Archive for the ‘Momhood’ Category

That time of year…

8 August , 2014

It’s that time of year again. Summer projects started aren’t quite done. The long to-do list I started with is, well, still long.

Some things will be done. Within a few more days, we will have moved the boys out of their old rooms and into the new. This involves one of the rooms getting new paint and floor, and a new loft bed that is out of stock at IKEA for a few days — part of the very slow process of removing ALL of the carpet in the house and replacing it with laminate or other materials.

Many projects are in progress. Many things need to be started yet in the diminishing time before the start of yet another semester.

And so, rather than trying to conjure up more words, a picture of a place I’d perhaps rather be:

Just one picture from Jiuzhaigou...

Just one picture from Jiuzhaigou…



16 July , 2014

Nothing can ground one as a parent faster than a sick child.

I regularly spend time in a children’s outpatient procedure area in a hospital. I also regularly spend time in an outpatient area of another hospital where I am a regular patient, but it’s different to be the parent. My child is well, and is kept well by the medication he is infused with during these visits. Often, the other rooms in the area are empty. But it’s not uncommon for them to have occupants. I know that we will be leaving in just a few short hours. I don’t worry about the side effects, because, well, it’s been several years, and if he were going to have a reaction, he probably would have reacted by now.

But I don’t know the stories of the other kids. Some are in hospital gowns. Some seem to be restricted and not allowed to walk around. Some are just tiny babies. Some have been in the hospital for more than a day already, and some won’t be going home tonight.

We are all mortal in body. It’s part of being human. But we do not expect our children to face mortality before we do.

This child and I share a common diagnosis. But I was thirty when it first arrived. He was three. I cried when he was diagnosed. I blamed myself for passing this diagnosis on to the next generation. Not that there was anything I could have done to prevent it… genetics are but a small part of this particular diagnosis, and the chances of passing it on were small, but even events with very small probabilities do, in fact, occur.

In the long run, the path to wellness that I took sped up the path to his. He’s had one detour so far, and surely the future will hold more. But receiving a diagnosis of a chronic disease is much more traumatic when you are thirty than it is when you are three. I’ve been amazed at the resilience shown by my son given the medical hoops he’s been through. In the end, this is not a diagnosis that impacts lifespan, and for both of us, we seem to have found treatment that allows us to live a normal life. Most of the time — when we aren’t busy paying another visit to the outpatient area of a hospital.


15 July , 2014

Our lives are littered with landmarks. Births, deaths, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations…

This weekend, I will be fortunate to celebrate two very special landmarks in my life. The longer of the two is the IMSA Alumni Weekend. As a member of the Charter Class, we will be celebrating our 25th reunion this weekend. And yes, I say weekend: we will begin with a private affair at a restaurant that one of my classmates is involved in, visit campus for updates and to see alums from other classes for a bit, and then to a resort for the evening for the reunion proper. It looks like over half of the graduating class will attend — considering our class is far-flung (worldwide), and the number of life events that conspire to get in the way, this seems like a very good turnout. I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ve been reconnecting with online for the past 5-10 years. IMSA has a strong sense of shared history — perhaps especially for our class, who practically had the place to ourselves for the first year. (Perhaps literally so… we lived in the main building for the first seven months!)

Yare, an IMSA landmark

Yare, an IMSA landmark

Second, this weekend will also mark seventeen years of marriage for my hubby and I. We had a simple wedding on that date, in the Cornell Plantations. I was a graduate student, the building manager where my lab and office were was a judge in a nearby town — he officiated a lot of graduate student weddings, as it turned out. My advisor and a lab and office mate were the witnesses, and we had a simple ceremony and shared a picnic dinner that we prepared. One year to the day later, we had a more elaborate event in the suburbs here in Chicagoland, in which all too many people were invited. It was a lovely venue — it no longer functions as such, but we did a ceremony that hubby’s grandfather unofficially officiated in a gazebo outside and then went indoors for a lovely dinner and dancing and more. Of course, to me, the day is mostly a blur — I remember there were more people for the ceremony than we expected (hubby had spent so long telling people that he wasn’t ever going to get married that I think they all had to come and see it actually happen). But I’m told it was a lovely event!

Wedding pic

Wedding pic

And yes, hubby agreed to spend our anniversary eve at a reunion event. At least the kids will be with a grandma and grandpa for the weekend!

I am thankful for the happy landmarks to mark the passage of life.

And yes, there are more landmarks on the horizon as well. I have officially begun shopping for school supplies, and have a newfound respect for parents of multiple school aged kids. It’s amazing how many crayons and pencils two kindergardeners need for the first day of school! (Far more than their fifth grade big brother!)

Great expectations

3 June , 2012

I spent my morning at the 24th commencement of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, at the lovely Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora, Illinois. I was invited as a member of the charter class, the class that had the very first commencement, in June 1989. I received the invitation as a member of the IMSA Alumni Association Cabinet — with this being the 25th year of IMSA, there was an attempt to get representatives from every one of the 24 graduating classes.

IMSA is a pretty special place. They draw students from the entire state of Illinois, and put them together for three years. What happens there is a lot of academics, a lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of interactions. There’s something about belonging to a place like that… there’s a connection between anyone who is or was there, kind of like the elite colleges, but perhaps even more so, since this takes place during the last three high school years.

Graduation at IMSA is full of lofty ideas. There are high expectations. With a principal who is succumbing to ALS, perhaps someone in this year’s class will be inspired to find a cure, or at least a treatment that allows people to survive in meaningful ways for longer beyond the diagnosis than most currently get. There are alums who have succeeded in nearly any aspect of life that you can think of. And there are alums who have found success in raising a family. One of the speakers today, a young man named Kyle Glasper, spoke of a dream in which he was sitting in the audience 25 years from now, watching as his daughter walked across the stage. I’m not sure that he knew that a few rows out, there sat Melvin Bacani, class of 1990, and his daughter, who will likely walk across that stage next May, as a member of the class of 2013. And I thought of my eight year old son, who will already talk about wanting to go to IMSA, and who is on track as of second grade, as much as such things can be measured in one so young. And I noticed two (or was it three?) sets of twins in this year’s class, and wondered about my three-and-a-half year old identical boys, who seem to be taking after their big brother.

Nobel laureate and IMSA founder Leon Lederman is officially retiring this year. I remember 23 years ago, when he addressed our class (as he had several times previously, but his first time as a Nobel laureate) and told us to move to Paris and fall in love with two people at the same time. I think we were advised to have lunch there with a Zen Buddhist, as well. He didn’t speak today, but he was in the audience. And I think I inadvertently followed the advice to fall in love with two people at the same time, too. Haven’t been to Paris yet, though I have done Berlin, Amsterdam, and Zurich. And if I haven’t had lunch with a zen buddhist, I’m pretty sure i have some as friends now… I also remember attending a lecture he gave at UIUC when I was an undergraduate. A number of us (IMSA alums) hung around to say hi before the talk began, and he either told us then that he would be on his toes knowing we were in the audience, or he might have actually said something to that effect at the beginning of his talk… (yes, this sort of thing is part of what it is, being an IMSA alum…)

Herr Dr. Stark is also retiring this year. He was there when I started. I never took German, but remember being taken to dinner by he and Sra. Lopez with Liz Doyle as a thank you for work service we had been doing. As I recall, we went to Fuddruckers…

Principal Eric McClaren was the commencement speaker this year, but he was unable to attend the commencement. (He was going to attend the reception afterwards on campus.) A video was put together using bits and pieces of other of his speeches and pictures of him at various events. The editing was superb. The sound was originally not functioning, which may have added some needed levity to the situation. It was absolutely wonderful to hear his voice again…

After graduation, I did not go to the reception, but went home to change so I could see part of my oldest’s first baseball game of the summer. He’s not much of an athlete, but he does enjoy team sports, so he plays in the rec league. I only saw one at-bat — he did not hit the ball, but he did a good job of not swinging at the many balls lobbed his way. He and his dad are spending the night at Waterfall Glen with the scout troop, so I haven’t heard how the rest of the game went.

I spent the rest of the day with my twins. Interesting transition — from a lofty graduation, to being with the very here-and-now preschoolers… But, I do have mommy’s boys, all three of them, so it was a good day, all in all.


3 February , 2012

For a discussion earlier this week, we read Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr, as well as a number of responses, including some by Clay Shirky. One point of argument was that the internet is changing the way we read — making us read more as skimming, and not as deeply. Carr equates deep reading to deep thinking, and suggests that the internet is reducing our ability to think deeply.

There are at least two paths I’d like to travel in responding. One is my recent trip to Cuba. For ten days, I talked on the phone a grand total of 5 or so minutes, and spent zero time online. I had brought along my iPod touch and my digital SLR, but no other electronic devices, and I never tried to access the internet while I was there. What did I do? Well, the middle of the day was filled with our tour activities — really, from breakfast through dinner, at least. And if I found myself back at the hotel early — too early for bedtime — it was easy to find a companion to either sit and chat in the lobby, or to head out and wander the streets of Habana Vieja (old Havana). So, I used real-life conversation to fill the spaces — and it was a refreshing experience! I did also keep a journal — my husband gave me a blank, bound book with butterflies on the cover, and had my three boys (7 and 3-year-old twins) autograph it for me. I wrote at least two pages every night — often beginning to drift off as I wrote. I brought some colored pencils, but didn’t draw — I took so many pictures while I was there that I was more concerned with getting the words down. I actually brought books with me, but didn’t really find time to read — my down time was spent either writing, reviewing pictures, or sleeping. (I even brought — and didn’t use — knitting… of course, it wasn’t a compelling project, since I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t have to leave it behind at some security checkpoint.) I think I did more free thinking on this trip than I do on the average day — there was so much to explore and wonder about and learn. And, indeed, more deep thinking.

Nighttime view down a Habana Vieja street

Habana VIeja at night

I don’t necessarily think I need to be unplugged to think deeply, though. To some extent, I think it takes deep thinking to write a good essay exam…

As to the other path I wanted to go down… we seem to be successful at instilling a love of books to our three boys. The younger two are still in the picture book stage (though I think they’re starting to sample chapter books) — our oldest is a reader. A voracious reader, at that. He’s in second grade, and at this point in the school year, he’s read the entire Harry Potter series, and the Hobbit. (I can distinctly remember trying to read the Hobbit in 3rd grade and not being able to get through it. That said, I’m pretty sure my husband helped him get through it by reading aloud the boring parts…) While reading the last two HP books, it wasn’t unusual for him to retreat to our bedroom to cuddle with the book for an hour or two after school… just warms a mother’s heart!

Think different

6 October , 2011

I had a meeting last night, my third evening meeting in a row this week, and thankfully, the last. Like most meetings, I was working on my iPad throughout, taking notes, checking dates, looking up information relevant to the discussions at hand. (I even thought to bring my Bluetooth keyboard along, but didn’t end up using it this time.)

When I got home, I pulled out my iPod Touch and checked email. It was a long week, so I had no intention of pulling out my MacBookPro to do any “real” work. I figured I would pull out the iPad, but I was tired, so I just sat on the couch and pulled the iPod out of my pocket.

I checked email, then peeked at Facebook. There were a few of the captioned pictures that have been going around at the top of my feed, but then there were Apple logos, Apple pictures, and finally some references to Steve Jobs. I started seeing RIP with the name, and pulled out the iPad… it was time to get a bigger screen and a better view.

My heart goes out to his family and friends. I know nothing of what Steve Jobs was like on a personal level, but 56 is too short a time.

I effectively grew up with Apple products. The first computers I got to play with were Apple II’s in my junior high. There were two, and not everyone could use them, but I was one of the first to get permission. The first computer I owned was a Commodore 64, a gift from a forward-looking aunt and uncle. (Even better, I had no disk drive, only a tape — as in cassette — drive.) It was an interesting toy, and I learned a little about programming on it, but it never went to school with me. At IMSA, we had Mac pluses, I think — the old unibody Mac’s that predated the iMacs. I can remember introductory seminars to such advanced software as MS Word 4.0… (We also had access to other computers… I had a Plato account there.) I had a long-term relationship with a friend who used Macs, and I can remember using his desktop Mac for assignments in college until I finally got my own — a Mac LC II, with a monochrome monitor. In graduate school, I finally made the switch to a laptop with a “Wallstreet” Powerbook G3. As a postdoc, I turned a small bit of inheritance money into a newer 17″ Powerbook, one of the last models to carry the Powerbook name. Three years and a few months later, I had an amazingly good customer service interaction — that powerbook had all kinds of issues, all of which were covered by AppleCare until the end of Applecare… it was “fixed”, but still wasn’t working right, and it went back in 2-3 months later for another fix. After a week or two of working without my primary computer, I was frustrated and sent two copies of a 2-page letter — one to the Apple Store in OakBrook, IL, and another to Cupertino. Within 36h of mailing the letter, a manager from the OakBrook store called me up and offered me a 17″ MacBookPro as a replacement — the computer that I’m now typing on. It’s not without it’s own problems — it has a Radeon X1600 video card that has problems that Apple isn’t really acknowledging, but it’s still my primary computer. I do have my eye on a MacBook Air as a replacement, but that’s probably still 6-9 months away…

For our New Media Seminar, we’ve been reading V. Bush, Wiener, Licklider, and Engelbart. I don’t think the volume has anything by Jobs, but it seems clear that he belongs in that (and many other) list(s) as a visionary. Fortunately, he was able to bring many of his visions to fruition — there’s something magical about a device like an iPad that makes computing easy for people who can’t figure out how to use a computer.

I was thinking about it this morning, and while my oldest knows that music comes on round things that are a bit fragile, my younger two (twins) likely only associate the discs with movies. They’ve grown up with one old iPod (a 3rd generation iPod — one of the earliest ones, and yes, it still works!) in the playroom, and a Nano in their bedroom for lullabies…

Thanks, Steve, for thinking different, and helping others to think different, too. I hope that Apple (and others) will continue your legacy for years to come…


28 September , 2011

Spent the weekend focused on these happy guys:

They turned three this weekend, and although they are identical twins, they are clearly individuals: one wanted a Handy Manny birthday party, and the other wanted a zoo animal birthday party. Fortunately, a Handy Manny party at the zoo was acceptable to both!

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the huge help that a big brother can be! This helper did nearly all of the cutting and half of the gluing to make our dual-themed cupcake toppers! (Yay for big brothers!)


24 September , 2011

It’s been one of those weeks. Daytrip to a place 3 hours away on Monday (so 6h of solo driving), events every night except Friday, oh, and a family birthday this weekend. (Or, rather, birthdays, being as it’s the twins’.)

I felt bad about missing a seminar today, until realizing that I’d already been to one seminar each on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. And I was wondering why my to-do-now list was looking a bit long…

Next week looks calmer on the calendar. It’s the calm before the storm, as the following week is back to back-to-back-to-back evening commitments plus exams to write and then grade.

We read As We May Think by Vannevar Bush for BenNMFSf11 this week. I led the discussion, starting off with a bit of a biography of the man. In reading the essay, I imagined this Bush to be somewhat of a futurist — it reminded me of things I’d read in a senior elective in high school, a class on Futurism taught by the late, great Bernie Hollister. I think I was way off base, though — Bush was a scientist turned administrator, and was a key figure in WWII and the development of the Manhattan Project (and what was to eventually become the National Science Foundation). In doing web research to find out more, I saw how often he was credited with the ideas that became the world wide web, though as I was reading it, I was thinking about how the iPad (really iPads) I’ve been carrying around for the past 15 months are really a portable form of the memex he designed, at least in many of the ways I use it.

I’m intrigued by the idea that gathering all of the information makes it accessible. I can’t remember where I saw it (perhaps in my Twitter feed? Or another blog?), but there are more papers being published nowadays in nearly every field than one person can possibly read in a lifetime. Even given databases and citation webs… it’s so hard to stay on top of it all now. How do we manage the volume of information that’s now available to us?

OK, I need to move on through the to-do list. Next week’s readings are on there somewhere, as are catching up on reading all the other blogs…

First post!

7 September , 2011

I’ve struggled for a long time trying to figure out what I would put in a blog if I were to write one. A list of my activities for today — just today — might give a clue as to why:

*waking up and getting moving. caffeine acquisition.
*teaching life tables to upper-level biology students
*putting the finishing touches on an internal proposal for the technology seminar that has me writing this blog, finally
*meeting with a new academic advisee for the first time, and helping that student begin to find a way through a minor crisis
*trying to convince a partly-overlapping group of students that learning how to do and understand and communicate statistics is an important part of their education
*trying to get the proposal to successfully navigate through multiple administrative levels
*updating a course D2L site
*hanging out with my nearly three-year-old twin boys, involving a High Five magazine, a little bit of cutting (not enough for one twin), a fair bit of reading, and a lot of cuddling
*going to “crafting and conversation” at our church with my 7-year-old boy, and getting help with some slipped stitches of a simple knitting project
*putting some last touches on the seminar for tomorrow, including looking over the reading again
*putting together an invitation for the twins’ third birthday, which is less than two weeks away (family already notified of basic plans using email)
*updating the blog

And I suspect I won’t make it up early enough to run in the morning, but maybe I’ll surprise myself…

So, there’s plenty to write about. But it’s not clear what parts of this I want to include here on a regular basis just yet. Hoping the first discussions tomorrow will help me think this through a bit more!