Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wildness


An unclaimed field nearly bumps up against our lawn, just on the other side of a paved footpath. Our neighborhood is still under development; there are still parcels of unsold land, and so we see scattered plots of wilderness, of prairie grass and wildflowers, growing between and behind the neat, crisp lawns and homes of suburbia.

Queen Anne’s lace grows tall in these wild fields, and red clover, and a little blue flower whose name I do not know. At one point in the early spring, my husband commented on our neighboring field as “unsightly,” but now, in the full lushness of summer, even he has conceded that these patchwork fragments of prairie are really quite lovely.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Science job update

Some time ago I wrote this rather swoony post about career fluidity, and about returning to the scientific workforce in some capacity.
Well, I know at least some of you are interested in how that is going. . . So here goes. The one postdoc interview I had lined up was canceled when the position was eliminated due to lack of funds. And I have the feeling that the Science Writer position is headed the same way. After weeks of being put off as to an exact interview date, I finally got this e-mail from an admistrator (a few sentences have been removed to help maintain anonymity):
"I apologize for the delay; however, we have been instructed to hold off on pursuing the applicants for this position. . . I do not know when we will be able to schedule these as this is outside of my control."
Doesn't sound good.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Revelation for the Bean

This morning I coaxed the girls out to Friday story time at a bookstore, and then lunch in the adjoining café. Bean-girl noticed that the family seated next to us had three children.

Bean-girl: That family has THREE children!

Me: That’s right.

Bean-girl: Why do they have three children?

Me: Some parents have three children, Bean-girl.

Bean-girl: But you only have two daughters.

Me: That’s right. But some mommies and daddies have more. Some have three children. (dramatic pause). And some have four children. Or even five. Or six!

Bean-girl’s eyes get bigger and bigger as I count off these numbers. When I hit “six”, she just about falls off her chair, laughing.

Actually, I have the same reaction. And this is written with no offense intended toward anyone who comes from a large family, has a large family, or intends to have a large family. It’s just that these days, with these two little girls running me ragged—one 3-year old who no longer naps during the day, and the one-year old force of destruction that is the Baby Legume—well, the idea of three or more children is absolutely hysterical to me. Hysterical ha-ha, and also hysterical in the sense of padded room and tranquilizers, please.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Toddler Legume (~13.5 months)

I am still often startled to see her standing and walking. I’ll leave a room while she is sitting on the center of the floor, out of reach of any hand-holds. I’ll come back mere seconds later to find her gone—where is she?? In a brief space of moments she’s walked into a corner, or into another room. My tiny girl. Not a baby anymore—a toddler.

She’s always walking now, and just in the last day, it seems, has improved measurably in grace. Around and around she toddles about the house—living room to entrance foyer and back through the length of the kitchen. Her days are spent walking and pulling things off shelves. Books go flying. Mommy’s bedroom closet? All clothing on low shelves are pulled down. Today she got into our spice cabinet, and promptly began pulling out the plastic bags of bulk spices my husband buys from Penzey’s. I let her amuse herself with them as I made dinner. Later, the Bean-girl picked up all the spice bags, put them back, and closed the cabinet door. (Note: Bean-girl isn’t always so helpful. But she does have these moments).

Baby Legume makes one unholy mess when eating. I had completely forgotten the vortex of destruction and chaos that is a one-year old child.

Baby Legume now has five teeth. With those five teeth she can take on the world. She eats vastly more than her sister. Three chicken nuggets and a bunch of apple slices. And milk. And more! More! An entire banana!

“Who will win the growing race?” Bean-girl asks. “Me or Baby Legume?”

“Baby Legume, if you don’t eat enough,” I say. “You, if you eat more than she does.”
“But Baby Legume eats a LOT!” Bean-girl wails in complaint (she’s got a competitive streak, hates to lose anything).

She’s still round and pudgy, my walking doll. And just this past week, she started engaging in imitative play. When I grabbed a baby wipe to clean up a mess, she also grabbed a wipe and bent beside me to scrub at the same stain. She imitated her sister playing a musical instrument. And yesterday, after countless days spent chewing at the tip of Bean-girl’s Dora doodle-pad pen, the Legume learned how to use the pen and doodle-pad herself. And oh, did she doodle. Squiggle squiggle squiggle.

So proud of herself, as she masters these skills. I clap my hands at her, and she laughs and walks toward me, clapping in glee, her front teeth showing in the broadest baby smile. She’s not quite talking, but she clearly understands much of what we say. One of her favorite things is climbing into boxes. And storage baskets. And anything small and enclosed. She laughs at me from a cardboard box, and finds herself trapped. I take her out, and she promptly climbs in again. And oh, can she climb! She’ll scale anything, my fearless one. She’ll stand on Bean-girl’s toddler bed and attempt to scale the Bean’s bookshelf (and succeed).

My determined little baby. They say that it is with the second child that you learn how different babies can be. You think your first child’s baby behavior is typical of all babies; then you find out that it was typical of only that baby. From the beginning, the Legume was her own distinct person.
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Why is the baby smiling? Why is she laughing? Is she laughing because she loves me, her big sister?

Yes, Bean-girl, she does.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The New York Times article on women and science--this crap passes for journalism?

John Tierney has written this inane article for the New York Times. In it, he discusses recent efforts to apply Title IX standards to increase the representation of women in the sciences. He reveals his utter lack of understanding by professing that (1) any underrepresentation of women in the sciences is because women just don't like science, that's all. We like to deal with people, not things like numbers and facts. (2) Women earn the majority of docorates in the life sciences and psychology, so really, there's no problem anyway. (He apparently does not know, or completely ignores, the fact that this very statistic makes womens' marked underrepresentation at the higher tiers of scientific employment all the more shocking).
Physioprof is guest-posting at Feministe, and has this response, in his usual blistering, funny, and absolutely obscene style. Go read it.
Then you can go spam Tierney's blog.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day in the country

In the space of a week, it seemed, Baby Legume went from the hesitant one-step, two-step, fall-on-the-bottom drunken baby lurch to walking upright across the room. Her favorite ambulatory mode is to walk with objects clutched in each hand. I feel as though I’m watching human evolution occur before my eyes—the hominid creature progresses to bipedalism, and with that gains the enormous advantage (so anthropologists have said) of being able to transport random plastic blocks and toys in both hands across the room!

Then the evolving hominid sticks said objects in her mouth. To me, this doesn’t seem to have any obvious benefit, but baby hominid does enjoy sucking on plastic things.

Yesterday we drove down to my parents’ house, two hours away. My mother is turning sixty this upcoming Sunday, but we will not be able to see her on that date as Husband will be on-call at the hospital. Baby Legume nonchalantly demonstrated her walking abilities for Grandma and Grandpa. Bean-girl enjoyed herself playing with Grandma’s many decorative knick-knacks (many of them choking hazards for the Baby Legume).

We went on a prolonged quest to pick sweet cherries with Grandpa. My parents live in lush orchard country, and always seem to be asking us if we would like to pick one fruit or another. Grandpa was trying to take us to a new orchard (one that did not require us to pick a minimum quantity of fruit), and became completely lost, making more than one U-turn and, at one point, a dead stop on the rural highway. “Grandpa’s lost it!” my husband declared, and zoomed our car ahead of Grandpa’s to the cherry orchard he had spied ahead. Alas, no sweet cherries left in the first orchard; they’d all been picked, and only tart ones were left. “Will we ever pick cherries?” Bean-girl asked. “Bean-girl is asking existential questions,” Husband said. “Will Godot ever come?”

We did eventually find a cherry orchard (I think it’s the one my father had wanted to take us to, although I’m not sure). “Not sweet,” my father complained, tasting the fruit. “Don’t pick any fruit until you’ve made sure it’s sweet. Then pick everything from that tree.”

My girls didn’t seem to care about the quality of the fruit, happily eating whatever cherries they could reach. My father wandered further and further into the orchard, searching for the mythical Sweetest Tree Of All. He found some wooden ladders, and began directing my husband to prop them against specific trees and specific branches of trees, pointing to clusters that he should pick. Then Bean-girl started rubbing her eyes and complaining about being tired. I looked and saw that her left eye had swollen half shut.

I pointed this out to my husband, then scooped the tired Bean-girl up and carried her back to our car to rest. After a while, Husband came back to us, carrying Baby Legume. “I think she swallowed a cherry pit,” Husband said of the baby. Baby looked perfectly happy, if a bit vampirish with red juice smeared on her face. “I hope she doesn’t get a bowel obstruction,” Husband added (this is the kind of comment you hear when you’re married to a pediatrician).

“This,” Husband declared, sitting next to me in his seat, “has been a bust.”

“It’s not that bad,” I protested. “We got to be out in fresh air. It was fun until Bean-girl’s eye got swollen.”

Husband went to tell my father that we were taking the kids home. My father stayed in the orchard by himself for a long time, patiently and meticulously filling up two large buckets (10 pounds!) with yellow and red cherries that he complained were not sweet. We gave Bean-girl a bath in Grandma’s house to wash away whatever allergen (Tree fuzz? Sunscreen?) had gotten into her eye. She felt better after that.

Dinner outside on the back patio, and a dip in the pool. My parents insisted on both children swimming. I splashed Baby Legume in the water; she smiled, but her jaw trembled with cold, and I took her out. “It’s NOT cold!” my father kept insisting, even as the baby’s mouth trembled pathetically.

At one point, Bean-girl was left in the pool with Grandpa while Husband and I went into the house. When I came out, Bean-girl was wrapped in a towel on a chair, crying hysterically. “She flipped over her inner tube,” my parents explained. She’d been holding onto the side of her inner tube, and it flipped over and got away from her. She was still wearing her arm flotation devices, so she didn’t sink into the water. And Grandpa was right there with her. But she got very scared.

Finally, after more food (springs rolls, barbecue, ice cream) and packing, the Bean family got away. We drove the miles back through gently fading light and the pastoral landscape. I asked Bean-girl about her scare in the water. “You were crying and in a towel when I saw you,” I said.

“I was crying,” she said, “because I didn’t know I was back on land. I thought I was still floating in the water.” She seemed to digest this, said again, “I didn’t know I was already on land.”

Then she added seriously, “Mommy, I have to tell you something.”

“Okay, Bean-girl, what is it?”

Intently—“I don’t ever want to go back into the pool with Grandpa again.”

***********************************************************************

But she also kept asking, that night, “Can we go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house another day? When can we go back? How soon?”

And that is a typical day with the Bean grandparents. The End.