Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In My Computer's ClipBoard

Writing the previous post I was amused to note what was saved in my computer's clip board (from several days ago): http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/inthenightgarden/. I really am a Mum now!

What's in a Name?

One of the reasons I enjoy this blog (even if I don't post much) is that it has led me to find lots of other interesting women in science/science mother blogs. One of my recent favourites is Two Women Blogging. Reading it this morning I found this post Things I Could Do Without: Old Not-Quite-Friends Edition. Now I'll confess to being someone who likes sending Christmas cards, and I got an interesting insight in what that might to do other people from that post, but I like getting them, so I will continue to send them.... perhaps more selectively in the future though...

Anyway the thing which really resonated with me in that post was the comments about the labeling of mail. I also have not changed my name to match my husbands and remain confused at how hard this concept is to grasp for people. We have the added complication that the combination of our two names is vaguely obscene sounding, so it always amuses me when people decide to go for the hyphenation route! My favourite though is the Drs. HisName and MyName. I actually don't really care how I'm addressed, but I am amused at the variety people come up with!

All this is minor compared with state confusion over the names.... Once when travelling into the US there was a minor problem with my documentation and I was brought round to a back room to have it checked further. My new husband (a US citizen) was not allowed to accompany me as "we did not have the same family name". At the time this was a bit concerning, but not really a big deal. However we're travelling to the US this week and I do now have some questions about my status, so I would say it's 50-50 that this will happen again. I think I'll have to insist that husband and little one (at the end of 10+ hour flight) *will* come with me this time though.... Surely they can't be within their rights to separate a mother and child simply because we have different last names?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I like Cloth Diapers

I promised a post a while ago about why I like cloth diapers. So here goes...

1. I'm doing my bit for the environment.
OK so there's actually been some debate about this. There was a British study which suggested that using cloth might not actually be better for the environment than disposables which was widely cited as a reason not to feel bad about disposables. As I understand it, the argument went that the amount of water/energy needed to make a single disposable was about the same as it took to wash a single cloth diaper. Cloth diapering advocates around the world complain that the study wasn't fair - it made unreasonable assumptions about the washing habits of cloth using parents, had them tumble drying their diapers, using old fashioned terry toweling, and basically didn't survey enough of them to get a real answer... I still don't know what to make of the study. But I still think that using cloth has to be better for the environment than disposables. I'm happy that my daughter's disposable landfill pile is so much smaller than the average.

2. It saves money.
This is undeniable. There is a large initial outlay, but then you're pretty much set, especially if you get one-size/expandable versions. You can even use them for future children.

3. It's got to be more comfortable. Paper vs. cloth on your bottom. I rest my case.

4. Cloth diapers are cool. OK on this one maybe I'm a bit weird, but cloth diapers are pretty cool. The ones I like are one-size and have worked well since my daughter was 1 month old until now (22 months) which I think is a testament to great design. They come in lots of different colours, and just look better than disposables. In the summer little one can sleep just in a diaper and t-shirt and looks adorable. They use all sorts of super modern ultra-absorbent but quick drying cloth too. I just love the collision of an "old fashioned" method with new materials.

5. It's supposed to speed up potty training. The theory goes that because the cloth isn't quite as absorbent as a modern disposable the child feels more when they wee and so is potty trained sooner. Sounds good to me. :)

So why don't more people use cloth? I'm not really sure as you might guess, but here are some downsides I have found:

1. They're a bit bulky. Those tailored toddler jeans might not fit (why does a little girl toddler need tailored jeans though?). Sometimes I buy up a size in clothing.

2. You have to wash them and possibly assemble them. You can see by a previous post that sometimes this is a bit of work. More on that later. But we don't have to buy a stack of disposables every time we go to the supermarket, so we gain there... The kind we have need to have the absorbent bit taken out for washing, then stuffed back in. This is a bit tedious - but you can get versions which don't need this - and I generally do it in front of the TV.

3. Poop is scary. I would argue it shouldn't be for any parent, but I think some people just don't like the idea of dealing with poopy cloth diapers. We have flushable liners now we have a toddler which work well most of the time (breast milk poop is water soluble and can just be put in the wash with everything else). There are those occasional loose poops though which are a bit nasty, but I assume no worse than disposable blow outs.

4. You can't buy them in the supermarket. But you don't need to buy them all the time, so all the online stores actually work very well.

5. The initial cost is high. But you can slowly build up you stash of cloth diapers and use disposables to fill in between washes. Soon you will think disposables are a huge waste of money. :)

So here's my guide to cloth diapering. You can find a wealth of information on the internet so it's going to be brief.

1. Don't panic when you read about all the different kinds (prefolds, pockets, all-in-ones etc.) and all the acronyms (AIO, WAHM) and brand names. If you want things that work like disposables you want either pockets or all-in-ones. The difference is that pockets you stuff with the absorbent stuff (into a pocket!) so you can alter the bulkiness/absorbency, while all-in-ones have that done for you.

2. Start slow. Just buy a couple and see how you like them. It's OK to use a combination of cloth and disposable. We still do. I's also OK to have lots of different kinds of cloth. We mostly have one kind (BumGenius One-Sized) but that's just because when trying others I've never found one I like better.

3. Take a break if you get stressed out. It's OK to stop and start. Have a break when things seem too much, then go back to it. OK this kills some of the cost savings, but you still make out as long as you use them more than once or twice!

Ironically I'm writing this today with a daughter in disposables at daycare. Our washing machine broke. It took one diaper before it sank in and we realized that this meant we should stop with the cloth until it was fixed. Cloth diapering and doing washing at the launderette is a little too much for us! Hopefully the machine will get fixed tomorrow and we'll be back on track, but actually I'm thinking of taking a break over Christmas anyway what will all the travel and family visits. And the excitement of the week - little one pooped in her potty. So maybe we'll be starting to phase all this out soon anyway.

Blog posting rates...

The scientist in me wonders if blog posting in general, or just my blog posting is inversely proportional to happiness in research.... I've been quite happy lately. I like my new place, I have some interesting new projects to work on, and so I've been very busy at work. So not much time for blog posting...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the 5pm seminars

I'm tired of getting some attitude and feeling mildly guilty for missing a lot of talks and meetings at work. The problem: people in my department have a knack of scheduling these things late in the afternoon, at 5 or 5:30pm. This just doesn't work when you have kids that need to be picked up from school/daycare! Of course, I can always arrange for Boyfriend to pick up Chatton on these days, but with our crazy lives as postdocs, that's really not always possible.

The other problem here is that I'm the only female in my department with a kid. And the few guys who have children all have stay-at-home wives as well. So really there's nobody else to fight this battle with me. It's probably the wrong attitude, but I almost make a point now of not going to any talk scheduled after 5pm, a kind of "hunger for knowledge" strike if you want.

At my previous institution, the weekly physics seminars had been pushed back from 4:30pm to 4pm for this very reason, to allow people with families to attend without having to leave half way through. I thought this was a great sign of respect, and a little gesture that made me feel not so much out of place as a grad student-mother. So I know that it can happen, which is probably why I'm especially annoyed at the situation here.

Anybody in the same situation with solutions to propose?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random Happy Quote

Well I was in a pretty good funk yesterday! Last night I realized what I really needed was a random happy quote generator - sometimes I think it just doesn't help to dwell on negative thoughts. Anyway the internet as always obliges so here is the Happy Quotes site.

This morning the sun is shining. I made two lunches on Sunday night so got a night off that last night, and the laundry situation is under control right now.... I think I'll make it through the week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Laundry and Lunchtime

Today I'm going to post (well complain) about the two motherhood related jobs that I am finding the most wearing at the moment. Motherhood, when I'm feeling most down on it, sometimes seems just like a string of not too difficult, but repetitive tasks. I once had a job working in a planetarium for the summer. The summer show was mostly automated - I introduced it, hit go, and pointed out a few stars at some point - that was it. I did a lot of mental arithmetic as I sat in the dark watching that show, and a calculated I saw it about 400 times over the course of a few months.... "Discover Mars" (said in deep, male, movie announcement voice... aargh!). I also couldn't tell you how many times I stood in front of a large sign saying when the next show was to be asked when the next show was, nor how many times I directed people to the bathroom.... Anyway I digress. The point is I'm not always super patient, and repetitive tasks do wear on me a lot.

Also to put you in mind of my mood this morning, I'm sitting her all damp and cold as I got soaked walking to work. Not a great Monday morning.

Anyway, little one now goes to daycare 5 days a week (instead of 4 before - we used to split Fridays, but can no longer manage that after the move). Her daycare does not provide lunch, so every day I must make her a lunch. I used to do this before, but only 3 days a week as her old place had "pizza Thursday" and somehow the switch to 5 days from 3 is really wearing.... I make lunch the night before (there's just not enough time for me to do this in the morning), and I particularly object to making lunch on Sunday night - it's just not fair for the week to infringe on Sundays that way... I wish I was better at thinking up quick healthy lunch meals that little one would eat. Sometimes I worry she's going to turn into tomato pasta with cheese!

My least favourite job number 2 is laundry. We're lucky to now have a washer in our kitchen instead of the basement, which I thought would really improve things, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I think for 4 reasons....

1. I had an excuse not to laundry when it was in the basement. When I was pregnant I physically couldn't fit down the back stairs carrying a laundry basket (fun fun), so I did very little laundry then, and then when little one came she "objected" to me going downstairs, so I got out of it that way. So my husband used to deal with most of the laundry... now I have no excuse.

2. The new washer is smaller - so that makes for more loads, and also takes longer. It's a washer/dryer in one, and the dryer is really slow... so it feels like the washer is always on.

3. Actually the noise really bothers me too - it's right in the house, so you can always hear it when it's one. The spin cycle in particular is really loud.

4. Cloth nappies/diapers. I have a post in my head which I plan to share with you soon, since maybe you'll all just think I'm making work for myself here, but I actually like using cloth for many reasons. Little one's old daycare however weren't keen, so we used to use disposables during the week. The new place is fine with cloth which is great for many reasons, but creates more washing - it's probably 1-2 extra loads a week of nappies/diapers. We're still very much adjusting to this new routine.

So big surprise you might say - motherhood is a lot of work. It's also of course very rewarding (necessary caveat for blog posting!). I guess the stress of the past few weeks (months) is catching up on me a little - so I'm sorry if I'm coming over a bit negative today. Anyway I'd love some tips on how to make laundry not such a big deal, and how to make lunch making more fun and easy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two thumbs up

I was looking at the job postings on the AAS website, and this one caught my eye, because after the job description and the usual blurb about women and minorities being encouraged to apply, there was this little sentence: "The University is supportive of dual-career couples". Everybody knows that most women in academia have partners that are in the same situation (see this recent report for example), and universities know that they have to do something about it, but it's the first time I see something officially stated like this. Two thumbs up to U.Michigan on this!

Friday, October 24, 2008


I have a confession to make. Something that has been on my conscience for a while now. Since it has all to do with my astronomom situation, I though I would shamelessly use this blog as an outlet for the tad of guilt I'm carrying.

Here it goes. The story goes back to the hectic last few weeks of my PhD. Boyfriend and I were defending our theses within a couple of weeks and were working like crazy to meet the deadlines, we had an enthusiastic 2 year old to entertain in the meanwhile, and we had to plan and pack for a transatlantic move a few weeks later. Did I forget to mention that we were also desperately trying to potty train Chatton - a requirement of his new kindergarden where we were about to move? The scene was set for a disaster.

But surprisingly, trouble didn't come from where we expected it. We both managed to finished writing our theses and defended them succesfully, Chatton actually enjoyed helping us pack, and one day as if by magic he started going to the potty and never had an accident ever since (and it was not looking good at all until that day, so it truly was a small miracle!).

The problem in this case came from an actor I haven't introduced so far, the fourth member of the family at that time: the Cat. We lived in a house well in the countryside, and with his fancy home-made cat-door (the kind of things we had the time to do before having a kid!), he had really gone back to his roots of a wild hunting beast. For that (and many other reasons), we couldn't face bringing him to a small 4th floor city apartment. So we had decided to find him a new home before moving. But with all the thesis/moving/potty nightmare, looking for this new home sadly fell down our list of priority, until close to the last minute.

After advertising (and receiving a lot of hate mail in the process - "how can you think of leaving you cat behind? why don't you give up your kid as well?" - don't get me started on that!), we finally found a new home for him at the very last minute. He would move to another house in a similar rural setting, with a family that already had another cat, so we felt good about this ( yet mostly relieved to have found something).

So we finished packing and the next day left town for our new adventure. A couple of weeks later, we learned through the branches that the new family had kept Cat inside a few days to get him adjusted, but the first chance he got, he ran out, never to be seen again. And here comes the guilt. Had we not been so overwhelmed with other things, perhaps we would have been more careful in finding Cat a new home? a better one perhaps he wouldn't have escaped from? He was such a wild beast that I trust that he could make a good living in the wild, or perhaps he has found a new home of his own. We will never know, and it's been bothering me.

Overall I think we were pretty successful at handling this challenging time in our family and professional lives. It's really sad that Cat was the one having to pay for this... In his name and for all the other times when I or other parents in similar situations have dropped the ball like this, I hope you all forgive me! (don't hesitate to share stories that could make me feel better about all this in the comments!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Minor Annoyance

OK, so this blog is supposed to be about the challenges of mixing motherhood and life as a research Astronomer, but I hope you'll forgive me for a short rant about the media depiction of motherhood, especially relating to breast feeding. It's probably pretty clear from all my posts on issues relating to breast feeding and working that I'm a strong supporter of breast feeding. I'm proud that I exclusively breast fed for 6 months, continued to make breast milk be the main part of my daughter's diet until she was 1, and in fact continued to breast feed until she was ready to wean at about 16 months (although I stopped pumping at work around her birthday). Breast feeding was relatively easy for me. Apart from some fun adventures pumping in aeroplanes and other unusual places, and general annoyance with airport security policies I had very little trouble. I was determined to breast feed, and luckily didn't know that 35 weekers usually have trouble until after my 35 weeker was a pro! Sometimes being too busy to read the baby books is a good thing!

Anyway the reason for posting was the completely gratuitous scene of bottle feeding I saw in a recent episode of Heroes. In the scene the working (superhero) Mom comes home and is talking to a great (superhero) Dad who has been home looking after baby. This all seems great and very modern. And then they pull out the bottle. I'm not saying they should have shown the Mom breast feeding, but was showing bottle feeding necessary. Surely a super fast super hero could find time to pump at work, and when she got home she would be ready to breast feed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It's my pleasure to join Astronomum in contributing to this blog - and I thank her for the kind introduction she wrote! Over the years I have been involved in many outreach programs, especially some dedicated to encourage girls to consider scientific careers, but lately if you ask me how the status of women in science will be improved, my view has changed slightly. I still believe that these education programs are important and can make a difference, but more and more I think that the best thing I can do "for the cause" is work hard, and be a succesfull astronomom. In all modesty, I hope that I can be a positive role model and show by the way I manage to both be a decent mother and scientist that this is a path that every woman could consider for herself, if she chooses to. If my stories here can help or encourage anyone, or even just entertain, then this would be a small step in the right direction (and for my own benefit, this will give me the chance to vent some of the frustrations encountered along this road, because let's be honest, it's not always a smooth ride!)

So you already know the basics about me. I'm a postdoc in astronomy with a 3.5 year old son (let's call him Chatton - i.e. "Kitten" in french, one of my many nicknames for him). Boyfriend is also a scientist, so as so many other women out there I'm juggling career and family life, with the infamous "two-body" academic problem looming over me. I will write again soon - I have four years worth of "astronomom" stories to share, after all! But now it's time to get back to work. I'm trying to catch up after a week that reminded me of the challenges of wearing both the mom and the scientist hat: as Boyfriend was at a conference and Chatton on "fall break" from kindergarden, I experienced both being a single mother and a stay-at-home mom, with a couple of papers to write and the application deadlines of this year's job hunting season on the horizon... but more on all of that soon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome "AstroMaman"!

My good friend "AstroMaman" has agreed to help out and post on her life as another astronomom. AstroMaman is a postdoc in Astronomy and has a little boy who is now 3 1/2 who was born while she was in graduate school. Incredibly, despite having a child halfway through, AstroMaman finished her PhD in the same amount of time as me (not including any maternity leave). This still impresses me! I hope you will join me in welcoming "AstroMaman"!

We're still interested in getting more "astronomoms" involved - especially those at different career stages or with younger or older kids.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Well that went well!

We made it across the atlantic and I'm currently sitting in my new office with a view. Last week however was a great reminder of the perils of trying to juggle motherhood and work. Little one (now 19 months!) started her new daycare on Monday even though my new job didn't start until Wed (October 1st). I had end of September deadlines to meet, and we thought we could also use the extra time to get sorted. It seemed like a great plan.

On Monday I met all my deadlines. On Tuesday we got a lot done towards sorting out the new house. On Wednesday morning about 1am little one vomited everywhere, presumably having picked up a new strain of tummy bug at her new daycare. Her new daycare has a 48 hour rule (no attendance for 48 hours since the last vomit), so this ruled out daycare on Wednesday and Thursday (our first two days at work). To be honest she really was too ill for daycare anyway. We juggled staying home and work for two days, by which time my husband also had the bug. Friday I tried to take her to daycare so husband could stay home sick and I could have just a little time at work, but they sent her home - my husband managed to make it out to pick her up, but by lunchtime on Friday I gave up, and returned home to find them both asleep on the living room floor (we haven't got a couch yet).

What a week. We had the weekend to recover, and now everyone is at work/daycare. Thank goodness I didn't get sick too. And thank goodness for supportive bosses. No-one batted an eyelid at me taking off so much time in my first few days at work. This assumption that I will get the work done at some point - that it doesn't necessarily have to be in office hours really is useful sometimes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Calling Other Astronomoms

I was thinking of opening up this blog to other "Astronomons", partly as a way of increasing the post frequency (which I don't think I'm ever going to manage) and partly as a way of making it a more generic resource/support system for Astronomers at all careers stages who are also mothers. I know some other Astronomoms, so I will be asking them personally if they are interested in that idea, but if anyone else who is an "Astronomom" has found this blog and would be interested then you should get in touch.

Astronomom Move

I get horribly annoyed by bloggers who spend half their posts apologizing for not posting. But I just want to say that posts have been infrequent as I've been dealing with a transatlantic move. We're in limbo for the next month or so traveling to visit family before finishing the move, so it's not going to get better any time soon. Needless to say packing/moving with a 18 month old (where does the time go?) is not much fun. But as a postdoc I have little choice, and am happy to be moving on from my current institution anyway.

Just wanted to write a sympathetic note to Mother of All Scientists for her horrible flood experiences. Makes moving seem like a walk in the park (well as long as the boat carrying all our stuff doesn't sink!).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Unusual Astronomy Picture of the Day

One of my favorite astronomy sites is APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day). There you can see a new astronomy picture every day (they didn't mess around with the name), usually something which relates to ongoing missions, or recent news stories in astronomy. Yesterday's APOD was quite unusual. I'm still trying to figure out why it counted as an "astronomy picture", being neither about astronomy, or a picture, but I liked it so much that I wanted to link to it and post it here. So here's the link with the full description: APOD for July 23rd. And below is the "picture", entitled "Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth". Neat stuff.

PS. I want to figure out how to put an APOD sidebar into my blog - like there is in the AAS Public Policy Blog. Can anyone help? I thought it would be easy, but I'm stuck!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two Guilty Secrets and their Link to Natural Parenting

I'm going to write today about two of my small guilty pleasures/secrets and a link between them related to natural parenting and a surprising advocate for it.

As many of my friends know I enjoy watching the Oscars every year. What they might not realize (or maybe they do) is that it's not so much the awards show I enjoy the most, but the fancy dresses and style on the red carpet. On of this year's oddest red carpet moments was when Ryan Seacrest asked a pregnant, glowing Jessica Alba if she planned to breast feed her baby. Not quite the usual red carpet question, but I thought Jessica Alba answered it with grace saying that she did plan to breast feed as it was good for the baby. A surprise moment in which she proved to be an advocate for breast feeding. Good on her.

Well another of my guilty secrets (not so secret anymore) is Celebrity Moms, which is a blog of pictures of celebrities and their children. The reason I'm writing about this is that in a recent post about the birth of Jessica Alba's baby she discussed her natural meditative birth. How fantastic and unusual to see a positive natural birth story from a celebrity. We seem to be inundated with messages about how painful birth is and that most women need complicated medical interventions to the point that we're all terrified of giving birth. It's just so nice to hear of a calm natural birth. I also had a great natural birth experience and it's something I will hold with me forever. I credit my prenatal yoga practice and reading "Ina May's Birth Book", by Ina May Gaskin for giving me the confidence that I could have a natural birth. Perhaps more stories like Jessica Alba's will encourage more women to become educated about their birth choices and find out about normal birth (instead of the crazy strssful ones you see on the Discovery Channel and depicted in movies and TV shows).

Anyway good luck to Jessica Alba on her new life as a Mom. I look forward to seeing if she continues to be an advocate for natural parenting.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids.

I just finished reading the book "I was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids", by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile (Amazon Link). The title just really appealed to me (as well as the pink cupcake on the cover), as I definitely had all sorts of ideas of the kind of Mom I would be before I actually had my daughter, some of which turn out to be correct, but others have turned out to be totally unrealistic! I also worry a lot about the endless struggle to be both a good mother and do well at my job. As seems to be typical I often feel like I'm doing a sub-standard job in both areas - leading to a significant amount of stress. This book discusses all of those issues and calls for an end to the "Mommy Wars" as well as suggesting that we're all being a bit too hard on ourselves. I liked those parts a lot. However what I found totally unhelpful were the lists of things they think I am worrying about but shouldn't be. I found myself worrying that I'm not worrying about the things they say I shouldn't be worrying about! How stupid is that!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ooops - 4 weeks!

I was embarrassed today to notice it's been 4 weeks since I posted to this. Ooops. I've been busy being an Astronomer and a Mom! I've been busy happily letting memories of my last trip fade away (how traumatic it felt to be away for a whole week - now I barely remember it!). And I've been getting tired observing remotely from my living room in the middle of the night. This is reminding me of being 8 months pregnant (when I last had a significant amount of time on this telescope) and balancing my laptop on my giant tummy! All in all I don't miss that stage!

To make up for my absence here is my favourite recent picture of the little one. Especially for you - ScienceMama. Good luck at your conference! If it's anything like my last trip Bean will be fine, but you'll be a mess - and see babies everywhere you turn. So here is another one for you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

BPA in Baby Bottles

One of the things I forgot from my previous To Do list post, is that I would like to have time to really understand the issues around the hot topic of BPA in baby bottles. I know that some baby bottles are made of plastic which includes this BPA chemical and lots of people are worried about that. This includes the Avent bottles which we used with our little one since they have a nipple which is supposed to mimic a mother's breast, and we wanted to do all we could to make sure little one kept breast feeding even after she had to have bottles as I was back at work.

I feel that as a scientist I ought to be able to understand the BPA issue and make up my mind about it for myself. I'm very disatisfied with most articles I read about it which don't seem to really present the facts - they usually just say that some people are worried about it and provide a list of baby bottles without BPA. What I think I understand is that BPA is dangerous to animals and people in large enough quantities. What I'm not sure about is if large quantities of BPA are really coming out of baby bottles which are made with BPA.... It sounds like if you heat your baby bottle to 200 Celsius enough will come out - but we never do that. Nor do we use (or even have) a dishwasher, or microwave bottles. In fact I've started giving little one cold bottles of cows milk - although my husband still likes to heat the milk in the bottle warmer as he thinks she drinks more that way. So the question is do we really need to replace these bottles. I don't know why - but I like the Avent company, and I feel annoyed that they must be loosing a lot of business over this when it doesn't seem totally clear to me it's really a problem. I feel like someone is playing on parent's concern for their babies. Of course we want to make sure they're not consuming dangerous chemicals.

Avent sticks by it's bottles saying "Scientists around the world have been studying the effects of bisphenol A for years and governing bodies, such as the FDA and EFSA have approved the usage of Polycarbonate plastics in consumer goods, specifically with contact with foods in mind." and "We have full confidence in our current bottle, which has been used by millions of healthy babies in over 70 countries worldwide. We always strive to reach new levels of design and engineering excellence to meet the evolving needs of parents and babies. Building on its already diverse portfolio of infant feeding products, Philips AVENT will introduce new materials into its line this summer."

So that's reassuring, but confusing given everything else out there about avoiding BPA, and also the fact that their new line will be made from BPA free plastic.

I heard a rumor that Babies R Us may be giving store credit for returned BPA bottles, so we might try that this weekend just in case. We still need a couple of bottles, but mostly little on is on sippy cups now anyway. I just feel that I'm being unfair acting on my fears before I really understand this issue. But I really don't have time to chase it down. Does anyone out there know of a good scientific article on this understandable to an astronomer with a physic degree?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My To Do Lists

I usually have huge and totally unrealistic To Do lists, but lately it's got out of control! I won't even talk about all the work things, or things related to our upcoming transatlantic move, but I thought it would be fun to list some of the things I would like to do if I had more free time.

1. Write letters to Heathrow and Sydney airports pointing out that they ought to let working mothers travel with breast milk. If the TSA can do it, I can't see why they can't.

2. Going along with 1 - in general be more of an advocate for breast feeding, get involved with the La Leche league??

3. Go back to learning Chinese again. Ideally in a class setting, but at the very least start listening to ChinesePod podcasts while cooking.

4. Write more articles about astronomy on this blog. ;)

5. Make more photo books of little one.

6. Fill in little one's baby book.

I'm sure there were more in my head at one point, but now I've forgotten them, and it's time to go pick up little one from daycare - my favourite time of day. :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

International Travel Part 2

As promised here is my second post about international travel and breast feeding (see Part 1).

This time I went a lot further - to Australia. That's basically a 24 hour trip from where I live, meaning I had to pump enroute. I planned to use the airport facilities during a connection at SFO, but it ended up being a rush to make the connection so instead I pumped in an airplane toilet.... On the way back I was able to use the facilities at SFO. They have a nursery which is available to pumping mothers so I used that. There were two wierd things about it though - the first was the big sign saying it was only for use by parents with children (leading to some odd looks from the family coming out as I went in), the other was that the door wasn't completely opaque (glass window with opaque strips). Anyway I put my back to the door and sat in a comfy chair in a room which wasn't a bathroom to pump. Not too bad! Thanks SFO.

One thing I didn't find out last time is that Medela does not recommend using power converters for international travel (something about putting two transformers in serial? I should know this having a Physics degree!) so what I did in the UK was technically wrong. Instead you should either buy a new Medela plug for the appropriate country, or use the battery pack. The positive things about this - you can pump anywhere (eg an airplane toilet) as you don't need an electrical supply. The negative - well it uses a lot of batteries. Although for my week away, pumping twice a day, I used only 1 set of 10 AA batteries, so not so bad.

Anyway I pumped enroute - leading to one big question.... Could I bring this milk in Australia? They have fairly strict customs rules, and I could not find any reference to breast milk except if your baby was with you. In the end it turned out to be fine. I declared it and had a funny moment with a customs officer who asked where it came from... me..?! What he meant was where did I pump it.., although I can't see why that matters. As in the UK, there was much confusion at this point as to why I would have breast milk but no baby - I don't understand why this is such a difficult concept...

The other question of course is if for the return can I go through airport security with breast milk in Australia? Turns out they have two kinds of security. For domestic travel all liquids are allowed, and in fact boarding at the small regional airport there was no security at all! For international travel they have similar liquid rules as the US, except that (like the UK) the exception for breast milk only applies if you are traveling with your baby... Lucky for me I saw some friends with a baby early on in my trip so I left them 2 days worth of milk, and the milk from the remaining 4 days was little enough to meet the regulations. So no problem....

Sadly all this travel is dwindling my milk supply. I pumped about half as much each time on this trip as I did in the UK. Of course the fact that I was working 12+ hours a day (night?), had to pump twice while observing in the control room with no privacy (at 3am I didn't expect any visitors, but that would be just my luck!), and the huge time difference/sleep deprivation probably didn't help. I'm home now for a while which is great.

(Little One's contribution to this blog - apart from making it take about 3 hours to write: "```````````", got to go - we're having one of "those" mornings.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good Job News

Much to my amazement I finally have some good job news. I got the first grant I applied for to work at the place near my husband's new job. It's actually a fairly prestigious sounding award too, so it'll look great on my CV. It's about 50% support so there are some details to work out, but there is another pot of money I'm waiting to hear about which may sort all that out. I'm having a hard time taking it in after the job season we've had, but it is fun to finally have good news to share, instead of news of yet another job I didn't get.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Beautiful Saturn

One of the things which initially attracted me to Astronomy was the beauty of astronomical images. Astronomy is almost unique among the sciences in that it produces images which can be appreciated both for their science as well as for pure aesthetic pleasure. A prime example of this duality has recently opened at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. It's an exhibit of images of Saturn from the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Quoted in the Cornell Daily Chronicle, Elizabeth Bilson (retired administrative director of the Cornell Astronomy Department) says of the image which inspired her to suggest the exhibition, "it glowed". She put forward the idea to members of the Cassini-Huygens team at Cornell who then worked together to select other images to be included in the exhibition which includes about 100 images in total.

And what a beautiful sight it truly is. This image was taken when Cassini-Huygens passed into the shadow Saturn allowing it to be shown spectacularly back-lit by the Sun. This image could never have been taken from Earth and is only available to us thanks to the dedication of astronomers, planetary scientists and engineers who worked on the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Thanks for indulging me, and what a delight is has been to write a post about Astronomy. Finally the job season is over and I hope for more of this to come. I chose "Astronomom" as a name (instead of some generic science mom title) not only because I thought it sounded cool but also because I actually wanted to talk about Astronomy as well as the challenges of being a scientist and a mother. After all I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love the subject!

Friday, April 25, 2008

International Travel

I just got back from a short trip to Europe for a second interview for that "cool outreach" position I mentioned (this is following an interview last month via video conference). I'm aparantly now one of two candidates - so keep your fingers crossed. Anyway travelling internationally away from little one posed some interesting questions and I thought it might be helpful to post my findings here. I'm still nursing little one morning and night (and other times if she demands it - which she often does). I didn't want 3 days away from her to mess up this part of our relationship, and I didn't want to be uncomfortable from stopping breast feeding while away, so I wanted to pump. Since breast milk is so great for babies I also wanted to bring this milk back with me from Europe so little one could have the benefit.

Question 1. Do all countries have such nice helpful policies as the TSA about allowing breast feeding mothers to carry on milk when travelling without their baby.

Answer - NO! I called the security helpdesk at Heathrow airport to check their policy and was met with confusion that anyone would want to do this. Oddly I think in some ways this is a good thing. In Europe maternity leave policies are much more generous. It's common for working mothers to get a year home with their babies. So that means there are many fewer working mothers who are still breast feeding - so many fewer who travel away from their little ones and need to travel home with the breast milk they have pumped but without a baby. The help desk had to call me back with the answer - which was that their policy of allowing reasonable amounts of milk for babies only applies if the baby is travelling with you. I could have the usual ziplock bag with small containers and that was that. Turns out my Medela bottles are 2.7 oz in size, and 6 of them will fit in the standard 1 quart ziplock (this still works in the UK where the limits are 100 ml bottles and a 1 litre bag). In three days away I pumped 8 Medela containers worth, so I packed 2 with ice in my checked bag and brought the rest along with me. That worked fine. I still think that the rules should be changed to mirror the helpful TSA policy change of August 4th 2008 - and in my copius spare time I will write the Heathrow security people a letter suggesting that.

Question 2. Can I bring breast milk through US customs?

Answer - YES! This I thought would be a big problem, but it turns out that breast milk is exempt from the normal rules on transport of food as you can find out at the helpful FAQ section of the US Customs and Boarder Protection website. Great news, and not at all what I expected. Way to go USCBP!!

I have to go to Australia next month for an observing trip, so you will be getting part two of International Travel soon. Will the Ozzies be more breast feeding friendly than the Brits. We'll find out!

Oh, and as a little extra note - Medela Pumps don't have plugs you can use in Europe. Luckily I have a friend with a US-UK converter I could borrow and I found this out by reading the info on the plug and not trying it out and frying something!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I miss pumping!

Little one is now almost 13 months old. Soon she will move to the toddler room at daycare where they will not deal with baby bottles. So a couple of weeks ago we dropped one of the bottles of breast milk at daycare and replaced it with a sippy cup of whole milk. She has been doing great with this, and since we have a reasonably large stash of frozen breast milk at home after my trip in January I have stopped pumping at work. Once the frozen milk runs out little one will get only whole milk at daycare ready for her move into the "big kids" room. I plan to continue to breast feed her while we're together for as long as is mutually desirable (as per the AAP recommendation), and I can't see either of us wanting to loose the evening snuggle time any time soon.

I always thought I would be delighted to stop pumping at work. Well here's the unexpected thing - after all my earlier whining about the time pumping takes out of my day, now that I have stopped I miss the breaks. Twice a day I had an excuse to go to our fancy new lactation room and read parenting magazines or listen to music. OK - I could take this break without actually pumping, but I never do. There always seems to be something more pressing (even if it's just reading the news online).

I guess I'm also a little sad about the end of this era in little one's life. I keep having to remind myself that she still gets a lot of breast milk in the evening, at night and in the morning. I feel funny about using up the frozen milk I worked so hard to build up and which I have been so protective of. I worry that an unexpected trip will come up and little one will need that milk, but of course she would be just fine on only whole milk and many babies are totally weaned at this age.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Just wanted to send a note of encouragement to Day By Day Female Scientist who recently had her baby. Her little one needs some extra help right now and is in the NICU. This time last year I had been home just about a week with my little one, who intially spent 10 days in the Level 2 nursery (next step down from a NICU - they just can't deal with the very sickest babies) because she was 5 weeks early. As "Day By Day" says it's exhausting, emotional and overwhelming to be a first time Mom (or any time Mom I suspect) of a NICU baby. I only have a tiny insight into what she's going through as my little one had no operations, didn't need a ventillator, was never in any serious danger, and mostly we could hold her whenever we wanted. She just had an IV, incubator, jaundice treatment and monitoring for Apnea spells - which was quite enough wires for me! When I look back on that time now it is almost nostalgic, but I still mourn for the loss of those early days in some ways. I wish I could have held little one longer right after birth, and breast fed her right away (so maybe shouldn't wouldn't have needed a sugar IV). I wish we could have slept in the same room so she could have heard my breathing (and maybe not have had so many Apnea spells), and that she wouldn't have been stuck under hospital lighting in that dreary room (and maybe gotten over her jaundice quicker). I also don't think it was so great for me to sleep on a hospital couch 3 days after giving birth and have to keep walking up and down the hall to see my baby, but that's another story...

Often the hardest thing for me was to see the happy faces of parents and visitors of "normal" babies. I wanted that experience for my first birth and I can never have it. I have told my husband that our next child should be born (at full term and healthy) on a weekend (so we can have lots of visitors), and that I need lots of balloons and flowers! I know that can't be ordered of course, and in fact it is slightly less likely than usual for me since I have a history of preterm birth. I know of course that the main thing is that our baby is healthy and developing well now, but I think it's important to acknowledge that the early days were traumatic, and we did miss something that most parents take for granted.

Anyway, to "Day By Day Female Scientist" I want to say - hang in there. It's worth it! Even though it feels like forever at the moment, this time will pass. I am thinking of you and your little one and hoping that the worst is now over and you'll be taking her home soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't Give Up

"Don't give up". Three little words, but ones that for some reason had been lacking from my current boss and my old thesis advisor. Funny thing is I hadn't even noticed that until the advice came from a totally unexpected source. Sure my boss and old advisor seem to assume I'll stay in astronomy and work out my current problems - but haven't offered much in the way of practical advice or encouragement for me to do so. Perhaps they think it's so obvious that it doesn't need to be said. I don't think it's that obvious. Especially in my situation - I know many women give up their careers once they have babies, so I would think it doubly important for people to tell me not to (well unless I want to)...

Anyway several potentially positive things have happened since my last post:

1. I discovered that only 30 minutes away from the location of my husband's new job is a new Institute of Cosmology, which looks like a pretty interesting place to work.

2. On getting in touch with people at that Institute I have had a very welcoming response - for sure I can have a desk, maybe a few months salary, and we are working on some grants together. This is much more positive than I expected considering I was basically throwing myself on their mercy....

3. On the phone with one of these people at the cosmology institute I had a long conversation about the poor funding situation in astronomy at present. We talked about how tough of a hiring year this has been, and how people are giving up and leaving the field. This person thinks that if I can "hang in there" things will be better in a few years, so I shouldn't "give up". This might be seen as empty advice, except that they seem willing to try quite hard to help me do this - even though I have never met this person..! Amazing!

4. I have another interview for a "cool outreach" position. One I thought I would never be considered for as it's way too exciting! It's "almost" within commuting distance of my husband's new job.... so it would add some complications if I was offered it, but it's very exciting!

5. I had a career counselling appointment, specifically for postdocs (it's a pilot at my current university run by a career counseller who used to be a biology postdoc). The conclusion - I should stay in Astronomy, maybe do more education and public outreach. Duh! Not really news to me, but encouraging that an impartial advisor sees the same things as me. Now I just have to figure out how to do this!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My "successful" job search.

Well job season is drawing to a close in Astronomy, leaving behind in it's wake a bunch of people wondering "what next"? From the outside I seem to have had a pretty successful job season. I made two faculty shortlists, which I am very proud of, and was the second choice for another permanent position. However in this case there are no prizes for second, and I have come away with no job offer.... So what next...

At the same time as looking forward I'm also looking back, wondering what I could have done different to the outcome this year. I'm also wondering what would have been different if I didn't have the constraints of a child. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tried not to go all out this year. I was *very* selective about the postdocs I applied for... none of which I was offered. Without the baby I would have applied to more postdocs - but ones which I didn't think were such a good match... Would I really have had more chance of getting one of those? In a conversation this week someone mentioned that it seems most people don't get a faculty offer until their second year on the market. In fact the person who has now accepted one of the jobs I interviewed for did "very well" last year - getting on several shortlists, but recieved no offer. This year, she (very deservedly) got multiple offers, and will be a great Prof. So maybe I should have applied last year in order to up my chances this year. .. But last year at this time I had a 5 day old preemie... I really wouldn't have had the energy for the job search last year (maybe some pregnant women could, but not me) so I can't easily regret not doing that.

For the future - well my husband just accepted a job (he's also an academic) so I know the location. I'll be looking at options there, and trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Proposal Deadlines

Life always gets hectic for Astronomers around proposal deadline time. Somehow many major facilities have their deadlines all at similar times... Oh well. I grew up the kind of person who likes to do things well in advance of deadlines. I was one of those annoying kids at school who always finished their homework ahead of time. However my collaborators are not all like this, and since becoming a postdoc I have had to adjust to a more last minute, up to the wire kind of approach to deadlines. Yesterday this all seemed to go very wrong. My working day is now set by a very real deadline of when I have to pick little one up from daycare. Sure I could get my husband to do it (normally he drops off, and I pick up so I can nurse little one and have so quality time), but that would require advance notice too. All afternoon yesterday I waited for some updates from a collaborator to include in our proposal. Actually this was already after the proposal deadline, but I had asked for an extension. Of course the updates came just as I needed to leave! After a quick minutes soul searching I figured it wouldn't make much difference so I would let it slide this time - and I needed to leave. Do you have any idea what daycare's charge if you pick up late. Ours changes $1 a minute. More to the point little one was expecting me (and the milk bar). This morning I updated the proposal out of interest and looked at how small the changes would be anyway. So that cheered me up. Then I got an email saying I could still submit the updated version if I needed to. So no crisis afterall.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I have a toddler

Well I got one wish - little one walked for the first time at home on Friday night. Now I can enjoy her walking, and how good they are at getting her to do it at daycare. When I picked her up yesterday she happily walked back and forth a few steps between me and her favourite teacher. To top it all off her first tooth finally broke through. It was a big weekend.

I finally cracked and got in touch with some people about the job searches. Unfortunately none of it is good news. I've known for a while now that "big state school" had offered the position to someone else. I wasn't really sure that was where I wanted to be anyway so I'm sure that's for the best. Unfortunately "small liberal arts school" has now also made an offer, although they are saying my application is still active so if #1 turns them down I might be in with a chance. I think it's fairly unlikely though.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dog in the Manger

Job seasons is stressful and wearing for everyone involved. I'm starting to get really stressed, despite my resolution to not let it bother me, and what's more lately it's making me feel mean too. While we're still waiting to figure out what we'll be doing next year, lots of people I know are getting themselves all sorted out. I feel mean because I know I should be happy for them (and really I am), but all I can think about is why can't we have some good news too - how come they get to be sorted out while we just wait.

It's such a roller coaster. Any minute now (literally) I could get a phone call either offering me a job, or moving me one step closer to leaving research. Or maybe they won't get in touch until next week! Pretty rough.

All this stress isn't good for my work productivity - example in point - I could be writing what I think is a pretty interesting proposal to get some new optical images of some galaxies. This proposal would be due early next week. However bringing myself to do that when I might be leaving the field is really difficult. If one of the faculty jobs comes through though it would be really nice to have some observing time in the works... I really don't know what to do... What I could use here is some great advice from a postdoc advisor - but that's another story!

And through this little one is oh so close to walking. She now likes to walk around holding our hands - and after a few goes figured out she doesn't have to go sideways (like a crab - or a baby cruising along the furniture). She also likes to push stuff around - little stools, and boxes etc. I really don't want to miss those first independent steps though. I want to see the wonder on her face when she figures out she can branch out on her own through the middle of the room. I want to be the person she first walks towards. But maybe she'll walk today at daycare. I know it shouldn't matter, and I dealt fine with her pulling up to standing for the first time at daycare, but this one really bothers me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Conference Time

Since little one was born I've been to 3 conferences and one meeting at my home institution. For each of the 3 conferences I travelled to my husband and the baby came along. The most recent conference we were able to get the university to pay for my husbands travel expenses as part of a program they have to help postdocs and young faculty with travel if they have small children. This was fantastic.

However I'm starting to think that there is almost no point in going to a conference if I bring little one along. I say almost no point, because of course I got the exposure of giving a talk each time which is a good thing. The other point of conferences though it is socialize with your peers at coffee and dinner. With little one along for the ride I have to dash around to feed her in the breaks, and at dinner. I could pump instead - which I did at the meeting at my home institution - but even then I'm dashing around in the breaks to have enough time to pump, and have no time to socialize. The solution - longer breaks to accomodate nursing mothers, and others who need more time for whatever reason - but of course meetings are almost always scheduled to bursting point, so I don't see that happening.

The most recent meeting was particularly bad as every session ran at least a few minutes over - to a maximum of 1 1/2 hours (no kidding) one morning. This time was made up by shortening the breaks, which most people seemed just fine with, but then all they had to do was grab a coffee/lunch and head back into the room. With little one around I really needed more time than that. I felt like I spent the whole meeting catching up with myself. It was not conducive to socializing, or really taking much in of all the really interesting talks. This was supposed to be a family friendly meeting too - and there was more than one "Astronomom" present (although I was the only one still nursing I think). In other respects the organizers were very accomodating to little one's needs, but I suspect that all I will remember from that meeting in years to come will be the terrible run overs in each session.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Interview Experiences

Well as I mentioned I had two interviews for faculty jobs this past month. I thought I would spend a little time describing how they went in terms of the logistics. FYI little one is now 11 months old, and I had not spent a single night away from her until the second of these trips.

Interview 1: big state school. My husband and little one came along for the ride.
Interview 2: small liberal arts college. I went alone - leaving little one at home with her dad for 48 hours.

Overall I would say (and I'm surprised about this) but leaving little one at home was the better idea. I nearly threw in the towel the day before leaving for the first interview. Packing for little one and myself while also wanting to work on my talk was almost too much for me. The travel was of course a lot more stressful, and while at the interview I had no time to relax or work at all in the evening as I was just having to deal with baby stuff (or in a dark hotel room, since little one was sleeping). I pretty much fell asleep as soon as she did every night. Going by myself I obviously missed little one, and I had to pump much more, and deal with traveling with breast milk (see my previous post), but I actually could work on my talk in the
evening and decompress from the interviews a little. The only real downside of this was the extra work before the trip to make sure there was enough stocked up breast milk to last 48 hours. I pumped an extra once or twice a day for a couple of weeks which really got old quick. Of course now we have a ton of extra milk in the freezer, so I will be able to wind down pumping a little earlier than I planned before.

So surprisingly my advice is to go alone even if it feels impossible to leave your baby. I really didn't feel ready to leave my little one - getting on the plane was a pretty hard, and I was very happy to come back. In the end it worked out for the best though, and I'm happy as I do not have to travel away from her again for a couple of months.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mommy Brain

I was dubious about the "Mommy Brain" phenomena - that supposedly pregnancy and childcare dulls your intellectual capacity. In fact there's an entire book "The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes us Smarter" which apparently shows the opposite. Perhaps I should read it (if I had the time!). Whether or not they exist, I often feel lately that I have a case of the "Mommy brains". Maybe it's the combined effect of almost a year of not enough sleep, and the many more things I have to remember now, but I seem to keep forgetting both minor and important things. I have left my purse behind when it contained pretty important stuff (like passports when we were abroad) on two occasions recently. Both times I was lucky and was able to retrieve it. I forget my breast milk pumping equipment fairly regularly - in fact to the point that I'm collecting back-up supplies at work for when it happens next. Remembering my lunch is very hit and miss, although sometimes thats more to do with lack of time in the morning. I do a little better with little ones stuff, and at least I haven't left her behind anywhere yet. This sounds like a low aim, but my mother would often tell the story of leaving my brother behind at an amusement park ride, and how her mother - in another era - once left her parked in the pram outside the local store and went home without her! Mind you given little one's recent separation anxiety I can't leave her in the next room without hearing about it, so I suppose that's reassuring!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Policies for Lighters, Electronics and Breast Milk

A recent addition to the TSA's now famous limitations on liquids you can bring through security is that nursing mother's can bring "reasonable" amounts of breast milk through security "whether or not their baby is travelling with them". This is obviously important to working mothers who wish to pump while on business travel and bring the milk back with them for their baby. All nursing mothers agree that breast milk is pretty much the equivalent of liquid gold, so the thought of checking it, or sending it through the mail is not a happy one... so kudos to those "lactavists" who managed to get the rule changed.

Now this TSA rule is pretty new - infact all the signs I ever see in airports state that "you must be travelling with your baby" to bring "baby milk" through security. Oddly this new rule was also published August 4th 2007 under the title "New Policies for Lighters, Electronics and Breast Milk". So I think you might agree that I was understandably nervous about trying out this new policy on my recent trip away from little one. I was away for almost exactly 48 hours so not including the pumping session in the airport (standing in a dubiously clean, stale smoke smelling familly bathroom - but that's another issue), I had about 40 ounces of breast milk to travel back with. I came prepared with a print-out of the new rule, and with plenty of time to "argue with the supervisor" if it came to that. I think you'll forgive me for assuming that the average TSA employee might not have taken the time to become familiar with this rule, and may not have come across this situation before.

Well I have to say that I vastly underestimated the TSA (or maybe I overestimated them). My cooler of breast milk passed through the X-ray with not a single comment. As instructed in the rules I declared that I was "travelling with expressed breast milk", but I'm not entirely convinced they heard me in the noisy airport. Perhaps this has to do with the two gentlemen ahead of me in the line with arabic writing on their passports and who clearly were not familiar with the usual TSA procedure (taking out their laptops, removing their shoes and jackets etc). The TSA employees at that security line gave me not a second glance.

I feel a little guilty, but I have to say that travel without little one was a real treat! Obviously I missed her, but I had time to myself on the plane to read and no "bouncing baby with a death wish" to hold onto. I got two uninterrupted night's sleep (well apart from worry about my interview) and changed no diapers. I guess I was ready for a break (well as much of a break as can be provided by a faculty interview trip).

PS. I'll post more about my two faculty interviews when I get the chance.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Letters of Recommendation

I was interested to read on Female Science Professor this rant on letters of recommendation which hit home for me. I've been feeling guilty about all the crazy requests for letters I have to put in (as I commented on before). Now I'm starting to see things from the other side. I was asked to write one letter last year for a summer student, and this year I have an undergraduate doing research with me who asked me to write letters for several summer programs.

Now as I thought, most of the time was spent writing the initial letter, but then I spent some time for each place figuring out where to send it (he provided me with a very nice list of instructions), putting them in envelopes or sending the emails, and in one case filling in an online form of the kind FSP seems to hate so much! I'm not sure if this experience makes me worry more or less about asking for "one more" letter for my job search. But I am worried now that my novice letters for this very good student will impact his chances on getting the summer job he wants. I hope not!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Update on Perspective

A quick update - my friend did have her baby - a beautiful healthy boy. And the surgery seems to have gone well for my other friend's baby so that's one challenge met for them.

I'm freaking out about my upcoming interviews. I made a promise to myself that I would not get too stressed out, but that is a difficult one to keep. To top it off I have a daycare cold. Well... I suppose I never did think this would be easy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Bit of Perspective

I'm having one of those days today when I feel like I should be super productive, but instead I'm visiting the time sink that is Facebook (what evil person invented Scrabulous?) not to mention blogging.... I never used to have a problem with procrastination (or the killer bug of science careers), and on my return to work from baby land I was super productive - every minute away from little one was precious and was used well. Now being back at work has gotten more routine, and some procrastination has snuck back in. My guilt at procrastination is much larger now so my internal monologue is not being easy on me today. Anyway the point of this ramble is that I'm feeling down on myself, and life in general (lack of sleep not helping here). When I get in this mood I try to look for perspective, so I got thinking...

I got thinking about the simplicity of life with a newborn, especially a preterm newborn (little one was a 35 weeker) who is being kept at the hospital. Nothing else mattered for those few days. I got thinking about a pregnant friend who messaged me this morning that she thinks her water broke. I wonder if she's having her baby right now. I got thinking about another friend with a special needs baby who is having surgery today to insert a tube into his stomach. Surgery on a 3 month old... I got thinking about this BBC story about a 10 month old who died after a hot water tank burst and boiling water fell on her. My little one is 10 months old. When I think of something like this happening to her.... well I just can't think about it.

OK - so most of this didn't exactly cheer me up, but is certainly puts a bit of procrastination in perspective. How many spectra can a person look at in one day before they go crazy anyway.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Fine Line

From a "Parenting" article: "there really is a Land of the Living Dead. It's populated by zombies whose children don't sleep". And that goes double for working parents I'm sure. Maybe it's the recent travel over the holiday season, teething or a developmental milestone, but little one is not sleeping well - and today not napping either. She's currently working on finding the most dangerous thing in the house to pull herself up on in order to find the most dangerous or irreplaceable thing to put in her mouth. The least helpful advice I got on this recent development is that it's due to the disturbance in routine cause by travel. It might be true, but I hope not -- we have two trips for her, and my first trip away from her coming this month. And one of the things that attracted me to Astronomy as a field was the travel... The most helpful advice - this will pass, and on astronomical timescales it's a very short phase indeed.

The trips are good news - I have two interviews for faculty jobs - a much higher success rate (for interviews at least) than I expected. It'd be nice to get some sleep too though...

And another positive thought - I have the flexibility to work when I like, and catch up later if I feel like a nap instead. I can also go to work without brushing my hair (and certainly with no make-up) and most astronomers would never notice! How do 9-5pm working Moms in the office environment manage at all...?

I guess we all walk a fine line between coping and exhaustion...