high strung

John and I sometimes joke that the violin is the right instrument for me, being that I can be a little high strung.

When I get too tightly wound, I do sometimes snap.

It should also be noted that I have a tendency to fine tune things.

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s post, I wanted to draw attention to it. (It was the Big Thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.) These are some portraits of my collaborator in that endeavor.

digging in

Our array of snow shovels.

Some of you may have noticed that I have been posting rather frequently of late. I decided, you see, that I would post every day this month. I have so many photos and stories to share, I decided to just dig in. I don’t really have a plan, beyond that. I’m just picking from among the photos in my digital hoard, or posting as things come up. I hope to share some more of my travel stories, and other posts I’ve started to draft. Maybe, when I’ve laid it all out, some sort of pattern will emerge. Or maybe it will be just a big pile. But it will be my pile.

There are some bushes hiding under these piles.

Our front path.

And now I should try to dig back into my work, which has been entirely neglected for the past few days. Not only have I spent a lot of time shovelling snow, but I have also not had any time without at least one young child since Thursday.


Tonight finds me cranky. There are a number of things contributing to my crankiness. A pinch of irritating interactions that struck a nerve, a dollop of research frustrations, and some generous quantities of life things have combined to make a recipe for a simmering stew of crankiness. I am the crockpot of crankiness.¹ I’ve spent much of the last few hours trying not to boil over.

We came home last night from my in-laws’, aiming to beat the Sunday end-of-holiday-weekend traffic. (We also had some projects we needed to take care of, including something Phoebe had to do for school for Monday). That all went well, but I was up too late, my sleep was further peppered by a nagging cough I’ve had for over a week.

Today, I spent a ridiculous number of hours trying to tame the gigantic pile of art supplies, craft kits, and kids’ art projects in various stages of completion that has taken over the breakfast nook² portion of our kitchen. This is not the first time I have spent hours trying to tackle this mess, a fact which is also seasoning today’s stew of crankiness. I actually took a break from this task to do some work. And now I have to get back to it. I will tame the beast, or go down trying.³

Here are some other odds and ends that surfaced on our visit to my in-laws’. Phoebe and I had a little sewing project, and we needed to dig out a needle. This image has nothing to do with anything that I just wrote about, but I was amused that this sewing tray contained both a tomato (in the form of a tomato-shaped pin cushion) and a basket, thus handily tying together two of my recent themes. (cf. basket, basket, tomato, tomato, tomato)

¹ The crankpot?
² Really, I don’t know what to call this area. It’s the part of the kitchen where we have our table, and where we eat meals, including, but not restricted to, breakfast.
³ Should I toss the beast into the stew?⁴
⁴ Wow, this is totally not the post I thought I was starting to write. In fact, I changed the title. And then even deleted my original first paragraph. I was going to write about various things I’ve said I’d do but haven’t yet done. Which is often a source of crankiness in itself. But I won’t go there tonight. Hopefully I will have simmered down by morning.⁵
⁵ Happily, few things cheer me up more than getting carried away with a metaphor.

The Republic of Pants: Election 2012

It’s once again election season in the Republic of Pants. Four years ago, we were gripped by the tight pants race between Corduroy O’Bloomer and Trousers McPants. Today, the pants of the Republic are still split.

The media’s bias-cut stretches the fabric of the truth, tailoring the fit to either the Left Pants Leg or the Right Pants Leg. For those fully comfortable dressing on one side or the other, the choice may seem an easy fit. For those caught between the legs, however, the decision remains an uncomfortable one, and many concerns chafe.

After wearing O’Bloomer for 3 years, many are ready to try on a new pair of Pants. Some complain that O’Bloomer didn’t fit the way they’d hoped, that they’d been deceived by overly flattering dressing-room mirrors. Others never thought he was a good fit, and are pushing to go back to older pants styles. Yet there are still many who support O’Bloomer, and argue that his sturdily constructed pants are only beginning to be broken in.

O’Bloomer and his Vice Pants, Bootcut BiDenim, seek to publicize benefits of The Affordable Cleaners Act, a law by which all pants should be given access to adequate laundering. They claim that better fabric care for all pants will positively impact the well-being of the Republic, as well as addressing the rapidly rising costs of laundry. Critics argue that the dry cleaning companies will clean up while the pants of the Republic are hung out to dry.

Corduroy continues to be hemmed in by threadbare rumors, including that he is a Muslin, or just like Linen. Rumors that he was manufactured abroad persist in spite of his display of his “Made in the Pants Republic” labels.

Opposition styles, though, are also far from universally appreciated. After one of the most awkward and embarrassing fashion shows in decades, Tweed R. Moneypants was selected as challenger to O’Bloomer.

Few would call the Moneypants campaign seamless, with evidence of it being patched up on the fly. Many claim that R. Moneypants is really a pair of reversible pants, showing whichever pattern of his double-face fabric better suits his base. Some dispute his claims that he pulled himself up by his belt-loops, saying that he was braced by his father’s suspenders. Moneypants has further been criticized and for pocketing his assets in offshore Bermuda shorts, and for being in the back pocket of powerful suits with a vested interest in seeing him wear the Pants.

The uncomfortable stiffness of Tweedy’s material has been the butt of many jokes. Hammerpants Rayon, running mate of Moneypants, seems to be cut from a more comfortable pattern, but many doubt that his flashy cloth has enough substance to adequately cover the seat of the Pants Government.

Every fiber of the candidates is being examined for stains, holes and other defects, whether or not they are material to the issues. In this straight-legged race, neither side has the option to be a relaxed fit. Both must stay up on their briefs or risk being caught with their pants down. As the old adage goes, “He who slacks off gets sent to the cleaners.”

Both O’Bloomer and Moneypants are expected to be neatly pressed for the upcoming debates, with carefully tailored responses under their belts. Questions likely to be addressed include: How will each address the continuing strain on the fabric of the Pants Economy? How will they protect the National Pants from the looming menace of international Powerbritches? And finally, and most controversially, do leggings really count as pants?

The summer puzzle

School’s out for summer! Except when you are a grad student, or otherwise an academic researcher. For me, summer mostly means easier parking for lab meetings, and a shortage of subjects for experiments. If anything, I’m supposed to get more of my research done.

The yawning gulf of Phoebe’s summer vacation has been menacing me for months. “Sort out Phoebe’s summer plans” stubbornly stayed unchecked on my to-do list, day after day, week after week. Theo’s schedule seemed pretty uncomplicated; he’d just go to the same home daycare he’d been attending since he was an infant. This was also an option for Phoebe, as this was where she went after school and also a place she’d been going since she was an infant herself. However, she’d be the only school-aged kid there with just a couple of 3-year-olds. Plus Phoebe had expressed an interest in going back to the place where she’d gone for pre-K. They have a summer program, and she had some friends going.

I didn’t look forward to those double drop-offs and pick-ups. Even though both places were pretty close, with the time spent settling and collecting each child, the two-location solution gave even work-at-home days effectively an hour-plus commute, twice a day.

Then there were all the other enticing summer options. We’d already signed up Phoebe for karate camp at her dojo for the first full week of her vacation, and there was the option of a 2nd week at the end of August. Elsewhere were art camps (Phoebe loves art). Swimming lessons (Phoebe should learn to swim). Spanish camp (an appealing option). Camps for horseback-riding and gymnastics (Phoebe has been asking to do both of these activities).The number of options was dizzying, as was the thought of trying to get her to so many places. Not to mention that all these options were either expensive, and/or had really awkward hours. Plus it seemed like Phoebe should have some time just to enjoy the summer in an unstructured way. She loves to make projects for herself, and to play outside and look for rocks and bugs.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, trying to work this out in the blur surrounding my trip to China, I was considering just having Phoebe join Theo at the home daycare. Thus reducing the expense and the hassle, if making summer potentially less exciting (and social) for Phoebe.

Then our daycare provider broke the news to us that she would be closing her business. In two weeks. There had been a decline in enrollment, and it was looking like our kids would be the only ones left come the fall. What’s more, I’d already told her that I was looking to start Theo in a pre-K program in the fall, so he’d be going down to part-time. It wasn’t feasible for her to stay open, and she found a new full-time job.

In some ways this change made things a bit less complicated, if not exactly easier. We wouldn’t have to consider how our childcare choices would affect her income, or her feelings. (She’s been our main childcare provider for almost 6 years, and she’s been like family to us, given that our families live so far away.) She put us in touch with a couple of her friends with home daycares with openings, both of whom we’ve met and like, and who have interacted with our kids on things like joint daycare field trips and other meet-ups.

In the end, though, I thought it would be easier to just let Phoebe go to the place Phoebe wanted to go, and have Theo start pre-K earlier, thus having them both go to the same place. In deference to summer, I opted to have them in childcare only 3 days a week, giving us more time for things like seeing friends and summery fun. I picked Tuesday through Thursday at the center, leaving more options for long-weekend trips. I managed to get my lab meetings shifted to Wednesdays from the planned summer schedule of Fridays. I was going to start the kids in the summer program on Tuesday, July 10th, after the planned to my in-laws’ the week of the 4th of July.

I had solved the big puzzle. I’d made it all fit.

Then I remembered that I’d left out some pieces.

Like meetings with an undergrad for a summer project. Due to her other job schedule, we’d talked about meeting either Mondays or Fridays, starting in July. And that one lab meeting on Tuesday this week, the last meeting of the month with all 3 of the professors I work with. (John ended up taking both kids into his office.) Plus having the kids in childcare only 3 days a week leaves me only about 20 hours of week-day work time, even fewer on the weeks when I have to commute into Boston. And then there have already been sick days (Phoebe’s and mine) and business travel (John’s) and other unscheduled schedule conflicts.

Summer is great big jigsaw puzzle, but I’m pretty sure that the pieces aren’t all from the same box. Not all of the pieces fit together, not all of the gaps can be filled, and I’m still trying to figure out what the end picture will look like.

I think I’ll only have that figured out come fall.

dry spell

I seem to be all about feast or famine with the blogging frequency. Or flood and drought. November was a deluge. December slowed to a trickle. And then things looked to be drying up entirely. Well¹, I’m here to briefly rehydrate the blog. I’ll just give a spritz or two for now, and hopefully I’ll be able to open the valves shortly. Things will be downright soggy. Or at least somewhat damp.

For now, though, my time is being eaten up (drunk up?) by work. I have committed to getting a lot of data coded by Monday, and I’m so focused on that, I can’t even think of another water-related joke to round out the post.

¹ Ha, “well.” I didn’t even try for that one.

I’ve missed blogging.

I don’t mean that I was sad to have missed putting up a post yesterday. I mean that even though I posted something every day in November, it really didn’t feel like blogging to me.

While I managed to carve out a few minutes to post something (and to take a few photos for Project 365), I was spending about every available hour working on projects and commitments for work and school for the last month. While I gave up on tracking the time it took me to post, with the exception of a handful of posts, I did really limit myself, and probably didn’t spend too much more than my goal of 10 hours for the month. The trouble is, I didn’t find time to reply to comments, or properly visit other people’s blogs. I ended up with a couple hundred unread posts in my reader, and I skimmed many of the posts I did read. I think I left 5 or 6 comments all month. I missed things going on in other people’s lives.

I’m not sorry I did NaBloPoMo again this year, as I know it would have irked me to have missed it, but it was hardly a satisfying experience. I didn’t get to all the drafts I’d wanted to revisit, didn’t find time to do write some of the things that have been rattling around in my head. I didn’t even manage to share much of my digital photo hoard.

I would have to describe the results as spectacularly lackluster.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who still came by to read, and even leave comments. I really, truly appreciated it. You are wonderful.

In other news, I didn’t make that December 1st deadline. I came to my senses on Friday, in the midst of that exhausting visit to my in-laws’. I realized that there was too much to do in the few days I had left, that I didn’t have the energy left to push myself even harder in the following days, and most importantly, I realized that there were some kinks I needed to work out in my study. It was disappointing, as I really felt that given another week or two, I could have had my project at a point where I could submit a solid abstract. But another week or two I didn’t have. And yes, I also thought about all the “what ifs.” What if I hadn’t gotten sick? What if Theo hadn’t gotten sick earlier in the month? What if I hadn’t spent time with friends who were in town for the conference? What if I hadn’t spent all those hours making Halloween costumes? Well, maybe I could have had enough time. But I’m not sorry to have spent time with friends, especially since I see some of them so rarely. The costumes? Well, who’s to say I would have invested that time in my project. And it’s highly doubtful that those hours would have been enough. There were other work deadlines, too, and other obligations.

I am really glad that I did push hard to work towards that deadline, though. I made real strides in my own research, which had been largely stagnating since that conference in Barcelona last year. Hmmm…my mixture of metaphors makes it sound as if I just walked through a puddle. The puddle of research has definitely been splashed in. I jumped up and down in it, and got myself soggy.

I’ve been taking a few days to dry off, and stand back from the puddle. I got caught up on a few things I’d left hanging while I was playing in the puddle, and I’ve started some holiday shopping.

I just need to make sure I jump back into the puddle soon. There are other conferences coming up, and I’m really optimistic that I can have something more substantial together for those deadlines.

A puddle.

falling off the moving sidewalk

Traveling with small children is challenging. Aside from keeping physical needs met and tempers in check, you need to tote a lot of stuff. On top of your own clothing, laptops and personal items, you have to pack clothing, diapers, toys, books and gear for the little ones, who aren’t able to transport this stuff on their own. And depending on their size, you also have to be able to lug along the actual children.

At the start of our trip, we parked in the Boston airport central parking garage, where, for whatever reason, it is impossible to find baggage carts. It was going to be tricky just to get to the terminal.

We put Theo in the stroller, had Phoebe walk with her little Hello Kitty suitcase, strapped one carseat to a suitcase, and put various backpacks and other shoulder bags (including the other carseat) on our backs and shoulders. John pulled two wheeled suitcases, and I pulled the third suitcase with one hand and pushed the stroller with the other. We were an awkward caravan, but somehow we got moving, down in the elevator and over to the pedestrian walkway to the terminal.

We got on the moving sidewalk, which moved us along at a nice pace. John and Phoebe were a few paces ahead of me, and stepped off at the end. I was ready to do the same.

Then the front wheel of the stroller turned as it went over the bump, and jammed into the base of the stationary railing just over the threshold. The stroller stopped, with its back wheels still rolling along merrily on the conveyor. The stroller blocked my way to step off, and I couldn’t manage to dislodge it with my one free hand. I had to run backwards in place to avoid being propelled into the back of the stroller, while trying to get the stroller unjammed with one hand, and keep my suitcase from hurtling forward with the other.

It wasn’t pretty.

Such is my life these days, especially since having kids. There I was, smoothly rolling forward, carrying on at something I’ve done dozens of times before. Maybe my hands were a bit full, but I never questioned that I was in control. Then one little snag hits, and wham! I’m flailing awkwardly, dropping my load, caught in the machinery. Trying not to be crushed by my baggage or to crush my offspring. Running clumsily in place to avoid falling on my ass.

These past few weeks I’d been moving along quite well, accomplishing things. And now all the other things I’d been letting slide are starting to come hurtling back towards me, but my hands are too full to get a good grip. Our house continues to be chaotic, and I have work, home and family obligations to attend to. Missed bills. Taxes. Wedding gift for the wedding we already attended. Birth announcments for my 7-month-old. Thank you notes. Home repairs and car repairs and yard work.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling pretty wiped out from the efforts of travelling, my push to submit the abstract, and the damn stomach bug. I’ve had this low level headache that I just can’t seem to shake. Things have also been rocky with Phoebe, who is adjusting to being home after the trip, sleeping in her own room and the 3-hour time difference. She’s still traumatized by her recent bout with the stomach bug.

She is also showing signs of being a three-year-old. There have been tantrums. Basically daily. And maybe not just Phoebe.

So, I continue to not be caught up with my blog reading. To make things trickier in that respect, my feed reader (Safari) has gone all wonky on me, and my laptop apparently keeps going into overdrive because of something related to that. I can’t access my feeds, so my blog visiting has been rather erratic. Once more, I apologize for being generally absent.


After a brief teaser from spring, who popped by for a couple of days with her sunny disposition and temperatures warm enough to show a bit of bare ground, prudish winter came back in a rush to cover the ground once more in a thick blanket of snow.¹

The silver lining to those snow-dumping clouds is that I finally got to put Theo in that red snowsuit.

Aside from that, I have lately realized that I’m really behind in my work.

Yes, I know that I’ve known before, but this time the realization has hit me hard. Like a snowball. A packed, icy snowball, that hits me in the face, and knocks me down into a snowbank where I flail awkwardly trying to get myself up, as snow-laden tree branches drop their load on top of me with a whump, getting snow in under my jacket collar.

I’m feeling, as it were, snowed under. Until I manage to dig myself out, I should be spending less time, you know, blogging.

So, once again, I apologize for the general absence of comments, and responses to comments. I’m still reading, but have such limited time with the ability to type.²

And once more, to distract you, I offer you gratuitous baby photos.





¹ Our driveway this year has been variously covered in blankets of snow and sheets of ice. I think at some point there may also have been a mattress pad of slush, topped by an eiderdown of freezing rain.

² Because my hands are numb from playing in the snow without gloves. Or something like that.