Monday, February 23, 2009

100 Things About Me

Well, I have done it!  I have written 99 blog posts!  Like lots of other people with blogs before me, in honor of my 100th entry I have written what is probably a long, tedious list of things about me.
  1. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice.
  2. My favorite movie is Casablanca.
  3. My favorite album is Lyle Lovett's Road to Ensenada.
  4. Or maybe the New Pornographers' Electric Version.
  5. Our dog Abbey has been with us for 6 of her 8 years. 
  6. I live in denial of the fact that her breed's average lifespan is 8-10 years.
  7. When Robert and I met in college, I was engaged to someone else.
  8. The subsequent collapse of that relationship was not related to Rob specifically, however.
  9. Our first date was an 8-hour-long marathon that started by having coffee in the afternoon and changed venues several times.
  10. We dated for just one semester before both leaving College Station and starting the long-distance relationship gig.
  11. We dated for 2 years, were engaged for about 4 and 1/2 months, and have been married for almost 7 years now.
  12. I grew up in a suburb of Fort Worth and have lived in Texas for all of my life, except for a 3-year stint in Connecticut during our residency/postdoc years.
  13. I had some very embarrassing phases in my middle school years when I did things like refuse to listen to anything but classical music, read lots of Tolstoy, and wear giant bows on the side of my head at an unflattering angle parallel to the ground.
  14. I had a whole Russian literary phase during my early teens, actually.  I got in to an argument during my senior year of high school with my Bible teacher (I went to a Christian school) about how Dostoyevsky was spelled.
  15. My classical-music-only period came to an end about the time my contemporaries stopped listening to New Kids on the Block and switched to U2, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.
  16. If I am ever REALLY in the mood for truly cringe-worthy public self-abasement, I will post some of my "short stories" from that middle school era.  Or maybe some entries from my file of 3x5 notecards with ideas for stories jotted on them.
  17. I was a physics major as an undergrad, the only woman in a class of a dozen or so.
  18. I studied astronomy in grad school, in a statistical fluke of a class that was over half women.
  19. My primary education included a Montessori school, a Presbyterian Christian elementary school, six years of homeschooling, and then I graduated from a pentecostal Christian high school.
  20. We'll probably send Grace to our neighborhood public elementary school come kindergarten. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)
  21. There were just over 30 people in my high school graduating class, and I went from there to a 40,000 student university where I went to 300-person classes.  It was a surprisingly easy transition.
  22. I have been pregnant or breastfeeding since my PhD graduation in May 2005. I am a procreative MACHINE.
  23. Yes, that means I nursed Grace until I got pregnant again, just past her 2nd birthday.
  24. I expect I'll nurse Violet for 2-ish years as well.
  25. We haven't tried to give Violet a bottle yet.  Trying to get Grace to take one was such a dreadful experience that I keep putting it off.
  26. Trying to work full-time after Grace was born was disastrous for me, but working part-time felt like a great balance.
  27. Not working at all is pretty nice too.
  28. I have one younger sister who recently moved to North Carolina and married her high-school sweetheart.
  29. I don't miss the day-to-day activities of being involved in astronomy research.
  30. Sometimes I miss the idea of being an astronomy researcher.
  31. I have been a children's Sunday School teacher, a Bible study leader, and a missionary for a summer in a Muslim country. I know-- I am a religious nut!
  32. But seriously, my faith defines who I am and is the most important factor in how I view myself and the world around me.
  33. In college, I was in an improv comedy troupe.
  34. In fact, drama and performing were a pretty big part of my life from junior high through my college years.
  35. Probably my weirdest role was wearing a fat suit to play the murder victim in an Agatha Christie play in high school.  I was killed right before intermission, if I remember correctly, and had to stay on stage dead for a good chunk of the rest of the play.
  36. Music has also been a big part of my life since childhood.  I studied piano from age 8 through high school and considered majoring in music in college.  I went with physics instead but did take lessons for a few semesters in college.
  37. I then went 5 years (i.e. grad school) without touching a piano and started up again playing piano at our church in New Haven.
  38. My sight-reading skills came back surprisingly well; in fact, I think I was better at the end of our 3 years at that church than I ever was back in high school.
  39. I both miss playing on Sunday mornings and am hugely relieved to not play anymore.
  40. I really loved grad school.
  41. I was pretty unhappy as a postdoc at Yale, though.  Good thing I quit!
  42. Living in the Northeast was a blast.
  43. I feel sort of ambivalent about being back in Texas.
  44. Things that make me feel happy to be here are seeing my parents frequently, eating really good Mexican food, seeing the delightfully low bill on our mortgage statement every month, and listening to Lyle Lovett.
  45. Things that make me feel not-so-happy about being here are the vibe of the city, all the SUVs driving around, the anti-intellectual I-don't-trust-science bias of the culture, and the extra effort it takes to find non-chain restaurants.
  46. I love to cook.
  47. I have fairly sophisticated gastronomical tastes, but my favorite food is pizza. Doughy, cheesy goodness!
  48. Despite my claim to urbane and adventurous taste in food, I don't like mushrooms or shrimp.
  49. We've been quasi-vegetarians for over a year now.
  50. Foods that we have a hard time keeping around the house because they get eaten up very quickly include baked goods (me) and kiwis and cherry tomatoes (Rob).  I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which one of us struggles with his/her weight.
  51. I have a deep and abiding love for science fiction, of both the cinematic and literary varieties.
  52. So say we all.
  53. I love wearing bright colors, black, prints, dresses, and skirts.
  54. And babies.  I love wearing babies.
  55. I don't like wearing earth tones, most neutrals, and pants.
  56. I REALLY dislike wearing shorts and jeans.
  57. All of the above are trumped by my great attachment to yoga (or other knit, stretchy-type) pants.
  58. Grace and I share a middle name with my maternal grandmother, great-grandmother, and a few other women further back in my family.
  59. We used all our first-string meaningful female family names on Grace and for Violet ended up looking at lists of names to find ones we liked.
  60. We almost gave Violet a family surname as a middle name but were in a jolly holiday mood when she was born so went with Noƫlle.
  61. My first instinct is to assume all health problems are psychosomatic in nature and will go away if ignored.
  62. I don't really like my natural hair color and have jealousy issues toward redheads.
  63. I was a faux redhead for a good chunk of college.
  64. Other colors my hair (or parts of my hair) has been include blue, pink, purple, and bright unnatural red.
  65. My mom taught me to sew when I was about 10 and I have been doing it off and on ever since.
  66. My parents' college graduation gift to me was a really nice sewing machine.
  67. About half the clothes in my closet are sewn by me.  (Not that many of them fit right now...)
  68. When it comes to ready-to-wear, I tend to buy cheap clothes and more expensive shoes.
  69. In fact, an embarrassing percentage of my RTW clothes are from Target or Costco.  Perhaps I should start shopping in stores that don't also carry paper towels?
  70. I have at various times in my life been into knitting, cross-stitch, and needlepoint but I don't know how to crochet.
  71. I abhor clutter.  And tchotkes.  And anything "collectible".  This is the main reason I don't do needlepoint or cross-stitch anymore.  (Although sometimes these tempt me.)
  72. Actually, I am just generally very sensitive to my physical surroundings as far as mess, clutter, filth, etc.
  73. The more stressed out I am, the more sensitive to mess I get, which is not a really good combination.
  74. I do not build strong attachments to physical objects and have very little trouble getting rid of things.
  75. I always hope I'm not going overboard and getting rid of things I really will regret later; this feeling is seldom enough to keep me from sending the item in question to Goodwill/eBay/the trash.
  76. I cannot figure out those giant containers of laundry detergent-- you know, the 170 oz. kind you get from the bottom shelf with the spout and red button.  Every time I buy one, I end up with this drippy, sticky mess below the spout in my laundry room.
  77. I am a make-up wearer.  I sort of wish I weren't, but I am.  I wear make-up whenever I will see people.  If you do not live with me, the only time you might run into me bare-faced is at the pool or the gym.
  78. I always hope I will not run into anyone I know at the gym for that very reason.  In fact, I have avoided a friend at the gym, hoping she would not see me.  More than once.
  79. Part of me wants a big family but another part worries about the environmental impact of having more biological children on the one hand and the challenges of adoption on the other hand.
  80. There is irony to my last post because I don't really listen to the lyrics of songs very intently.  I probably would have failed to recognize about half of those songs from just their first lines, despite my claim that they are among my favorites.
  81. When I got to about #80 on this list, I ran out of steam and asked Rob for help to think of items for the list.
  82. I've only been to 6 countries on 3 continents and would like to make that list much longer.
  83. Since we got Tivo, we tend to record many episodes of a show and then watch them all at once in the span of a few days.  It's a sort of binge-y behavior but I kind of like watching them like that.
  84. My favorite TV shows include The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica.
  85. And cooking shows.  My favorite examples of the genre are Nigella Lawson's shows and Alton Brown.
  86. I claim to not like reality TV because I cannot bear the American-Idol-Survivor-Bachelor types of shows, but if I like cooking shows and Project Runway as much as I do, perhaps it is not accurate.
  87. I have spent between a semester and a few years studying Latin, ancient Greek, Spanish, French, and Russian.  I always picked them up pretty easily but never had the motivation/opportunity to really become fluent in any of them. I regret this.
  88. I love love love IKEA.  I think that our house is almost entirely furnished in hand-me-downs from family and things from IKEA.
  89. I have a tattoo and a navel ring.
  90. Although I have your run-of-the-mill doubts and struggles spiritually, I've never had an earth-shattering crisis of faith or rebellious period.
  91. Rob and I joke that sharing our faith with our children is what is going to do that to us; trying to explain to a very concrete thinker how God can be invisible but real or who Jesus is makes you realize how crazy it all sounds to human ears.
  92. I have a touch of wanderlust and really like to see new places and experience new cultures.
  93. If Rob came home one day and said he had just gotten a job in another country somewhere, I would be really happy.
  94. Being a mom is really rewarding, of course, but it also more just plain fun that I thought it would be.
  95. I think the best meal I've ever had was at La Boheme in Carmel, CA (which I am very sad to discover closed in 2005).  The most fun meal I've ever had may have been a date early in my relationship with Rob at Sardine's in Fort Worth.
  96. I need a lot of sleep to really function well and feel really lucky that I've managed to stay mostly caught up on sleep through 5 years of observing runs during grad school and two babies.
  97. When I hit about the 24-hour mark of no sleep, I pretty much fall apart.  During one observing run in grad school, I used a telescope in Hawaii remotely from my office in Austin.  Because of my schedule, I didn't have the chance to sleep the day before my run started and because of the time difference between Austin and Hawaii, I was observing until something like 10am the next day.  I managed to hold myself together through the actual observing but afterwards I was an absolute wreck, unable to decide whether or what to eat and bursting into tears because a stoplight turned red on my way home to sleep.
  98. I believe this is the biggest reason I could never be a physician.  I'm not sure I could physically handle the sleep deprivation of residency.
  99. My first car (which was only one year younger than me) had been sitting for several years with gasoline in the tank before being given to me in high school. Even after repairs to get rid of the glue-y gasoline grunge, a little bit would sometimes come loose somewhere and get stuck in the carburetor, stopping the car from being able to start. I had to remove the air filter and bang on the carburetor with a wrench that I kept in the car for just that purpose, knocking the bit of gooey stuff loose. I would then replace the air filter and start the car. I looked like I knew a LOT more about the interior workings of cars than I actually did (or do).
  100. I can't believe I thought of this many things to write and I would like to extend my thanks to you if you got this far!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Music Quiz Meme

Alternate Title: Do You Listen to the Same Music As Me?

I'm feeling a bit yucky this morning because of a cold so here is something that didn't require much thought on my part.  Here are the first lines of the first 15 songs to come up on the giant iTunes playlist we have called "Julia's Favorite Songs". Your job is to guess the song title and/or artist without consulting Google.

  1. Skip the cloak and dagger bit
    Don't you know we're sick of it?
    As much as I would like to stay
    The message light just blinks away
  2. What's with these homies dissing my girl?
    Why do they gotta front?
  3. Sometimes I feel like I don't know
    Sometimes I feel like checkin' out
    I want to get it wrong
    Can't always be strong
  4. He was tied to the bed with a [song title] in one hand,
    In the other, a great lost novel that,
    I understand, was returned with a stamp
    That said, "Thank you for your interest, young man."
  5. Now the rain comes down the windows and it
    Drops onto the forehead of the waiting boy
    He surveys his rental kingdom and he
    Wonders if he's really lost his one joy
  6. When I'm stable long enough
    I start to look around for love
    See a sweet in floral prints
    My mind begins the arrangements
  7. Nothing but a chemical in my head
    It's nothing but laziness
    Cause I don't wanna read the book
    I'll watch the movie
  8. One two three uh!
    My baby don't mess around
    Because she loves me so
  9. Thirteen grand
    A year in the meadowlands
    Bored and rural-poor, lord, at 35, right?
    I'm the best 17-year-old ever
  10. Way down yonder on the bayou
    There lives a little girl
    Skin so pale, six feet high
    Skinny as a rail, just one eye
  11. I once met a man with a sense of adventure
    He was dressed to thrill wherever he went
  12. She was old enough
    To know better
    And she was strong enough
    To be true
  13. I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles
    In our eyes are mirror images and when
    We kiss they're perfectly aligned
  14. Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Brought me down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead
  15. Sometimes they rock and roll
    Sometimes they stay at home and it's just fine
    [song title]
So go ahead and leave your guesses in the comments; I'll strike-through anything that people identify correctly.  Maybe our joint ponderings of music we like will help me feel better despite the sore throat and weird-feeling ears.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Birthday Shenanigans

We had a great time last weekend preparing for, enjoying, and then cleaning up from various birthday shenanigans.  Friday night my parents came over and we had a little family celebration.  When planning a menu that would be good birthday food for Grace as well as gluten-free for my mom, I decided on risotto.  It seems appropriate, considering that Grace will eat her weight in rice these days.  If I really wanted to make her happy, I would have given her just plain white rice; she seemed a little suspicious of the risotto's adulterations.  We had a fun, low-key time anyway, with dinner and a flourless chocolate cake and presents.

Opening presents

Saturday morning, the festivities continued with a party.  Grace requested "yellow cupcakes with pink on top", which I must say let me off pretty easy, considering what she could have requested.  I used royal icing and it didn't turn out quite as well as it usually does-- it was crumbly and stuck to the paper cups.  I'm not sure what I did, although it has been exactly a year since the last time I attempted royal icing so maybe I am just really out of practice.  Oh well, the toddlers all scarfed them down anyway and they looked pretty. 


The party was on the big side; I think there were 35-ish people in our house, counting all the parents and kids and a few babies.  We requested no gifts, which I totally would have done for Grace's party last year if it had occurred to me.  (We were days away from putting our house on the market and then moving across the country.  Grace got some lovely things, but face it-- we did not need MORE STUFF.)  Who knows?  Maybe we'll make it a tradition.  We as a family have more possessions than we need anyway, and in economic hard times it seems like a nice way to go.  And then both those arguments are even more compelling with a big party. I sort of relish throwing parties like that, where all the rooms are full of kids playing and adults chatting and every single one of Grace's toys is out on the floor being played with.  I like cooking and planning for parties, and I don't even mind cleaning before and after.  Well, not too much.  Last week did feel pretty busy and draining, though, with all the preparations on top of the normally consuming life with a toddler and an 8-week-old baby; I'm glad that life is more calm this week.  I've even watched TV and done some sewing!  Speaking of which, I shall go see if I can finish my skirt before Violet wakes up insistent and hungry.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Three Years of Grace

Grace has learned to smile for pictures

Today is Grace's birthday and I feel so happy to have her 3-year-old self in our family.  It has been a big year for Grace with lots of changes-- moving to a new house, starting "school" for the first time, and becoming a big sister.  Grace herself has changed a lot this year as well.  At her 2nd birthday, she was just stringing a few words together, but now she chatters away in sentences and paragraphs and soliloquies, albeit often they are tipsy-sounding, ramshackle ones.  She's changed a great deal physically as well, her body changing from an unmistakably toddler one to a child's body with long, skinny arms and legs.  She has grown a thick black fringe of eyelashes and although she still hasn't had a haircut, her curls are thicker and longer and more, you know, not invisible.  This year she has started pretending and imagining, constructing little scenarios where we are all a family of frogs or we are riding imaginary bicycles around the house.  (The latter is very physically challenging, by the way.)

It has been a year of huge leaps in her independence.  She weaned, potty-trained, and learned to sleep through the entire night in her own bed.  She has developed a very independent attitude in general, often happy to engross herself with toys or books or crayons with busy single-mindedness.  She runs onto the playground or into the nursery at church or her classroom at Mothers' Day Out with confidence and without the slightest look back.  She has a strong desire to do things for herself, from buckling herself into her car seat to dressing herself to cooking, and gets frustrated when her actual abilities don't match up with her desires.  Although she is independent, she is also really empathetic and nurturing.  She is full of overflowing affection for Violet and desire to take care of her.  Crying children stop her short in her activities as she turns to observe or try to help them; her teachers at preschool have even commented on it.

When I talk to other moms I often hear notes of sadness about children growing up and not being babies anymore but I don't experience that with Grace.  I think this partly is that I expected to have (and now have) at least one other baby so I never thought, "This is my last time to ________".  I think another part of it is that the parenting decisions we made let me hold Grace as much as I could, rock her to sleep without guilt, nurse her for a looooooong time, and so forth.  I don't miss Grace's baby days that much; they were overwhelmingly wonderful and I enjoyed them but I feel sort of, well, satisfied with how they went and then came to a close.  But I think the biggest part of not having that sadness for me is that Grace in the present has always been so amazing and wonderful and delightful that there isn't much room for nostalgia for Grace from the past.  I don't really miss Grace as a baby because Grace as a toddler has been such a fun, remarkable person.  Standing at the brink of her 4th year of life, I feel a lot of enthusiasm for who she is right now and thankfulness that she is part of my life.  She is so funny and sweet and exuberant.  For example:
  • She uses "bring" when the more appropriate word is "give".  She offers to "bring you a hug" or asks me to "bring me a kiss" when she bumps her head or arm or back.
  • She really loves our kitchen timer as a way to change activities.  Anything from eating dinner to taking a bath to getting dressed in the morning goes remarkably smoothly if we set the timer and tell her what we will do when the timer goes off.
  • She likes to feed Abbey, specifically to give her "one more", by which she means one more little pellet of dog food.  She takes forever to fish one more pellet out of our dog food bin, put it in Abbey's measuring cup, and then put it in her dish.
  • Her language has developed by leaps and bounds this year, but there have been lots of delightful mispronunciations: "kikwi" for kiwi, "quorn" for corn, "gool" for "school", and "gog" for "dog".
It may be Friday the 13th, but I think it is a lucky day indeed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Things I Have Done with Violet in a Sling


Baby carriers like slings and wraps and whatnot are my absolute #1 can't-live-without baby item, and just like with Grace, I've been putting them to good use with Violet.  

Cozy baby

I have some that I have sewn, some that I bought, some that are more my favorite than others, but in general I am a huge fan.  Babies generally do not like to be put down and slings make life so much more pleasant and convenient.  Also it is argued that babies that are worn a lot cry less, learn more, and adjust to life outside the womb more easily.  

Vermont is pretty!

Furthermore, a sling is an excellent way to disguise a, uh, postpartum tummy.  I am a babywearing fool!  Here are some things I've done while wearing my baby:
  • Eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner (although never in the same day, I think)
  • Prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner (don't worry, though-- I don't do things like use knives, boil water, or the like with a baby strapped to me)
  • Gone for walks
  • Gone shopping
  • Gone to the library
  • Gone to restaurants
  • Gone to church
  • Breastfed my baby
  • Played and read books with Grace
  • Dressed Grace
  • Helped Grace use the toilet
  • Used the toilet myself
  • Done laundry
  • Washed the dishes and loaded/unloaded the dishwasher
  • Vacuumed, mopped, and dusted
  • Made the bed, and even changed the sheets
  • Cut out a pattern for a sewing project
  • Used the sewing machine, although she keeps me too far away from it to do anything too tricky or detailed
  • Walked in to Grace's preschool to drop her off or pick her up
  • Changed out of yoga pants into skirts and jeans to leave the house  (obviously have never managed to change my shirt, though)
  • Worked at the computer
  • And, of course, blogged
Metropolitan Museum of Baby

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Again with the kissing?

It has been so funny/wonderful/eye-opening to see Grace interact with Violet in these early weeks.  Grace has done so well; I think I mentioned this before but she has reacted with affection and tenderness and enthusiasm.  A bit too much enthusiasm sometimes, but with all the possibilities I can contemplate, I will not complain.  She hasn't been jealous when I'm nursing (which I was somewhat nervous about considering that Grace herself was nursing until, oh, about 8 months before Violet was born) and has never demanded that I put Violet down so I can hold her and has not indulged in negative attention-getting behaviors.  Grace flipped out a tiny bit the very first day we were all home from the hospital but again, when I think about the broad spectrum of how she could have reacted, I realize I am very lucky.  I don't know how much of this is her age, her innate personality, her sex, and/or how our parenting choices have affected her, but whatever the causes, she has been hyper-nurturing kissy involved Grace.

This has come as a bit of a relief to me, because at the very end of my pregnancy, I was feeling some angst about the changes that were coming to Grace's life.  We had spent almost 3 years as a happy threesome, or most days just her and me as a twosome absorbed in our life together, and I felt melancholy about that stage of our life ending.  I mourned for her not getting our undivided attention and time and I mourned for me not getting to spend as much time enjoying who she is, for maybe missing something beautiful and amazing about who she is becoming because of being busy with the new baby.  Megan wrote a post at 5 Minutes for Parenting about her older daughter in light of her 2nd baby being born; it was posted 7 days before Violet was born and I literally cried in my crazed hormonal fog about the ending of Grace's time as an only child.  And then on Grace's last day of preschool before Christmas break, I FORGOT TO PICK HER UP, so that made me feel even more weepy and mournful about failing my firstborn, as you can imagine.  Actually, I didn't so much forget; rather, I failed to wake up from a nap because I set my alarm for 2am instead of 2pm.  I woke up in a groggy panic, realizing that her school pick-up time had ended 30 minutes ago.  Not good.  Anyway, seeing Grace happy and excited about change in our family (and managing to not abandon her anywhere) has brought that sadness to a close in some ways, and her manic affection has given me a new understanding about Grace's life having more love, more richness, and more connections because of the tiny person who is linked to us all.

I've also been thinking about what the experience of having a 2nd baby has been like for me.  People have asked me if it's easier because I've done this before, or if it's harder because of having a busy toddler to care for, or if I'm enjoying it more because I have less anxiety over every little thing, and I'm not exactly sure how to answer them.  I suppose the answer is "yes" to all of those questions at some level.  I really liked what Amy at Amalah wrote about having her 2nd son. (An astronomy metaphor, no less...)  With Violet, it's all the same as with Grace-- her rosebud mouth and ears like perfect pink shells, her serious wonderment at our faces, her hands waving through the air like she lives underwater.  But at the same time, it's all different-- her blessedly peaceful sleeping habits, the reflux and the never-ever pooping, the specific way she likes to be worn in the sling, and the particular way she shudders and squawks in hungry relief when she starts to nurse.