Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to Business

Here's a summary of where I'm at and what I'm doing professionally (perhaps over several posts):

I teach three courses this semester.
1. Bread and Butter II (also called cool subject)- I was hired to teach this course, and its prerequisite Bread and Butter I. My favorite course. A very large, lower-level course (for us) at 60 students. I do all the work from planning the course to grading the exams, quizzes and labs to making solutions and putting out lab materials for each students. Know the subject well, rely on textbook powerpoints, so lecture prep is moderate / mild. The most work for this course is the grading. A mountain of grading.

During the Fall semester (my maternity leave) this course was farmed out to a faculty member of another department for the lecture and a roaming adjunct for the lab. Can I tell you a secret? When this colleague taught this course during a previous maternity leave, I got the highest course evaluations in my history because of a comparison effect.

2. Science for Teachers and Gen Ed (a 101 course)- Never taught this before in my life. Feel the need to make it very exciting and do a lot of jumping around, acrobatics and other entertainment in this course. Have a friend/equivalent at another institution who loves her course and has given me some great suggestions.

3. Research course- This course rotates among faculty and this year its my turn. A chance for students to work in the lab but more formalized; a syllabus, lectures for intros, teaching reading literature explicitly instead of implicitly, etc. Was under enrolled (1 student!!) but will surprisingly run anyway. I will get load time for mentoring a student in my lab (a rare treat- yahoo). She is, unfortunately, a sophomore but absolutely needs it this semester. Therefore she has not had a lot of the courses and experiences that will help her hit the ground running, so hoping she can complete my ONE LAST experiment for my paper is a reach. We'll do our best.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birth Story Part 8- The birth

Actually, you missed it. It was here.

But don't worry you are in good company. We did not have time to call the doula, or the 2 nursing students I invited to attend BEFORE the birth. The nursing students were horribly disappointed when they arrived an hour later (they knew they missed it but came to visit). We started to get visitors- the baby sitters of my son, other friends. It was wonderful to feel alive and energetic and excitedly tell the story.

Boy was so excited to be in the hospital room (new things to play with! buttons to push! plugs to pull!) that he barely noticed this pink cylindrical thing that people kept shoving into his face.

The cycle of begging for popsicles and anything else to eat or drink from the nursing staff started and didn't end until 24 hours later when we checked out. I was ravenous. And ecstatic.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birth Story Part 7c- Hospital Contractions #2-5

I was sitting at the admit desk, waiting for a bracelet. The contraction I was having ended abruptly, just as my husband arrived with all our pre-prepared bags from the car. I laughed and joked with him, telling him he looked like a Sherpa. With this labor, even the most intense contractions would disappear and leave me feeling NO pain. My first birth, that was not the case. The baseline of pain crept up and up, so toward the end there wasn't much relief from the pain in between contractions. But for my second, it was like night and day.

Everything seemed manageable, I got my bracelet (quickly I must note), and the guy wheeled me toward the elevators down the hall. Another contraction (#2) came quickly as we were approaching the elevators. I dropped my head and started trying to breathe to manage it, and it was difficult. My transporter had turned me around to back into the elevator which had not arrived yet. I heard the bell ding and the door slide open while I was breathing very heavily and loudly and gripping the armrests of the wheelchair tightly. Then I heard the sound of a stampede. Apparently the elevator was full of people who all saw my distress, and RAN out of the elevator to let me in!

Somewhere between the elevator and the corner of the L and D wing, the contraction ended and once again, I was relieved of any vestige of pain. The midwife I had called and my favorite L and D nurse were there to greet me. I remember specifically waving at them, smiling and saying "I'm so glad its you guys!". I also confirmed (firmly) that the room I was being taken to had a jacuzzi in it (not all do). I was delivered to a room and asked to stand up from the chair, and BLAM! Another contraction (#3). I stood next to the bed and bent over it, and asked (perhaps begged) Can I have the birthing ball PLEASE?!?! I was breathing the best I could but at a point my control "broke" and I let out a deep guttural cry.

No, no ball yet, the midwife said, we need to get you checked in. And it seems like we need to do it in a hurry. Lets get you on the bed. They helped me on the bed and while the nurse fumbled to hurriedly get a fetal heart strip on me the midwife pulled my dress over my head. She joked with me because I was wearing a depends. I explained that I was afraid of my water breaking in church. The pause between contractions was only long enough for her to check my cervix. She stuck her hand up there, and said, well, hold on let me confirm this, yes, you're at 9 cm. I thought REALLY?? Woah. She said in a very soft tone, there's going to be a flurry of activity, don't let it frighten you. And then the next contraction came (#4). I was lying partly on my side, and the nurse was trying to get to the next stage of "check in" with me. I THINK at this point the midwife said to the nurse, forget the IV. This contraction also made me cry out. I could feel the baby fill my pelvis, and the very end of the contraction I said "I feel pushy!"

Having the baby in your birth canal sets off a reflex that feels like an absolute uncontrollable urge to defecate. I don't remember how I was on the bed, where my husband was, or anything else. I do remember that the midwife said, if you feel the urge to push, go ahead.

The next contraction came (#5), and I felt filled with power. There was not pain, just the very happy chance to push and take control. I contracted my abdomen and with a deep and satisfying HUUUUUAAAAAAH! I felt instant relief from the urge. And I heard a splash.

And that was it. She was born.

When I heard a cry and my husband saying, "Its a girl!" I was lifted to a place I've never been. I was extremely high and filled with joy.

The midwife said that she was born a caul bearer, a rare occurrence in which the baby is born with at least the head in an intact bag of waters. Her umbilical cord was short so I felt a tugging at my insides as we tried to put her to my breast to feed. She fed well and right away.

This was such a contrast to my first labor. My son came after 43 hours of regular painful contractions and a lot of interventions (but no epidural). After my son, I wanted Scotch.

After my daughter, I wanted to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birth Story Part 7b- Arriving at the Hospital

I left off looking down the road and seeing red lights, hoping that my fear of having the baby in the car wasn't going to be realized. I had about two contractions in the car, and then they eased off. I didn't really notice not having contractions. I did think, as we passed the shell of the former hospital*, we could be there by now. Then, a few blocks later we passed a fire station, and in my mind this was an anchoring point, like a new point to which we could return in case things started to get worse. But we kept progressing through town. The student section, of which I was afraid of being clogged, was wide open as it was a Sunday morning. We made it through construction, and then through a very long driveway leading up to the emergency room. I remember seeing a couple on a tandem bike riding through the parking lot as we approached, strange and cool simultaneously. At this point my husband, clearly tense, says "Why do they have to put the emergency room on the back side of the hospital?" and I managed to spurt out, "Don't bitch, just drive!".

Hospital contraction # 1

We arrived at the emergency room entrance and Hub said, "I'll drop you off, and go park the car. I'll be right there" I stood up from the car, after no contractions for about 15 minutes and was SLAMMED by another contraction. The car had slipped away from behind me and I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other through the double door to the ED. I was greeted by a triage nurse (I assume) and he said "What can we do for you today?" which I thought was a pretty dumb question. I managed to grunt "Having."..."Baby". He said, "Would you like a wheelchair?" At which point I'm thinking, well no duh, but managed to nod in the affirmative. The chair was a big relief, but the contraction was still going on. He rolled me up to the admit desk and said "we've got someone for OB and she's in a lot of pain, can I just take her up now?" at which point the admissions person said, "No She can't go upstairs without a bracelet" Yikes, I think. And then the contraction was over.

* The only hospital in town (a community hospital) was recently moved from a central location in the "city" (10 minutes away) to the very outskirts of town (20 minutes away) this is a sore spot for me due to the sprawling development and regressive city planning that goes on here...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oxidative stress

has clearly gone up in the last few months. My hair melanocyte precursor cells are dying an a ridiculous rate.

The amount of gray in my hair has increased nearly 10-fold in the past two months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birth Story Part 7a- The trip to the hospital

Sorry Short. I decided its better to be consistent that put a lot up at once (its an anti-procrastination strategy).

Continued from here
Hub ran up the stairs to where I was, and I clung to his neck until the contraction passed. Then we rushed to get into the car. I leaned back in the car seat and closed my eyes, trying to be perfectly motionless, and stay perfectly relaxed. Hub recalled that I had another serious contraction in the car but I don’t remember that. We crested a hill at the beginning of our route to the hospital, and there was a long downhill, filled about every block with lights. I looked down that hill and saw several red lights, and though, “crap” to myself.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birth Story Part 6- Laboring at Home

Continued from last post (which is contined from 4 previous posts. Please start at the beginning).

Hub and I need to make a brief stop at babysitting family #1’s house to drop off a car seat, and I called the midwife on call during this time. I say, “I am having regular contractions and they are mild to moderately painful, with one that was very painful.” She asks about bloody show, timing, etc. She says, well, you can come in or stay and labor at home for a while. Since we had no idea how far apart the contractions were, and felt we had hours I told her, we’ll labor at home. I had an ulterior motive: I wanted to use this website I’d found (its an app too). So we got home around 11-11:15 am. We set up the computer in our living room, got out the Swiss ball and a pillow*. I labored at first by walking up and down the living room and kitchen. At the beginning I was shaking my hands in response to the pain as if to dry them. At this point the pain was moving from being localized right behind my pubic bone to radiating outward to the outside of my lower hips. The contractions were 6-8 minutes apart and about 1.5 minutes long. They came on rather quickly and took a long time to subside. Their peak was about 10 seconds long. We figured this wasn’t in the 2-3 minutes apart range which would signal time to go to the hospital.

I changed my strategy rather quickly to draping my upper body over the Swiss ball with my knees on the carpet. Hub would crouch down in front of me and hold my hands a count for me. After a contraction, I would slide off the ball and lie completely loose on the carpet with my head on a pillow and let my mind drift. The next contraction would come and since we are planning on not having any more children, I really tried to attend to every detail of the pain… since I will never get to experience this again. In the quiet I could feel a flame of heat starting low in my pelvis and spread up and outward. As it spread, I got up from the floor, started breathing in a controlled manner and hub would jump up and join me. Don’t tell him this, but at the beginning he was doing opposite of what I was breathing. I would be breathing in and he would come over and say "out-2-3-4". After a while he caught on.

We did this for about 1.5-2 hours, so that’s maybe 20 contractions. Pretty soon the contractions were getting intense enough that I couldn’t “hang on” to my breathing, and my body would pant and moan from the pain. These contractions did not come one after the other but after the third one really painful one, we called the midwife on call again. This time Hub spoke with her, still 6-8 minutes apart. The midwife repeated that we could labor at home or come in, our choice. At this point I looked over at my husband. He was sweating and a little pale. I said, “We’ll come in, just in case”. We took the time to print the screen of the website and headed out the door. Hub lead and I followed. He had run ahead and opened the car door and as I was walking down the steps, I was slammed again by a contraction that was COMPLETELY out of control. I grabbed the handrail with white knuckles and my deep groan turned to a light scream. At that moment, I though “Uh-oh, this is pretty serious”.

* this pillow is covered by a pillowcase that was signed by all the attendees at my shower. They signed in fabric marker, so it can be washed. It is by far my favorite shower gift. They say things like: "Breathe", "This too shall pass", "You are a flower blooming (an imaging technique) and "better you than me :) "

Huge Major Course Prep Fail

Got a call today from the dept'l secretary asking me where the dissection material for Cool Subject I class is, because they need it today and can't find it. I usually teach this class, but we farmed out the lecture to one adjunct and the lab to another adjunct for my maternity. I told the lab adjunct this summer that I would prep as much possible for her. More here and here. I'm pretty sure I told her I would order the dissection material for her. After a long call to the company they say that they do have a quote from this summer but NO record of an order. CRAP!!!!

So I say, can I just order now?? He says sure. I say here's my credit card number, blahdy blah, and expiration date, 9/10. **CRAP!!!!**

Now I have to go into work first thing in the AM, get a new credit card (hopefully on my desk) and then hurriedly place the order for the material and then pray they'll arrive before next week's lab.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birth Story Part 5- Major Contractions

We left off with me crying in the hallway to my friend that we had to go NOW! I did not want anymore attention, and since it was a busy big church and I was in a major thoroughfare I slipped into a different quieter hall to cry. I could hear behind me the frantic activity of my husband and friend trying to work out the logistics of what bags to put in which cars, since Boy would be going with the friends and the overnight bag was going with us. It seemed something out of Keystone cops.

The hallway I was hiding in began to fill with people, so I slipped around the corner to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. I really had the feeling of pressure on my pelvic floor like I had to go, and had a brief thought of taking care that I didn’t deliver the baby in the handicapped stall. Then relatively quickly, the contraction ended.

I felt much better, no tears, and emerged from the bathroom. There was a steady stream of women coming toward the bathroom, the majority of whom, it seemed, wanted to ask me the same question: When’s this baby coming? I evaluated each questioner to how close she was to me. To my dearest friends I leaned in and whispered, “Its happening RIGHT NOW”, and to those I didn’t know as well I replied “I have a feeling it will be soon”

When my husband found me, he was visibly upset. One moment I say that we have to go NOW, and then I disappear. When he finally did find me I was smiling and chatting and socializing. GRRR.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And now for a word from our sponsor...

Very brief interruption of birth story blogging to report on a BIG working Mom event. Today I went to have a meeting with the director of Boy's day care to talk about potty training and she dropped a bombshell on me...

They are closing at the end of the month.

So I must find child care, STAT, AND I'm competing for the limited day care slots in this "so-called" city with 25 other families.

I dropped off Boy and immediately went to the child care center down the street. It's close, its cheap, and they have a few openings. It is ALSO a fundamentalist religious institution. To me this is tolerable, but undesirable. Moreover, its extremely structured - they schedule the kids days in 15 minute slots- which is completely intolerable in Hub's eyes, and pretty undesirable in mine. The rest of the day cares either won't take infants or are a 20-30 minute drive away.

Should I let them turn my kid into a little robot... or should I spend hours of my already precious time driving my kids to some place with a patch of grass behind a strip mall that I can't get to quickly in an emergency? Or should I put my kids in two different day cares: one that lets my barely 2 year old be 2, and use the close one for the infant?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Birth Story Part 4- Labor starts

Boy woke us up, as usual on Sunday morning at 6:30am (!) and we began to get ready for church at a leisurely pace. At around 8:30 am I felt a contraction that was painful, but blew it off because of Friday’s experience. And then I had another relatively soon after the last, and then a third. I said to my husband, “I think this is real”.

Since, of course, it would be hours before anything exciting would happen, we were trying to decide whether to go to church or to stay home. We decided to go, primarily because everyone that we had asked to watch Boy when this blessed event occurred (our "babysitter list- families 1, 2 and 3") would be at church. Lord, forgive us for our improper motivation to go to your house. :) We packed the car full of pre-packed hospital bags, Boy’s overnight bag, and ourselves. As we arrived, the contractions were still coming regularly, but we didn't time them since they weren't TOO painful. We slipped into the service (of approx 300 congregants) and Hub whispered to “babysitting list family 1” letting them know what was going on. In addition, the couple next to us had a baby just two weeks prior, and were “onto” me when I closed my eyes and squeezed Hub’s hand periodically. However, we were at the back of the big sanctuary and were relatively unnoticed.

So we read, sang, and listened with the rest of the congregation. The contractions were not “too strong to walk or talk through” the measure that had been drilled into our heads by the midwives for when to call. The service ended, and we went to the “coffee time”. I was chatting with Dad of the “babysitting list family 1”, who had come to inquire how I was (or perhaps how long his family had until they had to take our son). At that moment I was slammed with a very strong contraction that was not only painful, but filled me with emotion, and I started to cry instantaneously! Through tears I said to my friend, OH! We have to go NOW!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birth Story Part 3- Getting Close

Please read the previous parts 1 and part 2 before starting here. WARNING: In this and subsequent posts in this series, I will be speaking frankly about bodily functions including defecation, urination, fluids and blood. Please do not continue to read if you find this distasteful.

As the time drew nearer, I had been having Braxton-Hicks (practice) contractions regularly. These contractions were just a minute-or-so long tightening of my uterus (which by now occupied nearly my entire abdomen). If you take your thumb and press it against the fingers of the same hand, the feeling of that big muscle in your palm that runs your thumb is what my belly felt like, both to me and to the touch.

Two weeks before labor began, I sensed that the baby had dropped. I had read about this with my first pregnancy, and if it DID happen, it wasn’t very obvious to me. This time however, it was clear. On a Sunday night I went to bed with all the “upper” signs of pregnancy: difficulty breathing, heartburn, tummy under the chin… and when I woke up those were almost all gone. In their place, however, was the feeling that something was right there on my pelvic floor. It felt 24/7 like I needed to have a bowel movement. This feeling was ever present and slightly annoying. In addition, my actual bowel movements changed to more frequent and softer.

During faculty-staff conference, a week before my due date I went to the restroom and found a large amount of mucus on my toilet paper when I wiped. Mentioned here. I thought, "this must be the mucus plug that is a sign of impending labor". I went to tell one of the nursing faculty, who is also one of my best friends. She was very excited, but kept it under wraps. Thank goodness. The day went on, and the evening, and nothing seemed to happen. Nothing happened for the rest of the week.

The following Thursday was my due date. It came, and it went. That Friday, as I was leaving the day care after picking up Boy, I felt a painful contraction. I thought, Hooray!! Its coming and it will be this weekend (when Hub is home)! But I had no more contractions that evening, and even posted thoughts on induction on Saturday because there were no more signs of a baby anxious to arrive.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birth Story Part 2- Foreshadowing

Now pregnant with our second child (we didn’t know the gender), I and the Hub went to “refresher” birth class at about 33 weeks gestation. My husband asked a question about what to expect based on our previous experience. The nurse (a crusty nurse who’d seen it all) asked how long we were pushing. We replied, not long, probably 15-20 minutes, but the contractions lasted nearly two days! She had us repeat how long I pushed. And then she said ominously: You’d better watch out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Birth Story Part 1- Previous Exp.

As a background I have to explain how the labor went with my first child. I had been debilitated for at least a two weeks due to a serious loosening of my pelvic joints. My hips no longer bore weight, and I was hugely pregnant and on crutches. This is a great way to get doors opened for you in public places.

I began having painful contractions on a Wednesday night at 7 pm. The painful contractions were regular, but spaced about 6-8 minutes apart. They continued through the night. That morning I called the OB office. I went in to be checked *twice* that day, with the midwife reporting very little progress either time. I was monitored- yes I was having decent contractions, just not getting any dilation.

By Thursday evening (more than a day after the contractions began) I checked into the hospital around 9pm. My water seemed to break, and we called all the support in. The room was full of people and we all spent the night in the hospital room together- I was napping between managing painful contractions. Everyone else spent a peaceful night, and most went home after breakfast. By noon on Friday, the midwife had waited long enough, and I was given a gentle pitocin drip. Then things began to progress, and my son was born a little after 4pm that Friday. This was after 43 hours of contractions, but it only required a few pushes to squeeze that 7 and a half pounder out. So Boy was born.

Monday, October 18, 2010

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Those of you who have kids know where I've been all this time. Those who don't, well, I've been pretty busy. :)

Another reason I don't squeeze a quick post in here and there is a procrastination problem I've always had- I want to post my birth story, but it FEELS like a big task to write it, and I don't start it due to the weight of the task in my mind.

Here's a brief update: The baby is doing well.

I spent my 6 weeks of maternity leave sleeping when I could, and going to a lot of Mommy support groups and "ask-a-nurse" programs- to try to fix a huge struggle with breastfeeding. There's a lot of woo that flies around these groups, so I've spent a lot of time on PubMed, too. I am now well read in the physiology of the lactating breast and the sociology of breastfeeding. Of all the organs in the body, there's a specialization for everything except the lactating breast. For in depth information on breastfeeding you have to rely on a CLUB (La Leche League and its equivalents). This doesn't seem right.

In addition, I am really starting to appreciate the work of stay-at-home Moms, it truly IS a full time job. But still don't want to be one. Many other new Mommies tell me how sorry they are that I HAVE to go back to work. I either dodge the question or tell them a polite version of: I LOVE my work. I want to go back. I feel called to this work and therefore CHOOSE daycare for my children.

Now that full maternity leave is over, I have returned this semester quarter time. I am teaching one lecture course, so I show up to "school" MWF at 2p. I hired a cadre of babysitters to watch the infant different days while I lecture, and continue to take Boy to daycare.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's a GIRL!

and we almost didn't make it!!!

We had a 6 and a half pound little girl within 10 minutes of arriving at the hospital. More details soon. She's healthy and looks a lot like her Dad. Thank God it happened Sunday and not Monday after Dad had left for work.

We are just ecstatic.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nothing new to report- induction thoughts

Saturday, still pregnant, two days post-dates. Last baby was born 9 days post date and the limit is typically 14 days. No signs of anything happening. Glad I go to midwives, who will not induce me until we reach the limit.

I've been reading about/listening to/discussing both the local and the internet debates about inductions and c-sections vs. natural births. A support group I go to is decidedly anti-medical, and if you read the web, well, the vitriol between natural birth advocates and obstetricians flies freely. I have always taken a fairly centrist view of these things, such as: Yes, our intervention rates are too high, but that's an unfortunate consequence of a litigious society/ defensive medicine. I have also taken the view that, though there are jerk docs and nurses out there, they in general care about a mother's wishes and don't induce/ section for their own convenience.

Then I had this chat with my aunt:
Aunt: Well they were gonna set her up for the week after
but a friend was the charge nurse and asked if she could come right away
so she could be her nurse...Rachel was 39 + weeks and the doc was going
out of town for the weekend and wanted to do the delivery, and not leave
it for another doc Rachel didnt know, so there ya go...
[11:42:14 PM] Me: seriously? they induced her labor for their
own convenience?!?!!? Well, I'm glad it was a good delivery.

and that just made me pretty angry. But Aunt seemed pleased with how it went down, calling her daughter a "good patient". I dropped the subject and continued with warm congratulations.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homogeneity = Happiness? Outline

I have a lot to say about this subject, but will probably need to take a multiple short posts to hammer it out.

Here's a brief outline

Culture at SRU (Small Religious U, a pseudonym for where I teach) very similar to culture of religion/sect/subgroup
Relatively countercultural
Very anti-hierarchical; ramifications multi-fold. Decision making inclusive to the point of being cumbersome. Custodians very happy at SRU.
Also "insider" difficult for others to feel fully welcomed.
My personal feelings
Unintentional discrimination.
Intentional discrimination.
Diversity among faculty- desired but difficult
Diversity among students- ditto.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

F/S conference and pregnancy

These last two days have been faculty staff conference. I have a lot to report, especially on the theme of homogeneity. But I am utterly exhausted. Along those lines, my baby dropped Sunday night while I slept (STOP HERE IF EASILY GROSSED OUT). Which means all the "upper symptoms" difficulty breathing, stomach full easily, heartburn are lessened. While the "lower sypmtoms" frequent peeing, loose bowel movements, have gotten worse. And then today at my midday bathroom trip, I passed my mucus plug.

It could still be potentially weeks away, or it could be tonight.

In the next few days would be preferable simply because Hub will be home. If not, then how about NEXT weekend? Just don't want to go into labor while Hub is away... please please!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grants and courses; unsupported

Two big things at work right now: My role as the grant "writer" for our institution in a multi-center grant, and prepping my classes for my "adjuncts".

I benefit from a multi-institution grant that pays for research students in my lab in the summer. Currently this is my only source of funding. The grant ran out, and a renewal was written last year (of which I had very little involvement), but "we" didn't get it.

This year, I have been designated as the representative from my institution to help with the grantwriting. I had to get paperwork updated and signed, things such as cost-sharing forms, etc. Most institutions have a grants office that does that for them, but I had to do it all myself by hand. Moreover, I didn't really know exactly what I was doing, since all the grants I've written in my training were supported by a grants office. Luckily I had last year's papers (filled in by a colleague) to model after. And though I did not write the body of the grant, I at least proofed it. Writing grants- getting it done, let alone successfully- is a major weakness of mine. It's kind of a death spiral-- are you bad at grants? You won't end up at an R01. Don't need to write grants to survive? You'll get worse at writing grants...

I also met with two people who will be teaching my "bread and butter" Lower Level Cool Subject I course. They will just follow my previous course, so I need to get everything to them; exams, quizzes, etc. Moreover, the poor adjunct teaching the lab (what we pay is sooo pathetic) will need lab set-up directions including where to find each piece of equipment, etc. Of course if we had a full time lab-set-up person, both mine and the adjunct's life would be much easier. We will have to see what quantity and quality of work-study students we get this year. Hopefully we can assign the adjunct a good helper. Otherwise, she's going to spend hours searching for everything.

Out of appreciation for their service (because one can't really call what they are making a living wage), I want to do as much for these substitutes as possible. So the plan is to work until I go into labor making the semester a show-and-go for these folks. Wish me and them luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Daycare Finale

Met with the daycare director today. As you might now, daycare is an indispensable tool, becuase without reliable daycare the entire "working single Mommy" thing is literally impossible. As it is, even with "reliable" daycare, all it takes is sick kid (oh, so frequent in daycare settings; but understandable, see here and here) or a miscommunication with the daycare (not rare enough and not tolerable, see here) for everything to go to hell in a diaperbag.

I complained here about the new daycare's inflexible policies. Especially the policy of requiring children to be at daycare at 7:30am if we chose to pay for the 11 hour day (the most flexible option).

So which is worse: to write a ridiculous policy that you stick with, or to write a policy that you didn't really mean?

This morning when asked, the director said "I didn't mean that, they need to be in here by 9am. You have any time before that to bring them in and any time after that to pick them up."

OK, fine. That works better for us. But it has the side effect of making us trust your written policies a lot less. What you read is NOT what you get. In any case, that's a win for us.

Moreover, choosing the 8 hour day, she will allow 1. Different schedules for each semester, 2. Different 8 hour shifts for each day of the week, and if necessary 3. Different schedules for each child. This is absolutely necessary because I am going to do my damndest to breastfeed this child exclusively for 6 months, which failed last time (in part due to my work schedule).

With two kids in the daycare in the spring, the 8.5 hour policy will cost us $100 less per week than the 11-hour flexible policy. That's pretty significant for our budget. (Want to be jealous? It's the difference between $240/ week and $340/week for BOTH kids, more here in the comments).

Hub and I were trying to figure out why I get so worked up over these things. I said, "For one, I believe the director when she makes rules, and don't take for granted that she'll make an exception for us. And maybe there's a bit of Mommy guilt involved." Hub replies, "There's such a thing as Daddy guilt too, you know."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

To-do list and Update on Day Care

Still pregnant, thanks for asking. A little more fatigue, but still feeling good in general. Prenatal yoga rocks. :)

I am 38 weeks- so it could be any day or a month from now. Hoping to get more time to finish stuff up. Stuff that needs to be done (eeek!)

Advanced Cool Subject (the one course I'm teaching in Fall)
Four people will be instructing this course. I will lecture when I return, while I am away, Seasoned Colleague will begrudgingly do my lectures for me. Dept. Chair will supervise the Lab portion, but Recent Grad will be actually instructing.

Done: Syllabus written, lecture schedule written, place publisher's powerpoints and lab schedule on an accessible drive.
Min: confirm syllabus points and schedules with instructional team. Complete first two exams and post to lecture colleague's drive.
Ideal: complete ALL exams and study guides for the course.

Lower Level Cool Subject (farmed completely out)
Done: Syllbus written, schedule written, publisher's power points on accessible drive
Min: Meet with lab instructors (adjunct from another college). Ask which labs she would like to teach, make a list of materials that need to be ordered, order materials.
Ideal: write exams and study guides for course. Not likely this will be completed, but it is a control issue (rigor!).

Spring Research Course (Brand New Prep)
Haven't started to prep this course

Spring Non-Majors Course (Brand New Prep)
Have only aquired text and some supplemental materials.

Spring Bread and Butter Course (Lower Level Cool Subject II)
Haven't started, but will borrow heavily from previous year's materials

On another front, none of the spring courses can be taught without the help of the day care. After calming down a bit from the hysteria-inducing daycare meeting, Hub and I called parents (two completely difft prespectives; Hub's folks upper class, mine lower-middle), and we began researching options. I have placed Boy's name on a waiting list (LONG) for a similarly-priced day care further away with unlimited flexibility. The disad to the new day care is that it doesn't take infants (which I need in the spring).

I have also talked to my colleague who uses our current day care. She has already had a meeting with the day care director. She tells me that the director treated her with flexibility, especially if my colleague will provide her with a schedule in advance. Moreover, as predicted, director has been fielding calls and meetings from "concerned" parents all week. Mmmmn, hmmmmm. Readers, you saw that one coming.

Hub and I have our appt with the director on Friday. She should be all softened up by then. We probably have a fighting chance to negotiate what we need.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I totally lost it tonight.

Tonight was a meeting at the day care. We were presented with a new schedule structure. Apparently, the current schedule is not working for the day care in their staffing needs.

For those of you unfamiliar, almost every state has mandated ratios for child-to- care provider. At Boy's age (pre-2) There must be one provider for every 4 children. The states are very strict about these ratios. The fees we pay aren't enough to keep an extra provider on in the case that our child isn't there: so its not good enough to pay for a SLOT for your child, and then bring them in whenever you want and take them out whenever you want. If not enough kids show to justify a provider, the minimum-wage-earning provider should be sent home to save the day care the labor costs.

Or so I've been explained. Over and over again.

Now we have the following options.

1. We can pay for an 11 hour day. If we choose this option, the child MUST be at the day care at 7:30am. Period.

2. We can choose an 8.5 hour day. We can choose from 7-3:30, 8-4:30, or 9-5:30.

It's my impression that I must choose a schedule for the entire school year, same schedule everyday. I could be wrong about that.

1. Getting Boy into daycare everyday at 7:30a completely sleep-deprived due to a breastfeeding newborn in the house is simply not feasible. Can't do it.

2. In the spring, when I go back to full time teaching, I have 9:00 classes MW, hence must have Boy to day care in time to turn the computer on and load the materials (8:40 latest). So those days I need the 8:00-4:30 or 7-3:30 slot. BUT I also teach a lab on Thursday that ends at 5:15p. On that day, I'd need the 9-5:30 slot. My teaching schedule does not fit into any of the 8.5 hour slots through the week. And that's just the time I actually have to stand in front of a class. Never mind prep, office hours, and meetings.

[I really don't think the director thought this through- its a small town, but even if you work a strict 8 hour day (you know, like they do at slaughterhouses), you would have to be able to get between the day care and work in just 15 minutes.]

Add to that the requirement that our TWO YEAR OLD must wear a uniform starting in two weeks.

Add to that realizing that breastfeeding is going to be extremely challenging in the spring due to 9-3 straight lab day on Tuesdays, and 10-5:15 straight lab day on Thursday.

Once at home, I started to sniffle, then cry, then wail: "I thought I could do it, I THOUGHT I could be a Mom. I thought I could manage a career and a family, even with lower expectation of both". *Wail, wail, moan, cry, sniffle, WAIL, WAIL*.

Great. SO hub's reaction- twofold- He intones that its all his fault for not being home, that I wouldn't have to do this if it weren't for him being gone. That and he blames the wailing on pregnancy hormones. I assure you that even though yes, my hormones are totally whacked, I sincerely feel trapped by this damned day care restriction.

We could hire out the "pickup" on Thursday afternoons to a babysitter. But we'd better find one that is EXTREMELY reliable.

And yes, we can go about changing day cares, and that's exactly what we'll do if a reasonable discussion with the director yields no leeway. This is the closest day care, and Boy has been there for half of his life. He is attached to the providers and his little classmates. Changing will uproot Boy's stability, and getting to another day care to breastfeed in the middle of a workday will become even more challenging.

So, I talked to another Mommy prof via chat, and brainstormed with my husband. Now to drown my sorrows in ice cream...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Me" day

Got up at 6:15a when Boy woke, as usual. Got him to day care at 8:30, as usual. But since the floors were being waxed in the science center, I was not allowed to go "to" work, so I came home. Thinking I would take just a little nap, I fell asleep at 9a, and woke up at 1pm!!!! I am getting more fatigued these days, but geez!

SO I putzed around and then started reading birth info on the web. I could go on and on about getting birth info on the web, but its pretty horrible due to the amount of vitriol out there about c/s rates, etc.

And now I pick up Boy from the day care. I feel a bit selfish about putting Boy in day care so I can sleep and surf all day. I feel like such a slacker, too. Hope it was very restorative and worth it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Commuter Marriage Issue # 7 - Not making it to the hospital (fear of)

I have a very deep-seated, semi-irrational fear that my new baby, due August 26, will come very precipitously while Hub is away. Given that my first labor was 45 hours (yes, I AM serious), this seems unlikely. That doesn't prevent the thoughts/ fears/ nightmares of the following scenario: my labor starts, I can't reach Hub, I decide to drive myself to the Hospital (which is across town), and its move-in day for the Huge U in the middle of town. I envision myself trapped in my car in move-in traffic having a baby in the drivers seat. That's my worst fear, the second being having my baby alone at home.

I had NO fears like this for the first baby, I felt supported and ready. The fact that Hub is now two hours away (if there's no traffic snarls), and its much harder to get to the hospital these days, makes the whole "going into labor" thing so much more scary. I am NOT an anxious fearful person. And I've been through it before (45 hours, NO epidural- I have confidence in my ability to do it). Nonetheless, I can't shake these fears in my head!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lil' Me Stayin' Put.

Here I am. Still. Lil' me, just hanging over here as always on Blogger. My links to other blogs have just gone totally wacked because of some up-heaval, schmeaval that I care NO.THING about.

So here I am. Still. Lil' me, not trying to analyze literature, get you a successful R01, or discuss religion vs science (a false dichotomy). I'm just tellin' you about what it's like to be in my spot. Hopin' to ed-u-mi-cate SOMEbody, help someone, somehow. That is all.

Trust but Verify

When I was troubleshooting in the lab early in graduate school, I learned an invaluable lesson from my advisor. Don't take anything for granted. My advisor would ask me the STUPIDEST questions when helping me troubleshoot (or so I thought). Stuff along the lines of: Did you make the gel with TAE or with water? Duh. Of course I made it with TAE. Please, give me some credit! But he persisted with these very basic questions.

I don't recall if I finally confronted him, or slowly realized that this type of inquiry was not trying to insult my intelligence or competence, but served to help troubleshoot in several ways:

1. Everyone makes mistakes. Even simple mistakes. It could be that one very simple thing that you let slip your mind.

2. Most common problems in the lab are the result of simple mistakes. You could make things a lot worse for yourself by trying to fix a strange complicated mistake when in actuality, it was something very simple.

3. It trained me to be conscious of the details of all steps, and not to put things on "autopilot". After being grilled on the basics a few times, I knew I HAD BETTER be able to say with certainty that I had indeed made the gel with TAE, not water. That means I have to remember making it, that means I have to be "present" while making it, not off in la-la land (or even hypothesis-land). Fear of my advisor's condescension drove me to be sharper.

So today we were troubleshooting in my lab, and I grilled my student on all the fine details. The difference was that I explain to my student- unlike my advisor who hurt my feelings a few times until I got it- that this is just the process of science and that I wasn't trying to "get" him or her. Trust but Verify, ay?

Sure enough, Stu had left out of their "consciousness" (and lab book, grrrr) a few vital concentrations and steps. I think today's grilling was vital to Stu's learning the same lesson as I did, at an earlier stage in Stu's training. I don't care if they learn, like I did, through fear of reprisal to note and attend to their work. And to use the "simple first" method of troubleshooting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Committee Recc Letters

For certain professional and graduate programs, we write committee letters for students. This may be stating the obvious, but some of my colleagues are better letter writers than others. No one TRULY stinks, but from proofing my colleagues' work over the years, I have come to the conclusion that either I'm the second-best or tied for first-best writer in the bunch. I'm not counting the funky prepositions that our non-native speakers use, but the tone, order, formality, structure, etc.

You can take this all with the degree of "grain of salt" that matches your thoughts of my blog writing. :)

Anyway, I proofed one today that spent a huuuge paragraph on how the student wasn't the brightest guy on campus, but Stu's work ethic and how hard he worked made up for it [intentional]. Ummm, Stu had a 3.95/4.0 in a rigorous program and was one of the sharpest students in my class. What I think happened was that the letter writer was paraphrasing what the student wrote in Stu's statements, something Colleague shouldn't do if Stu has been in _three_ of Colleague's (very small) classes. First, students/ human beings/ successful people (in particular) overestimate their efforts and underestimate their luck and talent. And second, 5 sentences making Stu out to be a grind is wayyyyyy too much in a 1.5 page letter. For such a talented student!

Don't get me wrong, we are honest in our letters. If Stu has a weakness, we mention it clearly, but emphasize the positive. In any case, Colleague's letter was covered in red by the time I sent it back. I hope Colleague doesn't take it personally. This is a small place and we have to work well with each other to survive.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Help us name the baby

By this time last baby, Hub and I had a list of about 50 names for each gender (we aren't finding out this time, either) to whittle down. This time we have very little. Soooo, reader's poll, what are some good baby names? No "trendy" or weird ones, please.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Coming to terms with term.

Cripes! How did that happen?

Talking to the secretary recently and she says, when is this baby coming? I said the standard thing I've been saying for a couple of weeks now, which is "A month to two months". She says, when's your due date? 26th August. "That's not as far away as you are thinking!"

It's true. On Thursday I will turn 36 weeks. Technically term is 37 weeks. This baby will be ready to come out in a week and a half. Now, I could go up to my 42nd week (and beleeeve-you-meee, I ain't gonna ask for an early induction), which would be mid-September.

I DO NOT HAVE MY COURSES PREPARED!!!! YIKES! I haven't started in a substantial way. Please, please don't let this baby come early!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Benefits of Being Asked to Fake Apply

When first approached, I had only given thought to the work it would take, and the moral dilemma involved, in preparing an application for a job (that I had no intention of taking) to fulfill a quota. Please read here for the original and here for a follow-up on the situation.

What I failed to realize was that it was a chance for me to e-mail all the Big Shots and Rock Stars that I once knew or worked with, and remind them of my existence (becuase they certainly aren't reading the prolific amount and unsurpassed importance of my papers). Though my former colleague knows all of these people, I doubt that they are thinking of networking with them. Now I get to blip on their radar screen once more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How I say "get your sh*t together" to a student

This e-mail is in response to the e-mail in Taking it Out?
Stu, I will do it, but I need the following things from you:

1. I have a very hard time reading your e-mails because of lack of punctuation.
Let's pretend like the relationship between you and your profs is a professional one(which it is). It's good practice for the future.

2. Please send me the course description of the course you want to take so I can try
to find the best fit in our curriculum for a substitute. This is usually found in
the course catalog of the University or from the instructor.

3. Please fill out the form so that all I have to do is sign it.

4. In the future, if you need advising from me (which you seem to periodically),
please do so through the typical channels- i.e. make an appt with me. Otherwise, we
really need you to drop me as your major advisor.

Hope you can understand.

And then I sent an e-mail to Stu's advisor:

Stu is minoring in Biology but never comes for advising (they are not required to).
Stu nonetheless occasionally sends me these semi-incomprehensible, panicky
last-minute missives for advising help. I realize that I'm being a bit of an ass
here, but I'm sure in the [art field] world [they] will need to treat clients, etc.
professionally. I've never seen your work accompanied by anything less than perfect
English and in perfect context!

Stu's failure to do [their] due diligence this time sent me over the edge, so I laid down the law. If [Stu] hates it enough, [they] will only come to you for advising and avoid me like the plague. In which case, could you make sure Stu gets [their] Biology major dropped? It does seem like something Stu needs to be responsible for before applying
for graduation...

Thanks for your understanding.

Your input heeded

Well, that was pretty universal. If you look at the comments of the last post, I think the situation of the "fake application" has outraged all 12 of my readers! While a bit passive, this is close to the e-mail I sent in reply:
Thanks for your kind greetings!! I hope your family is healthy and happy and your work at [City] is fulfilling. We are doing quite well.

I have taken your flyer and sent it to [Grad Advisor] to forward to as many people at [Grad School] and elsewhere as possible. I can also try to forward it to a friend I have at [Top Three School, (Rock Star- subfield right on the money)]. I have tried to network your job around. I hope we can get you some applications that are female, qualified AND viable candidates.

I would REALLY prefer not to send an application in, because it would make my current colleagues very suspicious that I an trying to leave uncollegially (at a bad time and sneaking around). I need their trust, as I am coming up for tenure in a year.

I will do everything I can for you, however. Have you contacted [native colleague, quite qualified, female]? Is there anyone else I can help you connect with?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fake Application for a Job

I have been asked by a former colleague to apply for a job in an overseas country. Colleague knows I have no intention of moving, but they tell me that their department will be in BIG trouble with the government if they have no female applicants, and so far none have applied. Colleague admits this will be a burden on me, and realizes I am doing them a big favor.

Should I do it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking it out on someone else?

This is a student I haven't seen in years. Stu was a Bio major for about a semester, is minoring in Bio (which requires no advising input from anyone in Bio), but has failed to drop the Bio major (despite reminders). Because Stu hasn't dropped the major, I am still considered Stu's advisor. Every once in a while Stu needs my signature for something. Here's an example of an e-mail I got today. Aside from the brackets, exactly as written.

Hey there [my first initial] so something happened with my dropping major to minor and im still considered and bio major but im trying to get enough credits to fill the minor and i will be on my [exchange program] this fall in [city] and have the opportunity to do that by taking a class at [college] its a 400 level evolution class and i was wondering if you could fill out the transfer credit form i filled it out but sometimes with pdas the info doesnt always transfer ... please let me know if there is a problem and what i can do to fix it thank you

I put Stu off to Stu's true major advisor. I could have done what Stu asked with no problem. Perhaps I am acting like a mean person, but today I couldn't tolerate an e-mail like that and Stu's asking me to fill out the paperwork from scratch (it WAS blank). Stu should have given me course descriptions, had the ppwrk finished, needing only my signature. Am I being vindictive from other things in my life? Or justly demanding a minimum of professionalism?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bad Day Resolution

Please read Realtor Bitching 1-4 and To Top it All Off (all immediately preceeding) to make sense of this post.

The Realtor came over to the house yesterday to resolve the conflict. I was sooo proud of my Hub, normally a meek dude, who told him in plain language that were weren't pleased with his carelessness in preparing our listing (misspellings and inaccuracies). The Realtor admitted his carelessness to our satisfaction, and then showed us how the tax assessor listed square footage of home incorrectly. It is a fair mistake to base the square footage on the MLS on the assessment. We gave him that one.

It turns out that the conflict has escalated extensively over a very, very simple misunderstanding: We wanted him to NOT put "Basement: 1/2 finished; heated" on the listing (which was what was there- read the exact words of my e-mail here). He thought we wanted him TO put "Basement: 1/2 finished, unheated" on the listing. In my correspondence I felt I was perfectly clear, but again, I think it's because this guy is not the greatest reader. He neither brought the original documents nor his form to enter into the listing, so I have to leave open the possibility that we were just missing each other. *sigh*

Basically, Hub and I ended up re-writing and copy-editing the listing ourselves to our satisfaction. This was a bit of a struggle, and I'm sure he's not used to having his clients be so "active" in the process. Yes, I felt like we were being control freaks. Yes, I'm sure he will work far less independently than before, a blessing and a curse. No, I didn't trust him to get it right without our help. Call us what you will, I didn't trust him to hear and understand what we wanted and to implement it clearly. Now on the continuum between using him only for his key-code (1) and completely hands-off (10), we've reached a 2. We've agreed to keep him on but watch him like a hawk. I don't think he has bad intentions, he's just not very bright. The house is coming off the market when the baby is born- sure as heck not showing the house with a newborn around- so we will have an "out" in 1-2 mos. should we need to let him go.

Took Boy to the Dr. She disagreed that it was simply a nasty bug bite, looks like chicken pox or allergy. Since he had his chicken pox shot (can you tell we aren't anti-vaxxers?), she thinks he's allergic. And that, folks, is why I keep within my scope of practice as a Biology prof, and don't make diagnoses.

Benadryl has helped Boy immensely in the last 24 hours. Sleep has helped me immensely in my anger at the Realtor and Day Care.

Today is a new day. A nice nicoise salad and a huge bowl of ice cream is also good medicine...

Friday, July 16, 2010

And to top it all off...

When we picked Boy up from the day care he had three ENORMOUS welts from bug bites, a bad sunburn on his shoulders and top of his head, and a nasty bruised divot where the class bully bit him on the shoulder.

The welts we've seen once before this week. They weren't this big- huge swollen and weeping. Its not a scrape, its a bite that swells so large that it covers the entire width of his leg or arm. They happen only at the day care, NOT when he is outside, and the director swears it only happens to him. We're taking him to the doc tomorrow.

The sunburn was unacceptable since we were told he would be going outside today. We showed them exactly where the sunscreen was. We instructed them to make sure our alabaster Boy was wearing his hat, saying specifically have him wear it in the pool, even if it gets wet.

And then the bite. Well, we know this happens at day cares. This kid has bitten Boy before. It feels a little more out of our hands than the other stuff.

Thank God this happened on a day that Hub was home. I might lose it otherwise.

Realtor Bitching 4

We have pulled the listing and plucked the sign out of our yard. This was at the suggestion of the Realtor. Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the Realtor to clarify some of these issues. The heater thing HAS to be resolved or our square footage will be a big, fat, lie. Apparently it's OK to say that the HOA will pay for windows and do all the landscaping when it doesn't, but it's not OK to list finished, but unheated portions of the home as livable square feet.

I had Hub call the Realtor to verbally clear up our misunderstandings. Realtor claims that we had discussed X problem, Y problem, and Z problem. I'm really certain we hadn't- so now it becomes a he-said, we-said argument. Intolerable.

This really shouldn't be that complicated or difficult.

Realtor Bitching 3

Please read the previous two posts to make sense of this one.

Here's the response to the last e-mail. Please notice that while I was saying "Read the HOA document to advertise properly what services are included" He responds "Yes, I have the document and will make it available to buyers"

Also WHY would you list publicly that the basement is heated and privately that it is not?!?!?!?!
Realtor to me:

My spell check has failed me!

I will make the additional changes you suggest, with two exceptions; The note about the basement being unheated will be in the “Internal Remarks”. The rec room can be heated for +/- $200.00 and I strongly suggest that you do that. Technically that space does not qualify as “livable square feet”. Also, I have noted that the HOA doc’s are on file. I’d like to upload them onto the MLS but they are too large. I will send them to any serious prospect. Legally you will need to supply the doc’s after you have a ratified contract.

Realtor bitching 2

My response to the most recent iteration of the MLS listing for our home (w/o the actual listing, sorry):

Dear Realtor;

that is much better. Please change Dinning to Dining. We just don't want to eliminate any English professors from our pool of potential buyers! :) Let's hear if Hub has some additional suggestions.

Also, please make sure that you remove the word "heated" from the basement section on the chart. I know we are being picky, but we feel this stuff is pretty important to generate an overall good impression. It's the "resume" of our house, and we are looking in a tough "job" market.

A bit about the HOA:
Please reflect in the homeowners association section that mulching, but not all grounds keeping, is covered by the HOA, also trash and recycling are included in the fees. New siding will be installed at HOA's expense in next few years. I'm not sure if the windows are our responsibility or the HOA. I think they are ours. Do you have access to the HOA document? Perhaps you could check what is listed there for accuracy.

IS IT TOO MUCH TO EXPECT THAT A REALTOR CAN SPELL "DINING"? Remember this is the second pass.

Let alone check the Home Owners Assosciation document (that we have certainly sent him) to assure accuracy of what he lists as their services?

I am not going to spend another moment of my workday writing, correcting, and bitching online about our home sale listing.

Hiring Friends (Realtor bitching 1)

Capacitus Interruptus

Dear readers, a brief break from the navel-gazing for some flat-out whining and bitching, completely unrelated.

Living in Small City lends itself to a lot of social networking, which we have done. What social netowrking leads to is a whole lot of wonderful things, but a few bad things, too. Primarily, we tend to know friends who, say, can do our electrical work, painting, babysitting, and sell our house. Remember that our painter-friend left our front door wiiiide open when he finished in our house. grrr.

Our realtor is an aquaintance I knew from the Bicycle club (back when I had that luxury). Real nice guy. Motivated. Sharp as a red rubber ball.

We have a hard time communicating with him. By e-mail, he doesn't read our e-mails carefully, and gets many things wrong. For example, today our MLS (Multi-listing service- the standardized nationwide document advertising our home for sale) went up and there were some errors. We wrote him to amend the errors and he mis-read the e-mail to think we were referring to a different ad we put up in the local paper. The MLS blurb he wrote had run-on sentences and misspellings and flat-out errors. He listed that our basement is heated. It is not, and he knew that since he suggested we throw in some baseboard heating to make it more saleable.

Moreover, it is hard to talk to him face-to-face. What I want is someone who will do their due diligence, advise me on the questions I am asking and not the ones I am not. I say "I" because its mostly me dealing with him in person. What I get is a guy who likes to tell stories about his other clients in fairly similar situations, and try to "comfort" me. I don't need your comfort. I want your information and experience. I'm just fine, thank you.

If doing all the work ourselves including researching the market, finding houses we are interested in, asking friends and neighbors for their thoughts, and just using a realtor for their key to showings is a one (1), and completely trusting the realtor to attend to every detail, having a very hands-off approach is a ten (10), we are sitting at about a 3 right now. Is that worth the approxiamtely $6000 we will end up paying this guy? Not feeling it.

Last time I met him, I had to leave work at a critical juncture in an experiement to get him his folder on our account that he had left behind in our house. At this time, I wrote a list of homes we wanted to see and information we wanted to know about building a new home, such as cost, acquiring land, how to find appropriate plans, codes, fincncing, etc. My thought: Here, set up showings of these listings and find out what we need to know about building and get back to me. Later that day, he sent me the web MLS listings of the homes we wanted to see. Of course I have those, dearie, how do you think I found the listings in the first place?

But things haven't reached the threshhold where its bad enough to fire him, friend or not. The threshhold is even higher because he is a friend, so things will have to get EVEN worse if we are to let him go.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thoughts on "Capacity" 2

Ok, picking up where I left off last post...
To summarize,
I mentioned time, physiology, and focus as potential limiters of my capacity. None of this is particularly earth-shattering. In my quest for peace with my limitations, but working at the top of my range, I can accept my basic physiology, and will not be able to stretch that limitation. Focus, I'm still working on improving what I can. Don't know what part I can improve or how, yet. I have previously experimented with structuring my day around what I do best at what time, and even designed a diet to help keep me mentally sharp. Neither of those were very workable solutions.

To continue,
Forethought. In the lab, I learned to have carefully crafted protocols that include a section about checking to make sure each reagent in present in sufficient quantity and adequate quality. My protocols are written thoroughly and modified as necessary. My students love them and it gives me the ability to leave them alone in the lab sooner.

I wish I had protocols for the rest of life. I feel like I'm always living in the moment, as if tumbling down a steep slope in a "log roll". There's some degree of control, but the gravity seems to just pull me along with little consent from me.

My first few years of teaching, I found myself getting up at an ungodly hour to set up my teaching labs, and often modifying the labs (rarely for the better) because I had failed to order a reagent in sufficient time for it to arrive. I got behind and it was unrecoverable. I got tunnel vision in which I was so busy taking care of the immediate fires that I couldn't plan enough to avoid the next big crisis. I went from crisis to self-induced crisis my first year teaching, and was so exhausted from it that I had to be put on meds. My health has recovered completely, thanks.

Teaching labs, driving, housecleaning- it seems that every corner of my life is invaded by this fault/ failure/ trait/ bad habit /unfortunate cognitive style. It is sooo common in all aspects of my life and has been for so long that I have begun to wonder if its a trait, a ceiling, a biological limitation. Clearly, I have been able to modify my behavior in a highly controllable sliver of my life (the research lab- AND I always grocery shop with a list). But if any new situation pops up, there I am again, falling behind and losing my ability to plan ahead.

I have to mention here that the only silver lining is that I am highly flexible and can "fashion many things out of driftwood", if you will. I can make a teaching lab work with a missing reagent because I've had so much friggin' practice at it. For any of you interested in teaching, I AM NOT CONDONING THIS! Good teachers plan ahead and are well organized.

Up next, lifestyle choices.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts on "Capacity" 1

I've been thinking about "capacity" for a long time now. What is my capacity, what limits it? Can I change it? Can I come to peace with a certain limitation or constraint or is that copping out and settling for status quo?

What about others? My students?

Here are the limitations on my ability to succeed I think about regularly...

Time. Of course for everyone, one of the most important limiters of capacity is time. And we all have the exact same limitation. For some who are efficient, bright, able to focus for long periods, this can be maximized. But in the end, we all have the same hours in a day.

Physiology. Of course we need to eat and sleep, at minimum, and practice hygiene. This requires time. This is more variable among people. I'm not going down the road of skipping hygiene, BUT some people have different physiological requirements which may improve their ability to achieve. Our dept. chair in grad school claimed to only sleep 4 hours per night. He said that's how he was able to manage a huge lab and be the head of a PhD farm, er, I mean very large highly ranked graduate program. My advisor in grad school used to accuse me of not thinking enough about my project. He said he laid in bed awake thinking about my project, implying that is what it takes to be successful. I later learned that he suffered from insomnia, and THAT is why he was thinking of my project late into the night... because he was denied the opportunity to sleep, not because he was so motivated to come up with the perfect experiment that he forewent sleep.

I personally seem to need a lot of sleep, and when its time to go to sleep, all systems shut down. I can't stay up all night unless there's some adrenaline involved. And then rarely. I don't feel like I have the capacity to live on four hours of sleep, like our dept chair.

Focus. Here's what separates me from some of my most successful peers and mentors. I worked with an amazing scientist on a project recently. Let's call him Co-author. He would wake up early, be in lab early, and work with intense focus until very late into the night. He didn't even seem to slow down for mealtimes. He had the ability to either be doing exactly the right thing at the right time in the right order or thinking about the next step and the experimental design while waiting for something to happen. He was highly successful in his career and could really make things happen in a short amount of time.

I haven't found myself able to focus intensely on anything for an extended period of time. I'm not ADD (I believe), but I'll NEVER be like Co-author. I noticed this way back in college trying to study for exams and have not seemed to be able to shake it. I can only read about 2 papers before I have to switch tasks. Then it seems to be over for good info retention.

I have the same problem at tasks that require sitting and waiting for something to happen (like some experiments). In this case, what really helps me focus is to listen to podcasts. I can sit down for a long time at an experimental set up, but only if I have spoken word in my ears. I've been trying to learn what is going on cognitively so perhaps I can improve my non-podcast sit-still time, but no success yet...

I need to wrap this up for tonight (getting antsy, perhaps?) but the purpose of this series is to try to work out for myself what is a trait- what my TRUE hard limitations are- and come to peace with that. But I want to find where I can continue to improve my capacity and strive for better performance below my true ceiling.

Implicit in this is finding peace with how much I can hope for in change in my students. They think their ability to change their capacity is unlimited. I don't.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Accentuate the positive (while being wholly truthful).

My currents research student is actually the first I've had who's not applying to a post-Bacc or a professional school (immediately, at least). Stu's actually looking for a j,j,j-ob.

Stu applied as a research technician at various places around the area. One was a lab that studies the same field as I do, but uses different techniques. Big PI wrote Stu back and asked for more clarification of Stu's technical skills and goals.

One thing I do less of than I expected is career services. I do advise my research students how to discuss our work in a clear and succinct manner, but I haven't yet intervened by helping with cover letter writing, etc.

I was pretty sure Big PI wants to know if they are going to spend a year training Stu and then have Stu go off to grad school. Stu says s/he does want to go to grad school in 2-5 years. Stu also doesn't have the technique Big PI specifically asked for.

I gave my opinion on how to turn negatives or gaps into positives while being completely clear and honest about what skills Stu has not yet acquired. I also said, based on my experiences as a "pair-of-hands" tech, to emphasize that Stu wants to be in a lab where s/he can intellectually contribute. I advised to mention that Stu is constrained to the area.

I would really like to see Stu get a good entry-level job in a healthy lab where s/he fills a niche. This lab sounds very interesting for Stu, so I am crossing fingers for Stu. I'm also busting butt to make sure s/he does what s/he has learned from me very well, for the sake of my own pride and reputation.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Disparities in incoming freshmen science groups.

My institution is part of one of those programs in which incoming science majors are "treated" to a summer of intensive science and math to get iffy (B average in HS) students prepared for the rigors of a science major and to get them excited about science.

I agreed to teach a few sessions of a lab. I chose a fun demo which accidentally uses some math and statistics, too. I thought I had done well at coming up with something fun that incoming freshmen of all science interests could have a good time with. I prepared pre-reading, pre-lab questions, instructions, post-lab questions, etc. One trick to being a good teacher is a "feel" for how much students can do in a given amount of time. I'm getting pretty good at that. Also, what level of "tough" is appropriate for which circumstances. I'm getting pretty good at that, too. BUT I have never done a "summer camp" before.

I taught the same lab twice in a row: yesterday and today. I don't know why the students were divided into the groups they were, but I had HUGELY disparate groups for the two sessions.

*Yesterday*, the students came in, picked up a handout from the front of the class, and I noted their name on their badge. As I started class, I could find them from the name I had remembered. I gave a intro, relatively brief instructions, and set them on their way. There was much nodding and then as they were working, they acted as if the written instructions were clear and did all their calculations according to the instructions.

When I would make an announcement, they would stop what they were doing and listen attentively. They finished with a bit of time to spare.

*Today*, the students came in, picked up their handouts, but I noticed that very few of them were actually wearing their badges. While I thought it was odd, I assumed that as the days went on, they felt less obliged to identify themselves to each other. However, as it was time to start class, and I did the usual "How's everybody doing today?" clue that it's "listen to Prof" time, these students didn't budge from their conversations. Two kept texting, and finally by the third shout from me, I had only 80% of the students attending to me.

I gave a similar (but not identical) intro and instructions, and when it came time to form groups, the students had a rough time dividing themselves up into 4 groups of three at these machines and one group of two at these machines. I had to intervene far too much for "adult" aged people.

Once the students did find their group, they had a hard time following the instructions as written in the handouts, and when they started to do their calculations- wow, but wow- was that rough. We had a measurement in which you were to do it three times and take the average. At least 4 of the 16 of them failed to divide by three. Moreover, they were to compare their results with an average value in percentage e.g slightly above average = 120%. Even though the formula was written for them, 5 of the 16 could not get the correct answer here.

Today's group was far more concerned about what answer I wanted versus the ideas behind the questions, did not listen to me during in-lab announcements, and they barely squeaked finished with the lab in time.

Both yesterday's and today's groups did pretty well at giving ideas of how to divide their groups into subgroups from which we could run stats to find differences. One of the suggested ideas was for dividing by schools. Since this is a collaboration between all the schools in the area, there were several represented. Ours, another SLAC, a CC and a big school.

When this question was asked among our groups, it became clear that today's group had a preponderance of Big-schoolers and yesterday's group was predominately the Small-schoolers. I did not know this a priori.

My immediate reaction post labs was, Oh, my gosh, we have much better incoming freshmen than Big School. And I will cling to that, but not tightly. If it's true, then this line of reasoning makes me think in three directions;
1. I am REALLY grateful to be teaching here and having better students makes the salary differential worth it,
2. Its not just that SRU produces better graduates through a higher quality of education, but that its a different applicant pool in the first place.
3. It also makes me realize that everything I'm learning about teaching only applies to better students. And there are a LOT of kinds of students out there. I'm am not as close to being a good teacher as I had hoped.

There are, of course alternative explanations for the disparity in these two groups.
1. It could be random. I have an n=1.
2. The subtle differences in my introductions could have enough that I set a tone badly today or left out an important concept that left everyone very confused and intimidated.
3. The students in general could be more fatigued today than yesterday. For that matter, insert any time-dependent variable here.
4. As my research student points out, students that are interested in partying don't apply to Small Religious U.
5. Most likely, Big school has a large variety of applicants which the small schools do not have. It could be that the small schools encouraged nearly all of the incoming science folks to take this summer camp, both the good ones and the at-risk ones. Big school may have been more selective in encouraging only their at-risk students to apply. The incoming populations of all science majors could be alike, but we only see the worst students from Big School in summer camp. The argument against this is the overall incoming numbers (ACTs. SATs) for our school are higher than Big School's (as reported by those hokey Newsweek things, anyway).

Is this blog entry about Big vs Small schools? No. I'm not trying to debate that. I'm ONLY talking about these specific schools in Really Gorgeous Area, and can't generalize. The take home message here is the epiphany I had today about incoming science majors from different schools here. The difference was faaaaaaar greater that I would have imagined.

ADDENDUM: An alternative explantion I hadn't thought of- Big School has a major that the small schools don't - engineering. A re-check of the population of my second group reveals a huge engineering contingent. This may explain a bit of disengagement in my wet-ish lab activities, but the math issues??? Lord, help us all...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

9 for 3

It took us 9 hours to get home today from Big City center. Under different circumstances, this would have taken 3.

This is because Boy had the runs, among other things. He went through all his clothes and diapers before we left City Center at noon. We got off the light rail/ subway to look for diapers and a shirt, and 8 months preggo me couldn't walk that fast through the city, so it ended up taking 2 hours to get this small mission accomplished and to the suburban terminus of the light rail. Then add time to get to car, drive to Hub's apt, pack stuff, nap while Boy napped (prob 30-40 min; Hub too tired to drive). Now we are at at 4 hours. Boy's runs caused us to pull over multiple times on the highway, and he was screaming the entire time. Because we were so off schedule, we had to stop for dinner at midway point (usually 1 hour from suburb to midway). After dinner at midway we found a park and let Boy run, much to his pleasure. Thereafter, the boy was quiet and peace was had by all. We arrived home at 9pm.

There goes an entire half day that was planned to get the house ready for sale. We had even hired a babysitter to play with Boy while Hub and I worked.

This is why we don't travel much to the Big City, despite the fact that we 1. generally love to travel, 2. generally enjoy urban life, 3. realize there are so many cool unique things for Boy (and us) to see in the city, and 4. have a "home" there. See here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lost Upgrade

Our real estate agent e-mailed this AM. Another offer has been made on our "upgrade" house. They don't have a contingency to sell their other house first. We must. Our options are nil... we will not be able to counter their offer.

I don't feel like this is because I couldn't get the house ready in time. With an average on-the-market time of 200 days in this area, even if I had done everything perfectly and we were showing our house already last week, the chances of us having an offer withing a week are miniscule.

So, there it goes.

There's always Stretch to consider, but our enthusiasm for that has waned. There's another we have looked at. Both Stretch and "Parsonage" are FSBO, and we are getting grief from the agent about buying them withou his help. We don't really listen. We will still need to put this house up for sale for any chance to upgrade, even though now there isn't an upgrade house in sight, and not just any old house will do.

Well, the second worst-case scenario is that we have made a herculean effort to clean and organize our house and we get to live in a clean and organized house for a while. The worst-case scenario is that we succeed in selling this house and end up having to move into a rental of some sort (around the time the baby comes).

p.s. the painter left our door WIDE open yesterday when he left. I was really pissed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Y juncture resolution

As mentioned in my previous post, the resolution to seemingly dichotomous priority conflicts is just to do it all, but everything half way and barely successfully.

I did go into the research lab this AM, but a necessary reagent had not arrived, so we couldn't have done the procedure anyway. Tip o' the hat to PLS, but we are the only ones in the place that use (figurative) sugar. No sugar around to borrow. Ants in the sugar? Wait for new sugar to arrive from the farm. Sooo, there were no conflicts after all between research and personal appts. The reagent DID arrive, in late afternoon, so we're on for tomorrow.

I went to prenatal meeting (Centering) a group-based prenatal care model. I watched as the midwife sacred the piss out of all the first-time expectant parents with horror stories. It was "confront your fears" session, and frankly, it could have gone much better. I used to think that more information was always good. But there's a time and a place to NOT give full disclosure.

Then, the "stager" came to the house to make suggestions. There was only so much she could do because the tour was a lot of me saying "Yes, this clutter needs to go, I know that" and "This wall usually has this picture there, but the painter has removed it". Basically nothing was clean and few things were actually in situ for her to make very good suggestions. But she did prove helpful none-the-less. My real estate agent could NOT have done this on his own. He's got NO feel for design (but a great sense of construction details). He also would not have relayed it well to me either. I HAD to be there and am glad I did. In this market it feels like thousands of bucks ride on the details.

One thing that became clear from the staging tour. There's no chance in hell this place is ready to be photographed this week. We have put it off till next week, even though the agent will be gone. Discipline, schmicipline... getting the house ready defies the laws of physics (physiology, really). Simply CAN'T make my deadline. Not by myself, even if I canceled all my appts and did nothing but work on it from day care open to day care close. Well, there's some peace in giving that up.

The staging tour was immediately followed by our babysitter arriving and me going to prenatal yoga, skyped with my hub, this, and now bed.

Hub and I agreed to cancel our plans to celebrate 4th of July in Big City, a very fine place to see fireworks, for him to come home and help me work on the house. We'll spend Independence Day in little city with wimpy little fireworks (if we aren't too tired) this year. Next year in Big City, perhaps...

Tomorrow in the research lab we start the procedure and should make it all the way through without a rush. Then I go to the "Upgrade" inspection.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Y juncture tomorrow

My research student and I need to do a day long procedure that involves hazmat. Stu has never done it before. I need to be with Stu. Tomorrow is supposed to be a normal workday in the lab.

However, I have a pre-natal appt from 12-2p. Relatively inconvenient, but ok to plan an incubation or something then. BUT the real estate agent wants this house on the market this week. I feel haste to get it ready too. Painter is painting NOW, helper is coming to help move furniture, etc. daily. Real estate agent scheduled a "professional stager" to come tomorrow 2-4p and the photographer on Thursday. Wednesday there will be a home inspection 2-4p of "Upgrade" and I feel I need to be present.

Friday Boy and I go to Big City to see Dad and meet up with a former colleague from Prestigious International Research Institute. Real estate agent will be gone on vacation all next week. It's either this week or wait for two weeks on the house.

Do I choose, once again, to take care of the things with immediate deadlines over my research projects, which don't feel as pressing (but SHOULD be)? Do I e-mail my student and say too much of the chunk of the day is gone tomorrow to personal appointments and put off the procedure? Do I tell the real estate agent to take a leap, and that we will pick this business up when he gets back? Will putting off the tasks required to sell the house for the sake of the research project cause us to lose the contract on "Upgrade" (there's a kick-out clause... the owners can release themselves from our contract if they get a better one)?

It feels like this decision is representative of all the former and future accumulated decisions regarding my research program which makes it so hard to publish in my PUI (summertime) world. I won't be fired if I don't get the paper published immediately. Ah, as a post-doc, there was only one thing to do: get my data and get my paper out. Now there's no such (pressing) obligation. That makes it sooo hard to say no to immediate teaching obligations, and even big personal obligations when they conflict with lab work.

I will probably find a compromise somehow... this is story of my current life... not doing anything well or fully to try to fit it all in. And I still have this nagging feeling that truly disciplined people can manage it all. If only I could crank up the discipline, I could do it!!! Is that true? I don't know, but the idea won't leave me alone.... AUUUGH.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


We have a contract on "Upgrade". Now to sell our cute town house...


We offered the 4% off. They were supposed to get back to us 2 hours ago. Wonder what that means...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thanks, I really needed to hear that.

Huge warm fuzzies that I will pull out on my bad days and look at--- reminder SRU is a pseudonym for Small Religious U.

Very prestigious position from very prestigious institution gave the grad address this year, and I was invited to participate in brunch with said person. In a note, I said:

Hi Dr. Prestige,

Just a quick note to say that it was such a pleasure to meet you at brunch and hear your commencement address here at SRU several weeks ago. Thanks for your gracious conversation and your wise words.

All the best to you!

PUI Prof


Dear FirstName Me;

Great to hear from you. I was very impressed with your educational background and your willingness to teach at SRU. I'm pleased that we had a chance to meet.

Short affectionate FirstName

Hey, wait, does that imply that I undershot? I will ignore that thought. I am very happy here...

How do you want 'em taught?

OK, let's say that you are a PI or other important person in a lab in a Major Research U/Inst. And let's say your new grad student is from my institution, let's say they did their project in MY lab.

I try to get my research done in a successful way, i.e. headed toward publication. But the entire PURPOSE of my lab is to teach undergrads how to do science with the added bonus of getting them on papers, hopefully. Nobody's gonna cure cancer from my lab (anymore).

We had another failure of a prep today. When you suspect a wonky (cheap) reagent, I expect that you just make that reagent again and try the prep over. Student wanted to design an experiment to test whether the reagent truly WAS wonky. While my lab training didn't jibe with that, I though about it and decided to let his initiative be rewarded. If his experiment works, we will know that the reagent wasn't good, but won't know why. But I do want him to get good at designing and conducting and experiment and interpreting the data. Here was a cheap, short way to do so. But I don't think a post-doc would ever do this.

Am I teaching him to take unnecessary rabbit trails and developing bad habits, or am I really going to hone his experimental skills? What would you, as a PI, want in your student?

Upgrade offer returned

The deadline passed to hear about our offer on the "Upgrade" house read here and links for more info. We offered 9% off, relatively standard acc'd to our agent, and the owner came back with less than 1% off. This isn't looking good. We'll offer 4% off and call it good. We'll walk away if that's not enough.

A Little Chutzpah

I just finished writing a reccomendation letter for a student who took my course in the Fall, dropped out of my institution, applied to the local community college (she wanted a recc from me for that, see here), and now wants out of the local community college and wants into our competitor, Huge Teaching U.

Let me get this right, you want me to help you get into our competitor's program and you are not even my student anymore? That's bretty brave. Ok, I'll do it. 'Cause I'm THAT nice, dammit.

I also saw the worst recc letter of my life today. It caused me to draw in my breath sharply. One of my colleagues "did not reccommend" a student for med school. And colleague knew student well. It was pretty blunt. I'm cringing just thinking of it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Experiment failed? Oh, good.

This is a demanding week. The professional photographer will be here on Monday to take pictures of our home for the multi-listing service- the computerized real estate search engine. Given my husband's and my hoarding habits, getting the house ready for "staging" is going to be a huge undertaking including a LOT of sorting into "keep" and "don't keep" piles- something that no paid help can do for us. At times like this, I really hate some of my behaviors (like keeping everything) that feel so, so hard to change.

This is also the week that I am guiding a research student in my lab in some basic techniques. He will be able to do them on his own next week, but this is the first time through for most of them. He is working full time, and I should be there with him from 9-5: from toddler drop-off and pick-up.

I cannot seem to get anything done with Boy awake and active. After Boy goes to sleep (7-8pm) I have a date to Skype with Hub till about 9pm and after that, I am really too tired to do anything. This must stem from a lack of sleep due to the heat and being preggo, very very typical. Even though I know I need every moment, some moments simply aren't available to me (so it feels). It seems the only time available for me to work at home is when the baby is in daycare and I am energetic- from 9-5, just when I am needed in the lab.

I enjoy research, and of course want my students to have success. This morning when the student and I arrived in the lab and found that our overnight growth had failed, and that the entire day was now free, I was more than a little happy. I finally have a free day to work on the house. The experiment doesn't have a short deadline, but the house does.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I loathe ordering; I miss reps!

I need some supplies for my lab. Standard stuff, nothing special, but stuff I haven't ordered before. I go to some place like and type in a search term, and when it comes up with 36 hits, none of which have pictures, I feel a bit paralyzed. I do my best to try to figure out what it is that I need, and manage somehow. Sometimes I get it way wrong.

No, I don't have a tech. I have to order everything myself and spend the time shopping around if I want the best price. Moreover, my order volume is so low I constantly forget my passwords to the e-ordering wesites. I order maybe once a year.

This is going to shock you: I miss those annoying reps that used to make a nuisance of themselves at my previous institutions. At least I could ask questions if I had any, and often they had samples. NO ONE comes to our Tiny U for drop-ins. When I was setting up my lab, I called a rep and requested they come by. That was really helpful. :)

So the next time one of those perky beautiful people poke their head in your lab, just send them over :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can't hear myself think!!!

So, The Science Center here at Small Religious U has the biggest lecture hall/ auditorium on campus. Its summer time, and that means "camps" are descending upon the SRU campus. Well, apparently the camp this week is going to have a concert by a Christian rock band. This concert will be given 4 doors down from my office in the Science Center lecture hall. The band is currently rehearsing. COMPLETELY OVERAMPED.

Super duper support staff are removing the sentient creatures (such as an iguana) from their cages in the hallway, and the emeriti are shouting at the top of their lungs:
"This deafening music is what kids like today!!!!!"
"Kids. Going. Deaf!!!!"
"What???? I can't hear you, I'm going deaf from this music!!!!"

House offer.

Hub and I just signed a bazillion pages in two documents: one to buy a house, and another to sell our house. At this moment (ask me again next hour) I am at completely at peace with this with two small exceptions. The first is that we WILL be losing money on the sale of our own home. We have a ballpark guesstimate as to how low we can go, but we will need to finance part of a down payment for the new home. Whether we take a loan from Hub's parents or pay PMI is under debate betwixt us. I am prideful and don't want the parent loan. But the PMI is money we pay and will simply evaporate. At least with the parent loan, the money will become equity.

The second slight hesitation is that I must (together with our household help) prep the house for sale. Hub and are both hoarders, and this is a herculean task. No household staff can help you decide what gets kept and what goes. Moreover, with Hub out of the way, er, I mean out of town, I could be merciless with his hoarded stuff. MUAHAHAH!!!! Cleanup week directly conflicts with the heavy week in the lab I planned with my research student. Bad / dumb timing. And, furniture needs to be moved and removed, a task that a 7-month pregnant woman shouldn't be doing.

Because Hub is only home on weekends, we will need to fill our weekends with house work and decision-making, when it feels like our weekends are already pretty full with food prep, laundry, and other stuff way down on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I have a feeling that this weekend Hub will be moving furniture all weekend long. Poor dude. Better relax and enjoy those kid-free evenings you are going to have tonight to Wednesday!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Just doodling around. Send feedback if you care.

Confidence translates to higher success- how to help?

In the summer we do advising for incoming first year students. All students coming to me have declared the same major. I had three students this week to advise. They pretty much all take the same courses, with the exception of which level of Freshman English they take.

One had a B average, and ok standardized test scores. She came late, but once we got started, and chose her classes she seemed excited about coming to college. She was unsure about exactly where she wanted to take her degree, but seemed relatively confident.

Student two's parents come in with her, both looked me in the eye, gave me a firm handshake and then disappeared (a good sign, the disappearance). She had a very high B average, great tests and had a 5 (the max) on an AP exam. She seemed a bit bored with the class-choosing process, and took it all in stride, as if this were nothing out of the ordinary.

Student three came in timidly with eyes down. Without knowing her stats, four years of Freshman enrollment gave me the hunch (bias?) that her numbers were lower. Upon looking at her file, this was confirmed in this instance.

My preconceived notions are forming such that students - before they even arrive at college- have a feeling of whether they can succeed or not. Often that confidence or lack thereof work together with other factors to produce success or non-success. What can I do to bolster student's confidence realistically in order to set them on track for success? I don't know yet, but here's an example of what I am doing (right or wrong) currently.

Student three was local and planned to commute from home... not to live on campus. Studies (of which I can't remember the source at this moment, apologies) show that 40% of students that don't live on campus their first year don't complete their degree in 4 years, higher than those that do live on campus, all other factors considered. After helping this student choose what seemed like a good schedule, and conveying hopefulness about her schedule, I mentioned that as a commuter student she had a special challenge that simply needed her attention and intentionality.

I told her about the study, and suggested that she try to stay on campus longer than just for her classes, that she get involved in activities, and that she dive right into campus life the best she could.

Did I say those things to the students with the high scores or the confidence? No. But that's not a fair comparison, because they aren't commuting. Did I end up helping confirm to her that success is for other people? God, I hope not, but not knowing her I could have! Did I try to forestall right up front a potential pitfall she may encounter? That was my hope, at least.

I need to speak to each student differently depending on their scores to determine their courses. For example, to someone who gets a 5 on an AP math exam, I don't say, "How's your math?". I just suggest calculus. Students whose quantitative scores are low on standardized exams I DO ask that question to see how they are feeling about themselves, something that will help me determine whether to put them in quantitative courses right away or put them off. Am I subtly confirming a student's fears by speaking to them in that manner? Am I transmitting a bias? I really hope not, but have not found a better way.

I know that as an advisor I will say something that will stick in a students craw and will stay with them forever, probably never remembering the incident myself. I would like to minimize these instances or, turn them on their head. I remember a session with my advisor after a sophomore slump when he said, "You'll never get into grad school with these grades" (actually they weren't THAT bed). And my reaction was, "Jerk. I'll show you". I *didn't* say, "maybe you're right, I'll opt for something else" (when the evidence shows that I COULD do it). If, when advising, I say something similar (and I will, just by accident) I would love the student to have the former reaction and not the latter.