Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A week from tomorrow...

...I defend my dissertation. It is hard to believe that this really happening, there were days I wasn't sure it really would. Things are going to be pretty crazy here for the next week, I'm not promising the 32 week picture will post this week but I promise I will take the picture.  Like I said before, the defense isn't 'the end' but the rest is just details (time consuming details, but details). 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strike a pose!

Lately, Colin has been insisting that his bath water is 'too hot' no matter if it is actually hot or lukewarm. So I usually add cold until he is satisfied. Turns out he actually wants to have the water be tepid at best maybe even cool. While I don't really have a problem with this it means by the time he gets out he is generally shivering (it hasn't been that hot here to really justify this odd choice...I think he is just being stubborn). This has lead him to finally find utility in the bathrobe he got for Christmas. He has me put it on him as soon as he is dried off and then he wears it over his pj's while he reads books to help him continue to warm up. Since he looks so darn cute in the robe I wanted to take some pictures tonight so I followed him into the kitchen with the camera while he 'picked a cup' a new nightly ritual for the sippy cup of water next to his bed. All of a sudden this kid starts striking a new pose with every shutter of the camera and holds it until I take the picture. It was really funny and I have no idea where he learned this...I imagine I will find this behavior annoying at some point but things are generally cute the first are the pictures. Unfortunately there are many out of focus because my eye piece got knocked out of focus (likely Colin's doing), we were in the moment so I didn't take the time to fix it thus I had no idea what the camera was focusing on.

I suppose it would be in poor taste to dress Colin as Hugh Hefner for Halloween and his baby sister as a 'bunny'. Funny yes, but moderately inappropriate. Although if she were literally a bunny then I might get away with it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Baby Bump - 30 Weeks

These last few weeks have been rather uneventful in terms of the pregnancy. The biggest change is that simply existing is now more exhausting than it was a few weeks ago. We made a trip to Ikea last night and I was walking around for about 4 hrs and woa did I feel it by the end. I sometimes forget that I am not the same person I was 30 (or even 6) weeks ago. The second trimester honey moon is definitely over! I was fully recovered by this morning with no adverse effects in fact after a rather early bedtime (I passed out on the couch around 9:30) I was up and ready to go at 7:30am this morning. Colin was also exhausted from our trip (and lack of a nap) and slept until 9am (only the second time in history). Why is it always the mornings I'm wide awake that he sleeps in and the mornings I'm totally beat that he gets up at 6:30?!? Anyway.. here are the pictures (I went and changed into the same shirt for easier comparison). I'm starting to notice some facial puffiness, but only when I see pictures, it isn't as evident in 'real life'. Still my hands and feet are totally normal at this point. Neighbors who have seen me for both pregnancies all are now commenting on how much 'smaller' I am this time around. Which I know is true but it is interesting to have other people comment on it, especially people that I don't really know that well. Apparently I was so freakish during P1 I left quite the impression. Go me!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Our Vacation- Day 0 (from April)

I started this blog post nearly two months ago now.. but it is interesting so I'm going to finish it up and post it anyway.  Since this storm that I disucuss took place there have been a couple much worse tornadoes this year so this one seems pretty small on that scale, however it is the only tornado I've ever been in the middle of so it made quite the impression and frankly scared the bejeezus (apparently not a word!) out of me. Begin post:

As I attempt to 'settle down' from a night of thesis work and prepare my brain for sleeping I thought I would try to recount for you the story of us traveling to our vacation destination (hence calling it day0).  Our destination was Myrtle Beach SC. and after some deliberation decided that it was best for us to drive.

We set out after a few delays at 8:30pm on Friday night. Our plan was to drive as far as we could and then get a hotel. Thanks to my pregnancy I now get motion sick even in the front passenger seat so I drove the first leg to avoid having to medicate for as long as possible. That first leg went longer than I had anticipated and ended around 1:30. Sean didn't sleep as much as he had hoped up to that point but he took over and we both agreed not to drive any later than 3. Of course Colin picked this portion of the leg to start to fuss so I didn't get as much sleep in as I hoped either. At 3 we pulled off the exit and I went in to try to get a room... no such luck, this hotel like every other one anywhere near 95 from DC as far south as Wilson NC (as far as we looked) had no vacancy, I know this because I called nearly every single one google listed. When I realized I was calling hotels less than 30minutes from Sean's aunts house we decided to throw in the towel and just go there. Sean's brother and his wife had arrived there earlier that day to visit before joining us in Myrtle Beach. While calling relatives at 5am to say 'hi we've been driving all night and have no where to go, can we sleep at your house for a few hrs' is not exactly ideal, they handled it with grace and welcome I'm not sure I could muster at 7am (let alone 5am) on my best day! We knew that there was a storm system coming the next day and figured being in Apex, NC at his aunts house was better than being in the awkward state of 'too-early to check in but no where else to go' if we drove straight through.
So Sean and I each got a couple hrs of sleep, (and yes she was able to house us and the girls, on top of already housing Chris and Oana, amazing!) alternating after Colin was awake and full of energy having actually slept pretty well in the car. We all just hung out watching the news coverage of the storm as it became clear that this system was more than a hail storm. Sometime around 2 Sean's Uncle made the prediction that the storm system was most definitely headed our way and we would be right in the path. At this point, despite the news I'm still thinking that the worst that will happen is that the power will go out... little did I realize that just before 4pm we would all be cowering in closets with the understanding that we were directly in the path of a tornado, or one of a half dozen. I have to say I was very surprised by all of our reactions to this situation. Sean was calm cool and collected, he was completely unphased by the fact that we were hiding in a closet from a tornado. I think this is because he must have had some a priori understanding of tornadoes in North Carolina, so while I was picturing the scene from the movie Tornado where they strap themselves to a pipe and end up levitating over it with the strength of the wind, he was picturing something more like siding blowing off a the house. He told me later that category 5 tornadoes (like the one in the movie) don't happen in North Carolina...thanks for sharing that important piece of information AFTER the fact love.  I was in a panic for sure, I was in planning out every contingency I could think of, making Sean rapidly get dressed (he was in gym shorts and a t-shirt, not appropriate if we ended up stranded outdoors for any length of time) and putting shoes on everyone. Of course having Colin with us I was also remembering the countess stories I had heard about babies being ripped from their parents arms and found much further away...I also had my jacket on despite the fact that it was about 85 degrees inside the closet and had decided if things got bad I would zip Colin into it... In retrospect, I'm not sure I could have fit Colin and my bump in that non-maternity jacket and zipped it but it eased my mind at the time.
I was listening to the local radio station on my phone and was getting all sorts of information about just where the tornado was but since none of us were familiar with the area it didn't help.. although this is probably a good thing, because as we drove away later the road they refereed to was three turns out of the driveway. Being in the closet we saw nothing and heard less (not only was the radio on but the other half of the people in the house called from the other closet they were in and were on speaker phone).  Sean's Uncle came probably 10 minutes later to give us the all clear and I remember smelling burnt wood. It wasn't long before we heard a fire truck come down the street and half the crew in the house went to check it out. Since it was still raining, I didn't immediately go out, and stayed with Colin who was for the most part unphased, he was more annoyed about being stuck in the closet than anything. 
I should note that, a few weeks later he started showing signs of being very nervous about rain (since we kept underplaying the storm just as a bad 'rain' storm). He kept saying things like "mama I think its going to rain we need to go inside now" and getting very panicky if we didn't immediate go into the house (even when it clearly wasn't about to rain.) I actually took him outside in the rain recently just to show him that it isn't a big deal if it is just raining.
Once I did go outside... this is what I saw:

Nothing was actually on fire, but I think the smell of trees broken by a tornado must but similar to the smell of them burning. The fire department was only called because some trees hit a neighbors house but no one was home when people tried to check on them, I guess the person was afraid of a gas leak or fire or other problem inside the house...

We eventually packed up and left an hour or two later, secure that the worst was over. Many of the street lights in town were not working as large parts of the area were without power. As we drove down one particular highway (maybe route 80 but I don't trust my memory this far removed) we came across the path of what was clearly a larger tornado than what had it us. There was a clearly defined path of downed trees, a flattened barn and an overturned 18-wheeler. I was driving and following another vehicle so getting out to take pictures wasn't an option, but it was something to see for sure.

The rest of the vacation was less 'exciting' and for me was even rather boring since I worked on my thesis the entire time. Apparently there is a southern version of Panera Bread called Atlanta bread where I spent most days (foods not as good if you are wondering). I do have a few pictures to post still but unfortunately not many were taken since I wasn't around and Sean had his hands full with Colin. A couple mornings I ran around taking pictures of Colin for 15 minutes before heading out so I will try to get them up soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The PhD Process

I seem to be confusing a lot of people lately with what exactly it means to go through the process of getting a  PhD. In this post I'm going to try to explain what the process is like (at least in the sciences) just to try to clear up what exactly is going on right now.
From what I know of my own program and what I've seen from friends the whole process generally has three parts and each part has an exam of some kind related to it.
  • Part 1 involves taking classes, for a period of 1-4 years depending on the program. At some point in the process a very comprehensive exam is given in which you have to prove your knowledge of the field. For me, it was about 2 yrs of classes (four semesters) with the exam after the third semester (January of 2004). At some point in this period you choose an adviser/mentor who you want to work with to complete the next two parts.
  • Part 2 involves isolating your topic of interest, collecting some preliminary data and developing a research plan for your thesis project. How long this takes is really variable. Some people are provided a complete project to complete by their advisers and are thus able to start working right away, other people are allowed to develop their own project around their particular set of interests and therefore take longer to move through this stage (I was part of the later group, each has its own pro's and con's).  Once again, at some point there is an exam (often called a proposal) in which you prove that you understand the background and significance of your project and subsequently outline your project to a committee of people (either chosen or assigned) who's job it is to make sure you know what your doing and your project makes sense. I completed this exam in September of 2006
  • Part 3 involves actually doing the work outlined in your proposal. Once again, how long this takes is entirely up to the individual. If you choose a simple project research could take less than a year, for others it takes longer. Once the research is done, or often along the way, it is written up either as individual journal publications which later get compiled or as a complete document all at once (the thesis or dissertation).  Your committee will read your dissertation and later witness your presentation of that work. It is at this point that you actually 'defend' your dissertation while your committee asks you questions regarding the methodology, results and presentation of that work. Typically they suggest changes to the document that must be completed to their satisfaction prior to submitting that document for publication by the school. For me, the actual research took two years. I competed that right before Colin was born... The writing should take about a year, but I complicated that process by staying home and raising Colin full time and only writing part time (oh and not sleeping for 15 months really limited my ability to produce anything coherent). So I will defend a full three years after completing my research. Making this whole process for me be 8 yrs. I would guess the national average is somewhere around 7 years but my particular departments average is around 5-6yrs. This time frame is very dependent on how you are funded and if your are required to teach (I was) as part of your funding package.
So that is the basic outline as I understand it, but it is likely very different in the humanities and social science fields. This is a largely individually specific process unlike a bachelors degree which is more stereotyped across institutions.
I have currently completed the draft of my dissertation and submitted it to my committee. On June 30th I will defend my dissertation by giving an approximately 40 minute presentation to anyone who is interested in listening (and taking their questions for upwards of 20 minutes) and afterwards will go into a closed door session with my committee while they put me through the ringer. At this stage of the game it is extremely rare for people to 'fail' although it has been known it happen (I have no intention of doing so).  After the defense I will make whatever changes my committee requires to the document and then submit it to the college. I officially have until Sept 15th to complete the document but obviously would like to have it done way before that so I can just focus on getting ready for the baby, having the baby and adjusting to our new life as a family of four without worrying about the document anymore.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Our "new" car. A Mazda5 Review

Not actually our car...
I have a few blog posts that I either started and never finished or mentioned but never started. I'm going to try to catch up on these before baby bee arrives and changes the household dynamic for a while.  The oldest is the post about our new car (which we purchased last July!)  This car has been met with a very positive reception from everyone we discuss it with so I wanted to also sing its praises here. I absolutely LOVE it... Sean isn't as big of a fan, I think the mini-van aspect was something he wasn't ready for (his ideal car is still his old 2 door ford mustang). I don't have any hang ups about driving a mini-van, but understand people who do (and really its not a true mini-van). It is marketed as a 'mini-mini-van' but is essentially a hybrid of a hatchback and a mini van. It has the same frame as the Mazda 3 (which is a sedan) so the outside dimensions of the car are pretty compact. This is perfect for NYC where parking spots can be tight! It has seating for 6 but the back two seats can be folded down for storage. Basically with the seats up, a pack and play and small umbrella stroller will fit in the trunk space but that is about it (for non parents, I think one small hard sided carry on, or maybe three small duffel bags would fit). With the seats down there is tons of cargo space (but only seating for 4). We essentially ride with the seats permanently down but I really like the option of having extra passenger space when we need it. Particularly because we are about to install another car seat, which would otherwise mean no extra passengers in a traditional vehicle. Unlike most SUV's it gets about 30 mpg most of the time which I think is just amazing. There are a few quirks that have taken some getting used to, for example the brights push on instead of pull on which means I activate them often while using my turn signal, and the wipers are very difficult, but those are minor issues. I love that I have climate control with a thermostat! I love that I have keyless entry with the button on the key. I love that it has two sliding read doors! Perfect for getting Colin in and out of the car easily. I really am in love with the car (by the way her name is Calliope)
On our recent vacation we traveled with Lauren and Katie 14 hrs down to Myrtle beach, and to be honest they both preferred sitting all the way in the back because it was easier to sleep than in the bucket seat in the second row. Admittedly the seats are a oddly uncomfortable after a long period of time, not something you notice until you've been sitting there for over an hour but that is a little strange.. I can't even put my finger on why they aren't comfortable because they look like they would be. We had a roof rack installed and purchased a soft sided waterproof roof top luggage carrier, it was the perfect solution to our limited cargo room while carrying extra passengers (we put one back seat down and left the other up for a passenger).
Anyway, if you are considering a bigger vehicle because you are outgrowing a sedan, I highly recommend the Mazda 5. We (okay maybe it should say I...) love ours, and we got a great deal with Hertz Rent2Buy!