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.