go full-time right away?

Now, obviously both of these "problems" are completely up in the air right now. Who knows - maybe the university will tell me to screw off about the observatory and maybe the funding won't come through for the position. But, I'm a planner, so here I am.

It's not like I'm stressing out about this right now either - just thinking, really. My decision on when to go back (if I have something to go back to) will depend a lot on how I feel after Baby G arrives, which is not something I can even fathom at this point. Maybe I'll love being at home so much I won't ever want to go back to work, no matter how passionate I am about it now. Or maybe after 3 weeks I'll want to shoot myself, and be begging to go back. Most likely somewhere in between, but time will tell.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Success!!

The second open house at the observatory was a great success! Even though it was pouring down rain for the first part of the night, and cloudy for the rest, we had about 350 people come by!!

The event was bitter-sweet, as many people were asking when the next open house will be and we had to tell them that it was the last one for the year...maybe ever. I spent a lot of my time talking about the issues we are facing now in order to keep it open. The good news is everyone I talked to was very supportive about keeping it open.

What's the next step? Well, I'm going to write up a report of this second event. Then, it's time to start having meetings with some university VIPs (i.e., people that can influence the decision on whether or not the observatory can stay open). I have two very supportive, widely known, and respected faculty members that are behind me 100%, and will accompany me to these meetings to have more clout.

So, time will tell now. We basically have until December 31st to convince the VIPs that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

If you are feeling saddened by the thought of such a great facility closing its doors and are wondering what you can do to help, you can write a letter of support outlining why you think having this observatory stay open is valuable. You can send your letter to me via email (click on the "contact" link above). You can also join our Facebook group.

I will post updates, so stay tuned!