Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year, New You!!

Not long ago, Miss Prism had a lovely post on falling back in love with Science.

They always say that after you have a baby, your relationships tend to suffer. And my relationship with science has probably suffered the most. I've been a little distracted this past year (go figure), and so I've just been barely scraping by in lab. Just barely focusing long enough to get my experiments done, but not long enough to do the really fun things in science. And when you're just barely scraping by, it's easy to get bogged down in the nasty bits: the failed experiments, the boring repetitiveness of benchwork. Yuck. I need more, as Miss Prism puts it, thinky scribbly fun time.

And so, in keeping with Miss Prism's style of "5 Tips to Rekindle Your Love Affair", I resolve to:

1. Talk more.
I resolve to start approaching my boss more reqularly for science-related chats (instead of just data-interpretation assistance).

2. Try something new.
I'll be taking a computational genomic analyis course this quarter. As someone trained in classic genetic analysis, this is a brave new world...

3. Get away together.
I'll be registering to attend at least one conference this year, even though it will mean time away from the Bean. A big step, but conferences always remind me why I *heart* science so much.

4. Listen to each other.
I'm going to start listening to NPR's "Science Friday" in the lab. Science Friday always stimulates some good debates, and serves to remind us that science doesn't exist in a vacuum.

5. Develop outside interests.
I resolve to start reading one paper a week on something outside my field. Because I love all kinds of science, not just my own.

With a little more effort, I think I can rekindle my love for science. It's still there, it's just buried under a heap of uninterpretable data. This year I'm gonna dig it back out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Haiku 6

Her fingers explore,
a tiny silken spider
on my tired face.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My 5 month pump-iversary

The Bean is 8 months old today. My sweet little girl is growing and changing faster than I ever imagined possible. I see the glints of her personality now, driven and determined, curious and inquisitive, happy and outgoing. Here's hoping I can nurture her spirit as well as I have nurtured her now 17-pound body.

Today also marks 5 months since my return to work. 5 months of pumping,as well. When I (mentally) signed on to pump until the Bean was a year old, it didn't seem like much of a commitment. Now, just over halfway through my pumping contract, I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can put that pump in the closet and forget about it for a few years. In reality. the pumping isn't THAT bad. But it's at turns boring, annoying and embarrassing. The only "enjoyment" I get out of it is relief that I haven't leaked through my shirt. But I love nursing the Bean, and you couldn't pay me to give that up any time soon. 5 months down, 4 months to go.

To all the mamas out there with bottles balanced precariously on your knees as you sit on your bench/folding chair/dirty carpet in the bathroom/janitors closet/first aid room, sterilizing your pump parts twice a day in a microwave that smells like someone else's lunch, hiding your milk in the back of the communal fridge... keep up the good work. Your child will thank you! (Actually they won't, but that's why you should give yourself a pat on the back..)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Tomorrow we are off to someplace warm to visit my family for the holidays. Which is fantastic because labwork is going not-well, and I need a break like nothing else.

I am excited to start enjoying the Christmas season with my daughter before it's too late and the Christmas trees are laying dejected out on the curb, stray bits of tinsel flapping in the breeze. I am excited for my family to see the Bean, how much she has changed and grown in the past few months, to see her emerging personality.

But I am excited too for Grandma Babysitter. To go out on a date with my husband. With no family in town, it is rare indeed for Husband and I to go out alone together. It has happened exactly three times in the last 7 months and 29 days. So that will be nice too.

Take care and be well! I'll be posting sporadically for the next 10 days or so, but I'll be back in the new year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Science Debate 2008

A recent post by Science Woman talked about the Science Debate 2008 movement, spearheaded by the writers over at The Intersection.

Science Debate 2008 is a call for a presidential debate on science and technology. The list of signatories on the petition is indeed quite impressive, including a dozen or more Nobel laureates, professors, heads of industry, leaders in the scientific community,... the list goes on and on.

In the wake of one of the most regressive presidencies in history, I think a debate on how science should be involved in shaping public policy is important not just to scientists, but to all Americans. So while I am happy to see so many scientists sign on to support Science Debate 2008, I think it is just as, if not more important for non-scientists to speak out and say "We don't want another presidency that ignores or censors scientific data in order to support the policies of ideologues."

The Bush administration has actively suppressed, censored, and manipulated scientific findings in order to suit its agenda. This has affected public policy on issues as wide-ranging as stem cell research, global warming, reproductive health, the environment, protection of endangered species, and air quality standards. The administration has staffed its scientific advisory committee with underqualified individuals, and dismissed qualified experts who disagreed with the administration's agenda.

This country can not afford another presidency that undervalues the role that science and technology must play in shaping our country's future.

So please, get involved at Science Debate 2008. Sign the petition, tell your friends, blog about it. Tell the candidates that we need a president who will protect the valuable role that scientific discovery must play in shaping our country's policies.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Haiku 5

The Haiku challenge continues...

Notebook pages and
Unlabeled gel photos sit
Waiting to be saved

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gender-bending blues

"What an adorable baby! Look at those eyes! How old is he?"

"SHE is almost 8 months old."

(Repeat ad nauseum)

Okay, so I was definitely a tomboy growing up. And I'm all for doing my best not to indoctrinate the Bean with traditional gender expectations (as much as I possibly can, as someone who has been culturally brainwashed herself). Bean takes her blue and green dinosaur and bug blanket with her to school for naps. She's got a wide collection of cars to play with. And if someday I were to buy her a microscope, I would buy her the "boys" microscope (i.e. a microscope actually equipped for a kid to go out and look at stuff under a microscope), instead of the "girls" microscope (which is pink, and is meant for looking at diamond crystals... because everyone knows diamonds are a girls best friend).

That being said, I am not going to prevent her from playing with Barbies or doing other "girly" things if she's so inclined. I plan to try my best not to encourage or discourage activities or interests on the basis of traditional gender roles.

But for some reason, it REALLY bothers me when people say that Bean is a boy. She is quite often color-coded for your convenience, wearing pink or purple. She rarely wears blue (mostly because they don't make a lot of girls clothes in blue). Even so, people will often mistake her for a boy.

This shouldn't bother me any more than when people call my dog a boy. I mean, she's a baby. Baby's are round and chubby and pink, no matter their gender. But for some reason, I always correct the person when I should just let it go...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another big milestone

Last Thursday night after we picked Bean up from school, she was crawling around and playing like usual. She crawled over to the couch and, for the first time ever, pulled herself up to a standing position!

This is a huge event in the ScienceMama household. 1) My baby is growing up! 2) This requires a whole new level of baby-related vigilance. 3) This requires a whole new level of baby-proofing. 4) My baby is growing up!

Bean spent the whole weekend practicing her newest skill. She's not really good at it yet, but she's improving crazy fast.

So last night Husband lowered the mattress in Bean's crib. Huge bummer. I now have to stand on my tip toes and bend all the way over to get the Bean into her crib. But it'll keep her from climbing out of her crib (head-first), so I guess that's kinda important.

This morning, when we dropped the Bean off at school, we warned her teachers that she was working on standing up, but was still awfully prone to falling over. "Oh yeah," her teacher responded, "she was doing that all last week, too."

Sigh. I guess we didn't see her first pull-up after all. But that's okay. It was exciting nonetheless.

This little Bean is changing so fast. I thought we'd have a period of time where she would just be crawling before she moved on to the standing up, pre-walking phase. But no sooner does she master one task before she's moving on to the next. I think we're going to be chasing her around in a matter of months...

Monday, December 10, 2007


So this weekend busted my butt.

Friday night was spent baking gingerbread cookies (my favorite) to bring to lab meeting and to a Christmas party that my parenting group is hosting this week. Then the Bean had a terrible night, up several times, and crying more than normal. We fear this is the beginning of Act 2: Top Teeth.

Saturday morning I was running around lab like a chicken with its head cut off, doing hot work. (Have I mentioned how I hate working with radioactivity on the weekends? It bears repeating... I HATE working with radioactivity on the weekends. I feel like weekend lab work should not involve stressful experiments... But that's just me.) I put the Bean down for a nap just before I left, hoping that Husband would have an opportunity to do some chores while I was gone, but apparently all he had time for was a shower before the Bean was up and ready to play.

For the first time in a few weeks it was actually sunny out (though still only in the upper 30s), so we took the Bean and Pup to our favorite park for a walk. We got all bundled up, and actually put the Bean in her jogging stroller for the first time. So it was her first walk in the stroller facing forwards. She loved it! (I admit, I had big plans for that jogging stroller this summer while I was on maternity leave, but realized too late that it wasn't designed for newborns... But the stroller worked great, and I'm looking forward to going on some runs with the Bean soon!)

When we returned home, we found a horrible mess in our bed. Apparently Pup, who likes to "build a nest" before she naps (read: use her paws to dig at her blankets until she's pushed them up into an agreeable pile for napping in the middle), had built a nest in our bed that morning... which actually meant that her nails had not only torn a huge hole in our fitted sheet, but also ripped the top of the mattress. Ugh. So while Husband tried to get a fussy little Bean down for her nap, I ran off to get us some new sheets for the night.

Saturday night was spent making baby food and prepping some freezer meals for a friend who just had his second baby. Bean had another awful night, and we resorted to Tylenol at 3:00 a.m. It seemed to help for awhile, but she was up bright and early a few hours later. Sigh. No sleep for the weary.

Sunday morning, after giving Bean a bath (a really fun bath) I got her down for a nap and managed to get some lasagnes made for our friend as well (keeping aside one for ourselves, mind you). I think I always forget though how much work lasagnes are. It took for freakin' ever. I got the grocery shopping done too, and then we had just enough time to get a cup of coffee before heading off to deliver the food to our friend.

Our friend's baby was just two weeks old, weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 8.5 pounds. I couldn't believe how tiny a two week old was, and had a hard time believing that Bean was even smaller when she was that young. When I went to hold this tiny creature, I felt awkward. It was like I had completely forgotten how to hold a newborn, and for some reason I felt frightened to do so. Didn't I just do this?

I ended the day with a soak in the tub. Bean had another terrible night, waking up every couple of hours (though less crying, which was nice). I'm exhausted and ready to have another weekend. One where I don't commit myself to spending the entire time in the kitchen.

But instead I gotta go set up a PCR and wash my blots. And tonight I gotta make more baby food. My little goblin is eating her food up almost as fast as I can make it!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Haiku 4

Haiku for you

Lips brush against her
Downy hair, she stirs, sighing,
Moonlight on her face

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On going back to work, Part 4 of Infinity

Today, for the departmental journal club, a PI noted for being a family-focused male PI (yes, they do exist!), presented a paper on the retention of women in science. Called "Falling off the academic bandwagon", the paper described the results of a self-report survey focused on identifying factors which affected the loss of women from life sciences and engineering.

One of the first things that the paper noted was that among the postdocs surveyed (over 1300 postdocs, men and women, at the NIH), women were three times more likely than men to state that plans to have children (or more children) were extremely important considerations in planning their career. The authors note that "this indicates that more women than men foresee family responsibilities as a possible source of conflict with their future professional life."

The paper itself was an interesting (if depressing) read, and served as a reminder that family concerns are a significant factor in the continual loss of women from the upper levels of science. While some institutions have given a nod towards family friendly policies (like Tenure-clock extension), in practice, most women are afraid to take advantage of such programs for fear of being viewed negatively by their department.

In my opinion, one of the major barriers to making true progress in retaining women in science is that the (largely male) powers that be have yet to truly accept that there is a problem. It's easy to hold up some of the amazing women who do combine family and tenure track (like ScienceWoman, Jane, and FemaleScienceProfessor) and say, "if they can do it, anyone can. You just have to want it enough."

But that attitude isn't productive. Yes, there are women out there who are able to find situations where they can make it work, but the numbers don't lie. It's not a matter of not wanting it enough, it a matter of not having the support necessary to raise and family and pursue a tenure track position. The female postdocs who participated in the NIH survey were 4.5 times less likely then the male postdocs to have a stay at home spouse. That factor alone will significantly impact the number of women who choose to pursue tenure track positions.

Dr. Bruce Alberts, the former president of the National Academy of Sciences, was quoted as saying "If you're going to be successful in science, it helps a lot to have a wife." (Note that most women do not have wives... or stay at home spouses) He goes on to imply that women are dropping out of science because they are not up to the challenge and leave science for motherhood because they don't have the same fortitude as men. "Science is really hard work, and if you don't feel this is the only option, you'll do something else."

When this kind of sexist crap is coming down from the top, it's no wonder that most of the top research institutes haven't made the changes that are really needed to keep women on the tenure-track career path.

The attitude is one where it's the woman's loss for not having the drive to stick it out. But I think it stems from a fundamental undervaluing of the contributions women could be making in science. When well-trained, talented women fall of the path to become leaders in science, it's not just their loss. It's a loss to science.

So growed up

Bean is so totally all growed up.

On Sunday night she crawled from the living room around the couch and into the kitchen. It was the first time she's crawled from one room to the other. When she reached the kitchen door, she peered around the corner, saw me, and gave the the biggest satisfied smile to say "I found you!"

Last night she crawled 12 "steps" in a row on all fours (before her legs slide out from under her, causing her to splat on the ground). Once she can consistently crawl on all fours, we're going to be in trouble. Without the belly friction of the army crawl, Bean is freakin' fast.

She can sit and play like a big girl, reaching for toys and pulling them back to her without falling over. She can also now get from a seated position onto all fours, and almost do the reverse.

She is now a solid food eating machine. Last night she had roasted butternut squash for the first time and gobbled it all in about 3.2 seconds. Then she banged her hands on the table until we gave her applesauce with milk, rice cereal and cinnamon (her first spice!).

She is now babbling a lot more consistently, and loves experimenting with the different raspberry-related sounds she can make with her tongue. She "sings" along with us too.

And the biggest news of all: Last night she was basically starting to pull herself up. Husband was laying on the floor, and Bean was trying to scale Daddy Mountain. But her movement changed from trying to wriggle over Daddy to pulling herself up onto her feet using Daddy's shirt and lower lip as handles. It was amazing.

Bean is now changing at lightning speed. It's incredible to think that just 4 months ago she rolled over for the first time. She's so awesome.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy Monday

Well, my day was... wet.

Nevermind that it's absolutely pouring outside and has been since yesterday. I was fine until about an hour after I got to lab.

I was chatting with my baymate this morning. I noticed I could hear gushing water in one of our little alcove rooms, but I assumed someone was in there washing glassware. Not so.

Actually, there was water gushing out from the cabinet and onto the floor. We opened the cabinet and the line for the DI water snaked out and started twirling around like an unmanned firehouse, soaking me from head to toe. It took a second for us to react before my baymate grabbed the line and tilted it up so that it would point back into the sink, shooting our chemical bench, our supply of Whatman paper, and the ceiling with even more water. She handed me the line and ran to call the facilities maintenance folks. Wiping the wet hair out of my face, I spied the valve attached to the line and shut off the water.

It all happened in about a minute, but we were left with 40 liters of standing water on the floor. So we spent a good hour mopping up the water with the two pathetic mops we were able to score from housekeeping.

Good times.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Woman Scientist

There was a period of time when I didn't think about being a woman scientist. I was just a scientist. I was an undergrad. Unexperienced, yes. But I worked in the lab of a PI that I respect very much to this day. He treated me fairly, trained me well, and never once did I think about the fact that he was a dude and I was a chick.

Then came grad school. My grad school advisor never took women in his lab seriously. He either flirted with them or ignored them. (I was in the "ignore" category...) With the men of the lab he'd stop by their benches, blather on about sports and then eventually he'd talk to them about their data and hand them a paper to read. With the women, he'd either actively avoid talking to them, or else he'd come 'round and comment about how great they were for being able to work all day in high heels (seriously!!). The different treatment for men and women in the lab was really frustrating. And it was the first time I realized that science works a little differently if you're on the right side of the gender fence.

But the thing that was the most frustrating to me was that the men in the lab couldn't see it. The girls (whether flirted with or ignored) felt uncomfortable and frustrated. But when I talked to my male labmates, they usually just kind of blew it off (except in the case of one particular woman in the lab where the flirting was so blatant even the guys in the lab were ready to vomit).

In retrospect, I had the worst possible reaction to such a terrible situation. I didn't leave the lab. I didn't seek mentorship from someone outside the lab. I just got pissed off, disgusted, and unhappy. I let my work suffer. I became consumed with negativity, and I was convinced that science would always be a hostile place for women. I pushed to graduate as quickly as possible. And I left.

For a long time after I graduated, I still blamed my advisor for creating a negative place for me to do science. I blamed him for ignoring my project. I was angry for the lack of scientific guidance and mentorship. I was angry because he made me hate every second I was in lab. I almost left science altogether.

But now, after a long period of healing from what was a really negative and demeaning work environment, I realize that it was always on me. Yes, I had a sh*%!y work environment. Yes, it sucked that my advisor treats women differently than men. But my development as a scientist is my responsibility. Not his. And I should have found the mentorship I needed from someone else in the department (like, perhaps, one of the talented and successful female PIs with whom I had regular interactions).

Yes, the system in academia is broken. It shouldn't be taken for granted that male advisors can treat women any way they please and get away with it (and not just get away with it, but get tenure!). But I can't just sit around feeling sorry for myself. Being angry doesn't help me excel.

I'm in a new place now. My advisor is female. In fact, all but one member of my new lab is female. I have some lost years of training to make up for, and I'm lucky to get to do that in a place where I am both comfortable and taken seriously. I'm letting a lot of the bitterness of grad school go, and I'm learning to love science again.

Will I stay at the bench? I don't know. There are too many variables right now to predict where I'll be in 10 years. But I'm back in the saddle, and I feel like a scientist again. Instead of a "woman scientist."

scientiae carnival

Friday, November 30, 2007

A lesson in irony

How's this for a lesson in irony?

A Hummer stretch limo in the carpool lane.

Keeps with the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Haiku 3

Little eager mouth
eyes tipped upward, demanding
hand gripping my breast

Moment of focus
Anxiousness turns to relief
Finally begins

Everything I have
I give, this sweet baby the
template of my joy

Ritual ends with
flushed cheeks and audible sigh
heavy-lidded bliss

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seven Random Facts (Bean)

I'm taking the liberty of extending the tag to the Bean. So here it is:

Seven Random Facts about Bean

1. I got a lot of hiccups in utero. Usually 2-3 times per day. The most was 5 times in one day.

2. I moved into a frank breech position at about 32 weeks gestation, and I never moved. My mom and her doctor didn't know I was upside-down (or right-side up, depending on how you look at it). The night before I was born, I actually tried to flip over, and I made it to a transverse position, but to my mom's misguided relief, I flipped back into the same ol' position. Because I was breech, I had to be born by C-section. Afterwards, my little legs stuck straight up into the air because they had been extended for so long.

3. The first couple of days after I was born, I wasn't waking up to eat, so my mom and dad had to set an alarm clock every two hours to wake me up and feed me. This usually involved undressing me and blowing on me until I cried, then calming me down and making me eat. I was just SO sleepy.

4. I'm a baracuda when I nurse. I usually eat in 7 minutes or less.

5. I LOVE music. Whether it's digital music from my Baby Einstein star or a mobile, or my mom and dad singing goofy songs, or my Philadelphia Chickens CD, music always makes me smile.

6. Since the day I was born, everyone has always remarked about my big, bright, curious eyes. I use them to get what I want.

7. I also love books. They're delicious.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seven Random Facts (Mama)

So in one day, I was tagged by both Arduous and Ecogeofemme. Since the Meme that Arduous passed along is easier (and since I am lazy), I'm going to start with hers...

Seven Random Facts about ScienceMama

1. I was going to study English in college. Just before I started, my dad convinced me to just try a few science classes as he felt that studying English was a "waste of my intellect." I fell in love with my first Biology class and never looked back. I didn't take a single English class in college.

2. While most of my friends and family would describe me as outgoing, I would describe myself as very very shy. I do not understand the root of this disconnect.

3. When I was little, my younger brother and I would sometimes spend Saturdays at work with my mom (a children's librarian). We would spend the day reading books, playing hide-and-go-seek among the stacks, and playing "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" on the computer.

4. I always drink my coffee iced. I pretty much never drink hot coffee. In fact, the only hot drinks I ever drink are the occasional cup of tea or chai. Even when it's 42 degrees out (like now).

5. I am one of those annoying people who LOVES Christmas. I love seeing all the Christmas decorations up at the mall, I love the lights on people's houses, I love drinking hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols. And I really love decorating gingerbread cookies. The month before Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year.

6. When I was 7, I broke my right shoulder falling off a slide. After that, I could always remember the difference between left and right. Even now, I remember which side is right by my (formerly) broken shoulder.

7. The only reading I do for pleasure these days is the 15 minutes I have to myself on the shuttle between my work and Husbands work before we carpool home each night.

Okay, now I'm going to tag:

, Bean-Mom, Ecogeofemme, Jane, mrswhatsit, Kate, and Ardel.

1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Haiku 2

Haiku back at ya'...

Smiling impishly
Saffron-colored dahlia
Spreads across your back

Baby food

So, as the last couple of posts have intimated, the Bean has started taking solid foods. About 10 days ago the Bean started taking small quantities of peaches. She stopped turning her head away, started opening her mouth at the right times, and stopped grabbing the spoon. She even started to swallow what we got in there. Big victory.

Over a few more days, she started accepting sweet potatoes, rice cereal, and applesauce. Huge victory.

Now, the Bean has suddenly started getting excited to eat. She can tell when we start getting ready to feed her, and she makes little squeaks to get us to hurry up.

The real kicker was at Thanksgiving dinner. We weren't planning to give her any of the food, but sitting in Husbands lap watching him eat, she started to complain about not getting any herself. So we gave her a tasted of mashed potato. But a taste wasn't sufficient. She demanded more, and got mad when Husband stopped to take a bite himself.

This weekend she even started getting enough solid food that she started having stinky food poops instead of the relatively innocuous breastmilk poops. (Boy was that an unwelcome surprise!)

The feeding is fun, if messy, but I'm also kind of sad. It somehow feels like a step away from breastfeeding. It should probably make me happy, but instead I feel sad.

A happy Thanksgiving indeed...

It was a good trip, but stressful.

On the 5 hour drive down to my mother-in-law's house, Bean did very well. We left very early in the morning Thanksgiving day, and the Bean slept for a majority of the trip. We arrived to find that there had been a change in plans... My MIL decided to put us in the office instead of the back bedroom. I was hesitant about this because the office is right off of the living room and directly next to the kitchen, and the Bean goes to sleep at 6:00 p.m. But I was a good little doormat and decided not to complain. In retrospect, this was a HUGE mistake.

The house was full to the gills, with 10-12 people and 4 dogs split among 4 bedrooms. As you might have guessed, this does not make for a quiet house in which a 7 month old might sleep. So the Bean's naps were few and short-lived, making for a fussy baby in general. In addition, I fear her ear infection has returned because on both Friday and Saturday nights, Bean was inconsolable and screaming for long stretches (which she usually does not do), and at times ran a low-grade fever. We've got an appointment tomorrow morning with Bean's doctor to find out for sure. And somehow I ended up doing the majority of both the cooking and dishes. I'm such a sucker.

But there were some wonderful high points this weekend. The turkey came out beautifully thanks to a lovely cider brine. The stuffing was the best I have ever made. Bean tasted her first mashed potatoes and loved them. Bean happily spent time in the arms of relatives galore, and charmed the pants off 'em (if I do say so myself).

Most notably, Bean's 5-year-old cousin Princess was absolutely enthralled with the Bean and followed me and the Bean around all weekend. She was actually pretty good compared to what you might expect from an excited 5-year-old. Princess was not in Bean's face too much, and she actually loved to entertain the Bean with singing, dancing, books and toys. She kept asking if it was time for a diaper change, if it was time to nurse her, and if we could check on the Bean when she slept.

The hardest part of the weekend came Sunday. The drive home was horrendous, and the 5 hour drive took over 9 hours. In part because traffic was terrible, and in part because the poor little Bean was sick to death of her car seat/torture chair. We had to keep taking breaks from the drive just to let her out and calm her down when she would get rolling on a crying binge. At one point we spent about 25 minutes walking around in a Walmart (notable as my first visit to a Walmart ever). We bought Bean a toy car. I still feel kinda guilty for shopping at Walmart.

But anyway, we survived. And it was wonderful to see Husband's family. But it will be awhile before the next time we A) stay in a house that crowded, and B) take a drive that long...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble!


Sometimes I laugh at how unglamorous benchwork often is. I think when non-scientists imagine what scientists do all day, I think they imagine the way we look when we work with radioactivity. Lab coat, goggles, dangerous materials, slow deliberate movements, geiger counter beaping, an inch of shielding, etc. I don't think they imagine me sitting with my cup of coffee on my bench as I drip fractionate gradients... counting off 10 drops into each well on a 96-well plate. Trying hard not to blink.

Baby Haiku

Inspired by her recent post, I have decided to challenge the Bean-mom to a Haiku-off.

Laying on the floor
Bean mashing my face like so
much silly putty

Lazy stew

This weekend, Husband and I are off on a small trip to see his family. It's about a 5 hour drive down to my mother-in-law's house where we'll be spending the Thanksgiving holiday. 3 of Husband's 4 brothers, and Husband's sister will be there, along with associated families. So it's going to be a pretty big holiday.

Now, early in my relationship with Husband, I had tried to endear myself to his family by cooking at a lot of the big family get togethers. I'm a decent cook, and I guess the 50's housewife in me wanted to impress them with my domesticity (a scientist and a good little homemaker! I guess she's a keeper!). This may have been a poorly calculated move, because now I am expected to cook at all of the family gatherings. Which I never minded before, but now.... I don't want to be in the kitchen. I want to play with my baby all weekend, but alas, Husband and I are at the head of a 16 person meal.

It's funny how I used to spend a Sunday afternoon working on a lovely stew, or make a roast. I'd bake for the lab, or make us pancakes on a Saturday morning. No longer. If we weren't so broke right now I'd be buying prewashed bags of salad and pre-cut veggies. I'm just not interested in wasting my time in the kitchen anymore. At least, not any longer than I have to.

Ah well. At least I can make other people do my bidding. Clean this. Chop that. Take the dog out. Get me a beer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pickup, Dispense, Reset

This morning the rhythm of my automatic pipettor sounds like the baseline to Danzig's song "Mother."

Because that's how I roll.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The honeymoon's over...

The Bean is officially teething. This morning I could see (as she opened her mouth to cry) the front of her gums all puffy and white, and I can feel sharp little jagged blades at the front of her mouth.

She is currently sitting in my lap, actively sucking on an ice cube in a small mesh bag. She is sad. My boobs are frightened.

Friday, November 16, 2007


One of the greatest things now is that Bean, when we come to pick her up from school, gives us the biggest happiest grins. It's a grin of just pure joy. And the other day, when we walked in and I called her name, she smiled and started crawling over to me. I practically peed my pants, it was so exciting.

Our reunion at the end of the day is probably my second favorite part of every day (with first place going to our morning cuddles after nursing). I look forward to it all afternoon, and when we exit the freeway, I even find myself getting giddy to see her. I have to remind myself not to just ditch Husband at the car and run inside.

When I pick her up for the first time, she usually coos for me, and smiles of course. She will often bury her head against my shoulder and snuggle.

Sometimes she's so eager to breastfeed that she gets mad when we put her in the car seat to drive the 2 minutes to our house. But it's not out of hunger... They usually give her the last bottle of the day less than an hour before we arrive. It's because she wants to lay down with me and snuggle and nurse. *Sigh*

How can I not be completely in love with this child?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On going back to work

Thank you ScienceWoman (who is, indeed, a super hero) for your positive and inspiring post on women, science, and family.

On going back to work, Part 3 of infinity

When I was on maternity leave, I met a woman, V, who had a baby girl just a few weeks after the Bean was born. We went walking together a few times and had a chance to chat about babies and work.

V, it turns out, is a neurosurgeon. Yes, a neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeon is one of those careers (like astronaut, physicist, or rodeo clown) that automatically gets respect no matter who you are or what you do. You have to be incredibly devoted to your career, put in ridiculous hours, and deal with the mother of all Old Boys Clubs to become a neurosurgeon. And V is just exactly the type of woman you'd expect to make it as a neurosurgeon... marathon runner, cellist, self-confident almost to the point of narcissism... but I digress.

So anyway, V and I were talking about the return to work, and she told me that her husband, a physical therapist, was leaving his job to be a stay-at-home dad while she returned to her very lucrative career. I was beyond shocked. Not that I don't approve, but it's not too often that you hear about a man with a very viable career, presumably one for which he too studied hard and trained for, who leaves his career while his wife returns to work.

But WHY should I be so surprised? Why should it be so rare that the man gives up his career? Women do it every day. Every day.

Back to school

Well, we did indeed rally today, and we did mostly alright. I was still feeling really run down and tired, but I'm eating again, which is positive. Bean slept well last night, and was cheerful and playful this morning, so we decided to all go back to school and work today.

Bean actually seemed really happy to be back at school today, and started crawling around as soon as we put her down, singing and looking for toys to steal from others.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Well, I just had about the worst three days of my life.

On Monday night Bean woke up vomiting around 10:00. Poor little thing was so sad. She felt rotten, and we had a hard time calming her down and getting her back down to sleep. She slept, but not for long, and was up vomiting, crying and wimpering for most of the night. And starting around midnight, Husband was vomiting too, so I was up rocking the Bean and trying not to throw up for pretty much the entire night. From about midnight on, I probably only got about 45 minutes of sleep.

Husband, Bean and I all contracted some sort of vicious flu, and it was terrible. The only thing worse than being sick is being sick while caring for a sick child. I will admit, there were lots of times when I felt so run down I could barely find the will to care for the Bean. But I knew no matter how bad I was feeling, she probably had it worse.

Her vomiting stopped yesterday afternoon, but this morning she was running a high fever, so we took her into the doctors office. She had a double ear infection too! Since she was still having diarrhea, they gave her an antibiotic shot instead of oral antibiotics, and the Bean just cried and cried.

It's been really hard, because I have just felt so run down and nauseous, and the Bean has been so sad and sick. I haven't eaten anything but saltines for the past few days, and I've been struggling to stay hydrated (while breastfeeding!).

But it seems the worst has past. The Bean seemed tired but better this afternoon, and I'm about to try eating some soup.

To cap it all off, I was scheduled to give lab meeting tomorrow, but had to ask my boss to postpone it because there was no way for me to be ready in time. So I feel like a schmuck.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Duct tape use #3046

This morning I realized that Husband had accidentally recycled the shipping label and invoice for a pair of shoes I had ordered for Bean but decided to return (found 'em cheaper somewhere else). Luckily he had just taken out the recycling the night before, so I peered into the recycling bin, and could just barely see a corner of the green envelope I wanted all the way at the back of the dumpster.

I wasn't quite desperate enough to climb into the dumpster. Instead, I took the handle of our broom, attached a large bolus of duct tape to the handle, and went fishing. It was a little tricky because there was some newspaper near the envelope that kept getting stuck to the tape, and the envelope was jammed right up against the back of the dumpster, but after about 2 minutes I fished it out and returned with the envelope in hand.

I held up my prize for Husband, still attached to the duct tape wad. "Got it!"

Husband smiled. After a minute he said, "Hey baby, I'm really proud of your use of duct tape."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, you know, guys are always proud of how they can fix anything with duct tape, and I'm just proud that you can too."

"I'm no hapless girly-girl," I answered. "I know my way around a roll of duct tape."

Better recognize, son.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Date night

So date night went really well. Bean was asleep well before we left and she slept the entire time we were gone.

Date night was great. We stopped for a quick pre-movie drink at the cheesy local restaurant (we live in what is decidedly the 'burbs, and there are no interesting bars or good restaurants nearby). We sat in the bar like grownups and watched the Nuggets take the Wizards to school. Then we walked over to the movie theater and saw "Dan in real life", which was funny if predictable. We were home by 9:15.

It was all wonderful and great, we had a good time and I'm glad Husband talked me into it.

But um, having a babysitter? THAT IS WEIRD! It makes me feel OLD.

My undergraduate student (who is wonderful and responsible and great) came over, and we showed her where everything was, we fed her dinner, we gave her all the emergency numbers, we told her "Help yourself to anything in the kitchen." It was WEIRD!

I don't know how many times I have been on the receiving end of the "Help yourself to anything in the kitchen" line, and it felt so strange to be delivering it. Husband and I laughed about it all night.

It had to happen sometime

Well, no sooner did I write that the Bean was going to be chasing the cats now that she's mobile, the Bean sustained her first pet-related injury (and in fact, her first injury that wasn't self-inflicted).

Bean's school was closed yesterday for an in-service day, so Husband was having a daddy-daughter day. After quite a struggle, Husband got Bean down for her nap, and he left the door open to the nursery so he could hear her. Apparently at some point, one of our two cats climbed into the crib to share naptime. When the Bean woke up, she made a move for the cat (who is very skittish) and the cat responded with claws.

Bean sustained a small (2-3 mm) scratch on her scalp and a long (3 cm) scratch on her forearm. Neither scratch bled, but it gave the Bean quite a scare and she required many hugs to return her to her normal cheerful self.

Unfortunately it doesn't appear that this incident has been filed away as a "Note to self". This morning Bean was pretty actively attempting to get ahold of our other (identical looking) cat.

I don't think the cats would ever do more than give her a warning swipe if she were invading their space, but on the other hand, a warning swipe to the cornea would be, um, BAD. While I'm hopeful that the cats will generally start giving her pretty wide berth, I'm not sure how to keep everybody safe and happy.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Room to spare

Tonight Husband and I are going on a date. An undergraduate from my lab has agreed to come over and sit for the Bean while Husband and I go to the movie theatre that's four blocks from our house. It's going to be kind of a trial run. Bean will already be asleep by the time the sitter gets there, and we'll only be gone about 2 hours, and we'll be just four blocks away.

So, since I'm actually going out tonight, I decided to wear something a bit nicer to work. A skirt I recently got on clearance, and my awesome knee-high black boots. But when I went to find some stockings to wear with the boots, I found the only stockings I had were my maternity stockings.

"Well, no one's going to know, so I guess they'll do," I thought.

So I'm sitting here in the worlds roomiest panty hose. They're actually really comfortable. I vote all stockings should have a stretchy belly panel.

Up and at 'em!

The Bean is getting up on all fours now. It's very exciting. In just two short weeks, Bean has gone from dragging her little body across the floor using primarily her arms, to using both her arms and her knees to wriggle, belly down, across the floor, and now she's getting up on all fours.

She doesn't quite know what to do once she's up there, but she's clearly quite pleased with herself. She gets up on her hands and knees and rocks back and forth and back and forth. A couple of times she's actually picked up a hand and moved it forward, but it usually ends with her knees slipping out from under her and her belly back on the ground. But she's all smiles and just keeps getting right back up again.

As soon as she figures out the crawling on all fours thing, I think the cats are going to be in for some real trouble.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

On going back to work, Part 2 of infinity

In The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden describes a group of 902 women, all graduates of Harvard's professional schools. The women were participants in a survey-based study, focused on family/career balance, conducted by the school 10 years after the women had graduated. The study found that a full 25% of the Harvard M.B.A.s interviewed had left the workforce entirely. Crittenden writes:

"The women felt "blindsided"; they hadn't expected it to be so difficult to combine motherhood with a career. Their expectations and self-esteem were high, based on their superb education and proven competence. They simply had not anticipated two things: the degree to which they would fall in love with their new baby, and the high professional price they would be forced to pay for that love...

...Most of the women couldn't accept a model of parenthood that saw a baby as a temporary blip on a career screen. Even though the great majority believed that reducing their hours of work would be detrimental to their career, fully 70 percent cut back anyway after the birth of their first child. The feelings this aroused were complex. The 52 women interviewed in depth expressed a tangled mixture of satisfaction, frustration, anger, and a wistful sense of loss over what they viewed as a totally unnecessary conflict between caring for their child and pursuing professional goals they had spent their whole lives, and a great deal of money, preparing for."

I couldn't possibly have written it better myself. I was/am completely unprepared for the emotional turmoil over my career that I've faced since the birth of my daughter.

Sometimes I feel angry. I feel that I was lied to (though don't ask me who exactly was doing the lying). I feel like I've been told my whole life that I could have any career I wanted, as long as I worked hard for it. That I could have it all, do it all. But now that I'm here, I see that the situation on the ground is quite different from the one presented to me.

I was under the mistaken impression that if I could educate myself and succeed, that I would be given a fair opportunity to participate in my chosen field. But no one talks about how limited your choices become if you decide to have a family. And while I might be able to accept that choices become limited for anyone that chooses to have a family, the reality is that it's women specifically who are paying the price.

Was I naive? Almost certainly. But I never realized that it would literally raze my soul to leave my child. And I never realized how high a toll it would take on my career to step off the treadmill for even a second. If I decide to leave the bench for a few years after our next child, who will hire me back? Magic 8-ball says outlook not so good.

I feel angry at myself for being so naive. And angry at the women around me for not talking about this out loud. I think we're so focused on talking about equal opportunity, that we're avoiding the real discussion: The reality is that the workplace is designed for men. And if you need accommodations like maternity leave or a place to pump, or to take care of a sick child, that's milking the system.

"...the problem with women was that they just weren't men."


I hate the parts of benchwork that rely on faith. I hate when I have to have faith in the presence of my invisible DNA pellet. I mean, it's always there. I say a prayer and add my Tris and hope that I'm putting my little droplet on the right part of my tube... and sure enough it works.

But I hate that electric little moment of silent prayer to God or the spaghetti monster or Lee Hartwell, or whoever it is that I'm praying to... just please let my invisble pellet be there.

I wish benchwork was always color-coded. Yellow and blue make green... yup! I got it right!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sleep, at last

Bean has finally gone back to a more normal sleep routine (knock on wood). Thank god, yo. I was so tired, it was getting ridiculous. But last night I had what might have been considered pre-baby sleep. 7.5 uninterupted hours. The only difference was that it started at 9:00 and ended at 4:30. But hey, I slept. And it was gooood.

Actually I slept so hard that Bean was crying out by the time I woke and heard her. Normally I sleep lightly enough that I can hear her starting to make little sad calls for me long before she cries. But I was deep in a dream (about swimming) and woke to the sounds of a sad/mad Bean. I rushed to her crib and picked her up immediately. It was only when I got there that I was awake enough to realize "Oh crap, I gotta pee."

Dilema: Put her back down in the crib and let her cry (waking Husband, who is sick) long enough for me to go to the bathroom, OR hang onto her and go to the bathroom with my hungry baby sucking on my shirt...

I chose the latter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mommy items I could not have lived without

I know there are a couple of knocked up ladies who read this blog. (My dad hates it when I say knocked up. He told me to stop calling it that... married ladies don't get knocked up.) So for the benefit of all the preggos, as well as to pretend like I actually know something about being a mom (the only thing the last 6 months has taught me is how much I have yet to learn about being a mom), here's a couple of the things that were lifesavers during the first 6 months of mommyhood.

-Swaddle blankets.
Not quite the same as your standard receiving blankets, because most receiving blankets are too darn small to get a good tight swaddle on your baby. The Ultimate Receiving Blanket is an extremely popular swaddle blanket because it's soft flannel, reversible, it comes in a bunch of cute designs, no rough seems, and it's the perfect swaddle size, 42X42 inches. Later, my mom made us a thin cotton blanket for swaddling in the summer. The key is the size. Now that babies are Back to Sleep, swaddling is the only way most people can get their babies to sleep for any length of time. Seriously, get/make yourself some swaddle blankets.

-The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD
You don't necessarily need to watch the whole thing, but it is worth watching the guy swaddle a baby at least once. Until you see for yourself how tight the guy swaddles the babies, you will (like us) be too wimpy on your swaddle, baby will break out of the swaddle in 3.2 seconds, and you will never get any sleep. Getting a good tight swaddle is the best way we found to calm our Bean and get her to sleep. Many libraries actually carry this DVD so you can check it out for free.

-The Ikea Poang chair
Our birthing class instructor told us that bouncing on your birthing ball (AKA your standard 64 inch excercise ball) was a great way to soothe a crying baby. Indeed it is. The quick bouncy motion could calm the Bean in seconds. But crying would often resume as soon as the bouncing stopped, and I challenge any of you to spend more than 10 minutes bouncing on one of those balls with a 10 pound sack of sugar in your arms. Your back will give out pretty darn quick and you may end up permanently crippled. However, visiting a friend when Bean was just a few weeks old, we found that the Ikea Poang chair gives the same bouncing motion without destroying your back. You can rock that baby till kingdom come. Better motion than any of the gliders they sell. A much better (and cheaper!) investment. (Incidentally, there are like 10 million of these chairs on Craigs List super cheap, and you can always buy a replacement cushion for $30 if the used cushion is gross.)

-A support group for new mothers
I was particularly blessed that in my area there's a fantastic group for new moms run by a pediatric nurse. It was a great way to meet other moms on maternity leave, to get feedback and support, and info on my newborn from the nurse. Even if you aren't quite as blessed to have an expert running your group, look for something similar in your area. It kept me from going absolutely stir crazy while I was on maternity leave and I was able to meet other women to go walking with, etc, so I wasn't quite so lonely while Husband was at work.

After about 6 weeks or so, baby starts consilidating her BMs into one to two massive poops per day. This is the beginning of what moms affectionately call the Blow Out. Some babies are worse than others. With Bean, she usually has about 3 Blow Outs per week. The poop can stain clothing... Unless you invest in the miracle of Shout. It actually really and truly works. Even when I think "Oh, this white onesie is done for," it usually isn't. Thanks to the miracle of Shout.

-Hand towels
Bean is just finally (at 6 months) starting to move past the phase of life wherein half of everything she ate ended up as cheesy spit up all over the front of my shirt (or down my arm, or in my hair, or across my lap, or on the dog...). We were given a few fancy looking "burp cloths" (or as I prefer to call them "Yak-catchers"), and we've tried the cloth diaper route, but Bean's spit up volumes could not be contained by such things. Instead, we found a few absorbant and soft hand towels at Target, and they are by far the best option.

-A Hooter Hider
In the first months of Bean's life, she was nursing every 1-2 hours. There was no "leaving the house between feedings" because by the time you can actually get yourself out the door, it's almost time to feed her again. If you're a nursing mother, invest in a nursing cover up. It was the only way I could get out of the house in those first months because I was still a little uncomfortable at the idea of just whipping my boob out to nurse. I got myself an over-priced, but well designed Hooter Hider, but you can easily sew yourself one if you have the time (which you won't after the baby is born). I had tried a couple of the less expensive options, but most of them just weren't big enough to work as an effective cover-up. The Hooter Hider was key to my sanity, as I go STIR CRAZY if I'm stuck at home for an entire day.

What items did other moms find essential for their babies and their sanity in the first few months after baby made 3?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Changing of the guard

Last week, two of Bean's little friends in the infant room made the momentous transition to the toddler room. So this morning when we took Bean to school two new babies were getting started on their first day.

One, a boy, was somewhere around 4 months, stocky and chubby and pretty darn cute.

The other, a girl, was just getting dropped off by her mother when we arrived. The little girl, Addison, was only 10 weeks old, and her mother was in tears. Addison was a very tiny 10 week old, not even 10 pounds yet, and could barely hold her head up. She was pink and dewy and oh so fragile looking. My heart went out to her mother, who was in the process of handing this tiny thing off to one of Bean's teachers.

Thank Jeebus I did not have to hand off little Bean when she was that tiny and breakable. I think it would have literally torn me in two.

Anyway, in case you were wondering what inspired my post on returning to work... there you have it.

On going back to work, Part 1 of infinity...

I've been thinking a lot (obviously) about women who choose to become mothers and the decision to go back to work or not.

It's a very touchy subject. And one on which everyone has an opinion (that they will happily share ). I can remember being something like 8 months pregnant, and the shuttle driver was asking me if I would return to work after the baby was born. I told him I had three months maternity leave, and then I'd be back at the bench. "But who will comfort her when she's teething?" he asked. "A baby needs her mama."

Thank you, childless person with no knowledge of my personal situation, for making me feel even guiltier about returning to work. I never realized that children need parents.


I worked hard in school. I studied and did well. I was consistently at the top of every single science and math class I took. I got a degree in the hard sciences. I went on to get my PhD. I stood on the shoulders of the women who paved the way for me. Hooray! Victory for women, right? I've done all my feminist predecessors proud.

The women's movement has given women innumerable oportunities outside of the home. But I think the women's movement has, to date, largely ignored the fact that many women still want to spend at least the early years of their childrens' lives at home with them. The question is treated as dichotomous. You can either A) be a good little feminist and stay in the workforce, or B) throw away all your potential, stay at home and be "just a housewife." Choosing the role of mother/housewife is looked at as domestic servitude to the patriarchy... I'm personally sick of the way that feminists have amputated and cauterized the nurturing women who want to spend a significant amount of their time and energy on raising their children.

I remember reading once that Gloria Steinham was criticized for getting married, treated as a traitor to the feminist cause. Her response was that feminism was always about giving women choices.

So why is it that women who choose to stay home to raise their children are viewed by men as lazy, and by working women as traitors?


For me, there has never been a question that I wanted to have children. I know some women who struggle with the decision to have kids or not, I know other women who aren't interested whatsoever. But for me, I always knew that being a mom would be one of my greatest joys.

I want to find a better balance between work and raising my child(ren). There is a dearth of flexible work situations in science. And it makes me sad that while the women's movement has made great strides in getting women into the workforce, there aren't very good options for the significant number of women who choose to have children. Choosing to have a child is almost always a handicap for women in their careers. But since raising a child is considered a selfish choice, mothers are left to fend for themselves.

In the not too distant future, I will find myself a more flexible work situation. It will probably be at the expense of my career overall. It's very difficult to find any kind of part time position at the bench, and taking years away from the bench is even more of a black mark on your record than time spent in industry. But I have to do what's right for me and my family. I can deal with the consequences as they come.

In the meantime, until our capitalist economy stops penalizing motherhood, the workforce is going to continue hemorraging its educated, well-trained, talented women.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Things you give up when you have a kid

One of the things you give up when you have a baby: bonus daylight savings sleep.

Apparently babies can't read clocks. Even if you set those clocks back an hour before you go to bed, babies still wake up at the same time. So no extra hour of sleep for me. I was up at 5:30 today.

On the other hand, maybe my extra hour of sleep just gets swapped. Maybe when all the other suckers are bleary eyed and tired next April when we spring forward, I'll be sitting pretty.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Big day

Today was a really big day.

I've got a project where I'm working with a non-model organism. For the non-scientists, model organisms like Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewers yeast), Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies), and Mus musculus (your common house mice) are model organisms. By which I mean that they are particular species that are commonly studied to understand various biological traits. When you work in a model organism, you have a lot of advantages in that many many people work on the same species that you do, so a lot is know about its biology, there are a lot of techniques established for working with this organism, and a lot of tools and reagents at your disposal.

But as I said, I work in a non-model organism. There are, I would guess, about 3 other labs who give a crap about my organism, and they only care about it for its genome, not for its biology per se.

So I have spent the past year (minus time spent teaching, writing, and on maternity leave) learning about how to handle this organism, how it grows, what it likes, what it doesn't like... taking it out to dinner and really getting to know this beast. And finally, after much work, I figured out exactly how to perform one (very big!) experiment with this sucker.

Today was Day 1 of a very expensive, very time consuming, and hopefully very informative experiment. The Big Experiment. I have never worked so long and so hard to do one (big) experiment. It will be weeks before I get back my data. But today was the most intense, the most frenetic, the most heart-wrenchingly please-don't-let-me-f*&k-this-up part of the whole thing...

And I am pleased to say it went well. I was sweating like a pig, and literally jogging across the lab at times, but I didn't screw up. And by Tuesday I should have at least an inkling of whether or not to keep going.

I am relieved.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Here's hoping you had a happy halloween!

Guess who's coming to dinner

Tonight we have some people from our parenting group coming over for dinner and baby playtime. So even though Arduous has absolved me from housecleaning, I felt the need to completely scour my home last night.

When I first told Husband that I had volunteered our house for tonight, AND that instead of ordering pizza for everyone I wanted to make up a big pot of soup (it's healthier!), he looked at me with eyebrows raised.

"We have a lot on our plates these days. Are you sure you want to cook for 10 people on a weeknight? We'll have to clean the house, too, remember?"

"Oh, but butternut squash soup is easy, there's only like 3 ingredients, and we'll buy bagged salad, and we'll just have to give the floors and bathroom a quick once-over. I promise it'll be fine," I assured him.

But there is no quick once-over when you have a dog, two cats, two adults, and a 6 month old occupying 900 square feet.

I decided to make the soup on Tuesday night so that "all we'd have to do Wednesday night is a quick clean-up" and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters (of which there were none, and so the bag of peanut butter cups got sent to lab with Husband before the inevitable failure of my willpower in the face of chocolatey damnation). Of course, my 3-ingredient soup actually turned out to be a 10 ingredient soup, and took a couple of hours to make, but Husband knew to expect that... my cooking always morphs into something more elaborate than the original plan.

Last night we got little Bean down for the night, and then I started scrubbing the bathroom while Husband worked on bleaching the counters in the kitchen. Then I swept /swiffered/mopped, and 4 hours later we had a presentable house. A quick once-over, right?

It's lucky for me that Husband is a pretty clean guy, and he works hard to keep the house in order, too. So when the pet hair tumbleweeds have formed gangs and proceed to divide the living room for a full scale turf war, dog vs cats, I know I'm not alone in preventing an all out riot.

But it's funny that even though I had just cleaned the house last weekend, I still had to re-clean the house the night before company arrives just to make sure it was in its cleanest possible state. Despite the fact that I told myself ahead of time that "these people all have 6 month-olds too, they won't notice a bit of dog hair on the floor." Still, I felt like I had had HAD to clean up a second time.

Did we HAVE to bleach the countertops? No. Did I have to re-clean the shower? No. Most likely no one will be showering at my house tonight. But somehow having a dirty house when company is over makes me feel oddly vulnerable.

I'm such a closet-1950's housewife, living my double life as a highly educated liberated woman. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A crafty little one

Tonight when we were picking little Bean up from daycare, one of her teachers was exclaiming over how quickly Bean has learned the rewards of being mobile.

Apparently Bean was laying on the floor this afternoon and spotted, through a little baby gym, one of her classmates playing with a set of plastic "beads", the gigantic ones that click together and form little chains. (These beads, by the way, are exactly the same as the ones we bought to replace Bean's former bath toys which were recently exiled under suspicion of lead paint.) Anyway, Bean army crawled her way across the floor, wriggled around the baby gym, and then climbed across her classmate to take the beads from him. She managed to pull several beads off the chain and rolled over onto her back to enjoy the spoils of victory.

Ah my little thief. I take comfort in the fact that all of her classmates seem hellbent on stealing whatever toy another baby has. So she's probably not destined to be a bully.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A growing girl

Since she was tiny, Bean has always been a pretty good sleeper at night (not a great napper, but a good nighttime sleeper). So by the time I went back to work, little Bean was down to waking up once a night to eat. Which is SO doable after months on end of 3-4 times per night.

However, in the last three weeks, Bean is on an eating rampage. She has gone from eating 12 oz of milk while she's at daycare to eating 16 or 17 oz. That's a 33% increase! And so I've been running a deficit every day with the pumping... I pump 12-14 oz a day at best. In addition, little Bean has started waking up 3 or 4 times to eat at night. So I'm exhausted and drained. I literally can't keep up with her demand.

So we thought we'd finally start introducing solids. This is a big transition. Up until now, all 14 pounds and 8 ounces of biomass that is the Bean has come directly through me. All of it (I guess with the exception of some oxygen). And frankly it's a point of pride for me. I MADE her. But she's clearly needing to increase her calories, and she needs an external source of iron now, so solid foods it is...

But she won't bite. Literally. My stubborn little Bean just clams up no matter what we try to give her, be it sweet potato, peaches, rice cereal or apple sauce. She grabs for the spoon. She uses her hands to block my shots. She's playing more D than a college basketball team. And if you keep working at it, she eventually gets mad. Game over. We've successfully gotten a few tiny tastes of applesauce into her, but she makes a face as she works it around in her mouth. I would guess we've gotten maybe a gram of applesauce into her over several feedings.

My stubborn little girl. After our huge battle to get Bean to start taking the bottle, my mother warned me that I had a fighter on my hands. But Bean is generally so good natured and easy going, I was certain it was a one time thing. But now I know that Bean is a do-it-herself-er. SHE will determine what she eats and when.

I can only hope that if we persist we can eventually convince Bean to start eating some solids. Because right now I'm fighting an uphill battle to keep up with her demand. And although I do have that lovely stockpile in my freezer, it's going to disappear pretty quick if she keeps outpacing me by 5 oz a day...

And I have GOT to get some sleep!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Night(s) out

This past weekend I had the rare opportunity to go out for the evening sans baby. Not once, but twice. It was nuts I tell ya', nuts!

On Friday a close friend from grad school, H-bomb, defended her thesis. It turned out that poor little Bean had pink eye and had to stay home from school, so Husband and I did some very elaborate Bean swapping in order to be sure that I could attend H-bomb's defense. H-bomb did an amazing job (I mean, if I can follow an immunology talk, it's a freakin' mircale considering I still have to remind myself the difference between innate and acquired immunity... so kudos to H!).

After the defense, we had hoped to bring Bean inside for the celebratory toast, but Bean got fussy at the last minute, so we took her home instead. That meant that Husband and I couldn't both attend the dinner to help H celebrate, so Husband kindly agreed to stay home with the Bean while I went out to dinner and then drinks with many of my closest friends from grad school. It's amazing every once in awhile to get out of the house sans baby and go someplace other than work. On the way I was blasting Tool on my iPod (you don't get to blast music very often once you're carting a kid around, so that in and of itself was a treat). I got to hang out with some of my favorite people on the planet, I had a pina colada (ridiculously delicious and girly), and the bar even sent over a round of shots on the house (some sort of bottle shelf vodka mixed with either grapefruit juice or battery acid, I'm not sure but it was disgusting). It was good to get out and talk about things other than baby. We talked science, we made fun of Jim Watson, we toasted H-bomb and poured one out for our missing homies (we missed you LJ!).

Saturday night was a Mom's Night Out that I had on the calendar for over a month, so Husband had to stay home with Bean again. I met up with a few mom's that I had the good fortune to meet while I was on maternity leave, and all our babies were born within weeks of each other. We met for dinner and beers at 5:30 (because when you have little ones at home you either do these things early or late so as not to mess up bedtimes). We comiserated about pumping and daycare, we dreamed of being stay at home moms, we drank our expensive beer and laughed about watching mindless TV. We compared notes on babies and husbands and how filthy our respective houses seem to get these days. It was an equally fantastic night out.

In retrospect, my two nights out seem like a funny juxtaposition. Am I getting old now? I vote no.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wanna do something good?

Wanna do something good for (virtually) no cost?

My friend Em teaches English to middle school kids at a (surprise, surprise) underfunded middle school in Oregon. Em writes

My kids need books. Our classroom library? Dismal. Our budget? Tiny. Our school's library? Shitty... If you guys have books, ANY books, not just books kids might like but ANY books, would you consider shipping them to me (at my school site)?

Em is working hard to give her students a love of reading, and to do so, she is trying to build up her classroom library with books of all kinds! But she has no money to do so because um, she gets an eensy weensy paycheck.

Like me, you probably have shelves full of books you read once and then haven't picked up since. Don't let them just sit there gathering dust. Put 'em to good use. Send 'em to Em!

Here's how you do it: Go through your bookshelves and find all the books you can possibly get rid of (believe me, this kind of purge is actually quite cathartic). Box your books up. Head down to your local Post Office and ship 'em as "Media Mail." Media Mail is a super cheap way to send books. Mail the books to:

Emily Pollard
c/o Rowe Middle School
3606 SE Lake Road
Milwaukie, OR 97222

Then just sit back and feel good about yourself for the rest of the day.

Em closes by saying

I know, I know. Beggars, all. But we're doing all we can to make it so these kids know what the forest is, what books are, and how they can make their lives better. Books save 'em. And the fact is that even buying snacks for four classes of kids comes out of my own pocket. ::shrugs:: ... these kids-- they're pretty f*!$in' awesome. And I had to ask. Thanks, guys, for reading.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Milk Supply

Yeah, it's ridiculous. But it keeps me from buying ice cream...


Cold Spring Harbor labs has finally "suspended" James Watson for another one of his horribly racist comments. In this scientist's opinion this is too little too late. Watson is known for being a blatant sexist, racist, homophobic ass, and yet for the past 40 years, CSHL has continued to let him get away with whatever he likes.

Despite a history of bad behavior, CSHL has continued to honor Watson. First as director, the president, and now chancellor of the National Lab, even going so far as to name their graduate program after him. He's a one trick pony, winner of THE most contentious nobel prize in history, and yet the lab has held him up as an icon, despite his continued downward spiral into prejudice of all kinds.

Some of the comments Watson has been credited with:

-You know there's no money in science these days because the enrollment of Jews in science graduate programs is down (during a talk given at my university this past spring)
-Blacks have an inherently higher sex drive
-Pospects for Africa are grim because blacks are less intelligent than whites
-Thin people are unhappy and work hard, fat people are lazy: "You always feel bad when you're interviewing a fat person because you know you're not going to hire them."
-In the event of a test to determine homos in utero, women should have the right to abort a homosexual fetus

The thing that's really infuriating about Watson is that he has a lot of sway among non-scientists because he's the name mostly commonly associated with the discovery of the structure of DNA. Probably one of the most well-known scientists in popular culture. So when he makes outrageous statements and pretends there is scientific data to support them... it's just SO frustrating.

So I can only hope that this will mark the beginning of the end for Watson and his influence on popular culture. Maybe people will stop giving him speaking engagements. It only encourages his delusions that people actually give a s*** what he has to say...

Addendum: Zuska has an amazingly well written post on this subject.

0.5 years old

In honor of Bean's 6 month birthday, may I present our birth story...

I started having contractions at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday the 19th, one day before my due date. The contractions were strong and painful, but I didn't think they were real labor contractions because I could only feel them in the lower part of my uterus... the top of my uterus didn't feel like it was contracting at all. The contractions started about 15 minutes apart, and though they were painful, they weren’t terrible. I told husband this wasn’t the real thing, and I continued packing my lunch for work.

We had a scheduled doctors appointment at 9:40, so we got ourselves ready, and right before we walked out the door I told Husband to grab the camera “just in case”. In the car the contractions started to organize and become regular. Husband was timing them and it was amazing that they were now coming every five minutes on the dot, and I was having to use my breathing exercises to make it through. By the time we got to the hospital, I had to stop walking during the contractions. When we saw my doctor, she watched me have a contraction and then decided to check my cervix. At 9:45 a.m. I was dilated to about 1.5 centimeters, but hadn't really thinned at all. She decided to send me to the birthing center to get monitored, but warned me that they would probably monitor me for a bit and then either send me out for a walk or send me home. She offered us a wheelchair to get over to the birthing center, but I decided I wanted to walk.

On the way to the birthing center I had a contraction in an elevator, much to the chagrin of the 6 other people on board. Then walking over to the birthing center, the contractions were coming just three minutes apart, but I was in complete denial. I was talking to Husband about whether or not I should go to work after we left the birthing center. Luckily Husband humored me and said we’d see how I felt after they checked me out at the birthing center.

Once we arrived, they took me into the triage suite and hooked me up to the monitors, saw that my contractions were coming fast and hard, and decided I probably wasn't going anywhere. The on-call resident performed an ultrasound to check the baby's position, and to our horror said that the baby was butt down. I immediately started to cry. My doctor had felt Bean’s position through my stomach and had assured me that she was head down, but apparently she was wrong..

The resident told me that the on-call obstetrician might be able to perform a version to flip the baby and allow a vaginal delivery. So the OB was called in. She was dubious, but said that they could try to stop the contractions, perform the version, and hen restart the contractions and hope for a vaginal delivery. I said that I wanted her to try. So they gave me a shot which immediately stopped the contractions. She then went to check my cervix. In the 45 minutes since my doctor had checked me, I had gone from 1.5 cms and 0% effaced to 5 cms and 100% effaced! The OB said that she could no longer try to perform the version because with my cervix that far open, it was possible that the bag of waters could break and the cord could prolapse. So a C-section was now my only option. Of course, I was devastated, but with no other safe options for a vaginal delivery, I signed the consent form.

From there, everything happened pretty quickly. They immediately began prepping me for surgery, gave me the spinal (which was horrible), and as soon as they could get everyone assembled, they started the surgery. It took about 10 minutes for them to get down to the uterus, at which point they squeezed my belly like a tube of toothpaste to extract the baby. At 12:54 p.m. I heard the very first little squak from our baby girl, and it was the most amazing thing I have ever heard. When they put her down on the table to get cleaned up, I almost didn't believe she was actually mine because she was so darn beautiful! Husband got to hold her while they stitched me up, and at 1:30 I was breastfeeding her for the first time.

7 pounds, 1 oz
18.5 inches
Born April 19th at 12:54 p.m.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Baby Steps

The last 5 days in a row of picking up Bean at daycare, her teachers have said that Bean had a fussy day. We've been talking about the possibility of teething, despite the fact that there aren't any hard little ridges yet. We increased her bottles (more on that later). No improvement.

Today I mentioned to her teacher that perhaps it's because Bean is getting ready to crawl. A pediatric nurse who runs a support group for new parents always says that there is chaos whenever baby is trying to acquire a new skill. Especially crawling. Her teacher thought that was possible and said that Bean's been trying to army crawl.

Well tonight we got home and after feeding Bean we put her on her tummy on her mat to play. And sure enough, Bean started tucking her knees under herself and wriggling forward! And it wasn't just belly to the ground crawling, she was getting her knees under herself pretty darn well and really getting her belly up!

I know every baby crawls, etc, but I seriously started crying. I was so happy and proud!

Well, eventually it was time for bed, but it seemed Bean didn't know how to shut it off. I'd get her pretty much to sleep, and then 10 minutes later there was a crying Bean laying on her tummy trying to crawl in her crib (having broken out of an expert swaddle). Over and over again. Finally, after extensive rocking in her Ikea Poang chair (a lifesaver! best rocking motion for soothing a baby, hands down!), Bean finally drifted off. It's been about 15 minutes and I still don't hear her wrestling her way out of her swaddle. *Knocks on wood*

Here's hoping for a good nights sleep and a better day tomorrow!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Check this out! I found this on the blog of a friend of a friend.

It's a test that can discriminate between left brain and right brain people. I was, unsurprisingly, a right brain person. To me, the woman was spinning in a clockwise direction, and I couldn't imagine her spinning counter-clockwise at all. In fact, I kinda thought that it was B.S. until the grad student in my lab assured me that she could see the dancer spinning counter-clockwise (and this grad student is decidedly left brained).

Hmm, I wonder how one becomes left brained or right brained. I'll do some reading and try to add a bit to this post.

In the meantime, what are you?

Here comes winter

We really did have a great weekend. After 2 weeks of rainy gray-ness, the clouds parted late Saturday morning and we had two days of great weather. Though Husband and I both had a bit of lab work to do each day, we mostly took the weekend off to enjoy the gorgeous weather before we get socked in with rain for the next 6 months.

Saturday we took Bean and Pup for a walk at our favorite park to see all the wonderful fall colors. We took our time, showing Bean all the different colors on the different trees. She sampled many leaves and found the maple leaves to be the most delicious. Then we treated ourselves to Ethiopian for lunch before hitting the backroads and heading through farm country. We found a pumpkin patch (see below) and picked an oversized but perfect pumpkin.

Sunday, after we did our lab work, we went to a friends house for a BBQ and ended up spending most of the afternoon relaxing in their backyard. Bean was moderately interested in their gigantic Bernese Mountain Dog, and found our lunch far more interesting.

By the time we got home we realized we had spent far too much of the weekend playing and so I ran off to the grocery store with Bean to do the grocery shopping for the week while Husband finished up some writing he was supposed to have done by today. But even the grocery shopping with Bean was fun because I wore her in the Bjorn and we discussed all of the produce. I don't mind looking like a crazy lady, bouncing up and down the aisles to keep Bean squealing while we shop. And in general I think people are smiling at me indulgently, not laughing at me. I think.

So we'll be paying for our lazy weekend all week. We're behind on the laundry, the bathroom's a mess, the floors are covered in pet hair. But this morning the rain kicked in full force again, and the weather forecast is calling for rain for the next 10 days. We may not see another nice weekend like this one for the rest of the year, so I'm glad we took some time to enjoy ourselves together.

I promise to clean the bathroom tonight. Or tomorrow.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Taking a day off

It was a good weekend.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Working on the weekend

So this morning both Husband and I had to go to lab. He had some pretty labor intensive things to do, while I mostly had to just shuffle some stuff around, start a couple of cultures... easy stuff. So I dropped Husband off at his lab and then Bean and I drove on over to my lab.

Now, I work at a University, so of course parking on campus is ridiculously expensive and I don't have a parking permit. And since the University is obnoxious, you can't even park there on weekdays until after 9:00 p.m., and on the weekends you can't park without a permit until after noon. Well, I like to get my lab work early, so I will usually pay for street parking near lab, or if that's not available, park illegally on campus.

Well, when I show up to lab with Bean in tow, there's parking enforcement dutifully ticketing all the suckers... I mean scientists, who are there working on the weekend. I mean, it's pretty obvious that the people who are parking there are people coming to WORK FOR THE UNIVERSITY. Nonetheless, the University sends out parking enforcement to ticket its own employees for coming in to work.

Anyway, so I decide not to park illegally, and instead I find some pay parking a few blocks away from lab and since Bean is now asleep in her car seat, I have to lug 20+ pounds of car-seated baby back to lab. My lab work is non-eventful, and I lug Bean back to the car. I pass the parking guy who is still ticketing other cars.

Once I get back to my car, I put Bean's seat in the back, pull down my parking sticker, and turn on the car. Before I actually pull away from the curb, I look down at my iPod and start scrolling through to find some new music. Just as I settle on the Magnetic Fields, there's a rapping sound at my window. I look up to see the parking guy waving his ticket-writing-thing-a-ma-jig at me.

I pulled the parking sticker back out to show him that I did in fact pay for parking, but he doesn't leave until I actually re-post it in my window so that he can see that I still have 6 minutes left on the sticker. Then he moves on to the car in front of me to ticket them.

The baby is in the back seat, I'm in the front, the car is running, and I am clearly just finding something on my iPod, and yet the guy was going to issue me a ticket!

And that's our reward for working on the weekends. A parking ticket.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Asleep at the wheel

Last night I had a series of horrible nightmares. Or rather, one nightmare that continued every time I fell asleep, no matter how many times I woke up in a cold sweat. In brief, this nightmare involved watching a 9/11-type happen in my city catastrophe in my city, and then trying desperately to make it the 15 or so miles to Bean's daycare on foot through a progressively deteriorating city. Very Mad Max.

Bean, on the other hand, slept all the way through the night for the first time ever!

This morning I literally fell asleep on the couch while eating my breakfast. I closed by eyes (just for a second!) while I was chewing, and.... luckily I was awakened a few minutes later by Pup who had noticed I was asleep and got up on the couch to try to steal my cereal. Luckily for me, Pup is not very sneaky.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Things other than poop

So tonight, as part of my campaign to talk about things other than poop, I had dinner with an invited seminar speaker and a small group of other postdocs. The seminar speaker is an amazing scientist from Stanford. She had lots of great stories, including one about serving as a scientific advisor to Clinton and addressing Clinton and his cabinet about genetic engineering. She is dynamic and passionate and incredibly smart. The kind of scientist we should all strive to be like.

I, on the other hand, was the dumbest person at the table. But that's another post entirely.

When the speaker mentioned that she has 3 children, I asked her how she had balanced the demands of her family with the intense demands of getting tenure. She replied that she had succeeded by never feeling guilty: when she was in the lab, she didn't feel guilty about not being with her kids. When she was at home, she didn't feel guilty about not being in lab. And that allowed her to focus on whatever she was doing and really engage.

Good advice, I thought.

"Oh," she added, "and it helped that I had a full-time, live-in nanny for 23 years."

Friday, October 5, 2007


A few years ago I was talking to a dear friend of mine about how I didn't think I could be successful as a scientist. "I'm not smart enough," I whined. "I just fake it, and hope no one notices how stupid I am. I could never fake it well enough to be a PI."

The voices in my head tell me that I only got into grad school because I'm good at taking standardized tests. And I only got good grades as an undergraduate because my college wasn't rigorous. I only got internships because I got lucky. I only did well in my undergraduate research lab because I had good people training me. I only passed my general exam in grad school because my committee decided to go easy on me.

My friend, a fellow graduate student, shook me with the sterness of her response. "You're being ridiculous. Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome?" I had not (more evidence that I am dumb?).

Imposter syndrome, identified in 1978, is a destructive mode of thinking, afflicting primarily high-acheiving women. Women with imposter syndrome have the persistent belief that they are phonies, or fakes, despite high-level academic and professional accomplishements. These women believe that they are not bright and think that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. They often experience generalized anxiety and depression because they are afraid that one day they will be "found out" or that they can never live up to the expectations they have tricked others into having.

While the imposter phenomenon has not been exhaustively studied, there has been considerable work looking at the differences between men and women when it comes to the differential attribution of success between the sexes. While men tend to attribute successes to their ability, women tend to attribute successes to external or temporary factors (such as luck or extreme effort) which mitigate their inherent inability. When it comes to failures, men tend to attribute their failures to such temporary factors ("I didn't study for this exam") or task difficulty, while women tend to attribute failures to their lack of ability. This type of thinking is thought to play heavily into the imposter phenomenon.

When I first read about the imposter phenomenon, it actually made me feel a little better that I wasn't the only person who couldn't seem to feel good about any of her accomplishments. Of course, like anyone I get some temporary joy when I perform well, but mostly that feeling isn't one of pride... more a feeling of relief... I dodged another bullet, pulled off another trick.

The voice of doubt is there pretty much constantly. It's there when I'm interpreting my data... I never seem to feel like my data is trustworthy. I repeat experiments over and over again because I don't believe they will be reproducible. My grad work is published, but I don't speak about it with pride because I seem to be waiting for someone to disprove it.

When an experiment fails, I often try to avoid seeing my boss. I'm afraid that if I have to tell her something didn't work, it's because I'm a horrible scientist and I should be ashamed (because, apparently I am the ONLY scientist in the world whose experiments sometimes fail). That's the main reason I'm often unhappy working at the bench. I can not take a failed experiment or a negative result in stride... it's always further evidence of my incompetence.

When I recently got funded, I celebrated out of relief that I wouldn't have to write again, not because I felt like I had done well. And I started to tell myself that the reason I got funded was because I look good on paper, not because I am competent.

Talking to other female grad students and postdocs, I hear the same thing from women that I would give my left nut to be like. What is it about academia that women can't seem to be confident in their successes? Have we internalized the societal bias that women aren't smart enough to be academics? Are intelligent women really so rare that we can't possibly be among them?

I can believe someone if they tell me I'm a good cook. I can believe someone if they tell me I'm a good mother. I can even believe someone if they tell me I'm fun to be around. But I can't ever seem to quiet the negative backtalk when it comes to my intelligence.

Damn it.