Thursday, September 18, 2014

And 40 it was!

So yesterday was my birthday! I had a lovely day, we went out for an early dinner with the children in one of my favourite restaurants and we loved the food as always.

Thinking back at all happened in the past 20 years feels like I could write a book. Here the highlights:

Education/Career: Got my MSc and then PhD, moved to Ireland for a post doc in a different field which made me "the" candidate for an academic position in an interdisciplinary field. Got tenure and then even got promoted, graduated 7 PhD students and 3 MSc students, published my work and got invited to write my first review as a sole author in my field for a prestigious journal (as opposed to the tens of invitations to write reviews on random things for obscure journals!)

Family Life: Got married, bought a house, then divorced and sold the house, moved to Ireland and met Mike, bought a house, got married (for life this time!) and we worked really hard to build our family. I manage not to drown in despair after two ectopics both of which followed IVF treatments, we got and lost two cats, I went through 6 embryo transfers before finally having Oliver. We adjusted to the new routine of a family of three and then with another round of IVF we got Martina. Together with Carlito the cat, our family is complete. We travelled a lot, Europe, Japan and the US. Sure it was not always easy but we are still together and stronger.

If the next 20 years will be half as interesting I certainly cannot complain. I wish for us to keep loving each other, to stay healthy, to cherish life and stay united as a family. I hope the first 20 years of the children will be full of loving memories even though I'm sure their next 20 years will be more exciting. I fear at times what if I am not going to be there to see them growing up, I wish I knew they will be safe and good teenagers, that whatever mistakes they will be making will not be too terrible and just part of growing up and learning.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shaping up

On tuesday I met with the personal trainer (PT). I am always happy to see that the scales used in gyms and doctors are always more forgiving than my own. So I apparently weigh 59kg on the scale that will be my point of reference from now on.
The plan is for me to take at least one class a week (I chose pilates) and do one or two session in the gym. Ideally if I do just one session I should go for a swim too.
On thursday I went to my first ever pilates class, it was packed and the teacher was very good, but I didn't sweat a drop nor I felt particularly challenged, so maybe next week I'll go for something different if I find something that is timetabled nicely.
Today I collected my gym programme, it's 45 minutes on paper and the PT worked with me through the various exercises and then I did the whole programme on my own. My problem with going to the gym was that I used to find it extremely boring. This programme is fast paced, the longer I'm at a machine (bicycle) is 10 minutes, and my exercises are 3 sets of 12 repetition with 30" in between, a lot has changed since I had a gym programme probably close to 20 years ago!! At the end of my session I felt fabulous, tired and sweaty, but very happy! The next time I'll make sure to keep myself better hydrated and bring my phone for timekeeping. The gym panoramic internal windows overlook the amazing 50m pool and let me tell you, I nearly felt like going for a swim afterwards!
My 4th session in the gym will be with the PT and after the 10th sessions I will have an assessment of my progress (weight and various measurements) so we'll see!!

Tomorrow I'm going back to the chiropractor because since the last adjustment my back as got sore, like there is a pinch on the spine. Apparently it can happen and he will fix it.

As for the children, things have nicely settled thankfully so there is much less acting out and much more lovely time. Our sliding door project is progressing slowly but surely, and in a couple of weekends it should be done!

Monday, September 1, 2014


Righty-oh it's September which means my big 40 is around the corner, in fact it's 16 days away! I am very happy with my age, I kind of think I'm celebrating 20 years old for the second time and I look with almost disbelief at all that happened in the last 20 years, certainly much more than in the first set of 20 years it seems. I will start building up that post specifically for my birthday on the seventeenth, it will be nice to read it in the future!

I also got myself a personal trainer (first appointment tomorrow at 9 am), there is no sign of shifting the weight I put on with the hormones and pregnancies and I want to feel fitter. While I don't feel my age, my body is clearly giving me signals that despite my denial I am indeed ageing and I better take care of my muscles and bones or I will start having all sorts of aches.

I went to the chiropractor on saturday for my adjustment and I realised I have been about 6 weeks without a headache. I honestly cannot remember when what the last time I ad such a stretch. In line with my getting back into shape I have started the 8 day detox I do every 6 months or so and I bought myself a mini-fridge for the office to store fresh yoghurt and juices so that I can healthily snack if I'm hungry during the day (rather than popping out to the vending machine and get myself a chocolate of some kind). And it will be stairs only and no lift from now on too. Let's see how long it'll last!

As for Oliver, we are trying different strategies to keep him in check, time out works but not always, positive education seems easier said than done at the moment, so it's a bit of trial and error like we don't know this child at all...Thankfully Martina is very easy at the moment, despite teething and a good bit of clingyness, so hopefully it'll last a bit more. Oliver started pre-school today, it's still done in the same place but he has moved up a class and for the next 10 months he will have 3 hours a day of true Montessori "teaching". I can't believe he will be going to school next year....And this will be hopefully after 3 months in, a lot to do!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to normality

Nothing happened. My mother must have said nothing as I did not notice any change in my father's mood. That was a good move. We both put that conversation behind and just moved on with the holiday which was calmer. A part from one of the last evenings when Oliver was given chocolate biscuits by a friend of my parents (seriously...) at around 6.30 pm. He was WILD. WILD. I did very well in controlling myself and actually directing him to run up and down the garden while I was "timing" him to burn some energy. Still it was tough. Tough to control him, tough not to loose patience, tough not to shout at him to just please calm down. My parents sort of stayed very quiet as I am sure they could see how many buttons were pushed at once and literally he was unmanageable. But we made it.
We had again a major sleep regression while on holidays which meant that we had to stay with him till he was asleep (could take 45 minutes) and read a number of stories which kept getting interrupted as soon as the end was nearing. Classic tactic which we normally don't indulge but of course, to avoid him screaming the house down and waking Martina (superchampion sleeper since she decided to sleep through the night at 10 months) and Clarissa (much less of a champion) we gave in.
So we are retraining again now that is the second night at home and this evening he was happy after the story was read, for me to sit on the stairs with my laptop dealing with emails but so that he could see me from his bed. He was asleep within 10 minutes. This is major progress. Let's hope it will continue. I would love for him not to be resisting sleep so much, i know he is 95% of the time adorable, but I swear, that 5% will make a saint go to Hell.

This brings me to introduce the education model I would like to follow and the constant battles I fight with myself not to be too much of a general when he pushes my button (and the guilt I feel when I don't manage).
I don't want to slap him (not even on the bum) and I want words to be all that is needed to deal with misbehaviour. Slaps don't make anyone behave any better, they only perpetrate fear and the idea that if someone does something you don't agree with then you slap him. I deeply believe that is wrong. However, it does happen that Oliver gets a slap on his bum, always after warnings which he happily ignores it seems.
Both Mike and I need to motivate eachother in this, obviously we both got slapped when we didn't do what we were told and I still remember it with a feeling of hopelessness as I could never react.
You read everything and its opposite when it come to slaps, so I understand if you feel this is part of a normal education for children (within reason I hope and never to harm a child!), perhaps even just as a quick way to "shock" the child out of a bad behaviour. I just don't want to be that parent.
So I am trying to read various other points of view and articles, and like always I need something that gives me power (even just psychological) to keep calm during classic toddler misbehaviour.
I think the best phrase I have read and that I have used since I read it, is to repeat to yourself that "you are the adult and you can definitely deal with this" "he is a child and does what children do" "his behaviour is not a reflection of you failing as a parent, he is just being a normal 3 and half year old" "it is a phase and it will pass".
Lately we have been dealing with awful behaviour in shops if we don't buy him something, if we don't let him out of the trolley (he inevitably runs away every time we do put him down despite the promises not to do so) etc. I have read and implemented a great strategy that felt like the discovery of hot water but I never thought of it that clearly. It is essential with toddlers to inform them of what is about to happen and to make sure they know the consequences of their behaviour. So it goes like this "we are going shopping now, we have to get what is written on the list. I know you are going to be a good boy, there is no room for misbehaviour in the shop. If it happens that you forget, I will remind you why we are in the shop, but if you forget again and still misbehave I will bring you back to the car and we will not buy anything at all, is this ok? Shall we go?" With Oliver this technique worked like magic. I was worried he was going to misbehave and I wouldn't bring home a single item, but he actually didn't. Since I have used this technique. Magic. I have also read that with smaller children it may be good to have a "magic" piece of paper in the car that you can read to them before doing whatever you have to do and the points are always 3, state what is about to happen, state what you expect the child to do and state what will happen if he does not do what you expect him to do. Keep it short and real (don't make any threats, just state a reasonable consequence for misbehaviour). This works also when we go to the playground and going home was delirious, there was always "one more slide" and "two more minutes". I was getting stressed even at the thought of going to the playground as I knew I would be that mother with that child.
Hopefully as we settle back in our routine of work and creche we will find a healthy equilibrium.
Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

She does not remember

I am on holidays in Italy. One more week till we return and already I had to endure comments and sighs from my mother on our educative methods with Oliver (having him to do 3 minutes time out if he misbehaves). On the other side my father is getting on my nerves as he takes the liberty of correcting Oliver on hideous things (which way you are supposed to roll up the spaghetti on the fork, pretending we don't throw the ball him while he tries to hit it with a racked because "that way he will never learn" etc).

This evening was one of those evening that Oliver was throwing a tantrum as he didn't want to do time out which was given to him after he had pushed his cousin (same age as Martina) for no reason whatsoever. Imagine one of those tantrums you can hear from two streets down. Mike was standing his ground and kept pausing the timer every time he wasn't sitting in the chair. My mother was behaving like we were torturing him. To which I said "what do you think we should be doing? Give in any time he says no?" and she answered "Certainly you have never been given such punishments, he doesn't even know why he is punished." I said "because when I was misbehaving I was getting a slap from dad, without that much talking". She looked bewildered and said in all my life I only got a slap on the bum and one on the face.

Now, yes I agree, I have not been beaten with a belt or anything like it, it's not like I was getting slapped every day, but I certainly got my fair share of slaps which I lived as a true violence as I wrote about a while back. I apparently pointed out the one slap she remembered when I was about 16 at friends' house and let her sit a bit on the fact that such a thing would not be normal if someone doesn't do it on other occasions too. She went so far to ask my sister who was sitting at the table (my father was out) if she remembered me being physically punished, and she just didn't answer. She always hated being put in the middle and so took no side. My mother said "we'll ask dad when he comes back". To which I said "whatever". She didn't say anything to him when he returned but they are out now, I'm sure for a chat. Oh how much I hate this. I know he will also not remember, I know he will want to convince me that nothing like I remember ever happened. What can I tell you, I know what matters is how I perceived my childhood, at least this is what I have been told by more than one psychologist.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Slliding doors

Well, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted last. And I had just said I wanted to blog more!

I am working on a photographic post about the children and Carlito as per kind request of Valery, nearly there!

I was hoping to have a post this weekend on some more DIY we are doing to the house. We are replacing the door to the en-suite for a sliding one. Mike is doing it all, following a video on youtube!! That is awesome let me tell you, and it will be perfect I have no doubt. But of course it wasn't done in 3 days, probably it won't be done before we go on holidays on sunday, but we'll be very close to have it finished.

And at the same time we kind of made up our mind we'd like to move...sell the house and buy a fixerupper so to speak, something to put our stamp on like we did with this one, but hopefully with a bit of a garden. I must admit the reason why I am set on moving is our neighbours living on the ground floor...they are lovely people but constantly smoke. We live on a toxic cloud of stale cigarette smoke. I hate it. I know I'm particularly sensitive to it, I think it's disgusting and above all it's disgraceful I cannot enjoy my balcony or have the children play there because every 5 minutes one of them is out smoking. Their place stink just as you walk by it. They are not infringing any rule of course, there'e nothing that can be done. We did last year some works to eliminate the smells coming through the vents, but there's nothing we can do about the air that comes into the apartment from outside!! Anyway, that's it, we had our place evaluated and that gives us an idea of what we can afford. So eyes peeled to the websites hoping to see something suitable at some point.

Project California is well underway, when I come back from the holidays at the end of the month I will start writing a proposal for funding, I have the full support of the College and Mike is enthusiastic too, my parents will likely come with us for a while at least, it should be good!!

Still on work, I have been asked to give an oral presentation at a conference in Belgium in October, I am so happy about this, for one reason or another I mainly presented posters to conferences, so this will work a treat to increase my visibility.

We have some serious regression in the sleeping department with Oliver, I will have another post about this as I have started to lose my temper with him and this is NOT the way I want to parent, so I will share some nice tips that are helping me which I found from reading different articles etc.

I love you all my readers, wherever you are.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Small steps towards California

I want to tell you a bit more about my intention of spending some time in California.
So when I went there  two years ago, I absolutely loved it. Not only I loved the food and the weather but I loved the variety of things that can be done and I know we just scratch the surface.
In my area of research, the top scientists and major biotech companies are in California. So back then I started playing with the idea that it would be so fantastic to spend some time in some lab over there, even a company would have been great, but I know that being an academic that would be highly unlikely. Then all plans (which were purely in my head at that point) were stalled with the FET and Martina's pregnancy. Once Martina was born I returned to work after mat leave and it really took me a while to get back into the swing of things, I have a research group on top of teaching and you know, it's not like scientific ideas grow on trees, if you are quite distracted with family life, something gotta give. And I knew if I wanted to feel inspired again I had to start going to conferences and scientific meetings so I did (in moderation of course as family is in any case my number one priority).
This last meeting in Rhode Island, like two years ago is the creme de la creme. The philosophy is that everyone is basically campus bound and conversations are easy to start and everyone there works in the same field. There are many companies and researcher and the very best scientists in the field (the kind that make you realise how small of a fish you are!) and I know I'm nowhere near that level but if I could at least breathe the same air it would do me a world of good on many different levels.
When I came back I tentatively mentioned it to Mike, perhaps expecting a sort of a cold response, but he didn't! He was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and we had to verify a few things. First we needed to make sure that he could apply for an unpaid leave of absence and get back to his job an salary (check!) and that I could on the other hand keep my salary or it would have been a serious problem (check!!). Mike was so on board that he even said "maybe I can also do some work in some lab.." wow!! I immediately emailed the colleague in Davis and I mean, who wouldn't want a very experience, hands on post doc for free? He got back within minutes saying his colleagues would be fighting over him, no question! Apparently Davis is extremely family oriented and if Mike works then we have to look into childcare, but should not be a major issue. I would hope that my parents will spend maybe even a month there and could help. Renting somewhere should also be very very easy, I'm assuming renting a car should be doable too. We will have to house Carlito (our cat) but again it should not be a major problem.
So there you have it, tomorrow I will initiate discussion on a potential project to develop and will try to apply for funding too (every little helps!)
All this excitement makes me feel over the moon and very relaxed too, long may it last!

Ps: Kd if you read, send me an email, I have no way of contacting you as I can't find an email in your profile!!