Monday, October 31, 2011

"It's-a me, Mario!!"

Thank Gawd Halloween is effectively over! I spent all day yesterday working on the Super Mario costume - sewing seams, then ripping them out and re-doing them because they weren't quite right, sewing a little more, ripping it out and doing it again... I don't think I finished the overalls until 9:00 or 10:00 last night, and then I had to do the hat. I was up until 1:00 this morning working on the hat. Sadly, I didn't get to my own homework (a journal article I had to be prepared to present), but Elliot's reaction to seeing the whole costume finished made it all totally worth it. He was bouncing around this morning like it was Christmas Day, bellowing, "it's-a me, Mario!!" It was so cute! I won't bore anyone with more of the making of the costume, so I'll skip ahead about a dozen steps to the final product:

The overalls aren't really crooked, I swear! Elliot just wouldn't let me adjust the straps.

I'm really glad I finished the hat. It, along with the awesome handlebar mustache, really made the costume. He wore everything but the mustache to school and wore it all day until I took these pictures at 6:00 this evening. It held up really well! And I have to admit that it was a nice ego boost to hear random kids and adults tell Elliot how good his costume was. But the most important thing to me was how thrilled Elliot was to wear it. And he's still wearing it. Sometimes it's nice to feel like a real mom.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Wow. It's been ten days since I last posted something. Life has been stressful and "meh" all at once. I didn't think that was possible, but now I know better. I'm still not in love with school - my morning mantra has become "I don't wanna go to school. I don't wanna go to school. I don't wanna go to school..." Had a cell biology test on Monday. This time I'm pretty sure it didn't go that well, but I'm equally sure that it didn't go well for anyone else, either. I'm still working on Elliot's Super Mario costume. I'll try to post pictures in the next couple of days. No major mishaps, so that's a plus. However, I've sacrificed my weekly trip to the Corner so that I could devote time to it. He'd better like this costume.

I just got back from the dentist and apparently I need a full mouth replacement. I should preface this by saying that if there is anything I'm OCD about, it's oral hygiene. I have one of those Oral-B electric toothbrushes and I brush for 2 minutes at least twice a day. And I floss every. single. night. Weird, right? I did inherit pretty hardy enamel from my father, who ironically, lost every single tooth in his head because he never took care of them. What do you expect from someone who was born long before the advent of the modern toothbrush (1938) and before toothbrushing became commonplace in the US (WWII)? I've been told that he had beautiful natural teeth before he lost them. Anyway, the point is that I haven't had a cavity since I was about 10 - and I've only ever had 2 cavities, despite the massive quantity of sweets I've consumed on a regular basis since childhood. I didn't have any cavities today, but evidently, my gums are receding and as a result, I'm chipping off some of the enamel near the gum line. This is a direct result of the excessive jaw clenching I've been doing since I started at Wayne, which is actually starting to wrench my teeth loose from their attachments in my jawbone. My back lower molars have been ground flat and I've managed to grind off some of the enamel there too. I was completely unaware I was wrecking my mouth. The only symptom I had was that sometimes when I bit into something chewy or crunchy, it felt a little like I was gnawing on tinfoil. And this only manifested in the last 2-3 weeks at most. It seems likely that I have managed to do all of this damage just since the beginning of September. I made an appointment to have teeth impressions made for a bite splint to keep me from grinding or clenching in my sleep. Not sure what I should do about the daytime grinding and clenching - as far as appearances go when wearing one, a bite splint could be marketed as 99% effective birth control. I guess I'll have to quit making fun of Chris when his wears his bite splint (I nicknamed it "birthey"). Boo.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My brain hurts

I forgot how tiring having to think all the damn time is. I'm honestly surprised no one can see smoke coming out of my ears, because it often feels like my brain has seized up and can't process any more new input. This combined with the hellish drive home (I managed to avoid 2 sideswipes today - yay me!) usually has me completely zombified at the end of the day.

I have a rotation project in Dr. N's lab now. She kindly typed it all up for me and I keep meaning to make a copy of it to bring home so I can try to plan my time more effectively. She told me that she expects me to be in the lab at least 10 hours a week and I wanted to say, "oh, that's it?? This'll be a breeze!" Thankfully, my internal censor was on task that day and I kept my fool mouth shut. Racking up 10 hours a week should not be a problem - I accidentally put in 5 hours today alone. I meant to only spend maybe 3 hours doing a few things: cast/run/stain a gel, cut vector out of the gel and gel purify it, reconstitute new primers and put a PCR in the thermal cycler, and pour a liter of LB + antibiotic plates. I guess I got a little overly ambitious.

My project is to make a luciferase reporter vector (to put into E. coli) driven by the cpsA gene promoter from Group B Strep. cpsA is the first gene in the operon that controls capsule synthesis. Other reporter systems have not worked, so if the luciferase reporter works the way we hope, then we can swap in different promoters in the capsule operon and ask basic questions about how they function under different conditions. This is my understanding of the project anyway. I'm not really doing anything that I haven't done before as far as techniques go, but the learning curve is really in figuring out how things are done in this particular lab. Running gels has been my biggest frustration so far because it is sooooo much less efficient than the way I used to do them. The only plus is that they use a DNA stain that you don't need to visualize under UV. At Eastern, I could run a gel and take a picture of it and be finished in 30 minutes. In Dr. N's lab, it takes closer to 2 hours by the time I get a picture of the gel onto a computer. Maybe if I end up joining the lab I can try doing things differently, but for now I'm just going to suck it up and do what I'm told.

That's enough writing today. I have a meeting at school tomorrow at 8:00 am. This means that I have to leave at 7:00 am, which means that I have to get up before 6:00 am, which means that it will be a contest between me and Elliot to see who gets to sleep first. And he's going to bed now :(

Friday, October 14, 2011

A nice view from jail, or, I can see Canada from my school!

I am exhausted and I have lots to say, but not enough energy to type much. I'll write more over the weekend probably. Maybe. Until then, a brief synopsis of my week: attended department seminar, started lab rotation, stress, procrastinate, stress, lab, stress, stress, minor freak-out, lab, procrastinate, moderate freak-out, beer, lab, study, lab, procrastinate, study, lab, study, lab, procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, cram, stress, procrastinate, cram, look out the window for signs of zombie apocalypse, cram, stress, procrastinate, cram, procrastinate, apathy, take molecular biology exam at 4pm, get out at 6pm, go home. Breathe...and start studying for the cell biology test in 10 days. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is what I saw today when I got up to look out of one of slit-like windows in the jail cell Micro Department library where I was holed up by myself all day:

Crappy camera phone picture of the Ren. Cen., Ford Field, Detroit Receiving Hospital, and maybe even Canada. No signs of the zombie apocalypse. Yet.

The top of the Renaissance Center was lit up with red LEDs. It was actually quite pretty, especially this morning on my way in. From the window, I could see trees beyond the Ren. Cen. (which is on the riverfront), so in true Sarah Palin fashion, I declared that I could see Canada from my jail cell department library on the 7th floor of Scott Hall. It's probably actually some stupid island in the Detroit River, but who cares about facts when you're Going Rogue? Sorry, I just couldn't resist that last dig.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The old gray mare just ain't what she used to be...

I'm blind, crippled, and apparently rusty with the pipettes. I should just be shot and turned into glue or gelatin or something else that's more useful than the current incarnation of me.

Blindness: My contacts were bugging me yesterday afternoon, but I didn't want to wear my new glasses because they don't fit right and make me feel drunk. So I decided to just take my contacts out and deal with it. My vision isn't all that bad, especially up close. Or at least that's what I thought before attempting to wash my car. I had to wash the damn thing like 5 freaking times before I got all the spots I kept missing. And I found another spot on the rear bumper this morning! WTF?? I've never been this bad at washing a car, ever. I expected it to take me 45 minutes from start to finish. It took me two hours! And at the end, I was so tired, and sweaty, and out of breath that Chris seriously asked me if I was okay. So, this is a good segue into...

Crippledom: I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon again yesterday because my right foot still hurts two years after having dropped a casserole dish on it. Even though x-rays show no abnormalities, the pain hasn't gotten better. I've gotten to the point where I've altered my body mechanics in such a way that now other stuff hurts that shouldn't hurt. In addition to not being able to run or do push-ups or anything that bends my toe a certain way, I can't walk down some sets of stairs without my right knee feeling like it's being wrenched from the rest of my leg. And just in the last couple of weeks, my left hip has started bugging me - probably from me pathetically limping around trying to compensate for my bum foot. I got a carbon fiber insert for my shoe to keep my foot from being too bendy when I hobble. If this doesn't work, I'm not sure what I can do. The doctor mentioned something about potential nerve damage being the reason for the continued pain. It really troubles me to think that I may end up having to live with this for the next 50-60 years.

Rustiness in the lab: I haven't done any bench work in at least the last 3 months or so. It would be safe to say that I'm rusty even under the best of circumstances. However, I would not consider a day when I had to: 1) present and explain part of a paper (that I just barely read) in front of relative strangers, 2) tell the seminar speaker about me and what I do in front of more relative strangers, and 3) start a lab rotation, to be the best of circumstances. I was pipetting 20 microliters of E. coli into 50 ml of LB with chloramphenicol when the barrel of the pipette inadvertently touched the inside of the 200 ml flask (near the neck). I was doing this while the PI watched, presumably to make sure that I didn't start mouth pipetting whatever I could get my hands on. I was understandably nervous and I made a mistake. The PI pointed out what I had done wrong by explaining that the barrel of the pipette is not sterile, so I should be careful not to touch it to the inside of the sterile flask because it could contaminate the culture. I don't think I could have felt any dumber than if she had caught me licking the floor, clueless about why I shouldn't be doing that. Being the overly sensitive, people-pleasing perfectionist that I am, I've spent much of the rest of the day until now berating myself for being such an idiot. Logically I know I'm not an idiot and that I'm bound to make mistakes, especially in the beginning. I am realizing that I have a certain reputation at Eastern that has not come with me to Wayne State. I have to prove myself all over again. This sucks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning how to think

I have two predictions for the future. One is that life is going to get a lot more hectic and time is going to be at a high premium. The other prediction is that it will rain in the next day or two. I have two reasons for making these predictions: I start my first lab rotation tomorrow and I just washed my car this afternoon. Sigh. I have lots to write, but no time to write it.

Today in cell biology, the class was broken up into small groups and sent to different departmental libraries to discuss a problem set that was assigned last week. My group met in the Pharmacology Department library. The problem set told you to pretend you were a researcher studying breast cancer in the MCF-7 cell line (developed at Karmanos). You wanted to figure out the mechanism by which estrogen activates MAP kinase (to stimulate cell proliferation) in these cells. Some fake data is given along with some background info and limited descriptions of what was done to produce the data (i.e. inhibitors used to block certain substrates and Western blot results). You had to reason through the information that was given to you and apply what you should already know about the specific receptors, second messengers, etc. in order to sketch out a pathway. It's one thing to be able to analyze and interpret data from your own research project, but it's another thing altogether to have to do it for a completely different project in a different system that you really don't know much about. It's hard! I spent a lot of Saturday night reading chapters of background on G-protein coupled receptors and GTPases and nuclear receptor signaling (barf). Then I spent most of yesterday struggling through the problem set. Right when I was about to give up and go to bed, the mechanism snapped into place in my head, so I quickly sketched it out and wrote which reagents were critical to determining each step in the pathway and hoped that my interpretation wasn't completely wrong. Long story short is that it turns out my interpretation was correct. I think half of my group mates had come up with different mechanisms, judging by the looks on their faces when the correct pathway was brought up on the screen. It isn't necessarily bad to come up with alternate mechanisms, but at least I know that I was interpreting the data correctly and that I was thinking through the evidence in the way the instructors had intended. This is what I call learning how to think - probably one of the most valuable skills I can develop while I'm here. I'm not really sure if it's something that can be effectively "taught" or if it's just a matter of being forced to wrestle with papers and data and more data and papers until you kind of figure it out for yourself. In any case, it's exhausting. Ugh - that last passage just sounds so damn egotistical no matter how I phrase it. It's totally not intended to sound that way though! I mean, no one is penalized for "wrong" answers - which is good because I certainly don't get everything down on the first pass. But it is good to know that I seem to be on the right track and that I don't seem to have to work significantly more (or less) than anyone else to get my work done. Well, sometimes I may have to work a little longer just because I am easily distracted by shiny objects, court shows, belly button lint, you name it. For tomorrow's discussion I have to hurry up (yeah, right!) and finish muddling through this 2005 paper out of PNAS: "G protein-coupled lysophosphatidic acid receptors stimulate proliferation of colon cancer cells through the beta-catenin pathway." Oh joy of joys.

On tap for tomorrow is molecular biology, stupid paper discussion, 1st micro departmental seminar, then (finally!) I get started in Melody's lab. Eeeee!!!! Crap, I have to finish reading the paper she gave me to read a couple of weeks ago. Gotta run...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank God for EMU

Okay, so today in cell bio I had the second of the two professors (who I mentioned yesterday) that hail from New York - Dr. T. He is also the course director for the cell class. Just like Dr. N did yesterday, as soon as he saw my iPad he made a beeline for me: "What is that?" "What do you use it for?" "Show me how you take notes with it." He reminds me very much of Jamin - strong personality, blunt, but very engaging and animated - I like him. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about people from the East Coast that is just so likable, for lack of a better word.

We finally got our cell exam grades posted this afternoon and I did really well: 88%. It was actually the second highest grade in the class; the highest grade was a 92%. This brings me to the reason this post is entitled "Thank God for EMU". So far my courses are very similar to those that I took for my master's degree - although they have us reading far more journal papers and we discuss techniques A LOT. There's a ton of active thinking the professors ask you to do with problem sets or group discussions or whatever, which I think is great. But the material is hard and it comes at you fast - as it should since this is grad school. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I really can't imagine being able to handle a PhD program straight out of undergrad. No way. One aspect is just the lack of general life and work experience. The largest difference though, is just how much more complex and voluminous the stuff you have to learn is. And you'd better learn it quick, too. There were several exam scores in the 40-60% range, and I suspect they came from people fresh out of undergrad who have no clue what they are in for. I am so incredibly grateful for the awesome professors I had at Eastern. I attribute my good grades at this point to the fact that EMU profs know their shit and they know how to teach it. Also, having been a GA/lecturer who had to work at least 20 hours a week teaching in addition to dealing with my own coursework, learning how to do research, and figuring out how to get it all done has made a HUGE difference. Getting tossed into the fray right from the start was brutal, but it is certainly paying off big now. I'm feeling more confident in my abilities and I'm starting to think that maybe this PhD thing wasn't a colossal mistake after all. Doing a master's in biology at Eastern is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Period.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I like New Yorkers/so you wanna be Super Mario, eh? A double feature.

I have to say that I really do like New Yorkers. They shoot straight from the hip, they're brutally honest, they aren't (usually) arrogant assholes, and they are funny! Jamin has become my New Yorker benchmark since he's from Manhattan and he embodies all of the aforementioned qualities. And he's one of my favorite people to boot. So far at Wayne State, I have encountered two professors who are from New York. The one I've had for the last couple of days in molecular biology is Dr. N. He looks like your standard middle-aged professor, with a slightly larger than average (for the profs I've encountered, anyway) paunch. Yesterday, he got to class early and had to come out into the hallway to say that resistance was futile and that we might as well come into the room. This was almost 10 minutes before lecture was scheduled to start. I know that words on a page (or email or text message, etc.) can't really convey the tone of the dialogue or the spirit in which it was intended, but immediately I could tell that 1) he wasn't trying to be a jerk, and 2) he had a New York accent. Yesss! This should be a fun lecture! And it was. Today was even better. Again, he was there early - waiting for students to show up and kind of pacing at the front of the room. I was the third student to walk in and I asked where everyone was. He wondered the same thing aloud and said that he was instituting a new rule just then: he would lecture 5 minutes for every student who was present when lecture was scheduled to begin. Class is supposed to start at 9:30 and I came in at 9:25. There are about 27 students in the class, so I wondered how exactly this was going to play out. Everyone finally showed up right at 9:30, so it turned out to be okay. I sit in the front row, which makes me an easy target for professors. I really don't like being an easy mark for anyone, but I'm getting old and can't see or hear so good anymore, so it is whatever it is. I may as well have painted a bright red bullseye on my forehead this morning because I have an iPad that I use in class to see the PowerPoint slides, rather than printing out hundreds of pages of them per week. I convert ppt files to pdfs and I have an app that lets me mark them up. I explained this in one of my early posts. Dr. N didn't miss a beat - as soon as I pulled the thing out of my bag, he was asking all kinds of questions about it. What kind of reader is it? What do you use it for? What app lets you take notes on the pdfs? Again, he wasn't being jerky at all - he just couldn't conceal his curiosity about it. I'm weird - I really love people who are my relative opposites. It's funny. If you're outgoing, have no internal filter, and have a good sense of humor, I'm in love. I do have what I think is a good sense of humor - maybe a bit twisted, but still good - but I am certainly not outgoing or filter-less in normal situations. The exact combination of qualities varies from person to person, but those things seem to be a common thread most of the time. Anyhow, lecture gets started and today we're talking about DNA manipulation techniques. PCR, restriction enzymes, cloning, sequencing - that kind of stuff. Amazingly, I seemed to be the only student who knew that EcoRI doesn't cut E. coli DNA because E. coli DNA is methylated (thanks, Jim!!). A cancer biology student, thinking eukaryotically of course, hypothesized that the enzyme or the DNA assumed a different conformation, so no cleavage occurred. Nope! We aren't talking about G-protein coupled receptors! Try again! Ha ha! For a split second, I felt knowledgeable like I did when I taught micro. Then some other student said something about the DNA being "different" and that was a good enough answer, I guess. So the funny part of class was when we were talking about PCR. Referring to Kary Mullis (who won a Nobel Prize for PCR, even though it wasn't really his invention), he said that Mullis was a jerk before dropping acid and coming up with Taq polymerase for PCR and he's still a jerk. He also said that Kary Mullis just goes to show that you can have the brain of a rodent and still win a Nobel Prize. It doesn't sound nearly as funny in print now as it did when he said it - I guess you really had to have been there. It was hilarious!

Enough school crap and on to Halloween costume crap. Elliot decided that he wants to be Super Mario (as in Nintendo video game Super Mario) for Halloween. Mary said that she could give me a Mario costume that her son had, and I told Elliot this, but he said he wanted me to make one because it would be more special. This kid is freaking smart and he knows exactly which buttons to push to get what he wants. Dammit! Mario wears blue overalls with big yellow buttons, a red long-sleeved T-shirt, a red newsboy-type cap, white gloves, and a big bushy mustache. Apparently, the American sewing pattern companies only make like 5 patterns for boy shit, and none of them happen to be patterns for overalls. American sewing pattern companies (McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity, and Vogue) suck balls. Since I'm weird, I like the German pattern company, Burda. Even the paper they print their patterns on is better quality. Burda was the only company that had more than a couple of patterns for little boys. The problem was that their pattern for overalls looked to be too complex for what I wanted - pockets all over the damn place, decorative seams everywhere - just too technically difficult for me to work with in a short time frame. I did, however, almost (almost!) buy the pattern they had for lederhosen. Could you imagine Elliot's reaction if I told him I decided that he would be a brown German for Halloween instead of Super Mario? He actually IS a brown German, but that's beside the point. Every time I tell Chris that I'm black Irish he just laughs at me until I tell him that my mitochondrial DNA comes directly from County Cork, Ireland. Then I must start sounding like the mom from Charlie Brown, because he totally tunes out everything I say after that. Alright, so the point of this part of the post was to say that I think I succeeded in drafting most of a pattern this afternoon:

Super Mario pattern pieces I drafted today. Ignore the attention-whore Siamese. He goes wherever I go and I can't stop him.
I kind of half ripped apart last winter's bib overall snow pants and drew these pattern pieces according to how they were constructed. I think I'll try to slap together a muslin prototype to make sure the pieces work as they should and so I can fit them to Elliot directly before cutting into the fleece I bought for the project. This should be an interesting process. I'm waiting to draft a pattern for the straps until I can figure out how long they need to be, since they won't be adjustable. Is it wrong that the part I'm most excited about is finding a fake mustache? (Sigh) It probably is.

Instructors on the Jerkism Spectrum

Yeah, I know I said in my last post that I would get up to date on this year's Halloween costume stuff in this post. But I haven't made any more progress on it, and furthermore, I just don't feel like talking about it. So there.

For the last week or so in my cell biology class, we've been assaulted with signal transduction crap. The instructor for this module or whatever is Dr. Jerkbag (name changed to protect my own ass). He's British. He's not terribly fun to look at. Didn't get a real good line on how bad his teeth were, but I was able to see at least one crooked incisor. And today my assessment of his overall disposition has plucked him from the "mildly arrogant" bin and dropped him squarely onto the "jerkism spectrum". In plain English, he's a passive-aggressive dick. The man couldn't put together a coherent PowerPoint slide if his life depended on it. Thankfully for him at least, it doesn't seem to. Most of his slides are just words. Lots of big fancy words. And some of the words are purple. It still isn't really clear to me if purple words are supposed to be important somehow or if he just likes the way certain words look in purple typeface. The thing he did that changed my opinion of him for the worse was what he said at the end of lecture today. He'd been talking about MAP kinase pathways and came to the last slide, which had a figure listing all the different signal transduction pathways. It showed the Toll receptor signaling family directly beneath MAP kinases. He pointed to the Toll signaling pathway and asked what big headline news story had just come out about it. I'm usually really good about keeping up with the news, science news in particular, but I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. He asked, "doesn't anyone listen to NPR in the morning on their way in?" and I literally had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out, "I prefer to stay awake for my commute, so I avoid NPR in the morning at all costs." He was clearly exasperated that no one said anything, and I really think he mistook our silence for ignorance rather than anything else (if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all). Then he explains, with the most condescending tone possible, that the discovery of this signaling pathway won a Nobel Prize. Oh gee, sorry, I was more interested in the story of Dr. Ralph Steinman, who died of pancreatic cancer three days before it was announced that he had won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. This guy used his Nobel Prize-winning science to help extend his life enough to win the award, but not long enough to be told that he won it. The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, but the decision to award it to him had been made in good faith that he was still alive at the time, so he was allowed to keep it. I'm so sorry, Mr. jerkbag professor, that I found THAT story slightly more compelling than Toll receptor signaling, especially since it was the story that vastly overshadowed any mention of the other two scientists sharing the award. It was these other two guys that discovered Toll signaling. Steinman worked on dendritic cells. To top it off, since it was the last lecture of his module, he said to the class, "Well, it's been fun..." then muttered under his breath, "sort of." He really made me wistful for Winning's cell biology class.

Tomorrow, we get to be lulled into somnolence by a new professor with fantastical tales of nuclear receptor signaling. Just shoot me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The grand re-opening of Mama's Halloween Sweatshop

It's that time of year again. The only time of year that my tiny shred of domesticity comes to the surface. It's Halloween costume making time. Every year since I began grad school (except for last year), I set aside a month or two to sew Elliot a Halloween costume. I get to feel like I'm not a totally delinquent mom, and he gets a cool costume. I've always liked sewing - I think I mostly learned how to do it from watching my mom make stuff for me when I was little. It's a useful skill, and one that many people are surprised to find out that I have. I remember how exciting it was as a kid to try on things in various stages of completion and knowing that my mom put so much time and work into making something special just for me. I guess I just wanted to share those experiences with Elliot.

I still use the same sewing machine that stitched little clothes for a much smaller and younger me. It's almost 50 years old, but it's built like a Sherman tank:

There's really only three things I dislike about this machine: one is that it won't take a double needle for top stitching, it weighs a freaking ton because it's enameled cast iron, and the last thing is that it doesn't have a free arm. A free arm is a feature that makes it much easier to hem sleeves or any other small tubular opening without sewing the opening shut. The lack of a free arm makes sewing tiny children's sleeves almost impossible to get right on the first try.

I sewed my first Halloween costume for Chris (many many years ago) to wear to a Halloween party. He had long hair at the time and we found a plastic crown of thorns, so the obvious choice was to go as Jesus. The bonus was that he could carry around a big jug of wine to complete the look. He'd probably murder me if he knew what I was doing right now, but this picture is too good not to post:

Chris as Jesus. His dad (an elder at his Missouri Synod Lutheran church) was NOT happy about this.

I guess part of my reason for wanting to make Elliot's Halloween costumes is to avoid what every kid who lives in Michigan dreads when being readied for trick or treating. Behold the horror:

If it weren't for the cheap vinyl smock they called a costume in the early 80's, you'd think I was going sledding. My mom did make the cool Wonder Woman headband, but she would not let me wear my Wonder Woman Underoos as a costume. Boo.
Fortunately for Elliot, my traumatic memories of cold Halloweens have spared him much heartache and humiliation. I'll show you the costumes I've made for him so far, and tomorrow I'll finish with what I've been asked to make this year. I'll just say that this year will be different in that I am starting very late, just found out that he's been invited to a Halloween party in less than 2 weeks, and I have to draft my own pattern this time.

Batman 2007. Elliot was 3 years old. The cape was cut on the bias, so even the slightest breeze made it billow out fantastically. If it was socially acceptable for adults to wear capes, I totally would've stolen this from him.

Spiderman 2008. I made this using an awesome vintage pattern I found on eBay and lots of spandex. Thank God it wasn't cold that year! All of the webs were hand drawn with Sharpies. I went through a bunch of them. Elliot was 4 years old.

Scary T-rex 2009. This would've been a lot easier if he hadn't wanted to be "scary". I ended up using special automotive spray paint that actually sticks to the green fake reptile skin vinyl to make the belly a lighter color. Elliot also demanded that his costume have two-fingered gloves, since real T-rexes only have two fingers on each hand. Not sure where he gets his perfectionistic streak from. I ended up making "claws" out of Sculpey clay, and securing them (at least enough for pictures) with glue and tacking stitches. The head is paper mache. He was 5 years old, and this is the most recent costume I've made.