Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I love being a post-doc...

Up until now, most of my posts here have been about mommyhood.  Of course, that is only half of my story (even though mommyhood takes up a larger proportion of my life!).  While I've had this thought and feeling for a while, I think I articulated it well the other day, which prompted me thinking of how I might word a blog post about how much I love being a post-doc.

In a nutshell, I love what I do because I can dream big.  As campy as it sounds, it's really true.  I've gone through all of the technical training (although there are still a few things I haven't learned...but I pick up on techniques pretty easily), and I've done western blots, PCR, cell culture, expression arrays, immunofluorescence, ELISAs and so on, sometimes ad nauseum.  Sometimes I feel like a theoretical scientist, and I do quite a bit of "dry labbing" before actually carrying out an experiment.

I love designing experiments.  I love asking the "what if" type questions.  I love having all sorts of tools at my disposal to be able to carry out the experiments to proove some of my ideas.  I love putting things into the context of the "big" picture, while still being focused on my little piece of the puzzle.

In the past few years, I have had a few "eureka" type moments.  I've gone to my boss and started conversations with "I wonder if..." or "Has anyone tried...".  Perhaps best yet, some of my "thinking" sessions have been total shots in the dark, and when I went to test something out, something that I hypothesized was valid!  I've actually been on a pretty good streak with some things, and the times where I've thought "If I add this to these cells...will this increase?" or something of the sort.

It's really hard to describe to a non-scientist or even someone who isn't familiar with what the job entails.  The difference between being an undergrad, a technician, or a grad student is BIG.  And I'm loving every minute of it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What sleep deprivation does to you...take 4

This one should have a subtitle of "things thought, but not actually said verbally".

This past Sunday night was a cluster of difficulties.  A perfect storm.  A storm that seems to occur too frequently for my liking, even if the causes are different each time.  Rewinding further to Saturday, I was feeling a bit under the weather.  Probably more than under the weather, I was outright puking.  I went to bed much earlier than usual and still woke up exhausted and just feeling ucky (and woke up earlier than I really like to on the weekend!).  I DID get a bit of a rest/nap with Jared for about 3 hours from 11 to 2pm.  After grading for my online class, I was even OK to watch a little TV before bed.  I was tired and thought I could easily go to sleep as soon as I hit the sack.

WRONG.  Failure number one.  I couldn't and didn't fall asleep right away.  After starting to doze a little, Jared wakes me up just after 1am.  No biggie...he eats, goes back to sleep and I do the same.  3:30am.  Again with the waking.  5:30am.  Really kid?  At the 5:30 wake up...he was fussing more than usual and howling, so I took him downstairs while I fixed him a bottle.  Back in bed, and I'm looking forward to that hour left of sleep I have coming to me (it's the small things, right?).  No sooner than I hit the pillow and I hear my alarm going off.  What?  Already?  It seemed like just an instant, but it was now 6:30am!  Time to get up and take Jared to his doctor's appointment.

So I really felt awfully sleep deprived on Monday.  It wasn't pretty.  But somehow I got a second wind and made it through the day, watched TV without falling asleep even and was DEFINITELY ready to hit the hay.  Too bad Jared had gotten shots that day and he was starting to run a fever again.  Boo!

Now, you might ask, Amy, what does this have to do with sleep deprivation. It's coming, I promise.

My mind was made up when Jared started whining that I just COULDN'T do it another night.  Time to call in my favor with Mike.  Here's where the sleep deprivation makes it seem like I'm totally off my rocker:

1.  Giving instructions to Mike for what to try...I would THINK it in my head, but not actually say it, then wonder why he wasn't trying it.  It was like I was trying to direct him with my thoughts!

2.  Not realizing what time it actually was and what the status of Mike was.  Time I thought was shortly after we'd gone to the bedroom (wrong!).  I thought Mike was still up (wrong again!).  In actuality, it was later than I thought (more like 1am vs midnight like I thought), Mike HAD been asleep, and the time he went BACK to sleep after settling Jared down was more like 2:15am.  Yikes.

3.  My ultimate think, yet not say...the bottle.  I was going to go downstairs to get Jared a bottle. I was tired, and grumbling about having to go downstairs.  Mike asks why I don't bring up one of the pre-made travel bottles.  My answer was something like "I don't want to make another trip downstairs".  He doesn't get it, but in my head, I explained it.  Clearly, not audibly.  And Mike doesn't read minds.

What I really meant was this:  We have 8oz bottles of the pre-made.  It's more than Jared would drink at one go, so there would be extra.  So I'd have to run back downstairs to put it in the fridge to avoid waste.  By making a 4oz, he would waste less and I'd just leave the bottle upstairs until morning.  Oof...yeah, apparently sleep deprivation makes you THINK you said something, even though you didn't!  It also makes things make sense to you, but not to other people!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another repost...see, I can do this!

As I mentioned earlier, I intended to link up a few other blogs and articles that struck me for one reason or another.  Around the time I was thinking of doing a "sleep deprivation" entry, this appeared in one of BabyCenter emails I seem to get on a daily basis:

You know you need sleep when...

Yeah, that really hit home the morning that I opened it up...I almost wondered if I had been dreaming or hallucinating that I was reading it...but it was real!  Clearly, I had not gotten enough sleep the night before.

In any case, before I end this entry...I thought it interesting to mention some of the "advice" that is given regarding getting more sleep.  Or even how to "get" your baby to sleep better.  My advice:  kids are unpredictable, and they'll do what they'll do.  There are two directions theses topics tend to take (advice in general...not mine in particular).  One is the effects that sleep deprivation has on the parents, how to improve sleep, and so on.  The other is how to get your kid to cooperate...all of the strategies and so on.

Once again...they'll do what they'll do.  Maybe it's the Zoloft talking, but sometimes I think when I chill out and go with the flow, things end up working themselves out.

The End.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Traveling with children

There are many things that I've learned over the years about traveling with my own children.  Whether or not it works with anyone else's kids, that's just a matter of trial and error.  But I thought I'd share my wisdom (ha!) about specifically airline travel with little ones.  I'll try to make this as organized as possible.

Planning the Trip:

It goes without saying that there are "better" times to fly with kids than others.  A red-eye might be fine for an adult, but really not for a kid.  Layovers are boring for adults, but just magnify that times a million for a kid.  Try to do a direct/non-stop flight, if possible.  And lastly, would YOU want to sit on someone's lap the entire time (granted, on some flights, you're almost sitting on someone's lap anyway).

Having said that, here's what I've learned.  Early morning flights are nice.  Why?  You get to your final destination earlier, of course, and if there are any unforseen delays, flying early allows for that.  By early I mean like flights starting in the 7-9am range.  Kids aren't usually cranky because they're tired, and leaving early in the morning also means that you can get away with just grabbing them out of bed, putting them in the car in their jammies. 

In my personal experience, we haven't done any red-eye flights (there just haven't been any offered), and usually we do early morning flights.  Daniel's first flight was in the mid-afternoon when he was 6 weeks old, and he was CRANKY by the time we arrived at our final destination at around 9-10pm.  Another more recent flight (this past December), we had planned on leaving very early, but due to weather issues, we had our outbound flight re-routed, and scheduled for hours later. 

Next part of this...layovers.  I mentioned before that non-stop/direct flights are ideal.  This should be a "duh", since having to get on and off the plane multiple times, taking off and landing repeatedly, is hard, and the layovers themselves not only add to the total length of the trip, but also add another opportunity for trouble.  So be cautious of the length of the layover, if you have to have one.

Our first flight with Daniel involved one layover in Salt Lake was THREE hours.  Trying to bounce a baby around for that length of time was painful.  There is only so many bottles that a newborn will drink.  As Daniel got older, having a toddler running around might have been worse.  And DEFINITELY with a toddler AND very pregnant mother...layovers really were not cool. 

Luckily, several flights that we took between Reno and Phoenix were non-stop, which was wonderful.  On and off...quick and easy.  Now comes the shameless plug for Allegiant air...we discovered that there are non-stop flights between Phoenix and Great Falls, MT.  We FINALLY availed ourself of one of these, and it was fantastic.  Definitely worth having limited flight times and also having to drive out to the other airport.  Even if the price were worse (which, it was fairly inexpensive), we would take it just to be able to have that non-stop.

OK...the last part here a lot of parents have done for financial reasons (and so have we!).  Yes, kids under 2 can be "lap babies".  And in our experience, if there is an available seat, they'll let us use the carseat on the plane (and not charge).  But for some flights that are bound to be very full, it's sometimes good to just go ahead and buy the seat (if you can afford it).  Daniel's first trip at 6 weeks old was OK...I held him on my lap and had Mike and his brother next to me to help with grabbing bottles and stuff.  He was still at the stage where he'd fall asleep in my arms.  As Daniel got older (and bigger), it got more difficult to sit him comfortably on our laps, and it also got harder to keep him still.  This last time we went to Montana, we went ahead and purchased Jared a seat...and it was GREAT.  In general, I would feel OK about a short flight and a child under age 1...long flights, over age


Let's just say that checked baggage is your friend, carry-on is your enemy.  As tempting as it might seem to be cheap and not have to pay for checked's worth it.  Also, babies and children have a lot of stuff, but sometimes less is can usually buy things when you get there.

Pack in advance.  PLEASE do not pack the day you are going to leave.

It is insanely rough to go through security with kids.  Mostly because babies and small children have bottles of liquid that they require, they have car seats and strollers, and depending on their age, they either need to be held or kept at bay so they aren't running around where they aren't supposed to be.  About the last thing that you need is your entire carry-on luggage being unpacked and repacked while you hold a screaming child with one arm and try to pack with the other.  So it's just best to CHECK EVERYTHING YOU CAN.  You don't need a weeks worth of diapers and wipes in your diaper bag...really.  You don't need 50 changes of clothes.  

What I will say about your checked luggage is to be sure and only use like half of the space in your suitcase going (or aim for that), because you'll undoubtedly come back with more crap than you took.  This is probably good advice for traveling in general!  Also, take extra grocery sacks or ziplocs just to keep the dirty clothes in (and they're just good to have in general).

In your carry-on....make sure you definitely have a day's worth of diapers and wipes...depending on the kid, that could be 4 diapers or as many as 12.  A light change of clothes too.  Now food.  Bottles are exempt liquids, but it's a good idea to have them all together (big ziploc) just because security sometimes wants to do a special screen on them.  It's easy to just grab the giant ziploc and hand it over.  Any of your liquids (shampoo or whatever you might put in the carryon because you didn't want/couldn't check them) put in their regular quart-sized ziploc.  Put these in READILY ACCESSIBLE places in the diaper bag.  You really don't want to go digging with one hand. 

Do NOT overpack your carry-on either.  Make sure all of the things you have to take out are easy to grab and put into the bins, and can easily go back into your bag on the other end. 

On the plane:

This goes with the planning and packing...but just make sure that you are constantly keeping the kids occupied.  Boredom breeds trouble. A lot of this has to do with the age of the kid and personality, but it's good to be prepared.

First...bring lots of little things.  One new thing even.  With an infant, binkies have worked (have at least 2 or 3 because they will end up thrown or spit out and probably in a place you can't reach).  Stuffed animals.  Quiet (ish) rattles.  Bottles.  Toddlers can do toys.  Again, take several so when they get bored with one, you can hand them a new one.  If you have at least 3 or 4 things, you can rotate them.  We've had a media-player, toy cars, coloring books, and video games, among other things. 

Food!  Have lots of that too.  Snacks on a plane are often limited (if you don't have to pay for them, that is), and they only come around once or twice.  Rice crispies treats, packages of gummy fruit snacks, bags of chips, dry cereal in ziploc bags, and crackers are the top things I can think of.  Rotate food out with the toys and stuff and you can keep a kid occupied for a while.

If kids can sleep, that's even better.  But best be prepared!

What sleep deprivation does to you...the wedding edition (take 3)

This is becoming a bit of a ritual with me, but there are lots of things that sleep deprivation does to my brain!  So...this past weekend we were up in Montana for Mike's cousin's wedding.  Both kids were bunking in our room, which I'm not sure or not if it made our general lack of sleep deprivation worse or not.  Anyway, here's some of the things I did as a result:

1.  Put underwear on...inside out...The sad part of that was that I didn't realize it until I had already gone to the bathroom twice.

2.  Completely lost track of both of my children at the same time.  That probably had more to do with the venue though :)

3.  Forgotten to take medication and also forgotten to give (or whether I had given) my youngest his medication.

I'd actually remember more, but I'm still running on fumes this week!  I can barely remember what I was planning on doing for my next blog post (but I just I'll finish this one up so I don't forget again!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interesting Blogs and Articles...Reposted...

As promised, I figured I'd put a link to something that sort of "hit home" with me...along with my own commentary, of course!

The title of the entry is specifically about having a "mom meltdown". I'm sure it's not just mothers (that would be sexist, afterall!), but it's the double-edged sword that comes with parenthood. On the one hand, it's a good feeling to be wanted and needed and all of that (and it won't be there forever, right?), but on the other hand sometimes you just want to be left the f--- alone!

It really is hard to describe, but I thought I'd take a stab by describing a typical day for us. Even though each day is really different, depending on what needs to be done...this could very well be a worst case scenario!

The official start of the "day" is at midnight, which is just about the time we're often just crawling into bed. Sometimes we hit the pillow as early as 10, but these days it's at least 11, if not midnight (OCCASIONALLY later).

Almost like clockwork, Jared must realize that we've turned in and he wakes up, wanting to have a snack. Sometimes it doesn't happen until after we've actually fallen asleep (which is even better, right?), but usually he's in search of some of the finest that mommy has to offer, after which he nods off again.

Anywhere between 2:30 and 4:30, he wakes up again these days, wanting to be fed. Depending on how "tapped out" I am in the milk department, he'll either nurse or I'll run downstairs to get him a bottle. Eat...and back to bed.

If he aims for the earlier part of that time frame that I gave above, then there's a strong likelihood of another wake-up and eat session before the alarms start going off.

Worst case scenario...he's up to eat at midnight, 2, 4 and even worse would be if he doesn't go back to sleep. Typically it's 3 times after "bedtime" that I get up with him.

6:30a.m. is when alarms start going off. Mike gets up and hops in the shower and starts getting ready for work. As soon as he's out, I hop in, and Mike gets dressed and we combine efforts to get the boys ready (half the time I jump in just as Mike's finishing up with Jared, and typically Mike takes the reins with Daniel). I head downstairs to make Jared's bottles, pack his bag, grab some extra clothes for Daniel and we head out the door.

Drop the kids off at daycare as early as 7:30 (wishful thinking!), but usually around 8. Depending on the day of the week, Mike and I either carpool (and he drops me off), or we drive separately. It used to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays that we drove separately, just so Mike could stay later to do some time-dependent things for work.

So on those days, I get to work around 8:30, work until about 5 (sometimes closer to 5:30) and then I head out to pick up the boys. Arrive at the daycare around 6, load the boys into the car, and luckily for us, it's a 3 minute car ride across the street to home.

At home, I like to think of it as a carefully choreographed routine that takes place after the kids are unloaded and inside...but it's really done on the fly!

Turn on the television, Daniel plops in front of the TV and his show is started. Luckily, Jared will watch too. While they're distracted even for a few moments, I'll either run and wash up some dishes, or grab some laundry to throw in (and if I'm really lucky, one of the boys will have come home in their "spare" I'll have poo/pee/food/dirt/paint to get out of their other clothes). Jared starts whining for something more substantial than his bottle. Daniel wants a snack. A little package of gummy fruit snacks holds the older one off for a while, and I pick up Jared, plop him in the high-chair and fix some cereal and a fruit/veggie for him. Feed...wipe face...and then I can put Jared in the exersaucer or on his back on the floor to play with some toys.

Daniel...he's been weird about eating these days! Hopefully by that time, Mike gets home, but on those two days I mentioned above, he's gotten home with a few minutes to spare before hopping on the computer again and doing some more things for work.

So Jared is taken care of in the food department, Daniel has had some junky snacks, and I'm still debating about what's for dinner. Time to make it! Daniel tries to "help" with that sometimes, Jared fusses either case, making dinner needs to be FAST and care taken that nothing boils over or burns or otherwise.

Then the eating part. Daniel's recent pickiness means that he probably won't like what Mike and I eat. So he drags me to the cabinet or the refrigerator...fruit snacks? crackers? popsicle? juice? It can be any number of things, but it means that I get up a lot.

Daniel (might) eventually eats...Mike is better at convincing than I am sometimes (depending on the food...if it's something he likes, like pizza, he'll feed himself). I finish up whatever I was eating, Mike eats, and then it's time for baths and showers upstairs!

Mike usually takes Daniel for a shower, while I washcloth down Jared, put hydrocortisone or prescription eczema cream on him...diaper change...maybe another bottle or breastfeeding...and into the swing. Jared usually goes down pretty easily, and like clockwork around 8.

No sooner than Jared goes down, Daniel's ready for bed as well. A little playtime and hugs, kisses and night-nights.

It's now 8:30-9pm...roughly. Time to clear up the dishes from dinner, maybe finish up the laundry that I started earlier. Yep, I just keep going.

Then I have a recently self-imposed break. Facebook! G+! I get some silly social networking games in before hitting my online class. From then until I either hit a wall, or around 10-11...I grade or answer discussion questions. it any wonder that I crash at night? :)

Friday, September 9, 2011


I've been reading quite a few articles these days that I find online that I think are worth sharing. I'm not sure whether I'm just now starting to notice a lot more blogging moms and are relating to what they are writing about, or whether they are becoming more prevalent.

In either case, two articles (I'll link to them...promise...just need to look up my bookmarked links for them) that I found quite interesting lately. One was linked from a People magazine article and was regarding mother's having moments where they just need to be left the f*** alone. It was kind of funny that they talk about how everyone needs something right at the moment that you really aren't in the mood, are just trying to take care of one of your own needs, or something else along those lines.

So another one I found after reading an email from BabyCenter. Sleep deprivation...ah...the topic of a few of my posts these days. It was quite hilarious (yet sad at the same time) that that particular blog post hit me right at the time where I was going through the same thing.

I might have lied...I think there is another article...from NPR, but I have to go back and check. In any case, if memory serves (and these days, who knows how good my memory is!), it was about parents who work and admitting that they don't "love" being a parent like they are guilted into thinking that they should.

In the end, the more I read, the more I realize that there are people like me...having many of the same thoughts, experiences, feelings and so on. Is this stuff all new? Certainly not...but people talking about it is probably something that is relatively new. Parenthood not always being gumdrops and roses and little fluffy kittens? I still love my kids, but some days I also know that we're in for one heck of a ride for a while!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Things I want to do...

I type this as I sit here, wasting time, essentially, playing games on Facebook and Google +. But every night I think of all of the things that I want to do. And they don't get done, even when I have the "time".

Blogging is one of them! So how do I combat doing an entry about the things I should be doing!

Work nonwithstanding, there are a few leisure time projects that I've been wanting to spend time on. It's not like I don't have the time after the kids go to bed, but rather that I'm tired, which tanks my motivation and it's just all down-hill from there! I set out with the best of intentions just about every evening, but playing the Sims Social or Bejeweled or some other game is just too easy to get sucked in to.

Task one that I wish I would do...the kids baby books! Geez, Daniel is three years old and I STILL haven't finished. At this rate, I'll have two more kids before any of them get done. I also am kicking myself for just not doing them because I have several offers for free bound photobooks.

Task two...working on a website. Okay, so I suppose that goes along with blogging, but just getting everything organized would be nice. With regards to that, I wish that I would keep better tabs on where I have everything, so I can really put it all together at some point.

Three...another thing that has lacked since children...crafty things like cross stitch. I had Daniel's name and birth stats started while we were in the hospital (the 2nd time around) with him, and I don't think I got past the letter D (hahaha!). I think it would be awesome to be able to make the boys some blankets too...I really got into that WAY before they were born.

Those are the three that come to mind. But I swear, I am JUST THAT TIRED. It zaps you to the point that even leisure time activities are hard to get motivated to do. And I enjoy those activities. What is with me?