Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For Hubby

Hubby is adamant that I need to share this with y'all. Don't worry... it is even safe to watch at work.

And while I'm at it, if you have seen the post about why having a toddler is like being at a frat party, go check it out, also courtesy of my husband.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


We took a half day from work on Friday, and went to the San Diego County Fair with Pumpkin, Petunia, and my parents. (Hurray for the Mazda 5- we only had to take one car!)

Last year, Pumpkin wouldn't touch any of the animals in the petting zoo, although she did consent to touch Hubby's hand while he pet a sheep. I thought for certain that this year, she would pet some animals. I was wrong. They are still too scary.

However, she loved the rides in the kiddie section. She went on whirly dogs and boats, climbed up an obstacle course and slid down a two story slide. And she rode on the Ferris wheel "or "Paris wheel", as she calls it). When she asked to ride on the Ferris wheel, we were near a little one, and asked her if that is the one she wanted to ride. No. She wanted to ride the big one she could see sticking up above the other rides. Hubby went on it with her. Here is the view from the top.

She had a blast.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

You remember how I said I was almost jealous of Hubby that day he stayed home to recover from food poisoning? Yeah, it really isn't that fun.

Is it just me, or is the incidence of food poisoning on the rise? Or maybe we're just easy targets right now since we're not getting enough sleep. Or maybe our containment procedures actually work and it is just your average run of the mill tummy bug that my fastidious hand washing and hand sanitizing have kept me from passing on to someone else in the family.

Last night's fun was exacerbated by the continuance of Petunia's sleep freakout, which has now expanded to include her first wake up in the middle of the night. I have found a way to get her to go to sleep without a lot of crying, though- sports. If I hold her sitting on my lap facing out, and gently bounce her while we watch sports on TV, she will eventually put her thumb in her mouth and relax enough that I can get her to go to sleep. She fights it- she'll settle back against my chest, and then sit bolt upright, clearly fighting sleep. But eventually, sleep wins. We stumbled on this on Monday night. We had some friends over to watch the New Zealand-Wales match that Hubby had recorded over the weekend. Petunia did her usual refusal to go to sleep routine, so I brought her out and sat her on my lap while I watched the first part of the game. And damned if she didn't calm down and go to sleep!

So last night, when it was after 8 and Petunia wouldn't go to sleep, I brought her out and told Hubby to start the Australia-England game. And damned if it didn't work again!

It is not just rugby, though. This morning, Petunia was cranky and in need of a nap (probably because she'd been up screaming at us for an hour in the middle of the night). Hubby had the USA-Algeria soccer match on (one of Pumpkin's day care teachers had taught her how to chant "USA! USA!" which was pretty cute. We'll have to work on the "Kiiii-wiiii" chant next). Petunia settled in and fell asleep.

So tonight, we'll break out the South Africa game much earlier.

In other Petunia news, when she isn't screaming in refusal to sleep, she is a lot of fun right now. I have a mole on my chest that is exposed by the necklines of most of my shirts, and when I hold her facing me, she likes to try to pick it up. I find this unbelievably cute, and feel a little sorry for her with her unachievable quest. She's crawling around and exploring everything. Pumpkin is going crazy- "Noooo! I don't want Petunia to touch that!" We're trying to teach her that anything she doesn't want Petunia to touch needs to live in her room or up high. We're making slow progress on that.

At least my stomach feels better and I got to take a 3 hour nap this morning.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Anyway You Do It, It Is Hard

Whenever I think I have a handle on this parenting thing, one of my kids does something that shows me how wrong I am. Petunia's refusal to go to sleep continues. Here I was, feeling all smug in with my "do whatever it takes to get everyone in the family the sleep they need" mantra... and now I can't for the life of me figure out what, exactly, it takes to get Petunia to sleep. Her bedtime has suddenly moved 1-1.5 hours later, and I can't get her down without a fair amount of crying. I hate making my baby cry. Hearing my baby cry short circuits something in my brain, and I can hardly think straight until I can get her to stop. So we're not exactly good candidates for a cry-it-out sleep approach. And yet, that is what Petunia seems to be doing.

Anyway, posting is likely to be even lighter than usual around here until we get Petunia's bedtime back under control. However, there is something that I really want to get out of my system. Lately, the science blogs I read have been buzzing about "work-life balance" and the division of household labor.  Dr. Free Ride and Zuska have good wrap-ups, and I think it all started with posts by Dr. Isis and Scientist Mother.

It is mildly ironic that I haven't had time to write this post until now because it was our week to clean the house,  and we therefore had chores to do every night and extra chores to do this weekend. I am pausing to write this post even though the office remains unclean... the majority of the cleaning needed is on my desk, and I'll get to it tomorrow night.

The "work-life balance" issue matters to me for reasons that are not evident in my own life. I actually feel like I have a decent handle on things. Hubby and I have a chores schedule that we mostly follow without too much angst. We have a cleaner who comes once a month, and I feel exactly zero guilt about that. We send our kids to day care and I feel a little more than zero guilt about that, but not much. I have a career I like, but usually work between 40 and 45 hours a week, and I feel fine about that, too. I am, on the whole, a very happy working mother.

But the issue still matters to me, because I think it is being used against women. The difficulty of achieving work-life balance in science careers (or, I suspect, in any demanding career) is often cited as a reason for the infamous "leaky pipeline".  To make matters worse, "difficulty with work-life balance" is often code for "this career is incompatible with motherhood". I have written before about the fact that I do not think a career in science is incompatible with motherhood- and have found plenty of examples of scientists who are mothers.

As an explanation for the gender imbalance in science, "it is too hard to combine with motherhood" is at least better than "women just aren't as good at science"- but only just.  The idea that a demanding career is incompatible with motherhood is sexist B.S. because it assumes that the need to combine a career with responsibilities at home is an issue only for women. (I know, I know... there is a biological difference between mothers and fathers, blah blah blah- but I think that is bunk, too. The actual biological difference boils down to a 9 month pregnancy, a day or two in labor and delivery, and maybe two years of breastfeeding- these are time-limited, usually manageable within your career arc, and can be readily balanced by a partner who views himself as an equal parent. But I digress.) The need to balance some sort of home life with work is not a woman's issue- it is a people's issue.

The data do indicate, though, that in practice, it is more of an issue for women. There are many studies that show that women, even women with demanding careers, continue to do more of the housework and child-rearing than men. While this is deeply unfair, and I am very much in favor of both personal and public action to change this fact, I don't think it should give hiring managers or committees much pause when they consider hiring a woman. I also don't think it should give women much pause when they consider choosing a demanding career. I posted about one such study about academic scientists not too long ago.  As I wrote in that post, the statistic that struck me most in the study was the finding that the partnered men (who did on average 28% of the housework in their homes) and the partnered women (who did on average 54% of the housework) were working the same number of hours- 55 +/- 11.

So the men may be getting a free pass on housework, but they aren't spending that extra time at work. I postulated that they were at the pub drinking beer. Comrade Physioprof had a less PG suggestion, which should surprise no one who is familiar with his unique commenting style. Regardless of what the men are doing with their free time, the key point is that the "extra shift" pulled by some women at home is not impacting their work so much as their leisure. It isn't that motherhood is incompatible with a demanding career. It is that motherhood and a demanding career are incompatible with having hobbies and a selfish partner. Something will have to give. I personally recommend finding an unselfish partner, but I have to admit that even with a partner who does his fair share, my hobbies have taken a serious hit. The funny thing is, though, that I manage to find time for the things that really matter to me. But I digress again.

I also think the "this career isn't compatible with motherhood" explanation does a disservice to all mothers, be they working or stay at home, because it implies that there is somehow an easy way to be a mother, or at least an easier way. I don't think there is. I regularly joke with one of my (male) coworkers that we go to work to rest after our weekends. Caring for young children is hard work. (Which is probably why humans have always had help with it. But I digress yet again.)

The three things that I find hardest in my life right now are: (1) Petunia's sudden bedtime freak out, (2) the difficulty of making dinner while also watching two small children, and (3) the fact that the only way I get any quiet time at home is to load the kids in the double stroller and push them around for a walk while they nap. I don't see how quitting my job would make any of these things better, and in fact, I suspect it would make dealing with them even more difficult.

So I think any woman who wants to work outside the home but also wants to be a mother should go for it. It certainly isn't easy, but neither is the alternative. Therefore, perhaps the best thing to do is to aim high in your career- so that you can afford to hire help.

Bad Mom, Good Mom has a couple of interesting posts on related topics, which imply that I may be re-evaluating my opinion on combing work and motherhood once the girls reach school age. It will be interesting to see what happens. If I've learned anything in the last three years, it is that I really can't predict how this motherhood thing is going to go, so it is best to just roll with things as they happen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Small Update

Petunia is crawling. Forwards.

Last night, I got my computer out to do some quick online banking while Petunia played on the floor. The pretty shiny computer was too much of a temptation for her, and she finally managed to get forward motion. She's crawling without the computer as a lure now, and even though she is not yet speedy, she has already shown us that we need to improve our baby-proofing.

She is also driving me crazy. My sweet little baby who used to nurse, burp, and then go down with her eyes open and fall asleep has turned into a sweet little baby who cries, pushes away from me, and scolds me until I take her out of her darkened room or put her down and let her play. We've tried reading stories after nursing instead of before, moving bedtime later, moving bedtime earlier, letting her fuss a bit in her crib... nothing seems to work. Bedtime has turned into a major production. Tomorrow night, we're going to try talking a family walk after dinner- Pumpkin used to like that. And then Friday, we'll try letting her stay up and play until she shows signs of being tired.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And Now for a Post That Will Appeal Only to My Family

One of the (many) reasons I blog is that it captures some of the little things about motherhood and my children that I wouldn't otherwise write down. This post is about that- if you're looking for anything deeper, click away now.

I've been struck recently by how grown up Pumpkin is seeming. For one thing, she finally had her first haircut yesterday. Can you tell which is the before and which is the after picture?

But the first haircut milestone- the last one in her baby book- is just an outward symbol. The growing up that is really amazing me these days is in what she knows and understands. For instance, one day last week, I took a slightly different route to our house after turning off the main street. I was avoiding some traffic on our usual route, as I explained to Pumpkin when she asked "why are you going this way Mommy?" I went straight instead of turning left, and turned left one block later. I drove up that street and turned right onto our street. She announced the name of our street as I turned onto it, and then, as I passed the next cross street (the one we walk down to get to the park), told me "we could have come up this street, the park street, too, Mommy. That would have worked, too." She was right, of course, and I was surprised by the sudden realization that she has a little map of her neighborhood in her head, marked with the important things, like our street and the park.

Petunia is growing fast, too. She already weighs more than Pumpkin did at a year- she is more than 20 lbs. My back and arms feel that weight, let me tell you. But it makes her so cuddly that I forgive her for the extra workout. Well, it makes her cuddly on the rare occasion that she wants to be cuddled. These days, she wants to be down on the ground, trying to crawl. She is so close, and so frustrated by her inability to get the last few pieces to fall into place, it almost breaks my heart.

Pumpkin spent at least a month almost crawling. She took the route that I assume is more usual- from tummy time, she pushed up on all fours, and then rocked and rocked until finally, one day, the lure of my computer was too much and she set off crawling across the floor to get to it.

Petunia is going about it her own way. She isn't too fond of tummy time, and hasn't been since she learned how to sit. She has now learned how to sit up on her own from tummy time, so once she remembers that she knows how to roll over, getting her to stay down in her crib is going to be a challenge. We have lowered the mattress in expectation of this event. Now, if I put her in her crib sitting, she grabs onto the bars and rattles them, or grabs the top bar and tries to pull up and/or teeth on it, all with a grin on her face and a bit of mischief in her eyes.

Anyway, her almost crawling looks different than her sister's did. She starts from sitting, and lunges forward for a toy. She has amazing range- she will flatten herself out into a pose that would make my yoga teacher proud, and then pull herself back up, with the toy clutched in her hand and a triumphant smile on her face. For several weeks, she was getting her right leg stuck underneath her, in half of a cross-legged pose, and then whining because she can't crawl. Next, she figured out how to free the leg, but the weight of her chubby little bottom was too much for her arms, and she sprawled onto her tummy. From here, she is likely to start scooting backwards across the floor- and boy, did that delight her for awhile- until she runs into a cupboard or refrigerator or some other barrier, at which point she will pull her legs into an almost split and then sit up.

Just this weekend, she has gotten strong enough to keep her bottom in the air and reach forward with her arms at the same time. She hasn't actually crawled yet, but she is so close that we're constantly hovering with the camera, sure that this time will be it, and wanting to capture that moment for her baby book. Anyone want to bet how much longer we'll be in this almost crawling stage? And whether we will have given up and forgotten about the camera by the time she actually manages to crawl?

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Lesson for Today

Friday night pizza night is a really good idea.

Tonight, I tried to cook dinner after work. Now, I cook dinner after work every week night* so you would think this would be no problem. But Fridays are busy days for me. I have a lot of meetings, which makes it hard to schedule my three** pumping sessions. One of the meetings runs over the lunch hour, which I hate. I also have to write my weekly status report on my department. Plus, I'm tired by the end of the work week.

So, tonight's dinner was an easy recipe, but I still damn near melted down getting it on the table. It all started off well, with Pumpkin entertaining Petunia while I assembled the dish. Then, Pumpkin decided to put the hood on Petunia's shirt up, and Petunia fell forward and bonked her forehead on the cupboard (something that happens a lot these days, and is not usually Pumpkin's fault). I never really got Petunia happy again. Pumpkin pouted over the reprimand I gave her for several minutes, and then announced that she didn't like what I was making for dinner. Meanwhile, the water boiled over on the stove and made a mess and I discovered that we were out of Pumpkin's bread, so I had to substitute a tortilla, which required heating in the overn instead of a quick turn in the toaster.

Then Hubby came home, and went straight back to change clothes and go to the bathroom. This is part of his routine, and I think it is important for him, functioning as a way to separate the parts of his day. I don't really begrudge him this, but I am intensely jealous of it, because I often don't get a chance to go to the bathroom after work until after Petunia is in bed. I was already a bit grumpy, and my mood just deteriorated further.

I was so frazzled by dinner that I didn't handle Petunia's subsequent refusal to go to sleep at her regular time all that well, which undoubtedly just made the routine take longer. And now Hubby has been stuck doing all the nightly chores, because Pumpkin has also decided not to go to sleep easily, so I need to stay nearby and wait for her to stop calling me back into her room to tell me random things like how she likes to go to day care and see her friends and teachers. Followed a few minutes later by an announcement that she also likes her weekends with Mommy and Daddy. I am typing this blog post in hopes that it will keep me from running screaming from the house.

My dish (Gnocchi with a turkey and tomato ragu) was tasty. But I think we'll stick to frozen pizza on future Friday nights.

*Because of how we've arranged our schedule: I work the "early shift" and do day care pick up. Hubby works the "late shift" and does day care drop off. In actuality, our "shifts" are only about 30 minutes different, but those are crucial minutes. We believe in family dinner time. In order to make family dinner time possible, we need to east dinner at roughly the time Hubby walks through the door, so I cook. On the flip side, I largely missed the Great Sunscreen Wars of the 12-24 months period of Pumpkin's life.

**Soon to be reduced to two sessions if Petunia keeps her recent bottle schedule.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Second Generation of Fun

We visited my parents at the end of April. It was a great trip, complete with a night away in a hotel room for Hubby and me, in celebration of our five year wedding anniversary.

The night away was great. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and I got to eat it while it was hot and without telling anyone to stop blowing raspberries at the dinner table. We walked out to a tiki bar near our hotel and had yummy adult beverages and talked. I slept through the night.

However, I think this was even better:

That is a photo of Pumpkin playing with one of my favorite toys from childhood, Richard Scarry's Puzzletown. It is a green plastic grid with sturdy cardboard shapes that you stickin the grooves to build scenes. There are also plastic characters to place in your scenes.

I have fond memories of hours of play with the two sets I owned, the farm:

and the doctor's office:

I saved my own money to buy them when I was a kid, and I still remember how disappointed I was the day I went back to buy another set, only to find that the store no longer carried them.

Still, I played with the two sets I had for years. After I outgrew them, my Mom kept them for visiting children and she also took them in to her first grade classroom. It is amazing how well those cardboard pieces have held up.

As we were driving home at the end of our visit, Pumpkin wanted to know if we had the Richard Scarry toys at home. I had to tell her no. I'd buy them for her if they still made them, but they do not, and I can't justify purchasing used sets on eBay-  the listings I found had asking prices of about $90. So those toys will stay a treat to be enjoyed on visits to Mimi and Boppa's house. I'm so glad that my parents kept them for all of these years!

What toys do you remember playing with when you were a kid? Are they still available?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sleep, Perchance to Not Be a Jerk

For the most part, I think my children make me a better person. I swear less. I am a more courteous driver. I eat more vegetables. I take more joy in the little things in life.

However, recently, Petunia's sleep patterns have made me a worse person. We're in the period in which separation anxiety is setting in, and new motor skills are being practiced. When Pumpkin was this age, we were up 5 times a night and I started The Great Sleep Experiment in desperation. Petunia is only up 2-3 times a night, but because of Pumpkin's late bed time and Petunia's stubborn refusal to settle into a true schedule, I have been unable to get my minimum requirement of 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I've been grumpy and irritable. I have resented the sleep Hubby was getting. Hubby thought I was slacking off on the chores, and he was probably right- I had hit that stage of sleep deprivation when all I really cared about was finding a way to get more sleep.

The final straw was this Saturday. I was angry that I was making the crock pot dish for dinner, and was crashing around the kitchen. Pumpkin was watching me, and she said "Mommy, why are you so mad?" I stopped, and looked at her, and said "For no good reason. Mommy needs a time out." I went into our guest room/office and just sat for a few minutes. I knew something was going to have to change.

So Sunday night, I pumped before bed. I left a bottle for Hubby and went to bed as early as I could. He slept on the sofa with the monitor until Petunia's second waking, and then came and got me. I felt like a completely different woman yesterday. Last night, I left another bottle. Hubby came in after he gave her the bottle, but I still slept really well. I'm sitting in the living room now, watching Petunia play (she's also taken to waking up for the day at 5 a.m.).  I could still use more sleep, but I no longer crave it like some sort of drug.  Really, the only question is why didn't I do this sooner?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Petunia is sleeping a little better- she's only been up twice a night for the last few nights. (Of course, now she'll wake up 5 times tonight, just to prove me wrong.) However, she has started drinking more milk than I am pumping again. I am hoping this is a temporary disturbance due to her illness, and not a sign that I'm about to have to start pumping at night.
I'm starting to find my footing in my new project at work. I have a long way to go, but at least I feel like I'm making forward progress. No one seems to have noticed that my first two weeks on the project were completed in a haze of sleep deprivation. I am learning a lot, and feel like I have started to make some actual, although small, contributions. For the most part, I don't mind this unsettled feeling. I recognize it from past times when I've started a new project that stretches my skills, and think it is good for me.

However, today I was sitting in a meeting because of my new role at work. The meeting included my boss, the other VP on the research side of our organization, one of the scientific founders of the company, and several of my peers. The other VP, the scientific founder and one of my more annoying peers were in a conversation about a new research direction that we might take. I have no disagreement with us taking this direction, and in fact think it would be a good thing for us to do. But they were making an assumption about what some data we might collect would show, and that assumption was wrong, or at least incomplete. I wanted to say something, but didn't. I don't know why. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am correct about what the data will actually show. I strongly suspect that the scientific founder and at least one other person in the room would have recognized that I was correct. But I sat there and didn't say a thing. Why? I don't think I can blame this one on sleep deprivation. I suspect I was afraid of the probable defensive reaction that speaking up would have provoked from my peer and the other VP.

I left right after the meeting (actually I left before the meeting ended, as did another working mother who needed to beat traffic to day care, a couple of men with no real reason to need to leave other than their desire to escape a meeting that was devolving into pointlessness, and my boss, who I watched practice yoga breathing exercises to dissipate his frustrating as he left the room).  I was kicking myself for not speaking up all the way to day care. But then Petunia greeted me in her usual joyous manner- she gets a big grin on her face, bounces up and down, and make a sound that can best be described as a chortle- and all was right with the world for awhile.

As I drove home, I thought about a trip to a new park that I had taken with Pumpkin yesterday. We met some friends of mine, and I was busy talking to my friend while Pumpkin played on a single person merry go round. I thought she was laughing, but then realized she was shrieking and crying because she was going too fast and couldn't stop. I stopped her, and hugged her until she stopped crying. She went off to play on one of the climbing toys for awhile, but then came right back to the merry go round and tried again. Before I could say anything, she figured out that she could put her foot down to slow herself down. The grin on her face was beautiful to see. I was so proud of her for going back and trying again, and she was obviously proud of herself, too.

Tomorrow, I'll find a way to tell someone about the problem with their research plan. And next time, maybe I'll speak up in the meeting.