Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Job Hunt - Mississippi State Interview

Chris flew out on a $1200 flight to Starkville, Mississippi at 6 in the morning on a Sunday.  Three airports, one family reunion and over 12 hours later, he arrives in the little university town.  His first layover was in Minneapolis and while he had waited at the airport in Edmonton he had emailed his cousin, Steve who lives in Minneapolis, to let him know he'd be thinking of him while he was there.  Turns out Steve was willing to drive to the airport (or get driven to the airport because of a bad sprain) to chat with Chris! It was great for them to see each other and catch up for an hour.

Chris was shown first had the meaning of the phrase, "Southern hospitality" for the short 3 days of his visit.  They picked him up from the airport and took him out to breakfast, lunch and dinner all of the days.  The interviews were casual and usually included something else like a meal or a tour of something.  Chris felt like he could be excited and unapologetic about his research since Mississippi State didn't have any issues with Poker/Billiards.

Having never really heard much about Mississippi State before, Chris was impressed with them.  Instead of being a dinky little college in a backwater town in the middle of nowhere (sorry for the horribly uneducated stereotypes) he found them to be a real, large, updated, serious university in a pleasant, small town in the middle of nowhere.  They have a High Performance Computing Center that gets a new supercomputer every 3 years to remain in the top tier of academic computing centers.

Chris gave a job talk and during various hours met with professors, phd students, deans and a local realtor who drove him around the town.  He felt like he had gotten along well with everyone and was able to be himself.  He really liked not being sick.  Chris took the advice of Elder Gavarret and made sure to ask lots of questions himself. Mostly about the department and the area. The only question he had left by the end of his visit was about the LDS community there. The head of the search committee must have been inspired because he told Chris that he thought Chris would like a chance to speak with someone from the Mormon church and changed the schedule last minute to have one of the department's teachers, an LDS woman, take Chris to the airport.  She was kind and friendly and filled Chris in on Starkville's branch.

Super short, he was leaving for the airport less than 48 hours after he arrived.  His general impression was positive like, "We've never wanted or even thought about living here before but hey, we could do it and probably love it."

We knew Mississippi State was wanting to move fast with an offer and not get caught like they did last year without a new hire because of timing issues. But while we waited to hear from them we worried and worried about our future because we had nothing else turning up and we already knew BYU was hiring someone else. The "valuable feedback" we got from BYU didn't come till after the MS State interview and we worried that since we didn't change anything from one interview to the next, and since MS State flew out more candidates we weren't likely to have succeeded there either.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Family Day

Albertans needed a holiday in February so they created Family Day.  They have all kinds of winter carnivals and festivals around this time of year too. One of our favorite parks held free activities all weekend long ending on Monday, Family Day.  We saw ice sculptures, and a Teepee, with bannock available to roast over open fires, a big ice slide, horse drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, dog sledding, free rentals for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skate races and face painting!

It was fun! But, you guessed it, cold. There was a wind that just nipped the nose and after a couple of hours Gwen was crying, more than ready to go home. We didn't bring our sled but instead had the backpack for Gwen and after I almost slipped on the ice while wearing it I realized why we didn't see anybody else wearing their kids on their backs.  Its too dangerous. Everyone enjoyed cross country skiing, especially me! I really really really want to rent them sometime and go someplace far removed and pull Gwen behind us on the awesome sled Chris made just before Christmas pictured below:

The boys loved getting their faces painted. They even slept so carefully on towels so they wouldn't wreck it over night. Alec had to go to school the next day and I emailed his teacher to see how she would feel about him sporting a pirate face at school. To my surprise, she didn't mind! So the kids enjoyed their masks for two whole days! (It was quite hard to get all the way off and Alec's face had a slight rash afterwards...)

Scary face paint melting faces!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A child's world

Alec and Charlie are on a pirate ship and it's pouring down rain. Gwen is vacuuming up the bad guys before she whips them with her blanket. Next on their agenda is to save me by forcing my head under their umbrellas.

Now they are riding spear horsies

Friday, February 22, 2013

Job Hunt - BYU Interview

Chris' post-doc position here ends this summer and so we've been on the job hunt.  It actually started back in October.  Chris found a few websites that had academic job listings across the US and Canada.  Also, BYU sent an email out to alumni advertising an open position for the next year and invited people to send them names for candidates   A couple of friends and brothers put forth Chris' name and we had contacted them ourselves saying we would like to apply for the job and attached all of Chris' job search stuff: a CV, letter of intent, research statement, etc... At the end of October, Chris got a random call from a guy at BYU just wanting to chat with Chris for a bit.  Turns out that was sort of a phone interview and in November (actually the day we were in the ER all day with our miscarriage) BYU called to tell Chris that out of the 100+ applications they got, they've picked 4 or 5 candidates to come interview and Chris was one of them!  It was such great news since BYU was pretty much our dream job. It was a nice mix of research and teaching, and a serious but not 60hr week serious institution where Chris could do exciting research and share his testimony of the Gospel, AND we could live near a lot of family.

The date for the interview was set for late January and spanned half of a week. We made a family trip out of it since I can never pass up a chance to see family. It was fast and busy and sorta stressful but I'm so glad we  all went.

The interview started on Wednesday afternoon with an General Authority interview up at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake. Chris' spouse was requested to accompany him if she was in town too, so... I got to go! This was really a highlight for me.  It was an amazing experience to be in the Church Office building, meet Elder Eduardo Gavarret, and see the kind of people that worked there.  My belief that this LDS Church is actually Christ's true restored church was strengthened. That building is a special place, full of good people. We ended up with a flat tire and still needed to be back in Provo for another interview. Some very nice and helpful parking garage cleaners in the underground parking at Temple Square saw our predicament and insisted on changing the tire for us since we were 'in our nice clothes' and they were 'in their work clothes.' They were some of the most respectful, polite, soft spoken, laid back, 'real' people I've ever met.

From Wednesday night thru Friday late afternoon Chris had meetings and interviews and dinners/lunches all the days. He gave a colloquium talk on Thursday and Dixie and James, myself, and Jared, Jordan, Tiff, Todd, Sarah, Bryce, Leland, (and two other HS friends I can't recall their names) and a RM from our Stanford ward all were able to attend his talk. So fun to hear him speak. He did a really good job and got a lot of compliments from BYU professors about his teaching/explaining skills and technically deep subject.  That night I was invited to join Chris and two other professors and their wives for dinner. We went to the Bombay house at our request and had a very nice evening full of laughter, jokes and general getting-to-know-you-ness.  I felt we had made a good impression overall and Chris felt like he was able to really be himself during everything.

Throughout ALLLL of this, starting on Wednesday, Chris was sick. Like fever, chills, constant nose blowing sick. Poor guy. He had to suck it up and wake up early and talk all day at interviews, and then stay up and talk all night to us telling about his interviews. By Friday his voice was shot and we were all exhausted and ready to drive home the next day.

No regrets. We gave it our best shot, felt a lot of positive vibes and yet still couldn't even bring ourselves to look into houses/neighborhoods even once since it was BY NO MEANS a sure thing. One phrase that one of the professors Chris spoke with kept us humble and unsure.  He said that because all the candidates were so good "we could spin a spinner and be happy with the choice."

While we waited to hear back (people said it could be 3 months but the department head said he would try to tell us in 4 weeks) we would CONSTANTLY think about it. We looked up and watched some of the other candidate colloquium talks, Chris checked the website every day just in case it posted something, we'd go over our thoughts and feelings on how it went and decide, again and again, that we just didn't know.

In the meantime we were getting excited for Chris to fly out for his next interview at Mississippi State, but mostly thinking about BYU.

Just over 24 hours before he left for Mississippi he got a call from BYU from the Department Head explaining that while they were very impressed with Chris they decided to go in a different direction. I don't really know how the conversation went (Chris needs to chime in here and frankly everywhere in this post) but I believe Chris was encouraged  to re-apply in the future.

You know the feeling of a slammed door, an inch away from your face? That's what it felt like, for me. We hold no malice towards BYU. Chris, especially  is so forgiving, understanding and non-assuming. He would still love to teach there, still holds it and the CS department and professors in high regard. We both still LOVE BYU. He had a phone conversation with the guy that was his 'host' for the interview a week after we were told "no" and got some valuable feedback. Valuable feedback is kind of hard to hear sometimes but that doesn't make it less meaningful or less appreciated.

It will be interesting to find out who they hired, but we're less concerned about that now that we have a job lined up for the future. Spoiler Alert, yes we did get a job, somewhere. Next up is a detailed report of Chris' interview and experience at Mississippi State.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Valentines Day

 We all love to celebrate Valentines day around here.  Alec, Charlie and Gwen liked making valentines for their class / playgroup.  Alec asked us the night before if we were going to have any surprises for them on the table in the morning. I told him he was probably thinking of Easter and he emphatically insisted that we did it for Valentines last year.  I placated him with a noncommittal answer (I hadn't planned to do anything for them and hadn't bought any surprises).  After thinking about it, I realized we did have some stamps and bubbles for them last year. Luckily I found some extra bottles of bubbles and Chris and I made them each a valentine and sprinkled the table with mini marshmallows.  They love marshmallows.

Chris surprised me with little heart notes around the house and flowers and a treat.  I loved finding them throughout the day and was smiling all day long because of it.  I want to recognize the fact that he got out of bed early to hide the notes for me.  I noticed this sacrifice and know how hard that is for him!

I took Chris out on a fun date.  Last November my good friend Christy and I signed up for the city's "Sweetheart Snowshoe" to be held on Valentines day, as a surprise to our husbands.  We planned on getting smoothies, going snowshoeing, eating out, then coming back to one of our places for dessert.  Christy ended up getting sick last minute and they were forced to not join us.  If we didn't already have a sitter and already paid for the snowshoeing outing, it would have been SO tempting to not go and just watch a movie at home.

I'm so glad we went! We had a lot of fun even by ourselves and not knowing anyone else there.  It was dark by the time we got snowshoes on and started off and we were grateful for the headlamps we keep in the car for emergencies. The guides took us (a group of about 20 people, mostly couples) along the trials in the ravine where I go running with my friends in the spring/summer/fall.  Then they cut off the main trail and we walked across the river/stream up through the hills and trees.   At one point the guides pointed to the super steep hill behind them and told us we could try to scale up this old tow-rope path and then bushwack our way down if any of us wanted to really see what snowshoes can offer or continue along the valley trail for a bit.

Chris and I chose to scale up the huge hill (I was planning on getting some exercise during this!) with one other couple and had a lot of fun, even sweating a little! I loved tromping through the knee deep snow on the steep hill and half sliding half falling down. I finished the last bit of the descent sliding on my bum.

They had a campfire waiting for us with hot chocolate and poles ready to roast 'Bannock' a First Nations traditional bread. It was basically biscuit dough roasted on a stick over the fire.  It was kinda bland but tasted better with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled inside it.

It was a really fun evening and it makes me want to take the kids snowshoeing and go hike in some place more removed from civilization.  I've got a little family trip forming in my mind...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Quiet time

Gwen has basically not had a nap since before Christmas. She's also thrown some pretty awesome tantrums since then and been quick to fall apart. Genius me just put it together recently when I thought about how she's fallen asleep on the couch, in my arms or in the car within 5 min of being still and quiet 4 times this week....she's tired!

So today I made a big effort to have quiet time (the first attempt since before Christmas).

It went not very well. For various reasons including: poopy underwear, drawing on the coffee table, falling off a stool placed on top of another stool, repeated repeated repeated repeated requests for rope so Alec could make a lasso, Gwen needing to go potty 3 times, demands for candy, a request for jammies because Gwen is cold etc. I was interrupted in my silly attempt to read scriptures and take a quick nap myself every 4 min for over an hour.

I give up trying to maintain "quiet time" when Gwen comes into my room for the 10th time complaining of hunger and thirst. (She ate a good lunch only a few hours ago). I hold her in my arms for 1 minute trying to muster up energy to get out of bed to finish the afternoon and ...... She falls asleep.

I knew it! Now how can I get her to do it by herself in her room well before 4:00pm?

I hope she doesn't give me grief in 3 hours at bedtime. It's my night to put the kids to bed by myself.

Still pretty cute though, hey?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

picture dump

I'm taking baby steps to get my life organized after a quick, stressful, and fun trip to UT for Chris' interview.  So while I feel like I should write a post detailing the trip and our thoughts/feelings about the whole experience, or unpack our suitcases and start the laundry, or unclog the sink from gross moldy leftovers I emptied out this morning (I miss disposals/garborators so much!) ...I just don't feel quite up to doing any of those things right now. I know the fever and aches and sneezing and coughing are playing a major part in my decision.  But I'll take baby steps and plug in my phone and post a bunch of cute snow pictures from the past month and then take a nap (if the kids will let me...maybe I'll put a movie on for them)

Enjoy -
Shoveling our walk back in early December after a huge snowfall.

One day we went to the hill by Alec's school to sled and at the bottom we found a cool snow tunnel someone built/dug out.

This is the field we cross to pick up Alec from school every day. Also you may notice the poor lighting/long shadows in so many of these pictures...its because daylight here in the winter is so short! Like the following picture of Alec in the field was taken at noon yet it seems more like 4 or 5pm when you think about the long shadow. Crazy.

This is the big pile of snow created by the trucks that clear the asphalt right by the school building.  The kids love to slide down on their bums after school every day.

This is proof of one of Charlie's cute fashion statements. He loves to wear his hockey helmet even if we're just going for a ride in the car.  Also he loves to wear costumes, at home and in public...doesn't matter to him  if its Halloween or not or who may see him.