Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring cleaning

Ever since we thought we might be moving to Kansas, we've been planning how to get rid of stuff before we trek across the country. I think we kind of liked the idea anyway - it's soooooo freeing to throw out a bunch of crap (but also so much work!) and moving provides just the right incentive to do it.

To motivate myself I read the 'De-clutter your life' issue of O the Oprah Magazine cover-to-cover (which wasn't much different from the other issues except this time I took a picture to commemorate it).

We started off by skimming all the easy stuff out of our closets and Layla's shelves and hauling a whole carload of stuff to Goodwill. We all cheered as we drove away, but as soon as I got home I started making a list of the harder stuff: our storage area, the bookshelves, the garage, my sock drawer, the man-cave (and all of our college furniture!), Layla's precious collection of books, ugh, I'm already exhausted.

This weekend I got to work. I went through all of our books and recent magazines, and took some to Half Price Books to sell (they didn't even take most of them - definitely time to let them go!). After an hour wait I eeked out $40.

Then we went through all of Layla's baby stuff that I had put into storage. This was super duper hard. Are we going to ever have another one (oh don't even ask)? Should we keep the sentimental outfits? anything Layla might want someday? I deliberated a bunch, made some decisions, then went back and deliberated again. In the end, I gave a TON of stuff to Goodwill (most of it was really a lot more worn out than I remembered), filled up the trunk with the nice-but-not-sentimental stuff for a consignment shop (good advice from a friend: get some money for it now, then use the money to buy another used on when we get there, if we end up wanting it again). We kept just a couple of boxes out of the original 10 or so.

I also cleaned out my sock drawer. That was probably the hardest of all.

Afterwards, we went to Costco. There's nothing like buying a whole bunch of stuff in bulk right after you clear out a bunch of other stuff. Layla brought her friend A and they had such a blast together tearing the place up.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Potty update

Layla is making extra-fast progress on potty training this week. After going in the potty at home for the first time on Sunday, she held out a few days but went in the potty at daycare by mid-day Wednesday. She continued to wet the bed multiple times at night until Thursday night, when she only wet once, at 5:30 am. It was an early wake-up for all of us but we were hopeful that it suggested she was learning how to hold it through the night. The daycare agreed - they had encouraged us to take away ALL the diapers, including the night-time diapers, in the first place. Then, Friday night, she miraculously slept through - and stayed dry - until 7 am! It was the first night ever that she had stayed dry all night.

Layla's bed - nice and dry!

We know there will be lots of nights where she doesn't stay dry but we feel like we've turned the corner on all fronts and are now in the diaper-free zone.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dumpster-diving for sport

There's a GREAT bakery in our neighborhood called the 'Essential Baking Company' that distributes delicious bread all over the city and also sells it with coffee on-site. Many of us love to buy their bread at the grocery store but apparently there are a lot of people who prefer to find free bread behind the bakery in the dumpster. These dumpster-divers come from all over the neighborhood and greater Seattle, and many are just looking for a loaf or two but some will clear the whole place out, suffering the wrath of the other dumpster-divers who just lost out.

This whole dumpster-diving thing has taken on a fever pitch. I don't think I could do it but it does highlight the point that we are throwing away a LOT of good food. Why doesn't Essential Baking donate their leftover bread instead of throwing it out back? (apparently they also donate, so perhaps the pitched stuff is truly wrecked somehow? if so, then why is there so much, and why are people still eating it?) Is it fair for people who can afford bread to take this great opportunity away from the people who can't? (someone commented on a neighborhood blog post that it's disgusting to see rich hipster kids at the dumpsters when there are clearly hungrier people out there)

One thing is for sure: I'm glad I can afford to buy food at the grocery store.

Have you heard of these?

Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the place and I've been meaning to post about it on the blog. It's so surprising and clever!

Little Free Libraries are little cabinets people put in their front yard and fill with books that people can borrow, trade, or just stand there and look at. Apparently people all over are catching on to this. You can find one in your neighborhood on this map. You can also order one (they're a little pricey!) or make one for yourself!

There are a few in our neighborhood and I spotted my first one just the other day. I was surprised to find the books were in good shape (not dusty or moldy) and there was a great variety including a little section of children's books. I could easily see myself hanging out there for a while or even borrowing a book or two from it.

Little Free Libraries, or LFLs, are touted as neighborhood art, a community-building venture, and a way to share with your friends and neighbors your very favorite books.

Speaking of neighborhood art, there has been some weird stuff in our neighborhood lately. Someone moored a boat in a round-a-bout in an area called Tangletown. It has a traffic violation sticker with 'REALLY?' handwritten on it, and a blow-up doll in the driver's seat. Hmm!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fancy wine

To celebrate Mother's Day last weekend, we went wine tasting in Woodinville, a mecca of WA wineries and wine-tasting shops. We haven't gone in about 2 years so it was quite an event!

We went to a new place to try a wine I had recently at a work-related dinner called Tenor. The maker also has a less fancy line called Matthews which some of you may be more familiar with. Tenor is the fancy version, running $50-$100 per bottle. They had two wine tastings of the Tenor wines (a 'spring' line and a 'fall' line). We completely hated the fall and loved the spring, which included the very well-rated (and most expensive) 1:1 blend.

We bought the 1:1, the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever purchased. We opened it when we went for our first overnight stay, at the Roaring River B&B in North Bend (about an hour East of Seattle, at the foot of the mountains). It was quite lovely!

Sometimes I think that it might be better not to even try the finer things because it ruins you for the everyday things. This wine was a little like that for me - although maybe it was also a good education on what all those crazy wine people have been talking about. I decided a while ago that since I only drink wine about once every two months I owe it to myself to drink good wine when I do.

Speaking of being ruined by the finer things, don't even try the shrimp sandwich from Paseo (a cuban restaraunt in the Fremont neighborhood).

We are moving to Kansas!

After 7 interviews this spring, and two job offers from great schools, I accepted an Assistant Faculty Position at the University of Kansas. We will be moving there sometime in November for a Dec. 1 start date. We are excited in particular about Kansas for a bunch of reasons - on my part, it's a good department with lots of really nice people, they have EVERYTHING I need and lots of stuff I don't even need, they have lots of internal support to help me ride through this economic trouble (really important in this field), a low teaching load, and nice lab space. With regard to the rest of the family, it's close to Grandparents, with most of them a 5 hr drive North and several more a 10 hr drive south, it's near Kansas City with LOTS of amazing job opportunities and an airport for easily getting around, and it's a super nice family friendly town just like the one we grew up in (with much cheaper cost-of-living than Seattle). Also, they have a great basketball team.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly it is that I'll be doing as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. This job is tenure-track, which means that if I work my hiney off for the next 5 years and they approve of me I'll get tenure and move into a secure position. Some Assistant Professor positions are research-focused, and some are teaching-focused. This one is in between, with more focus on research than teaching (which is what I wanted). I will be teaching a maximum of 2 classes per year with the rest of my time spent writing grants to get funding, mentoring graduate students, publishing research papers, presenting my work at meetings and seminars at other universities, and doing various 'service' related activities like helping with hiring, advising undergraduates, etc.

The interview process was very fun, but also very grueling. For each one I traveled to a place far away and had an intensely packed schedule with 15-25 meetings with other faculty, 2 research-related presentations, every meal and minute of spare time spent with members of the department, and a quick return home to my family where my 3-yr old had little comprehension of anything except how badly she missed me. By the 5th interview (which was Kansas), I was feeling pretty wrecked. The silver linings: I saw a lot of new and old friends on my many trips, including a particularly great trip back to Minnesota where I saw my Ph.D. advisor and lots and lots of old friends. Also, Washington pays for massage therapy treatment and all the travel warranted a lot of treatments (I had one after every interview).

So, we are now preparing for another big cross-country move, hopefully the last one we make, and we are excited!

Taking the potty journey with Layla

Below is a full account of Layla's recent success in potty training. It's been a long road; for over six months she has stayed dry but refusing to actually go in the potty (preferring diapers). Long story short, she turned the corner this weekend and started using the potty. All the nitty gritty details of how it went down are below.

About three months ago we sat down with her teachers at school and made a plan to expunge our house entirely of diapers, and bear down for a week or two until she caves and starts going in the potty. By coincidence the same weekend we wanted to start, we had scheduled a babysitter, V, to spend the night. We asked V if this would be ok and she was onboard.

The diaper-free weekend started Friday night. We had the 'diaper fairy' come and take all her diapers. I believe Layla's strategy, which she had total faith in, was to hold it forever. This lasted until midnight, when she finally let go. I think she peed at least a gallon. Fortunately she still has a rubber-covered mattress on her bed.

In the morning, after wetting the bed again, she went back to her plan. She didn't indicate any sort of discomfort until about noon, when she started getting mighty uncomfortable. She squirmed and resisted the potty again, but this time we were on her. As soon as she finally couldn't hold it anymore, I swooped in and relocated her to the potty where most of her pee ended up going. We acted like it was a success and gave her lots of cheers. She seemed kind of surprised.

A few hours (and no nap) later, it happened again. This time, she told us "I have to go potty!" and ran for the potty. She didn't quite make it on her own but we helped her out and again most of it ended up in the potty. We considered this an even bigger success and gave her lots more cheers.

We switched duties to the babysitter V after that. V used a similar strategy only this time when Layla indicated she had to go, V made her sit on the potty until she couldn't hold it anymore. All the pee ended up in the potty this time. The next morning, V switched it back over to us. It was then that Layla turned the corner - when she had to go, she told us, went in the bathroom and peed in the potty. A few hours later she pooped (which she had also been holding in), and then did it again about 10 more times throughout the afternoon and evening.

After the turning point, some funny things happened. First, Layla decided she needed privacy. Now she goes in the bathroom, shuts the door on us (and even says "go away!" and pees on her own. Second, Layla figured out fast how to use this to her advantage and when bedtime rolled around she suddenly had to go potty over and over again. At first it was funny but eventually we actually had to tell her we were all done getting excited about it each time.

So, we seem to have really rounded the corner. Hopefully this time will be for good..!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

All this travel

I have been traveling a LOT lately. I've learned a thing or two from all this travel, although I'm not sure if I've actually become any better at it. On my second-to-last trip, I actually left a piece of luggage behind at security, then immediately after I retrieved it I forgot my phone somewhere (which was also retrieved). On another trip my ID somehow slipped out of my purse somewhere and was turned in by a fellow friendly traveler. Fortunately most people out there are nice and forgiving.

Here are some travel tips I've picked up on the way:

1. Whenever you move, check that you have your things.
2. Dry cleaning really can be turned around in 24 hours, and it's well worth it. Spray "freshener" can only cover up so much.
3. If you forget a hairbrush and everything related to taking care of your hair, and don't realize it until 6:30 am the morning you are supposed to give a presentation, the 7-eleven sells combs and is open real early. You will be ok.
4. Time changes SUCK.
5. Don't talk to anybody important the day after you get back. My brain was totally, completely fried after the 3rd trip or so. I said such unbelievably stupid things to people that afterward all I could do was stare at them open-mouthed. The result did not reflect well on me.
6. It costs $50-$100 to get a babysitter to help the husband out while you're out of town, but the smile on both their faces when you get back is priceless.

Hopefully the travel season is winding down now. It's been a wild ride. I'm glad to be done. It was quite an adventure while it lasted but was a lifestyle I could never keep up with on a long-term basis. The Studly Hubby and kid are quite glad to have me back too, although I think they did some good bonding during all those times I was gone.

Computer crash!

On May 8, 2013 the J-Funk computer crashed hard. Not 36 hours earlier, I had a not-so-unusual thought that perhaps I should back up everything since it had been a while (2 years, to be exact).

I took the computer to the computer doctor who told me the hard drive died, and it needs a new one. A new hard drive means you LOSE EVERYTHING and they give you your old hard drive wrapped in a little plastic bag with an ID tag on it. The computer got a fresh new one and is now running fine but is like a young baby with no software or knowledge of my favorite websites or even a functional mail program. It also keeps throwing fits because it can't find certain things or forgets what we told it. We are working hard to get it back to its normal self. I took the old hard drive immediately up to the hard drive doctor. I was met with encouragement for a full recovery but they won't have time to even look at it for 2 weeks to a month. Arrrghhhh. I'm really wishing right now I had set up that time machine program everyone keeps telling me about.

Fortunately, I haven't lost anything super critical. This is because luckily I have been randomly backing up things that are really really important (like pictures of the kid and some of the work-related stuff I have going). But I have to go hunting around for each little thing which is a pain.

If you are in contact with me this week, and I haven't been in contact, this is probably why.