• DC1 has always been exactly average height for hir age/non-skipped grade.  DC2 has always been a bit tall for hir exact age, which put hir as average or a little above average for hir grade (because zie has a late summer birthday), but over the summer this year, zie has gotten HUGE.  Zie is towering over kids in first grade with early Fall birthdays.  Zie isn’t the tallest, but zie is close.
  • Also this summer DC2 decided to skip over things like Magic Treehouse or Cam Jansen or the A to Z mysteries and go straight from books with lots of pictures and badly behaved main characters (Bad Kitty, Franny K. Stein, etc.) to Harry Potter.  We’re not quite sure how that happened.  Or where to go from here.  Zie also loves Ramona books.  Basically it seems like zie completely skipped things at 2nd-4th grade reading and interest level other than a brief flirtation with Junie B. Jones.
  • Did I mention that DC2 is absolutely brilliant in math?  Zie has this amazing intuitive understanding of the number system that makes my heart happy whenever zie explains connections zie has figured out to me.
  • We got the learning outcomes for first grade.  They want kids to end at level “J” which is where DC2 ended Kindergarten before this big reading advancement this summer.  And math looks like another completely uninspiring year.  If zie was better at Spanish this would have been a very good year to skip.  But hir teachers seem nice, and oddly they both already knew DC2’s name at back to school night (not true of all of the kids), so maybe they’ve been warned.  They’ve also re-sorted the GT kids across the two classes — I think maybe by gender.  Sadly DC2’s best friend is in the other dual-language class (which was also true last year– they hang out in the after school program), but happily zie isn’t stuck with the one GT kid who actively doesn’t like hir, and there’s not just the one.  (Last year there were 2 in DC2’s class and 4 in the other class.  This year it seems to be 3/3, girls in one class, boys in the other.) [update!  The GT kid DC2 was paired with last year didn’t show up, so they put *all* the GT kids in DC2’s class the first day of class.  DC2 is thrilled.]
  • DC1 has gotten into geometry proofs.  It was hard starting at first– I’d forgotten how frustrating it always is to start a new proof-based subject not knowing what you’re allowed and not allowed to assume.  (I remember back in Number Theory in high school where we had to prove addition (using definitions for distance, IIRC) before we could assume it!  That was super frustrating!  And then in Real Analysis in college we proved addition in a completely different way (set theory, I think?), but that was more in the middle of the semester and less frustrating.  Math is so amazing with the way it all just works.  Well, except for paradoxes and unprovable things but those are really cool too.)  And this is hir first foray into proof-based anything so zie hadn’t had the experience of being initially frustrated an then getting used to the new rules.
  • There’s a new teacher for geometry at the middle-school, coming over from high school.  She sent a very nice email talking about how she’s not really sure how to go about teaching the class in terms of homework and lecture vs. classwork and providing the schedule for the class.  There’s about a 6 week unit on proofs, but the rest is non-proof stuff, including a unit on the end on construction, so I feel vindicated in going through proofs with DC1 this summer.  Plus I had forgotten that the book I’m using has a lot more intro-to-proof stuff that will be useful in later classes that isn’t necessarily there for geometric purposes (indirect proofs, paragraph proofs, etc.)
  • After being obnoxious about two column proofs and complaining that paragraph proofs were somehow better, DC1 has converted into a two column proof evangelist.  They take less writing.
  • DC1’s feet are the same size as mine now.  Hands are still smaller though.
  • My kids are seriously into seaweed snacks.  I don’t understand it at all– I couldn’t handle the taste of dried seaweed until late college, and I still prefer more mild seaweed on my sushi.  (Seaweed salad, otoh, is delicious and has always been.  But that’s a different thing.)

Humblebrag: My monthly retirement savings is equal to my monthly take-home

That’s right, folks, with my retirement accounts maxed out, I am saving 50% of my net income (after taxes, health insurance, parking etc.)

Of course, this would be a lot more impressive if we weren’t spending the bulk of DH’s monthly income… sure, we’re maxing out his retirement too but he’s only got the one account and it doesn’t have the best match in the world.  There was  time when we were saving a much larger percent of our joint income, but now we make more and spend a lot more.

Also mind-blowing:  If I made more money, then I would be taking home more than I could save for retirement.  Because retirement is maxed out.  (I wonder if this means I should turn it all to Roth instead of Traditional so I can get those last drippings of retirement savings even if it means my taxes this year go up… a difficult decision problem.)

But still, when I got my first paycheck stub for the year (I *heart* getting paid!) I thought that was a pretty neat thing– once you include the employer match, I’m putting away almost exactly what is going into my savings account.

I love money so much.  It provides so much security.  So much opportunity and possibility.  You can spend it too, but my favorite thing about it is that I no longer have to worry so much about most things.  If DH loses his job or I get sick of mine, we’ll be fine, at least for a while.  We can’t retire and continue to live the life to which we’ve become accustomed, but we could take a chance that required us to stop saving for retirement for a while.  We still can’t buy a house in Paradise, but we could rent one, at least for a while.

This message brought to you by the first paycheck of the school year (and the first full paycheck in over a year!).  Being paid is so much more awesome than not being paid!

Do you like getting paid?  Do you have any humble-brags about money you’d like to share?

Enjoying being the smallest fish in the big pond

Since graduate school I have been on the fringes of fame.  Some famous people you’ve probably heard of can pick me out of a crowd if asked.  Even more would say my face looks familiar.  A few may be familiar with some of my work.

I’m at an R1 that has been rising in the ranks.  We hire people who are cooler than I am, which is a good position to be in, and they’re happy to make the move (getting offered an extremely high salary helps).

I have an amazing leave position but my office is definitely the after thought… but I have an office and not a cubicle.

I’m on the fringes.

Right when I graduated it bothered me that I was in the bottom half of my class.  Many people thought my placement was disappointing.  Many people thought less of me after asking where I was going (an R1, but not a top 15 school) or what my teaching load was (average, rather than low) or what my salary was (high but not phenomenal).  There’s nothing quite like being asked those questions and then having the questioner say, “Oh” and turn to talk with a more important person.  I remember sitting at a post-conference dinner with a guy I knew from grad school a year after we’d gotten jobs who hadn’t placed highly (but was still higher placed than me!) bemoaning how he wanted to be one of them but he wasn’t, he was just on the fringe, and he’d always be on the fringe.  And I felt exactly the same way.

Reputation means a lot in economics.  We, possibly more than other fields, use signals to indicate quality rather than letting work speak for itself.  Most of our journals are single, not double-blind.  People at top programs get more benefit of the doubt.  They say it doesn’t happen, that it’s just that quality is higher when you’re a top person surrounded by top quality colleagues and RAs, but I catch myself doing it and I’m aware that I do it (so I’m able to try to counter-act my initial feelings).  Many people don’t have any idea they do it, and, as we know, implicit bias leads to bias unless actively counter-acted.  So it’s harder for someone in my situation to get the benefit of the doubt with publications, especially given a female name.  I’m not automatically accepted to conferences.  I can’t just coast on my reputation or potential.  I actually have to produce.  As one of my friends says, I have to work twice as hard to get half as far.

But I still sometimes get accepted.  I still sometimes get invited.  I get to hang out from time to time with truly amazing people who are doing great work.  Having my university’s star rise means that some of that glory is reflected back onto me.  By having amazing colleagues (who help me do amazing work), it no longer seems like my placement was disappointing.  My teaching load is still average and my salary is no longer “high” (for an economist– it’s still pretty high) but I’m not yet willing to try for an outside offer to counteract years without raises.

And I no longer feel like I’m a disappointment or that there’s anything wrong with being on the fringes.  Yes, life would be a lot easier with more benefit of the doubt and better RAs and more funding and on and on and on.  But I have room to grow.  And just being in the same building as superstars is pretty amazing.  (And, a small part of me notes that many of the stars in my graduate class are no longer even in academia, while several people who were afterthoughts to their advisers have moved up to be professors at top schools after extremely important post-dissertation publications.)

It’s much easier now for me to think of others’ cvs as goals to aim for (and being honest, without an army of highly qualified RAs and a lower teaching load, there’s no way my cv will match my counterparts’ at top schools, but I can still try to finally get a top general interest paper) rather than evidence of my own inadequacy.  People are treating me better and I’m more confident.  I do good work.  And this year I’m spending a lot of time trying to sell it.  And, tiring though that is, and as much as it takes me away from you know, actually doing work, it’s kind of fun.

I like being on the fringes.

Do you prefer being on top or bottom or somewhere in between? Does the situation make a difference?