Friday, December 16, 2011

If The Blog Doesn't Post, It's Me

Hmmm, wasn't there a Jimmy Buffet song that went something like "If the phone doesn't ring, it's me?"  I seem to recall an underground bar in Chapel Hill (Trolls?), cheap beer and singing that verse.  Or not.  There's a lot that's a bit foggy about nights in Chapel Hill, and that was, ahem, a few years ago.

In any case, even though I haven't been here in a few months, that doesn't mean I haven't thought about you daily or that I haven't written dozens of brilliant posts in my mind.  (Both meanings of that sentence--there were written in my head and they were brilliant and only in my head were they actually brilliant)

In any case, my sabbatical is coming to an end.  3 more weeks and the spring semester starts up.  It's been a great leave.  I worked and I fell in love with my life and my research again.  (I've been wondering which blog I should put this on--my personal or professional one)  But since there will be family updates, we are here instead of there.

I shall also continue on the theme of how much FREAKING easier our life is now that it was 2 years ago, 1 year ago or even 6 months ago (although 6 to 9 months ago are when things starting really easing up).  Friends even comment to us how obvious it is that things are easier. I think one telling factor is that when they something cheery like "Happy Easter" I don't respond with "Fudge you!", only I didn't say Fudge.  (True story from Spring of 2010).

Anyhoo, the twins have moved into big kid beds and they Want To Stay There All Night.  And when they don't, we have taught them to just Just Get Up and Walk Into Our Room (lesson learned from the firstborn).  So far, Christopher has taken us up on that offer and it is a joyous thing.

The twins have also become very verbal, telling us about their day and their friends and have quickly learned to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.  This includes Bridget shouting her requests to our new Elf on the Shelf (Elfie) and taking the Santa potholder off the cabinet and telling him, too.  It's obviously important to cover all your bases before Christmas.

Conor, either inspired by the twins or from other kids in our carpool, has become more verbal, too, and is actually revealing facts and stories from his day at school.  You cannot imagine my relief at this.  Forever, Conor has not told me anything about his day.  Bridget, at age 2, was more revealing about what happened during her day than Conor ever was.  But now, I am hearing stories!  With kids' names!

And who knew our introverted son was such a ham?  The life cycle of piano lessons has been:

  • Love it
  • Hate It
  • RECITAL: Love, Love Love it!  

He was begging to stop lessons before the recital and now he's back to enjoying it and doing really well.  I'm really proud of him for that.

OK.  We are in the midst of Holiday Frenzy 2011.  We have had a 10 day stretch where only 2 nights have been free and some days we've had 2 and 3 events to attend.  Tonight, we're hosting a reception for our graduate program to honor our newest doctoral student and my first student to get her PhD.  There's a real sense of ownership over the grad students and I'm so excited for her.  It's also nice to see how our relationship is changing from mentor/mentee to more of colleagues.  Saturday is graduation and I get to help "hood her".  It's something like this and a pretty big deal.

So, yes.  Busy.  Fun.  Life. Work.  Better.  Much, much better.  That pretty much sums up my life right now.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

She's Crafty

She's crafty - she's gets around
She's crafty - she's always down
She's crafty - she's got a gripe
She's crafty - and she's just my type
She's crafty.....
   --The Beastie Boys

I have become crafty, albeit not in the way the Beastie Boys describe and whose song haunts my brain.  

I have been knitting up a storm lately.  And then, in a fit of over-ambitiousness, I bought a sewing machine and made Gryffindor robes for the kids so that they could be Harry, Hermione and Ron.   

And I did it with a minimal amount of stress and anxiety!  Actually, sewing is a lot of fun and a lot quicker than knitting.  

I have also discovered that there are an enormous number of my over-educated women friends of a certain age are also quite crafty.  For me, I feel like knitting, sewing and gardening are incredibly similar to the work I do normally---conducting research projects and writing them up into papers.  No, seriously.

I have a great deal of ownership over my research and writing (like my crafts).  And I hope it doesn't surprise any of you out there in blogland, but just like my craft projects, my research and writing always have "areas for improvement" the next go round.  (And not to be too defensive, but THAT'S NOT JUST A PROBLEM OF MY RESEARCH; ALL RESEARCH AND WRITING HAS ROOM FOR GROWTH.  ahem, ahem, cough, cough).

In any case, these knitting, sewing and gardening (and soon chickens and a koi pond) help me in my research.  Research and writing projects can take YEARS from inception to completion.  I think I would become incredibly discouraged if I couldn't point to something that is easier and quicker to produce.  So I go out and weed a bed and it's done and then, I can go write three pages of a draft.  I can knit a cap and rerun for the zillionth time a confirmatory factor analysis and a structural equation model.  I can sew up some robes and then work on that theory paper.

I know not every faculty member feels this way, but I find it very engaging and interesting.  Plus, we get some clothing and food, eh?  Not such a bad thing.  

It's better than making myself all worked up over what is a normal part of my job.  

I LOVE that pumpkin.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sleep and Curly Hair

((Insert comments about how busy I've been here))

OK!  Now that we have my excuses over, I'm going to talk about something that I've wanted to talk about, but have been too intimidated to post here on the blog as it is "public".  SLEEP.  Or How We Are Still Co-Sleeping With (and bfing) The Twins.  You should leave now if this topic annoys you or it might bug you.  (For those of you who don't have children or are way past this stage, sleep and how one's family accomplishes it appears to a controversial subject for modern parents)

But for everyone else who wants to know what it's like for a working mother to AP-ish with twins, keep reading.

So, umm, yeah. We are still co-sleeping.  Generally, we are really just co-sleeping with Bridget, because Christopher, THANK OUR LUCKY STARS, sleeps all night long in his crib.  Indeed, he is the ONLY child who regularly sleeps through the night. Conor usually gets up around 1:30 and either climbs in bed with us and he and Dave go sleep in the guest room, should our bed be over-crowded.

Again, if this bothers or annoys you, stop reading now!  This is our family's choice!  Your mileage may vary!

Bridget usually starts off in our bed because it's rare that the twins actually go to sleep at the same time at night and one tends to be rocking and rolling while the other one is nodding off.  We've also found it's easier to land Bridget in our bed than in her crib.  We're lazy parents and we like to do things the easy way, what can I say.

Fortunately, Bridget is the least likely of our sleep bunnies to want to be the middle part of an "H" or an "N" while we sleep. If you co-sleep, you know that I mean they sleep directly across (H) or diagonally across (N) the bed.  Bridget is more of a || sleeper meaning she is right up against either Dave or me.

Really, it's not bad, mostly because she is such a cuddler and I am, too.  (Break in story:  Christopher actually kissed me in his sleep one night!  In the middle of the night, he sat up, grabbed my face, kissed it, and went right back to sleep.  Have to say that was pretty dang special!)  But back to Bridget.  The main problem is when she's not all the way asleep and she shouts out (literally!): I WANT BOOBY!  BOOBY!

This is 1) where we think we should have taught them a different word and 2) where you should leave if your face is turning red.  We've actually made great progress on her not needing so much booby in the middle of the night.  Unfortunately, part of that transition is that she likes to sleep with her hand down my shirt.  Given the choice. . .

Well, let's just say that I sometimes lie in bed with my arms crossed over my chest until she's in a deeper sleep and I can push her over to Dave.  (And Dave would tell you if he had his own blog that she will go fishing down his shirt, too, which is a fine Howdy Doo way to wake up!)

So there.  The story arc for this post is somewhat (completely!) lacking, but that's what you get for reading the blog of a working mother of three.

We plan on bfing and co-sleeping until we stop.  You should take bets on when that will be, because we have no idea.

As for the curly hair, there are two sub topics.  One, I've started following the advice in the Curly Girl Handbook and my hair looks gorgeous, if I do say so myself.  Second, Conor was bullied yesterday on the bus because of his curly hair.  Some older kid made fun of it and told him that he was going to pull it all out so that Conor couldn't have curly hair anymore.

In all of Conor's life, I have never seen him so genuinely upset.  He's sensitive and cries, but this was different. He had real, deep hurt and real, grieving tears.  I had honestly thought the south had gotten past its issues with curly hair and that we had inoculated Conor to curl problems by keeping it long and celebrating it  his whole life.

So he and I took a walk away from everyone else at the bus stop so we could talk about it.  And I told him what I think is true:  this kid is jealous of Conor's curly hair.  Conor first denied that but I don't think he knew what jealous meant.  So then I asked him, "Conor, how many people have told you how beautiful your hair is?"  Conor thought for a moment and realized that he ALWAYS gets compliments on his hair wherever we go.  Strangers stop and stare at his hair and say "Don't ever cut that; it's beautiful!"  Then I said, "How many times do you think anyone has ever stopped this boy and told him how beautiful his hair his?" "Never," Conor said with some confidence.  We talked a bit more and moved on.

Last night, when Dave spoke to Conor about the incident, Conor told him that Mommy told him the boy was just jealous of his hair and it was all ok.

I'm hoping that this all ends up with a pat on my back for handling this situation well and preparing us for bigger issues.  I did email the head of busing for his school, who said he will address the issue.  I actually just responded with a hopefully subtle suggestion to handle this sensitively so that the problem does not escalate.

The problems change when they get older and the problems get more serious.  I have had several mom mentors tell me this about parenting.  I believe it's true.  But it's also true that these parents and their children are sleeping through the night and they don't remember what it's like to be tired all the time, either.

HA!  I did make a link back in the curls story back to the sleep story!  And that's the best I can do in this overly long post.

((Imagine here:  promises about how it's not going to be so long before I post again))

Monday, August 08, 2011

French Class

Conor is starting first grade in two weeks. For some reason that seems so much older to me than kindergarten. It has a real number!

We are very happy with the French immersion program he is in. His receptive French is pretty good although he still is quite shy about speaking French.

Two things we still think about in our schooling decision.

1) Did we do the right thing by holding him back a year? He is bored at school. The most fun thing about school is riding the bus home. Scooby Doo is WAY more exciting than school has ever been. I don't know if this is a Conor thing (I loved school; I'm not sure he does), a boy thing (school is not as much fun for boys as girls in general), or an age thing (he needs to be in second grade now; certainly his math is way beyond what they are doing now). I don't know if it is the right decision for now, but it certainly was the right decision then. Can you imagine starting kindergarten, living in a new house, while we remodel the old house, while two small and needy twins move into the family? Conor was chewing his nails down to the nub at that point without starting kindergarten. I think it would have been beyond his capacity to cope had we started school.

2) Are we doing enough to help him read? It's the parents' responsibility to teach children English until they get into the third grade at an immersion program. We read a lot, but are we doing enough? Probably not, but Conor is actually reading pretty well. He just did an activity from our first grade activity book and could read nearly every word. He's not reading a lot on his own, but he is figuring out words by sounding them out.

So I'm not bragging on him, OK? We have neighborhood friends whose children were reading chapter books before kindergarten and Hippogriff's older son was doing 5th grade math at 5 years old. It's just that I don't want Conor to be so bored by school. I'd like the love of learning to not be extinguished by 2nd grade. We expect him to have quite a few more years of schooling after that.

Any advice you have on keeping boys interested in school would be vastly appreciated!

Friday, August 05, 2011

A More Fun Update

So, imagine my chagrin after I posted my seemingly witty and insightful (by my standards) update about how much easier it gets when the kids get older and then realizing as I go back, that, umm, I pretty much wrote that same post in April. And my April post was only 3 or 4 posts ago.


That's pathetic.

The thing is, I'm writing tons, just not here. I'm updating facebook, twitter, Google +, and my professional blog (all are available through a google search), but I'm not doing much here. And when I do post here, it's repetitive.

WELL NO MORE! At least for today.

What do you come here for? Updates on kids and what it's like to be a crazy working mother of three. Here goes.

Conor is having a very lazy summer. There is a bit more TV watching than I am going to admit, which we believe has lead to an increase in sarcastic responses to the parental units. So ix-nay the ickelodean-nay. Even Nick Jr. But yes, I am letting him watch Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry and even a little Scooby Doo. On the one hand, it's not PBS. On the other, it's so engaging that the child will spend 15 minutes re-telling and re-enacting the entire story for me. The most animated conversations I've ever had with Conor involve cartoons.

I now know as much about Tom and Jerry as I do about Conor's entire kindergarten year. It must be a guy thing because although I watched Tom and Jerry as a child, I never knew which one was which. When Dave and I were talking about this, Dave said "Well, of course, Tom is the cat." It never occurred to me. Then again, Dave can quote Bugs Bunny ("I should have taken that left at Albuquerque") and still does.

Bridget continues to blow my mind and explode my heart. Some parents, like Ayelet Waldeman, love their husband more than their children. I love my husband very much. But I fall in love with my children on a daily basis. Bridget is amazing. Her vocabulary and pronunciation is well beyond what it should be at this age. And her will! Her strong sense of self! Her hatred of bees! Wha?

Apparently at school this week, the teacher heard Bridget yelling NO! NO! and thought she was having a fight. Indeed, she was: a fight with a bee! She was smacking the bee on her arm with a spoon and yelling No! No! at it stung her. The teacher got the bee off her arm and Bridget cried just a bit. And then went back to eating her breakfast. No Damn Bee is going to get the best of my girl!

She is so strong willed and determined to let everyone know what she thinks that when our (still alive and perhaps not deaf) cat gets on our bed at night (after a 5 year absence in which we actually didn't miss her) and meows/howls until we pet her, Bridget will wake up in the morning, get in the cat's face, and say loudly NO! NO! That Scarlett (the cat) is also known as Psycho Kitty and is afraid of this imp should tell you something.

Bridget likes to tell Patches that he is a Good Dog! She told us this week what she wanted to wear "tomorrow"---actually saying "tomorrow". She blows us away and I cannot wait to get to know her better as more of her personality develops. (Although that statement alone conjures up scary images. More!? MORE!?!)

Christopher has become my best surprise. There is so much going on inside of his head. Of all three children, he has the deepest and quickest emotions--which reminds me of an adult in this house and it's not Dave. He can go from Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy to melting in .3 seconds. And his scowly face! I love it!! If it's a new situation or person, do not expect a smile. But don't be offended if you get the scowly face. Of course, as soon as we call him on it, it's a grin. But it shocks most people to begin with.

I am pretty sure I've talked about his sugar spot already---that place on his neck that is my favorite place to kiss in the world. All I have to do is ask for it, and he laughs and yells NO!! And runs, fully expecting me to chase him and eat him up. Christopher is also very funny--and Conor does not like to hear us say that. Still, Christopher can crack us up, with his sneaky grin and an impish look in his eye as he takes off running and swinging his one arm. I don't know why he does that, but when he Runs Hard, he bends his right arm and pumps it back and forth as he runs. That's how we can tell he's Running Hard. And if he's just standing there and pumping his arm, then we know he's dancing.

He also sings a lot. There are two favorite songs: Hello Everybody from school (Bridget "sings" it too. Actually, she just yells it) and Daddy's Home! (one of my original tunes that involves clapping and, well, you know the words already). And then there's the tweaking. Both the twins are obsessed with boobage. Mine, mostly, but here lately, Christopher has taken to lifting his own shirt and tweaking himself. That is odd. We are open to the children exploring their own bodies and appreciating them, but this one is just weird (not to be too judgmental about it). Any level of anxiety and that child whips his shirt up and tweaks his nipp.

I'm assuming this is a phase and we won't have this issue in high school. NONETHELESS. I was expecting touching in, ahem, other places and have the stock supportive yet directive sentence to use with the older boy in the house (WHICH I STILL SAY 5 TIMES A DAY), but "I know that feels good, but do that in private in your room or the bathroom" really doesn't seem to fit with a nipple tweaking.

In any case, I'm sure Christopher will be glad in the future that I've shared that. (As will Conor).

Finally, Me. Dave can update his own dadbum blog. (Or just a facebook status, honey!) I am enormous. I am the fattest I've been in my life without having a couple of other humans inside of me. Those two years of eating all I wanted while pg and breastfeeding were great. Unfortunately, as the twins stopped eating so much of me, I didn't stop eating so much of everything else. I'm sort of eating less and sort of exercising more, but so far no weight has escaped. I just discovered how much fun it is for Conor to go on a bike ride with me while I run. That's actually A LOT of fun and it's been tough to run without him.

This week's adventure involved finding the house where is best neighborhood friend is moving to. It's very close to where we are now, so we ran/biked past it. I got so excited when I saw their house that I missed the uneven sidewalk. Actually, I didn't miss it. I hit it dead on. This is the 3rd time in over 20 years that I've fallen while running. All three times, everything goes very slowly right after I trip. My thoughts speed up and slow down at the same time. "Uh-oh. I could fall. I am falling. I could catch myself. Can I catch myself? Whoops. No." Whacka whacka thunk. Knees, pelvis, hands, face. Thunk.

The outcome is that I clearly landed on my left knee first and it is currently covered in Winnie the Pooh bandaids. I somehow landed on my pelvis (?) and have an enormous bruise on my hooha. Seriously! Who bruises their hooha when they fall? I'm blaming the twins and my c-section and my lack of any sort of lower stomach muscles on that one. Otherwise, I am so uncoordinated and unconventionally contorted when I fall that people actually SHOULD point and laugh when I run by. Or get out of my way. Finally, my face has a couple of sidewalk rashes and I bruised my cheek.

I am very pretty right now. A bruised tomato on toothpicks, although at this weight, more like straws.

So now you have a blog post more like what I used to write. It takes a long time to write like this and I have a boatload of other things to write---including my REAL work--journal articles. But sometimes, I have to get these things out of my head--the things that keep me from going to sleep at night. In any case, now it's time to go write on Virtual Health Communities, which actually is sort of fun right now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

It Gets Easier

I'm not sure it gets better (like in the campaign I like so much), but I want to tell mothers of twins (or MOMs) that it gets easier when the twins get older.

I honestly feel like we have some semblance of normalcy back, which makes me reflect back on the last two years and realize how incredibly tough those times were. The first summer right after they were born was hard because they were coming out of NICU and catching up on their development and we were completely overwhelmed with comforting, feeding and getting the twins to sleep while remodeling our house. We were insane.

Last summer, I had the twins home with Conor mostly by myself because we couldn't afford to keep the nanny and there wasn't a spot in daycare. Naps were HORRIBLE. Giant boy twin and tiny needy, girl twin have different comfort, sleeping and eating needs, in case you were wondering. And all the baby/toddler paraphernalia and still trying to get the remodeled house sorted out = H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks.

This summer, well, they are in daycare, which I do not know how working parents who sometimes work at home do it otherwise. I am not a very good SAHM. I've never been one, but if I was one, I think I would be fired. On the other hand, I'm a GREAT working mom.

But it's not just daycare---the house is done on the inside. We've spent the summer working on the back yard and there is real progress on making an outdoor living area. And the CRAP! The BABY CRAP--is going away! All the enormous toys! All the paraphernalia! Bye-bye, sippy cups! Thanks for playing and I hope I never see you again.

We're HAPPILY and WITH GREAT JOY putting it all in a box to sell. And the house, it is clean. O.M.G. Do you know how happy that makes me?? And the twins are eating well. And sleeping well! And we can comfort them so much more easily than before. They are talking more and playing independently. And my life! It's there! On the horizon!! I see it!! It's coming closer and closer!!

Of course, my old self is being blocked quite substantially by my giant gut. The twins stretched it out and I didn't help with all the ice cream and french fries I've eaten in the last year or so. That's the next plan of attack---reduction of the excess Mother Thing to get back to normal.

It just has gotten so much easier. And I am so glad we're done and forever past the first two years of childhood.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Been A While

We've been busy.

Dave is building a tree house.

I'm working in an amazingly prolific garden.

The twins had their second birthday.

And we found a mummified snake in a box of clothing during a yard sale.

Things have been happening around here.

Also, I taught summer school, which is a lot of fun (getting to know students) but a BOATLOAD of work. Honestly, I have not had time to do much of anything besides make it through the next 30 minutes for about 6 weeks now.

In any case, I thought a pictorial blog would bring you up to date. We're going to the beach next week for a Real Vacation--the first one in a couple of years. I hope to have a few hours to put up more pictures and talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Birth and Death

I am so lame. I've been wanting to blog for weeks, but the ability to get to this computer (with the pictures) during a time when I had a few minutes to write and be inspired enough to say something interesting.... Well. Here I am.

What I've wanted to be posting first starts with this picture. Dave put in raised beds in the garden for me, and the day after a bunny mowed down our first round of beets and lettuce, added this beautiful, architectural bunny and rat fighting fence.

I love it. I love my garden with a feeling I did not know I had. I have missed actively gardening for about 4 years now. Three years ago was the diverticulitis; 2 years ago was hospitalization for twins; 1 year ago, I can't really remember, but I'm going to assume I was occupied with my twinnies. Nothing happened in the garden last year.

But this year, we've got lots of growth in a beautiful, beautiful space. I am much a believer of the intersection of form and function. It's got to be beautiful and it's got to work. Dave's handyman, craftiness has made gardening the most pleasant extra-work thing I do. Thank you, honey!!

So that's birth: the birth of a garden and the rebirth of my life outside of the twins.

What about death? Well, there is an interesting thing I only recently learned. After my first miscarriage, the chair of my department told a group of people at the time that my miscarriage--"It was for the better."




What the fuckety fuck???

First, I got really upset when I heard that. I will be honest with you: it's the angriest I have been, perhaps in my entire life. The death of my baby was for the better? What????? Alcohol was likely involved with the anger considering I heard this during a casual happy hour, so let's blame that a bit for the anger.

But let's go a little further. And this is where I can easily move from being generous or nutty. The generous interpretation: He was making one of those stupid comments people make when women have miscarriages. It's entirely possible and, not unlikely, given his social skills.

The nutty interpretation (and by that I mean, I look like a completely paranoid nutjob) involves my state, at that point, of being an assistant (i.e., untenured) professor: it was better for my career that I didn't have another child. People bristle at that interpretation, but I think it's reasonable that he meant that, too. I am not trying to be coy about what was going on at the time, but for Dave and me, we believe this is an entirely reasonable interpretation. It's only nutty to those who weren't around us during that time.

He may have even meant a combination of the nutty interpretation and the more generous interpretation. A dead baby is a win-win for me!! Lucky me!


After I sobered up and got some distance from learning this information, I had a glorious revelation. And indeed, it came while I was walking back from my garden: I have everything I've ever wanted. I have my dream job, with my dream colleagues (mostly). I live in my dream house and I have my dream family. He's no longer my chair. He no longer works in my department. He no longer works at the university, and, he's not even in the country anymore.

So, yeah. I wish I could report back on some insight on forgiveness that I had. I don't have one. I'm not a good enough person to experience forgiveness that involves reconciliation and new close relationship with the "offending person". No. I think for me, forgiveness in this situation is just indifference. It's a feeling of "meh", which, I have to admit, is a pleasant one to have.

UPDATE: I spoke with my friend about his comment after she read this post and my "nutty" interpretation was the correct one. Fortunately, several of the feminists in the room (and the discussion was on INCREASING DIVERSITY AT OUR UNIVERSITY!) called him on this completely inappropriate statement.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Well, Poop

What an amazing weekend. There is something about the south in the spring that is prettier than any other season in any other part of the country I've lived in. All the flowering dogwoods and cherry treas, vibrant pink azaleas, and, um, flowering flowers are so pretty after the gray of winter. But what I think is even prettier is all the shades of green from the trees as they start to get leaves again. By the middle of summer, it's all one hot, oppressive shade of green. But now, it's all vibrant colors and 15 shades of green that make me so happy to move from winter to spring.

And we FINALLY have the house and the yard in a livable condition. When we moved back in November '09, the yard was completely destroyed from all the workers and their equipment. The vegetable garden had been mostly neglected and with less than 1 year old twins, we made the easy decision to neglect it again. Even the perennial got no attention besides mulch and superficial weeding.

Worse than all of that was that we didn't have a deck anymore on the back of the house and it wasn't clear where we should put our outdoor table and chairs to hang out and "enjoy" our backyard.

Who the hell am I kidding. There was not a lot of "enjoying" last year. What were we thinking having twins and remodeling the house at the same time? I don't know how we could have done it any other way but holy crap, that was a rough time.

IN ANY CASE, for the last month, we've been working in our yard. Dave put in cedar raised beds for the garden and just this weekend we finished putting up a gorgeous architectural bunny and rat proof fence (designed by Dave's DIY Home By Design--available for hire and/or babysitting services, inquire within). Pictures to follow; they are on the other computer.

It's been wonderful getting the yard to where I thought it should have been last year. Who knew, really, how much work a remodel is *after* the remodel!?

But even better--the TWINS! Are EASIER!! They PLAY!! With each other!!! With Conor!!! And even though a re-enactment of Bridget at any point during the day would include the words "Mommy. Mommy!! MOMMY!! MOMMMYYYY! MOMMY! Mommy. Mommy!! MOMMY!!" we can do things when they are awake and that is a freedom I am excited about.

Speaking of freedom, both twins have shown some interest in potty training. I think they are really young, but they want to sit on the potty. And we're happy to let them do it.

Yesterday, we thought, Hey!! It's warm out! Let's give them some freedom and let them run around without their diapers on and practice sitting on the potty. What's the worst that could happen?

What is the worst, indeed.

It was not more than 5 minutes before Bridget started running around the backyard with her diaper in hand. Fine. She wants to play with her undies; I wonder what the neighbors will think. At this point she still had her jumper on and I thought it would be good to take it off in case she peed and got her clothes wet. I ran after her and she ran to steps outside the garage.

I scooper her up. "What is that smell," I thought. "Did she toot?"

Ummmm, no.

I looked down at a poop on the stairs to the garage. Did the cat get outside?? Did some other apparently large cat poop on our steps?

There were olives. No cat I know eats olives. Bridget on the other hand. . .

YIKES! I yelled and made Dave come over and look because that's exactly the kind of wife and mother that I am.

I ran back inside to get some wipes to clean Bridget up and finally take off her jumper.

I see Patches wending his way towards the garage, curious at this new smell.

LEAVE IT!! LEAVE IT!!! Patches slinks away.

I clean up Bridget. And then I go to clean up the steps to the garage.

What the.....???? Where the.....??? PATCHES!??!!?! PATCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd strongly suggest you don't let Patches kiss you any time soon. I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bronx Zoo's Cobra

I know that most people on the Internets are not on Twitter. The latest stats are that only 10% of folks on the Internets are also on Twitter. And it's hard to explain why people would want to be on twitter. You don't get to explain about a story in detail like when you write a blog and you don't get to learn about someone's life and develop relationships (at least in your own head) like when you read a blog. And the criticism is always "Why do I want to know what someone had for lunch? I don't care about that."

Honestly, people, it's not like all people do on twitter is talk about what they eat. They may tweet about what they are drinking, maybe, but that's later on at night and a whole different issue.

Oh, and as an aside, on of my colleagues came up to me and said I was the best example about what he didn't want to be on Facebook. I had posted a very funny (I thought) update about lingering puke smells around the house after the twins' bout with a stomach bug. He said "why am I reading this? I don't need to know about it!" Why, indeed.

Two words, people: Un. Follow. Instead, I blocked him, because I am passive aggressive that way.

In any case, have you heard about the cobra that escaped from the Bronx Zoo? Well, that cobra has started a twitter account. And I love it.

And I am not the only one. The twitter account started on Monday and already it's been featured on the NY Times, NPR, the BBC and various other news outlets. Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Martin, Jon Favreau, the New York Hilton, and even Sesame street have all referred to him (or her?) in their twitter feeds. There is even a hysterical video of baby twins talking to each other which has been re-interpreted into one warning the other about the cobra. It wants to eat baby toes!!

I tweeted last night: "It's somewhat hard to explain to "normal" people how one is following an escaped cobra on twitter " and it has been my most retweeted and responded to tweet ever.

What. Is. Up? For some reason, the word Zeitgeist comes to mind. Obviously, there's something about escaped cobras that captures one's imagination. And the idea of one touring New York ("looking for Rebecca Black. No reason.") and tweeting about it is funny.

But there's a time urgency here. They could capture the snake and then the tweets won't be so funny. The snake could die, and sort of the same thing. You can't really put off following this snake until some time in the future. We have to enjoy it now because it may be over in the next hour. (Or not. See the post by the vet above)

I cannot explain this easily. It is something I would like to research and explore in further depth. What I love most about twitter is sharing diverse, time dependent, special or unique events with friends and strangers. I would love to know what it's tapping into for me psychologically or sociologically. And when I've had more sleep I will pursue that.

But right now, I'm having a lot of fun following an escaped cobra on twitter. You might enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I hate to keep changing the background and layout of my blog, but I am still not completely satisfied with it. I would like it to be fancy and eye-catching, but not so busy. Sort of like how I'd like my own life to be. ((Rudely laughing at my own joke))

So, um, yeah! Here we are in spring. Work-wise, I need to be reviewing abstracts for a conference and what I'd really rather do (besides writing constructive comments) is just to turn in my short assessments to the conference organizers:

1) Hell No
2) Yes, great job
3) Yes, but as a poster or interactive session
3) Nope.

That should be enough. It's relevant for conference organizers, but, alas, does not have enough specific feedback for the authors. (Really? Ya, think)

In mother news, Bridget was given an "incident report" this week for biting another child. The good news is that it is fully clear in the report that she was defending herself from the tooth-y onslaught of the other child. That is, she wasn't the aggressor--someone was trying to bite her, she knew someone was trying to bite her, and she got the first bite in, probably right after she said "Listen, fool." (She can channel Mr T when she is defending herself)

In working mother news, I have a much better internet connection, we have a printer that works, and the cat is still alive. Let me back up a moment. A month. Ummm, two months.

Two months ago, in that I took a work-life balance class for mid-level women academics at our university: How the heck are we supposed to do this thing called A Career that allows us to have A Life, too. I honestly don't know if that is possible, but one thing we worked on was our "tolerations." Tolerations are those annoyances you have in your life that if you took 10 minutes or $10 (or maybe a bit more investment of time/money), you could solve the problem and your life wouldn't have those niggling "tolerations" any more.

For me, besides exercise, some of the big tolerances we've been putting up with around the house is crappy internet service (from AT&T U-verse) and no working printer. As someone who works A LOT from home, these are problems. The night of the workshop, Dave read my list of tolerations and within 3 days, had fixed them. Or at least, these two. The Messy House toleration is ongoing. Let's just stop for a second and talk about how wonderful my husband is, shall we? Yes, he's wonderful. Ok, moving on...

What bothered me about ME is that I had also included on my list of tolerations: Cat Won't Die.

Really? Really, Anita????? It is a daily annoyance to you that your Cat Won't Die. What kind of heartless bitch am I? A pretty big one, apparently.

In my defense, the cat is 18 years old. If she were a child, we would be exploring college opportunities right now. It would be time for her to move on. She also howls at night. LOUDLY. Right by the bed. That is annoying. Especially since sleep is so precious right now, an 18 year old cat howling by the bed is a toleration, that could be solved. By, ummm. Well, a shoe would be a less extreme solution than death.

Of course, feeling very guilty, I started paying a bit more attention to the cat. And that's when we realized that she is completely deaf. I have no idea how long she's been deaf. But she is completely and utterly deaf. That's why she's howling. In the middle of the night she has no idea what anyone is doing and would kind of like the world to know she's still alive. (Fortunately, she cannot read and did not know of her place on my list of daily annoyances/tolerations).

So she is still alive and she is not on my list of tolerations any more. We are also paying her more attention and she is not howling as much.

Finally, a funny professor story. After I give lectures, I will often write notes to myself on the syllabus or on the PowerPoint slides if there was a problem and if I should revise the lecture. This week, I gave my lecture on Stress in the workplace and I had written on the opening slide (so as to catch my attention) "This is a BORING lecture!! FIX!" So, I did. I added more exercises and more places for the students to contribute their own feedback and experiences.

Then, yesterday when I was reviewing my notes before class, I realized: I had uploaded the PowerPoint slides on the web....and had not taken off my note: "This is a BORING lecture!! FIX!" Yes! On the first slide!! The first thing the students saw when they looked at the slides was how awful class was going to be this week!! And yes, they did notice it!


What I appreciated was during the class, I kept asking: Are you bored? how am I doing? I absolutely LOVE the student who said, "I'm not bored, but I am less enthused than I was."

We stopped and did an exercise.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

She's Alive!

Hmmm, apparently, I've used this same title for a blog previously.

Oh, Lord. We have had some sickness around here. It's taken about 3 weeks, but FINALLY, everyone in the house is healthy and back to school or work. I am really hoping that next year the twins will be immune to most of this crud, so we won't be in danger of becoming a CDC super fund site.

I've also decided not to try to combine this blog into a professional blog. I would love to have a fancy pants professional blog to talk about my take on technology, psychology, and parenting research/news. But I can't do it any time soon. And I'm afraid if I did it, I would most certainly put a stake in the heart of this blog. I like the Mother thing. And although I don't post much on it, and I certainly don't get the readers I used to, I need a little space of my own. It sounds very Virginia Wolff-ish, doesn't it? Eh, well. So be it.

In any case, I do see this blog moving more towards working mother issues and perhaps working mother in academia issues.

I still need to blog about a mid-career/work-life balance workshop I went to in January (JANUARY) and had some great insights on the "tolerations" in my life. (I keep calling them haterations).

The problem is as an associate professor with a big(ger) house and three kid---I not going to be able to find the time. I'm going to have to take it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Knew You Were Going to Say That....

Did you hear about the recent ESP research published in a top psychology journal? No, that is actually not the start of a joke. There actually was a research article published by a highly respected psychologist in a highly respected journal which possibly provides evidence of ESP. You can read the article here. It's not a short article, but there it is for you to read.

You can read a variety of reactions throughout this long sentence.

My take on this whole controversy is a bit different. Controversy, you ask? Yes! Psychologists are a wee bit skeptical and like to point out that there are no such things as ghosts, witches, astrology, ESP, and other superstitions. They are interesting in the way they protect (or harm) one's psyche but have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

So my take is this: Is there ESP? Unlikely, but I still find this study quite interesting: students were able to pick out the correct location of a randomly assigned pornographic picture 53% of the time while they only got the regular non-naked pictures 50% of the time. (College students apparently have a "gift" of finding naked people doing things they'd like to be doing themselves.) However, as you can see this "gift" is not too strong. Picking the correct picture 50% of the time is what we'd expect by chance--just guessing. 53% is not a big gain over 50%. But with enough people, it can be a statistically significant improvement.

So here is what I think:
1) The most likely thing that will happen is that these data will not hold up in additional research. I'm can predict (!) this outcome because this is what happens the majority of the time there is a new research finding. I actually do not have in my hot little hands the percentage that makes up the majority of the time, but I think it approaches 90% of the time. 90% of the time is a little bit larger than 50% of the time. And what it means is that we are constantly refining our research to find the "truth" and the first finding is not likely at all to be the final say in what is actually true.

2) I disagree with every single criticism of people who say this research shouldn't have been published or there is something wrong with the peer review system (where researchers anonymously review others' research to determine if it's adequate for publication). The data are what the data are. These results are neutral (as long as they weren't faked). If the results of this study don't agree with what you think, too bad, so sad. If anonymous reviewers can't find a flaw, then the research should be published. I guarantee you that the editor gave special care to picking out people who do NOT believe in ESP to get the best feedback.

3) Here is what I do believe will happen from this study: we are going to find a flaw. It's either going to be a methodological flaw (there is an error in the design or enactment of the study) or there is a statistical flaw. And what is going to be so cool is that it's going to push our discipline ahead in our research and statistics. Why do I say that? Because those reviewers couldn't find a flaw--this research meets the standards for good research in its current form. So whatever mistake was made is not something we as a discipline know is a mistake. And that means growth in how we study. Sounds good to me.

4) Of course, I could be wrong and there is ESP. But I'm not convinced by this study. I'm not convinced by any one study of anything. Unless, of course, it's my study because mine are all brilliant and insightful and completely accurate descriptions of the truth in this world. (((cough, cough, cough, wiping tears from eyes)))

So I think this is pretty exciting. Something good is going to come from this. It's going to take a while--several years at the least before the next studies are designed, data collected, analyzed, vetted and published, but how exciting for psychology!

It's almost as exciting as a talking dog. Which is what I want to talk about next in research.

Friday, January 14, 2011

And No Stuffed Animals Were Burned!

Perhaps you have heard of Amy Chua's essay in the Wall Street Journal about the superiority of Chinese Mothers. If you haven't, I'm going to guess you don't have young children. Or you don't follow the Internets all that much, which means you aren't going to be reading this blog.

Although when I heard Ms. Chua on the Diane Rehm Show (and WOW, isn't Diane Rehm beautiful!), she suggested that her extreme parenting (calling her children garbage when they get an A- or less on a test, threatening to burn their stuffed animals if they don't play the piano well, no extra-curricular activities or friends), is a bit tongue-in-cheek, my understanding is that that is not true. A friend of a friend is Ms. Chua's neighbor, and indeed, can attest to the truth of the dinner party incident related in the article. She does berate her children and she limits their social activities in order that they will be The Best and win The Medal. She loves them and argues that she believes they are the best and they can win the medal and that is why she pushes them so hard.

Clearly, this is not our style. On the other hand, I think Dave and I can push Conor a little bit more, especially in skills we know he can do but he's afraid at failing at. So oddly enough, inspired by Ms. Chua, we had Conor sit down after dinner the other night and practice tying his shoes. He has not learned this yet and it's probably past time. So Dave and I hid in the kitchen and mouthed GARBAGE! GARBAGE! towards Conor (because we are apparently that kind of parent). Conor took a minute and then shouted out, "I DID IT!!!!" "YAY!" we shouted back. "Untie it and do it again!"

A minute passed. "I DID IT AGAIN!" "YAY! Do it one more time!" And Conor did. We told him he could have an ice cream sandwich if he tied both his shoes and went out to the garage freezer to get one. He struggled a bit, but did it. And no stuffed animals were burned.

But, yes, we were inspired to push him to do it. (A push as harsh as blowing on him) And we are actually inspired to do more of this You Can Do It, Just Practice parenting. (And you may be thinking we are incredibly slack. But no, we simply have 19 month old twins)

In any case, Ms. Chua's parenting style could be on to something name calling and toy destroying notwithstanding. Research suggests that everyone can become an expert/genius in something. Come again? Genes change and adapt to the environment. From the article, "This means that everything about us - our personalities, our intelligence, our abilities - are actually determined by the lives we lead. The very notion of "innate" no longer holds together." We settle for mediocrity because we think we aren't innately talented enough when expertise actually comes from effort and self-discipline. According to this new research, even IQ (which has long been thought as an innate, stable trait) changes according to the environment.

I love this research. FINALLY, science is demonstrating that genes apart from the environment mean nothing and the environment has no effect on people outside of the genes a person is given.

This is huge to me, and probably not in the way you think. We think in terms of cause and effect. A causes B. Genes cause people to Be The Way They Are. But NO, others argue (and I have tended to be here). Environment is the stronger contributor to people becoming the way they are. But that's silly, too, because it's obvious that people have certain proclivities; you can't make an introvert an extrovert no matter how hard you try. So scientists have been asking the question, which is more important: nature or nurture.

As I've grown as a researcher and as a methodologist, I've realized that one of our main problems is that we have a hard time thinking in terms of interaction (genes and environment mutually cause people to be the way they are), particularly when the interaction is recursive---the interaction is continual and progressive. I think the next big leap in the way social and biological scientists think about why people are what they are and do what they do. It's hard to think this way. It takes some mental effort to really work through the theoretical logic (not to mention the analyses!) of research like this. But I think generations of researchers behind us are going to build on our mental efforts and find it easy--just like we all naturally think in causal terms, which wasn't the case before the Renaissance. Before the Renaissance, witches caused everything.

And going back to the beginning of this entry, witches can "cause" genius, too. There is a lesson here, besides it's really fun to silently mouth "GARBAGE!" and "I am going to BURN all your stuffed animals if you don't tie your shoes!!!" at your children when they are doing something. For us, it's that our limits are self-imposed. We can do more than we think we can. And we want our children to know that they can do a lot of what they want, too. They just need to keep trying. And we'll support them, and not abuse them, along the way.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Happy New Year!

So much for my plan of posting every week!

I hope your new year is going well. December was a bit rough around here. The kids were sick the first two weeks and out of school the last two weeks. They started back this week (WOOOHOOOHOO) and I've finally had a break. But my "break" has involved getting caught up on work and prepping for my classes--including one that is a new prep for me and will be the last time the class is offered. Nothing like seeing lots of hard work go for naught.

In any case, there is so much to share with folks, well, actually just to put in this blog so I remember it. I will start with Christopher, since he has been the focus of our attention with his 18 month sleep regression--and subsequent waking up every 2 hours.

There is a spot on Christopher's cheek, just above his jaw, that is so soft and mushy that it is the best spot to kiss I've found on any human being. Kissing that spot (and I kiss it a lot) is one of the highlight's of my day.

Another Christopher feature, less kissable, is his habit of pooping while in down dog position. Oh, indeed-y, it is clearly obvious when Christopher is doing his thing when he looks like he's creating a new down dog/plank merge. Nonetheless, the poop I want to remember forever (truly) involves 5 to 10 minutes of dramatic down dog producing yoga one tiny, yet perfect, still solid and recognizable blueberry.

Have I mentioned how much he likes blueberries? He would gladly eat a complete pint if we let him. Apparently, he was so stuffed on that day that one popped out. (Pooped out!!)

Ah, yes. He is an adorable little boy. We actually call him Kisstopher frequently because of how much he likes to kiss and be kissed. His cousins have suggested that we drop that nickname before he hits high school. Well, I guess so. It actually might work to his advantage. But we'll wait.

I am seriously thinking of starting to blog more "other thing" topics here, such as psychological research (have you heard about that new ESP study? Fascinating!!) I'd also like to start talking more explicitly on the difficulties of being a working mother, even with the flexible job that I have. I'm not sure what audience these topics will attract, and if I really want those audiences to learn so much about my infertility, miscarriages and breastfeeding exploits. ALTHOUGH, I'm not ashamed of any of them and the more we talk about this stuff out in the open, the more it will be normal.

In any case, I'll actually have to BLOG. I want to. And if I'm doing it about work stuff, I'll feel less guilty doing it before all the kids have gone to sleep.