Sunday, December 28, 2008

blog slacker

it's been a very long time since i've updated my blog ... things have been busy and distracting with the holidays and all. maybe i will try to be better at keeping up with this thing in the new year.

just a few quick things ... peter's paternal grandmother (omi) died last monday, the day after her birthday and three days before christmas. while i never had the opportunity to know her well, i am deeply saddened by her passing. i feel for those who were close to her, especially her two children, peter's father hans-jurgen and his aunt marion. these past years have been particularly difficult for them as omi grew progressively sicker from alzheimer's. despite this loss, we had a really nice christmas with peter's family in nj. we stayed with his mother in rockaway, nj from monday through saturday, and peter will be driving back up to nj tomorrow for the memorial services. i'll be staying home with erik.

our trip to nj was very pleasant. erik had a great time with his grandma, and got to see santa, ride on rudolph, and open way too many christmas presents. pictures to follow ... eventually. if you are on facebook, you can see a few of them there.

this week promises to be just as hectic. my brother scott is visiting with my two nephews and we'll all be spending new year's eve together as usual, with our traditional dinner at the spaghetti and steak house in delmont (laemmle family new years eve dinner count = 13: mom, dad, scott, michael, kyle, adam, chrissy, morgan, marisa, maggie, peter, erik, and i). hopefully peter will make it back from nj in time! and of course on new year's day there is the rose bowl - go penn state! honestly, i don't really care, but i hope for the happiness of my family, particularly my two brothers, that penn state wins!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

i can't help myself

here's one more:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

what the kids are up to when we're not looking

erik, maggie, marisa, and morgan are amazingly talented dancing elves. who knew?

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

ourselves elved

this thing always cracks me up! since i'm too cheap to pay the $4.99, it'll only be available until mid january, but in keeping with a new holiday tradition, here are april, kyle, and i performing the elf disco dance:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

it's done! i passed!

don't feel like writing too much right now because i am exhausted and getting ready for bed, but I PASSED MY COMPS!!! HA! classes are over for the semester. i can finally start to think about christmas. yay! :D

Saturday, December 6, 2008

trains and things

this has been a pretty eventful week. on tuesday, erik had his 6 month evaluation with his developmental therapist keli. i can't believe that she's been working with him for that long, and he's really made an amazing amount of progress. for those who don't know, at erik's 15 month well baby appointment, his doctor was concerned because he wasn't using much expressive language and recommended that we contact the alliance for infants and toddlers to have him evaluated. i found it rather alarming because i never even thought that he could be behind at such a young age. most people we spoke to seemed to think that it was pretty early to be worried about such things, but i didn't want to take any chances so we called early intervention and set up an appointment for him. it's a really great program that is provided at no cost to parents of children up to the age of 3 that have special needs or developmental delays. all of the therapy is done at your home (or they can go to the child's daycare if desired). anyhow, his initial evaluation indicated that he had mild delays in his gross motor skills and expressive language, and they recommended that he work with a developmentalist on a weekly basis. keli's been really great and just an awesome resource for us as well as an excellent teacher for erik. his 6 month evaluation revealed that he's come a long way and that he's at or above average for his age in all of the areas they tested. we haven't gotten the full report yet, but his receptive communication skills are at something like 33 months and his expressive communication is well over 24 months now. we're so proud of him. his service coordinator jessica said she'd never seen a child make so much progress in such a short period of time. she complimented peter and i as well as keli saying that we're doing a great job with him. it feels good to know that we're doing something right! keli has been saying for awhile that she's running out of things to teach him that aren't too far beyond his age level, and we all decided to discontinue his therapy. it's kind of a bittersweet moment. it's awesome that erik is doing so well now, but at the same time he's become really fond of keli and i don't know how to explain to him that she won't be coming anymore. it's especially hard right now because one of his teachers just moved and he's really missing her and still talks about her every day. he doesn't seem sad about it though. he also talks about opa and anna just about every day too even though he hasn't seen them since september. they really made an impression on him!

later that afternoon, i finally went to the dentist to have my broken crown removed and impressions made for my new crown. i was really dreading that appointment and had even postponed it a week, but figured i better get this taken care of before the holidays. well, my apprehension was well founded - it was an absolutely awful experience! i was pretty sure before this appointment that i didn't like my dentist, but with my insurance i have to choose someone when i sign up in september and have to go to the person i chose. now i am thinking i really need to figure out a way to find someone else. first of all, he banged on the broken crown for about 25 minutes and it wouldn't budge. at one point the tool slipped off my tooth and left a nasty gash in the roof of my mouth. he ended up having to drill (for another 15 minutes) around the crown, and when it finally came off it tore a piece of my gum tissue. ack! then he had to "re-prep" the underlying tooth and needed to remove more of my gums to make it ready for my eventual crown. he didn't even provide me with a temporary crown so now i am stuck with a little stub of a tooth and nasty chewed up gums for two weeks. as if all that wasn't enough, there is somehow almost no space left for the new crown to go in so he's going have to "reduce" the opposing tooth, which i am sure will not be fun. boo!

the rest of the week wasn't so bad, i guess. i don't think i have mentioned here yet that my oral comprehensive exam will be on tuesday december 9 at 1pm. ahhh ... less than 3 days from now!!! so i have been doing a lot (but not nearly enough) reading and reviewing (and hoping and praying) this week to prepare. the final for my stem cell class is a take home exam (yay!) but it's due on tuesday at 5pm (boo!). i decided to get that over with and finished it last night, so that's one less thing to worry about.

this morning i took erik to phipps conservatory to see the toy trains. as a pitt student, i get in for free, and since erik is still under 2 (for 1 more month), he gets in for free as well. every time i have been to phipps, the trains have been set up outside, and since it was so cold today, i dressed erik in his nice warm brobee sweatshirt. it turns out that they had moved the trains inside and had tons of holiday decorations and gorgeous red and white flowers. i was so bummed out that i didn't dress him in something nicer when i saw dozens of parents taking pictures of their children in their christmas outfits. santa was even there! what a perfect opportunity for a beautiful christmas card photo! i think maybe it's just not meant to be this year. we had tried setting up a makeshift studio earlier in the week to get some nice shots of erik, but he wanted nothing to do with the camera and we didn't get a single decent shot. but i digress! erik LOVED the trains and was SO excited. here's a cute little movie of him when we first got there:

he doesn't look too happy in most of the photos i took, but it turns out he probably wasn't feeling well and i just hadn't realized yet (more on that later). here are a few:

erik at phipps conservatory
erik at phipps conservatory
erik at phipps conservatory
erik at phipps conservatory
erik at phipps conservatory

we had a really nice time there and left for home around lunchtime. i made erik something to eat at home, and that's when i started to figure out he wasn't feeling well. he was starting to get really lethargic, but at first i thought it was maybe because he tuckered himself out with all the excitement over the trains. but then he got really upset and cried and cried and then wanted me to hold and snuggle him which he never lets me do anymore. then he did something he's never done before - he asked to take his nap. usually he fights going to sleep tooth and nail, but he just wanted to lay down, be tucked in, and go to sleep. when he woke up, he was really tearful and clingy again. i usually let him watch yo gabba gabba while i make dinner, but tonight he laid down on the couch, which he almost never does. he wasn't really interested in eating, and just wanted me to hold him and rest his head on my shoulder. i loved the snuggles, but i feel bad that he's not well. he has a bit of a fever and willingly went to bed again. he's been sleeping peacefully, so hopefully he'll feel better in the morning. i hate when he's sick. it makes me feel just awful! all i want is to help him feel better!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

i'm going to pull your endocrine system out of your body

today the lecture for my stem cell class was on pancreatic stem cells. as the divergence of endocrine and exocrine cells was discussed, i couldn't help but think of this excellent clip from 'the soup' with the best gary busey quote ever:

which of course brought to mind my favorite clip from 'the soup' of all time. for those of you who have not seen this before, you're in for a real treat!

Monday, December 1, 2008

turkey day and beyond

we had an absolutely wonderful thanksgiving day last thursday. we were to bring drinks and dessert, but got a phone call from my mom on wednesday night asking if we could cook the turkey and bring it along too. it turns out that the turkey she got (20+ pounds) was much too big to fit into the roaster she has (her oven's broken), so she brought the turkey out to us on wednesday night and peter was kind enough to get up early on thursday morning to pull out all the turkey nasties, rinse the turkey and put it in the oven. erik woke up shortly after, and i brought him into bed with me and dozed off for a bit while he watched sesame street. it was really nice having peter home in the morning ... he had just found out the day before that he wouldn't have to work. the three of us had a nice quiet breakfast together and we watched for our friend johnny who was one of the handlers for the buzz lightyear balloon in the macy's thanksgiving day parade. we didn't see him, but did see him in photos later on. my mom arrived with her infamous and most delicious stuffing around 1pm, and we packed up the turkey and the four of us headed up to evans city to my brother's house. the timing of the drive was just right and erik had a nice nap on the way. we hit little traffic and made it there in no time. i got to spend some time playing with morgan, marisa, and erik (maggie was napping) while chrissy, my mom, and the men were in the kitchen finishing up the meal preparations. it was fun! we were playing songs on their keyboard and making silly videos.

erik managed to find probably the only 2 cars in this house with 3 little girls and had a great time playing with them and all the toys. marisa and morgan were very kind and let erik play in their rooms and he was very good and didn't mess with their things.

dinner was a delicious traditional thanksgiving feast! we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce, and a most yummy cranberry casserole made by chrissy. here is a picture of my, er, abundant plate:
thanksgiving plate
maggie slept through dinner so chrissy was able to enjoy her meal and feed her a little bit later. after we ate, somehow i ended up getting out of cleaning detail and instead played in marisa's room with the little ones. erik's new favorite thing in the world is alvin and the chipmunks, as we listened and danced to their cd while the girls continued to be very silly:

it was really cute watching the toddlers play together:

we spent a lot of time just playing and hanging out while the men did most of the messy work in the kitchen and then watched the obligatory thanksgiving day football game(s). erik was tired from the large meal and all the playing and took a nap in marisa's bed. my mom napped next to him for awhile. a bit later on we had some really good pies from eat'n park - dutch apple and pumpkin. YUM! chrissy caught me playing with marisa's spongebob toy ... i couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures of it:
spongebob swirl
spongebob swirl
it was a really great day. i think everyone had a lot of fun ... i know i did! we're so lucky to have family close by, and that our family is so much fun to spend time with!

peter had to work both friday and saturday so erik and i were on our own. erik spent most of the two days testing my patience! friday we slept in and went to the grocery (which was totally devoid of black friday shoppers)to get the stuff i needed for turkey stock and some other things. i made a huge batch of stock with the turkey carcass and froze about half and used the rest for turkey orzo soup. it came out pretty well i think. i also made meatloaf so we would have enough leftovers to carry us through most of the weekend without cooking. i use this strategy often! on saturday we slept in again and i felt like we needed to get out of the house, so i decided to go to century III mall. i normally would avoid the mall on the weekend after thanksgiving, but this particular mall, while huge, is usually a ghost town. i tried to steal my sis-in-law chrissy's brilliant idea of dressing erik up in a cute christmas-y outfit and taking pictures with the decorations at the mall, but as soon as i let him out of his stroller, he ran away from me as fast as he could go. i managed to get an interesting shot of his reflection in a christmas tree bulb and a couple others, but nothing christmas card worthy.
erik's reflection
later in the afternoon, i couldn't stand erik's bouncing off the walls anymore so i bundled him up and went to the playground for the first time in many weeks. he was so excited to be there, but it was pretty chilly and he only wanted to play for about a half hour. still, i could tell he was grateful for the outside time, and so was i!
erik at the playground
erik at the playground
on sunday, peter was home (finally!!!) and we spent the day hanging out and did a little shopping. we had decided that we were going to get erik a train table and set for christmas because we know he would love it so much. he's played with it at the toy store before and it's the perfect toy for him and something he'll hopefully enjoy for a long long time. we worked out a plan for me to distract erik while peter bought the set and stashed it in his trunk, but unfortunately they were out of them. :( they said that they get shipments all the time, so hopefully (fingers crossed!) we'll be able to get it before christmas.

whew! that was a lot of catching up for one post! i have a lot more to fill in but will have to do it a little bit later!

sweet monkey love

before i do my full fledged blog, here is a short video of erik that i took last night. we got this monkey backpack/boy leash a couple of months ago. i thought we'd be able to use it to keep erik from running off in crowded places, but instead he reacts much like a cat when you put a leash on it - he flops down on the ground and refuses to move! since then, it has been sitting on the shelf in the living room, and periodically erik will carry it over to peter or me and say "monkey on!" so we will oblige and strap the monkey on. he'll run around for a bit them come back over and say "monkey off!" and we'll take the monkey off. last night he wanted the monkey on, but was wiggling around too much, so peter strapped it to his front. he loves his monkey more than we knew and shared some passionate smooches with it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

random things

erik has developed a strange new habit. when i went to pick him up last friday, i heard one of the teachers yelling at him while i was getting his things together and signing him out. i looked over to see him trying to climb on the back of this little girl, anastasia. now i use the description "little" rather loosely here. while she is indeed much smaller than me, she's nearly a head taller than the other kids in erik's class, and built like a tank. and she's about a month younger than erik. well, it turns out erik had been trying to "ride" her all day. i have no idea where this came from, but apparently he would push her to the ground and then climb on her back. she is definitely stronger than him and could have probably pushed him off, but she just kind of yelled at him instead. the poor girl ... i hope repressed memories of this don't torment her one day! later that evening, erik was trying to "ride" our kitty xena too:IMG_6902
he seemed to forget about it over the weekend and the past couple of days, so hopefully he's through this phase. it'll be interesting to hear if he behaved himself at school today.

monday was my 7th wedding anniversary. peter and i both find it impossible to believe we've been married that long. it's felt like 3 minutes ... under water! but all kidding aside, i used to wonder how people like my grandparents could be married to each other for over 50 years. i know 7 is just a drop in the bucket, but the years really do fly by. erik will be two in a couple of months, and it feels like only yesterday that i was knocking stuff over on my lab bench with my big pregnant belly. to celebrate our anniversary, we decided to go out for dinner at penn brewery. we had some really good german food and beer, and erik was pretty well behaved, so we had a nice time. we also got dessert to take home from the cheesecake factory, which was of course delicious!

i have been fighting off a nasty cold for about a week now, and monday night was by far the worst of it. it's always so much worse at night. i hardly slept and was absolutely miserable by the morning. i stayed home and tried to get some rest. peter was very thoughtful and kept erik busy for most of the day. he even took him to get a haircut. i will be sure to post some pictures soon. we went out in the afternoon and bought a humidifier for our bedroom which will hopefully help me to feel better. it seemed to do pretty well last night, and i'm feeling much better today after a pretty decent night's sleep.

tomorrow is thanksgiving, and peter just found out that he doesn't have to work in the morning so we'll get to spend the whole day together. yay! we'll be heading up to evans city for a traditional turkey day feast. we're bringing libations and dessert. we got a nice sampler case of beers from penn brewery and a 1.5L bottle of some kind of red wine i hadn't heard of, but it's from chile and was recommended by a nice lady at the shop while i was perusing the wines and looking rather confused. i hope it's tasty!

and of course friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. for some reason i am actually thinking of going out at 5am before peter leaves for work in search of bargains, but i am sure that reason will prevail and i will be snug and warm in my bed for as long as erik will allow. i have no idea what we're going to do for christmas presents this year. as is the case for many people i'm sure, we're on a very tight budget these days and don't have a fortune to spend on presents. but at the same time, we want to get something nice for the people we love. it's always a challenge. we'll think of something.

to anyone who happens to be reading this, happy thanksgiving! if you are traveling, be safe and sane and have a wonderful trip. enjoy the time with your family, your friends, or yourself!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

falling way behind

it's been a long time since i last wrote my blog. 10 days, actually. i have many excuses, but why bother? here's what's been going on in my life.

last monday i went down to the nih in bethesda, maryland to take a four day flow cytometry class. i had mixed feelings about going to begin with, but was really apprehensive about going when i found out i'd be going with my boss's wife who is an assistant professor at the university. firstly, i had never been away from erik overnight before, and was really sad about leaving him for nearly five whole days. secondly, i barely knew the woman with whom i would be traveling and i had no idea what it would be like spending that much time (including sharing a hotel room) with her. there were a whole slew of other reasons, but i don't even remember at this point. it's in the past, and it all turned out just fine. peter and erik missed me (i think!), but they did just fine. my mom helped out A LOT by picking erik up from daycare on wednesday and thursday and making sure both my guys had a decent meal and some company on those two evenings. as for me, well, i got by. it wasn't the best week of my life, but i did learn a decent amount while i was there and made it home safe and sound, and early enough to pick up erik from school on friday afternoon (in the snow!).

the first two nights we stayed at the travel lodge in silver spring, md and actually had our own rooms. the motel was pretty icky, smelled nasty, and was COLD, but it was only two nights. on tuesday evening, i walked down to a movie theater in downtown silver spring and saw 'zack and miri make a porno.' i almost never get to the movies and i thoroughly enjoyed it. there were only 4 other people in the theater with me and we were all laughing out asses off. the humor was very crude and juvenile ... just the way i like it! :D when i got back to my room, i was bored and took some pictures of my eye:

eye spy

the flow cytometry class was just ok. it was taught by people who were predominantly immunologists, so it seemed mostly geared towards applications that i wasn't going to be using. but i did learn something, and i got out of town for the week. the coolest part was that the class took place in a very old building that was once a cloister for a group of nuns that were self sufficient and lived completely secluded from the outside world. the building was really cool, and the grounds were beautiful.

nih cloisters
nih cloisters
nih cloisters

on wednesday night we moved to the hyatt in bethesda which was gorgeous and paradise compared to the travel lodge. it smelled good, the beds were comfortable, and the bathroom was great with lots of marble and nice shampoo. i spent a lot of time walking around in the cold in bethesda which was actually really pretty. i tried to turn in early, but was thwarted by my roomie who came in late and had lots of work to do and suffers from insomnia. so be it. i tried coffee in the morning to help wake up, but it just made me feel jittery and weird. i won't be drinking coffee again anytime soon.

the best part of my trip by far was thursday night. my brother scott and his friend rebecca met me at my hotel and took me into d.c. for the evening. we had a really yummy dinner and spent a lot of time walking around and seeing some of the monuments and memorials. i'm sure they could have thought of 100 things that they would rather do, but since i so rarely go down there, it was really awesome for me and i had so much fun. rebecca is SUPER COOL and we had a great time goofing around and being generally silly. i hope we can hang out again sometime soon! scott explained string theory to us, but we didn't find a situation in which we could apply our new knowledge. maybe next time.

scott and i with the washington monument in the background:

scott and rebecca:

some photos of the washington monument:
IMG_6803washington monumentIMG_6798

my favorite part was seeing the wwII memorial which i hadn't seen before:
ww II memorial
fountain at ww II memorial

we stopped for drinks at a really cool bar:
bottles and bottles

and took the metro back to bethesda:
metro station
metro stationme on the metro
scott and rebecca on the metro

while i was in maryland, i found out that i won 2nd place in a photo contest called snapshot 250, a project by the art institute of pittsburgh for pittsburgh's 250th anniversary. i heard about it many months ago and submitted a few photos, not realizing that it was a contest. i just wanted the opportunity to share my experience with other pittsburghers. 250 photos were selected for an installation at the steel plaza T station downtown, and at least four of mine are on display there. i was out of town for the unveiling on thursday, but i went down to check it out today and snapped some photos of my photos. they contacted me to let me know that one of the photos i posted won second place. i was super excited! then they asked for my address to send me my prize and it was $200! i am so surprised and grateful that my art made such an impression and will be on display in the coming months for many to see. pittsburgh is truly a unique place to live, and 2008 has been especially amazing for all of the activities scheduled for its 250th birthday celebration! here are some pictures of the snapshot 250 installation:

i'm such a dork!

and last but not least, i PASSED THE WRITTEN PART OF MY COMPS!!! i found out on friday evening when i got home from maryland and it is a HUGE relief! my oral exam will be coming up in the next few weeks, so i best start preparing for it. hell yeah!

as for this week, tomorrow is my 7th wedding anniversary! we don't really have anything planned, but will probably go out and have a nice dinner together at a fairly kid-friendly place since erik will be coming with us. we're planning on going to a hockey game soon as our present to each other once we find a good game and get tickets. i am also looking forward to spending thanksgiving with my family. my mom, peter, erik, and i will be going to my brother adam's house for the holiday. it should be a lot of fun! we always have a good time with them!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

my comprehensive exam committee

these three men will decide whether my written proposal will be accepted or rejected. if accepted, they will have the opportunity to grill me for two hours and decide whether i have passed or failed my comps. not a herpesvirologist among them. i don't know if that's a good or bad thing! i have a lot of studying to do! i wonder if they take bribes ... :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a couple pictures

we did get to go to the park a couple times last week before it got really cold. last friday we went and erik and i were wearing t shirts it was so warm! here's some pictures not from that day, but from last monday.

erik on the merry-go-round:
erik on the merry-go-round
erik on the merry-go-round

erik on the slide:
erik at the playgrounderik at the playground

it was already starting to get dark, but the foliage was pretty

getting back to life

it was both a relief and the beginning of a whole new type of stress when i handed my comprehensive exam proposal on monday. if i pass, oh shit! i have to be ready for my oral exam in a couple weeks. if i fail, oh shit! i only have one more chance at this. i keep going from thinking there's no way i can fail to there's no way i can pass. but that part at least is out of my hands so that's somewhat of a relief.

i haven't been taking many photos lately because life has been very busy all of the sudden. i actually have been missing it a lot, but it's not as easy now with the weather getting cold. i need to find something interesting that i can photograph in my house. hmmm ...

Sunday, November 9, 2008


argh! i broke a friggin porcelain crown today. i blame it on all this stress grinding i've been doing lately. one more thing to worry about ...

Monday, November 3, 2008

again with the foliage


foliage mosaic

i made this mosaic of my favorite foliage pictures using fd's flickr toys, a very cool site that i highly recommend.

foliage montage

more on halloween

erik had an absolute blast trick or treating!
we weren't sure how he'd like it, but he was a natural. i think that the practice he had earlier in the day (they took the kids trick or treating to local businesses while he was at daycare) made it a lot easier. at the first house he went to (nebby debbie, as we call her), he played shy and hid behind my legs. i probably would have hidden from nebby debbie too if i could have! after that, he would march right up to the door (or let me carry him up the steep stairs to the porch), say "trickertreat!" and either hold out his pumpkin or grab candy from the basket.
most people were nice and didn't get upset when he grabbed two or three handfuls. there were so few trick or treaters out that i'm sure most people had leftover candy. we did - yum yum! he held on tight to his pumpkin the whole time and especially liked getting to eat some candy when we got home. i think it may have been the first time we actually let him eat candy! he really liked the sugary candy, but the chocolate, not so much. he'll learn!