Friday, September 30, 2016

A day in pictures

Hazel wakes up before my alarm. She'll chatter a bit while I snooze, then its breakfast for her. I love these morning snuggles.

Happy baby while I take the morning constitutional.

Kaylee hasn't woken up yet, so time to go get her out of 'bed'.  

Then changing Hazel's diaper while Kaylee actually wakes up. 

Since her pajamas were wet from a minor diaper leak, it's new outfit time for Miss Hazel.

Kaylee hasn't really woken up.

Hazel gets playmat time while I finish getting ready. This includes figuring out what Kaylee will eat so she's not grumpy, getting Kaylee dressed, packing my lunch, packing Hazel's 'lunch' of breastmilk pumped from the day before, getting myself dressed and getting everyone out the door on time.

Contemplate picking today's outfit from the load of clean laundry waiting to be folded. Decide against it. Resolve to fold laundry after work.

Everyone is in the car!  I don't have a set start time on Fridays but I like to be out the door between 9 and 9:15.  The earlier I get to work, the earlier I can leave.

Space shirt! 

Hazel isn't asleep, she just doesn't like rain.

I top Hazel up and the kids are begging me to put her in the bouncer. Hazel is very popular. Everyone wants to play with her.

I decided to 'dress up' today.  An amber pendant necklace (with insects!) and some matching ish earrings. 

The drive takes about 50 minutes. Eric wants me to go to Costco on my way home to get cat food.

I'm at work! I drop my lunch bag in the freezer so it stays cold and head back.

Clock in!  I have to punch in a number, they do not have my fingerprint programmed in yet.

Immediate tasks: Plates that I innoculated yesterday are finally dry. They go in the bell jar with a candle to consume all the oxygen. The bell jar gets labled with the Lab ID and the date it gets taken out.

Then put into the incubator. All of those black plates? Those are all testing for Legionella

I can't get into the excel file where we log new samples yet (only one person can edit it at a time) so I decide to do some research on a funky bacteria I've seen every week on the floor sampling of the clean room. Turns out its Bacillus mycoides and it's a soil bacterium. This means a few things. 1. The current cleaning procedure is not sufficient 2. The current steps being taken to minimize contamination are not sufficient or not being followed. I bring this up to my lab manager and discuss it with the facility manager. I've seen this problem before. It was solved with SporGon and sterile mops. I feel awesome.

I also feel some letdown and check it out in the bathroom. Good thing I have spare breastpads because I forgot to put some in this morning and have suffered the consequences.

The lab log is finally usable so I log in the new samples and assign them IDs. Then I take two to work on. I will be in charge of following them through to completion and writing the report at the end. Here I've prepped for more Legionella analysis of water samples.

Then its lunch. As a part time employee I have 30 minutes of break. I spend 15 minutes eating and 15 minutes pumping. This company is good, they have a nice private space for me to do this that's not a bathroom. I browse reddit while I pump and try to think about Hazel cuddles for extra oxytocin boosts of milk.

Good boobs!  This goes into my freezer chilled lunch bag and I go back and finish the samples and get them set up. I was going to try and browse a lab supply company for some parts that we need but the network needed to be restarted so our computers had to be turned off. It was not back up by the time I left.

4 hours later... Time to go home.

And it's raining decently hard.

Greaaaat. I do stop at Costco and then head to pick up the girls. It only added about a half hour since I was only getting a few things. 

The video is loud, but I love her reaction when she recognizes me.

Then a short drive home and unloading the truck!

Hazel is pretty much ready for a nap and we snuggle a bit.

When I'm able to escape the tiny one, Kaylee gets some one on one and snacks. Eric comes home shortly after and gets glomped on by Kaylee.

Hazel wakes up and seems cold. I'm cold. So I bundle her up.

We demonstrate for Nana's facebook friends that the happy smiling baby isn't always happy and smiling. No babies were harmed in the taking of this picture. 

After I make myself dinner (Eric and I have decided that we're fending for ourselves) I take over Hazel duty. She's hungry so I get comfy on the couch.

Kaylee watches Episode VI 

Hazel takes another nap, much to my surprise. I am trapped.

I play some Clash of Clans. War is about to end so I need to get in my final attacks. Hazel wakes up and is still acting fussy and hungry so I get ready for bed and put her in more appropriate pajamas. Eric handles Kaylee. I'm pretty much in bed for the rest of the night and entertain myself with Hulu and Netflix. I'm watching early ANTM on Hulu and Criminal Minds on Netflix.

Once I'm able to escape I grab a snack and set up with the laptop to browse the internet and write this.  Hazel will likely fuss in an hour or so, I'll feed her then, try and move her to the crib and pass out myself.

Ta da. A day in the life.

Note: In the winter this day would include an evening barn visit to feed. There's no point to grain and I know they have plenty of fresh water, so horses were fairly hands off today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hazel is almost 5 months, whaaat?!

Hazel is adjusting well to daycare. She's finally taking a bottle with gusto and I was immediately getting comments on how chattery she is and happy. Well, yeah, with a full belly she definitely is!  It just took some time for her to figure out that bottles still got her the good stuff.

I do have to say, when I went back to work with Kaylee I didn't need to really bother to take time and pump. She was pretty much on solids and cow milk and only nursed at night and in the morning.  This is a whole new ballgame for me with pumping! I'm constantly worried that I'm not going to make enough for the day, even though I'm really not gone long. Plus... how do you know how much to give them?! I'm used to just sticking a boob in the babies mouth until they tell me they're done. So much less guesswork!

Right after she actually ate, legitimately, from a bottle. 

Morning cuddles before we get ready to leave for the day.

Happy girl

Gwyn says "I see you're working on dinner. I can eat that dinner. Oh you left the stall door open? I didn't notice..."

Set up for a bacterial and fungal analysis of paint samples. Pretty colors! 

Not sure what this is, not what I'm looking for at least. On black agar (it has charcoal in it, typically used for isolating Legionella)

I might look ridiculous, but I did kind of miss dressing up like this from my days at BioRad.  I'm about to enter the production room at Biosan. Clean room attire required! Booties on my shoes, sterile jumpsuit, gloves and hair net.  If there was active production I'd add a face mask too. 

Hard to see, but there is roadkill over there with a Happy Birthday balloon tied to it. I was amused.

In baby news, Hazel is getting much more adept at grabbing things. Her favorites include Kaylee's hair.  She definitely communicates, it's great. She loves bathtime, especially with Kaylee in my big tub and will laugh if she sees the tub or if Eric starts getting her undressed.  She has learned other patterns of behavior. She could be crying and hungry but if I bring her to my room and lay on the bed the cry turns more into this hicupping excitement. She knows I'm gonna feed her. There's an instant mood change.  She laughs easiest for Kaylee. All she has to do is jump and Hazel is giggling. Kaylee can also soothe Hazel by singing a song. It's fascinating.

Hazel prefers being outside. Winter is going to suck. She gets bored inside. She is starting to be able to sit up on her own. I've also started to slowly introduce solid foods. I'm into baby led weaning, baby will let you know what they're ready for.  Hazel is interested in our food. She leans in and opens her mouth or will grab for things I'm eating if I'm holding her.  She hasn't lost her tongue reflex yet though so she'll automatically push things out of her mouth. That being said, I'm not opposed to food for fun and taste. It's not going to be a big part of her nutrition for a long while yet. So far she's had baby food apples, which she liked, and tonight I let her nom on a banana, which she LOVED. I doubt she's actually swallowing much, but she's learning more tastes, which is great. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Musings and Identity

The title of this blog (Tales of a Scientist Mom, for my LJ friends where this gets crossposted to) ended up being more prophetic than I could have imagined. Even when I started it, unemployed, a mom, living in Michigan and unsure if I would find anything relevant to my career interests, I knew what to call myself.

Scientist Mom.

Not Mom Scientist, and I do believe the order is relevant here. A scientist first, mom second. Everything I teach my children I do with science in mind. Even with toys and clothes I prefer there to be a STEM flair of some kind, like a recent splurge on a toy laboratory set for Kaylee, who played with great gusto as soon as it arrived. Watching her imagine, with the beakers and eye droppers and test tubes, playing a scientist, mixing her 'chemicals' of different colored water, made me so proud.

When I read 'Rosie Revere Engineer' I cry every time Great Great Aunt Rose tells Rosie that trying and failing is when you learn the most as an engineer. That while Rosie's invention didn't succeed fully, it did almost and she just needed to keep trying. Target's latest line of kids clothing, Cat and Jack, begs for a direct infusion of money from my bank account with their awesome selection of shirts for boys but especially for girls. Shirts for girls that bear the words "Future President", pictures of dinosaurs in non-primary colors, "Yay Science" and GeNiUs spelled out with the periodic table of elements attract me like a fly to honey. They are things I want my girls to know, to wear proudly. They can be anything they set their minds toward.

I brought these things into their lives because I desperately wanted them to know that being smart and successful is something to strive for. I want to instill confidence before their peers might try and tear it down. Before teachers who aren't so up to date with their teaching methods ask why they're even bothering to try in the special math and science programs (happened to me). I want to prepare them to face the things I faced, to build them a mountain of success so when people try and take stabs at the base they don't crumble from a loss of foundation.

Leading up to my first day back to work I hemmed and hawed. Was I doing the right thing? Kaylee had gotten the benefit of a whole year of me being home before I worked again. Hazel was only getting 4 months. I knew Kaylee would be fine, but Hazel? She was still a baby. Would she eat? Would I miss out on those special moments? But I really wanted this job.  I told my fears to Eric and bless him he understood. He hugged me and told me it would be okay. And that there wasn't a right answer or any platitude that could ease my anxiety.

But I went anyway.  The allure of the laboratory was too strong.

Hazel did fine. She didn't eat, which I expected, but I kept pumping for her anyway. And I watched and learned new methodology, new types of microbiological testing. Then, unlike my last job, I was trusted to go it alone and work independently. What a difference. And with the constant work they have, I often leave knowing that there's more for me to do the next day. There's no time to sit and be bored or distracted.  If I have ADD, it does not affect me negatively in such an environment. When I'm at work I'm focused and I don't feel as though I need to be medicated. Or worry that the only way I'll succeed is if I achieve a diagnosis and prescription or therapy.

As I sat in the lab this week, slowly, methodically, innoculating black agar plates with samples of water that may have Legionella, I realized I was happy. As I looked at my nitrile gloved hands I realized that I loved that I could go home and tell Kaylee that I was a scientist and really mean it and say it with truth in my voice, rather than doubt of a stay at home mom who has once worked in a lab.

It was an empowering feeling.  I AM a scientist. Full stop. No qualifications needed on the statement. It feels good to say.

I'm a scientist.

I'm a microbiologist.

I'm also a mom.

I needed to have this facet of my identity restored.

And I'm working just enough, I think. I'm away for about six hours a day. A full third of that is commute. I don't have to get up early, we can wake up at our natural rhythm (around 7:30am) and snuggle in bed without feeling rushed. We get ready for school (if it's a school day).  I drop Kaylee off and can check in with her teacher.

My commute is my chill time. I listen to public radio and catch up on current events, or drive in silence, which sometimes soothes my introvert soul. Then at work I throw myself into my tasks. Maybe it's sampling the clean room, or taking all of the Legionella tests for the day and churning them out. Lunch with my coworkers, who are lovely and friendly. Pumping by myself, a short introvert recharge while I daydream about my baby snuggles from the morning and the gummy smiles Hazel greets me with when I come to pick her up. Then its finishing up lab work and writing reports if I need to and cleaning up my space. Then home, another quiet moment in the car while I listen to Terri Gross and Fresh Air on NPR until I reach the dead zone where neither coverage from the two different stations are good enough for continuous listening.

And then I'm picking up my girls and I can be on point and focused. I'm not yelling or frustrated or burnt out from too much extrovert 4 year old and a needy baby. I can breathe and give them the attention they deserve from me.

I'm a better mom. I feel it in my core. And that makes this all worthwhile.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


We're falling into an easy routine and this is only day 2 of my new job!

It's funny, I've worked in 6 different laboratories now and none of them have had similar policies regarding PPE (personal protective equipment).  I've run the gamut too, from devil may care "you probably should wear UV goggles while using the UV light but mehhhh let's go mouth pipet" in grad school to super strict booties, hair cover, jumpsuit, face mask, goggles and gloves in the production rooms at BioRad.

Biosan is a combination of super lax (we can wear scrubs to work!) and moderately rigid (clean room garb in their production room).  The work, likewise, is also an amalgamation of things I've done, and enjoyed, previously.

They make and sell their own product in house for detecting bacteria and fungi. These are the Sanicheck Test kits. They also sell mini countertop incubators for the kits for companies that don't need full devoted lab space to do occasional quality control work.

Part of my job is to do the environmental monitoring of their production room where they make the Sanicheck kits. This is exactly what I did with Biorad only not as thorough (imo).  I'm just taking surface swabs and not doing a quantitative check by using a gridded contact plate. I'm also not doing air particulates. They may have determined that it's not necessary and as long as the product is meeting goal, then cool for them. And by self admission from my supervisor, no one uses the alcohol spray for their hands... LOL.

Lab coat is optional, no one has goggles, gloves are provided and so are face masks, which I took advantage of when I did a fungal challenge today that included Penecillium since I'm allergic.

Biosan also accepts samples from other companies for analysis. They have a list of tests that they perform. The majority of this work is Legionella testing, which is especially relevant right now in Michigan since McLaren Hospital in Flint has another case of Legionnaires disease on top of lead pipes that have yet to be replaced thanks to beauracracy.

Either way, I'm feeling really welcome by the group at Biosan. Tomorrow I'm letting my geek flag fly and wearing a geeky tshirt. I was way overdressed for my first day with slacks and a dressy top and close toed dressy shoes. Today I wore a solid color casual shirt with nice jeans and sneakers which is still on the nicer end of things that people wear, lol. It will likely be my go to style since it feels nice to be out looking decent and not wearing what I slept in, oh boy SAHM life, hahah.

When I'm home, I feel guilty about leaving Hazel at daycare (not so much Kaylee, she loves the socialization) but when I'm at work it feels SO NICE to be exercising my brain and my lab skills. This job is so worthwhile.