Weekend mornings with Monkey, techie edition

Monday through Friday is insane in our house. Having a toddler means I have get two people out the door, generally in a pretty short amount of time. Most weekday mornings have the following schedule: I wake up a little after 6 am, get myself ready, get the car packed up, wake up Monkey a little after 7am, get him dressed while he eats cereal from his little toddler snack cup, brush his teeth, and fight him into his car seat. If all goes well, we leave the house by 7:30, which allows me time to get him to daycare and myself to work by 8:30. Some mornings I spend a few extra minutes reading a book or playing with a favorite toy with Monkey, but most mornings are a rushed whirlwind.

Weekend mornings look very different, and provide a nice break from the hectic week. Hubby and I wake up around 7:30 to the sound of Monkey playing in his room. We grab our coffee then start looking at email/news on our phones in bed. Monkey eventually makes his way to our room (he’s opening doors on his own now), and crawls into bed with us. He steals my iPhone to watch Sesame Street podcasts, and I switch to my iPad. This morning, with the time change, I even had enough time to blog.

It’s an odd sort of peace to me and a true sign of the techie times we live in. All of us lie here together, but each in our own electrical, connected world. It certainly isn’t a picture that I would have understood 5 years ago, but I’m guessing its fairly common these days. I, for one, absolutely love that we can cuddle together and each relax in our own, personalized way.

What do your weekend mornings look like? Totally tech’ed out? Or more 2001?

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Sunday mornings

Nothing better than watching my son, sitting in his Dad’s lab, looking at pictures of Elmo and monster trucks on the laptop. How Elmo and monster trucks converged, I have no idea. But my boys couldn’t look happier right now.

Maybe I’ll find some motivation to blog again. For now, I want to devote every non-grant-writing, non-lecture-preparing, non-mentoring moment to my Elmo and monster truck-loving boys.

Hubby and Monkey are now singing “Elmo’s Song” together. I love Sunday mornings.

Why starting your own lab is like having a baby

Hubby and I had no idea what the hell we were getting into when we had a baby. No. Fucking. Clue. To our credit, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, and we knew it would change our lives. But the impact of sleepless nights that go on and on? The depression? The feeling that you think you may have made a really, serious mistake? No way were we prepared for that, and I don’t think there’s anything anybody could have said that would have sunk in.

Dr. Becca has a post up about her first semester of teaching on the tenure track. I haven’t myself had to teach yet, but nonetheless, I totally got it when I read this:

Here is the thing about being new faculty–the thing that you know in an abstract way, and that you want, but don’t necessarily process until you’re actually in it: everything, all the time, is all up to you. There will be a lot of things you simply can’t delegate, because in the beginning, you are the only one who knows…well, pretty much anything. And in addition to all those things that you planned on having to do, a million little fires pop up Every. Single. Day. And you have to deal with those too, because again, this is your show.

Of course Dr. Becca and I both knew this, in theory at least, but neither of us – and I suspect nobody else – really knows how hard this whole junior-faculty-starting-your-own-lab thing will actually be. And, in more than a few ways, it’s felt (to me) like having a baby. Before the lab baby showed up, all I could think about was this sweet awesome thing that I’d immediately love and shepherd into maturity. Of course I knew it would be hard. I knew I’d make mistakes, and I knew it would be a big change from my carefree postdoc days. Right up to the day when I brought our little Monkey home and looked at him sleeping in his carseat in our condo, I was nothing but googly-eyed. And right up to the day that I walked into my empty lab, I was brimming with excited optimism.

And then that lab baby started crying, and I suddenly found myself responsible for the biggest, hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life. All those awesome dreams of my wonderful new life as a PI evaporated as real life landed on my overwhelmed ass. I couldn’t get equipment to function correctly. Or I couldn’t get a specific type of equipment ordered due to some red tape nightmare. Or hiring lab personnel became a bureaucratic nightmare that seemed insurmountable. I seem to make a gazillion mistakes a day, costing others time and patience. I am CONSTANTLY wondering if I’m cut out for this shit, or if I just wasted the time of my new department and chair, my postdoc and grad mentors, and my family, whose sweet butts just got dragged across the country in service to my dream.

The past couple of months of new professorhood have brought me back to those first couple of months of new motherhood a year and a half ago, when I thought I was in way over my head, to say the least. What I’m starting to figure out is, that while I’m not always happy doing this job, I still love it. The verbal diarrhea that gets spewed on my blog is only revealing the negative; believe me – there are plenty of positives. Just watching my lab come together is excitement enough. Add on top some of the interactions I’ve had with new colleagues, the beginning stages of collaborations, and the actual hiring of people to work on the science I’ve been thinking about for so long – it really seems to be worth it.

On motherhood and feminism

Cloud just wrote an amazing post about being a mother and feminist. The excerpt below had the biggest impact on me:

Somehow, the space in my life expanded to accommodate the demands of motherhood without crowding out the essence of me. I cannot explain it. During my first year of motherhood, I was sure it was not possible, that I was in fact being subsumed into this new mommy person. But I came out the other side wanting both to devote myself to my kids and to pursue my own goals with full vigor.

Perhaps that is the essence of what it is to be a feminist mother- the realization that your own goals can coexist with your love and absolute devotion to your children. Motherhood can grow your life rather than contracting it.

For all those driven female scientists and other professionals out there preparing to welcome a new life into your own, this might be the most rewarding and difficult part of new motherhood. Before Monkey showed up, I knew things would change, but I had no idea how much, and I had no idea how hard it would be. In the difficult months that followed, I had no idea how I’d ever be able to do it all. And I had no idea how much I’d eventually grow to love this new, completely complicated, but wonderful life.

Thank you, Cloud, for a wonderful post.

Lullabies, Part 2

I’m an eye girl. Some women are into bodies, some are into great hair, and some really love a great brain. Okay, so I like all these things, too, but they don’t always last. Even a great brain can have it’s moments – especially during a 2am feeding with a one-month-old. Eyes don’t really change, though. From infancy to elder care, they remain the same. They’re truly the window to the soul, revealing your mate’s true character.

Hubby has great eyes – very blue, and very bright. I fell in love with them the first night I met my future husband. Monkey has great eyes, too. They’re big and also blue – a mix between my dark blue, almost grey color and Hubby’s bright blue shade. While rocking Monkey during his last illness a week ago, looking into those big blue eyes, a great song by George Strait from my childhood came to mind, and I started singing the words to Monkey.

Monkey immediately recognized this lullaby as different from our old standbys, and his bright blue eyes locked onto my face for the entire tune. When I was done singing, he grabbed at my lips, meaning he wanted more singing (our own personal sign language). I started singing Landslide, at which point he decided he was no longer interested. Obviously, the old standbys have become boring for Monkey. They’re still great at bedtime, but I’ll admit I’ve getting pretty tired of them myself.

So I’m now on the search for new lullabies. I’ve identified a few that I think Monkey will like, but I haven’t yet memorized the lyrics (I only have so much file space upstairs, and most of it’s been taken hostage by science). Of course, I prefer songs that aren’t typical children’s tunes – Van Morrison is even on my list of candidates. Does anyone else have some suggestions?

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To be a kid again

Between condo showings, work, house cleaning and other miscellaneous chores this past weekend, Hubby and I found time to take Monkey to our neighborhood park. It’s a wonderful combination of open space and play areas along a network of trails that lead right back to our condo. With the previous night’s storms leaving the air cool and refreshed, Sunday provided a lovely morning for a stroll, so we packed Monkey in the Baby Bjorn and headed out first thing after he woke up and nursed.

The toddler swing on the playground was a perfect activity for Monkey: he laughed and smiled a huge gummy grin as we pushed him through the air. Hubby and I took turns pushing Monkey while the other played on the “big kid” swing. I had completely forgotten how thrilling something like a swing set can be. No kidding, as I flew through the air higher and higher, I actually started whooping from a mixture of joy and the slightest hint of terror. I couldn’t even imagine jumping from the swing like I used to a a child.

I’d like to think I still make time for play in my life. I’ve even likened my time in the lab to the carefree enthusiasm I used to enjoy so effortlessly. But flying through the air yesterday morning reminded me how much I’m missing. Since leaving the park, I’ve been thinking about this scene, which I always found rather odd as a child, from Big:

I now understand her reticence to jumping while wearing a cocktail dress so much better than I used to. Oddly enough, I found Monkey later that afternoon pulling up on the bars of his crib while standing on his floor piano. The music was playing as he walked across the keys, reminding me of yet another scene from Big:

When’s the last time you really remembered what it was like to be a kid?

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I’m getting Monkey a brick for his birthday

That’s it, Monkey is growing and developing WAY too fast for my liking. It’s time for desperate measures – I think a brick will do the trick.

Just a week ago Monkey would get stuck on his tummy if he crawled his hands forward too far… then cry for Mommy or Daddy to come help him back up. On Tuesday though, Monkey’s daycare teacher found him sitting up in his crib after both naps, and he was standing in his crib after his afternoon nap on Wednesday. Did you see that? STANDING. What the fuck. That’s two milestones in two friggin’ days. Before I know it, he’s going to be strutting around the condo, asking for ice cream money, borrowing the car, and heading off to college. I’ve seriously got to nip this in the bud right now.

So it’s a brick for Monkey’s 8-month birthday… with a strap to attach it atop his head.

And I swear that boy has gained 3 pounds the past two weeks. Either that or motherhood has really begun to take it’s toll on my arm strength. Just two weeks ago Monkey was drinking two bottles at daycare, on a very regular schedule, so I made the decision to drop down to one pump session a day. Now he’s eating and drinking like a maniac, and I’ve had to ramp my pumping back up. After sleeping through the night for weeks, he’s nursing twice some nights, and this morning he nursed three times before I got out the door with him… three fucking times!!!

A brick ought to put an end to this foolishness. Let gravity work with instead of against me for once.

Actually, it’s all very fun to watch, and there are plenty of pros to his increased self-sufficiency. The ability to get ready in the morning without being beckoned to grab him a toy or pick him back up every other minute is wonderful. But like I’ve said before, it’s also a little bit sad. I look at Monkey now and he’s just not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy, becoming more and more independent every day.

Gotta get me a brick.

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