Thursday, August 28, 2008


I have some info on what went down at my committee meeting. I'm trying to fill in some of the blanks, but you'll get a nice, long post here in the near future with all the details. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Again, with the time flying

Sophie is 10 months old today. That means that, as of 1:27 AM, she has been outside the womb longer than she was in it. This is just crazy to me. First, pregnancy lasted forever. I am sure this is due to the anticipation factor--you are counting down the days until you meet this little being you have had schlepping around inside you. You're excited. You're either: miserable (1st trimester), happy to not be miserable (2nd trimester), and not believing that you are getting more miserable by the minute (3rd trimester).

And then, all of a sudden--or sixteen hours of labor, whatever--this little person is in the world. And time starts FLYING. It's like someone hit fast forward on the tivo. First she's little and helpless, then she starts doing all the cute stuff like smiling, laughing, reaching for toys, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing. And then she'd driving and looking at colleges. Seriously, I feel like that's how fast this is going!

She's adorable, though. A ton of work, but adorable. It's things like this morning. One of the neighboring lab girls was talking about how she just got up 15 minutes before she came into lab. Really? Because I've been up for THREE HOURS! Tim gets up, gets a shower, and leaves for work. I get up, feed Sophie, change Sophie, get Sophie playing and happy enough that I can shower for ten minutes, stop my shower 3 or 4 times to check on her, get her re-happified so I can get dressed, feed her again, give her antibiotics, change her again and get her dressed, pack her up for daycare, pack me up, take the dog out, load the car, and go. And then it's 15 minutes dropping her off at daycare, driving into work, and getting into lab. Doesn't sound like much, but it's at least two if not three hours every morning.

There are times when I wish I had my mornings (and my evenings) free to do whatever I wanted. Today was one of those days. But Sophie's totally worth it, really. She's such a little ham--she gives me a big smile, or starts to laugh, or crawls over to me to snuggle. Little things like that make it worth it.

So yeah, ten months old today. I can't believe it. And we're still breastfeeding too (not much, but some). My goal was always to make it to 9 months, and we surpassed that. I'm shooting for a year, but I'll be done by then for sure. I'm ready to have my body back, and I also am planning to need my body for other things.

Yes, in my quest to make money, I've signed up for a clinical trial that starts in October. If I'm in the test group, I can't be nursing. But I was planning to stop anyway. And I only need to rinse my mouth 9 times with mouthwash (to collect cells) and take the test medicine (either advil, a statin, or a diabetes drug) for a week, and I make $270. Not a bad deal. That almost pays for my fall parking.

Yep, I'm prostituting my body for science. Nothing dangerous, nothing more invasive than a blood draw, but otherwise anything I can find. I'm doing a vision study now, this mouthwash study, I signed up to be on the blood draw list for a lab that needs samples, and for now, that's it. These clinical trials are actually harder to find than I thought. I'd do even more if I could. I passed on the bronchoscopy though--a little too invasive for me. And no medicines that haven't been FDA approved yet.

Let's see, what else? I still have my thesis committee meeting set for Wednesday. That should be drama-filled. It's basically either getting a committment from physiology that they will support me until next July, or I am walking away and going to start back in med school this November. Med school tuition is $43,500 a year, so just tuition runs me $87,000 in loans (plus living expense costs, if we can get them). That would suck, but I'd deal with it. If my PhD isn't going to be supported, and they are going to drop me eventually anyway, I'd rather do it sooner rather than later. Going back this November, I graduate in 2010. Going back next July, I graduate in 2011.

I'm actually very mellow about the whole thing. I used to get worked up. Not so much. Would the money issue suck? Heck yes. Would it suck to walk away from four years of work with nothing to show for it? Sure. Twenty years from now, if I am doing what I want to be doing, will it matter? No.

The money is the worst of it. Really, I make so little now that it covers the house payment and that's it. Loans would suck, this is true. But, once I am an attending, if we can live for one year like we live now, and put the extra money towards my loans, we'd be almost done with them. So it's not the end of the world. And if I can graduate a year earlier than I would finishing my PhD, that year is basically a wash.

So, it's not ideal to leave the PhD. But it's not the end of the world either. I had a long talk with God in church on Sunday (well, it was just me talking, but you get the idea). I basically said that whatever He wants is fine. If this whole four years of misery in the PhD was to teach me something, or if that's how long it took me to lose my pride and let this go, well then, so be it. I'm stubborn, and a slow learner I guess. I really debated quitting when Frank moved in the fall of 2004. If I would have, I'd be in my last year of residency now. But I was stubborn, and I didn't want to walk away from my program. To me, that would have been admitting defeat.

What I've learned is that I can't think my PhD is the only reflection of me. It's been the one thing in my life that I have really worked hard at and not succeeded. I don't want to come across as boastful (because if you know me, you know that is the opposite of me). But everything I've ever put work into, I've been good at. Some of that is just not sticking with things that I am obviously no good at (cough, cough...SPORTS...cough, cough). But I've never had trouble academically before. Quitting the PhD always made me think that I would be admitting I'm dumb.

I've learned that the PhD isn't about intelligence, or even my ability to succeed in the future. In a perfect world, all graduate students would have projects of similar difficulty, all would encounter the same obstacles, all would have the same mentorship, and all would be graded on the same scale. Nothing could be farther from reality. I have seen some very bright people work very hard and be rewarded for their efforts. Far more often, I have seen the two other extremes. Many people end up in bad situations, struggle, get crapped on by circumstances outside of their control, and are lucky to finish. Or, they are people who are handed easy projects, don't struggle at all, don't learn anything, work in departments with easy requirements, and finish on time (or even early). Now, those in the latter group may be smarter than me just because they worked the system better. But it doesn't make them more likely to succeed in the future.

Most people, at least in my program, fall into the first category. I can't tell you how many of my classmates have had PIs move, labs lose funding, projects get canned, etc. Almost half of my class won't go back to med school this year, and for those that have, none have had an easy ride. The ones that are going back, with one exception, only have one paper each. I picked a program that requires 2. My fault.

Anyway, we'll see what my committee says. Personally, I think that if they don't agree to support me, that is their problem. I will have been in the PhD for five years if I graduate next July. For having to switch labs, work a crappy project in a lab with no funding, and have no help, I don't think asking for five years is crazy. There are people who haven't had those issues that take five years. Some even take 6. The issue is that physiology will have to pay me--most are supported by their PI, but since Dr. B has no money, physiology has to pick up the slack.

So we'll see. Ideally, they'll give me support through July, I'll move into another lab sooner rather than later, I'll finish this crappy project and have time to work on a more interesting project, I'll defend in the spring, and I'll go back to med school in July.

I can't do anything else beyond what I've already done, so I'm leaving it up to my committee. I'll let you know what they say. But really, I'm good with whatever.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pictures, finally...

Sophie actually got a decent night's sleep, so I think I'm finally coherent enough to post pictures. These are from the camp. I'll just lump them all together. We've got outside shots, both of the road we walk and the creek behind the camp, some of the wildlife (bats, butterflies, and deer, all a bit zoomed in), pics of Sophie's first roasted marshmallow, and a bunch of Sophie just being cute. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Always something...

Well, I had intended to post some pictures and generally catch up on life this weekend. Didn't happen. Saturday was nice--Sophie was in a good mood, we did some shopping, and we generally didn't push ourselves. We knew Sunday was wide open, so we used Saturday as a "play day" with Sunday being the "work day."

I should've known it wouldn't be that easy. My parents flew out to Arizona for a family funeral, so Jen stayed the nights with us over the weekend. And of course, Saturday night was a total scream fest for Sophie. She started crying about 2:30 AM. Since she had been fine Saturday, we figured it was more of an attention thing. So we let her cry it out--or tried to, anyway. For about 2 hours we let her cry, just going in every fifteen minutes-half hour to lay her back down and pop the binky back in. Usually, one or two times of that puts her back to sleep. After two hours, it was obvious that she wasn't going to cry it out. She was screaming so hard by the end that I worried she'd make herself pass out. She didn't have a fever, and she wasn't hungry, so I thought maybe it was teething.

We took her in the bed with us (at ugly o'clock in the morning, whatever it was) and tried to get her to calm down. No go. By 7 I was up for good. I tried feeding her, rocking her, etc. Nothing calmed her down. She at least stopped screaming, but she wouldn't stop crying. I call the doctor about 11, after many hours of crying. Sophie still didn't have a fever, but we've all had colds for several weeks, and Sophie just finished antibiotics for an ear infection the previous weekend. I told the doctor this, and she said that it sounded viral. She said we could take her to ER if we were worried, but we should just make sure she's getting fluids and take it easy.

Tim and I initially thought we'd just keep an eye on her. But by noon, it was obvious she wasn't herself. She could barely keep her eyes open, and when we'd sit her up, she'd fall over. We didn't know if she was acting lethargic because she was really sick or because she was really tired.

We kept checking her temperature, and by 1:30, she had spiked one to over 101 degrees. That was it--we decided to take her to ER. Rather than going to the ER at the hospital nearest us (that doesn't have a peds unit, and the adult unit is iffy at best--trust me, I've been there), we decided to drive up to Rainbow Babies children's hospital. If we're going to ER, better to go to one that we have confidence in.

It's about a half hour drive. Sophie slept the whole half hour. By the time we got to the hospital, Sophie was up, smiling and looking better. She was still burning up though. We didn't know what to do. If she looked like this at home, we wouldn't have taken her to ER. And I knew there'd be a long wait to get seen--if all she needed was some sleep to feel better, she'd be better off at home.

We decided to give her some tylenol and hang out in the hospital cafeteria for a while. She drank some water and ate a little. And she was very playful and happy. So, we decided to head back to the car. We drove around for 2 and a half hours to let her get some sleep. We decided that if she still looked bad after the nap, we could always come back to ER.

After the long afternoon drive, Sophie seemed much better. She ate when we got home, and we gave her a cool bath and kept up on the tylenol/motrin routine (the doctor had said to alternate tylenol and motrin every 3 hours, and it seemed to do the trick). By the time she was ready for bed, her fever was down and she looked much better.

She didn't sleep great Sunday night, but she did better than the night before. Monday we took her to day care--still no fever as long as the tylenol/motrin was in her system. She didn't want to eat much at daycare, but she did ok otherwise. We just figured maybe she was teething. We did the whole cool bath/motrin/bottle before bed, and she went down with no problem. She was up about every 4 hours, but that's when she was due for more tylenol too, so it worked out.

Tuesday I dropped her off. I told daycare that if she didn't look good, they should call Tim since I'm at the VA on Tuesdays. I didn't think it would be a problem.

Of course, I have no phone access and limited email at the VA. So I checked my email between patients, and sure enough, there's one from Tim saying daycare called, Sophie has a fever, and he's leaving to go get her.

By the time I finished up and got Tim on the phone, he was leaving the doctor's office. Turns out Sophie has another ear infection. It's likely the same one--the amoxicillin may not have taken care of it, and since we've all had colds since the beginning of July, she hasn't been able to drain.

I cancelled horses for the night, got her Augmentin prescription, and just laid low with her. She still doesn't want to eat baby food, but she'll eat people food and Kix, and she'll take milk. So she's getting enough nutrition. But she's cranky (I don't blame her) and won't sleep well. We've had four nights in a row with all of us getting very little sleep. I'm hoping she's better tonight--she's already had two doses of antibiotics and looked better this morning.

Needless to say, the ER near-visit killed Sunday for us. We had to bail on Jason's birthday, which I felt really bad about, and we got nothing done that we had planned to do. But, such is life with a toddler. When she's sick, the world stops.

So, I still have pictures I promised to post. I also have continuing drama in the lab, but I won't have more info on that for another week, so maybe I'll hold off on the whole story until that has more info.

I'm sleep deprived, tired of having a chest cold, stressed about the lab, and attempting to join as many "healthy volunteer" clinical trials as I can to make some extra money. All in all, I'm worn out and could use a break. But at least I know that I am fairly high-functioning on little to no sleep. Oh well, the day care plagues can't last forever!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Photos to come...

We had a nice time at the camp. I caught a horrendous cold from Sophie that kept me up all night long Friday night (figures, right?), but other than that, it was a great weekend. I've got pictures at home I'll try to upload in the near future. For now, I'm trying to get as much done as I can before Dr. B gets back on Monday. Talk to you soon!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I know, I know

I know I promised pictures and other positive goodies, but life gets busy. Not in a bad way (unless you count experiments not working--but that's not new). Just busy.

On the down side, I did accidentally erase almost 100 hours of DVR'ed TV (including 40 episodes of Backyardigans for Sophie). Oops! Tim had agreed to let me delete the 40 Futurama episodes to make space. And I accidentally deleted everything. No huge loss, I guess--we just need to re-accumulate. And it was a bit freeing to delete all these movies I'd taped but not watched. So, we'll call it a wash.

On the up side, I had a super grocery shopping day. We got an Acme near us a few months ago (same company as Albertson's, I believe). First, it has forced Giant Eagle to raise their perks and lower their prices (which skyrocketed when Tops, the only other game in town, closed about a year and a half ago). Second, their meat and produce is so much better than Giant Eagle. Third, even though they don't double coupons like GE, their sales are better.

Case in point: today I had a very full cart of groceries. Price before sales and coupons: 107.46. Price after sales and coupons: 51.23. That's including a bunch of usually-expensive stuff, like milk, meat, and fresh produce! I was on a little bargain buzz--I love deals!

With the money issues (and really, who's not feeling pinched?), I try to limit groceries to $50 a week. Now, baby stuff and pet stuff runs maybe another $20 a week on top of that. And that's an average--some weeks I don't shop at all, and some weeks I stock up (like when they had a crazy deal on diapers two weeks ago--I bought 300 diapers).

I've also gotten into "the drugstore game." There are multiple sites online that tell you how to do it, but basically, you match sales, rebates, coupons, and perks, and you get items for free. I haven't spent real money in CVS in months, and I have more toothpaste, face wash, and razors than I use in a year! For CVS especially, you see what's on sale, what you have coupons for, and what produces Extra Care Bucks (or ECB-money you use at the next visit). With one initial investment, I've been "rolling" extra care bucks for months. For instance, next week my plan is:
-buy 2 children's advil (2 x 5.79 = 11.58). These have 5.79 in ECB for each
-buy 1 glade scented oil car refill (I think around $4)
-use $3/$15 purchase coupon they sent me in the mail
-use 2 $1 advil coupons
-use coupon for free glad refill I was sent

So, spend 15.58 (total) -3 (CVS coupon) - 6 (other coupons) = 6.58.
use 6 in ECB, 58 cents plus tax out of pocket
Get 11.58 in new ECB.

So I basically make $5. And that's without even knowing what is on sale next week (the advil is a monthly deal). Making $5 plus free stuff? Awesome!

I use the suggestions on the money saving sites a lot, but I also find a lot of deals on my own. It's sort of an obsessive hobby now to get the best deal. Sometimes I screw up and buy something that's the wrong size (so not the deal) or find out I could've save $3 more at another store. But overall, these are little mistakes, and I chalk them up to learning experiences.

So yeah, bargain hunting is good. We did a similar thing at BBB (Bed Bath and Beyond) this past weekend. Tim and I killed some time there on our "date" last Saturday. We noticed they had a bunch of artwork on sale, so we came back the next day, coupons in hand, to buy a bunch.

I don't know if I've posted the color we painted our bedroom yet. It's called "Just Jazz", but it's more like Smurf blue (or BLUE!! as we call is). There's more of an aqua undertone to it than what shows on the pictures. It's darker than we expected, but it is growing on us.

And since we foolishly bought 5 gallons of it, we also painted the downstairs bathroom with it. And still have 3 gallons left.

So, here's the bedroom:
(that's the reflection of the closet door mirrors on the wall)

And here's what we bought. I apologize that they are all on an angle--I had to use the flash, and if I took the pictures straight on, all you saw was the flash reflection:(these two are about 8x10 wood paintings, marked from $10 to $2.50. Not sure where they are going yet)

(this one is my favorite: the 9 beach panels are raised, so it looks three dimensional. And it's big--like 24 x 24 or so. I don't love the frame, but I may whitewash it. We're going to put it in the master bath--which we haven't painted yet--over the garden tub. Marked from $60 to $24)

(these three coral pieces are each about 12x12. We're going to put the ones in frames around the wooden painted one in some sort of pattern. Marked from $25 each to $5 each).

(this one says "rejuvenate" We're going to put it in the downstairs bathroom. Marked down from $30 to $12.)

(this is a little matted floral print. It'll probably go in the downstairs bathroom too after I find a frame. Marked down from $9 to $2.50)

(this big beach canvas painting is 24x36. It blends too much into the wall color without a frame, but I am going to buy some chunky white molding and make a frame around it. We think it'll go over the bed. Marked down from $30 to $12).

We bought a few things for the kitchen too. All told, regular price would've been $262 plus tax for everything. We got it for $85 plus tax. Not a bad deal!

We've got some stuff from Aruba too I'm going to put up. We've got a map of the Caribbean, and I'm going to make photo collages from some of my non-personal beach pictures (landscapes, etc). I took enough--might as well use them!

I think we'll paint the master bathroom some sort of sandy-tone color to accent everything. That may wait a while though.

So, finally we'll have pictures up.

How about some more random pictures?

The section of the national park we walked.

Sophie, Tim, and Macgyver on the trail.

The sky from our backyard last night (it'd be so nice to have a deck--maybe next year...)

Tim and Sophie last night.

Me helping Sophie waddle (and avoid the grass, which she hates).

I'm sure we'll take tons of pictures at the camp this weekend. I'll post them when I get the chance!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sorry--it's been a while

Sophie came down with a double ear infection last week, so things have been a bit crazy on both the home and work front. Lots to talk about, though, and I think the good old "bullet list" is the best way to catch up :)

-Sophie had her 9 month visit last Monday. It was a bit traumatic for her. She only had one shot, but they did a finger prick to get a hematocrit, and they swabbed her bottom to make sure she didn't have a strep rash down there. The finger stick was horrible--she's done the cry-so-hard-she-is-silent thing before, but I really thought she was going to make herself pass out. And then we had to wait for a while until the rapid strep test came back (it was negative). All she wanted was to get out of that exam room!

-Sophie usually runs a small fever for a short time after her shots. Since she only had one, a hepatitis B (which she didn't run a fever with before), we held off on the motrin. She seemed better by Monday night, with no fever. Tuesday she seemed tired but ok. Then day care called at 2:30--she had been sleeping since 10:30 without waking up, and she seemed warm. I told them to wake her up and see if she was hungry. She was, and she ate and played. She also had a fever of 101, but it went away with one dose of tylenol. I thought maybe it was a delay from the shot.

-Wednesday the daycare called again in the afternoon. This time, she was fussy and didn't want to eat or play (which as they said--that's so not her). They took her temp, and it was 103. That is high for Sophie, and it's also two days past her shots. We got her into the pediatrician, and sure enough, she has a double ear infection.

-With Kim, the fellow in my lab, being a pediatrician, I was all nervous before we went to the appointment. I hadn't seen Sophie pulling on her ears or anything. So Kim said if they didn't find an ear infection, make sure we got a CBC, a urine, and blood cultures. I was all panicked that we'd have to take her to the hospital. Nope, three minute visit. Tim took her since he works so much closer, and I was about 10 minutes behind them. They were already out of the office by the time I got there!

-Sophie started the antibiotics Wednesday night. She was still running high fevers whenever the Motrin wore off (she spiked over 103 a few times over the next few nights). I ended up coming in late and leaving work a bit early on Thursday, and I just stayed home with Sophie on Friday. By Friday night, she seemed much better.

-And I'm sorry, I know it doesn't sound like much, but a teaspoon of antibiotics is a lot for a nine month old. She just hates it. We've tried mixing it with milk or formula or food, but she's knows the antibiotic is in there and won't drink/eat it. So we battle it out--it takes about five little squirts from the dropper in order for her to be able to swallow it all and not spit it out. No fun.

-In other news, last weekend was crazy busy for us. Joey's high school graduation was Saturday, and we were having the lab over for a BBQ on Sunday. That meant that the week before was a lot of cooking/cleaning on two fronts--my house and my mom's.

-There were mixed results, I think. Joe's party was a lot of fun, and it was a total whirlwind of people. I talked to a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time. And the family was super nice. I was hesitant about my dad's family--they just found out about my mom's alcoholism the week before, and I thought things would get awkward. Instead, they were super sweet and supportive. Both sides of the family helped out a ton by bringing food and pop. It took so much pressure off of us. It really was wonderful.

-The lab BBQ--not quite as successful. Tim and I had completely cleaned the house from top to bottom. We're relatively clean people, but the house hadn't been this spic-and-span since we bought it a year ago. We figured that, since none of the lab people had seen the house yet, they'd want a tour.

-Well, Sunday turned out to be a bit of a blur. The cleaning ran long, and so I only had enough time to chop up the chicken, beef, and veggies for shish-kebobs. I didn't have time to skewer them before people came.

-Valerie, her husband, and their 4 month old were there at 4, and Kim and her husband came a little before 5. I was busy doing shish-kebobs and shucking corn in the kitchen, so Tim was left with most of the chit-chat. It was a different dynamic than in lab. We girls never have strained conversations at lunch. At the BBQ, I felt like I had to pick topics out of a hat to get people to talk.

-Of course, I ran late. So the shish-kebobs didn't go on until almost 5:30. And Tim was in a hurry to cook them. I was doing other stuff with food, so when the kebobs started coming in, I just set them out and told people to dig in. We started eating at 6ish, and we were done by 6:45. Not a good sign.

-As I was clearing the table, I found out why: the second tray of shish kebobs was basically uncooked. And no one had said anything! I had only had one from the first tray, so I had no idea!

-We had a quick dessert, and then people started leaving about 7-7:30. It was obviously a total bomb! And to top it off, we had spent days cleaning the house for nothing! We sat in the family room and the dining room, and we didn't go anywhere else, inside or outside!

-On Monday, Kim said, "thanks for the nice BBQ". I just laughed and told her how I thought it bombed. She laughed too and said she didn't think it was that bad! We both agreed that the dynamic was a little weird. Kim's husband and Tim got along great, but I don't think Valerie's husband really clicked. Next time, maybe we'll just have Kim and her husband. It couldn't be much worse!

-We had a good sense of humor about things though. I totally underestimated how having to watch a baby while cooking/cleaning made things take so much longer. I guess we'll know for next time.

So, that in a nutshell was last week. This past weekend we just tried to be calm. We went for a walk in the national park on Saturday with Sophia--of course, they were running a marathon on the path we were walking, so that made things a little tougher! But the jogging stroller worked out fantastically for the gravel path.

Saturday night my parents came up and watched Sophie. Tim and I had no idea what to do! We took another little walk, walked around Bed Bath & Beyond and Target, got my pictures developed at CVS, and just killed time. By the time we were hungry at 9, most restaurants we were interested in were closing. Figures! But we went to the Winking Lizard, had some good food (I always get the chicken parmesan sandwich. They do it on garlic bread. Unhealthy, but delicious!), and then headed home about 10.

Sunday I got up early (thank you, Sophie), and while Tim and Sophie took a nap, I went to 9 o'clock mass, hit CVS, talked to my mom, read my paper, clipped my coupons, and made lunch. I got more done before noon than I do some entire weekends!

Sunday afternoon we picked up a bunch of art on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond that we saw the night before. I took pictures, so I'll try to get that up tomorrow. Then Sunday night we had a nice picnic at his parent's house. All in all, it was a really laid-back, low stress weekend. Just what we needed.

And I found out that Dr. B is going to be gone for 10 days. So we've decided to take an official day off and go up to the camp this weekend. We'll go Saturday-Sunday-Monday. Tim's dad is shooting Saturday (trap shooting, his retirement hobby/job). So both of his parents may come up Sunday, or his mom may come up with us Friday night. Yet to be determined. I don't know what we'll do with Sophie--we don't have a backpack carrier that has a high enough weight limit--but we may just stick to basic trails and carry her. I'm not worried. We always manage to have a good time.

Lots of other (positive!) stuff to talk about, and lots of pictures. But that may have to wait until tomorrow or Wednesday. For now, back to experiments!