the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much

Monday, January 26, 2009

Focus, Just Focus

focusing is one thing i am having real trouble with lately. i (understandably, i think, especially to those who have spent any significant amount of time with max) can't get any work done when max is home with me, so i really depend on the three days a week that he is daycare to get the majority of my writing accomplished. unfortunately, it is also easier to do things like wash max's clothes, disinfect toys, and clean my house when he is at daycare. of course, i do those things on weekends when chad is home (or i make chad do them), but with max eating things off the floor all the time, slobbering all over his toys on a daily basis, and making a giant mess at mealtimes, household chores have to be done at least three or four times a week.

so with writing tasks and deadlines pressing down on me and having a zillion things to take care of around the house, i feel like i'm being pushed in a hundred different directions all at once. which is not conducive to good (or even mediocre) writing. with the editing left to do on my first chapter and having barely made any headway on the second, i am beginning to doubt my ability to have a solid draft of my dissertation ready to submit to the graduate school by march 26.

that is particularly problematic when i keep redoing stats in different ways to try to simplify my data. and when those extra stats only make things more complex. gah.

i've done some editing today, along with two loads of laundry and a load of dishes. i am about to go sweep and mop the living room and kitchen and then fold max's laundry. after that i need to turn the car seat around so that it faces forward (max doesn't have to face backward any more now that he's a year old and over 20 lbs). then it's off to pick the little guy up from daycare.

tomorrow i am going to take my laptop and go to the library to work after i drop max off. maybe i'll be able to focus better there.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

it's hard to believe, but max turned one year old yesterday. i took him for his 12 month checkup, and he's a very healthy (and very strong) boy. he weighed in at 22 lbs. 10 oz. (50th percentile) and is 31" tall (75th percentile). he had to get another round of vaccinations, which of course he didn't like very much. but he was smiling at the nurse as soon as it was over.

we saw another baby from max's class at daycare in the waiting room, too. he was in for his 15 month checkup. his mom is a little worried because he still isn't walking. like max, he probably can but isn't quite ready to let go and walk on his own just yet. she told me that her son will push his walker around with one hand while holding his sippy cup in the other, so i'm sure he's fine.

since i made him get shots on his birthday (and because he has little patience for opening a giant pile of gifts, as we discovered at christmas), chad and i decided to let max open his birthday gifts from us last night instead of at his party on sunday.

here's max with his gifts:

now here's max opening one of his gifts (a little boat to play with in the tub):

and here is max laughing with his eyes closed as he bangs on a giant bag of giant blocks:

max has recently discovered that squinting while he grins at people (us, plus random people in the waiting room at the doctor's office) makes them laugh. he does it often.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From A Recent Baby Newsletter...

i receive weekly baby-related emails from several sources, and one this week from was entitled "keeping your toddler active." clicking the link to continue reading the article led to a page with the heading, "are you raising a mini couch potato?" ha! i wish!

the article gave tips for getting your baby to keep moving instead of engaging in still, quiet play activities. tips included things like turning off the tv so your baby won't be tempted to sit still and watch, moving toys up onto tables and couches to encourage cruising (our coffee table is currently dedicated to max's toys already), and crawling around on the floor with your baby for a game of chase.

once again, i said "ha!" and laughed out loud. because the max? needs NO encouragement to be active. i actually wish he would sit still and watch sesame street for 15 minutes every now and then. he pretty much ignores the tv. he might glance up at it for about 10 seconds, then he's on to something else. he is a bundle of constant motion. he even bounces when he's being held most of the time. he does enjoy a good game of chase the max around the island in the kitchen, but for the most part he is VERY active all on his own, crawling wherever he can get to, pulling up on everything, cruising around, and one of his new favorite games involves throwing toys and chasing them (he throws something and then goes to get it and throws it again). he has the patience for about two or three VERY short baby books (2-5 minutes of reading), and then he's squirming to get down and go again. he thinks he wants to be held a lot, but he never just lets you hold him for long.

couch potato? i think not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Giant Babies (but not mine)

as you are well aware if you have been following my twitter updates, i've been freaking out about max's weight a little bit lately. intellectually, i am perfectly sure that max's weight is normal and that he is growing just as he should be. but i have fallen into the trap of comparing him to other babies. and compared to other babies he looks skinny. scrawny, if you will.

i walked into daycare one day and really looked around at all the other babies in max's room. most of them are huge. not really chubby butterballs (well, a couple are chubby butterballs), just big overall. then there is max. he is definitely not a chubby butterball. and he is tall for his age, which makes him look even skinnier. there are two other babies in his room who are around the same size as max (i'd say their weights are within a pound or two of each other). one is a month older than max (he is slightly bigger than max), the other is about a month younger than max. the other 7 babies are considerably bigger, even the one who is three months younger than max and the one who is 4 or 5 weeks younger than max who was a preemie (5 lbs when he was born, 29 lbs now). i have no idea how much the baby who is 1 day younger than max weighs, but he is ENORMOUS. easily the biggest baby in the room, while max is among the smallest. they are about in the middle of the age range in the infant 2 room.

the other day we met an almost 11 month old (some obscure relation to chad) who weighed 31 lbs at his 9 month checkup (that is well outside the normal growth curve at 9 months, and is 95th percentile for an 18 month old boy). they're not sure how much he weighs now. max weighed 20 lbs 6 oz at his 9 month checkup. according to my scale at home (which does 0.5 lb increments; weighing myself and then myself holding max), max weighs about 22 lbs., maybe a few ounces more. according to the growth chart we have (the same one used by pediatricians nationwide), 50th percentile for a 12 month old boy is 22.5 to 23 lbs. max's 12 month checkup is next week, so i'll know then exactly how much he weighs and where it falls on the growth chart. max's weight has consistently been in the 50th percentile, with his height in the 75th percentile, since his 2 month checkup (he was in the 25th percentile for both at his 1 month checkup). so you would think that he would fall somewhere in the middle size-wise compared to other babies. but we keep meeting all these 30 pounders, and i have yet to see a baby close to max's age who is significantly smaller than he is. how is this possible?

i'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how a 9 month old ends up weighing what a large 18 month old normally weighs. even scarfing table food as early as 6 months and eating tons of fried and fatty food doesn't explain that to me.

i'll admit that max has weird eating habits sometimes. he's been sick twice since his last checkup (sore throat & ear infection then a stomach bug). the first time, he barely ate anything for almost 3 weeks then ate almost non-stop for a week (to make up for lost calories, i assume). then his eating leveled off, and he was eating 3 solid meals a day plus a snack and 16-24 oz. of formula. then he got a stomach virus and ate nothing but small snacks of crackers, bananas, applesauce, or yogurt for a week (he wouldn't eat anything else, and he didn't eat much of those). then he spent two days eating non-stop and gulping down an extra cup of formula. now he's eating normally again, with one snack added to his usual routine (so now he eats breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks). that's pretty normal for a 1 year old, as far as i can tell. i don't try to control max's food intake at all. if anything, i encourage him to eat as much possible.

max is pretty much eating all table food now (he still gets baby cereal for breakfast a few times a week, though), and it's really hard to figure out how much to feed him. so i pretty much load up his plate with what looks like a reasonable amount of food for him and let him eat as much as he wants. if he finishes everything, i offer him a little more. sometimes he wants it, sometimes he doesn't. my philosophy is to feed him as long as he's eating. we keep mealtimes to about 30 mintues or so, though. longer than that, and he's just playing and struggling to get out of his high chair. i also try really hard to make sure he eats a variety of foods and gets enough fruits and veggies, but he also eats things like french fries and cookies every now and then.

i don't really think i could make max chubbier if i tried. when he doesn't eat much, i make sure he eats high-calorie (but still nutritious) food. maybe if i loaded everything he eats with butter he'd be chubbier. but i still don't think he'd be as big as the babies he's around all the time. they're all on the same schedule. they eat the same things for lunch every day (most of the babies in max's room eat the cafeteria lunches, two or three eat baby food). max's snacks are probably higher-calorie than most of the babies' in his class (he frequently eats yogurt and fruit cups along with cheerios or puffs at snack, where most of the babies just eat puffs or other really low-calorie baby snacks). maybe he's just more active than other babies. he certainly bounces more than the rest of them. he's the bouncy baby at daycare. everyone there knows him as the one who likes to jump. maybe all that bouncing just burns off all his extra calories. he also doesn't sleep for as long as the other babies at naptime. so maybe that's it.

anyway, i know i should't really worry about max's weight. most of the time, he eats. i know he isn't hungry. but i would still really like to see a few babies max's age who are smaller than he is.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


as the impending end of my career as a grad student approaches, i am nagged by an ever-present buzz of panic in the back of my mind. being a student is all i know. it's all i have ever done. i have of course been working toward a goal - earning my doctorate. and i almost have it. in a few months, i will officially be a doctor. and suddenly that scares the crap out of me.

in a moment of blinding self-doubt that struck while i was waiting to meet with dr. v. to discuss a couple of ideas for grants, it occurred to me that i have absolutely NO IDEA what i'm doing. i haven't the faintest clue how to be an independent researcher. what i really want to study. how to find a job. how to impress prospective employers. or how to successfully procure the necessary funding for what i want to study. even now, those questions hook their claws into my brain and dig in, trying to induce a full blown panic attack.

as i was unsuccessfully struggling to go to sleep the other night, i hyperventilated a little and pondered what it means to be scientist. an ecologist. why i do what i do. why i want to do what i do. because if you can't answer those questions for yourself, how can you expect anyone else to take you seriously? thinking about why i want to do what i do forced me to take a step back and look at things objectively. and i realized that my biggest weakness as an ecologist is my tendency to get caught up in the details. to lose sight of the big picture. dr. v. says this all the time, but we scientists are inclined to do things because we can, not because we should and not because we think it's important. sadly, that is very true.

ecology is by definition the study of interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environment. i study chemical defenses in seagrasses, which fits right in with the most basic definition of ecology. but it bleeds over into a more specialized field of ecology (chemical ecology), and it's all too easy to get lost in the minutiae when dealing in chemical ecology. that is something that i desperately want to avoid. so i started thinking about the significance of chemical defenses, where they fit in the grand scheme of things, and that led me to have a sort of mini-epiphany: asking and answering questions is exactly the point of science. answering the big picture questions is the goal, and experimentation is the tool to help me achieve it. i just have to remind myself to take a step back every now and then to remember the big picture and ask myself if what i'm doing helps me piece together the puzzle.

so maybe i can do this. but the real world, the one in which i'm no longer a student, still scares the crap out of me.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2009, You Suck

umm, so happy new year and whatnot. want to know how i rang (rung?) in 2009? cleaning up vomit, that's how. and then i spent new year's day trying to get the smell out of max's hair. because he threw up in his crib and wallowed in it. vomit EVERYWHERE. it was traumatic, i tell you. and i've spent every day this year cleaning up poop. so much poop. max picked up one hell of a stomach bug from daycare. and he gave it to chad. i have thus far managed, through compulsive hand-washing and hand sanitizer use and liberal spraying of lysol, to avoid this illness. knock on wood.

i foolishly believed that max was getting better when he only pooped once monday. but then he puked again. and today the excessive pooping resumed. just before bedtime tonight, max was crawling around the living room and kitchen when i smelled that smell that i have smelled too many times this year. he plopped down in the kitchen floor and then pulled up on my leg. and that's when i saw the puddle in the floor where his butt had been. and the wet spots on the back of his pants spreading out from his diaper. then he sat down again. and got more disgusting watery poop on the kitchen floor. so i cleaned max up while chad cleaned the floor. with antibacterial swiffer cleaner. and then liberally sprayed it with lysol.

so, that's been my year so far. not so great, wouldn't you agree?