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April 26, 2011

Bacon, Dear God, Bacon!


For reasons of familial solidarity, the kids and I rarely eat pork products. We occasionally devour a pepperoni-studded pizza and once I bought some of the world famous La Quercia proscuitto (but I was too sensitive to include it in our menu preparation), but that's pretty much where our porcine intake ends. I will order sausage and pork in mole sauce from time to time when Joel and I chance to snag a date night, but over the past ten years of our marriage, I've tended to gravitate away from the other white meat. My brother-in-law, Dave, once said of his wife's vegetarianism, "You know, I really don't miss it [the meat]. In fact, it makes me kind of sick."

I kinda felt the same way about pepperoni, proscuttio, pork chops, pork loin, but I've missed bacon. I didn't know until this morning, but I've really missed bacon.

On Saturday, Joel arranged a playdate with a family from the kids' daycare while I worked. One of our favorite families, Pam, Matt, Fiona and Malcolm, graced our home for lots of laughs and lots of play for a couple hours in the morning. But Matt put the icing on the cake when he unveiled a bit of his home-smoked, organic slab bacon and Canadian-cut bacon.

I'd been carefully biding my time, waiting until Joel was out of the house, to prepare the bacon, but this morning I couldn't wait any longer.

At 7:00 a.m., while Joel was out walking Ophelia, I googled "best way to prepare bacon" and found that I should line a cookie sheet with foil, throw the bacon in the over, and then heat it to 400 degrees, walk away for 20 minutes and voila! Bacon!

Poor Joel. Can you imagine the smell that greeted him at the door? He inhaled deeply and almost felt to the floor with bacon lust. He could barely bring himself to his Rice Krispies and banana and quickly left for work.

I woke the kids like it was Christmas morning and we tucked in. I mean, tucked in. Matt gave us a pound and a half of meat and it's all gone. Friends with skills are the best.

April 24, 2011

Glad (Relaxed) Easter Tidings


On Easter Sunday, we raced around finding a collection of Easter eggs left by the Easter Bunny, which lead us right to our Easter Baskets!


We dug right into our candy where we found it.


And generally had some good, if wacky times.


April 16, 2011

Looking at the Moon

Last week I finished the only six weeks of molecular pathology training that I will ever receive. This week I switched back to the surgical pathology service (my fifth such stint). It's a transition that, in terms of scale, is like switching from studying pebbles to looking at the moon.

During my molecular pathology rotation I often indulged in the joke of taking the department's name literally. "Look at these molecules," I would mutter while furrowing my brow at a gel electrophoresis. "Just riddled with pathology." Or, when people would ask me how the rotation was going, I would quip, "Well they're very small, aren't they, those molecules. I keep forgetting where I put them or losing them in the carpet."

A better name for the field might be genetic pathology, because most of what I was doing was either testing for mutations or the presence of germ DNA/RNA. The jokes were fairly appropriate, though. The mutations we were looking for could involve the change of a single base pair (the smallest element of a gene)- a thymine that should be a guanine, say. And things would regularly go wrong with these tests, akin to losing molecules in the carpet.

We would be looking at a paper printout of a gel electrophoresis (an 80-year-old technology) or a capillary electrophoresis (gel's high-tech descendant) and doing various undignified things like comparing the printout to a blank piece of paper or holding the paper up to the light and trying to see the faintest bit of a signal, and sometimes the attending would sigh and say, "Either the technologist didn't get the tip of the pipette into the well, or cosmic rays happened, or the test just... didn't work."

Did you hear that first one? A frequent cause of a test failing in our lab was poor pipetting. A pipette is a little plastic tube that is used to transfer teensy amounts of fluid from one thing to another. And I have sympathy for the technologist who has to pipette all day. I did a lot of pipetting during my unspectacular year of research at USD, and fairly frequently I'd push the plunger of the pipette, look at the little plastic tip and wonder, "Did I have anything in there to begin with? Did I just pipette this schizophrenic's DNA onto my pants?"

So, I just transitioned from molecular pathology, a rotation where I didn't know what I was doing and didn't have to do much, to surgical pathology, a rotation where I mostly know what I'm doing and have way too much to do. But, like looking at pebbles and moons, knowing about one should help in thinking about the other. I have, incredibly, learned a thing or two about molecules and disease. And saying that I'll never get any more molecular training is an exaggeration- I'm getting it all the time on surgical pathology, as every time I think about a tumor I try and remember its genetic underpinnings.

And some day my whole job might be molecular pathology. It's been "The Future of Pathology" for my entire medical life. I have an attending who believes that in the near future doctors will be able to extract a couple of cells from a tumor and inject them into a magical analysis box that will tell them, from analyzing the tumor's genetic fingerprint, everything they need to know to treat the patient. In that future, my job might be to come in every day and make sure that the magical box is plugged in and has been dusted. This worries me, as I'm expending a great deal of effort on acquiring skills that would be obsolete in this future. But, after finishing six weeks of peering at tiny dots and holding paper up to the light and wondering if a pipette tip slipped, I'm happy to be back home, gazing up at the moon.

April 14, 2011

Introspective Twilight


A few nights ago, we fashioned a little backyard campfire using a bunch of windblown sticks and twigs and a few logs that had been crunched up by Ophelia over the winter. Whether it was the snapping, crackling fire, the coziness of the kids' knitted birthday hoodies, the warmth of the Spring evening (65 degrees), or the s'more sugar bomb, we all became a little thoughtful ...

Hal's transition to Adelaide's daycare came and went with only a minor hiccup. Instead of our usual part-time routine, he and Adelaide went together all week long to help Henry adjust to his new environs and caretakers. He handled drop-off and waving good-bye like a champ, only freaking out at the end of the week last week when, we figure, he'd had enough of daycare for the week, trying to explain that he'd already had four days at school and didn't really need a fifth day to prove his mettle.


Poised on the edge of Spring, fearful of a quick drop into a sweltering Iowa summer, Ophelia is blowing her winter coat. I'm collecting most of her undercoat with the hopes of a couple of skeins of yarn to knit with this coming fall. The fur is making parts of our yard look snowy white. Joel hopes that the birds will get the idea and put it to good nesting use. Ophelia seems upset about the thought of the birds using her discarded furry scraps and has taken to barking at anything that flies into her line of vision.

Adelaide had Kindergarten Round-Up at our little elementary school last week and is now ready for school to start. The kids tried out the classrooms and met the teachers, while Joel and I watched a presentation about preparing our kids for school with a group of parents. Joel saved me from getting choked up about thinking of my daughter at recess or in the lunch line by whispering wise-cracks to me throughout the presentation (e.g., The reading teacher was encouraging parents to improve their children's reading skills by reading to our kids, reading in front of our kids, and talking to our kids. When the teacher mentioned the 'talking to our kids' part, Joel stage whispered "Now she's going too far."). It's nice to be married to someone funny. It really helps with avoiding the whole crying in public thing.

Otherwise, we're just doing the same-old, same-old: painting the upstairs bathroom, making banana bread weekly, practicing our Papa Dunk at swimming lessons and our Shuffle-Step at dance lessons, watching reruns of The Addams Family after breakfast and Slings and Arrows after the kids' bedtime, trying to forget about our pacifier, passing MoPath, watching the eagles in Decorah, and generally having a good time.

April 5, 2011

Happy 2nd, Hal Pal!


What's a guy to do when his birthday falls on a Tuesday night?

Banana splits for supper, of course!


And gift opening, of course ... To our ever-increasing collection of Kid Stuff, we've added several awesome new outfits, a tiger (see Henry's right hand in the above photo), a potty chair, and ...


Some rockin' new wheels!