Friday, May 30, 2008

More science blogging soon

And for my fellow scientists: I think I’ll start blogging more about science sometime soon…

Past midnight on Wednesday night, I sent out two e-mail inquiries about jobs I saw advertised at local Up-and-Coming-Research Institute. One job was for a postdoctoral position in a subfield tangentially related to my old interests. The other job was for a Science Writer at the institute. From the written description, the writing job sounds like it might be very similar to the one that CAE at VWXYnot? has.

I heard back from both PIs the next day, and am hammering out the interview details with them. Both PIs have busy summer travel schedules, so the interviews won’t be for some time. Expect plenty of career angst spilled out in pixels in the days to come. Comments will be welcomed.

Almost one year

We’ve started giving Baby Legume cow’s milk in a sippy cup. She loves sippy cups—is always trying to steal her sister’s milk. This week she had a wonderful time when she learned the trick of swigging from a cup, filling her cheeks with liquid, and then letting it all dribble out on her high chair tray. The tray was completely overflowing by the time I got to her. It’s amazing how much milk those chipmunk cheeks can hold.

She doesn’t need to breastfeed as much anymore. She doesn’t need me, physically, as much as she once did. She even lets her daddy put her to sleep at night now without protest, without shrieking for me. Tonight it was my turn to rock her to sleep, while Husband read stories to Bean-girl. Holding Legume in the dim light of her bedroom, I remembered the tiny infant that once lay curled against my chest in that very chair. That infant is now gone. In her place is this almost-toddler; not curled in a tiny ball with her feet tucked under her, but stretched out against me with her bare legs dangling down. She looked suddenly so much bigger, so much more grown-up.

“Do you remember when I was in your tummy?” Bean-girl asked me tonight, apropos of nothing, as she got ready for bed. “Do you remember when Baby Legume was in your tummy?”

“Of course,” I said. And of course I do. Almost one year ago, Baby Legume slipped out into this world. I had thought of it earlier in the evening, as I bathed her in the shower and then passed her wet, naked body to the waiting arms of her father. Her slippery, brown naked body that looks nothing like the slippery, skinny, purple and bruised vernix-smeared baby that passed through my body nearly one year past.

It goes by fast. Oh, yes. It does.

I feel that I don’t savor these small moments with her as I should. These rare, small moments alone. I know that Husband and I don’t have time for the concentrated, one-on-one attention we gave her older sister.

But we love you, Baby Legume. All three of us—mom, dad, and sister. You came into our lives to make our family complete. And we are.

Monday, May 26, 2008


. . . what with the kids waking up, one by and one, and then creeping or being carried into our bed… and Baby Legume popping up bright-eyed and laughing at 6 am (“It’s NOT funny!” Husband told her as she sat next to him, clapping and laughing at nothing at all). And the unending loads of laundry as we try to catch up after our most recent vacation. Yeah, our last vacation—we went to Chicago for a few days to meet my mother-in-law, who was traveling through the Midwest. We had a wonderful time—Millenium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Brookfield Zoo, Chinatown, downtown… But oh, I am tired. Since getting back from our time in the Caribbean, our normally wide-open social calendar has been suddenly, surprisingly, packed. Our house is a mess. I still haven’t even cleaned up completely from our last visitors, or unpacked completely from our last vacation.

The kids go to bed so late. Tonight Baby Legume did not go down until 9: 30 or so. She tilted and squirmed crazily in my arms, laughing like a baby maniac. And Bean-girl always goes to bed late—usually past 10. I should really cut out her nap, but I need that afternoon respite for my very sanity. The smart thing would be for Husband and I to go immediately to bed after we put the kids to sleep. But these late night hours are *our* only times for quiet, for solitude. And so I here I am, reading blogs and writing my own. And there is Husband in the next room, playing with the new Wii system that he just bought.

And around midnight we’ll go to bed… get woken up around three… and start it all over again around six (or if we’re very luck, seven).


The baby birds in our patio table hatched sometime last week, while we were in Chicago. We came back to find that three out of the four eggs had hatched; three skinny baby birds gaped up at us, all open orange mouths, like strange open flowers. They’re robins, after all; I finally saw the mother’s orange breast when she hopped off the nest one day. I even saw her feeding her babies. Bean-girl has been mildly interested, but I think birds are not really her thing.
(Sting rays, on the other hand, are. Sting rays, dolphins, and beluga whales. She spent a long, long time gazing at the dolphins and beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium. And she got a stuffed sting ray from the gift shop, which she now sleeps with at night).

We have one more brief trip planned for the next weekend. We're going down to my parents' house to celebrate an important milestone. The Baby Legume turns one in exactly seven days. I can hardly believe it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A backyard visitor

A bird has built her nest on our back deck, underneath our patio table. She has ensconced herself right in the center of the table’s struts. “Smart bird,” my husband said when I pointed it out to him yesterday. “She’s sheltered from the rain.”

There are four Tiffany blue eggs in the nest, arranged in a perfect diamond pattern. We can’t figure out what kind of bird it is. At first I thought it was a robin, but the beak seems a bit too long and sharp. Whenever anyone steps out on the porch, the bird takes off. As long as we stay inside and peek through the sliding glass door, the bird feels safe. She looks very snug in her nest, on top of her babies.

“But how we can we move the nest?” Bean-girl asked. I’d been wondering the same thing.

“A bird isn’t supposed to build a nest there.” Bean-girl’s entire face creased in a frown of disapproving bafflement. “That’s weird.”

“You’re right, it is weird,” I agreed. “I think she thought that our table was a kind of tree.”

I told Bean-girl that the mommy bird was going to hatch eggs, and that she would get to see the baby birds. This briefly excited her.

“How long will it take?” she asked. “Two minutes?”

“I think it will take a lot longer than that,” I said.

“How many minutes?”

“Well, I think it will take a lot of minutes. Even many days.”

Bean-girl has pretty much lost interest in our visitor, although Bean-dad and I are very interested. Bean-dad did some Googling, and learned that a robin (if our visitor is a robin) incubates her eggs for two weeks, and that the baby birds stay in the nest for two weeks before taking off. So if the bird is a robin, I guess our back deck is off limits to us for about a month.

Mother's Day rock concert--the Police tour

During my freshman year of college, one CD spun on perpetual “play” in my tiny dorm room. It was a CD of greatest hits from the Police. As I recall, it did not even belong to my roommate or me; it belonged to a girl across the hall, but had somehow migrated into our room where it was held captive for the better part of a year. If I had to choose a soundtrack for that year of my life, it would probably be that Police CD. Reading, studying, chatting, or just relaxing before bedtime—my roommate and I did it all along to the strains of “Invisible Sun,” “Message in a Bottle,” and, yes, “Roxanne.”

(And just to date myself here: it was the nineties, era of grunge and flannel; the Police had long ago broken up, and Sting was well ensconced in his solo career. But that CD was, incredibly, my first real exposure to Sting.)

Fast forward seventeen years. A month ago, one of my husband’s friends from his old lab learned that the Police Reunion Tour would be making a stop in our new home city. The friend and his wife decided to make a Police pilgrimage across the state (and visit us while they were at it). Husband and I bought tickets, too. We hired a babysitter to care for the bean-girls, and for the two children our friends would be bringing. Last Sunday afternoon they all showed up—our friends, and their four-year old twin boys. Bean-girl sat on the couch watching cartoons and basically ignored the boys as they fell on her toys and books with glee. Baby Legume crawled around and tried to snatch toys away. We hung out, ordered in pizza, then the sitter arrived. And then we were off.

“Follow the people that look our age,” my husband said as we walked toward the stadium. We had pulled into a parking garage full of minivans. Streaming toward the stadium were rivers of baby boomers—hardly a face under thirty.

Elvis Costello and his band were the warm-up act. They played with vigor, but something was wrong with the sound system—I couldn’t understand a word that Costello sang. I blamed the acoustics of the stadium. But clearly someone had not done a proper sound check… for when Sting entered for his set, every word was crystal clear.

At the first sight of the Police, I was taken aback. The screen behind the stage displayed the band members in video close-ups, with merciless clarity. The lines of age, the sag of a jaw, the grizzled hair and paunch—all there, 20 feet high. Almost a shame to see it like this, I thought. But the music started, and oh, that Voice. The Voice was just the same. The music was just as I’d remembered.

I was surprised to find that I still remembered most of the lyrics, and was singing along. They even got me to bop a bit in what my husband calls my bunny-hop dance. These guys are in their fifties and even sixties (Andy Summers, I believe, is sixty-five). And yet they sounded just like the band that once played together over twenty years ago. Their energy left me in the dust. And for nearly two hours, I didn’t think of my children at all.

It was a great Mother’s Day gift—to feel free for an evening, to be out with my spouse and friends. To hear a terrific show, and forget all about motherhood—for just a little while.

And Sting? Forgive me for that moment of doubt, of weakness. You’re as sexy as ever.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Caribbean vacation

The waters in front of the hotel were clear and calm, sheltered by coral reefs. Those waters are the most amazing color—a vibrant turquoise that is almost green, shifting abruptly to dark blue in the far distance, past the breakers.
Bean-dad and Bean-girl at the beach
On the first day of our vacation, I saw a sting ray leap from the waters. I screamed in excitement, and Husband turned just in time to see the sting ray make its second jump. Bean-girl missed it all. From that moment, though, she was obsessed with seeing a sting ray. A few days later, she got her chance when we took a tour of the reefs in a semi-submersible boat. We saw four sting rays, one green sea turtle, and innumerable fishes. The rays were the most amazing, though—spotted eagle rays, imposingly large, gliding gracefully through the water.

We splashed in the kiddie pools. We played at the beach. Bean-girl lay right down at the edge of the surf, and got knocked down and flipped over for her daring. (But she’s a trooper; didn’t even cry when I grabbed her). Legume experienced the sea for the first time. Everyone got tan.

It was stunningly hot at midday, but mornings and evenings were pleasant with cool ocean breezes. There were large cabanas with white cushions and huge lounge chairs, perfectly sized to hold a cuddling family of four.

Bean-girl loved the Sesame Street shows and activities. I think Baby Legume was simply bemused.

Breakfast with Grover.

It's hard getting both kids to look at the camera!

Gratuitous photo of Legume eating watermelon and chicken nugget.

I think what the girls loved most, though, was having their father to themselves for an entire 6 days.

That, and the bags of pretzels at the hotel mini bar. Bean-girl became completely addicted. Baby Legume liked them, too.

Fell asleep while eating her beloved pretzels.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Imaginary friend

It was a wonderful vacation. More details to follow…

Today Bean-girl introduced me to her imaginary friend, “Alice.” Baby Legume ruined Alice’s surprise party by peeing on the floor (when I foolishly left her undiapered for a moment), and making a mess. I cleaned up the mess, but Bean-girl kept lamenting that Alice’s surprise party was “a little bit ruined.” Later, I heard Bean-girl scolding Alice in the bathroom for not washing her hands after she’d used the potty. “Alice is not washing her hands!” Bean-girl kept yelling. We agreed that Alice could not get a treat until she had washed her hands. Although I played along, I will admit that it unnerved me a bit to see Bean-girl talking to thin air.

Bean-girl evidently does know the boundaries between imaginary and real, however. At dinner time, I asked if I should serve Alice as well. “Well,” my daughter said, “I think Alice is pretend. So I think you should just give her pretend food.”

Easily done, my Bean.

Alice was happy to try mushroom crepes, while Bean-girl was not. Alice is evidently a better eater than the Bean-girl, as is the Baby Legume and probably 99.5% of the earth’s population.