Wednesday, August 31, 2016

8/31/16- Lip Balm

I was at a pool party this weekend, and a fellow engineer was excited to talk STEM activities with me.  Every February, our engineering org goes to the AZ Science Center and performs a STEM experiment/activity with the kids and adults in honor of Engineers Week.  My fellow engineer was talking about ideas for a new activity, mostly centered around rockets (because rockets are cool).

But that made me realize it's time to post another STEM activity here on my blog.  School has started again, so what better time to get your STEM on than with the start of a new school year?  Below is how to make your own lip balm.

You may ask, what's lip balm got to do with science, but the answer is straightforward: make up companies hire scientists, engineers, and doctors. STEM professionals are needed for creating the make up formulas, adding/manufacturing the chemicals (or natural elements) in the make up, and testing the products.

Just look at the ingredients of any make up product, and you'll see compounds, minerals, and chemicals, the basis of chemistry right there on the label. Read on to learn more and to have fun creating your own lip balm!

Title: Make Your Own Lip Balm in 5 Steps
Author: Suzie Olsen at

Materials Needed:
  • Pot
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Whisk
  • Water (for pot)
  • Chapstick/ Lip Balm Containers (To-Go Condiment Containers work too)
  • Pot holder/hot pad
  • 3 tsp of Bees Wax
  • 4 tsp of Cocoa Butter                                     
  • 5 tsp of Sweet Almond Oil
  • 2 tsp  Shea Butter
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Optional natural fragrance oil and food coloring
1.  Use a stove and the pot to boil some water.  As a safety precaution, check with your parents or guardians first before using the stove top to boil the water.

2. Add the Bees Wax, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, and Sweet Almond Oil in Pyrex cup. Put the Pyrex cup into the boiling water; this technique is called a “double broiler.”

3. Mix the ingredients in the Pyrex cup with a whisk until completely melted.  When completely melted, add the honey.

4. Use the pot holder and take the Pyrex cup out of the pot. Pour the melted ingredients, which will be a liquid, into lip balm containers.

5. Wait fifteen minutes for lip balm to harden and cool.

Optional experiment: 
Add natural fragrance oil of your liking between steps 4 and 5 to flavor the lip balm.  Extracts used for baking, like vanilla and peppermint, can be used to flavor the lip balm as well. To color the lip balm, add a few drops of food coloring; gel food coloring will have a stronger color, while liquid food coloring will be more pastel.  Play mix and match with flavors and colors.

Fun facts relating to lip balm:
Chemical engineers can become cosmetic chemists using the knowledge of chemistry and the methods of engineering to extract, create and design new compounds and make-up. Engineers are problem solvers and can be given the task to find better anti-wrinkle cream or a more glossy lip balm.

Women in Ancient Egypt used crushed insects and toxic seaweed paste to redden their lips, whilst the Mesopotamians used the dust of semi-precious jewels and fish scales to add color and luster.1

The primary ingredients found in lipstick are wax, oil, alcohol, and pigment. The wax used usually involves some combination of three types—beeswax [just like we used], candelilla wax, or the more expensive camauba. Wax enables the mixture to be formed into the easily recognized shape of the cosmetic.2

Some lipsticks also intentionally contain skin irritants such as capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the heat in chili peppers, to cause temporary swelling of the lips and give a ‘lip-plumping’ effect. 1

Thursday, August 25, 2016

8/25/16- Patience

While I have not been writing blog posts for almost 2 weeks, I have been writing.  I've been drafting query letters and revising my picture book manuscript.  It's been 3 (or maybe it's 4?) weeks since I attended the Society of Children Books Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI; they pronounce every letter, to which I wonder what's the point of an acronym) conference in Los Angeles.  It was a great experience for me, with lots of knowledge (to the point of almost overwhelming) and friendships and professional contacts made.

I wish I could say that I signed on with an agent, or better yet, a publisher declared right then and there they'd print my book, but alas, that did not happen.  I was prepared for that to not happen though. It was a reoccurring saying to first time conference attendees, "do not get your hopes up."  Along with, "this business is subjective."

There were positive messages too.  Like authors who shared how long it took them to get published (decades), but they finally did.  "So stay determined, don't give up, believe in yourself."  There was also, "we need diverse books," which really resonated with me, as I'm passionate about diversity in engineering.  I do lots of STEM outreach with children, promoting diversity in engineering.  It's great to hear that there are people in SCBWI who are passionate about seeing diverse characters and diverse authors in the children's book industry.

So with these positive messages weighing more on me then the negative, I have used the opportunities presented to conference attendees.  One of these opportunities is to submit directly to editors at major publishing houses.  For the uninitiated, the author usually cannot submit directly to publishing houses, as most require that agents submits on your behalf. No unrepresented solicitation basically.  And thus why the past few weeks I've been working on query letters to editors.

I submitted these queries yesterday, and now it's wait and see if they write back.   It is hard for me to wait.  I want to know now. I'm so hopeful  that I'll get positive feedback, that I cannot wait the six weeks or longer it might take to hear book. Or they might not ever write back.  Then my hope is left dangling there for eternity.  I'll take polite decline with feedback/critic any day; it's better than not hearing anything at all.

Also, my son Jack is now a full toddler.  No trace of baby left in him. The baby face gone, the hours of rocking him gone, and the sweet baby personality gone.  It's miscommunication (how are Bobby and I supposed to know that daddy was potty; it sounded so much like daddy), refusing to eat what is on his plate, and tantrums.  However, it's also him using imagination when playing, giving kisses,  and saying I love you (I think; see miscommunication above).  I know some of the negative associations with toddler hood (like tantrums) while get better and fade away; it's a matter of both sides learning and growing.  But  right now, in the moment of him being a toddler, I need patience.

That's this week's word, patience.  I need it for my writing, and I need it for my son.  It's skill I haven't developed well.  It's a skill though, like the other skills I do have, that can be learned.  I have some ideas on how I can learn this skill: perform yoga or mediation; take deep breaths when son (or whoever else for that matter) is frustrating me; write the emotion down; and make it through Paw Patrol without making a snarky comment.  I'd love to hear other ideas on how I can learn or practice patience.  Wish me good practice, dear reader, as I (and Bobby) enter this stage of life!

Patience? Or maybe I just need to be more like a samurai

Sunday, August 14, 2016

8/14/16- First Bee Sting

This week we traveled to Park City, Utah.  Bobby had a conference there, so Jack and I tagged along. Overall, we had a good time.  It was a nice 80 degree, which after a 110 in Phoenix, was a much need relief from the heat.  It was beautiful too.  I see why the Olympic Committee choose Salt Lake City/Park City for the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Park City is the idyllically mountain town, worthy of postcards.  The resort and lodge we stayed at had the picturesque scenery, coupled with some of the best service I've ever received at a resort.  

Unfortunately, the resort and lodge also had bees (now I know why Utah is nicknamed the beehive state; bees seemed to be everywhere).  And a bee stung me while there.  It was my first bee sting.  Yep, in the 34 years of my life, I had never been stung by a bee.  Until now.  It was painful.  It was like a student nurse drawing blood for the first time, just gabbing the needle in.  The pain wasn't even the worst part-- Jack was with me, and there was more than one bee.

Jack and I were killing time as the maids cleaned our room.  We were climbing up and down the stairs near our room, as that is one of Jack's favorite activities right now.  Each landing has a wooden deck.  As we had climbed the stairs for what felt like the 20th time, Jack was ready for a break.  It was nearing his nap time, so we stopped on the deck above our room.  He wrapped his blanket around him (we hardly go anywhere without "blankie") and stared down at the water fountains below. He enjoyed watching the water hit the surface of the pond.  

I started rummaging around my bag, looking for a wipe to clean Jack's dirty hands with.  The dusty rails he used to steady himself up the stairs had coated his hands. I found the wipes and started wiping the dirt off.  As I was doing so, a flying insect landed on my head.  I waved it a way with my hand and continued on with my task.  Then the flying insect touched down on my knee.  I looked down and saw it was a bee.  Then I heard the buzzing.  I looked around and saw at least 10 bees.  They were coming out of the cracks on the wooden deck.

At that moment, the bee on my knee stung me. Seeing the handful of bees and getting stung happened with in a 10-15 window, and just as fast, my brain processed that I had to get Jack out there.  That these bees could swarm us.  I had just yelled an expletive from being stung, and now I was yelling for him to "come to mommy!"  In stead of coming to me, he started crying, which I understand his reaction.  But I didn't have time to be empathetic and give him comfort because the buzzing was increasing in frequency.  I grabbed his hand and fireman dragged him to the top of the stair.  At the stairs, I picked him up and carried him down the flight of stairs.

Once I realized the bees were not following us down, I collapsed at the bottom stair, cradling Jack to me.  I tried to offer him some reassuring words, as he was still crying, but I was too shaken up to give him the comfort he needed.  I texted Bobby that I just got stung by bee and to help.  Then, I broke down crying; loud sobs with tears streaming down. My crying only further upset Jack.  Luckily, Bobby was close by in a conference room and was able to make it to us with in minutes, taking Jack from me and giving the poor kid the reassurance and comfort he needed.

I wasn't crying from the pain.  I was crying because of how close Jack come to being swarmed by bees.  It could have been much worse than one bee sting (that had the swelling go away after just a couple of hours).  That is what scared me so much, and still upsets me days later, about how much danger my son was in.  Stupid bees, putting Jack's safety at risk.  See if I ever help you out again when you're drowning in our pool (ok, I know I shouldn't let one bad experience ruin my relation with all of you bees).

It's crazy to me how ingrained those protective parent instincts are. I could only think about Jack's safety and getting him out of that situation (and if truth be told, getting myself out of there too).  I'm glad I have those instincts and can react quickly in threatening situations, ensuring my son's safety. However, I really hope I don't have to use those instincts again.  Having your child's safety threatened was one of the worst feelings I've ever had, so never again, do you hear me universe?  Thanks universe, your friend, Suzie.

It was not all scary moments in Utah.  We all had fun at the Olympic Park, watching skiers practice and climbing on their playground.  We enjoyed delicious food along Main Street.  And we loved the cooler weather, surrounded by beautiful scenery that is Park City.  

Jack at the Olympic Park; he had such fun there!

The lovely view at the resort and lodge

Yummy dinner at the restaurant Zoom; the service was great here t!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

8/4/16- The Sleeping Baby

Jack is a good sleeper.  He usually sleeps 10 hours straight through the night, unless he's teething or sick (and then medicine, natural remedies, or rocking can lull him back to sleep).  He's actually been a good sleeper since about 2 months old.  I hazily remember the period before he started sleeping through the night.  It's hazy because neither Bobby or I got more than 3 hours straight of sleep in those first 2 months. When we were sleep deprived, we just don't remember things very well, including that period.

But we do both remember being shocked that first time Jack sleep through the night.  We woke up at 6am, after Jack's last feeding at 11pm, and asking each other, "did you feed him last night??" "No." "I didn't hear him cry out."  "I feel bad if I slept through his cries."  We thought it was a fluke.  Then he slept another 6-7 hours straight the next night, and the next. Jack was sleeping through the night, and if you haven't experienced a new born, insomnia, or other sleep issue, this was a HUGE deal! Yay for us!  Yay for sleep! Yay for not feeling like a zombie (I mean, I still crave brains, just kidding).

And if you ask me, "what was your secret, your trick, to getting him to sleep through the night?" Honestly, I don't know.  I think it was all Jack.  That he was in the 50th percentile for sleep (that's not a measurement pediatricians use by the way, but there was a study done on sleep and babies, that found 50% of babies sleep through the night by age 4 months. Here's the link: Sleep and babies).

But what if your baby is 4 months old and is in the 50th percentile of babies NOT sleeping through the night?  I can only imagine that you're desperately begging Google to unlock the hidden  tips, tricks and secrets to help your baby sleep. Well, today's your lucky day, as a discussion in one of my parent groups was just about tips, tricks and secrets for helping baby sleep (that's how this post came about), and I felt these tips might be better shared with the whole of the internet.

Here's the first (perhaps not so) secret: every baby is different, and this includes their sleep schedule. Yeah, I know that is not a helpful secret when you (parent/guardian) are sleep deprived, but I think it was brought up in our group to help us (parents and guardians) understand that this sleep thing might be out of our control.  So even if you exhaust all tips and tricks and your baby is still NOT sleeping through the night, try not to mark down as a failure (as a parent/guardian).  I mean, your kid isn't going to go to therapy because you couldn't get them to sleep through the night at 4 months; they're likely going to therapy for all the other shark you're gonna do.  (I kid, I kid.)

First tip: there's lots of books out there about sleep and babies.  These are the books recommended in my  parent group:
1) "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child"by Dr. Wiessbluth
2) "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley
3) "Becoming Babywise" by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam (note,in our group, the person just said babywise, so my interweb intuition says it's this book)

Now if you're like me, you don't have time to read books on sleep because you have to read fifty different reviews on sippy cups instead (and if you have time to read chapter books instead of reviews, you should probably be sleeping).  So here are the "straight-to-it" tips and tricks for helping baby sleep.  I want to note that these are just tips and tricks other parents have found useful (remember? I lucked into the 50th percentile of good sleepers). I haven't hired a team of researchers to run a year long study on what is the best way to help baby sleep, and I didn't have all of that data all plotted out neatly in graphs and charts (I know, I see the disappointment on your face that I didn't use scientific method :p).

Nonetheless, I thought that these tips and tricks were worth sharing.  Surely, one is likely to work on your child *crosses fingers*. These are just tips and tricks passed from one parent to another until you maybe find one that works for your child. Just like our parents did before us and before the Internet. I forget what those are called, Oral Traditions, other something like that (maybe I'm thinking of stories passed down from one generation to the next, but it's like that).  Maybe it will comfort you a tiny bit that at least these tips and tricks passed along come from a parent group full of engineers; or maybe that will make you stop reading right now. Alright, alright, the tips:

1) Try swaddling
2) Try swaddling after a different activity (for example, you usually swaddle them right after eating; try changing diaper, then swaddle, then feeding)
3) Try a red bulb for a night light (instead of the white/blue)
4) Keep baby next to you/nurse in bed
5) White noise (like a fan or a noise machine; just be sure it's below 50 dBs so it will not harm baby's hearing)
6) Only change the diaper if it's a poopy diaper (once you discover the magic of the 12-hour "night time" diapers, you will never go back)
7) Don't talk to baby in the middle of the night (although for us, a soft singing to an upset Jack seemed to comfort him, but all babies are different)
8) Finally, sleep when baby sleeps

Yes, I bet if I surveyed parents/guardians, that I'd find 99% of them have heard the "sleep when baby sleeps."  I admit, I found it hard to nap on maternity leave.  I wanted to get so many things done when Jack was napping/sleeping in the day. However, I did usually take a nap almost daily.  Sometimes it was just 30 minutes, but it did re-fuel me.  Also, Jack loved the car, so I'd drive to Starbucks, go through the drive through, get coffee or tea for myself, and by the time we're home, he'd be asleep (this only worked if he hadn't previously been napping).

If you're back at work, those naps are hard to find, but I've seen people nap in their cars. Some places have nap areas (or a nurses station, it's cool to say you need to lay down for a headache or such, haha).  And as a new mother, I used the nursing room.  Sure I was pumping, but I used that time to rest with my eyes open.  I rarely tried to work when in the nursing room.  It helped a little with any tiredness (which feels double when a new parent and RA patient).

Although blessed with a good sleeper after age 2 months, Jack hasn't always slept through the night over the past 2 years. We've had to deploy our own tricks when he was teething or was sick.  White noise and rocking are the two I remember he liked best.

We've had to rock him in old faithful (a hand me down rocking chair) for 30-60 minutes, 2-3 times, during those nights that brought him misery.  Then it was a careful act of not waking him up as we put him back in the crib (shark! why did the dog just shake his collar).  Jack really responded well to motion to fall asleep, and will still fall asleep in long car rides. Not every kid likes motion though, which all goes back the number one secret: every baby is different.  Ok, all this talk about sleep, it's very suggestive.  I'm off to nap.  Sleep tight everyone. ;-)

*This link was also posted in my parent group, if you'd like some additional reading, I mean resources: Sleep Problems By Age, Newborn.  And this link came to me via The Bump Newsletter: 6 Ways to Get More Sleep Now That Baby is Here

I'm sure I've left out some tips and tricks, so please share what worked for you in the comments below.  Thanks!