Sunday, September 29, 2013

Domestic Day

Today was a domestic day.. I did the laundry, made homemade enchilada's with my Mom's help and created a Cherry Cordial Cupcake recipe! The enchilada's were frozen for lunches over the next few weeks. The cupcakes were enjoyed with the leftovers saved for labmates tomorrow. The cupcakes were AMAZING. My Dad called them spectacular and Boo gave them two thumbs up awesome. Had the Cowboys pulled off a win, it would have been a great day ;)

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes Recipe

* 1 package Betty Crocker Cherry Chip Cake Mix
* 4 eggs
* 1 box of instant vanilla pudding
* 2 tablespoons cherry liqueur
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil mixed with 5 drops of LorAnn Amaretto flavor oil

Preheat oven 325. Mix together in a bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 min until toothpick comes out clear. Cool for 20 minutes. Frost with milk chocolate icing. Add 1/2 maraschino cherry on top.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Curve Ball

Hit my first real snag as a single mom in grad school. They announced today that schools would be closed tomorrow due to a VIP funeral procession. And while I totally understand the situation the school is in, it threw my evening into chaos. I tried calling my local cousin but she is working and having been here only a month I do not know anyone else. I would just stay home with him tomorrow but Thursday is the day I teach and I do not know the policy for substitutes! I tried to call the prof who runs the course but it was after 5 and he was already gone. My parents are 2 hours away and they have an appointment tomorrow so they couldn't come down to stay with Boo, but did offer an alternative of meeting half way and picking him up.

Ugh.. not wanting to get stuck in between rock and hard place tomorrow, I went with going up half way. So I spent 2 hours in my car to get him up to Dad and will have to do it again tomorrow night because there is still school on Friday! ::headdesk::

This is a perfect storm type situation.. there were plenty of avenues that could have worked out that did not involve the long drive. Any day but Thursday I could stay home. Most days my parents don't have appointments they can't get out of and could come down. With more warning my cousin can rearrange her work schedule and stay with Boo. Makes me realize I really do need to try and plug in around here.. networking takes time though.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I survived!

I had a big week, since Thursday I had to set up, monitor and grade a practical for my course, give a formal presentation at lab meeting and of course today, take my first exam in almost a decade! The last time I was a student taking courses would have been Fall of 2005. So how did they go?

Practical - took all day but went well. Class average was lower than I would like.

Presentation - went fantastic. A) I had 3 different people tell me I looked gorgeous.  I went with the theory that if you can't be the smartest person in the room at least look hot! B) my peers said I did a good job, kept a good tempo and explained things. C) my advisor said I did well but there is always room for improvement ;) I'm taking that as a compliment!

Exam - was easier than I thought it would be. Hopefully that is because I prepared for it properly! I feel like I got a B... we'll see.

Now I need to process all my protein samples! But first... dishes aren't going to clean themselves (BUMMER!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Rest for the Weary

It is almost 2am again.. that makes 3 nights in a row that I'll see 2am and have to get up with the 7am alarm bell. The reason for this? My kid is sick.. at least he is acting like it but there are no physical symptoms. Lots of crying and moaning, inability to sleep, not wanting to eat, but no fever or vomiting or headache. It's frustrating. He's in bed with me, has been for the past few nights, and won't lay still. So even after I do fall asleep, I don't sleep well because I get kicked and pushed all night by the whirling dervish. I wish I could figure out what was wrong with him! :(

Another time point in the morning, set up/administer practical on Thursday, present lab meeting on Friday, exam next Monday... ug not a good time for not being able to sleep!

Friday, September 13, 2013

My house is a wreck....

I've been up til 1am every night this week, studying, writing exams, and reading papers. Notice that all three of those things are lab work.. none of them are housework! So my house is suffering and I'm starting to feel the crushing weight of the mess. I really need to get lab homework done, I have a protein assay to process, will generate another one tomorrow, have 2 big sampling time points M/T, next Friday is my lab meeting (if you don't know what that means go here) and I just started to write my slides!

So I sit here trying to write slides but being distracted by the disaster of papers and books and toys spread out across my living room floor. I did get Boo to clean his room today but he still left a bunch of toys out int he living room today. Though I must admit the toys are only part of the problem, the vast amount of papers is the real mess. Between his drawings and my journal articles there might be a small forest represented on the floor!

Since I'm not getting to bed before 1am anyway, I'm going to take a break and clean my living room. Then I can at least focus on my slides and not be so distracted by the clutter!

Or if anyone has any magic cleaning fairies can you lend them to me?

So I can clone them and patent the clones to make ONE BILLION DOLLARS ::Dr. Evil grin::

The Hidden Fees of Grad School

This is another blurb I wrote but had not launched the blog yet:

Fees Freakout - Aug 12

I've been out of school for over 5 years, so there was a good deal of sticker shock for me having started this new program! I was expecting fees, at my last university it was about $300 a year. Plus books, all students need books. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, if a school is offering you a scholarship for "most" of your tuition, find out EXACTLY what those numbers are.

While my current school had only promised to pay "most" of my tuition, I was not anticipating the out of pocket cost. Between fees and the other 20% of my tuition it is going to cost me $850 a SEMESTER. I must admit, when I finally got that bill I seriously considered throwing this experiment away before it truly started. My budget is tight, I already have a roommate who while he provides lots of excitement and love does not contribute much financial support to the situation. So the extra $1700 a year is making it even tighter... very stressful.

The most annoying part. The bill just lists almost $400 dollars as "General fee" or "Administration Fee." There is no details as to what is this money actually going towards? I know where it is NOT going: Student Health Services, have to pay to use the clinic; Gym fees, have to buy a membership to use the campus facilities; Parking, yeah that cost me $300... sooo where is this money going?! Do any other students have this issue? In the 10 years since I got my BS, the student services provided by the university have been massively cut yet the fees have more than tripled! Personally I think universities should have to lay out where those "General fees" cause right now I'm pretty sure they are just going to coffee for the admin office.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A week in the life...

Sunday night, the last day of the weekend.. Boo is asleep and I'm sitting here watching the Cowboys play (What a crazy first half... be ok Romo please!). But wait, Monday is coming... can you feel it?! ::cues up Jaws music:: Now that Monday has reared it's ugly head I'm in full blown planner mode. Tonight let's take a look at a typical week schedule for a graduate student:

Graduate Student Schedule 

(based on my schedule, but while the exact days each of these things occur on, the amount of work is fairly consistent for most graduate students)


  • Attend TA meeting so you know what is going to happen in the lab you teach this week
  • Squeeze a short experiment for your own research in your own lab
  • Attend your class as a student 
  • Squeeze in another half hour or so of research in your lab
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Relish in the 6 hours of uninterrupted personal research time in your lab (fight for elbow room with the other students in the lab)
  • Attend lab meeting with the rest of your lab mates to discuss what you've done and what you need to do
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Work in the lab on personal research
  • Attend your class as a student 
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Teach 4 hour lab to undergraduates 
  • Get a few hours to work in lab (maybe)
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching  


  • Formal lab meeting, someone has to present their research for an hour (food provided by Profs so you're excited unless it's your week to present then you'll be so nervous you won't be able to eat so won't matter!)
  • Departmental seminar (required)
  • Spend afternoon fighting for equipment as everyone tries to squeeze in one last experiment before weekend
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching   


While most of us would like to say we spend time reading, writing, data processing, studying etc. We honestly goof off 80% of the time unless there is an exam, presentation, or our lab meeting coming up in the next week. After all we are graduate students!

Now I'm not a typical graduate student. In addition to my Grad Student hat, I also wear a Mommy Hat. So let's look at the typical Mommy schedule

Mommy's Schedule

Monday - Friday

  • Wake up and spend a good 20 - 30 minutes fighting kid out of bed 
  • Get kid to eat breakfast
  • Make and pack school lunch
  • Make sure kids backpack is packed
  • Make and pack Mommy lunch
  • Run out the door, a few minutes late, and drive crazed to kids school to get him there on time
  • Go to work, and work.
  • Pick up kid from afterschool care
  • Help kid with homework
  • Make dinner
  • Play with kid 30-60 minutes
  • Bedtime War.. err Routine begins (fight kid through shower, brushing teeth, read books, tucked in)
  • Clean up the living room
  • Do the dishes

Once a week

There are some extras that occur throughout the week such as school projects, laundry, housekeeping, etc.


  • Play with kid
  • Watch movies/play video games/go to zoo/go to pool
  • Shopping for the week 
Now imagine combining the two schedules you see above and that's my typical week! Oh and somewhere I need to squeeze in sleeping and showering. There are not enough hours in my day! 

Go Cowboys! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Late nights and early mornings

Like a lot of parents, I dread bedtime. The child actually falling asleep is parental nirvana, but to get there you have to run a tangled labyrinth through hell. Last night was particularly bad. It does not help that the package containing his magic sleeping medicine is late and we ran two nights ago. So the past two nights he has been up til midnight until he finally crashes then I have 2 choices - stay up and be a productive housekeeper and/or grad student or go to sleep. Night #1 productivity won but was up til 2 which makes the 7am alarm really hard to achieve. Last night I had a bad headache so I crashed before he even fell asleep I think! Was halftime in the game, and that stinks cause I was really looking forward to NFL kickoff! I blame the game's weather delay ;)

In addition to missing P. Manning's explosion in the 2nd half of the game, I also fell behind in graduate student work (and didn't do the dishes or clean the living room!). I had an exam to grade for the course I teach and a protein assay to analyze which ended up being pushed to this afternoon in the lab. This means that I did not have time to do lab work that can only be done in the lab with my time there. Losing wet lab time is a crucial error on my part since unlike other graduate students I cannot stay later as i have to go get Boo before after school care closes! I have 2 lines of plants from my cold stress experiment that need to be ground and analyzed for protein assay, then another set that need to be ground and analyzed for genomic analysis! All of which I can only do while I'm in the lab. Unfortunately, grading had to be done and once I finished with that I did not have enough time to do a full round of leaf grinding before the required waste management meeting I had to attend this afternoon. So I spent lab time doing things I should have done at home last night. Thankfully, two days ago was a kicking day in lab so I have only fallen about an hour, maybe hour and half, behind in work.

This is the largest pitfall I have found with being a single Mom grad student, time management. Those hours I am capable of spending in the lab need to be spent doing things that can only be done in lab! Though some days, things happen and child + headache > data processing + grading!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

They're here....

The Squishies have arrived!

This goes back to my old days as a Master's student, when the summer interns would arrive my friend started calling them Squishy's as Finding Nemo had just come out. The only time we had undergraduates on campus was the summer due to the fact that our satellite campus was so far away from main campus. This is not the case on my current campus.

When I first arrived I asked if the lab ever had tip stacking parties (For those not in science, pipette tips come in bags which are hard to use on the bench, so you put the tips into racks which can then be sterilized and easily accessed. It is a tedious task but important and something we used to do at my old lab as a group so no one was stuck doing it all alone). The answer? We will have freshman workers for that once the semester starts.

And they arrived today! We have two assigned to the lab (to add to the 7 of us already working in there.. eep!) and they are in charge of dishes, getting the Milli-Q water, tip racking and perhaps teach them to autoclave waste and soil.

So in a move that is counter-intuitive, today I left my beakers on the dirty side of the sink since if there is nothing to do our Squishies can't get their hours!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

3 day weekend!

Three day weekends.. in the words of my first grader "get me out of school on Monday and let me play!" This is our first 3 day weekend since we started school. He is loving it.. I am feeling guilty. Most of my labmates will be working on Monday. While classes are cancelled for the day, research marches onward and most grad students do not take classes cancelled as a day off from work. I on the other hand, am staying home because Boo is out of school. I feel guilty being home, I have plenty to do at lab! I should be working like everyone else. Granted, I will work from home. I have studying to do for class on Wednesday, I already have written the practical exam for the course I teach on Thursday and of course there is always primary literature to read. But, that does not get research done. There is no way of getting laboratory work done without being in the laboratory. So I sit here feeling guilty for being a decent Mommy and therefore not being a good graduate student! This is the difficulty with having 2 full time jobs! Balance is the word of the day!