Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Mayzie Week

While Annika was living it up in Florida with her grandparents, we got a week of Mayzie all to ourselves.  We tried to make it a little more fun than usual, though nap times really do interfere with all day big plans at this point.  She got to go swimming at her Nana & Papaw's house. 

I was able to take her to the 4C Party in the Park, where she got to drive a school bus and honk the horn. 

She even got to run the bases at Bosse Field and meet some of the Evansville Otters players.  This is Ricardo Lizcano from Toledo, OH who used to play for the Lake Erie Crushers near Cleveland where my girls were born.  

Dad worked at 32 hour straight shift thanks to some hackers, but we got donuts out of it.  Mayzie, like most kids, is convinced that everything is better with sprinkles.  

On Thursday, Mayzie got to spend the whole day with her Papaw.  They went fishing, and she now holds the grandkid record with 3 catches in a single trip.  They had a great time together, and this is what they were doing when I pulled up.  

On Friday, I got lots of cuddles from this lovely girl who actually slept until 7am.  She never does that when her sister is around.  I felt incredibly refreshed and thankful for this munchkin. 

Monday finally came, with the fun 3 hour drive to the airport each way to go pick up Annika.  My mom met us at the airport and then took us out to eat before we had to get back on the road.  It was so great to get to see my mom, if only for a brief visit.  

It was a good week.  We had fun.  I wanted to be able to give Mayzie that special one on one time, and I did.  There were loads of extra cuddles and yes flowed out of my mouth more often.  What I didn't expect was just how much she would miss her older sister.  She'd never known the thrill of being the only kid in the house for an extended period of time.  I think she was over it by Wednesday to be honest.  She kept talking about her sister and would hardly put the iPad down every time that we skyped.  Apparently Annika was the same way in FL.  So I guess they actually like each other. 

I love my brother, but I really don't know what it's like to have a sister.  I don't know what it is like to be into the same kinds of things all the time or to be able to steal each other's clothes.  I have no idea what is coming in the next few years, but I do know that they love each other very much.  They are adorable together actually.  I'm also the oldest of the 2 kids from my mother and father, so I don't know what it's like to be the second child.  I never want her to feel like she is second place or that we don't love her as much.  I consciously tried to take as many baby pictures of her as I did Annika.  What I'm coming to realize now though, is that she doesn't view any of these as markers of fairness.  So far, the only protests of fairness that we've gotten have to do with when Annika gets a treat and she doesn't (usually because she didn't eat her dinner).  So we navigate the multiple personalities contained in our little family, and try to empathize with the differing positions that we inhabit.  I have a feeling that little Miss Mayzie Faye is always going to surprise us, and we're just starting to see the real beginning of it now.  I can't wait to see how she does in preschool in two weeks. 

What do you think I should do with my time while they are both in school?  (Apparently the preschool director thinks I won't know what to do. <bwahahahahaha>.) 
Any advice for how to get Annika to cut her hair before school starts?  She seems to think the semi-mullet look is working for her, but I'm not so sure.  
What do you do to make your second child feel special?  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

A list of things I wish people had told me about having a baby while getting your PhD:

1. There aren't that many people to relate to.
Most sane people just don't do what you are about to attempt.  Many people give up in the PhD process, and even more give up when kids come along to make it more complicated.  This is especially true of mothers, as we have a hard row to hoe when it comes to growing the baby, birthing the baby, feeding the baby, and generally not sleeping because of all of the above.  Seek out others in your same situation, and you will relate to them so easily.  You will NEED these people, especially as your childless friends will mostly not understand completely all the frustrations and joys that come with the territory of being Mama PhD.

2. Your feelings of guilt and inferiority are about to be multiplied.
Graduate students feel guilty all the time for not being more productive, for not applying for more funding opportunities, and for generally just not knowing enough.  Mothers feel the same type of guilt for not spending enough time with their kids, for not breastfeeding them when it becomes crazy difficult, and for fear of doing something wrong to mess your kid up permanently. The combination of these two types of guilt can be lethal.  At the very least, you will be stressed to the max.  At the most, you will require medication to make it through this insanity.  Maybe both of these things will be true for you.  Graduate student mothers might actually have the corner on the guilt market, so you absolutely MUST learn to let some things go.

3. Don't listen to the haters.
When I told my advisor that I was pregnant with my second daughter, his response was, "On purpose?"  The haters might be unintentional, but they will certainly be there.  Tune them out.  Keep on keeping on and don't listen to any words of discouragement.  You WILL be forging a new path, and it is not easy.  It might be peopled with haters who will doubt your resolve and/or abilities.  Do not listen!

4. Don't try to make it look easy, it just isn't.
I firmly believe that you do a disservice to all of us in the same situation when you try to make it all look easy.  It isn't easy, so stop trying to pretend that it is.  It might be easy for professors that can afford a nanny (though never underestimate their guilt levels too), but being a graduate student mommy is NOT easy.  Don't fake it.  Just be real!

5. Don't roll your eyes too many times when your friends without kids say things like, "I just don't know how you do it all.
You will hear it all the time.  Smile and nod and try not to say something snarky like, "I just don't know how you don't."  I've been tempted many times, trust me.

What do you wish someone would have told you before you started down your current life adventure? What advice would you give past self?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Our Big Girl

Turning 5 is a big deal in the travel world because it means that you can fly all by yourself as an unaccompanied minor on direct flights.  Naturally, Annika's Poppy & Noni in Florida were all over that rule when they found out.  They planned a trip for Ani to come visit them immediately and bought her ticket shortly after finding a direct flight from Indianapolis to Tampa.  I had to make them promise not to take her to Disney by begging them saying, "but WE want to take her the first time."  They relented begrudgingly, empathetic to our parental wishes if only a little bit.  

We talked up the trip for months.  She was soo excited to go by herself.  She knew all the fun stuff that waited for her at Poppy and Noni's house, and couldn't wait to get there.  We talked all about what it would be like to travel alone and reminded her what it's like to fly on an airplane.  (The girl is a seasoned traveler already though with her first flight at 2 months old and more stamps in her passport than most will ever get.)  

Doesn't she already look like a seasoned traveler?  
We were new to the whole flying as an unaccompanied minor schtick, and definitely learned a few things in the send-off process.  Here's a short list: 

1. The child doesn't need any kind of identification, other than a birth certificate if they don't look like they're 5 yet.  This was surprising to me, but totally makes sense in hindsight.  I had to sign an envelope with my name, address, and phone number and the same information for my father who was picking her up at the other end.  We both had to show our ID to send and receive her. 

2.  You get to take your kid all the way to the gate, and get to wait with them until they get on the airplane.  You are actually then asked to stay in the gate area until the plane is in the air, as it could turn around at any point to bring them back if they start freaking out and wanting to come back.  This was the worst part of the process, and I ended up just staring at the plane and crossing my fingers hoping she was doing fine.  

3. The person picking up the minor also gets to come all the way to the gate to pick up the minor.  As soon as Annika got off the plane my dad was there waiting for her.  So basically, the only time she was alone was when she was actually on the airplane.  

4. Make sure to pack a fun bag for them to explore on the airplane.  I filled Annika's with snacks, a new coloring book, new crayons, a favorite book, and a new fluffy rubbery chick that lights up when you squeeze it.  She loved it, and it kept her busy while on the flight (as far as I know).   

5. Even the most seasoned child traveler can get stage-fright when faced with the actual prospect of getting on a plane by herself.  As we were sitting at the gate Annika started to get a little scared about going.  She turned to me and said, "Mama, I decided that I just want to stay here with you ok?"  I gave her a big squeeze and proceeded to talk to her about all the fun stuff that she was going to get to do with Poppy and Noni in Florida.  That almost calmed her fears, but the thing that put her back in the mindset to travel was seeing two other boys traveling by themselves on the same flight.  Surely she was more brave than they are.  That did the trick. 

Here is our sweet girl waiting at the gate. 

So the mystery of traveling as an unaccompanied minor, at least for our big girl, is solved.  When my dad asked her what her favorite part of the trip was, she promptly announced, "I got to drink soda on the airplane."  She is having the time of her life in Florida this week, and I'm sure we'll spend all of next week reprogramming her to remember that she isn't actually the center of the universe.  I'm so very proud of how brave she was, and I hope she knows how lucky she is to have such generous grandparents.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Camping Fun

Amid the myriad of panic attacks when I'm thinking "holy hell this article just needs to come out of my brain already," Andy makes sure that I de-stress a little bit.  This past weekend we took the girls camping at one of our favorite places in the world near the college town where we met.

Our fabulous friend Cindy let our girls take a tour of the Arabian Horse Farm where she works.  The girls were in LOVE.  Mayzie Faye especially loved this donkey whose name is Mazey Day.  She just HAD to get a picture with her. 

As is always the case in Indiana during the summer, the cicadas sing their humming clicking songs of searching and leave their shells all over the trees.  We finally found an actual bug, and not just the shell.  Annika was enamored! 

When the girls met this foal, they were head over heels.  They fed this not so shy girl apple slices and giggled every time her lips tickled their hands.  It was so much fun to watch their little faces of absolute joy.  

I think they might have had more fun fishing if we had actually caught anything.  Our friend Heath briefly reeled a fish in that had the unfortunate mishap of being in just the right place at the wrong time.  The fish got hooked in the eye on Heath's first cast.  Good thing there was a playground nearby. 

Mayzie was more interested in looking adorable than actually fishing.  

It rained on us, but we didn't really mind.  We still made sure that the kids got their s'mores with the giant marshmallows that Andy found calling to him at the store.  I just adore Annika's face in this picture.  She was laughing so hard and I couldn't help but kiss her sticky sweet cheeks after I snapped this shot.  

Our camping crew had a great time despite the crummy weather.  The kids even entertained themselves much of the time while we adults sat and had actual adult conversation.  

There were bunches of laughs and giggles and good times to be had this weekend, and I needed more of that in my life.  Mayzie won the good behavior award, though I might take it away for all the potty accidents she had.  I keep trying to remember that it's a looong process, and we were in a strange place.  

We even had some old friends that live in a nearby town come over and visit us at our campsite.  We took the kids to the swimming pool.  We took the girls for outrageously humongous dinosaur ice cream sundaes.  We took so many trips to the bathroom with the kids that we lost count at some point.  We all slept in one giant tent because the other tent didn't have a rain fly and it was pouring.  We had fabulous dutch oven breakfast casserole and roasted tofu-dogs.  It was a deliciously savory and sweet weekend that will not ever be lost in my memory.  It was beautiful and messy and frustrating and hilarious and scrumptious in every way possible.  This is the kind of weekend when the juice runs down my chin and hand from taking a giant bite out of life, and I couldn't be more thankful for having been there.  


Thursday, July 18, 2013


I am absent.
I am absent minded.
I am seriously buried in academic work right now that is taking up my time.
I have a deadline: July 30th.
I have to have a completed chapter by then.
I'm submitting said chapter to a graduate paper competition.
I'm nervous about it.
I'm doubting my abilities.
What else is new?

I also traveled to the DC area for a wedding last weekend.  It was a blast.  I got to see some old friends, and even got some Christmas knitting done on the long & fun drive with my Mom, Step-dad, & sister.  Yes, you read that right.  I went on a trip without my husband and kids, and it was Fab.U.lous.

Here I am in full-on family tour guide mode. 
My Uncle Steven would be so proud. 

Me & Abraham 
P.S. Andy's never been to DC & totally recognized this memorial from Night at the Museum 2. 

Me with the White House

Me & my Mama @ the wedding reception 

So I'm sorry for being rather absent from my blogging world as of late.  I'll be back. For now, know that my creative energies are being utilized in a most productive way...and no I don't mean just Facebook and Twitter.  Dissertating is a lonely business.  I'll be back to tell you all about my stress relief efforts soon. :-) 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dissertating Mommy

One of Mama Kat's writing prompts this week is to write a post in just 12 lines.  I'm not counting this introductory paragraph, but I hope I'm not breaking the rules.  The topic of my 12 line challenge is: 

Dissertating Mommy

Writing a dissertation takes discipline. 
Writing a dissertation while being a primary care giver for girls ages 3 & 5 takes Chutzpah.  
Data analysis is going well, though not as fast as I would like or need.  
I WILL get this chapter done by the end of the month! 

I miss seeing my husband; I usually walk out the door when he gets home from work. 
Dreaming of being done keeps me going, but dreaming of my dissertation makes me sad. 
My daughters have no idea what an anthropologist is or what I do when I work. 
I want to make my family proud, and seriously hope I really do have something worthy to say.  

I'm starting to put some coals in the fire for the future, and getting excited about possibilities. 
I will spend 1/2 of August and all of September writing applications for grants & postdocs.  
I actually enjoy writing applications, which makes me a little weird even for an academic.
It is really hard to make long-term plans when everything is seemingly in limbo all the time.

Hang on for the ride girls. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Monday, July 8, 2013


I wear the heat and humidity like a blanket here, and am ever so grateful for having central air for the first time in 7 years.  (This always makes me think of that line from Dogma when Azriel says, "No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater... than central air.")  Sometimes I start to sweat just as I open that door that has hot air trapped between it and the outer glass door.  Summer is NOT my favorite season, as you may well have already guessed.

I don't do well in the heat.  I feel like I start to melt into the ground and all of the energy is drained out of my body.  I don't even want to be outside if I can help it, and 100% humidity is impossible to ignore.  It smacks you in the face when you walk outside, makes your entire body feel weighed down, and your skin is instantaneously covered in a fine coat of glistening sweat that drips down your back.

When I visited New Orleans 2 1/2 years ago, I came home telling Andy that we should move there.  He quickly reminded me how hot and humid it is there and how much I hate the heat.  I recanted that perhaps we can have our winter home there.  Naturally, he retorted that perhaps we should get a non-winter home first before we start thinking about the luxury of a second.  He always likes to quash my daydreams with his pragmatism, and I usually come around out loud while still dreaming on the inside.

Summer can be so sweet, full of quality time with the kids and fresh produce bursting and flowers blossoming all around us.  I love the flavors of summer with shaved ice and slushies topping my personal list of favorites.  The colors of summer keep me in an appreciative mood, though I seriously long for my favorite season: Fall.

Midwestern summers can be oppressive.  My father likes to call up and rub it in on days that it is hotter here than it is in his neck of the Floridian woods.  The heat drives us all inside during the summer, except for those without A/C.  When we lived in Cleveland we spent more time in the shaded backyard with the kids in the kiddie pool and running through the sprinkler.  We still go to shaded parks here, but not to escape the heat of our living room as the sun streamed in through the constantly open windows.

But I'm settling in to summer now that it is halfway over.  We're settling into a routine, and I'm getting used to the heat that seems to creep up the thermometer a couple more degrees every day.  I really want to like the heat.  I want to like being outside when it's hot.  I just don't.  It has turned into another one of those things that I have realized about myself and come to accept.  Just because everyone else in the world seems to love summer, doesn't mean that I have to as well.

Annika & Mayzie enjoying a cool rainy July day in Berlin one year ago. 
I'm definitely longing for the Northern European climate again! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Q & A from Tara--finally.

Tara at Faith in Ambiguity Asked: 
These 11 Questions were asked in March, and YES, I'm just now getting around to answering them.  Better late than never I suppose.  What do you say Tara?

1. Would you ever dissect a cat—if no one was using it and it was already dead? If so, why?
Yes I would.  Dissection was always my favorite part of Biology class, which my husband thinks is really odd considering I'm a vegetarian.  I also love watching my father in law carve up his latest hunting kills, and the time I watched him clean pheasant for an hour made him laugh so hard.  I find it completely fascinating to be able to see what is normally hidden underneath skin.  Funny enouch, I can't watch surgery shows because they freak me out.  

2. Are you a writer or a blogger? Does your answer affect what you do?
I think I'm both.  I blog. I write screenplays, kids books, and stories for fun.  I write academic papers for my career.  I dream of writing fun, smart, and informative books one day.  Then again, I'm used to wearing multiple hats at the same time.

3. Sushi—yes or no?
I used to LOVE sushi, and I still love vegetarian sushi.  If I ever crave meat, it is often for fatty tuna sushi or spider rolls.

4. What sorts of things really offend you, not just on an abstract level, but in day-to-day life?
Unapologetic Lateness.  I totally understand lateness, but at least have the decency to know that you are being rude and wasting someone else's time when you are late.  

5. What's the one secret ingredient that brings life to your cooking (or, you know, your re-heated Lean Cuisines)?

6. Santa Claus: magical childhood delight or insult to children everywhere?
Magical childhood delight and teachable moment for older children.  I sincerely appreciate Dale McGowan's take on the whole thing.

7. Name the best piece of short fiction you've ever read.
The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells changed the way I think about literature, most especially because I vehemently disagreed with my college TA's interpretation of it.  I'm not sure it's the best piece I ever read, but it always springs to mind.

I also REALLY love "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  It is soo mysterious and creepy and relate-able for anyone who has ever experienced mental illness.

8. Name a novel that changed your life.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath changed the way I look at my depressed self and the decisions I make when I get that way.  Our family's motto: better living through chemistry.

9. What is the thing that everyone likes but you, and even so, you know you're right?
Cantaloupe.  I seriously cannot stand it.

10. If you're on the right path, will you be happy? Or are some people called to walk a harder path?
I don't think there is one right path for all of us.  A series of choices lead us to the path that we are on right now, and it is up to us to change course if this path doesn't make us happy.  I think it is all about perspective, initiative, and learning to accept or change circumstances whenever we can.  

11. Name a really good soup that can be bought in a can.
Un-Chicken Noodle Soup, though I haven't had it in years.  It was always yummy. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013


My beautiful summertime is filled with blurry days spent at the playground pushing girls on swings that they are too big for really.  

On lovely days we go out to my in-laws' house on the lake and swim in their mini-pool then play in Freddy-ville (aka: the playground on the left).  While the girls swim, I get to catch up with my MIL and actually relax a little bit with some sweet tea, a southern tradition that I'm really learning to love.  (BTW: we might live in IN, but this definitely feels like the south sometimes with all the sweet tea, carports, and small town-mindsets.)

The girls and I have started making a habit out of going to a local farmer's market on Friday mornings.  This was our fantastic loot from last week.  I made the most delicious roasted vegetables from the zucchini and heirloom tomatoes and then made a quinoa beet salad with the greens too.  I LOVE all the fresh veggies and fruits of the summer harvest! 

Summer is also a great time for catching up with friends.  I met a girlfriend halfway between our two distant towns for a little lunch date.  Tree and I have been friends since Brownies, and I think we only mildly annoyed our waitress by sitting and chatting for 2 hours.  There were cosmopolitans! 

Then some friends come over and are so addicted to Candy Crush that they can't even stop to visit.  
I'm only teasing Kyle & Jenny, you know we love you guys.  

Last but not least of the summer so far, is that I've gotten to spend loads of fun times with just Mayzie as Annika has been going to various summer camps around town.  We went to this awesome block party playdate organized by the Purdue extension here, and we even got a free box of 100 Melissa & Doug blocks to take home with us just for showing up and filling out an evaluation.  Mayzie LOVES her some blocks, and I love hanging out with my munchkin.  

I heard on the radio that there are only 6 more weeks left until school starts.  6 more weeks of glorious summertime with my girls.  6 more weeks of swimming pools, farmers' markets, and free time to do what we want when we want to do it.  6 more weeks of rainy day cuddles on the couch watching movies.  6 more weeks of not scrambling out the door in the morning.  

I also have 3 more weeks to finish my next dissertation chapter and prepare a presentation for a possible research collaboration on an R01 NIH grant that could be my post-doc.  Apologies if that was all gobblety-gook for you.  Despite the laid-back-ness of this post and the general veneer of calm that my summer has, I am actually more stressed than I have been in a while.  Deadlines tend to do that to me.  I've been trying to relieve it with more exercise and better eating.  I AM training for a 1/2 marathon after all.  So I continue the relaxing days and stress filled evenings schedule for 6 more weeks.  This too shall pass and I'll have 1/2 days free to work on my dissertation while Mayzie is at preschool.  Annika won't come home from Kindergarten until after 3pm soon, and I'll have so much time to actually work.  Naturally, my deadlines are all before that happens.  Naturally I'm stressing.  

What do you do to relieve your stress?  What is your favorite place to go work outside of the house if you are a WAH parent?  How's your summer going so far?  

I LOVE this link-up with GFunkified, though I am totally late for the party this week. 


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