Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dear Abby,

Dear Abby,
I want to finish my dissertation and become Dr. Mama, but I'm not sure how to make it happen with two kids under 5.  My husband is really helpful with the kids, but my advisor has forgotten that I'm alive.  How can I make this all work to finally finish this degree and move on with my career?
ABD Mama

Dear ABD Mama,
Suck it up.  Nobody held your hand so far in the process, so why should you expect it now.  Stop doubting yourself and start working out of your comfort hours.  Home with kids all day?  Work at night.  Writer's block is for people without deadlines to meet, and it sounds like that is not a luxury you enjoy.  Happy writing.

Dear Abby,
We just moved to a new town and are related to most of the people we know.  We miss our friends in the past 3 towns we've lived in and aren't sure where we're going to be a year from now.  The uncertainty and lack of friend faces here makes the stress that much more unbearable.  What should we do?
Stressed Family of 4

Dear Stressed Family of 4,
First, you need to stop moving so much.  How do you expect to make friends if you are already planning your next move?  Enjoy the place that you are in right now, and relish all the time you get to spend with your extended family.  Friends are great, but family is the greatest and most important part of your life.  Focus on your family for now, and you'll make friends too.  You just can't rush these things.

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grad School Mommy Part 3: How I Do It.

I’ve already outlined 5 of the drawbacks to being a graduate school Mommy here.

I even found 5 positive aspects to the gig that I’m currently working.  You can find them here.

In this third installment of the series I’m going to write about our day to day life.  The question I get most often is, “How do you do it?”  This is where I’m going to tell you how I do it.  We all have our own challenges and necessary flexibilities, so this will not be an exact description of every week of our lives.  But this is how our family works out all the stuff that we need to get done in a way that works for us. 

Just before Mayzie was born, we made the hard decision to pull Annika out of part-time childcare.  I had just completed all of my coursework for my PhD and was staring down my qualifying exams.  I was also 8 months pregnant with my second girl, and the first was only 2 years old.  We knew it was going to be a struggle to begin with, and we were right, but quitting graduate school wasn’t really an appealing option after all the time I had already put into my PhD.  I was just getting to the good stuff.  We could barely afford childcare for one child, so two was completely out of the question.  We decided that I would stay home with the girls during the day and work on my degree in the evenings. 
It has never been easy, but I’ve never been one to take the easy route in anything.  Funny enough, the decision didn’t feel that difficult to make at the time.  It just all seemed so logical and matter of fact.  This was the only appealing option to all of us at the time.  It was partly selfish, wanting to finish my degree.  I know that, but I knew that I wanted to set an example and a precedent for my girls.  I wanted them to be proud of me and to show them that when you start something, you should finish it no matter what the obstacles.  This is how I’ve done that. 

My weeks were long and exhausting when I was writing my qualifying exams.  I spent long days with the girls, long evenings at the library, and short nights in bed.  It was not fun at all.  I did eventually get a little bit of help from a surprise gift and an amazing babysitter, and we all made it work for us. 

When we were in Germany, we flipped rolls.  Andy was the parent at home and I did my work running all over the city.  We both only had one job, and it was pretty amazing how much we actually got to see each other. 

We moved back to Andy’s hometown when he got a job here.  The cost of living is much easier on the bank account here, and we are surrounded by family who can and do help us all the time.  I’m far away from my school, library, and grad school friends, but being able to send Annika to preschool was something we most likely would have had to skip had we gone back to Cleveland in October.  Super extra bonus points go to my MIL who watches our girls for us as much as possible, between her days filled with volunteer work and church service.  (She’s pretty amazing like that.) 

Here is our typical schedule right now:

Monday: Annika goes to school 8-11am.  Mayzie and I hang out in the morning, and pick up Ani at school at 11.  We eat lunch.  Mayzie naps until around 2pm.  We run errands or do something fun in the afternoon.  Andy comes home around 5:15.  I head to the gym while he feeds the girls and gets them ready for bed.  I get home in time to tuck in the girls, and then eat some dinner.  Andy and I both do about an hour of working stuff until my brain turns off around 9 pm, and then we hang out until we go to bed.  Typically this means that I knit while we watch something on Netflix, but not always. 

Tuesday: Annika goes to school and stays at after-care until 5pm.  Mayzie goes to her Nana’s house.  I work from home from 9-5.  I pick up Ani from after-care and then go pick up Andy from work.  We drive out to Nana & Papaw’s house and eat dinner with them.  We get home in time to put the girls to bed.  Andy goes to his weekly soccer game.  I do some work for an hour or so, and then hang out until bed. 

Wednesday: The same as Monday. 

Thursday: Annika goes to school 8-11.  Mayzie & I pick her up, and we three girls hang out in the afternoon.  When Andy comes home, I go to work at the library.  I come home around 9pm to eat dinner, chat, and go to bed. 

Friday: Annika goes to school 8-11.  Mayzie and I hang out in the morning.  11:15ish, Nana comes by with Annika and Ella (our cousin) in the car, and picks up Mayzie for a girl-filled afternoon.  I work in the afternoon.  I pick up the girls around 4:30-5.  We come home to eat dinner.  Andy and I both work until around 9pm.  Sometimes one of us goes out with friends, but more often than not, we stay home together. 

Saturday: I get up early with the girls.  I wake up Andy around 8:30am and I go to a Yoga class.  Andy spends the day with the girls, usually doing the grocery shopping and playing.  I come home from Yoga, shower, and head out to work somewhere.  I come home for dinner around 6pm.  We put the girls to bed.  We work for a couple of hours, then we hang out. 

Sunday: I sleep until 7:30 and Andy asks me why I don’t sleep longer. (I can’t.)  I go work somewhere for a couple hours then go to the gym for a workout.  I come home, shower, and go back to work at the library from 1-5pm.  Alternatively, some Sundays we get to spend the whole afternoon together as a family.  I wish we could do it every week, but I really have to take advantage of the work time when I can.  We eat dinner as a family.  We put the girls to bed.  I hang out with Andy for our regular Sunday date with the Walking Dead. 

It all starts over again on Monday. 

This is what works for us right now.  This how we make it happen.  It is much less than ideal.  It is
surely NOT what we would choose if we had all the resources in the world, but we don’t.  This isn’t forever.  This is what we have figured out to help us reach that next milestone: my PhD. What comes next is a mystery right now.  We’re actively working to try to decide what it is that we want to pursue next.  As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to enjoy the betwixt and between for what it is in the meantime.  I'm not sure I've revealed anything so groundbreaking and helpful here, and I certainly don't feel that there are any real secrets to my success.

Monday, February 25, 2013


This is it.  This is my commitment to run 500 miles by the end of the year.
There are 44 weeks left in the year.  
That means I need to average 11.36 miles per week to meet my goal.  
Right now I average anywhere from 3-10 miles per week.  This must change.  This will change, starting today.  
I blame Greta over at Gfunkified.   I've been watching her inspirational posts about how much she is running, and I just can't stand the thought of sitting on my couch reading about her adventures anymore.  I must join her.  
It is also Roo's fault over at NiceGirlNotes.  She got me in on this Diet Bet, and my first diet ever is going pretty well so far.  Yes, the money is definitely a nice little motivating factor as well, but honestly I knew I had to get my dissertating butt in gear.  

So cheers to my new goal: 500 miles by December 31, 2013.  I'm also planning to have my dissertation finished before that goal, so hopefully my fingers will also get into gear.  I'll be checking back in every Monday to let you know how I'm doing on meeting my goal.  

Thanks so much Greta, Roo, and to the lovely ladies over at Mamavation for getting my butt moving again.  Nothing like endorphins to get the blood pumping and the mood elevating.  
Let's do this!

I want to feel THIS sense of accomplishment again: 
This is me with my 2 girlfriends after we all finished our first 1/2 marathon.  
Wasn't that a great number they gave me? 

I'm not sure how many races I'm going to be doing, as the real kind actually cost money that I'm trying to save right now.  I WILL be rewarding myself for finishing the first draft of my dissertation with the Rugged Maniac in September.  Who wants to join me?  

Friday, February 22, 2013


It has been unusually warm for February, which has been especially nice for me since I tend to get the February winter blues about now.  When the days are bright and slightly warmer, we head outside to soak in the vitamin D.  This particular day I was interested in exploring perspective with my munchkins.  I gave them both their V-Tech Kidizoom cameras* and we set out to hike the paved trail along the river near the locks.  I like to park at the highest point along the river and walk the trail down to a playground next to the locks.  The higher ground gives breathtaking views of the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side.  While I take in the beautiful bare limbs of the trees and the sun reflecting off the flowing river, I try to keep the girls in my peripheral vision.  The fall would be a monster one, and my little explorers are keen on testing the limits most days.  

But this day, I want to try to see things from their perspective.  I snap pictures with my phone and watch them as they scamper around discovering new and exciting things.   
Annika asks, "What's in this hole Mama?" 
I answer, "I don't know.  What do you think?" 
"I think it's a groundhog hole," declares Annika. 
I encourage her with, "Oh really?" 
"Yeah!"  She answers with gusto, as per usual. 
Mayzie chimes in, "Let's wake it up."  
"No no no, let's let it sleep," I say, worried that there might actually be an animal inside there.  

Perspective is an amazing thing.  Once you change yours, it is very hard to see things from your previous vantage point ever again.  Experience changes us in both large and imperceiveably small ways.  I attempt to walk the line between giving my children the space to explore while at the same time directing them in such a way to keep them safe.  I so very much want to see through their eyes and remember what it is like to do something for the very first time.  

These are the pictures that we took of our time spent "hiking" on the path and playing at the playground.  
My pictures: 

Brave Daffodils and Girls with Cameras

Mayzie directing me to look look. 
Climbing the erosion zone with the sun behind us.  

Juice boxes on the slide

Here are Mayzie's Pictures: 
The river, w/ Mama's head in the bottom left

Our hiking trail

Sissy on the swing

Nature in Mama's Arms

Annika climbing dirt
Annika's Pictures:

Annika actually ended up taking exactly zero pictures while we were hiking and playing.  This comes as no surprise because of how busy she is all the time, but I found her shots before we left to be equally interesting.  
Annika the blur

Mama Portrait

Up Close and Personal 

Lastly, here's one I took with Annika's Camera while she was busy.  
I have an entire file on my computer filled with pictures that the girls have taken with these cameras.  I LOVE to look through them.  Annika got the first one when Mayzie was born, and I've always been surprised by some of the really interesting pictures she took.  I'm sure some of them were unintentional, but I love them just the same.  Some of the only pictures of me breastfeeding came from her camera, and who ever can have enough pictures of your kid's nose up close?  

My perspective right now, is that this too shall pass.  We continue to exist in this liminal life state waiting for me to finish my dissertation, so I can find a job, and so we can get on with our real lives.  But this too is part of our journey and I want to remember it, all of it.  I want to remember all the little fun moments and hard fought existential battles and every bit.  I want to remember it because it is shaping my perspective right now and for the future.  I don't want to forget the struggles especially, for they seem to make the sweet that much sweeter.  Right now is a bit of a struggle, but I'm trying to keep a positive perspective on the whole thing and remember the bigger picture for the greater good of our family.  

This is what made me: 

*I am not being compensated by this company for promoting this product in any way, though I'd be happy to do a real review if they're offering.  We genuinely just LOVE this product.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Before He Was My Dad

Mama Kat asked: Share an old picture of a parent or grandparent…who were they back then?

This was my Dad sometime between 1972 and 1978.  
He was married to my mother, but my brother and I hadn't come along yet.  He'd completed his Master's degree in Counseling Social Work, and was either directing a group home for mentally handi-capable men with my mother or doing another counseling job.  I'm not sure actually.  He was a hippy to the core, and made sure that his actions matched his ideals as much as possible.  He was (and continues to be) an avid fisherman and generally loved to be outdoors.  He liked to run for exercise, but had to quit sometime during this exact period because of sciatic nerve issues.

Before he went to graduate school, he had been a real hippy.  He was handpicked from a crowd to be an usher for the musical Hair, and might have been able to pass for a Wookie.  He dug pools in the summertime to pay for school and lived at home with his parents all through undergrad to save money.  He didn't get along with his parents at the time, but I'm pretty sure that was an adolescent/generational thing.  It passed with time.  

He was always soft spoken, but quietly opinionated.  He was a very active member of whichever community he was in, and eventually he worked as a volunteer fire fighter, an ambulance driver, a town councilman, and a church elder all while holding a full time job as a social worker.  He was (and is) pretty amazing.   

These are the pieces of my father's past that I have cobbled together to create this picture of who I think he was back when these pictures were taken.  My mom likes to say that the hippy disappeared when dad cut his hair, but I know it is still in there.  Now he is still working as a social worker, just doing geriatrics.  He isn't as active in his community as before, but he is always a leader in whatever position he holds.  He still exercises every morning, just like he has since he was 16 years old.  He isn't married to my mom either, but that is really a good thing.  They are much better with the people they are currently married to anyway.  Some stories from my father's past are really difficult to comprehend with the man that I know now, but I know there are plenty of people who could say the same about me.  He is a kind-hearted, sweet, and intelligent man who gifted me with a talent for foreign languages and a love of other cultures.  

We love you Poppy.  

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grad School Mommy Part 2: There are Some Perks

I started out this series on a bit of a sour note, by listing some of the bad parts about being a graduate student with children.  I'm going to try to make up for it here in this second part by writing entirely about the positive aspects that contrast to all the drawbacks.  There really are some perks to being a graduate student and new parent at the same time.

Flexible Time
The first and probably biggest advantage to being a graduate student is one I imagine freelancers also enjoy to some extent.  Once I finished all of my course work for my PhD, my time became completely flexible.  I no longer had anyone telling me when I needed to show up somewhere to learn, and this was extremely freeing for me personally.  This flexibility is what has allowed me to be a stay at home mommy during the day and then do my graduate student work in the evenings.  I know that this isn't the way that things work in every department, as many require teaching and/or working hours in order to qualify for departmental financial assistance.  I was lucky enough that when I talked to our department chair and explained that I would basically have to pay to come into the department to work during regular hours, he found a solution that was satisfactory to us all.  Having flexible time means that I have always been available to take my kids to their doctor appointments.  I've always been able to have play dates during the morning or afternoon.  I've always been able to take the girls to the park just because the weather is beautiful and I'm itching for some vitamin D.  Most of all, it has meant that I've been here for all the little moments that are so fleeting and precious in their first years of life.

Conference= Vacation with Friends (kinda)
Academic conferences are really great for reviving your enthusiasm for your field and getting your head away from the halls of your own institution.  You get to hob-knob with all the great minds of your field and hear about all the new and interesting ideas floating about in your academic circles (and sometimes others too).  I've written before about the financial side of conferences, but from the parent perspective conferences can be a much needed break from the every day grind of wearing multiple hats.  When I attend academic conferences I get to be JUST my geeky anthropologist self with a whole bunch of other geek anthropologists.  It can be a fantastic reunion of sorts for graduate students, professors, and professionals to get together and catch up not only on work stuff, but also on personal lives as well.  The conferences are typically held in a fun places too, so it can be like a mini-vacation.  Yes, it does take quite a bit of work to actually make these mini-breaks happen, like writing a conference paper and setting up childcare in your primary care-giver stead, but it all worth it for the simple resetting of my sometimes bogged down brain.

Here I am with my awesome friend Sarah.  
You can actually see the reflection of our other friend taking the picture in my sunglasses.  
This was my first time touching the Pacific Ocean.  
That really was an unexpectedly lovely SPA conference.  

This was the actual view from my hotel room at the Asilomar, CA facilities.  
7 months later, I got pregnant with Mayzie.  

Child-less Friends
Most graduate students don't have children.  Of the ones that don't have children, there seem to be two types: the ones who don't think they ever want to have children and the ones who are delaying having children for various reasons.  Both types of childless graduate student friends can be the BEST when it comes to snuggling your kids and helping to make sure that you get a date night with your husband.  Sure, they too wonder how in the world I do it all, but I like letting them peek behind the curtain of my crazy life sometimes by having them babysit.  I've never had a childless graduate student friend let me pay them for babysitting my kids, probably because they know that we too don't have very much money.  This is directly related to my next point.

No Money, No Problem
When you have kids as a graduate student, you're already used to having no money.  Graduate students live on tiny incomes; that is not a secret.  There is a reason that we swarm when there is a rumor of free food on campus.  Having kids is hard on the bank account, but most of us never knew what it was like to be in any sort of upper tax bracket to start.  We were already used to feeling the financial pinch and clipping coupons when our kids arrived.  We had (and still have) never had any real period of disposable income, so there was no adjustment period.  Sure, we had to move our money around to be able to purchase different things than before, but we also had no qualms about buying things from thrift shops that others might scoff at.  

Over-Education is a Habit
One of the biggest positive aspects of being a graduate student turned mommy is the fact that I get to use my research and analytic skills when it comes to everything about my kids.  If you are a graduate student, you WILL over-educate yourself on everything!  It is just a habit that you can't break.  You consciously seek out the experts in the fields of everything and you inform yourself to the hilt.  While I was pregnant, I voraciously read every book/article about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, diapering, and the first year of life that I could get my hands on.  Yes, I was still keeping up with all of my course reading as well, but I wanted to be as informed as possible when it came time for these huge life changing decisions and moments in our lives.  Consequently, I might have been a bit of a know-it-all first timer, but I was at least a non-judgmental know-it-all.  When it came time for the second baby, I devoured readings on siblings and how to smooth the transition with the firstborn.  I scoured developmental literature like it was my job, and even ended up using some of what I read in one of my qualifying exam bibliographies.  Because of my graduate student status, I had access to all of the cutting edge research articles that I wanted and could order any book to my university library that I desired.  It was awesome!

These are my five top perks to being a graduate student mommy: time flexibility, conference vacations, lots of friends who want to snuggle your babies, no change in financial unreasonableness, and massive reading as a norm.  Last up in this three part series, I'm going to give you a little sneak peek into our daily lives and what it is actually like to be a graduate school mommy.  It isn't always pretty, this is the life we have chosen for our family.  Funny enough, I feel like just as we're all getting used to this whole life, I'm going to finally graduate and be Dr. Mommy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Drum Roll Please...

I am so very excited to announce that I have been chosen as a cast member for Indianapolis' Inaugural Listen to Your Mother show.  LTYM is a national series of live readings in celebration of Mother's Day.  I will be in some brilliant company, and it is sure to be a night full of all types of essays about motherhood.  We'll definitely laugh, maybe cry, and we can guarantee that you will want to hug a mother afterwards.
The show is set for 7pm Thursday May 2nd at the Indiana Historical Society, so be sure to mark your calendars and buy tickets early.  A portion of the proceeds are going to Partners in Housing.  I promise to let you know when you can buy tickets, so that you can all come listen to me read my essay.  Don't worry if you can't make it though, because all of the cast members' performances will be video taped and place on the LTYM YouTube Channel.  
I'm already trying to figure out what in the world I'm going to wear for my 5 minutes of nerve fueled blur of a reading!  I'll be making a trip to Berlin between now and then, so perhaps I'll bring some Berliner fashion back with me. 
Learning that I get to be part of this amazing show was definitely the biggest highlight of my week!  
I'm also counting down the day until my first self-imposed due date of March 1st for a dissertation chapter.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  
Lastly, one other thing made me jump-up-in-the-air happy this week, though I'm worried that if I talk about it, I might jinx it.  Throwing caution to the wind, I would like to announce to the world that Mayzie is officially potty trained!!!  She even goes to the potty when she needs to without having to be asked anymore.  It is AWESOME.  (At the same time this made me a little sad, as my ovaries started aching, but I'm choosing to ignore them.)  
My oh my, what an happy week it has been.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grad Student/Mommy Part 1: Sometimes it Sucks

I am not the first person to attempt this whole Mama PhD thing.  In fact, there's a really great anthology of essays about motherhood with that exact title: Mama PhD.  I LOVED this book soo very much and am a regular follower of the blog contributors over at Inside Higher Ed too.  I also adore the Graduate Student Barbie that was floating around all my circles a while back.  I don't particularly recommend having a baby in graduate school, but sometimes it is just time to start your family.  You can always figure out the details later and change your mind a million times.  Isn't that what's so great about life anyway?  But I digress.

I want to write a little more frankly about what it is like to be a PhD student/Mommy.  I'm going to do this in 3 parts.  In this first part I'm going to discuss the not so pretty parts of it.  I want to get all the negative bits out of the way first so that the second part can be entirely about the positive aspects that contrast to all the drawbacks.  There really are some.  Lastly, I want to talk about the day to day life of a graduate student mommy.  I'm always getting questioned about what it is like and how do I actually get everything done.  In the final piece, I'll also let you in on a few of my secrets to my success.

Part 1: Sometimes Being a Graduate Student/Mommy Sucks

Graduate students everywhere think that they have the market cornered when it comes to feeling guilty.  They constantly feel like they aren't doing enough and should be more productive, and sometimes this guilt forces many a colleague to spin into the tornado of self-doubt that leads to stalling in your degree progression.  Moms can give grad students a run for their money, because many of us also feel guilty much of the time. Mommy guilt is especially difficult to combat when everything around you seems to want to tell you how to do this mothering thing that you just started.  You feel like you should know all the answers, or at least where to find them all.  Wait, that last one goes for mothers AND graduate students.  This is the thing when you wear both hats, the distinct lines between one self and the other really start to blur and you forget which one caused the guilty feelings.  Good thing I always remember that I should feel guilty about something, and I'm not even Catholic.  Should I feel guilty for not submitting a conference paper abstract or that I let my kids watch ANOTHER movie so that I could fold the laundry in peace today?  Hey, why not both?  Missed deadlines, missed networking opportunities, forgotten play dates, too much junk food, etc etc etc.  Guilt from two major sources, is not a fun thing, and Grad School Mommies might know this best all.

Missing Out
One thing I regularly feel guilty about, also happens to be the second drawback to being a Grad School Mommy.  I am always missing out on something.  This comes in many forms and locations.  For example, I missed out on going to our good friends' cabin for the weekend with our two families because I had a hard deadline for a qualifying exam that could not be moved.  The pictures of all the fun they had that weekend were torture, but I got my paper done.  I'm also always missing out on things at school that are really good for me to attend professionally.  There are always all kinds of visiting scholars coming to give lectures on campus, and finding a sitter in the middle of the day to come watch my kids for 2 hours so I can attend a lecture just sounds frivolous to my pragmatic and very budget conscious mind.  I miss those lectures, as well as all the chances to just happen to bump into our professors to ask them one quick question in person.  The value of them seeing your face as a graduate student cannot be understated, however the value of them seeing your face while you are pushing a double stroller down the hall is pretty much zero.  Most professors pay all kinds of lip service to how great it is that you have a family, but when it comes down to it, they would prefer to not see them at all.  The last thing that I'm constantly missing out on is socializing with other graduate students.  Meeting other people who totally geek out on the same stuff you think is amazingly interesting and who like to debate the finer points of big ideas in your chosen field, well, that is pretty much the greatest part about graduate school to be honest.  Impromptu beer drinking at the local watering hole pretty much flies right out the window when you are the grad school mommy.  Sure, I can show up for parties that are planned in advance, but chances are, I'm not going to bring my husband.  I don't bring him because he mostly thinks those parties are boring, so why would I pay for a sitter so he can come look bored with a bunch of anthropology geeks.  I sincerely miss the social aspect of graduate school.

Graduate school doesn't pay well.  If it does pay at all, it is hardly enough to scrape by as one person, let alone helping to support an entire family.  Childcare in the USA is in a horrific state in my opinion, but I think I'll save that for another post.  What I want to say about childcare as a drawback for me as a Graduate Student Mommy is this: We can't afford it.  With Andy's salary and my measly income, we are officially too rich to qualify for any subsidies.  That means that if we had our girls in childcare, we would be required to pay 1.5 times our rent per month.  We just don't have that kind of money, even if we weren't making hefty student loan payments for Andy's undergraduate degree.  I previously worked a part-time job while teaching and all of the money went for Annika's part-time childcare at the time.  I ended up barely making any progress on my degree and feeling ever so guilty for not spending more time with Annika.  It ended up being more cost efficient for me to be a Stay at Home Mom all day and work at night when Andy gets home.  BTW: I could only do that after I finished my coursework, which was the semester before Mayzie was born.  Paying for 2 kids in daycare was never going to be in our price range as long as I was in graduate school.  (Don't worry, I'll explain the day to day in part 3 of the series.)

Judgy Mc Judgerson
Do you like to have every idea you think and word you write critiqued to the Nth degree?  If so then you really need to go to graduate school.  Moms are also constantly judged by our peers, our families, and random strangers on the street.  Somehow when you become a parent, it seems that everyone in the world has a right to judge your actions all the time.  (Or is that just my perception?)  When I announced my second pregnancy to my advisor, his response was, "On purpose?"  Yes, your judgement came through loud and clear on that one Professor.  The shame that goes along with the judging was really hard for me personally, until I decided to just let it all go and do my own thing no matter what they all say.  Who are they anyway?  Well, THEY are the majority who like to actually make decisions regarding my future. Our university does at least TRY to include graduate student parents in decision making processes about them.  I recently received an email from our University's President asking me if I would like to be a student representative to a special task force investigating issues surrounding students with children at the university.  While I would have LOVED to be on the committee, I simply asked if they were willing to skype me in for the meetings since I am unable to afford childcare at all as a graduate student.  I took their lack of response as a no.

Money is a very tricky issue when it comes to graduate students.  Not all PhDs are funded, which really sucks.  I'm not actually allowed to talk about the specifics of my funding situation because of a privacy agreement, which btw I find completely ridiculous and wish that the entire funding process was more transparent.  Suffice it to say my sole income is not in a bracket that actually has to pay taxes.  Thankfully I have a husband who does earn enough to support us, but we don't exactly have money busting out of our overstuffed couch cushions.  What I really want to address is grant and fellowship funding when it comes to being a grad school mommy.  In my department, as many others, you apply for funding for your own fieldwork.  I actually wrote 9 large funding proposals for my dissertation fieldwork.  For each proposal you have to write out a very specific
budget detailing how you plan to actually use the money should they give it to you.  This is not a very easy thing to do.  Of the 9 proposals I wrote, only one of them allowed you to budget ANY of the funds for childcare.  According to all of those other funders, I was apparently supposed to magically have the money for childcare all by myself or maybe they expected me to actually just take my kids along to all my field interviews.  I know there are anthropologists who have done that in the past, but I really didn't want to have to.  When I asked one of the program officers at a foundation why I couldn't write childcare into my budget, he simply said, "We just categorically do not fund that kind of thing."

So you see guilt, missing out, lack of affordable childcare, judge-iness, & funding finagling are 5 of the biggest drawbacks to being a grad school mommy.  Sometimes it really just sucks having to make the hard decisions all the time, but I'm really glad I've stuck it all out in the end.  Next time I'll write about some of the nicer things about being a grad school mommy, if only to convince you that we aren't all a bunch of whiners who can only see the bad side of things.

(I'm now sitting in my chair singing Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.")

See, even 7 & 1/2 months pregnant, I can still look like a serious academic. 
FYI: this is a picture from 2010...NO, I am not currently or ever again planning to be pregnant.  

Trifecta: Dwell

Some days I am more philosophical than others.

Some days I dwell on the constructed nature of Culture
turning the idea over and over in my mind until it changes form.

I am convinced that the world would be a much different place
if we understood how much of it is made up of our own constructed ideas,
rather than some concrete things on which we base our existence and exigencies.

I am reminded of the beautiful basic concepts of my chosen field
and why I went into anthropology in the first place.
All the theoretical and methodological debates
fall to the side when I dwell in my post-modern state of
everything is everything.

Naturally, nihilism will slip the doubts back into my mind
in a fit of rage at the state of beings and doings around me.

But for that graceful moment,
I transcend the boundaries and see that we are one
only separated by choice.

Perhaps that is just my transparent eyeball Huckabees moment,
but I liked it.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Memories Captured

Some weeks seem stitched together with a thousand tiny memories that I want to hold in my heart forever and ever.  The big memories are wonderful and fun and seemingly eternal, but those small fleeting moments of absolute glee glazed goodness seem ever so slippery in my mind.  This is part of what I love about blogging.  I get to write about all kinds of moments and it is recorded forever for all of us to remember and treasure.

This morning Annika cheered big when I came downstairs, wrapped her arms around my neck, and whispered her request for some tea in my ear.  We snuggled on the couch and I tried not to annoy her too much while I sniffed my favorite spot just behind her ear where her hairline is.  I know that she won't always want to cuddle, and even now feel those times becoming fewer and fewer.  She is learning new things by the day and will be registered for Kindergarten by the end of the month.  She loves to sing the lyrics to songs on the radio, and can't wait for spring to come so she can ride her bike more.

Miss Mayzie is blossoming and becoming more independent every day.  I adore our mornings playing together while Annika is at pre-school, and will be a little sad when she goes to pre-school next year.  She loves to play dress-up, and always gravitates to the princess clothes (so very opposite of her sister).  This particular morning, she really wanted to have her picture taken, so I savored the opportunity to snap as many shots as I could on the iPad.

The dexterity and pace with which Annika has been learning new skills has been astounding to me. She got a fun book of snacks she could make herself, and she loves to show me how she follows the directions but then adds her own creative elements.  Those marshmallows were not part of the recipe.  She's so proud and so am I.  

The silly faces of Mayzie crack me up, and one of her favorite games is playing with her face while taking pictures on the iPad.  She insists on seeing them immediately afterward and falls out laughing at her own ingenious hilarity.  I love this, and I hope she never loses this goofiness.  

Together my girls are beautiful and adorable and constant comedic relief.  They are sweet jellybeans, salty pretzels, spicy salami sticks, and crunchy pepper rings.  They are Buckeyes and Berliners and now Hoosiers, and have hearts of the purest gold.  Their chocolate and hazelnut eyes penetrate my soul and keep me grounded in a way that I so desperately need in my life.  Their knobby knees and sharp elbows bring me a happiness that I never could have imagined.  I am proud of them and always, always in awe that I had anything to do with their existence.  

LTYM-Skype Audition

Well, today is the big day that I get to audition for the Indianapolis Production of LTYM.  I'm sooo very excited to read my essay in front of the producers and get to see their reactions.  I'm not so very excited to get to do it via Skype.  It might be more accurate to say that I am nervous as hell.

I've been frantically texting all my fashion guru friends to ask what to wear, and google-ing advice for Skype auditions.  Andy is absolutely no help in this matter, in fact he's totally counter productively smug about it.  This could be because he got hired for his job via a Skype interview while we were still living in Berlin.  Phrases such as, "Well at least you are on the same time," really aren't all that helpful.  In truth, there is an hour difference between me and the producers in Indianapolis, so there, in your face Andy.

I did come across some interesting advice for actors who are auditioning via Skype, though I'm pretty sure not all of that is really applicable in my situation.  However, it did make me feel better to learn that Jennifer Lawrence auditioned for Silver Linings Playbook via Skype.  My skills are nowhere near as magnificent as hers, but that was such a major part to try to convey via internet.  Way to go Jennifer!  I also have no acting training whatsoever, unless you count one single community college speech class that I took in 2003.  

I'm also taking a smidgen of confidence from the fact that I do not need to try to say the word "penis" 152 times in my essay, like my friend Marianne.  Of course then I remember that, I'm also not a world renowned co-author of a book like she is, so there goes that confidence.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me today that I can find an outfit that will be appropriate, that my nerves don't get the best of me, and that I can remember how to speak English long enough to enunciate the words in my essay.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How to Roll a Cousin Burrito

Step 1: Put all the cousins in the center of the blanket.

Step 2: Grab one side of the blanket, either side is fine.

Step 3: Cover cousins with blanket and tuck it under the furthest cousin from the starting edge.

Step 5: Grab the other side of the blanket. 

Step 6: Wrap the remaining side over the top of the girls and under the girl on the far edge. 

Step 7: Make sure it is tucked in extra tight. 

Step 8: Enjoy the adorableness of the cousin burrito!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy This Week

1. RIO.  Andy took the kids to the library on Sunday and brought back the movie Rio.  Our girls have wanted to watch it every day this week and I have let them because it makes my heart so very happy.  I love the story of a bird finding his home and I love that it takes place in the place of our honeymoon.  The music makes me want to get up and dance and we've all been doing the samba around the apartment all week.

2. I had a great conversation with a friend that I have only recently reconnected with, at least partly as a result of this blog.  I was soo happy to talk to Erin yesterday, and it is amazing to me how quickly and easily we fell back into chatting like the old friends we are.  Even after 12 years of not speaking, some things never change.  That makes me smile from ear to ear.

3. Unusually warm days in February are nice, and I took advantage of it by taking the girls to the zoo yesterday.  I love going when it is pretty empty so that I don't stress about losing the girls, and walking the hills is certainly more fun than running on a treadmill.

They were sad we missed the Giraffe feeding time, but fine with climbing the sculpture instead. 

My little monkeys. 

Enjoying the exquisite orchids and flowers in the rainforest area.  

Annika liked them too. 
We even saw these amazingly confused and brave crocuses starting to poke up. 

4. Lastly, this morning I read a great post on Savage Minds about the ridiculous cost of conference attendance.  I've written about this before, and I know I am not the only academic who thinks that the entire process seems to be a racket and extremely classist way to exclude those of us who aren't rich.  Academic patronage is a relic of the past and we need to move beyond that idea.  If someone could help my adviser understand that too...well, that could be a post for another time.  

Happily hooking up with Elastamom today: 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Inspired by Pinterest--A Mama Kat Writing Prompt

Pinterest inspires me to be creative, crafty, fit and funky and it is one of my current addictions.  A friend and I like to joke that we aren't sure how graduate students procrastinated before Facebook or Pinterest, and it is sad but true.  I had been keeping my addiction a bit of a secret, but then I started beginning all my sentences with the phrase, "well, I saw this cool thing on Pinterest."  The cat was out of the bag, and my mother in law started asking me about the site.  I described it to her on one condition, that she promised not to hate me when she got addicted too.  

You see, it was only natural that we should both become addicted.  We are a family of do-it-yourself crafty people who like to make pretty and practical things.  Thrifty is also in our blood, and I only half-jokingly say that I married my husband because he brakes for rummage sales.  As I mentioned before, we are on a tight budget this year.  We also just moved into a new-to-us apartment that is in serious need of some character.  My cousin's wife Corinne told me about all kinds of cool stuff on Pinterest and how much she likes it, and I finally decided to take the plunge.

It started with some recipes

I found some really great knitting projects, like the dinosaurs I made for Theresa.  

I then moved on to some gutter shelves,reading nook for the girls. 

Most recently, Andy installed these buckets in the girls' closets for more organized toy storage.  

My MIL, in comparison, has become a true devotee.  Every time I go to her house (which is at least once a week), she hands me something that she has made from scratch from Pinterest.  She made some great laundry soap, lotion, caramel, and even some super absorbent training pants for Mayzie.  She's pretty crafty like that.  I love how into Pinterest she is and how she doesn't actually blame me for enabling her addiction at all.  

I have one secret board on Pinterest that I'm saving up for one day soon.  I'm planning a trip to Berlin, and when I return, I'm going to chop my hair and donate it to Locks of Love again.  Before I go, my big plan is to make the board public and set up a link so that you can vote on which haircut I get.  I'll even let you add your own ideas too if you'd like.  It will be my hair, inspired by Pinterest. 

What do you think?  Is that an insanely brave or awesomely fun idea?  Would you vote?  

Mama’s Losin’ It


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