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 VWR.com 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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Cheerleader vs. The Gatekeeper

I advise a lot of students that want to go on to health professional schools. Doctor, Physical Therapist, Physician's Assistant, Veterinarian wanna-be's.

Overall, SRU (where I work, see intro) does a decent job of getting the students into those schools. We beat the national average by a wide margin. It has been this way for 40 + years. There could be two ways to achieve this high ratio. For one, we could only let students apply that have a good chance of getting in, OR we could do a really good job of preparing them through our curriculum and/or advising (or use screwy stats).

In the olden days, the leader of the pre-professional group was a "gatekeeper". That is, if he didn't think you could get in, he would strongly discourage you from applying. If you weren't approved by Dr. Pre-med, you didn't get to apply to Med school. Of course this is terrible and fraught with bias, (and that person is looong gone) but it is really only one end of a spectrum.

On the other end of this spectrum is "The Cheerleader". Like your mother, the cheerleader believes you can be anything you want to be- even a doctor if you have a 2.8 GPA and score a 24 on the MCATs. You can do it! You can make it, if you only try hard enough! Stick around for 6 years and keep retaking that Organic Chem class to raise your grade...

I think that I/ we fall in the middle, or lean a bit to gatekeeper side, but only a tiny bit. Schools look at a whole package, but for seriously low scores you have to have a very compelling life story to get into a top school (like, you were a child soldier in Rwanda before being rescued and going to college). Therefore, we have to guess a little as to whether a student can make it into a certain school.

What do you do if you have a student with low scores that wants to get into TopMedSchool? What do you say?

Here's what I and my colleagues do. We use clear but gentle language. And we guide students to apply to schools they can get into.

Your scores are very limiting = your grades are really bad and MCATS are low.

Our challenge is to find school for which you are a good fit = we have to seek out schools that have lower standards.

Let's put TopChoiceMed at the very bottom of your list of schools = don't waste your application fee.

Consider these schools. They are nearby, their incoming class scores are quite close to yours, you are a competitive applicant because of your work in a chiropractic setting, and your philosophy matches the school's philosophy = you should apply only to osteopathic schools.

You are still going to have to scrap for it = you can make it but your application is not as competitive as others.

We will heartily endorse a students application to the schools we recommend. We can't write "Stu" a good recc for a school that is too far out of reach. If Stu applies to that school, we will tell Stu directly that the letter won't be a glowing recommendation due to a (perceived) poor fit.

So, is that Gatekeeper-y? Cheerleader-y? Some of it is just plain-ol' good advising. Stu needs to know that Stu can't get into TopChoiceMed. But on the other hand there ARE schools Stu can get into. Good advising includes informing Stu of the options and non-options. And there's no reason to be the hammer if Stu does have options.

And as for the stats? We count osteopathic schools (I would say 20-25% of our pre-med students become DOs). We also count it as a success when a student applies, doesn't make it, but then has a successful second try.

Pre- health takes a LOT more time than I'd like, but it has its rewards, too. PrayGod that I do it fairly and kindly...

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm not THAT kind of teacher. GRRRRR!!!!

Today I went to take Boy to the day care and the director tells me she can't take him today. Why not? Because Tuesdays are the day for daycare in the summer for teachers, and today is Monday. What do you mean, Summer? Teachers? Tuesdays?

There appear to be two and a half options for daycare. You can have your kid full time. Mkay. You can have your kid part time: three days a week, but they must be that way throughout your entire contract year. Mkay. Or IF you're a teacher, you can go to the summer schedule, which is 1 day a week (apparently Tuesday) for $140 per month.

The director knew I was a teacher (though she knew I didn't work for the city schools), and last week the city schools closed, therefore summertime starts and teachers go on the summer schedule. Apparently, it was assumed that I would do what all the other school teachers would do, and keep my boy myself since I didn't have to work. So she counted Boy out, and didn't schedule enough staff to meet ratios with him there. I was really irritated. REALLY IRRITATED.

Too bad, so sad, take the kid right back outta here and back to where you came from (of course she didn't say that, that's how I reacted to it).

OK. Let's be fair. We had a conversation in May about my options as an educator about day care. I remember specifically NOT committing to anything at that time. I remember saying that I may take SOME time off but not the whole summer. Secondly, apparently there is a newsletter for parents that is one of about 15 different piles of ads and irrelevant info on the foyer table that I failed to peruse and therefore failed to read. I don't know if it outlines when any deadlines for choosing summer teachers schedule vs full time is. Still, wouldn't you assume that my kid is coming if I don't say anything?!?!? I wonder if this has anything to do with my colleague who uses the same day care and takes the summer off to "mommy" (she doesn't have a research program, but I'm not going there...).

In any case, I may bear a fraction of the burden of this miscommunication, but much of it stems from the day care director's misunderstanding about my job. When describing myself to the public I have to choose whether to tell them I am a "teacher" or a "scientist". Apparently I should have told her I was a scientist, and not led her to believe that the moment the grade schools were out that I would no longer be working and therefore not need day care for my child.

I am really regretting signing a yearly contract now, because this feels like a straw on a camel's back. If not the last one, pretty close. One one hand, I'm tired of showing up to day care and not being able to bring Boy in. This has happened due to miscommunications and staffing three times now. Apparently the Director's disorganization and mine are exactly complimentary and result in a "perfect storm". These are not manageable surprises for me, and I don't know what else I can do, except give her an exact schedule of when Boy will need day care weeks in advance. On the other hand I do NOT want to irritate the person in charge of my child's welfare. Is this a battle I should "choose"? I will read that stupid newsletter and see if it's spelled out clearly if not, what should I do? What should I say? GRRRR.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Much warmer feet, like fire walking

This refers to the blog entry "Colder feet". Thanks for all your advice.
Ok, the title of this entry is exaggerated slightly. But we have had another big turnaround in our thinking of moving to a bigger house.

Tonight we did the official skritch skritch skritch of the pencils on paper to
1. List advantages and disadvantages of
A. Staying
B. Buying Upgrade or
C. Buying Stretch, and
2. Calculate monthly actual expenses for each option including utilities, taxes, insurance etc.

It seemed as though we could move into a 4-bedroom house with a yard for about $200 more in monthly payments than what we are paying now for a 3-bedroom townhouse, no yard. But then we discovered a big mistake: we weren't including our down payment in the calculations. When we subtracted our down payment from the purchase price of the home, BOTH 4 bedroom homes with a yard cost LESS PER MONTH including utilities than we are paying now. The difference is 1.5% less in interest rate and a Home Owners Association fee that we pay monthly to live here.


Now we have to decide between the two homes. Upon further investigation, we found that upgrade and stretch are really not that much different in value, and that "stretch" should be renamed "intimidating yard". We will take our list of ads and disads and prioritize them and then go through some sort of decision-making process to see where we should make an offer. Right now the biggest thing is the "feeling" of the places. This drives us scientists crazy how big of a factor something non-quantifiable can be in such a big decision!

Not so liberated after all...

My husband is a pretty progressive fellow. Despite the fact that he comes from a household with a successful academic Dad and a stay-at-home (very productive and perfect about the household) Mom, I have generally felt treated equally. In fact, we quantify the household duties on Chore Wars, and he is ahead.

He stayed at home with the Boy when he was very young while underemployed and enjoyed it.

He also relies on the League of Women Voters website for his political information prior to voting.

SO I was surprised to hear him say something yesterday that was not too progressive...

When I am really at the end of my rope, and this has happened about 3 times since we started this lifestyle, I question why the Boy stays with me and doesn't live with him. Why is Boy with Mom the default? Can we think about this?

He answered first in a way that I completely understand: Honey, THAT is home. THIS is just where I sleep until I can get home... (awww). And then he says, "besides, there's this societal thing that children belong with their Mother" and then he grins real big because he knows what he has just said.


Well, I'm glad he's honest about his prejudices, and feels free enough to discuss them with me. He's still the same guy, but I was surprised to hear that!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Student: don't go there.

Had a meeting with Stu yesterday. My reaction to Stu wanting to go into a PhD program?

I discouraged Stu saying, "In this market, there are fewer and fewer students I would encourage taking the path I did". Stu replies, "but by the time I'm done, the market will be different."

This brings up the old advising dilemma of the "cheerleader" vs the "gatekeeper" which needs a whole blog of its own.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Colder feet.

Everything seems to be a "go" on this house, EXCEPT...
We found three more houses on that block with similar configuration and pricing within our range. This has changed things considerably.

1. We feel less rushed. Our "upgrade" is still priced the cheapest, but it doesn't suddenly feel like it will be snatched out from under us.

2. The outdated wall coverings, light fixtures, and sinks/showers bother me now a bit more.

3. We are wondering if the good feeling we had about this house was due to comparison to the crappy houses we had seen before it.

We will look at one of the "upgrade"'s competitors, let's call it: FSBO because both owners have been long term unemployed but don't really want to leave and have recently sunk a lot of money remodeling it to the gills so can't go down on price with an elaborate garden that is frankly conservatory-worthy and therefore intimidating to people like us who can barely get our trash out on the proper day and is on the very upper limit of our willingness to pay but could be a great investment.

Or let's call it the "stretch" for short.

Stretch is about $20-$22k more than upgrade, but has a full basement (more sq ft total) and nearly 3/4 acre land in the city (upgrade has 1/3 acre)...one more bath than upgrade, and one less car garage. Stretch might afford more flexibility in closing, i.e. be willing to tolerate a "we sell before we buy" contingency than upgrade.

And our real estate agent is pessimistic about the sale of out house. This hasn't changed much, but its sinking in now. We are getting a bit of cold feet right now.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More good news.

Had an evaluation with the dept chair today. It's new this year for the chair to meet with each individual faculty year-end and discuss our yearly reports and "goals". I think it has something to do with the new provost...

Anyway, he seemed slightly uncomfortable, as in "I prefer to be your colleague that does chair paperwork for course release, rather than your boss who evaluates you". In any case, I used the opportuninity to ask flat-out what my chances are of getting tenure in two years, because well, we're looking at houses.

He said, "Your chances are excellent".

:) Well, that makes me happy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

itty bitty unrelated vent

If I read the phrase "super excited" embedded somewhere in my cousin's Facebook status update for the 4th time this week, I just MIGHT have to make a snarky comment. Barf.
Like, gag me with a spoon!

Move to a bigger house? deux.

Looked at the "upgrade" house again (see last post). It still seems as good as we originally thought, but we did find two others in the same neighborhood for a few $10K's more. That makes us feel less rushed. We need to look at these before we make an offer on the "upgrade" house.

Was able to get into the mortgage guy at our credit union first thing this AM, before hub had to commute. Even better news than we imagined. We generally only look at houses with my salary in mind. Mortgage Guy says that considering my salary, we can afford this house, but must sell first. With both salaries in mind, its not critical that we sell before we buy. Carrying two mortgages for a month or two is undesirable but possible. It may be part of what we have to do.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Having "that talk" again.

With another kid on the way we have been very casually looking at bigger houses. Read here for our original thoughts about moving from a 3 br to a 4 br with two kids. And read here about what we decided back in January. Geez! I didn't realize it had been so long that we were thinking of moving!

Anyway, we half-heartedly looked at a few houses today and found a PERFECT one. In fact, because of the low interest rates, our monthly payments will only increase by $100 for a VASTLY improved home (upgrades: another bedroom, two car garage (we park on the street now) expansive deck, 10,000 sq ft of yard (we have about 30 sq ft of grass now) better kitchen, usable basement, sun room, quiet street, very sunny throughout. It is THE house that we would be willing to lose a little money on our current house for.

Now we are back to the discussion of what do we do about this two body problem? Is Small City truly going to be our home? If we buy a home here are we putting my career (TT vs non-TT) over yours? Can you live with that idea? Are we committing to four more years of commuter marriage? Are you sure there's NOTHING you can do here in town? Etc. Etc.

And all this at a time when Hub comes home weekends truly pining for time with Boy, missing the Boy terribly, shedding a tear upon reuniting with the Boy. This other house is so good for us we are ready to move on it, but upgrading homes takes away the possibility of the family moving to be near Dad. It commits us to this place, and to the primacy of my job.

I AM so grateful that I have a husband with whom I can communicate well. We can talk about these things openly and honestly. He is very easy-going but not a doormat, a nice balance to my strong personality. And he pulls his weight in major decision making. So here we go with another phase of major decision making.

Sunday we look at the house again. Monday before Hub leaves to go back to his work, we will talk to the mortgage guy. And we may make an offer this week. I'll keep you updated...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Your persistence has paid off, young one.

A student e-mailed me recently who had to take her final late. She had gotten a 78.5% in my class and therefore I turned in a C+ grade for her to the registrar. She said she wanted to talk to me about her grade, and despite the prospect of an hour of grade grubbing, I agreed to a meeting.

We calculated that she needed about 16 more points to raise her grade to a B- and she just wanted to check over her assignments and old tests (which were in my office). She was respectful and spent time adding up her points and checking her assignments. She found two grading errors- one on an exam, and one in recording a missing assignment (she said she has it at home, graded. If she produces the assignment with a written grade in my handwriting, she gets full credit for it). The total sum of the points: 17.

This is a student who I was particularly fond of, but was not going to give her the grade illegitimately. So when it seemed like she was going to get her B- through her persistence, I was particularly proud.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Survival: Paying for Services

Hub's PI/ Mentor is a brilliant guy, tenured at MRU (Major Research U), and is married to an equally impressive wife (also tenured at MRU). Here's the kicker; they have 4 kids, two of which are pre-school aged. Minus the solved two-body problem, these folks have all of our problems, multiplied (raised to the power?). During a lab outing, Hub asked him how they did it. He said, we have a lot of help. What he meant was they hire away a lot of household work. For example, if the car needs to go to the shop in the middle of the day, they hire someone to do it, and don't waste their time on such things.


We are doing that to some degree. We have a young woman who comes in for four hours a week and does housework. That is very helpful, and keeps the invading ants at bay since I can't seem to manage getting all the food and dirty dishes taken care of while wrangling a toddler. By necessity, I have to hire a babysitter on average 1-2 times a week for the evenings (church league volleyball, yoga, evening meetings). I would like to hire someone to weed my yard/ garden, too, but haven't checked that off the list. These services do make life saner! I am very grateful that the help we have is reliable and good.

The weekend at Fun Place was another example of paying for conveniences/ services. We stayed on the premises of Fun Place, so we could simply walk out of the lobby and be there. No transporting stuff and a child, all of which adds to the chaos and wear-n-tear. We also used the Bell Staff and Valet, which again was so much easier.

This may be second nature to some. Some of you may be thinking "no duh". Hub's family is certainly amenable to the idea. But it engenders a bit of conflict in me. I grew up in a place where if someone "worked like a ranch hand" that was a high compliment. With two grandmothers who worked crappy jobs to put themselves through the great depression, there was a strong mentality that you didn't pay people to do things you can do yourself. As a teenager and college student, I spent many-a-school break under the car with my Dad repairing stuff on my clunker car. My folks remodeled their own house (and the results, though fine, were clearly NOT professional). This mentality obviously still lingers, as I find myself rolling my eyes at the friends I have that have nannies.

Moreover, a clear distinction between Hub's PI and us is, well, their income is a multiple of ours. Though services do make life more manageable, they cost. For us they cost a significant percentage of our income. For example:

Day care: $160 / week
Housecleaning: 4 hours * $10 per hour = $40 / week
Babysitting: approx 4 hours * $8 per hour = $32 / week

That doesn't include garden help or painters, etc.

So we pay on the range of $220-$250 / week for services i.e. $1000 per month!!!!

That's more than our mortgage, and about 1/4 of MY income!!! YIKES! (Hub makes less that I do.)

Is it worth it? Well, the day care is a given. Granted, I could cut it off in the summer and not work (the work I do in the summer is unpaid; read here, here, and here). But I want to keep working, especially to get ready for the semester I return from maternity leave. Besides, the days that I do have Boy alone all day (especially the unplanned ones) have convinced me that I am NOT stay-at-home Mom material (read here ).

Now that it's summer, I could drop the Housecleaning. Our person will be leaving in July, but the new baby is coming in August, and I simply can't imagine getting all that stuff done with a new baby and a toddler. ALONE. We *have* to hire someone then. Might as well just keep her on for another month and load up on organizational projects and stuff that won't get done for another couple of years.

The babysitting seems pretty important, otherwise I would not get out in the evenings. I felt so isolated and lonely this past semester that the evening socializing seems important, too- although this is a bit iffy. Do I REALLY need to be playing church league volleyball 7 months pregnant? eeeh. (but I LIKE it). The yoga is a definite yes. Absolutely. It makes me sooo happy. :) The other stuff is relatively rare.

There are several other considerations about frequent use of services:
1. It takes organization... so it still requires work
2. It changes your mentality about what you are willing to do... I do dishes less now even when I can. This is a dangerous slippery slope.
3. You have to find people you trust with your child and alone in your house.
4. It adds to Mommyguilt (i.e. some evening I see Boy for only 1 hour)
5. Its money that just "goes away" unlike spending on something you can resell later. It is NOT a good investment monetarily.

Right now, Hub and I chalk it up to simple survival. That seems right. I hope that in 3 or so years things will be manageable, and we can cut back... Or if Hub can COME HOME (or we can be together in some way). But right now, it certainly helps us survive.