Sunday, May 31, 2009

At the Zoo

We went to the zoo this weekend with Charlie's cousins and Ryan's sister, brother-in-law, and dad.

Moments after we arrived and got everyone pottyed and sun-screened we set out on our animal adventure. The three older boys walked hand in hand and talked about baseball. Of course!


Here is an idyllic moment between me and Charlie at the monkey exhibit (Not sure what I'm doing with my hands there--air camera maybe?--but I sure wish I had them down by my sides like a normal person). The monkeys were Charlie's favorite. I wonder if he was waiting for The Man in the Yellow Hat to come out. Does that baseball cap not just kill you? He refused to wear the "baby hat" I had brought him and wore this one of Ryan's instead. There was also some species of deer in the same habitat that had big ears (you can see it on the right hand side of the picture). Charlie told it "It's OK rabbit. You just relaxin' rabbit?"

Becca and Charlie

Here's me looking like the hippie science professor I hope to be one day. Wesley was eating/sleeping/using my bo*ob as a cozy pillow; his hat made for excellent cover. So much so that Ryan's dad approached me all "Ohhh, look! He's sleeping!" and I was all "EATING! HE'S EATING! Don't move the hat!" Once again the Ergo saves the day. Wesley does not take kindly to being denied food. Even when there are deer/rabbits to be seen.

Becca and Wes

Aww, he's finally asleep! And I managed to get my shirt back on! Bonus!

All Zooed Out

Charlie: "He has a trunk! Just like Phent!"

Flat Stanley Elephant

The kids were not scared of the bear, who was separated from us by an electrified wire and twenty foot ravine. Charlie was concerned that the bears didn't have any blueberries. He attempted to communicate with the bear by roaring ferociously at it. The bear was nonplussed, perhaps because there were no blueberries.

The Bear

Appropos of nothing, check out Wes's baby-mullet:

Wes relaxing

There was some hilarity with the roaring sign at the lion habitat:

Anyone know where I can get one of these for Charlie's room? No?

And some Montessouri-style cousin-to-cousin teaching moments:


There was an antelope called a Dik Dik, which, after a few hours in the sun, Ryan and I found absolutely hysterical, but I thought taking a picture of the sign would be a little too childish of a thing to do in front of the extended family. Otherwise, we could have all enjoyed it here together.

Both boys were sound asleep within blocks of leaving the zoo, so we found a Sonic and had ourselves a little date (it was Happy Hour no less!).


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Won't it be nice when he repeats that in Sunday School?

Charlie's new thing is asking "What happened, Mama?"

Monday we were driving home from somewhere when he started up. I would tap the breaks to avoid a car changing lanes. "What happened, Mama?"

"Nothing Sweetie."

"What happened, Mama?"

"Nothing, Buddy. I just had to slow down, that's all."

"What happened, Mama?"

"Nothing. Happened."

Then a few miles later I would realize something trivial, like I forgot to put the thank-you notes in the mail and say aloud "Oh darn."

"What happened, Mama?"

"Nothing, Charlie."

"What happened, Mama?"


"What happened, Mama? What happened, Mama? What happened, Mama?"

Finally we got home. I pulled into the driveway and realized that we didn't have the garage door opener. "Oh shoot" I said.

"What happened, Mama?"

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the head rest taking a long, deep breath. You'll miss this when he's in college. You'll miss this when he's in college. You'll miss this when he's in college.

"What happened, Mama?"

"YOU KILLED YOUR MOTHER!" I said in a joking tone.

Cackling from the back seat.


Monday, May 25, 2009


I was sitting on the floor of the state capitol building today feeding Wesley his lunch of pears and oatmeal when a pair of impeccably shined wingtips appeared behind Wes, who was sitting on the floor facing me. I looked up at a smiling man wearing an expensive suit and a blue tie like Obama. "Why don't you come in here and sit down?" he asked, gesturing at the door he had just emerged from. "Oh, I'm alright, thanks. My husband is over there watching the concert" I replied, indicating the Memorial Day tribute going on nearby. He told me to have a nice day and then walked towards the elevators surrounded by a group of professionally dressed twenty-somethings bearing binders and bags and huge sheaves of paper.

Two of the women in the group I recognized from an earlier visit to the bathroom where they waited patiently as I stood in the stall with the door open wearing my mom-shorts and mom-shirt and cheered Charlie.

"If you have to poop I need you to go right now. You cannot go in your undies. Do you have to poop? You don't need any more toilet paper. No. No. No. It's a trash can. DON'T TOUCH IT. It's a trash can. No. No more toilet paper. Stop touching that. DON'TPUTYOURHANDSINYOURMOUTH. It's a trash can. Are you done? Are you done? Are you done? OK! Great job! Let's put your undies back on! Great job! You went TINKLE! What a big boy!!"

They were dressed beautifully. And I know you want me to say "I wouldn't have traded places with them for a second" but I have to say, at that particular frazzled, unshowered moment there sweating in the bathroom of the state capitol wearing dirty khaki shorts and a faded polo shirt talking potty with a reluctant two-year-old? I would have traded places with them for a few hours let alone a second. Not traded lives, of course, I do love the little rugrats, but I'm not going to lie to you; a few hours in a quiet, air-conditioned building, with only my own bathroom needs to attend to sounds like a week in Cabo.

A few minutes after the encounter with the man in the suit Ryan and Charlie came out to find us so we could go home. It was only then that I stood up and looked at the door.

It was marked "Governor's Business Office."

So now I need to know, WHO was the man in the suit? (It wasn't the governor or the lieutenant governor, that much I can tell from the internet). And WHY WHY WHY did I not go in that office? Our graduation speaker, told us when a door opens, you walk through it. And a DOOR WAS LITERALLY OPENED right in front of me and I just sat there. I just know there was someone in there just a-waiting to hire me and OH what a great story THAT would have made. But instead I came home and fell asleep on the couch watching The Doctors.

My glamorous life as a public servant was over before it began.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Soooo, pictures? Okay?*

Undies Head

*This is me not blogging about the one topic that has been consuming all of my thoughts for the last week and a half, namely a job (a really awesome perfect-for-me job that I found online and have been actively pursuing since then. As in, showing up at the department office in a suit, resume in hand on Friday, emailing another entire application *now with bonus proposed course syllabus!* on Monday, and several really dorky sounding voice mails).

Ruh Roh
Hell on wheels, this one is.

Because I don't want to get my hopes up and am fully expecting a "we're just not that into you" letter any day now. For now I am trying to be "professionally annoying" which is what I guess you have to do to get a job. The trick is to not become actually annoying. Which might happen if after showing up once and emailing a second application and leaving several voice mails I show up bearing donuts and coffee today (mmmm donuts and coffee). Fortunately there were no drop-off spots for Wes today so I don't have that option. Unless showing up with donuts, coffee, and an infant would help me. Given Wes's recent prediliction for screaming as though being dismembered, I don't think it would.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wes: 1, CIO: 0

After a month of making everyone miserable, we have concluded that Wes is simply unable to drop his 4:00 feeding.

Instead of waking up with him at 4:00, feeding him, and putting him back down, which takes about ten minutes, we were "sleep training" him by letting him cry (with intermittent patting and shooshing) for an hour, during which everyone in the house was awake, then arguing for fifteen minutes about whether to bag it for the night or not, then feeding him and putting him back to bed (which takes ten minutes).

Arguing about parenting choices at five o'clock in the morning after enduring an hour of hysterical screaming? Not good for the relationship.

Crying it out is supposed to be the means to an end. Everything I've read says that the kid will "get it" around day three and then sleeps through the night reliably after that. That's how it worked for Charlie. It is not supposed to be a month-long battle that ends every night with everyone feeling miserable and defeated. It is not supposed to keep other family members awake (who are two years old and really really need their sleep so as not to be Crabby McWhines-a-Lot the next day, every day for a month).

So last night when he awoke at 4:00 I figured to hell with it and fed him and put him back to bed. After fifteen calm, peaceful minutes, both Wes and I were happily snoozing away. And Charlie never woke up. For the first morning in a very long time we had a happy breakfast together and a happy ride to school. Ryan didn't look at me like I was a bomb about to go off and I didn't feel like a bomb about to go off. He made me coffee, but it was because I asked him nicely to do it while I fed Wes, not because he was afraid without it my head was going to detatch itself from my body and turn into a giant yelling monster head hovering in space like the Wizard of Oz.

The change in Charlie was remarkable. He didn't lose it when we passed the firehouse and the firetrucks were inside. He didn't freak out when I wouldn't give him the peanut butter toast I was having for breakfast. There were no tears when I couldn't make the commuter train magically appear. He chattered away the whole ride to school then happily bounced into his classroom, put Blue Bear in his cubby and gave me a hug goodbye (Mommy Blog aside: He says "Dokey Dokey" instead of "Okey Dokey." It kills me). In contrast to yesterday, when he was so tired as to be near catatonic during lunch and I freaked out and called Pediatrician Man, it was heaven.

So, sorry CIO, we are through. If I have to wake up at 4:00 every day for the rest of my life at least we won't have to go to family counseling. Or jail.

The best part is not viewing Wes as a "difficult baby" anymore. He simply needs to eat at 4:00. And I am meeting a need, not "giving in." He is delightful most of the day and now we can enjoy our nights too. And that is the point of sleep training, isn't it?

Hand to Hand

Sunday, May 17, 2009


We were so lucky this weekend to receive a visit from Charlie's Godmother ("Godmother"), one of our dear friends from grad school. She was visiting South for her fancy new job and came a little early to see us.

Charlie with the bride and groom, his godparents
Charlie with Godmother and Godfather at their wedding

She happened to come in the middle of an ongoing discussion Ryan, my neighbor (who needs a blog-name, we'll call her Labmama because of her other life as a biology lab technician), and I have been having about invisible forces. On a recent episode of Curious George the Man in the Yellow Hat told George "I think magnetism is my favorite of all the invisible forces" which I thought was hysterical and immediately shared with Labmama, who also found it funny. Since then (probably Tuesday) we've been emailing and texting each other with other potential invisible forces. Labmama came up with gravity right off the bat, but we figured since the Man in the Yellow Hat had said "...of all the invisible forces" that there must be more than just those two (magnetism and gravity). Mr. Labmama was pushing for wind, but we concluded that wind was the result of the pressure gradient force and not an invisible force itself.

So you can imagine how much fun we had on Friday night, just three PhD's sitting around drinking wine and looking up invisible forces on the internet. The next night Labmama came over and when I opened the door to greet her she exclaimed "CENTRIFUGAL and CENTRIPETAL FORCE!" and I smacked my forehead because YEAH.

Anyway, Charlie and Godmother HIT it OFF. Even before she gave him a toy Air Force One complete with jet engine noises and flashing lights. She went upstairs to wash her hands before dinner and Charlie stood in the kitchen with his hands outstretched wondering aloud "Where Godmother? Where she go?" The same thing happened every morning while she slept until a normal time and the boys and Ryan and I played trains in the kitchen.

When we weren't philosophizing about invisible forces we were eating. We made a load batch of chocolate chip cookies Friday night and we hit all the high points: the cupcake bus, breakfast tacos, the local drafthouse we love, the pizza buffet, and Sonic. We also spent a lot of time relaxing and laughing really really hard. I had the hiccups for nearly an hour on Friday night and Saturday night (after Labmama and Godmother and I shared beer and our deep love for science).

When I returned from dropping Godmother off at her hotel downtown tonight Charlie bounced out into the garage hopefully, then looked forlornly at the empty passenger seat of my car and said "Where my Godmother go? I can't wait for her! Where go? Where my Godmother go? I can't wait for her!" It was heartbreakingly sweet.

I miss her too. I miss all my friends from school, but it's good to know that we can just pick up where we left off when we are able to get together.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oh no you di'int!

When I go grocery shopping I have to be creative to get both boys in the cart. I put Charlie in the seat up top and put Wes in his carrier sideways across the basket part in back. This means that I have to put food items in whatever space is remaining. After I check-out, I hold up Wes's carseat and the sacker puts all the bags into the basket underneath. It's working fine.

Today we went for a quick run to the store to buy dinner and bananas and milk (bananas and milk--items we buy three times a week). In the produce section they were giving out samples of chocolate covered pretzels, so I got Charlie one. He sucked all the chocolate off of it with great relish and by the time we got to the check-out stand his face, arms, and shirt were covered in chocolate as were the two cans of black beans he was in charge of holding. I cleaned him up as best I could with a cocktail napkin while we waited. The cashier smiled and told me what cute boys I had. It was a most pleasant shopping trip.

Then the sacker was ready to put my bags into the cart. As always I lifted Wes's carrier up so he could put my bags in. It was at this moment, while I was holding the forty pound carrier almost over my head waiting for the sacker to put the very last bag in that I heard a woman say "Excuse me" in such a rude, impatient tone that if it had been a child I would have reflexively grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him eye to eye and said "You may NOT speak to me that way" before moving quickly to the time out corner.

Not turning around I said cheerfully "Just a minute!" We were, after all, mere seconds away from completing the grocery loading procedure.

"She has a baby in her arms!" said the checker to the rude woman.

"I can see that but I have somewhere to go" she snapped in the same nasty tone as I replaced Wes's carrier and she shoved her way past.

I was STUNNED. I turned back to the checker to get my change and said "Woah, she was really nasty! Thanks for sticking up for me!"

The lady behind me in line also thanked the cashier for saying something. We laughed it off and I went home.

I was relating the story to my aunt on the phone a few minutes later and we brainstormed what could possibly have been so urgent that she couldn't wait literally another thirty seconds for me to put Wes back in the cart.

We settled on fe*cal in*cont*inence.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Old town fun

We're back in South! Everyone is exhausted. Wesley is asleep, Charlie's on his way, and I'm ignoring the dishes from the Mother's Day dinner of scrambled eggs with cheese and tomatoes, salad, sausage, and muffins Ryan made me in favor of uploading pictures and putting the shiny new "Alumni" sticker on my car (Another thing I am ignoring is the fact that the sticker uses the wrong form of the word "Alumni." Ryan says it's ok because each of us is an "alumnus"/alumna" and we both drive the red car, ergo the plural form, "Alumni," is actually correct.).

Graduation was so much fun. Ryan's mom got this great picture, which is good, because at that exact moment I was very confused by what I was supposed to be doing and chastising myself for not being in the moment.


Also, the commencement speaker was standing in the receiving line and I wanted to find just the right words to say "OMG I HEARTED YOUR SPEECH" without sounding like a total dork. She talked about her son and her job in the White House and working and parenting and priority making and career paths. I settled on "Your speech meant a lot to me" then added "I have two boys!" like a total spaz. Then I moved down the line and everyone greeted me with "Doctor" as I shook their hand. Trippy!

I went with the orange shoes because orange is the color for engineering, where my hippie multidisciplinary degree is based. My hood turned out to be blue for Philosophy. They should really cover these kinds of details in orientation. Or maybe I'm the only one late to that party. But yay! Fun shoes!

Orange for Engineering

The big surprise is that Charlie was ALSO hooded on Friday. We are quite proud of his dissertation work in nanophysics. And classics. He was hooded twice.

Professor Charles

And on Saturday we had some people over and we drank two gallons of coffee. It was everything I thought it would be.

Two Gallons of Coffee

Sunday we went to our old church where we were welcomed as though we had never left. Big thanks to our friends S and Dr. C for giving us their house for the weekend (they are off on a field project somewhere). Their warm hospitality made our visit so relaxed and easy and we can't wait to visit again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Freaking Awesome

I just called my favorite coffee shop to place a catering order for breakfast for the family on Saturday after graduation in the old town. I asked for coffee and cinnamon rolls and the lady on the phone asked me

"How many gallons of coffee would you like?"


Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh Hell

I just got off the phone with the director of my field of specialization at a national lab. He and I worked together on a field trip in 2005 and he REMEMBERS ME. Anyway, I had submitted an application for a position they had advertised and he was calling to follow-up. He left a message while I was in the back yard pulling weeds with Wesley, so once we came inside I loaded Wesley into the playpen and called him back. He asked how I'd been and I started to shriek "Great! I have two boys and they are wonderful and we love living in South" and on and on and NOT professional AT ALL before I caught myself and said "I'm doing well. I just finished my PhD and am starting to look for a job. How have you been?" in my friendly-yet-professional tone. To me, that is the hard part about juggling-- behaving appropriately in all situations and switching back and forth. Not that you have to totally change who you are, but I think we can all agree that there is a difference in tone between an email conversation with the director of the church's vacation Bible school, which is what I was doing this morning, and a phone call with the director of a national lab who is holding precious fellowship money in his hands just a-lookin' for someone to give it to.

So, pleasantries out of the way, we turned to the reason he was calling. Which was that they had decided to hire a numerical modeler instead of what I do (Boo!) but that he knew of a couple of post-doc opportunities that I could apply for (Yay!) and that I should start working on my application so I could let the director of the post-doc program at the national lab take a look and give me some pointers (Yay! Yay! Yay! Wait are you sure you called the right person because I am really not as bright as you seem to think I am.) I was getting really really excited on the phone (but, as I mentioned, not outwardly, which is no small feat for me as those who know me personally can attest). And then I said "Do you think any of these opportunities could be done remotely?" He said "No, you would have to be present here at the lab in [mid-Atlantic state near where my pal Michelle Obama lives]. Would that be a problem for you?"


"Well, my husband is unable to leave his job right now and we live in South." He said I should apply anyway and asked if I thought the whole not leaving the job sitch would change before the beginning of next year. Since technically that is after the date when we would have to hand over Charlie in exchange for all the moving expenses Ryan's company paid, I said "yes," however there is no date in the forseeable millenium that Ryan will want to leave his job so I guess the answer was really "no." We said goodbye and I sat at my kitchen table for a moment thinking about how cool it would be to get a post-doc at this particular national lab. I mean, what could be better than MORE GRAD SCHOOL, am I right? But it would be a real-live career move. I would be on track to be like all the professors I've always admired. I couldn't wait to call Ryan and tell him all about it.

And then I walked by a window to the back yard on my way to my desk to put my notebook back. I took in the painstakingly weeded grass, Charlie's swing set and baby tree that he has faithfully watered weekly since October, and my thriving tomato plants. And I felt SICK. I almost cried. This is my home. It was so hard to leave the old town, but I love it here now. I love our house and my gardens. We have wonderful friends on our street. My family lives nearby. I don't think I can leave.

Besides, where but the south can your kid stand outside in nothing but a t-shirt and Pullup watering the garden?


So now in addition to the larger choice about working or staying home, which is killing me, I apparently have some visceral connection to this particular house in this particular city that I was unaware of until this afternoon. Me and my stupid perspective.

And to think this morning my biggest dilemma was whether or not to match my shoes to my doctoral hood on Friday (which is orange) (I decided to go for it).

A few things I learned this weekend

*That game I used to play where I tried to twang my car's antenna on the garage door while it was opening as I was pulling into the garage? Should not be attempted in an SUV. Fortunately I had grabbed a cup of coffee on my way home from dropping Charlie off and came to this realization in the driveway before I made a RAV4 shaped hole in the garage door.

*That the "early to bed" part of "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy and wise" is critically important and should not be skipped. Unless you want to find yourself waking up wondering where you are after the communion liturgy when the organ starts playing.

*A toddler should never be given a Sonic drink in a new car.

*Small children will believe anything you tell them. Including that you can get the window to roll down by blowing on it. This is really funny until you forget and your small child screams in rage after unsuccessfully blowing on the window for several minutes.

*Ryan is generous and kind and still driving a car whose windows don't roll down. I will be making him fancy dinners for the rest of the year.

*We are in big trouble with this one:


Saturday, May 2, 2009

We made some improvements to the garage...

It's The Red Car (guess who named it) and it's already been to Sonic.