Monday, October 27, 2008

For the love of fruit flies and olives

Perhaps, at this late date, you are one of those people who has not managed to make up your mind about where to cast your support in next Tuesday's national election. A humorous commentary from David Sedaris on undecided voters can be found here. His assessment beside the point, I'm assured that such people, even after being hit over the head with constant messages from both parties for nearly a year now, do exist. Perhaps, if after all the arguments over the economy, the war, healthcare, energy resources, executive experience, and wardrobes you still have not made up your mind, I can sway you with an argument for fruit fly research and the fate of the olive industry.

Many of you know that I did my doctoral research on aspects of fruit fly development. A topic near and dear to my heart, fruit flies have provided the basis for a century of scientific discovery and breakthroughs. A complex organism that is easy to raise and genetically manipulate, it so kicks the butt of many other model systems (sorry, M., but my model system eats your model system for breakfast, literally - there's just no contest between yeast and drosophila). Fruit flies were used to show that genes are located on chromosomes, for crying out loud. How much more fundamental and basic can one get? And there's more. Just about every known human disease gene has a fruit fly counterpart. They are used to study even the most complex of human conditions, like alcoholism, autism, memory/learning, cancer... the list goes on and on.

So, clearly, we have established the validity of pursuing scientific research on the tiny fruit fly, right? Apparently, this opinion is not shared by the McCain campaign.

Sarah Palin, she who allowed pork barrel funding to build a road in Alaska to the Bridge to Nowhere, which was never itself built due to an uproar around the country (or something like that), hence making this road a true Road to Nowhere, took it upon herself to criticize earmarks, a pet reform project of McCain's. Now, I'm not going to try to argue whether earmarks have any value (some definitely do, though) or what improvements need to be made to our earmark system. I'm here to defend fruit flies. And olives.

You see, Sarah Palin, in providing an example of the worthlessness of earmark spending, highlighted one project in particular as an example of pork barrel funding that, to her, is not in the public's best interest. This project involves, you guessed it, fruit fly research. You can read an assessment of her comments here, which though not unbiased is hopefully at least factual and informative.

Sarah Palin ridiculed the research in question, which apparently involves investigation into the olive fruit fly, a pest that has been terrorizing the California olive crop. Yes, this is different than the ivory tower fruit fly I lauded above. The research here is seeking to understand the olive fruit fly so that we may kill it, not unlock genetic mysteries that will lead to advances in human medicine. But her statement didn't go into that kind of detail, it just ridiculed fruit fly research as a whole. Way to be dismissive of all those past and future scientific discoveries we owe to the fruit fly, hmm?

The link above includes a discussion of the olive and olive oil markets, both national and international. Apparently the olive fruit fly is quite a blight on olive crops, a serious problem. Now, who doesn't love a good tapenade, I ask you? Bruschetta? Spaghetti aglio e olio? Cocktail and intimate dinner parties would never recover from an olive extinction. If that doesn't sway you, just think of my poor, picky, nutrient-deficient toddler, whose list of edible fruits includes just 6 items (banana, pear, apple, pineapple, orange slices, and olives). If all the olives are gone, we're down to just 5! Then what will he have on his pizza?? The horrors are unthinkable.

I have been assured, by the way, by the ever-reliable Internet that the olive is most definitely a fruit. Which I guess is why it is being attacked by a fruit fly... huh, don't I feel dumb. My original plea was going to include the olive as one of the 5 vegetables that Finn will deign to eat, but it being a fruit and all... This means Finn's vegetable list is down to 4 items(peas, corn, carrots, and the occasional french fry, which is also of dubious but definitely arguable vegetable origin). None of which he will actually eat on a regular, predictable basis.

If you have any positive feelings toward fruit fly research, olives, or my son's limited picky toddler diet, please, vote Obama/Biden next week!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Birthday Celebration

Finn's birthday is today, and we had a birthday celebration for him on Saturday to mark the occasion. Nothing extravagant, just some fun activities that the three of us enjoyed together. We woke up (VERY bright and early, it's like he had a sixth sense about the fun waiting for him), opened presents, then headed off to the county airpark. The airpark has a cute little restaurant with lots of windows, so we ate breakfast while watching propeller planes taking off. After some good play time outside, lunch, and a nap, we headed off to the National Zoo. It was pretty chilly out, so I'm glad we only decided to devote half a day to the adventure. There was plenty to see, and Finn had a great time. The orangutans, turtles and giant pandas were particularly big hits. We brought Finn to the zoo last year on his birthday, I guess it is becoming a birthday tradition. Then it was home for cupcakes, singing and bedtime.

The celebration isn't quite over, of course, since today is Finn's actual birthday. He will be having cookies with his classmates (store-bought, as mandated, though this feels like cheating to me) and we will be going out for pizza (his favorite) for dinner.

Stay tuned for a photo entry that documents some of Finn's cutest moments over the past two years - nothing like a birthday to make me feel all maudlin and schmoopy about my baby. For now, here are some pictures from Saturday.

Playing with his new train set from Mommy and Daddy:

Opening presents with Daddy (he was really into ripping the paper himself, so Christmas should be fun this year):

Modeling the awesome letter sweater made by Mimi - go Badgers!:

Trying out his new big boy easy chair from Grammy and Bumpa:

At the zoo with Mommy and a statue of Stillwater (his favorite panda from the book "Zen Shorts"):
Blowing out candles (Mommy did the heavy breathing, Finn wasn't too sure what to make of it):

Mmm, frosting:

The Aftermath (note his newest camera pose, which he assumes whenever you ask him to say cheese - mouth locked open in a painfully large smile, eyes squinched shut):
Not too bad, if you compare to last year's birthday cupcake mess - Finn's first ever experience with cake and frosting:

Gah, I can't believe my baby is already 2!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Sequel

Ack, I've thought about writing this post for the last, oh, eight and a half weeks, and still, I'm not sure what to say. I wanted drama, excitement, humor, eloquence... but I set my expectations too high, and when the right words didn't come to me, I just said nothing at all. Or maybe it's that I got slightly superstitious, and just didn't want to risk something happening BECAUSE I spilled the beans too early. I mean, OK, if it wasn't meant to be for some reasonable, scientific reason, then I could maybe just dust myself off and try again. But what IF, the mere act of sharing the information (which, really, I am about to share, I swear) far too early, MADE something bad happen? Stupid, I know - a thought not worthy of someone who spent over 20 years in school - but a thought that crossed my mind nonetheless.

So I waited, even though I had every intention of blogging about it all, from the very first day, even any potential bad stuff. Though, of course, to several of you, this is old news (funny how you tell one or two people and suddenly everyone knows, hmm?). To stop this rambling, bring the rest of you up to speed, and just effing get on with it, a pictorial explanation:

12 weeks and 3 days as of today. Estimated due date is April 25, 2009. April is a wonderful month to have a baby, right, Mom? Given my track record (Finn was born 8 days late), we may be having a May baby, but I'm holding out hope for April.

According to the newsletter I received a couple of days ago, this little one is about the size of a lime right now, up a few centimeters from the fig-sized mass it was last week (Side note: Why do they always use produce? Why not say the baby is the size, for example, of a badminton birdie? A shuttlecock, if you will?). As of today I can confirm that it has two arms (you can see one in the picture on the left), two legs, two scary alien-baby eye sockets, a spine, a bladder, a stomach, very low odds for having Trisomies 18 or 21, and a wonderful beating heart. 158 bpm - a little lower than Finn's heart rate at this age, if I remember correctly, but I'm not going to read anything into that. Nor the fact that I've been feeling much worse with this pregnancy (the indigestion! the nausea! the general blech-iness!) than I did with Finn. Our family makes boys, so I'm assuming that's what this one is. Confirmation will not be forthcoming until the birth, however - we are holding out for a surprise on this one.

We are excited, and introducing the concept to Finn. He has heard the heartbeat (thank you, Donna, for the use of your Doppler!) and has a vague idea that there is either a baby or a bulldozer inside my belly (the confusion is my fault, but I think it's cute so we may string him along a little longer). We bought him The Berenstain Bear's New Baby (both to introduce him to the idea of a sibling AND the idea of a new bed, which he will need in the next few months), and we read it occasionally. Finn will be two and a half when this baby is born, an age difference I am hoping is perfect (is there such a thing?). Close enough together to be friends, far enough apart where I won't have TWO babies at once. Though that thought saddens me, as Finn will always be my baby, right?

So, there, it's done with, I managed to actually write a blog post about this. Hopefully the rest of them will come more easily.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This and That

Things have been relatively quiet here in the M household. The most excitement we've had all week was the invasion of a legion of ants in our dining room (last Saturday) and our first ear infection of the season (Finn, of course). The ants suddenly appeared in combination with a particularly messy granola bar snack and sweeping the deck to remove dead leaves. The hapless and not-big-enough mat that is under Finn's booster seat was swarming with tiny little ants within an hour of the sweeping. Much spraying and vacuuming later, as well as a visit from Orkin today, and the little buggers are gone.

As far as the ear infection goes, that was a surprise, too. Finn had a cold that had FINALLY disappeared several days ago. - we thought all was fine. Plus, he has tubes in his ears, and since they were installed last December we haven't had a single ear infection to deal with. However, I received a call from daycare on Wednesday alerting me to the fact that Finn apparently had tons of drainage leaking out of his right ear. A not-so-quick trip to the doctor's confirmed the infection, and Finn is now the recipient of oral and topical (ear drops) antibiotics for the next week and a half. We also discovered that his left ear tube has come out - this was noticed when the doctor cleared out some wax to check Finn's left ear and discovered a tiny green tube inside the impressively gross ball-o-wax. So, I'm guessing that while this was the first ear infection of the season, it will not be the last, especially since we are down to only one tube.

Despite the ants and the ear infection, we've had generally good spirits all around. Today we headed to the "Great Pumpkin Patch" festival for a few hours. Finn had a ball with the little trackless train, the Trick-or-Treat Trail, the hayride that took us to the pumpkin patch, and the petting zoo. Despite the long lines and hot sun, he was really well behaved. We took a few pictures, though I'm not sure yet if they are any good. He's now safely tucked in bed, and M. and I are trying to wind down with a little TV before we hit the hay ourselves. The Wisconsin game is on right now, though, which is not helping M. relax, mostly because they are down 10 - nope, make that 17 - and not looking good. As a supportive wife, I should be worked up, too, but mostly I'm just tired :-).

One complain-y side note: Why is it that a child who needs to be woken up by his parents at 7 am on Friday to keep everyone from being late that day, wakes up at 6:09 on Saturday, when no one has to be ANYWHERE, and all the other warm-blooded creatures in the house wish to stay in their comfortable beds?? Here's hoping he's kinder to us tomorrow morning...

One inquisitive side note: M. and I are headed out on Monday night to do some shopping for Finn's upcoming birthday (we have a babysitter coming, so we can actually accomplish the shopping without the distraction of a toddler who wants everything he sees). Seeking some ideas here - if you were a 2-year-old boy, what presents would you want to open on your birthday?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pumpkin Love

It's finally Fall around here, and Finn couldn't be happier. He has a newfound love of all things pumpkin for some reason. Our weekend walks are characterized by exclamations of "Muh-min" about every 15 seconds or so, every time we pass another house with something the tiniest bit pumpkin related on display. Side note, to our toddler, the words pumpkin and muffin are pronounced the exact same way. Perhaps I need to take a cue from that and start baking him some pumpkin muffins for his pre-breakfast snack - yum!

Finn also gets a kick out of all Halloween decorations. Not even the scary ones phase him, and to my dismay he even gets excited about the super-large spiders we've seen on display. Ugh. But I love that he is enjoying it, since this is my favorite time of year. Colorful leaves, breaking out sweaters after way too many days of tank tops, pumpkin lattes at Starbucks, I love it all. Except the large spiders.

This past weekend was pretty quiet and low key, but still a ton of fun. The reason was Finn - he is definitely going through a wonderful phase right now, so much so that I'm not sure I want to talk about it lest I jinx it and the tantrums start up anew tomorrow. He is happy and talkative and mimicky and funny, so full of excitement for EVERYTHING, that even just going to the grocery store is fun with him. I have heard that the whole numbers can be just as great as the half numbers are awful, but as we roll into Finn's second birthday in a few days, I'll be wishing on his candles that 2 1/2 is just as kind to us as 2 has been so far.

Saturday we went on a "hike" in a nearby state park. I use the quotes because much of the way was paved, and we brought Finn's stroller along (not so easy to maneuver on the unpaved parts, though), though he refused to sit in it much of the time. It was a wonderful day, weatherwise - a long-sleeved shirt and jeans was the uniform for everyone, and I think you'll agree that Finn looked particularly cute in his:

The next morning we set up the fake pumpkins we purchased at Target a few weeks ago (on a whim, and at Finn's insistence, of course). They are perfect for the front of our house, which gets full sun during the afternoon that has been known to heat our storm door to a flesh-singe-ing degree and would no doubt make short work of any real carved pumpkins we might place out there. Finn is in love with his new buddies, and enjoys just sitting next to them on the steps every day, especially when M. and I are trying to load him into the car to take him to daycare. Every night, after dinner, we ceremoniously go outside and plug them in, so Finn can exclaim over and over again about "light!" "Muh-min!" "Mommy, light!" "Muh-min!"

Though not the best picture, I included the one above so that you can see Finn in his typical state of late - running somewhere, anywhere, with a devilish grin on his face. This kid does not slow down!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dude, it's Nuke-lee-errrr!!!

Why is it that all Republicans seem to feel the need to pronounce the word nuclear as nukular?? I swear, it's like fingernails down a chalkboard for me. My biggest political pet peeve, I think.

I will say, though, that that Sarah Palin has a great stylist. Sign me up for those glasses. OK, I still prefer my contacts, but she does have a nice hair style.

I'm embarrassed to say that I fell asleep about 30 minutes into the first presidential debate last week. Here it is, 9:53 pm, and I'm still awake during the VP verbal sparring. Admittedly, though, I pulled out the computer just now to stave off the inevitable super-long blinks that are a short step away from snoring and drooling on the couch. But I definitely find these two a bit more interesting than their presidential counterparts, I guess.

Back to my original rant, on further research, it appears that mis-pronunciation of the word nuclear is not limited to Republicans. Here's an interesting little tidbit from that discusses it. Hmm, if Bill Clinton was guilty of the infraction, I wonder if that extends to his wife, the candidate I was hoping to be voting for this election... Food for thought. Can't say it would have changed my mind for sure, but "nukular" REALLY annoys me!