Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shopping With Niecey

Back in August my mom had foot surgery to remove a weird growth, she found out shortly before she was going to come visit me that she needed the surgery. The vacation time was already submitted and she basically had no choice but to cancel her plans to come see me and use that time instead to have and recover from the surgery (she is still recovering but definitely on the mend at this point). During the time that was supposed to be spent with me fell her birthday, I had planned to take her out to eat as her present, the last minute change in plans left me without a present for her nor time to get one so I told her that we would celebrate her birthday next time I visited her, this came over the Thanksgiving holiday. She was working insane hours at work and did not get a whole lot of time to see me so there was no time to go out to eat so I decided to do the next best thing, make her dinner at home. I picked Niecey up from kindergarten that afternoon and told her we were going to make Grah a birthday dinner, she definitely liked this idea. I took her by Grah's work to say hi and inform her that dinner would be awaiting her when she got home, then we went over to a local and cheap grocery store. I did not know ahead of time that they had these incredibly adorable kid-sized carts, Niecey informed me as we walked in, I thought to myself, "Score, I can make Niecey do all the work, she'll have a blast, and I will get an awesome blog post out of it!" And so our shopping adventure began!


1. We got some fresh bread, salad, broccoli and squash for Pa (his favorite, Mom loves it too though). Oh and some of my favorite vegetable in the white fanny may box (mmmm mint meltaways, chocolate being from a bean and mint being a leaf it counts double as a veggie!).

2. Off to the meat department, Niecey decided we should eat cow, I helped her pick a reasonably priced cut (aka cheap), I can't remember what it was only that it is technically used in roasts or something, I cooked it like a steak as I do most cuts of beef. As long as it tastes good I do not mind having to chew my food, good exercise, hehe. I got tired of carrying her coat and discovered the second use of the cart's flag. (Faces blanked out to preserve innocent bystanders' privacy.)

3. Cutting through the frozen stuff section.

4. Niecey was ready for her closeup! We got the fixings for cupcakes since it was a birthday celebration and Auntie Kee is an awesome cupcake maker but a not so good cake maker (unless she buys it from the bakery).

5. We also picked up some fruit and milk. And of course mushrooms for Auntie Kee's signature mushroom gravy (which damn near killed her last night when Grah helped her make it, note: make sure Grah is not going to add greasy "drippings" to gravy after it already has olive oil and a touch of butter in it, GI nightmare!).

6. Niecey had to load the groceries on the conveyor belt. The clerk warned me not to let the managers see me taking pictures, she was really nice, I told her I would throw a fit and write a really mean blog post about the store if they tried to stop me from taking pics of my adorable cart slave! Guess they made a no cameras policy after some idiot teenagers had recently gone in the store with one in a gorilla suit videoing him rampaging through the store and scaring the crap out of young kiddies, jerks!

7. Another cute pic of her loading the groceries on the belt.

8. Of course she had to bag them too, I did help, didn't want everything all squished!

9. I was too busy cooking and keeping my assistant cook busy and safe to take pics while cooking and then we all descended on it like rabid dogs when I was done so the only food pic is of the cupcakes. We got 50 candles and had them all stuck in the cupcakes and lit, I wanted a pic but the heat of all those cheap and small candles had them last maybe 30 seconds after they were all lit! I had no idea how much light and heat would be put off by that many candles, it was really neat! I took this pathetic pic of them after we pulled the candles out, imagine them looking like they are all on fire and you've got what it looked like, hehe.

All in all it was a lot of fun shopping and cooking with Niecey. She can be a pain in the butt to get to eat but I have noticed that the more she helps make the meal the more she is willing to eat it. Too bad that small helpers can make the job take a lot longer than it normally would! When I am not in a hurry though it is definitely amusing to let the kiddo help out, she is soooo proud of herself when she does and it is nice to encourage her to develop new skills and it is generally good quality time spent together.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Niecey's Thanksgiving Thankfulness Two

Niecey has decided that she wants to write another Thanksgiving post, I tried to get her to label it as a Christmas post but she would have none of that craziness so Thanksgiving it is!

Each of the following is proceeded by "I am thankful for..."

1. Auntie Cheryl (who I stole for like three weeks)
2. Auntie Kee (Because I am insanely indulgent)
3. Big Bear (best $9.99 I ever spent)
4. Monkey Weasel
5. Tiniest Weasel (aka Smallest Weasel)
6. Turkey
7. Pa
8. Her Computer (Yes she has her own, it is an old junker from our uncle)
9. Trees
10. Her house
11. Momma Weasel
12. Pa's computer (which I am using now)
13. Boy Weasel
14. Middle Weasel
15. Cheese because it's yellow (Yellow is her favorite color if you didn't guess)
16. Time (she got a watch for Christmas)
17. Bunnies (Auntie Cheryl has two of them)
18. Frogs (because they hop apparently)
19. Random crap on the desk (she is listing everything on the desk trying to think of more, she is so a blogger in training!)
20. Herself (so am I, best niecey ever!)
21. Auntie Cheryl's sock monkeys (oh how she covets them!)
22. coolwhip(she wrote that herself copying the cool whip "bowl", aka the fancy dishes in my mom's collection)
23. crown(sweet, she is writing this post now, I just have to add the parenthetical comments for her amusement)hehehohoho
24. Big Weasel (aka Eldest Weasel)
25. Music (Ian will like this one)

And there you have it, things Niecey is thankful for, hope you enjoyed it!

Niecey has decided to end this with "hehehoho"

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas 2, Microblogologist 0

First off, merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate Christmas, to those of you that do not disregard the merriment if you so choose, you can definitely be merry if you want, whatever works for you and happy Hanukkah to my Jewish reader(s) and to Doc (if you read this Doc my present to you is I gained about 2 pounds in mostly healthy ways). That said Christmas is kicking my ass. Last Christmas I spent inside my car, outside my apartment, in the freezing cold weather we in the midwest all know and love *cough despise cough* before going to work for a few hours and then having company over in the form of a police officer and three firefighters. This Christmas so far does not seem like it is going to turn out much better. What you want me to go into excruciating detail? OK, for you my dear readers I will.

Round One: Christmas 2007 v Microblogologist

Last Christmas I was supposed to go see my family only they were sick. I was dating a guy who lived at home with his parents and his dad (who is awesome) has cancer and is immunocompromised. My goal in life at the time was to get to see boyfriend and not kill his father (who I adore). I also did not like the sounds of the diseased masses that was my family at the time, seriously ew. The year before I went to their place for thanksgiving and they decided to give me more than thanks, they gave me influenza, thanks family! After that I tended to avoid going home if they had some form of pestilence but especially with the immunocompromised in my life (besides bf's dad there was also my diabetic friend and her former premie son, aka my godson Buggy).

So I decided to wait it out and go home for new years instead. I was not thrilled with this, missed everyone and had worked my butt off to get my experiment done in time so I could have gone and all but I was trying to make the best of it. I had found a duck at the store for a good price and decided to make it for my meal, might as well celebrate with a nice meal. I baked the duck and I think made mashed potatoes and beans to go with it, some of my favorites. Right when my dinner was done the carbon monoxide detector decided that to inform me that I was going to die.

I opened the kitchen window (it was probably in the 20°F range, thanks Pasha for teaching me that alt 248 = °), turned on the stove vent thing, and muted the CO detector and sat down to eat. Unfortunately the stupid detector only stays muted for a short time before telling you that you are going to die some more in its own special ear splitting way. I think death may in fact be preferable to the horrid pain the alarm inflicts on my poor ears! I kept muting it for a bit but eventually got frustrated and moved me and my meal out into my car so I could at least eat it instead of having to get up every 30 seconds to hit the alarm. I called my BFF Pasha from the car because I knew it would make his Christmas to hear I was eating Christmas dinner in Oldsie, it did, Merry Christmas you bastard! (I swear we really are friends!)

I finished eating and the damn alarm was still going off so I decided to let the apartment air out some more and go get some work done, not like I had anything better to do. I went back in to get some stuff and open more windows and then abandoned ship. I went to work and enjoyed having the lab to myself and made up a bunch of dilution blanks, which I use to see how many bacteria are in a sample. I got back home around 1am and the damn alarm was STILL GOING OFF! The neighbor was outside smoking and told me that it was ok since he could sleep through it, I was soooo glad. What really ticked me off was the fact that the neighbors knew the alarm was going off but none of them checked on me, this is not the first time alarms have gone off in the building and they have ignored them. I check when I hear one, if it were in their apartment I would knock and see if they were ok if it went off for more than a few minutes, maybe it is a cultural thing... So I decide it is time to call the after hours number listed and get the ISUPD and they dispatched a cop and called the fire dept. They did not find any CO in my apartment and pulled the battery from the alarm. My guess is that there may have been CO produced by my oven that triggered it and then it got stuck on, could have been defective just as easily, wouldn't be the first time for either scenario in this neighborhood. Definitely a Christmas FAIL.

Christmas 1, Microblogologist 0

Round 2: Christmas 2008 v Microblogologist

As my regular readers know I contracted a plague (respiratory virus not bubonic) at the end of October when a professor decided to visit my lab and share the viral love. I quarantined myself for over 3 weeks and almost didn't go visit my family for thanksgiving but Doc checked me out and told me that I had a secondary infection and was no longer contagious and to get my butt out of here and go see my family. He didn't send me off without drugs of course, he is my drug lord after all. He sent me over to the drug dealers and they hooked me up with an antibiotic (highly debated) and these cool little cough suppressant pills. He tried to put me on two antibiotics but I protested and got it down to one, having a wacky GI tract to begin with I didn't want to beat the crap out of it with antibiotics. My Bubbie (grandma) basically called me an idiot for not listening to him and taking both, the woman who pretty much tells her friends I am a genius and going to cure cancer or something (highly unlikely), Mom also thinks I should have taken both. I currently think that I should have had both but perhaps staggered them, my GIT has been acting up a bit since I had the first round so who knows how bad it could be if I had two at the same time unbalancing the system. Remember, I do approve of antibiotic usage when it is needed.

So I took my meds and went for thanksgiving and had a blast. The antibiotics seemed to help but they did not knock it out completely, I am still sick. Thankfully I became a functional not contagious sick person so I was able to get back to work and worked my butt off since the day I got back so I could be done with the current experiment before Christmas. I did in fact finish it, not counting the ones I have to redo and we were supposed to leave the 23rd for Chicago (we as in Baby Sibling aka my babysitter aka The Unmarried Housewife), but I lost track of time and we weren't ready to go at a reasonable hour and I was starting to feel my sinuses building up pressure. The plan was to leave early today but I was feeling progressively sicker and my sinuses want me dead so that didn't happen. I am hoping that tomorrow I will feel better and be able to make the trip but either way I believe this round goes to Christmas.

Christmas 1, Microblogologist 0

Final Score: Christmas 2, Microblogologist 0

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Community

When I talk about my blog to people, whether it be fellow bloggers or people who are unaware of the blog world I will often cite reasons for starting this whole blogging thing. I lurked the blogosphere blogless for over a year I think, I enjoy reading and being a grad student I often don't have enough time to really get into a good book and so rarely bother trying to read one. Blogs were different, they are like a long series told in many short segments and it was easier for me to read a post or two or 100 in my spare time (aka time I should be doing lit review, bleck). Another thing about blogs I found was that if I really liked something brought up in a post I could comment about it and therefore interact with the author, how cool is that?!

As is often the case reading one blog led to reading another and another and another... The blogs I read in the beginning were premie blogs but eventually that led to blogs written by non-premie parents. After awhile I noticed that there were these social clicks/rings between some of the blogs I read, this intrigued me. Not too long after this I was reading one of my newest favorites and came across this post. I got a good laugh out of it and commented, we had a comment and e-mail exchange in which we discussed the idea of my having a blog:

NukeDad: I know that a lot of people who read it [his blog] are bloggers themselves, are you a blogger?
Blogless Microblogologist: I am not a blogger myself, life as a grad student who doesn't get out much does not make for much amusing blog material*.
NukeDad: Keep in touch, cuz when you start your blog I want to be one of the first subscribers.

This exchange happened about two weeks before I started this blog. I had actually entertained the idea of starting one before but had concluded I would be the most boring blogger ever, him expressing interest in a blog by little ole' me made me think about it more seriously. After this conversation I talked to Baby Sibling about hypothetically starting a blog and we threw around some ideas of what I would call it and write about and she came up with "Microblogology" and I instantly fell in love and HAD to start the blog immediately.

Back to the concept of community, the topic of this post, I even named it that. Seeing how the different bloggers interacted and formed friendships definitely attracted me to joining the blogosphere and becoming one of them and not just be a lurker on the outside looking in. Life can be a little isolated when you live 350 miles from most of your family and friends and don't make friends that quickly/easily in general but especially in the college setting**. So I started the blog and it did not take that long for me to make a few friend in the blogosphere. Not too long ago (ok fine, forever ago), I was recognized for this in what I consider to be one of the best awards I have seen by WeaselMomma, this is so sweet of her (thanks WeaselMomma!) here it is: “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

How sweet is that?! Only problem I have is that I have to choose 8 people, there are WAY more than just 8 people in my blog roll who totally deserve this award, but here goes:
  1. NukeDad
  2. Nonna
  3. LiteralDan
  4. Sweetened Taters
  5. Missives from Suburbia
  6. Waltz in Exile
  7. Former Goat Nanny Diaries
  8. 7 Acres of Heaven
I see this as a sign that I have made it into the blogging community, a community that I am very proud to be a part of. I have witnessed several occasions that highlight how awesome the blog community is but the most recent example I have come across I think is a shining testament to just how great our community is. It all started here, on WeaselMomma's blog, her husband had lost his job and she jokingly suggested that her readers should help them out by clicking her google ad links***. What started as a joke ended up earning her almost $200 since all of us WeaselLovers started clicking her ads, she was amazed and so grateful that people took the time to actually click. It was exciting and fun since she would update us as to how much money was earned at the bottom of her posts. Then out of the blue it was over, google got rid of the ads program and never sent out the $200. And then, just like a pheonix rising from the ashes (a second time in a way), the blogging community rallied. They would NOT be beat by this, they WOULD help the Weasels! And thus the Save the Weasels' Christmas was born, run by Big Bad Daddy Rant and pimped by others, like NukeDad.

Unfortunately I got behind on my reading because I had to work and did not find out about this until now, too late to donate nor pimp it, left only to document the fact that not only did they manage to replace the $200 they managed to earn up $250! In the end it is not about the money, of course it helps, but this $250 means so much more than its face value. This money represents how people can come together in times of hardship to help someone out just because it is the nice thing to do. The moral of this story is that there is still good in this world, sometimes it seems hard to find but it is there. I don't know about you but this definitely helps restore some of my faith in humanity! And this act of unselfish love couldn't have been directed at a nicer family, I had the great honor of meeting them with my little Niecey over thanksgiving break and they are truely wonderful people.




~~~~~Copy LiteralDan Section~~~~~
*I must say I stand corrected, apparently a few people do find my world amusing.
**In my experience as both an undergrad and a grad student one tends to form a "buddyship" with someone that ends when the shared class ends. To me a real friendship is one that continues on, even if you don't talk much when you eventually do it is like nothing has changed, the majority of my friends that fit into this category are ones I have known since K-12.
***Google ad links was a blogger feature that allowed you to host some ads and if people clicked them the blogger would earn money from it, like 0.001 cents a click so it took a LOT of clicks for this feature to make a blogger much money.

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Update, A Message for Doc, and An Answered Question

So I have not posted since I was in Chicago over the Thanksgiving holiday, what a neglectful blogger I have been! Rumors of my death are somewhat exaggerated, my new wife/babysitter is taking very good care of my workoholic self. Though her looking up what a GI doc would likely do to me if I ever let Doc talk me into seeing one has led me to conclude that I think I would rather die than take that referral. Good thing my issues are not life threatening, Doc said he has yet to lose a patient and I would hate to be the one to ruin his record!

My Shadow and I rocking the bun look Grah dislikes

I have not forgotten this blog and all of my bloggy friends, in fact in my spare time I have been trying to catch up on my blog reading, remember I was a blogoholic before I was a blogger. I will be posting more about my trip over thanksgiving and such but it will have to wait until I have a few more brain cells working. Since coming back I have been working every day and I think I am averaging about 10 hours a day, though not all of that is working 10 solid hours and I have been going to water aerobics (Thursday was the last day before finals and break sadly). I still have some residual plague symptoms but it is not that bad and does not interfere with my working so I plan to ignore it and hope the immune system eventually works it out.

Niecey and Smallest Weasel (so cute!)

Despite all the driving, 5.5 hours to Chicago followed by about 5 to Michigan after sleeping an hour between, it was worth it to get to see my beloved family and it was such a treat getting to meet the real WeaselMomma and her delightful family. My little shadow definitely felt it was worth the time and gas for me to come visit her and go meet our new weasel friends. I was not planning to make the trip since I was still sickly but Doc assured me that I was not contagious anymore and told me to go see the family. Niecey definitely appreciated the fact that I followed his advice and wanted to tell him. Here you go Doc, a video on my blog just for you, thank you so much for all you do to try and keep me functioning despite my orneriness:

video

And I have decided to answer a question (and probably go off on several tangents) I received from Abby here since my computer ate my reply to her on her blog and also I have a tendency to write way too much for a comment (if you aren't cool with this Abby let me know and I'll delete this part or edit it). She and her wife have an adorable daughter who has GI issues, some of her symptoms are quite similar to mine but the poor kid is way worse than I am and we have different causes for our issues. I find it interesting that so many GI issues have very similar symptoms and treatments, I learn so much reading about what they are going through with Hallie (though of course I prefer the posts that tell how cute and smart she is with pictoral evidence). In my experience and based on what I know and have read, people with GI issues have to find the right balance of drugs and foods to either control or lessen the symptoms. The current treatment Hallie is on or is about to be on involves a course of antibiotics to try and knock back a potential overgrowth of bacteria in her intestines (most likely kinds that are not the healthiest to have) . Someone suggested that they put her on probiotics (she is actually already on them), which are health benefiting microorganisms (generally bacteria), to hopefully prevent some of the more unpleasant aspects of going on the antibiotic* (diarrhea mainly I am guessing but they can cause more than just that).

Being a microbiologist with similar issues and who happens to work with probiotic organisms (specifically Bifidobacteria) I commented that I felt this was good advice. Use the antibiotic to knock out the bad and then take probiotics during and after in hopes of colonizing her gut with healthy bacteria. She asked me what I use and somewhat ashamedly I must confess that I do not really practice what I preach and currently am not taking any probiotics. I was trying to get into the habit of eating Dannon Activa but I do not like yogurt and especially after coming down with the plague I had even less desire to eat the stuff. I am definitely considering trying probiotics in pill form but have not gotten around to looking at what my options for that are. In Hallie's case I would recommend taking a supplement that contains at least one strain of Bifidobacteria (for her colon) and potentially a Lactobacillus species or two (or more, they tend to colonize the upper intestines) because the goal is to help her get through the antibiotic and establish a healthy flora. Given that the science is behind on substantiating claims made about certain possibly probiotic organisms (human studies are complex and expensive) and currently probiotics are not regulated it is hard to say if the claims made by these products are valid or not**, but it does not hurt to try.

I really hope that the antibiotic, mixed with probiotics, helps balance out Hallie's system. It is hard enough as an adult dealing with GI issues and knowing the reason behind them and the treatments (some of the treatments can be unpleasant), I cannot fathom being a child and only knowing the pain and discomfort these issues bring. But it is not all bad, Hallie has parents who fight for her and will do anything to help her as well as a nanny who adores her and does what she can to help as well. Also she is developing an instinct for what foods make her sick, something I am starting to get as well and it is very useful. No matter what she is an amazing little girl who is going to be a big sister in about two months (8 weeks).

~~~~~Copy LiteralDan Section~~~~~
*Anyone can have GI issues during and after antibiotic therapy, the intestinal flora in humans is very important and antibiotics tend to wreck at least some havoc with it, one of several reasons not to go on antibiotics unless it is necessary. I am not against the proper use of antibiotics, improper use of them and the resistance that is resulting from that is a huge public health concern. They can cause more harm than good in someone who is sick with "just a virus" and I am glad that doctors are more and more standing up to their patients who insist on having a script even when it is clearly a viral infection and it is explained to them that an antibiotic will not help. I say those people should be put on placebomycin and told it should work within 2 weeks and they should drink plenty of fluids and rest...
**Please do not interpret my skepticism as my not thinking probiotics give benefits, as a scientist my job is to be skeptical.