a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Entries in rant (15)

    Thursday
    Nov062014

    Let's Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We? (Part 2)

    When last I wrote about figuring out how to get Dawdler Preschooler into a preschool, as in a "real" preschool, not the "preschool" room at her daycare, which is where she currently is, we were practically driven to drink by demystifying all the horribly disorganized information provided by the district. We have finally made a *little* progress, so an update. Spoiler: it's still nearly impossible to get through the red tape of getting information.

    Whenever we call to ask a question about something that's unclear from the crazy disorganized and inconsistent information that is scattered across the district website, individual school websites, and the state department of education website, we get asked "Have you checked the website?"UGH.

    We have narrowed it down to 3 preschools that have certified early childhood education teachers AND an after-school program. Y'know, for those of us who don't consider 7:40-11:40 a HALF DAY and have to keep working past 11:40. But when we try to schedule tours of each, we were told "Since the curriculum is the same at every district preschool, you have to choose one to tour." Uh, so entirely dismissing the critical point that the individual teachers and their levels of experience and commitment making all the difference in the world? Eh, any teacher will do as long as they follow the provided curriculum and lesson plans, I guess. (Sarcasm, in case that's not crystal clear).

    Even better though: one of those 3 options gives families a choice between a "traditional" preschool and a Montessori environment. So, maybe we should schedule our one and only tour at that one? "Okay, that's fine. You'll schedule your preschool tour with us, and then let me give you the number of this ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT to schedule a SEPARATE TOUR of the Montessori class environment." Oh, lovely. Two different people to call. And they can't coordinate tours on the same day because WHY WOULD YOU?

    But wait. So once we schedule our SEPARATE tours of the preschool and Montessori at the same school and want to talk with and observe the after- or before-school care (depending on if she goes to morning or afternoon preschool), that is scheduled, can you guess? By a third, entirely distinct department, here let me give you the number to schedule a tour with OMG, just STOP.

    We'll just save ourselves a crap load of time and headache and logistical nightmares and decide here and now to unschool? Let's just roll with that. I might as well put all this time & energy of tracking district contacts down and returning messages and waiting on people to schedule tours into planning out her K-12 curriculum.

    Kidding!

    Sort of.

     

    Wednesday
    Jun182014

    Vacation recap

    Yesterday was my last day of vacation staycation off. I just don't know what to call it. It's probably no secret that a vacation with two kids 3 and under is hardly restful, so while calling it a vacation is wrong, even the "-cation" part of staycation just rubs me the wrong way. Here are some handy reminders that I may need to review when planning our next trip to ensure sanity next time around:

    • If at all possible, avoid making the first day of your time off a 19 hour day of packing, travel with the two kids 3 & under, trying to coax the two kids to sleep in unfamiliar beds and surroundings, and picking up all members of the party.
    • When hiking, make sure none of the children goes too far ahead, potentially selecting the wrong trailhead. You know, that one that goes 600 miles to the Mexican border? Avoid that happening.
    • Keep in mind that all sightseeing road trips are for everyone else. You will be spending every stop feeding a child, calming a child, or helping a child use the bathroom.
    • But fear not! You will have plenty of time to sightsee blue skies and trees from inside while you man your station at the kitchen sink, where you will be stranded doing dishes for 9 people, 4 of whom graze throughout the day, requiring an endless supply of clean dishes.
    • Be sure and eat out as much as possible at restaurants you've been dying to try. Because restaurants are tons of fun with kids 3 & under, am I right?! You may not get to eat the food you ordered your Better Half selects for you (because you're not given the chance to read a menu nor are you around when orders are taken) until hours later but you'll be sure to enjoy the ambiance of the potties, on account of the parade of children who decide one after another, but never simultaneously, that a trip to the potty is necessary.
    • Bring a bottomless supply of coffee because you will get no naps. None.
    • And/Or bring benadryl for the children.
    • And/Or BYOB. So you can doctor up your coffee so you can prevent yourself from becoming a total witch to your family. You won't be going anywhere most days anyway.
    • The day your time off ends, you will get to go to bed at 6:00 p.m., though and sleep a glorious 11 hours. And it will not be enough.
    Thursday
    Dec052013

    Unfiltered Thoughts: The Academic Job Market

    I can't stop thinking about an article I read a couple days ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "Most History Ph.D.'s Have Jobs"* Maybe it's just because I stand on the sidelines of My Better Half™'s (totally unsuccessful) job search (in another discipline) AND scores of close friends who *are* Ph.D.s in history looking for work unsucessfully, but the seemingly upbeat tone of the article strikes me as completely disassociative with what's actually going on in the academic job market.

    On the face of it, maybe this is good news, but even if that's true, that belies part of the very problem: that the academic job market is so sh*tty as to merit a story that most people in a particular discipline have jobs. Note: not careers, not in their fields, not the highly desirable end goal that most History Ph.D.s have in mind, namely a tenure-track position in a college or university, just jobs. While there are corollaries outside academia that would merit such an article ("Most Journalists Have Jobs" immediately comes to mind), would we take note, for instance, at "Most Accountants Have Jobs" or "Most Dentists Have Jobs"?

    But getting beyond the headline itself, as I read the article, I came across several points that were troubling. The article is about a study conducted by the American Historical Association that tracked the jobs of 2500 History Ph.D.s. One of the first points made is: "A Ph.D. in history can be more than just a gateway to a faculty appointment. Among the positions held by the group studied are: archivist, foreign-service officer, lawyer, nonprofit analyst, pastor, and schoolteacher." So *after* achieving a Ph.D., many folks have had to go get additional credentials to gain employment (see: lawyer, pastor, schoolteacher) and we're supposed to consider this good news?! They even cite the lead researcher for the study as saying "People are using their degrees" in these other careers. This wouldn't be noteworthy, except that it has become so bad for folks in the humanities and social sciences that they are now in a position as to have to justify that such degrees actually get used. People who dedicate years of their lives diving into historical sources, analyzing, writing, and editing their narratives in order to graduate didn't spend that much time accruing useless skills and aren't going to toss aside their many skills and abilities that they gained in honing their craft.

    Perhaps the most problematic aspect of the AHA study is that the latest data they have on any of these History Ph.D.s is 2009, which might not seem like all that long ago, but consider even this:

    "Of the cohort who earned their Ph.D.'s from 1998 to 2001, about 14 percent worked in faculty jobs off the tenure track. That number grew to 25.6 percent among those who earned a Ph.D. between 2006 and 2009, a time period that included the after-effects of the recession."

    I would hazard a reasonably well informed guess that since 2009, things have gotten a lot worse for those on the academic market as the recession's effects lag, especially, though by no means exclusively, in the humanities. Humanities degrees don't tie directly into a career or line of work like nursing or business for example, so humanities folks find themselves in a defensive position lately. (Just google "humanities crisis," if you're curious). The study's data show that 17.8 percent have landed a "non tenure-track faculty position" at either a 4 or 2 year institution. That's pretty decent, actually (and even that 17.8% is decent should be telling). But what percentage of those 17.8% are adjunct-only? Can we at least get an over/under? While many colleges and universities have in recent years started offering non-tenure track full-time benefits eligible faculty positions, that doesn't mean those positions are any more numerous than traditional tenure-track faculty jobs. I would bet (from personal experience) that even such "staff" positions have become highly coveted and unbelievably competitive, given the drawdown in the number of tenure-track faculty openings.

    Finally, the article quotes from a former director of the American Historical Association, "Hopefully, the AHA can find out more about what choices people made that led them to take the jobs that they did." I'll give the benefit of the doubt here and presume that 'choice' was a poor, er, choice of words. Because, yes, people have agency to make choices about their lives, but I'm not sure 'choice' is an accurate description of what's happening here. Unless you're really characterizing the 'choice' between eking out an existence as an adjunct making a pittance per class with even more restrictions on income possibilities now due to the Affordable Care Act and the alternative: choosing a line of work instead that provides at least a reasonable amount of job security and/or benefits and/or income in order to pay bills. And here I just mean housing, transportation, food - I'm not even taking into consideration astronomical student loans and credit card debt incurred in pursuit of a History (or any other) Ph.D.

    People are being forced into making the choices they do as a result of an imbalanced labor market. Unless you have an unbelievably patient partner and/or enormous cash reserves and/or a trust fund, you can't really survive on an adjunct's pay, where you may toil for years on end waiting in the wings for even the chance to compete for a teaching opening, whether that's tenure-track or not. Case in point: My Better Half™ makes about $1500 a class. If we assume that both of his assigned classes make enrollment each semester (because now he's limited to being offered only 2 classes per semester so they don't have to provide him health benefits, and he's not able to get any classes during summer sessions as those go only to full-time tenured faculty at his community college), he's bringing in a maximum of $6000 a year as an adjunct. A year. And that's zero benefits, zero job security, zero guarantees, zero job growth over time. Versus a choice to leave academia behind to make even a reasonable living (because it's not like he can leverage his Ph.D. to make giant piles of cash working in his particular industry) that may be indirectly tied to his educational training, but which provides benefits, more predictability, less work-life imbalance, and the potential for growth & promotion over time in order to pay daycare, the mortgage, credit card bills, and even go out to eat once in a blue moon. Is it really a choice anymore? For the vast majority, I suspect the answer is no.

    *The article is behind a paywall, so if you can't access it, I guess that means that you may be one of the scores of history Ph.D.'s who has not landed a job and therefore has no access to a university's library journal subscriptions. Ugh. Also, while the article title lacks an exclamation point at the end, you might as well mentally insert that yourself, because that's how the article reads, although, again, that may be becuase I'm so cynical about the job market & just reading the article through that filter.

    Thursday
    Nov082012

    So angry I could...

    The parenting issue that has given me the most grief so far is that my precocious, sweet, active little girl is.

    A biter.

    There. I said it. I know, I know, it's normal, age appropriate. Oh for f*ckssake. I just got another incident report from daycare while I was typing that.

    At first I thought "not my daughter! How could this be?!?" She doesn't bite at home, and, being the first born, doesn't have anyone *to* bite anyway. She is not aggressive, she is highly verbal & communicative, and at home, when she asks for something she can't have, she tends to work out her anger & frustration through fist-pounding tantrums & the accompanying wailing.

    So it was totally mystifying to us to hear that she's been biting. Repeatedly. So much that I've had to leave work to retrieve her from daycare because she's been released. Repeatedly. Like 2-3 times a week.

    It's usually the same. Right before a nap (read: tired), wanting a toy, she lunges out & Mike Tyson's someone. Okay. It's not thaaaaat bad (I hope) but still.

    At first, I would get to daycare all concerned - is the other child ok?? I'm SO sorry (and embarassed). They would say she's fine, the other child is fine, and you don't need to apologize. When it kept happening, I turned to the trusty interwebz and found it's totally normal, not to worry. When we saw the pediatrician for her 15 month checkup she told us the same thing. Still, it kept happening. I wasn't worried about it as a behavior anymore, just what it was doing to my good standing at work to be ducking out all the time. I can't overemphasize how big of a pain in the ass this is. For weeks now, I've had to tell my boss 'so sorry!! Gotta get her. Again.' I've missed more work than I am capable of calculating.

    As the weeks wore on, daycare no longer would say "no need to apologize!" It turned into more of an exasperated we need *you* to take steps to address this okay? attitude.

    What am I to do? I have said to my friends & family, why should I have to apologize to daycare for completely normal, age-appropriate behavior?! I'm not here when it happens. I'm not the one watching her at those moments. I'm not going to preemptively drug my kid with Tylenol because 'maybe she's teething?' Yeah. Right. Because pretending teething is the cause is going to help correct a behavioral issue. I understand that there are expectations on how she is to behave. And there are rules she must follow. And that you need to be able to protect the kids here from being hurt.

    But I am paying you, daycare, to meet your responsibilities too. To take care of her, which doesn't just mean keeping her from eating glass & running into traffic. It means helping her to understand boundaries, and learning what is expected of her. Is she just supposed to automatically know? It means teaching her what she can do *instead* of biting. Y'know, like "NO biting. Let's try 'F*CK OFF YOU DILLWEED! Or can you say 'NUT UP OR SHUT UP YOU SISSY ASS?'" It also means getting to know her, taking the time to be patient with her most exasperating toddler behaviors, and, knowing that her toddler behavior includes biting, so knowing that it's important that you take the time to keep a close eye on her when she is tired & frustrated so that you can proactively intervene and prevent the bad behavior. Look, I know there's 8 other kids. But you claim that part of the problem is that her behavior is a danger to those 8 other kids, so how about investing that little bit of extra attention her way at those times?

    I've tried to be patient with daycare. I've tried to be both non-apologetic and empathetic towards the perspective of the other kids' parents. In fact, just yesterday my friend's Facebook status was all about how upset she was that her daughter had been hurt by another child at daycare, and I was just far too ashamed to weigh in amidst the "WHAT THE F*CK? Bullies CANNOT be tolerated" bullsh*t. At this age, we aren't talking about "bullies." We're talking about children who are too young to be able to communicate effectively, who don't yet know how to share, and who are headstrong and bent on getting their way, come hell or high water.

    But today was the bombshell that "I'm just going to be honest. Lots of parents are very upset..." So here's where we got handed the bottom line: if she doesn't stop biting in 2 weeks, she's getting kicked out. I still am reeling.

    How is this even? WHAT THE F*CK?! Other parents are upset? OTHERS? Newsflash to them: cause it's a total joyride to feel like you are totally trying work's last reserves of patience to be having to leave all the time with no notice to meet the 30-minute pickup deadline. It's not at all frustrating to feel like I've little to no control over my otherwise decently-behaved toddler who never exhibits this behavior at home. And it's a pride-filled moment to hear that my daughter is USING HER INCISORS TO ATTACK OTHERS like some chimp chewing off some lady's face. What happened to an understanding that kids-will-be-kids and part of being a toddler amidst other toddlers means that they will sometimes fall down, get scuffed up a bit, get dirty, and, yes, get hit and bitten and scratched. Lest you think the shoe is always on the other foot, my daughter has been hit and bitten herself, and have I gotten all up in daycare's sh*t about how they failed to protect her? No. And parents? I'm sure you would agree that routine is critically important to your toddler, right? You may have noticed that inconsistencies and deviations from routine are upsetting and difficult for them to manage. Inconsistencies like, oh I don't know, how different teachers are there on different days and at different times, so maybe, just maybe it's within the realm of possibility that some teachers are better able to monitor and prevent my daughter's toothsome attacks than others? Yet I'm the one facing telling my boss tomorrow that perhaps I may need to take just a few vacation hours unexpectedly in the coming weeks - like, I dunno, ALL OF THEM? -  until I can make alternate arrangements for my toddler's care?

    I'm so angry I could bite someone.

    Monday
    Mar262012

    blech. sick.

    My life since last Thursday can be summed up as: alternating between tylenol and sudafed every 4-6 hours. I feel awful. I think it's safe to say that I have been more sick since Baby was born than any other time in my life. Even though I managed to get a few catnaps this weekend and barely did anything besides lay around moaning, I stil felt straight up awful this morning. But I decided to go to work anyway because I have no sick time anyway and thought I could at least tough it through the morning with more sudafed and tylenol, like I did last week.

    So I was sitting around literally counting the moments until I could bail, feeling just shitty, when my boss asked if I could go to the training workshop today in her stead. Why? "I feel so sleepy! My cats kept me up ALL night!"

    I'm sorry. What?

    Your kitty cats? You mean the ones that require constant vigilant supervision, feeding, bathing, entertaining, diapering, and soothing? Oh, wait, no. That would be my nine month old. That I took care of all weekend with, I'm quite certain, the flu. So pardon me if I'm out of give-a-shits.