Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Halloween coincided with midterms and Thanksgiving coincides with the end-of-quarter rush. This coming week I have a protein supplements debate presentation, a short research paper (for the same class as the protein debate), and an op-ed draft due, plus I have to moderate a class discussion in the same class as the op-ed. The short research paper also has a presentation component, but that's not until next week, along with a 20 page paper critique/study design paper for another class. As soon as those are done we get to study for our Epi final and start writing our metabolism final.

All that to say that Thanksgiving wasn't exactly carefree this year. We kept things very basic. Turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, broccoli, rolls, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. I haven't made my own rolls in years since we have bakeries here that do a much better job than I do, so everything was pretty quick and easy. I didn't make huge amounts of anything, so we had enough leftovers to last a couple days and that's it.



Mal surprised us and actually ate turkey this year as well as rolls. Usually he hates all Thanksgiving food, so eating turkey was a big deal.The boys watched TV pretty much all day, with the occasional helping out with cleaning this or that or playing of foosball. It's really not a fair match-up, but maybe one day it will be.


Ryan and I cleaned the house and cooked. Mal stayed in his pjs all day (and the whole of the next day too). I'd thought about offering to have cohort friends over or trying to get together with some of our friends for the day but ended up glad that we just kept to ourselves. I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to catch up with friends over winter break. When our meal was over we all helped wash dishes before enjoying pie and Dr. Who. The rest of the break was much of the same, except with homework thrown in for me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Halloween 2016

I had a midterm the day after Halloween this year, so didn't have high expectations of being able to do much in the way of celebrating. Gareth decided to be Harry Potter over the summer, so that was easy. And Mal discovered an astronaut costume at preschool and from then on was excited to get his own astronaut costume, so that was easy as well because Melissa and Doug happen to sell a rather cute astronaut costume. I found an etsy seller for wands, and Gareth was set.


Ryan took the boys out while I studied and handed out candy. We got a decent number of trick-or-treaters, despite the weather. Fewer of the youngest crowds, more of the older crowd. All the kids were very polite - wishing me a Happy Halloween, complimenting our pumpkin, saying thank you, etc. The boys didn't stay out super long because it was a rainy day, but they got plenty of candy and were content with the couple blocks they did. Mal was very excited that he got a toy spider at one house.


The boys worked together to design our pumpkin this year. Mal had seen pictures of our pumpkins from 5 years before and wanted the teeth to look like Gareth's pumpkin from that year. Gareth got to design the eyes and the nose. I made the boys do most of the cleaning out of the pumpkin and Gareth carved the eyes and nose himself. Next year we'll have him do his own pumpkin. I came home a couple days after Halloween and saw an enormous slug on the pumpkin - so large that it startled me. 


I've never seen such a long slug before, and hope to never again. It was a good Halloween. Mal got to enjoy the neighbor's skeleton decorations again, and was sad when they got put away. But now he's excited for Christmas, so he's got something else to look forward to.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Week One of Grad School

Week one of grad school is in the books and we all managed to survive. Granted, the first week will likely be the easiest week, so that's not saying much. But it's something. I didn't have anyone to take a first day of school pic of me, so I did the best I could on the bus as I rode in to campus:


I managed not to get too lost on campus or in any buildings this week, which is saying a lot, especially considering how confusing the Health Sciences Building is. You think you're on the right track then suddenly you take an elevator a couple floors down and find yourself in a different building. Or in a hallway that reminds you of Half-Life 2 and you're sure you'll be stuck there in the creepy lab hallway forever. Thankfully our classes in that building are in easier to find wings, so we only got lost finding orientation stuff spread through the building.

For the first time ever I'm recording lectures in a class. All the 2nd years recommended recording our metabolism lectures. I think it'll be a very useful thing as this professor doesn't put much information in his powerpoints. Everyone I'd talked to about the Epidemiology class had indicated that it was horrible, so I was surprised that it didn't seem all that bad. Granted, I've only been to one day of the class and it could definitely get much harder. We had our Food and Society class today, which the professor refers to as a book club. We read articles or books and then discuss them. Things like Fast Food Nation, Behind the Kitchen Door, and Food Politics. It should prove to be a very interesting course. A classmate and I had a good conversation about themes in the first article and first couple books as we walked to our bus stop after class today.

One thing I can't get over is how gorgeous UW campus is. They have their fair share of ugly concrete buildings (the Health Sciences Building being one of them), but the buildings at the center of campus more than make up for it. For instance, the Suzzallo Library, Drumheller Fountain (and the buildings near it), and the buildings along the Quad. My department (Nutritional Sciences) is housed in one of the old buildings on the Quad. I sat outside it this afternoon to review the reading for class before heading in and this was my view across the quad:


This will be a breathtaking place to sit in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

With 6 classes this quarter my biggest concern at the moment is that I'm going to lose track and forget about an assignment or be unprepared for something. I'm currently trying to determine the best way for me to keep track of everything/when to start working on stuff.

The boys did well this week, though Gareth was disappointed one night that I needed to do work rather than play a game with him. Mal is adjusting better to his new preschool. One day for breakfast they served this amazing French toast and Mal ate a ton of it (or so I heard). Between knowing that will happen occasionally and discovering an astronaut costume and just getting used to the place, drop offs have been going a little more smoothly this past week. Ryan cooked dinner each night and still managed to have some time for the gym. I'm excited for my classes, despite the heavy workload and scary amount of papers. We'll see how I feel once things get really busy and winter weather sets in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Orienting Myself

Monday started my orientation type stuff. Monday and today were an RA/TA conference all day. I'm not a TA this quarter, but the conference is required if you want to be able to apply for TA positions going forward. I'm doubtful I'll ever have time to add a TA workload to my plate, but since the conference was free figured it didn't hurt to go to the recommended sessions. (Personally, I was really interested in the session about balancing grad. school and family life, but in the end decided to do all of the sessions recommended by my department instead.) Most of my cohort was in attendance as well, even though most of us aren't TAs this quarter, so it was a great opportunity to get to know many of them. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get to walk a small bit of campus and to get familiar with my bus route.

Tomorrow we get a final day off, then Thursday we have a library tutorial. Friday we have Epi/Biostat prep followed by the School of Public Health orientation followed by the Nutritional Sciences Program orientation. Next Monday and Tuesday are full days of Epi/Biostat prep. Which wasn't required, but most of us seem to have decided it was a good idea and registered for it. Then the real insanity begins next Wednesday.

At this point I'm back to feeling mostly terrified. I've seen a couple syllabi and they're frightening. I've started on my reading for the first couple weeks already, but still feel like I'm drowning before I've begun. The metabolism professor doesn't assign a textbook and instead lists several (typically 4-10 but as many as 15) studies/papers for each class period (the class meets twice per week). So, yeah, that feels impossible already. Most of the classes don't have standard exams, instead opting for take home essay exams (only a 25 page maximum!).

Right now I'm just trying to take lots of deep breaths and telling myself that all the 2nd year students survived, so I probably can as well. Maybe. Back to reading.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Gram's Visit

One of the first things we did when my mom got into town was to find a duck pond to take Mal to. He'd looked at some pictures on her phone and among them were some of a duck pond, so he was insistent that he needed to see "his" ducks. I turned to Google and found one not too far from us, Meadowbrook Pond.

It's a great location. In addition to being a lovely neighborhood park, it serves to prevent flooding from Thornton Creek. Not too many people there, and tons of blackberries growing along the trails. We'll have to remember it next summer when the berries are at their peak. The boys still got many berries as we walked, but there were lots that were past their prime. Mal loved getting to see the ducks and we enjoyed checking out all the walkways.

We found some large rocks places among some trees and the boys wanted their pictures taken.




Once the boys were in school my mom and I did some shopping. We set out looking for some things to help us organize paper clutter. When we didn't find what we wanted, we ended up wandering into a couple clothing stores and I bought this outfit:


I also got the same top in grey. I'm hoping I can slowly start purchasing some professional clothes so I don't have to do it all at once in a couple years.

Aside from our quick foray into clothes shopping we kept on task and worked hard finding places for all our pictures. We focused on the boys' room first and got their pictures and book bags hung. Gareth was incredibly excited to have Starry Night and the book bags hung. He'd been asking when both were going to happen for some time now. We also got a couple other pictures hung through the house. We left a few for me to do this next week, hoping I can figure out how to hang multiple levels of pictures from the picture rail so I don't have to nail into the plaster walls.


On her final day here we did a bunch of baking, making various breakfast items that we can freeze and pull out later to give some occasional variety to breakfasts - waffles, muffins, quick breads, etc. The pumpkin-cream cheese muffins turned out beautifully (we ate these that day).


We were all sad to see her go, but she had to move on to see my sister's family. She took with her a couple projects that I'd started - Gareth's quilt and Mal's stocking - but which I will not have time to work on for the next couple years. I'm so glad she's willing to take them over for me. The stocking shouldn't take long, but the quilt has lots of work left to do. Gram will definitely finish them faster than I would!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First Day of School 2016

This school year is bringing a lot of adjustments for us. I'm glad I have a couple weeks to get the boys settled in their routine before we have to throw my classes into the mix.

Gareth was assigned to a 4/5 classroom this year. Unfortunately, all of his friends are in regular 4th grade classes. We got to meet the 5th grade teachers yesterday and they all seem dynamic and excited for the year, so I think he'll really enjoy the teachers. And his homeroom is the Reading classroom where, instead of desks, his teacher has several cushy couches and chairs; he was pretty excited about that. Drop off was difficult for me today. I was already exhausted because I'm finally getting the cold that everyone else has had for the past couple weeks and because we had to be up early due to our new early start time (my children are not early risers - they even sleep in on Christmas - so this is going to be a very difficult transition for us). I felt sad to see Gareth glancing around nervously in his class line, seeing no familiar faces and surrounded by 5th graders all at least a head taller than him. He smiled for myself and Gram whenever he looked our way and hopefully he'll get to hang out with his 4th grade friends at lunch and recess still. And I'm sure he'll see some familiar faces once he gets into his classrooms. In our rush to get out the door we didn't have time for pictures, but my mom grabbed some on her phone when we dropped the boys off.



On our way home I realized that I'd forgotten to remind him that he'll be taking the bus after school to his after-care location. He's never taken a bus before, so has no idea how this works. Neither do I for that matter, as I never took a bus when I was a kid. I'd meant to send the letter stating his route with him so he could make sure he was getting on the right bus and all that. So i sent an email to his teacher and hopefully he'll make it on the bus at the end of the day.

As soon as we got home we turned around and got Mal in the car to take him to his new preschool. I think he'll definitely miss his preschool from last year (as will I), but they didn't have a full-day option, so hopefully he'll adjust to the change easily. I was a little nervous for this drop off partly because the preschool hadn't communicated any information to me. Were they actually expecting us today, or not? They at least didn't seem surprised to see us, but also didn't have a sign in sheet for us yet (they will by this afternoon) and haven't set up our tuition payment yet. When we entered the preK room we discovered that it was rather disheveled looking. Apparently they're going to be painting it. So we talked to a woman in the preschool room who told us to leave him there, she took down his name, and I'm assuming that will all get sorted out. He was enjoying checking out all the toys, but seemed a bit surprised that we were going to leave him there. Not upset by it, I just think this location isn't in his head yet as his preschool, so it was unexpected.



I also discovered that the transportation department did in fact get Gareth's bus stop incorrect (I'd called them the day before to check on it because I thought it might be off by a block and was told that it was correct), but was assured that the after-care would call the transportation department and sort things out. Apparently the transportation department messes this up every year, which is ridiculous because there are lots of kids from Gareth's school that go to this location every year.

So, yeah. Lots of transitions. A bus, after-care, full day preschool, early mornings, and essentially 5th grade classes. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we'll get everything ironed out before my orientations start.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Catching Homelessness

My school year hasn't begun yet and I already have work to do! Each year the School of Public Health chooses a common book. This year the book is Catching Homelessness: A Nurse's Story of Falling Through the Safety Net by Josephine Ensign. It's a quick read that's fairly engaging; it only took me a couple days to read through it. The SPH provides a reading guide of questions to consider while reading, which I haven't yet looked at but will try to peruse before the SPH orientation where discussion of the book with the author is the main event.

Here are my initial thoughts on the book:

This book was an engaging and interesting read. It jumps around a bit, so it can be easy to lose where you are in the author's timeline, though she sometimes recaps information she's already told you which helps you reorient yourself again (I occasionally got impatient with the recaps though - you already told us this, why are you writing it out again as though you haven't?!).

The author doesn't delve deeply into the reasons for homelessness or how effective our efforts toward it are. I'm rather ambivalent about this approach. For instance, she would mention the closure of state mental health facilities or the Vietnam War, but only spend a few sentences on them, almost just mentioning them in passing. She offered little opinion on these events or even information about how they impacted the homeless populations. This was frustrating at times, but could also be seen as her providing more of a jumping off point for people's independent research.

Also fascinating is reading along as she details her own life unraveling. I suppose this is more the true focus of the book - telling stories of the homeless people she worked with and then using her own experience to show just how easily everything can fall apart. The author was able to get her life back in control, and again she talks about this in passing - she realized she needed to leave the South and then talks very little about the work needed to make this happen. This could come across as a bit flippant about how easily it is to improve one's situation, though I don't think the author intends it to. Again, it would have been an opportunity to discuss the impediments to leaving homelessness, but the author doesn't take you there.

Overall, an easy, interesting, and I think worthwhile read. It's not going to provide opinions for you or give you all the information about the myriad of things that impact homelessness, but can be a great starting point for not only further thought and research, but also increased sympathy for those who find themselves without a safety net.