Monday, April 13, 2015

Life is Happening

I've resigned myself to the fact that no matter how much I actually get done or how hard I work, it always feels like I'm stuck on a treadmill, not moving forward. I'm not entirely sure why I constantly feel that way because whenever I look back over the course of just a few months, I realize that so much progress has been made, both at work and in life in general. Here are just a few highlights from 2015 so far.

1. We rang in the new year on a cruise! Not really my cup of tea, but it was definitely an experience, especially with a crazy toddler trying to run away every two seconds.

2. I passed my written and oral comprehensive exams! A HUGE milestone for me during my graduate career. I really wasn't sure I could do it, but I am now a PhD candidate, and I can finally take a moment to breathe.

3. Miles turned two years old! I now have a two-year-old!

4. I experienced my first International Gap Junction Conference. This one was held in Valparaiso, Chile, and this was my first time in South America!

5. I gave a talk (and poster) at the Chile conference in front of 150 people, most of them experts in the gap junction field of research. It was quite intimidating, but overall a great experience.

6. I was reminded time and time again amidst all of this that Matt is the most amazing husband I could have ever asked for. Not only did he so willingly and patiently take care of Miles during my two week written exam, but he also gave up the opportunity to travel with me to South America as originally planned to take care of Miles then as well. Despite his own busy job, and the long-term goals and ambitions he works towards after hours, he never once complained. And though he had the support of his amazing mom and aunt, I know it was definitely not easy. I could not have taken on the same responsibility with even half as much grace.

7. We found out we are expecting baby #2, due in October!







Monday, September 15, 2014

All Work and No Play Makes Me Cray-Cray*

Alright, I've been busy. A lot of people are just as busy or even busier than me. So I'm not here to complain. I just thought maybe it would help relieve some of my overwhelming stress if I wrote down both what I've accomplished/dealt with in the last month or so and what I plan to accomplish soon. Organizing all these floating thoughts in my head may not only help me see that I actually can do some stuff, but may also help organize my life and keep me moving forward. Because you guys, I am at a standstill (actually a sit-still, as I sit here facing productivity paralysis) at the moment, and I'm seriously going cray-cray*.

What I've accomplished since July:
  • Two lab meeting presentations
  • Finished the last of like 300+ preliminary experiments for one small part of my research
  • Stared at a computer all day, every day for over 3 weeks analyzing stuff
  • Stood nervously in front of a bunch of faculty members and students and talked about what I do in lab all day
  • Sat in the "hot seat" after my presentation and received constructive criticism and advice for how to do better next time
  • Dealt with annoying and expensive car repairs that left me in the red
  • Gained a daughter... well, started the process to obtain legal guardianship over our good family friend, Jamie
  • Helped Jamie buy her first car
  • Provided Jamie with guidance for starting her first college semester... you know, don't party too hard, study a lot
  • Switched Miles over to a new daycare closer to work
  • Taught my first class ever! - I am now a TA for two 3-hour Anatomy and Physiology labs
  • Figured out what to do when you lose the key to the room you teach in (it's an ordeal, ugh)
  • Took Miles in for surgery to put tubes in his ears (It's amazing how much happier he is now; he must have been in so much pain!)
  • Developed some fancy protocols to run some fancy experiments
  • Drove Matt to and from work for a while after he got his license suspended (long story and not really his fault)
  • Started writing an abstract for a conference in October

What I aspire to accomplish soon:
Next few days/weeks:
  • Proctor my students' first lecture exam
  • Put together and proctor my students' first lab practical
  • Get my new key so I can stop bugging the other TAs!
  • Resolve some other annoying issues and expenses that are the result of letting 5% of things fall through the cracks (super-woman does not exist, okay?!)
  • Pick the members of my comprehensive exam committee who will determine whether or not I fail at science
  • Get over my fear of talking with my P.I.s (my bosses) about putting my comprehensive exam on hold until spring
  • Actually talk with my P.I.s about putting my comprehensive exam on hold until spring
  • Stare at my abstract long enough until it finishes itself so that I can submit it
  • Put together a poster to present at the conference in October
  • Test out, compare, and troubleshoot my new experimental protocols
  • Generate some new data! 
  • Put together a Halloween costume for Miles
Next few months:
  • Complete some more experiments to reach statistical significance
  • Spend hours on Photoshop putting together figures with the completed data for a publication
  • Freak out... and then take my comprehensive exam (hopefully next spring... can you say terrified?!)
  • Learn how the odds are ever in your favor in a stats class next spring
  • Find time to exercise (Wait, isn't chasing a kid around enough?)
  • Write and submit abstract for the conference in April... in Valparaiso, Chile!
  • Prepare poster for conference in yes, I can't believe it, Chile!! 

*I really hate the term cray-cray as well as all those new slang terms that people say because they're too lazy to pronounce the full word (like totes and adorbs). But a) I am kinda crazy right now, b) let's face it, I can be lazy, and c) most importantly, cray-cray rhymes nicely with play, as in the title of this post.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Craigslist is the Bestest!

I love nice quality things, which also tend to be expensive. But I love a great bargain even more. Because I'm cheap thrifty. I'm also a big advocate of reusing and recycling, so Craigslist is the obvious first place I look whenever we need want something for the house (also when I want to get rid of something). I'm willing to buy almost anything used including clothes, books, furniture, cars, and yep, even my wedding dress. The exceptions to this are food and personal hygiene items, of course. But I mainly use Craigslist for bigger items like furniture. Below are some of the great items I've found on Craigslist in the last year or so. I've found that the keys to finding such amazing treasures are patience, persistence, promptness, paltering, and permissiveness. The 5P's (so corny clever, I know).
  1. Patience - You may not find exactly what you are looking for right away. In those cases, being able to wait several months or more to find what you want is imperative.
  2. Persistence - It really pays to obsessively continually surf through the ads on a regular basis (minutely, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, whatever floats your boat) until you find it.
  3. Promptness - When it comes to high quality items listed at the right price, it is crucial to respond to the ad without any hesitation because sometimes it's literally a matter of whoever gets there first.
  4. Paltering - Apparently, this is a rarely used word for haggling. As such, you should be unafraid to ask for a lower price, but don't go overboard. I find that asking for $5 - $20 off works really well about 75% of the time and is especially effective on items that have been listed for an extended period of time. However, if you think the item will go fast, you can skip this.
  5. Permissiveness - Used items are not always in perfect, pristine condition. Unless they are brand new, most items you find will have a few minor flaws. Furniture, in particular, is prone to nicks or scratches. Outdoor items can be slightly faded or weather-worn. You must be willing to accept these imperfections or else keep looking. I feel these kinds of flaws often add character and give the item a story of its own.
Anyways, enough rambling. Now that you know how to find totally amazing things on Craigslist, let me put my money where my mouth is and highlight some of the great things I've found.

The Crib 

Graco Lauren Convertible Crib.
Retails for $160 - $200.
I got it used for $65!

Miles's First Time in the Crib!
 


 Armoire / Entertainment Center

Lexington Solid Wood Armoire. 
Retail estimated at well over $1000. 
I got it for $200, gently used! 

  


Bookshelf

Pier One Imports Bookshelf. 
Retailed for $160. 
I got it for $40, in excellent condition. 

 


Jogging Stroller

Phil & Ted's e3v2 Jogging Stroller with Double's Kit.
Retailed for around $500.
I got it for $180 used.

 

 

Car Seat Caddy Stroller

Chicco KeyFit Caddy Infant Car Seat Carrier Stroller.
Retails for $100.
I got it for $50, like new.

This only works with the Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seats. It was one of my best investments for the first several months with a sleepy newborn / infant. I would highly recommend this (or something similar, depending on the car seat) for any new mom; it's a life (and back) saver!

 

 

Infant / Pet Gate

Summer Decorative Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate. 
Retails for $70 - $90. 
I got it for $40, like new.



Boat Bed  

Bayside Furniture La Jolla Boat Bed. 
Retailed for $700 - $1400. 
I got it for $200 in great condition!

This is by far my favorite Craigslist find yet. I know Miles is still a bit too young for it, but I'm so happy to have the twin mattress up and off the floor... and in such a stylish way! Not only is it super awesome, I mean how many kids have a boat for a bed? But also, I can't believe how perfectly it matched the dresser and nightstands we already had!




Queen Headboard

Solid wood queen headboard. Brand unknown. 
Retail estimated around $400. 
I got it for $100, in excellent condition with no scratches or nicks at all!



Patio Furniture

Table and Chairs: Brand unknown. 
Retail estimated well over $250. 
I got it for free... yes, I said FREE! Used and slightly weather-worn, but in great shape!

Umbrella and Base: ThresholdTM Crank and Tilt Patio Umbrella and Concrete Base. 
 Umbrella retails at Target for $79 on sale, normally $99. Base $32 on sale, normally $40. 
I got both for $40, new with tags.

This is by far the best deal I've ever gotten through Craigslist. Who could resist something this nice for free?! We were so lucky to get there first.



...


Of course, I also sell stuff on Craigslist. Here are a few of the items I've sold in the last year.

Bookcase

Wood Bookcase.
Sold for $35.

 

 

Coffee Table

Beat up dark wood and suede coffee table.
Sold for $10.

 

 

Cat Tree

Cat Tree in great condition. 
Sold for $30.
Cat not included.

 

 

...


Current For Sale Items

 

If you or anyone you know wants either of these items, hit me up!

Kayak/Boat Paddles

Selling for $40 OBO.
Great for all your desert water activities.



iRobot Roomba 560 with Charging Dock

Selling for $75.
Fun for the tech geek who wants to impress a lady friend with a clean house (it worked on me!).
Note: May need new battery or other repairs.
 
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Liebster Blog Award

Dun dutta dun! My wonderful friend, Kristen, over at A Writer's Wife nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award, which means I basically have the best blog in the world! Haha, okay, no. It's quite the opposite. It actually means that no one reads my blog, and I could use a little help getting myself out there. It provides a way for bloggers who don't have many followers to share a little about themselves and then engage in some networking by passing it along to others.

Truthfully, I find these kinds of "All About Me" posts to be even more pretentious and egocentric than blogging itself, but what the heck, they're still a lot of fun. Who doesn't like talking about themselves?

So...

Rules
  1. List 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
  3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they've been nominated.
  4. Ask 11 new questions for your nominess.
  5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you.

11 Things You Never Wanted To Know About Me

1.     I LOVE to dance. And sing. But it’s not a good look (or sound).
2.    I’ve had social anxiety ever since I can remember, and while grad school has helped more than anything else, I still feel sick every time I give a presentation. Yes, I tend to be on the shy, quiet side, but I don’t like when people make comments about it or feel the need to point it out… like they think I don’t realize I’m an introvert. Believe me, it’s hard enough.
3.    I’m a perfectionist to a terrible fault. But it comes in spurts. I can be incredibly lazy one day (or for an extended period of time, say days, weeks, or months), and then suddenly I get all crazy productive to the point where it has to be absolutely perfect. Like I won’t stop cleaning until everything is shiny, wrinkle-free, and in its proper place, or I will obsess about the position of a chart legend or the size of my figures in a PowerPoint presentation, or you name it. I know slow and steady is best, but I’ve got mad cheetah skillz when it comes to procrastination.
4.    I am a gymnast, well… a former gymnast, and I competed Level 8 at the end of my almost 10-year career. I say “I am” because once you experience the number of hours of blood, sweat, and tears put in every week, you earn the right to call yourself a gymnast for life. Plus, I can still do a great handstand.
5.     I’m an academic masochist, and I have the proof. I have three degrees (two BS degrees and one MS degree) all in various scientific fields. And I’m currently working on my PhD in physiology. I can now honestly say that I don’t recommend being a student for life.
6.    I feel stupid every single day. Having all those degrees has done nothing to bolster my confidence. In fact, working on my PhD has probably definitely made things worse.
7.    Sometimes I just want to drop out of school, not work, have lots of babies, and be a stay-at-home mom. But then I remember the five months I took off when Miles was born before I knew whether I’d find a lab to work in. As much as I LOVED the time with Miles, I discovered that I get way too depressed staying at home. Working is necessary for my sanity. My dream is to land a good part time job in science (teaching or writing, perhaps?) someday so I can have the best of both worlds.
8.    I am prone to having road rage. It used to be a problem, but having Miles has greatly reduced the number of episodes I have to basically zero. The best gift Miles has given me is a lesson in patience.
9.    I have never broken a bone (knock on wood). It’s a miracle really, with the crazy extreme things I used to do as a child, especially with my gymnastics background. I feel bad about it now, but my parents’ furniture basically became an extension of the gym. And yet the only time I really got hurt was… see #10.
10. I’ve had two concussions. Again, I’ve had zero broken bones, but apparently I tend to concuss myself. The first happened when I was nine. My brother and I would pile up pillows on the carpet in front of the couch and then sit at the top facing backwards with our legs dangling down the back of the couch, which was not against a wall. We would then put our arms, legs, and heads into our oversized shirts and roll backwards onto the couch cushions and then onto the pillows on the floor. My younger sister thought this looked fun, and she wanted to join in. But when I was getting ready to roll down, my sister decided it would be funny if she pushed me the other way off the couch. So I fell forwards off the top of the couch, head first, landing directly on a toy car on the ground in the process. I don’t even want to talk about the second time, but alcohol may or may not have been involved.
11. My husband and I have the craziest dating / wedding story of anyone I personally know. I’m surprised I haven’t posted the story yet. Guess the few one or two of you who happen to read this will have to keep reading my blog to find out!

Questions Asked By Kristen at A Writer's Wife
  1. What is your favorite hobby and why?
My favorite hobby is drawing / painting, or really, arts and crafts in general. Even though I’m not that great, I find that expressing myself through art is very cathartic. It’s like therapy for the soul, and it gives me a way to escape from (and sometimes even helps me to resolve) whatever troubles I’m facing or quell my anxieties. Plus, I feel super productive when I actually make a piece of art I’m not embarrassed to display in my house!
  1. What is the book that spurred your love of reading? What was it about that book that drew you in?
I would say that as a kid, the first book that got me excited about reading was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. I must have been about four. Once I got to elementary school, I still enjoyed reading the books we read in class, but I lost some of my love for reading. I was more focused on other activities like gymnastics, and despite my mom's encouragement, I would fight reading. I think this was largely due to the fact that it often gave me headaches. We figured out that was due to sinus troubles, and once that was resolved, I began to enjoy reading again. Harry Potter (of course!) was a huge turning point in my newfound love for reading at that time.
  1. Why did you decide to start blogging? How do you network your blog?
I have always wanted to keep a journal or diary to chronicle certain thoughts or memories throughout my life, but I’ve never been any good at keeping up with it. I thought perhaps blogging might be the solution since I’m constantly online anyways. Plus, I can personalize the blog any way I want, post cute pictures or inspirational quotes, and just get my random thoughts out. In doing so, I’ve found that blogging not only provides a forum for me to practice my writing skills, but it is also very cathartic.
  1. What is your favorite childhood memory?
This is a tough one. There were so many great times, and I’ve been very blessed and lucky. I guess I’ll go with when my little sister was born. I was almost six years old. I remember staying over at our neighbor’s house, and I was filled with excitement and anticipation. I was so happy to have a sister! When we found out she had Down syndrome, I was unfazed. I understood that she would be different, learn things slower, and look differently. I saw her karyotype with the extra chromosome 21 that identified her as special. It did not matter to me at all. I loved her unconditionally, and I still do to this day.
  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
I think it would be fun to live in various places, including overseas. What better way to experience different regions or cultures? Of course, some places are more appealing than others in terms of weather, natural beauty, or general safety, but I’ve discovered that home really is where the heart is. Cliché as it may be, I think that as long my family is with me, I could be happy in most places.
  1. Do you prefer to buy books or movies or check them out from the library/rental store?
I’m a big advocate of reusing, recycling, and saving money, so if I decide I want an actual copy of a book or movie, I will try to find a used copy at Bookman’s, other local stores, or online first before buying new. If I’m curious about a book or movie but not sure I’ll like it, I will check it out or rent it.
  1. What is the most important piece of advice you’ve learned or received that you would pass on to someone else?
Be humble, and don’t take yourself too seriously. I love this quote:

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
- C.S. Lewis
  1. What is one event in your life that you believe has changed you (for better or worse)?
There are a few events that have happened in the last few years that have had a significant impact on my life. For instance, moving away from home and starting grad school did wonders for my personal growth, especially with regards to my separation anxiety and social anxiety issues. But I would say that the event that has really shaped me the most was becoming a mother. Surprise, surprise. Having a baby changes everything, right? Well, it’s true. I thought I had a decent idea of what motherhood would be like, challenging, lots of poopy messes, lack of sleep, the joy of your child hitting milestones, lots of cuteness and crying, an appropriate level of fear. But then it actually happened. It’s amazing how much of an impact a tiny human can have. From the empowering feeling you get after giving birth, to the overwhelming level of responsibility you feel and then actually learn to handle with (some level of) grace. From the strength and patience you find that you never new you had, to the new perspective you have on what’s really important in life. From the messes you no longer find cringe-worthy to the heart-wrenching worry you feel as you watch your precious baby sleep. I could go on and on. Having my son, Miles, has definitely changed me forever. And for the better at that.

9.   Do you collect anything? If so, what?
Not anymore. I already have too much stuff as it is, and I’ve been trying to de-clutter as much as possible. I’ve realized that simpler is better and less stress!
  1. What is your favorite holiday and why?
Probably Halloween. It’s just so much fun! I’ve also always had this fantasy of making my kids’ costumes. Funny because I can’t sew at all.
  1. Who in your life has influenced who you’ve become the most and why?
Definitely my husband, Matt. Without a doubt. He truly brings out the best in me and inspires me to be a better person. I have never met someone as kind, generous, and humble as him. He would give you the clothes off his back or his last penny if meant saving your life. He truly cares about others and takes a genuine interest in their lives and in what’s going on in the world around us. He has really opened my eyes to things I’ve never thought about and made me realize that there is so much more out there than my egocentric self. I used to err on the negative side, and he’s helped me find a more positive outlook on life. I could not be luckier to be married to such a wonderful friend and teacher. And he’s nerdy, smart, and sexy to boot!

Questions For My Nominees
  1. If you could be any color crayon, which color would you be and why?
  2. What is your favorite book, author, or reading material?
  3. Are you more of a dog or a cat person?
  4. Other than death, what is your greatest fear?
  5. What is your favorite place to visit and why?
  6. Do you consider yourself environmentally conscious? What are some things you do or some things you could improve on to better care for the Earth?
  7. Do you have any regrets or anything you wish you had done differently?
  8. What is the most embarrassing or craziest thing that has ever happened to you?
  9. Do you embrace change or fight it?
  10. What is your favorite cartoon show or character and why?
  11. Who was or has been your most influential teacher / mentor?

My Nominees

I actually don’t know any bloggers with less than 300 followers. So, if you happen to read this and want to nominate yourself, post your name and blog info in the comments section, and I will gladly help promote your blog!

Sorry for such a long, drawn-out post, but thanks for reading skimming!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beast-Feeding

I'll preface this post by saying that if breastfeeding or talking about boobs makes you uncomfortable... well... either a) you've never been a parent, or b) you're a prude. No offense.

My son Miles loves, like LOVES breastfeeding. I think it may be his favorite thing in the world (well either that or our two dogs). I think it's his love for suckling at the breast that has enabled me to work full time for the last year without having to pump or do anything to maintain my milk supply (thanks prolactin and oxytocin!). But he loves it so much that it has turned into somewhat of a problem. Like he will shove his hand down my bra or lift up my shirt in public to try and breastfeed even when I know he is NOT hungry. I taught him the ASL sign for milk very early on, he knows how to do it, and yet lately he'd rather just unabashedly (and often unexpectedly) expose my breasts for all to see (followed by a tantrum when I say "No") rather than politely* ask me for milk like he did in the past. He also now refuses to be covered while breastfeeding, which makes it basically impossible to maintain any sort of modesty in public while he thrashes around to yank the nursing cover away. I really couldn't care less whether people see my boobs, but I do try to think of their feelings. Maybe they don't want to see my floppy jugs (or maybe they do, but then that might make my husband jealous), so I try to respect that. But Miles? Nope, he has no respect. The other issue with his affinity for breastfeeding is that it doesn't stop with the feeding aspect. The most recent change in his breastfeeding behavior is that he demands access to both breasts so that a) he can ogle them to decide which one looks the most appealing for feeding, b) he can look at or play with the other one while feeding (apparently they call that twiddling), and c) he can switch back and forth as he wants. What happened to my baby's manners? I know he is only 15 months old, but geez!

*In this case, politely refers to making the milk sign, while also saying "Mama" and whimpering/crying slightly - let's be real, you can't expect too much politeness from a baby.

Milk, NOW!

I have tried to counter these behaviors as best I can, but I can't seem to completely break his bad habits. Sometimes my parenting strategy will work one day, and I'm like "Aha! I win!" But then it doesn't EVER work again. I'm at a loss here. My baby is a breastfeeding BEAST! I'm really hoping it's just a phase (he is approaching the terrible twos or threes or whatever they are, after all). And while I LOVE the bonding of breastfeeding (it's seriously great!), these latest habits are exhausting, and so far he is showing no signs of self-weaning. I seriously hope his addiction love for breastfeeding ends by the time he is two (maybe two and a half?), otherwise I will have to cut him off. I'd hate to do that, but I'm not about to be breastfeeding a verbalizing toddler.

For now, I just have to tell myself that this beastly phase will pass and someday I will truly miss breastfeeding Miles. Because let's face it, I will probably look back and only remember the good things about it. And if not... well, at least I have a good story to tell his future spouse wife*!

*I confidently say wife because his strong affinity for boobs at the age of 15 months clearly indicates he is not gay (not that there is anything wrong with being gay).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Inspiration Vacation

I realize I haven't posted in over a month, but the truth is I have been lacking inspiration (or is it motivation?) to write a blog post. Maybe I'm just worn out from the semester? I did just finish the most difficult class I have ever taken AND managed to miraculously get an A! Boo-ya! It's the small victories, right? But while I myself have been slacking on the writing side of the blogging world, I have recently been reading a couple other blogs by some amazing, over-the-top clever moms, which are so laugh-out-loud, I-want-to-cry-with-laughter (oh wait I can't I'm at work) HILARIOUS that you will literally get a workout just by sitting at your computer! So check out theuglyvolvo.com and fightingfrumpy.com for some of the best stuff you will EVER read. Seriously. If you are a mom, dad, or parent-to-be, and especially if you want kids in the future, go there now. GO. No wonder I can't write anything. Nothing I post will ever be that good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Belated... First Birthday!

So I'm very behind in posting this, by like a month. In fact, Miles turned 1 year old exactly a month ago. But as I have yet to take down the decorations from his party, I'm constantly reminded of my failure not only to take down the decorations but also to write this blog post, so I thought I'd finally get to it and share some pictures. We had so much fun! The theme was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and with all my free time (meaning I stayed up until 3 the night before), I made the cake myself! It was my first experience decorating a cake/cupcakes entirely by myself, and while it's far from perfect, I think it turned out pretty cute. My inspiration came from Coco Cake Land (link below) and of course, the one and only Eric Carle, my very favorite children's author/illustrator!







Cute boys all cleaned up after cake!


Check out the stunningly perfect caterpillar cake and other adorable creations shared in the Coco Cake Land blog: http://cococakecupcakes.blogspot.com/2009/03/hungry-caterpillar-cupcake-party-train.html. If only I was that talented and creative!