Friday, November 20, 2009
I was invited to give a talk at the conference I attended in September, so I spent the entire month of August scrambling for some last minute data and putting together my talk. The talk went well, though I was terrified (as I always am when it comes to public speaking). People seemed interested in my project which is always a nice little confidence booster.
We also had our gender ultrasound towards the end of August. It's a boy! We already had a boy name picked out, so as soon as we found out the gender we got to tell Bean about her baby brother and tell her his name. Since then she's been much more interested in the pregnancy and in her little sibling. We talk about him a lot, and she often asks us about him. The other day she asked me if he is naked in my tummy. I told her yes, but when he's born we'll put some clothes on him and wrap him in a warm blanket. "I'll help," she replied.
Husband is deep in the throes of job market hell. He has applied to over 100 places so far, and there are still more deadlines through December and even into January. No interviews lined up yet, though it's hard to tell whether or not that's a bad sign. It's starting to feel a little anxious though.
Bean moved up to the early preschool class in September and has been loving her new classroom environment. She is just amazing with her letters now, and will often spell out signs as we drive or words in books. It's pretty darn amazing. She's definitely entered a "testing the limits" stage of her development, and that gets a little tiring. Most days I have just nothing left by the time I get her to bed, and I fall asleep on the couch soon after.
I'm up to my eyeballs at work just trying to get things finished up before the baby is born. He'll be term just before Christmas and would likely be born sometime between Christmas and mid-January. (Though you never know. A friend of mine had her second child 12 days past her due date.) We're close to writing up my project, and so I'm trying to get some figures put together now and starting to outline the papers. But the days are flying by, so we'll see how much I can get done before the little one decides to make his debut.
So yeah, it's been a little busy around here. But good. Busy, but good.
Monday, July 27, 2009
It’s also somewhat stressful when we’re out and about. This weekend we were at the farmers market, and the nearest potty was quite a ways a way. But Bean has been a trooper and we’ve never ever had an accident while we were out.
Actually, the funny thing is that being pregnant while potty training is actually an advantage. My body acts as a built-in timer for reminding us to take Bean to the bathroom. Every time the pregnant lady’s gotta pee, chances are the toddler should too.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
But healthy cooking is my favorite hobby. I long since stopped subscribing to Bon Appetit and Gourmet (seriously? who has that many dinner parties?) but I am an avid fan of Cooking Light.
So I couldn't resist Ruchi's call for some healthy food porn.
Here's a quick and easy "recipe" that I threw together a few weeks ago inspired by the amazing heirloom cherry tomatoes growing in my mom's back yard. Bean, who has yet to meet a tomato she doesn't like, DEVOURED it. So I recreated it tonight, paired with grilled zucchini and a grass-fed organic steak from the farmers market. Yum!
Summer Tomato and Corn Salad
15+ organic cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear sweet corn
1 slice red onion, minced
~2 tsp fruity olive oil
1 splash balsamic vinegar
~1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cut the raw corn kernels away from the cob (this step is messy but worth it). Combine corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Let sit for ~15 minutes to let flavors meld. Enjoy wholeheartedly.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
- Bean and I went to my brothers wedding a few weeks ago. Some of you may recall he was in a terrible accident last year (just weeks before his originally scheduled wedding day) and almost lost his legs. At the wedding, which was beautiful, he danced with the Bean. I must have kissed my brother and my new sister-in-law about 2,000 times each. It ranks as one of the happiest days of my life.
- After the wedding we had a few days with my mom before Husband joined us to attend his family reunion. Every single member of Husband's family there for some time out in the wilderness. Bean spent every waking second either splashing in the water, chasing her cousins or looking for bugs and frogs. It was a really great time.
- Bean is really into bugs right now. Ants, snails, moths, spiders, she loves them all. I am doing a pretty good job of repressing my "ick" response and encouraging her interest. No need to pass on my irrational fear of spiders.
- Bean's most popular phrase right now is "Mama, look at me!"
- I've gotten some really beautiful looking data in the past few weeks. And while the analysis is kind of a slog, I'm really excited. Before starting this experiment, I would have given it about a 20% chance of success, and it totally worked. It almost makes up for all the times when stupid easy experiments don't work.
- I gave lab meeting yesterday and everyone Ooh'd and Aah'd over my lovely new data. It's nice to put one in the "Win" column now and again.
- This pregnancy is shaping up to be very different from my first pregnancy. I got much sicker in the beginning, I'm much more tired, and my belly has already popped. Not in the cute "ooh a pregnant tummy" way, more in the "wow, she really let herself go" way.
- ...but, I've started feeling the baby kick already. That'll put a smile on a girls face.
- This weekend, Bean is transitioning to underwear, and next week she's wearing them to school. She's been pottying 6-10 times a day, and I haven't changed a poopy diaper in about a month. Um, awesome.
- Is anyone else loving the summer produce? I can't remember the last time I had such consistently good summer produce. The berries, cherries, tomatoes and corn have been amazing.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Thank you to everyone for your well wishes! We have, in fact, told the Bean the happy news. She’s too young to really understand. She knows “there’s a baby in mama’s tummy” and she will put stuffed animals under her shirt and tell us that they are growing, but that’s about the level of her understanding.
My earliest memory is of being just about Bean’s age now (a little over 2 years old), and seeing my mother, very pregnant with my younger brother, getting out of the shower. I remember being amazed at the size of her belly. “You’re fat” I told her. And she gently reminded me (for no doubt the 8,000th time) that there was a baby in her tummy. So yeah, I don’t have high expectations for Bean understanding the situation.
And to be fair, I didn’t really understand what it was to have a baby until Bean arrived. And though she sort of understands the concept of brothers or sisters, I don’t expect that she will really know what it means to be a big sister until the baby starts drooling on all her stuff.But, I hope Bean will get excited as the time nears. 7 months is a long time for her to work on “getting it”, and I’m sure the big sister books will help. For right now though, I’m happy to let her enjoy being an only child for a little bit longer.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
2. Have you ever smoked? Nope.
3. Do you own a gun? Nope.
4. What flavor Kool-Aid was your favorite? Never tried it.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Nope, but I scream like hell when the doctor starts trying to examine me.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Never had one.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? My mama let me watch a few minutes of Frosty the Snowman at Christmas. I wasn't impressed.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Milk.
9. Can you do push-ups? Nope, but I'm pretty darn strong and my newest trick is turning doorknobs.
10. Favorite piece of jewelry? Anything dangling around my mama's neck.
11. Favorite hobby? Describing everything I see/do in real time.
12. Do you have A.D.D.? Is there such a thing in a toddler?
13. What's one trait you hate about yourself? I actually love myself a lot. To the point of singing songs about how much I love myself. My mama hopes that never changes.
14. Nick names? Bean, Goosey, Ticklebelly.
15. What are you doing at this exact moment? Napping.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Milk, water and milk.
17. Current worry? Pup stealing my food.
18. Something you hate right now? People getting all up in my grill.
19. Something you love right now? The spider that built its web right next to the front door.
20. How did you ring in the New Year? Chilling with Grandma B.
21. Where would you like to go? To the zoo.
22. Three people who will complete this? I'm taking all comers.
23. Do you own slippers? I got a hand-me-down pair of polar bear slippers recently, but I mostly like wearing them on my hands.
24. What shirt are you wearing right now? A little navy henley with polka dots.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Never had the pleasure, but my mama thinks they're creepy.
26. Can you whistle? No, but I try to copy Daddy's whistling. It basically sounds like I'm saying "hoo hoo hooo".
27. Favorite color? Pink. (I know, my mama's a little worried that she's already warped me, but nonetheless I always choose pink.)
28. Would you be a pirate? I'm not sure I understand the concept, but I'd like to have a parrot.
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Singing in the Shower by Sandra Boynton.
30. Favorite Girl's Name? Kylee. It's my best friend's name, and I name everything I can Kylee.
31. Favorite boy's name? Daddy.
32. What's in your pocket right now? Nada.
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Mama kissing my belly button.
34. Best bed sheets as a child? I have no interesting sheets. Just stupid green ones with little flowers.
35. Worst injury you ever had? I bonked my head at school and gave myself a giant goose egg a couple of weeks ago.
36. Do you love where you live? Yes. I'm a Dissertation City Baby.
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One, but I've only watched it a couple of times.
38. Who is your loudest friend? My dog, Pup.
39. Does someone have a crush on you? I don't think so.
40. What is your favorite book? Currently: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
41. Favorite Sports Team? Me and Daddy.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
...To my Bean,
Sunday is your second birthday. It’s trite, of course, to say that these past two years have flown by quickly, that you’re growing up so fast. To say that it feels like just a heartbeat ago that I lay down in bed with you still nestled in my belly, breathing with my lungs.
The night before you were born I felt you try to turn. You got your little body transverse, which must not have been an easy feat in that crowded little womb. After a minute you settled back into position (little did I know your feet were pointing down). I like to think that you knew that your birth was approaching, and that you tried your best to get into the right position.
Labor was like white noise, like static, isolating you and I. The doctors around us, talking to each other, talking to me, but they were miles away. It was just you and me, sweet girl.
Later in our room, as I nursed you for the very first time, daddy played a CD for us, Iron and Wine. When I listen to that album now, joy still balls up hard in my throat.
I still have an image of you, in our first days home, napping with your daddy on his bare chest. He’s asleep, you’re swaddled but you’ve slipped your thumb into your mouth, and my entire world is there resting in cotton sheets and new pillows, grey filtered sunlight and the smell of too much sleep.
Every night before I go to bed, I sneak into your room alone. I pet your damp curls and stroke your cheek. I slip a finger into your palm and you close your fingers around mine. I stay just a minute and tell you that I love you. Sometimes you sigh and my heartbeat responds, a perfect harmonic.
Last night after dinner we settled down for story time on the couch. This is my favorite time of every single day. You snuggle into my lap, thumb in your mouth, rest your head on my shoulder. It’s one of the few times each day when I still get to hold you. I kiss the back of your sweet little neck, or bury my face in your soft fine hair.
When we read stories now, you often show your little stuffed animals or dolls the pictures. “Look Froggy,” you say, pushing your frog’s face into the page. Sometimes you “read” the books to us. I love to see how much you know and understand, to see you discern patterns in the prose. You love rhythm and music, and are lulled by the cadence of my voice as it rushes over the words.
You’re singing, always singing. Songs I don’t even know. You make up your own words to songs sometimes, telling us what you see or wish to do. You ask us to sing to you too, and sometimes ask “Mama and Dada and Bean sing all together?”
You’re growing quickly, my sweet, precocious, mercurial little girl. But no matter how much you grow, how strong and independent you become, you and I will always be connected. You will always be mine.
Happy birthday, sweet baby. Happy birthday.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Dr. Isis tempts us with her Herb Coated Filet and Basil-Feta Pasta Salad. A easy weeknight treat, especially if you make the pasta salad the night before, and/or marinate the filet in the herb paste overnight.
Efficiency guru EcoGeoFemme takes us on a magical one-dish journey with her Asparagus Quiche, a.k.a Egg Pie. A true weeknight special, this dish has your veggies, your protein, and your butter food groups all in one convenient dish! Using a store bought crust, or by doing it as a frittata instead of a quiche, this recipe only takes about 15 minutes of active work. Throw in a salad and you've got yourself a well-rounded meal!
EthidiumBromide has a classic weeknight cleaning-out-the-fridge suggestion, Shepherd's Pie. Chock-full of veggies, but with minimum chopping requirements, this is another well-rounded dish that comes together with minimal counter time. (Also, her picture looks straight out of a magazine!)
ScienceGirl posted two great weeknight meal suggestions, including an awesome looking schnitzel. I'm drooling just thinking about it, and I know it's something Bean would LOVE. Throw in some steamed veggies and you're good to go!
Scientia Matris also serves up two loaded-with-veggies toddler-friendly recipes, Fried Rice and a yummy looking Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup. Both easily fulfill the nutritious, delicious, and quick and easy requirements.
Your favorite snarky postdoc, Candid Engineer, shares her weeknight standby Shut Up and Eat Pasta. She clearly knows the way to my little Bean's heart, who loves both eggs and pasta. Put 'em together? That's a happy Bean. This recipe scores points for being easily adaptable to whatever veggies you have in the fridge... throw in some asparagus, some cherry tomatoes, heck even some peas, and you've got yourself a nice well-rounded dish.
ScientistMother shares her weeknight standby recipe, Broccoli Chicken Casserole. This dish can be assembled in about 20 minutes (probably even the night before) and certainly looks like it makes yummy leftovers.
As for myself, I shared my Everything But the Kitchen Sink Pasta recipe, and now my favorite Jamaican-Spiced Chicken Thighs recipe.
Female Engineering Professor also recommended the Cook's Illustrated 30-Minute Meals Cookbook. Based on my experience with Cook's Illustrated (i.e. that their recipes never fail), I'm going to have to pick this one up myself. I'll let you know how I like it.
Thanks to everyone who participated! I'll be trying these recipes out in the coming weeks! I'm always happy to add new recipes to my stockpile of favorites!
And in the future, I think I'll post more easy weeknight meals. It sounds like something we could all use for inspiration!
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Figure 1. Ingredients, lovingly displayed. All quantities are -ish.
Figure 3. Nothing says lovin' like onions cooked in bacon grease.
Figure 4. A steamy pot of goodness.
Figure 5. Tomatoes, bell pepper, spinach, beans... all add up to a well-rounded sauce. But you'd better believe I'm adding two kinds of cheese.
[The medical literature] shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls. A couple of studies will show fewer allergies, and then the next one will turn up no difference. Same with mother-infant bonding, IQ, leukemia, cholesterol, diabetes. Even where consensus is mounting, the meta studies—reviews of existing studies—consistently complain about biases, missing evidence, and other major flaws in study design. “The studies do not demonstrate a universal phenomenon, in which one method is superior to another in all instances.
The author goes on to discuss the fundamental problem inherent in most human studies: that in order to perform the study ethically, you can not randomize participants into breast-feeding and non-breastfeeding groups. And because of that, scientists are always chasing their tails, trying to control for factors which could confound the results (things like age of the mother, income level, number of siblings in the household). It's not surprising then that studies are often conflicting... some studies show that breastfeeding is beneficial in one area or another, other studies show no difference between breastfeeding and formula. The author notes:
The IQ studies run into the central problem of breast-feeding research: it is impossible to separate a mother’s decision to breast-feed—and everything that goes along with it—from the breast-feeding itself...
My decision to breastfeed had little to do with whether or not there was "proof" in the literature. My decision to breastfeed was based on the idea of breastmilk as a whole food, while formula is more of a synthetic food. I think of breastmilk as YEPD and formula as SC. I know my yeast grow a hell of a lot better on the rich, complex mixture of yeast extract and peptone than they do on synthetic amino acids and ammonium sulfate. I find the complexity of breastmilk reassuring... I mean there was a time when we didn't recognize that Iodine was an essential trace element. I really don't expect that we have identified all of the essential components of newborn nutrition that promote optimum growth and development.
That being said, I think that the benefits of breastfeeding are relatively small (when compared to the contributions of things like genetic makeup, family income, parent's education level, etc). And this is why observational studies like the ones the author discusses have such a hard time proving any significant benefit.
The author's main point, which she obscures with her rather bitter and unfriendly tone, is that the small benefits that breastfeeding may (and I would argue likely) provide don't justify the (sometimes militant) pro-breastfeeding culture. And I couldn't agree more. There has to be a balance between providing women with the cultural and practical support that promotes breastfeeding, and one which does not demonize women who, for any number of reasons choose not to breastfeed.
And, somewhat off topic:
Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision.
I actually found this sentence a little offensive. Just because this author finds breastfeeding miserable doesn't mean that everyone does, and I resent the way she presents breastfeeding as nothing but minuses. Yes, breastfeeding can be challenging, demanding, tiring, but it is also immensely rewarding. I wouldn't trade my time nursing Bean for anything.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
On top of the experiment from hell, we are also hosting our parenting group for dinner tonight, and tomorrow Husband’s mother arrives for a visit. And last but not least, my race is in 10 days, so I’m in the heaviest week of my training schedule. Phew.
Each night, after I get Bean fed, read and off to bed, I’ve been baking, cooking and scouring the house (with much help from Husband). I keep a pretty clean house in general, but whenever we have an out-of-town guest or host a dinner, I’m absolutely neurotic about getting the house clean. All the little things that you don’t clean every day (like, say, scouring the little grease pans on the stove) and all of the big cleaning chores (like, say, washing the curtains and bleaching the grout of the kitchen counters) are suddenly staring me in the face.
I have this very visceral memory that is always in the back of my mind whenever guests are coming over. One time, in grad school, I went to a Thursday night poker game at another students house. When I went to the bathroom, I was literally assaulted by the mounds of pubes covering the bathroom floor. It was kinda disgusting, just the sheer volume of pubes. So I perched rather gingerly and did my business.
I always have images of that bathroom in my head when guests are coming to my place. What mess have I become inured to that is screaming to my guests that I am actually a slob? And so I overcompensate. I clean like a deranged lunatic.
But, at least my house is spotless for once. That’ll last for about 2 days, I should think.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I personally cook 6-7 nights a week, and it's essentially all from scratch. I admit that I'm not making my own pasta or making my own butter (like some amazing mothers I know), but I'm not serving up hamburger helper either. I'm servin' up nutritious, homemade, well-balanced meals every night. But a girl needs more than just her standby recipes, and I need food that's hot and fast (like yours truly).
Your challenge, dear readers, is to decide on your favorite homemade, nutritious, and preferably toddler friendly weeknight meal. Leave a comment here on this post when your recipe is up, and I will post it as a carnival (along with my own submission) on Wednesday, April 1st.
Pictures highly encouraged. Especially pictures of your toddler slathered from head to toe in your submission.
All right, you have your marching orders. Now give me something hot and tasty. Werd.
ETA: Being a parent is not required for participation in this carnival, I simply encourage recipes for a busy weeknight. If you have your own blog, please post a link to your recipe in the comments. I'll compile the carnival for April 1st. If you don't have a blog, leave the recipe in the comments, and I will post it here on MOAS.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I can’t help but wonder if this will be the generation of lost post-docs. Husband is certainly worried about his job search this fall. A few years ago I would have said that he would be a shoe-in for a position somewhere, but in this economy no one is.
Will academia lose out on the scientists who are currently (or will soon be) out there in this toxic job market? Where will we all find jobs if academia isn’t hiring and biotech is laying people off left and right?
I feel like we’re all dressed up with no place to go.
Friday, March 6, 2009
1. Several months ago, you wrote that you were exploring alternative career options in science and had taken on some contract work (in science writing, I think?) Could you give us an update on how that's going?
In short, not that great. I take do a little bit of editing/writing contract work last year as a way to broaden my CV and explore some alternative career work, but I haven’t had much time to do any further exploration. Somehow between a postdoc, raising a toddler, and dealing with the legal fallout from our household troubles I haven’t had much time for extracurricular activities. Which is sad, but now that life is settling down a bit I might have a bit of a chance to get back to that in the coming year. And I’m open to suggestions!
2. What is the latest cutest thing that Bean is doing?
Um, Bean is awesome right now. She is BIG on pretend play which is so much fun. She crawls around roaring and pretending to be an ocelot. She is caring for her stuffed animals, feeding them and putting them to bed. She has recently been acting out the story line for Goodnight Gorilla, first freeing all of her animal magnets from the “zoo” (aka the refrigerator), then pretending she’s Zookeeper Bean and returning each of the animals to the “zoo”. She has started singing songs with a tune now, and she will initiate songs that she’s learned at school, teaching them to us. She tells us bits and pieces about her day at school, who she played with or what work she did. She wants to do everything “by self”. Whether it’s walking up the stairs or putting on her pants or clicking into her car seat, everything is by herself. And we’ve just had our first unprompted “I love you”s. Um, best episode ever.
3. If you'd never taken college biology, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I truly have no idea. In high school I planned to study literature. In fact, I was registered as a lit major until my junior year at Hippie U. But my freshman year I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist. Hippie U didn’t offer a physical therapy degree, so I started taking the premed classes instead. I ADORED my science classes, and excelled at them. After my sophomore year I was offered a summer research internship, and the rest is history.
So had I never taken college biology, I might be a librarian. I might be a physical therapist. Or I might be a pastry chef and own my own bakery (that’s my other secret second career). But lots of days I daydream about becoming a nurse. So yeah, I have no idea.
4. What is your favorite vacation?
I have only taken a handful of trips in my life that were to do something other than attend a wedding or see family. The most vacation-y vacation I’ve ever taken was when Husband and I took our honeymoon in Spain for 10 days. It was a-freakin-mazing. It was hot and lovely and we wandered around visiting lovely old mosques and walking on cobblestone streets and hiking and visiting olive farms and just generally doing what we wanted when we wanted. It was fantastic.
My requirements for my next vacation: someplace warm and sunny where I can lay around and get tan and have a beer at 2:00 in the afternoon because I feel like it. Doesn’t that sound just lovely? (In case you’re wondering, they’re predicting more snow to hit Dissertation City this weekend. Sigh.)
5. Would you ever consider relocating to the Midwest?
I consider it a very likely possibility. Husband is planning to submit one paper in the next couple of weeks and another paper in a couple of months. And then this fall he’ll (finally) be applying for tenure track positions. So chances are pretty good that we’re relocating, and furthermore that we’ll have little say on where we’re relocating to. Sometimes it breaks my heart because I miss my family in CA so much, but I try to look at the positives. We’ll get to explore a new place, hopefully live someplace more affordable than either California or Dissertation City, and hopefully settle in for the long haul. So I’m looking forward to the move, wherever we land.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The briefest of brief updates: I’m doing fine, great actually. My project kinda has me frustrated right now, but I’m through the “is this ever going to work?” phase and into the “I will clone this motherf***er if I have to ligate the phosphate backbone myself” phase. That’s usually more productive.
Husband has been burning the midnight oil. We have an incubator set up in our dining room and a microscope on the desk in the bedroom so that he can make it home for family dinner and then get back to work once Bean is off to sleep. One of my dear friends mocked us deservedly for our home lab setup, but one of my friends used to bring her western blotting supplies home with her at night, so surely a microscope can’t be that bizarre.
My training is going fairly well. I’m logging about 35 miles a week right now, and several of those runs are quite hilly. But I haven’t been keeping as strong a training pace as I’d like because my shin splints are back and I’m trying to avoid a full-blown injury. I’ve come to accept that I may not finish this race under 2 hours, and I’m only mildly annoyed by that. I figure if I can just make it to race day and complete it without injury, I’ll have done pretty well. Although I’m secretly hoping for some race day adrenaline that pushes me to finish in 1:59:00. But we’ll see.
Bean is, indeed, potty training right now. She’s using the potty around 4 times a day right now, to much praise from her doting parents, but I’m hard pressed to see how we will go from potty as novelty to full-time potty use. I have to do a bit more reading I guess.
And this week I officially weaned the Bean. She’s done pretty well with the transition. She’s still asking to nurse at our usual times, but doesn’t seem too upset at my explanation that the “milk is all gone.” I, on the other hand, have been in terrible pain all week and hope that my body gets the message soon that there will be no more nursing.
In my next post, I will (finally) respond to the Bean-mom’s interview meme. But for now, there’s a 0.8% gel with my name all over it.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
But damn. It feels good to have a president who shares my values again.
Can I get an Amen?
Friday, January 16, 2009
But the thing that really has me down this week was a more long-term stressor. Husband and I want to have a second child, and I’ve always been biased towards trying to space the children fairly close together. I was hoping for 2 years between babies, but with Husband’s job search happening a year later than we had hoped, we figured three years apart would be the most practical. Which would mean trying to get knocked up sometime this summer.
As we try to figure out where the hell we’re going to get the money for a second child, I tried looking into what the maternity leave policy would be now that I’m being paid by a private fellowship instead of off my boss’ grant. I couldn’t find any information on family leave in my Fellow’s Handbook, so I contacted the American Cancer Society directly. The response shocked me.
No paid parental leave. As in 0.00 days of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Instead they offer to put the grant on hold until I return to the lab and extend the grant termination date.
I was really taken aback by their response. In 2008, the NIH extended their parental leave benefits from 30 paid days to 60 paid days of leave. Damon Runyon offers their fellows 12 weeks of paid leave. So I was really really surprised by the ACS policy of no paid leave.
It’s really frustrating. As a postdoc, you don’t accrue vacation days or sick leave or personal holidays. Postdocs are often in a weird unclassified vortex of suck. We’re not employees, we’re volunteers… who happen to have bosses and get a paycheck. We sometimes qualify for benefits. Sometimes not.
I know that I’m lucky to have a paycheck and health insurance and some stability in my employment. But I’m getting old here, people, and it’s frustrating to feel like I still don’t have a “real” job. Instead I’m still stuck in the confusing world of not-quite-an-employee. It makes me feel like I’m still a grad school.
I’ve contacted one of the officers of the Postdoc Association here at the University to see if I have other options, and I’m waiting to hear back. But I’m frustrated and grumpy.
I’ve also started reading “Nickeled and Dimed” to remind myself just how lucky I am.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
It is 6:30 in the morning. I am a pretty polite person in general, but you should be able to tell from my body language that it is too early in the morning to engage me in a conversation about the weather, the bus system, or about pretty much anything at all. Until I get in a cup of coffee and my run, you are dead to me.
To the driver who tried to run me over this morning:
Look left AND right before turning right on red.
See you in hell,
To the forces of nature:
Thank you. After weeks of temperatures below freezing, 40 degrees feels downright tropical.
To the Bean:
Please, please, please... go back to sleeping through the night. Mommy is so tired. So tired.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The change in funding source shouldn’t bring dramatic changes to ones income, but it always does. The most obvious example is going onto a private fellowship. These often pay slightly above NIH scale, and can provide a little bump to your paycheck. But there are much trickier ways in which the funding source can affect your net pay.
For example, the last two years Husband was on a NIH training grant. For some reason, getting paid on a training grant (at least at Husband’s institution) isn’t treated like regular income. Taxes, Social Security, Medicare weren’t taken out of his paycheck. But it’s still taxable income. So Husband dutifully paid his estimated taxes each year, but got to pocket money that might otherwise have been taken out for SS and Medicare.
Moving onto his boss’ grant, those things will now be taken out of his paycheck, to the tune of something like 8% of his income. That’s a huge net loss for us. A couple hundred dollars a month.
The bright side, we thought, was that Husband would finally be allowed to participate in the institution’s retirement plan (with associated fund matching). So yesterday Husband marched in to the benefits office to sign himself up.
No dice they told him. He is considered a new employee and won’t qualify to participate in the retirement plan until he had been at the institution for a full year.
Um, he’s been there for almost 6 years.
Crap like this happens all the time and it’s complete bullsh*t. I don’t understand the principle of penalizing your grad students and postdocs for successfully acquiring their own funding. At both of our institutions your position is classified according to who’s paying you, and it changes the number and types of benefits that you qualify for.
No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.