Thursday, July 29, 2010


If you've had a conversation with me in-person or over the phone in the past six months, you've probably heard me stressing out about living in the city. Specifically, living in Washington DC and having a child. A child who will need to go to school some day.

The process of enrolling/applying to DC public schools and public charter schools begins in the spring right around or before a child's third birthday. The city offers FREE preschool to all residents. Nice perk, yes? Unfortunately it is not a clear-cut/black and white yes.

We cannot send K to her public neighborhood elementary school. Although I do not know a single thing about the teachers, curriculum, or other students, I will not send her there because the building itself is a disaster. We've had several neighborhood meetings there and I've seen serious water damage, mold, and (yes, shudder) a rat (inside). So it is not an option. That means we have two options in terms of school - charter or private.

It kills me to think I'm going to have to apply for my baby to go to preschool. It kills me a little bit more to think we could end up paying upwards of $18,000 for preschool. These are the CONS of living in the city and trying to raise a family.

I was discussing these cons with a good friend the other day. I was frustrated with the process; upset over the thought of having to "get into" preschool; terrified by large pricetags for elementary school; disheartened to think my daughter's school could be more than an hour long commute from our house.

Now I understand why so many people move to the suburbs!

The list of CONS for raising a family in the city is long.

If we lived in the town where I grew up, we'd send our daughter to the local public elementary school and our biggest troubles would be do we let her walk to the bus stop alone? or does she have time to do piano, dance and soccer this fall?

This sounds nice. Maybe the city isn't the place for us. Maybe I'm not cut out to deal with all the CONS of living in a city with a child.

But then I spent Tuesday with K in our neighborhood. We went to FREE story hour at the library, which is a five minute walk from our house. We then walked over to the FREE spray park where K played in the water for hours. We met up with a bunch of K's little friends. On our street alone there are six kids three and under. After lunch and a nap, K and I walked to two grocery stores where we bought everything we need for the week. We then went outside and visited with our neighbors until D got home.

We've made a really big effort to get to know our neighbors and it has been wonderful. We live on a diverse block with wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There are two widowed black women, who greet us with a warm smile and hugs and kisses whenever we see them. We have a single mom with FIVE boys across the street. She LOVES K and recently bought her a little sundress and matching shoes. And she hemmed the dress, too. She speaks Spanish to K (our nanny does, too) and it is fun watching to see if K picks up on what she is saying. We also have neighbors willing to share produce from their little gardens or stop by with their dogs so K can get some doggy kisses.

We walk to the metro most evenings and meet D after work. We walk home as a family - visiting with neighbors and meeting new people along the way. Some nights we meet D at the local spray park and enjoy some time in the water before walking home. We are surrounded by construction sites that provide hours of entertainment. We've had the opportunity to meet policemen and the guys who drive the trash trucks.

We rarely drive our car. We walk or take the metro everywhere. There are FREE activities at many of the museums that we can take advantage of. There is Rock Creek Park a little over a mile away, which is a great place to run. And let's not forget about the zoo. We can walk there, too, and it's free.

There are PROS to living in the city with a family, too.

Sure, choosing and getting into the right school is a process and will require a lot of hard work. And we may have to travel a little bit to ensure that K goes to the best school for her. But we can make these things work.

What I am eternally grateful for is all the wonderful people and great activities we are surrounded by. I love that K is growing up in such a diverse community. I love that people of different races and people speaking different languages are part of her normal life. I love that we walk everywhere together. I love that the parks and spray parks are her favorite places to go.

I don't know if we'll stay in DC for the long-term or if we'll end up moving in a year. But for now, I'm trying not to focus on all the CONS of living in the city. Instead I am going to focus on the pros and really enjoy our life, our neighborhood, and all the wonderful people surrounding us.

Friday, July 23, 2010


To: Dr. Thomas Frieden, MD MPH
Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta GA 30333

Dr. Frieden,

About three weeks ago our home phone number was selected at random for participation in the National Immunization Survey. An avid fan of surveys, I was excited when the interviewer called last night. And as an epidemiologist myself, I was happy to provide valuable information to the CDC and other public health researchers.

Several minutes into the call, I told the interviewer that I did not have the exact date of each of my daughter's vaccinations on hand. The interviewer assured me that this was fine and we proceeded with the interview. I answered each of the questions asked.

After answering all of the survey questions, the interviewer asked me to provide the name(s) of each of the physicians who have vaccinated my daughter. I provided this information and helped the interviewer spell words such as associates and washington. Additionally, I had to explain to her that U.S. zipcodes only contain five digits after she pressed me for a six digit code. Then I was asked by the interviewer to provide my daughter's full name so that she (the interviewer) could contact my daughter's doctor and obtain her immunization records.

At this point in the interview, I told the interviewer that I would not provide the information she requested nor did I believe she had the authority to access my daughter's records if I provided the CDC with her full name and her doctor's name. The interviewer then persisted three separate times that I provide my daughter's name. I told her that I was under no obligation to provide an answer to any question she asked. I quickly told her the interview was over.

As a mother and epidemiologist, I am really disappointed by my experience during the National Immunization Survey interview. In addition to being pressured by the interviewer to provide information I was not comfortable providing, I also felt like she rushed me through the survey. She failed to speak slowly or clearly and I had trouble understanding her. Repeatedly I asked her to repeat a question because she was speaking so fast I could not understand her.

I failed to get the name of the interviewer.

I would like to issue a formal complaint to you. I was disappointed by the quality of the interview and was angered by her persistence to get me to provide information I did not want to provide. I am confident that she broke from the outlined survey script and am sure you realize that such a mistake will lead to decreased internal and external validity of the study results.

I would also like a formal explanation of how the CDC is able to obtain immunization records of children whose parent's give up their name during the interview. Are you telling me that my interviewer could have called my child's doctor today and obtain all of her immunization records without my written authority? How is that legal? How does this not violate HIPAA?

As much as I value and support the work of the CDC and other organizations conducting national health surveys, I believe that protecting private health information, respecting the wishes of the survey participant, and conducting the survey in a clear and easy to understand manner is of the utmost importance. Last night, I felt threatened by an interviewer worker for your agency and I hold you and your staff responsible.

You are never going to conduct valid and reliable surveys unless the participants feel protected, cared for, and respected. I do hope things will change.

The mom at Slowly Growing Old Together

Sunday, July 18, 2010



In the past, when we (D and I) did not get into the NYC Marathon, we ran the Marine Corps Marathon. The MCM is a great race - great fans, great course, great location. However, we needed/wanted to mix it up this year. Philadelphia is close enough to home that travel isn't too complicated. And, in terms of scheduling care for K, my parents are available that weekend. Childcare: check.

So Philadelphia it is. And this year I am running with D. It will be our third marathon together.

For one glorious weekend, D and I will be together sans baby with three simple goals to achieve:

1. enjoy traveling to and staying in Philadelphia - have a couple of great meals while there, tour some historical sites, and run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky;

2. finish the race injury-free and with smiles on our faces;

3. finish a marathon in less than 4 hours.

This is my fourth marathon (I've done MCM twice and NYC last year). Never before have I trained with a goal time in mind. I've always trained to finish the race and remain injury free. Before NYC last year, my dad asked what would my perfect race look like in terms of time. Without much hesitation, I replied, "Finishing under 4:30." I thought I had trained to maintain a 10 minute per mile pace. And I had. I was crazy consistent in NYC last year. Aside from my last mile, each mile of my marathon was within 10 seconds of each other. My pace ranged from 9:55 to 10:05 for 25 miles. I finished my last mile in 9 minutes. I felt SO good at the end of the race.

With all of this in mind, I decided to set a reach goal for my 2010 marathon.

Why not go out there and try to achieve something that 
seemed impossible to me just a couple of years ago? 

So... my goals are simple: enjoy Philly, finish with a smile on my face, remain injury free, and run a sub-4 hour marathon.

Monday, July 19th is the first day of my 18 week marathon training program.

This training program is intense.

On Mondays I'll do short runs on HILLS (yes, the 13th Street Hill and I will be getting extremely close this summer/fall). I'm also going to work in some running steps workouts.

Tuesdays will be my medium long run (MLR) days. Mileage will build up to 10 per day (I may have to break these up into two x 5 mile runs b/c I am home with K on Tuesdays and cannot imagine her sitting in the stroller for 10 consecutive miles.)

Wednesdays are cross training days. Here's hoping there's a spinning class at the gym this fall on Wednesdays.

Thursdays will be pace days.

Fridays will be rest days. I'll spend my time going for walks with K and walking to/from local stores and parks.

Saturdays will be the day for L-O-N-G runs. The schedule includes 3 x 20 mile runs. I'll probably do 2 at 22 miles. I have a great 22 mile loop and the extra mileage is a real boost to my confidence come race day (this is what I did last year while preparing for NYC).

Sunday will be short recovery run days.

Modifications to the schedule will be made while we are traveling abroad this summer (visiting family). I need to think through some realistic training goals for the 10+ days we are in SE Asia.

I'm most looking forward to long runs with D. We have secured childcare to do at least one long run per month together. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to putting together a new running mix, getting some new running gear and a cute outfit for race day, and, most of all, challenging myself to do something that most people would think to be impossible.

It is official: marathon training 2010 is about to begin.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Yesterday I had three little girls in my charge. A soon-to-be 10 year old, a soon-to-be 7 year old, and my little one year old. The older girls belong to a good friend of mine who was in town for some physical, occupational, and recreational therapy. I volunteered to take her kids for the day. The older girl made a list at the beginning of the summer outlining the things she wanted to do. On the list was:

Visit Washington DC.

How could I not take her and her sister and my K into the city for the day. Fortunately, my friend Angie joined us and provided an extra set of adult hands. Unfortunately, it was HOT. The heat index was well over 100 degrees by mid-morning.

So what does one do on a sweltering day in DC? Tourists hit up the museums or take tours of the Capitol or White House. We locals opt for some of the off-the-beaten-path activities.

First stop was the observation deck at the Old Post Office.

This is K looking out over the EPA. In the background behind the wires, you can see the Washington Monument. (Note K's crazy hair. Little girl sweats A LOT. And when she's hot she refuses to wear a ponytail. Her hair was crazy out of control yesterday.)

After taking in the city views, we "picnicked" in the food court of the Old Post Office. Nothing beats eating indoors and enjoying a free lunch-time concert when it is sweltering outside.

We enjoyed our picnic food and the cool temperatures.

After lunch we ventured down Pennsylvania Ave to the Navy Memorial.

Nothing beats playing in the fountains.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon inside baking brownies. The early evening hours were spent swimming and making a pizza dinner together.

Friday, July 16, 2010


This morning a little after 5am I woke up to the sound/feel of a loud rumble.

What the heck?

Was it low-flying military aircraft? Loud base from a car outside? The collapse of one of the many construction cranes in the city? A bombing?


It was a freaking earthquake. AN EARTHQUAKE.

Technically, this is my second earthquake. We experienced a 4.7 in Meadville my senior year of college. But I was at swim practice during that earthquake and quakes cannot be felt in the water. I totally missed out.

Today's earthquake, I definitely felt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Riddle me this... is a phrase D and I say to each other when we need some explanation; specifically when something is mind-boggling.

In the spirit of mind-bogglingly puzzled, I say to YOU,  riddle me this:

Our backyard is fenced in. There is a gate at the far end to allow entrance/exit. We keep this gate shut at all times. Yesterday I closed it myself. In spite of a fenced in backyard, we have dog poop in our backyard all the freaking time.


How can we have dog poop in our backyard? Does someone open our back gate and allow their dog entrance while we're sleeping? Is it possible that it is not dog poop? Could it be a cat? or raccoon?

Is there any other hypothesis to explain the dog poop in my fenced in yard?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


If you've been paying attention to my DailyMile account, you've seen that I've been doing battle with a hill on my normal running route. This is the hill.

It is a full city block long and it is steep. Several times this past week while running with K, I've had to stop and walk to the top of the hill. After 3.5 miles of running in hot and humid temperatures, this hill has gotten the best of me. In fact, prior to this evening, I hadn't made it to the top of the hill without walking with K. I was a complete failure. Prior to this evening, the only time I made it to the top without running was at the end of my 5 miler on Saturday when I was child-free.

Anyways, I made my mind up this afternoon that I wasn't going to give up during my afternoon run. I was going to run the whole way to the top of the hill.

And I did.

At the top, K and I clapped and yelled.

We even took a few pictures. What a great view! One of the best in the city.

That is the Capitol in the distance in the bottom photo and the Washington Monument and Bell Tower in the picture in the top photo. I'm so glad we stopped to take some pictures and to celebrate conquering the hill.

Next goal: running to the top of the hill and then continuing running until we reach home.

Tomorrow I'm going to aim to run the hill and then continue running for another couple of blocks. I'll then add blocks a couple at a time with the goal of making it home after the hill all the while running.

This hill is going to play a large role in my marathon training this summer/fall. More on this to come...

As for K, today she rocked an outfit only a toddler could pick out --- piggy tails, black and purple bondi-band, and bright pink mary janes. And no run is complete without a sippy cup full of ice-water and a container full of Cheeries, whole wheat crackers, and a few goldfish crackers.

This was my view of her during this afternoon's run...

Monday, July 12, 2010


Yes, my high school mascot was a Talbot. And, yes, it is an extinct dog at that.

Anyways, the source of my pride today has nothing to do with our mascot, the four time state champion swim team, the WPIAL champion girls swim team, or our Blue Ribbon School status. Although I am proud of each of these things.

Today's pride swells from the fact that the new Taylor Lautner movie Abduction is being filmed at my alma mater. Camera crews are onsite TODAY.

According to some reliable Hampton gossip, the high school marching band will be featured in the film (for all of 3 seconds). Additionally it is rumored that while touring the high school the director was shocked by the fact that there are no locks on the lockers in the school (never have been). Supposedly the director opened one of the lockers during the tour and it was littered with pictures of Taylor Lautner and the rest of the cast from the Twilight series. The director supposedly set up a meeting/lunch between Taylor Lautner and the girl whose locker was opened. (These rumors are unconfirmed at the present time.)

Details about filming are available here.

The school district's web site confirms that the school will be closed today and tomorrow for a facilities rental. I'm hoping the rental fee is made public. I'd love to know how much money a school can make for hosting a movie...

I'm thinking about going to see the movie when it is released (or several month later when it is available for rent on iTunes) just to see my alma mater in all its lock-less glory.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It has been a crazy hot week here in the Nation's Capital.

We haven't seen temperatures below 80 degrees all week - even at night. I went out for a run on Tuesday evening at 7:00 and the heat index/real feel was 105. This morning I ran at 10 and it was a balmy 85 degrees with about 90 percent humidity.

It is hot.

In an effort to stay cool, hydrated, and comfortable during a heat wave, this is what we do EVERY DAY.

We love the spray park! 

This morning K and I went out for a run, stopped at home to refill water bottles and then hit the spray park. I ran through the water and stood underneath some of the taller sprays in an effort to cool down from my run. It was the perfect end to a hot one.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I'm working from home today.

I have mixed feelings about working from home. On the up side, there is no commute, no need to pack a lunch, gym clothes or travel mug. No public restrooms. Two computers to work on at once. There is an window beside my desk, which is open this morning because temperatures are in the 60s with little humidity.

On the downside, while at home I cannot stop thinking about the mounds of dirty laundry or dirty mixing bowls in our kitchen sink. I also need to schedule my runs around the kids' schedule. They are at our house with their nanny today and I cannot let them know that I'm here (K is going through a HUGE mommy phase right now). I have to plan to sneak out while they're out this morning at the museum or this afternoon while they're napping.

I also have A LOT of school work to finish before the week is over (READ: before COB today).

So, here is my plan:

This morning -

1. finish the first chapter of my dissertation.
2. finish laundry - move wet clothes to dryer, put in second load, and fold and put away both.

This afternoon -

1. get out for a run while the kids are napping - included in this activity is taking clean clothes and shower items downstairs so I can return from my run and enter through our basement. I will then shower downstairs and finish working from there - as to not interrupt the kids' day with our nanny.
2. run - without walking - at least 5 miles. I have no excuses today re: running. The weather is perfect, air is fresh, and there is no humidity. 
3. post-run: stop at the store to buy a few key items we need for dinner. This means, carrying a shopping bag while running b/c plastic bags at the grocery store (or any store for that matter) cost a nickel in DC.

It is now 9:25am.

Ready, set, go --- first chapter, you are mine.

Laundry... I'll see you as soon as the kids head out the door for the Building Museum.