Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Miracle Clean

When I was recovering from labor with T, I spent my 48 hour hospital stay watching HGTV.  I was completely hooked on home improvement shows and loved all the kitchen they featured with granite counters and stainless steel appliances.  Not long afterward, we did our own kitchen remodel that I wrote about here.

We just finished the kitchen renovation of the apartment we rent out.  We wanted to upgrade our stove, so we planned a little switcheroo, our one-year old stove to the apartment and a new stove for us.  The problem is that after one year, our "stainless" steel stove looked like this:

I've tried several stainless steel cleaners and none of them removed the water stains.  It looked terrible.  I felt horrible sending it over to the new apartment kitchen.  A little research on Google turned up some recommendation for silver polish or Bartender's Keeper, but I was home alone with the girls sleeping upstairs and couldn't go anywhere, so my search continued for something I already had.  And that's when I discovered a recommendation for WD-40.

In disbelief, I tried a tiny area first.  I was completely shocked and in an instant, I had removed all of the water stains from the oven door!

Looks amazing, right?!  Like new, you might say?  I went on to remove the grease that had remained on the control panel as well.  Suffice it to say that when the stove went to the apartment, it fit right in with the new fridge and microwave!

All thanks to my new little friend!...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monday Blues

I've noticed these past few months that Mondays are hard days for my girls.  We've just spent the weekend together doing family things: errands, big breakfast, trip to the playground or zoo.  We really make the most of those two days together.

Come Monday, the fun grinds to a halt and we're back in the zone: get up, get dressed, eat up, get your coat on and get out the door.  T seems especially sad on Mondays.  Sometimes she shows it by being thoughtful and drawn inward.  Sometimes, she's outright defiant and pushing every-single-button.  Most times, she just doesn't say goodbye as we drop Daddy off or give me kisses as I leave her at daycare.

Mondays are hard.

Yesterday, she was especially sad.  Knowing that we have a long weekend and a trip home coming up, I thought I would cheer her up with this good news.  She responded well and seemed much happier.  She loves going to Grammie's house and seeing her "friends", aka her cousins.

A few more minutes into our trip, K started to whine and howl.  Being the amazing big sister she is, T tried to comfort her with this, "Don't worry K.  Just a few days of school and then they won't leave us anymore!".

That was the sound of my heart breaking.

I spent a couple more minutes hugging her yesterday morning, and afternoon, and night, and again this morning.  I reminded her how much we love her and that we miss her too during the day.  I also reminded her how much she loves her teacher Ms. Vecky and how much fun she has at daycare.  Maybe all we need is a good long vacation together.  Maybe I just needed a reminder that I have amazing daughters who love their mom and dad so much.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm doing something right.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So encouraged

I have been overwhelmed by the love and support I received after yesterday's blog post.  So many of you commented, sent private messages, text messages or called to encourage me and send your love.  Thank you so much for everything!  I am truly lucky because of the love and support I receive from all of you - my extended family!

In particular, I'd like to thank a couple of people.  My sister- and brother-in-law have benefitted from Early Intervention with their daughter for 4 years now.  I know we have benefitted from what you have learned from them!  You guys are a testament to true parental dedication.  Every time we visit, we see K's amazing progress.  I so enjoyed talking with her this last trip and understanding her so easily!  EI has definitely been working for her!  She is an amazing little girl who we love so much!  It is heart breaking when she is mistreated for being "different" when she is no different at all!  K is a beautiful, sweet, fun, loving girl and we are so thankful she is part of our family and such a good friend to T!

Two weeks after your wedding and still in love! :)

My cousin, E, thank you for your support and understanding yesterday.  I can't imagine hearing those words about not one, but two babies at the same time!  I totally facebook stalk you and love to see their progress and how they are definitely thriving now!  You've got your hands full with three littles, but its easy to see what a great mom you are!  Thanks for the love!

We both had on some interesting prints that year! Haha!

My BFF, J! You have been there for me since 6th grade!!  Remember the BFF heart necklaces?  I would totally wear your other half still. ;)  I love you so much and treasure your friendship.  Its more than that, you are my sister. Muah!

Love how I and T are eyeing each other here!

My mom.  What can I say?  Now that I'm a mom, I'd like to apologize for all the heartache I caused you growing up, and maybe still cause!  Really though, I'm ok.  I tend to let my worried and sad thoughts come out on "paper" and just roll with and enjoy the good times.  As such, my blog gets a little unbalanced.  You know better than anyone that I have always struggled with demanding more of myself than I should, that I always felt/feel the need to be perfect, etc.  I'd like to say I'm getting better about it, but I really just find more things to "challenge" myself.  Its just who I am.  I do recognize it though, and make a conscious effort to make sure my girls know it is okay to make mistakes.

K was so tiny the last time you visited!

And to everyone else, thanks again for the outpouring of love.  You guys are the best!  I'm thankful that I have this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and experiences and even more thankful that you guys actually read it!  Whether you are family, BFFs, old classmates, long lost friends, or colleagues, you all have helped this momma through some darker times and allowed me to share some of our joys and accomplishments.  Thanks for all your feedback and for reading!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Early Intervention

What is it about the phrase "Early Intervention" that makes me feel like a failure, like a mom who just can't hack it, like I'm letting my kids down?

"I have a PhD, for crying out loud, why can't I fix this?", is one of the many ongoing accusatory conversations going on in my head.

Is it just me, or do all moms continually beat themselves up like this and hold themselves accountable for every little thing?

Since K's 9 month check up, we've been in catch up mode: catch up on weight, catch up on length, catch up on social skills, catch up on gross motor skills.  To her credit, she's actually accomplished a lot in a few weeks, even if it was delayed.  Scooting, crawling, sitting up, and lots of babbles.  But it wasn't enough and we sat through screening yesterday to see if she qualified for early intervention services.  Her communication skills were behind, just a little, and we're going to watch those to see if she catches up in the next few months.  Her gross motor skills had improved drastically and she was actually doing okay in that category, except for the way she places her feet, qualifying her for services to correct her atypical behavior.

Coming out of the appointment, my husband and I were in separate worlds.  To him, the appointment went great!  She showed them all the things she could do.  The two major deficiencies were either something we could watch and coach, or were physical and now she would see specialists that could help her.

As for me, I broke down crying as we walked out of the doctors office.  How could I have failed my baby so badly?

Its amazing how mother's guilt can take over and block out all rational thought.  Of course, my husband was right.  I didn't do anything to make her hold her feet funny.  But those thoughts couldn't break through the mommy-guilt.  Through the rest of the day, my emotions were just barely held back as I tried to focus on work.  Afterwards, I pick up the girls and hugged them both a little tighter than usual.

In the light of the next day, I'm feeling slightly better about what lies ahead, but there's still a nagging guilt just out of my line of sight.  I know in five years, none of this is going to matter and I'll be talking with her about gymnastics or ballet and she'll be just fine.  I'm just going to need a pep talk or two along the way to keep drowning in my own guilt.

I should mention that K did awesome in some categories, putting her achievement beyond her age, like in the receptive communication skills and fine motor skills.  All together, its a lesson to me that we all excel at some things and not others.  I guess that starts very early in life!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Me vs. the StinkBug Part Two

Say hello to my little friend...

(If you missed part one, click here)

Friday morning, finally.  Thursday nights are rough with the kids and B working late, but it was Friday and that meant the weekend and sleeping in until 5:30am - woohoo! (there really should be a scarstic font)  I had pressed snooze once and was running a bit late.  K decided to go back to waking up twice a night and I was more tired than usual.  Rushing, I was trying to make up for lost time.  That 9 minute snooze seemed like a great idea and was heavenly while tucked in and warm under my 17 blankets, but now I was regretting it.  Drying, brushing, brushing, flossing, hurrying through my morning routine.  I turned around to leave my bathroom when I saw him.

He was back.

He was in my bathroom.

And, he was looking at me.

Okay, breathe, breathe.  Get yourself together.  You're the only one awake.  You'll look ridiculous if you wake up B screaming about another stinkbug.  Calm down, calm down, calm down.

He was walking towards me.

Oh no, oh no, ohnoohnoohnoohnoohno!!!!

I grabbed the tall, hard plastic cup from the shower, the one I use to rinse the girls' hair in the tub and quickly and gently placed it over the vermin.  It's okay, I'll bleach it later.

Ok, ok, ok.  Back to business.  Just finish getting ready.  When you're all done, you'll slide a piece of paper underneath, go down stairs and take him outside.  The girls aren't up yet.  You just have to be quiet so you don't wake them up and freak them out.  YOU CAN DO THIS!

I finished getting dressed, but unfortunately, my shoes were down stairs.  This made me feel particularly vulnerable.  I didn't want to just shake him out the window or just outside the door because if I did that and he jumped back at me... well, that was a thought I couldn't entertain.  I would just slide my shoes on downstairs, take him out to the tree and let him go.

I timed the extraction with B heading downstairs so he could hold the stair gate and door open for me.  I ran outside, straight for the tree and removed the piece of paper holding the bug in the cup.

But, he wasn't on the paper.

I hesitated, but made myself look inside the cup (he won't jump, he won't jump, he won't jump...).

He wasn't there either.


Where is that stupid, disgusting, smelly, ugly, annoying, going to crawl all over my face in my sleep bug!!!!!!

Running upstairs, I searched the bathroom, the bedroom, the old hiding spot (under the dresser of course) but couldn't locate the nasty thing.

For the last 4 hours, I have been twitching, squirming, itching, and dying a little inside.  Is he on me?  Is he on my pillow?  I'm never going to sleep again.

Stink Bug - 2, Mommy - 0

Mark my words Stinky, this is NOT OVER!!!

Me vs. the StinkBug (Part 1)

It had been a hectic and exhausting afternoon.  Work was crazy, I had to run to catch the shuttle bus and I was still running.  Running to pick up the girls from daycare, running home, running to get them fed, bathed, dressed and in bed in order to have dinner ready for when B got home, having worked late that night.  On nights like these, I know I'm short tempered and stressed and T definitely picks up on that.  She was resisting all my efforts: won't get into the tub, won't get out of the tub, won't, won't, wont.  Sigh.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, trying to calm my stressed out nerves, I looked just outside the doorway to see a new visitor in our house - the StinkBug.

Being a biologist, I try to make every effort not to be grossed out by the creepy crawlies in front of T and K.  I want them to grow up fascinated by the world around them and not inherit my irrational fear of spiders.  In general, I don't really mind bugs.  I had T once help me rescue a giant caterpillar from the street and I'll be the first one to pick up a lady bug.  But there's something about bugs invading my personal space, my private refuge, being where they have absolutely no right to be, that just-drives-me-crazy!

I was frozen, staring, at this innocent little stinker, crawling his way across my dog's bed.

"Mommy, look at me!"
"No, MOMMY, LOOK at me!"
"That's nice sweetie" all without tearing my eyes away from the invader.

Somehow, I had to remove the little bugger, without squishing it, without alerting T, without squealing, and GET HIM OUT OF MY BEDROOM!!!!!

Images of that thing crawling all over me in my sleep were giving me the chills and upping the levels of stress I was already feeling.

Unfortunately, not being the center of my attention made T all the crankier and I ended up bringing her to her room for a time out - two birds with one stone because now I could get rid of the bug without her seeing!

I ran back to my room only for the thing to have disappeared in thin air!  How was I ever going to sleep again!  On all fours, I searched the floor of my bedroom, under the dog bed, under the dresser, but I couldn't find him!  That's how B found me that night, desperately trying to find Stinky, shaking with overloaded stress and anxiety, and T back in my room jumping on the bed.

"What's wrong with Mommy, Daddy?"

I had located the bug, on an old shirt under the dresser.  As I pulled him out, (squealing, oh well), B grabbed it, put it in a plastic bag, and brought him directly to an all you can eat feast in our trash can.  I'm ashamed to say, I actually cried with relief.

"Mommy, don't cry."  Sorry babe, too late.  The rest of the night I alternated between thanking B, apologizing for my irrational behavior, and crying.

StinkBug - 1, Mommy - 0

But it wasn't over yet...

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Highs and Lows of Customer Service

Ever long for the time when people cared about the product you purchased?  When they represented their product or company?  When they had a vested interest in your satisfaction as a consumer?  Sigh...

I long for those days, often pictured romantically in technovision, the corner grocer knowing your name and preferences, the milkman dressed all in white.  Sadly, our economy is so far from those sweet day dreams, where 16 year old teens care not about you or your purchase because, for them, this is just a means to and end, to get money to purchase more things.

Sometimes I'm struck by how terrible customer service can be and how, as consumers, we've just accepted it, how salespeople think its normal or worse, acceptable.  We recently went to Mattress Warehouse ( to purchase a new futon mattress.  We left having purchased a futon mattress, a fancy queen sized mattress, mattress cover, mattress frame, and much lighter wallets.  Upon receipt of these items, all looked fine on the outside.  Being the chaotically busy family we (and half the US) are, we didn't get around to setting up the futon mattress for several days.  When I finally did, it appeared that our mattress was defective.

Two and a half weeks later, after several phone calls and no results, I finally stormed back into the aforementioned mattress store.  They might be able to ignore my phone calls, but it would be nearly impossible to ignore an angry woman with a crying infant (thanks for playing your part K!). My only regret was that there weren't more people shopping in the store to hear me loudly stating my complaint (again, but in person this time) and throwing around the "defective mattress" phrase quite loudly.  The salesman quickly got to work putting our request for a replacement through and then asked if I would be able to transport the old mattress  back to pick up the new one or pay $70 for it to be sent to my house, company/manufacturer policy.  Um, what?!  Somehow, with a straight face, he explained to me that they were already going the proverbial "extra mile" by replacing the defective item, and now it was on me to figure out how to transport it or cough up $70 more dollars.  I tried to explain to him how that was not, in fact, going the extra mile and verbally tried to draw the following diagram for him:
When I related the incident to B, he might have been angrier than me and quickly called to get the contact information for the manager.  The response he received was that sure, he could call, but instead of picking up our new mattress 30 minutes away, we would be given the choice of paying $70 or driving an hour away, essentially a threat.  All in all, our hands are tied, and as a consumer, we have no power.  As a retailer of products that last a decade or so, they don't rely on repeat business or customer loyalty, so they effectively don't care how happy we are.  If it wouldn't cost us more money, we'd return everything out of spite.  Our hands are tied.  Except for the fact that we live in a digital age.  I can share my experience and reach hundreds of people, gasp, even thousands or more, and let everyone know what lousy service we had!  Oooh, the mighty power of the pen, or keyboard in this case!

At least, the second retail experience I had that day restored my faith in retail. I've been grocery shopping online through where I place my order and then pull up to the store to pay, while my groceries are loaded into my car.  Its a great time saver with two little ones and it has helped preserve my sanity, to say the least!  Once in a while, I receive an item that is less than satisfactory: bad produce, opened container, wrong item.  Every single time it happens, all I have to do is call the store and let them know and within an hour, one of their employees is at my door with a replacement, an apology, and a giftcard to make up for the trouble.  It has been such a great experience to shop with them that even with the few errors that have occurred, I'll keep going back, and, more importantly, referring my friends, who all need groceries and have to spend their grocery money somewhere.  And that is how we keep our retail system honest, by sharing our expereriences, referring the retailers that have actually gone the "extra mile", and loudly complaining about those that don't.

Mattress Warehouse ( = lousy customer service policies, bad expererience
Harris Teeter ( for groceries) McHenry Row = awesome people, great customer service, great experience

And now, onto to Yahoo, Google, etc. to file a poor review of Mattress Warehouse...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

So thankful

Today I am thankful...

-that even though we were rear-ended, we're okay.

-that no one was in front of us and no one else got hurt.

-that even though we were delayed in picking up our girls, they weren't in the car with us.

-that our girls still have two living parents.

-that even though we woke up the next morning very sore, nothing was broken and we were not seriously hurt.

-that even though the rear bumper of our 4 month old car is smashed in, we are still able to drive it (sorta) until the repair process gets going.

-that even though the person that hit us had a suspended license, they did have insurance.

-that B and I can still find humor together in every situation.

So while I may gripe and complain later about the repair process, getting back and forth, etc., for today I am VERY thankful.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Coral and Jade Birthday

First, I am so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and well wishes for me on my birthday this year.  My phone was "blowing up" all over the place with facebook notifications, text messages, tweets, etc.  If nothing else, social media, you know how to make a girl feel special!

I really did feel special this weekend.  I got to find some "me" time and spend the morning with some lovely ladies from my church doing Holy Yoga.  It was great exercise, worship, and socialization, all things that I get way too little of regularly!

That's me on the green mat!

Afterwards, I go to go home, enjoy a long hot shower while the girls naps overlapped (thanks little ladies!) and then B took me out to celebrate.  In the last couple of years, it's been harder and harder for us to stay out, never mind get out, and usually we are home by 9:00pm.  Lame!  We were determined not to fall victim again this year!

We started off by going to Henninger's in Fells Point.  It's a few blocks away from the hub-bub of Fells, but on this night it was a bit more subdued since there was a playoff football game going on that pulled people away from fancy dinners.  We were the only people in the restaurant section and we enjoyed our meal at a leisurely pace.  The food was great and the atmosphere was true to Baltimore in its quirkiness, mixing up elephants with UFOs in their decor.

In an effort to prolong our excursion, we went to a different location for dessert.  Truly, in Baltimore, this is the only place to go for dessert on your birthday, Vaccaro's in Little Italy.  I ordered the Franciscan from the specials menu and was awarded with a dinner sized plate of Hazelnut Cake, coffee gelatto, and a glob of whipped cream that could stand alone as dessert.  I maybe had 4-5 bites, was totally stuffed, and took the rest home.  My apologies to my friends on the "Whole30" diet who were forced to see this picture and be reminded of what you're missing.  
Enough cake to feed the whole city!

Then we started to falter.  What do we do now?  We considered our options and settled on checking out Patrick's Irish Whiskey and Cappuchino bar just a few blocks from our house.  We've driven past this establishment for 7 years now without ever going in and figured it was about time.  I am so glad we did!  I had had sufficient caffeine and alcohol already (one drink limits for both!), so I had water while B enjoyed a pint off the tap.  
Smile for the camera kids!

The bartender introduced himself as Tommy and was friendly and inviting, despite our meager imbibing.  We were the youngest people by at least 20 years, which on my 35th birthday, felt pretty good to be considered a young'un.  The best part was the live Irish fold singer who knew my two favorite songs, Fields of Athenry and Whiskey in the Jar (apparently based on the Dread Pirate Roberts, marrying another favorite topic of mine).  It was a great ending to my celebration!  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Juggling Act

As a post-doc and a mother of two (2.5 years old and 9 months old), I’m often asked “How do you do it?”

The truthful answer is – barely.

I’m certainly not excelling in any area of my life, whether as a post-doc, wife, or mother.  I’m really just getting by in each area. On top of that, I have no life.  Seriously, if you asked me today what I do for fun, I would have no idea how to answer you.  I used to do lots of things – go out with friends, go running or hiking, read a book, sew, go shopping, go to the movies, etc.  My weekends are now filled with laundry, errands, and wiping bums.

I love it.

You might not have expected that, right?  How could that be fun?  If not fun, it is incredibly fulfilling.  I have a job I love, a supportive husband, two beautiful girls, what more could I ask for?  Ok, maybe more sleep.

10 years ago, when I was struggling with the decision to go back to school or not, the lingering doubt in my mind was whether there would ever be a “good” time to have a family and would I be willing to make sacrifices in order to “have it all”.  Luckily, a good friend and colleague of mine had just finished her post-doc, was just starting her family, and wished she hadn’t waited, telling me that grad school was the most flexible time of her life.  I took her advice and experiences to heart and had my first daughter a few months after proposing my thesis research and my second just one month after defending that research.

In order to make it all work, I need support in every aspect of my life.  I need a husband that is willing to step in and assume some of my roles/duties when I need to go to work at midnight for growth curve media collection, and I need a boss that understands that daycare closes at 5:30 and I need to be out of here in time to pick up my littles.  It’s definitely a juggling act and one slip could cause everything to crash.  I live in a constant state of anxiety and guilt, feeling that I’m not living up to expectations.  But those expectations are only imposed by me.  If I stop to listen to the people around me, asking how I do it, it’s because we’re succeeding, somehow. 

Somehow, my experiments get done. 
Somehow, my children are clean, fed, and well behaved.  
Somehow, my husband and I have 30 minutes each night to crash on the couch together and just catch our breath.

I tell myself, over and over, that all things are temporary and this crazy phase of life will soon pass…, only to be replaced by new kinds of crazy (think ballet lessons, grant deadlines, etc.).  But it’s working, and I have so much to be proud of.  So, while I may not be winning prestigious awards or getting nominated for Mommy-of-the-Year anytime soon, I am awarded with happy kids and a husband that love me, and slow-but-steady progression of research.

Also posted on my nerdy blog at