Wow, a whole year has passed without me writing here. I’m on the fence regarding whether I should feel that posting once a year is sufficient, given how busy life has become, versus making it a New Year’s resolution to write here at least once a month to ensure that my life goals are on track, my bucket list is being tackled, and my memories have a chance to solidify.
2018 certainly did turn into a crazy busy year. Let’s start with a review of my 2018 predictions versus what actually happened.
- I’m not expecting any great changes with my work this year. Could I switch employers for the purpose of exacting higher wages? Probably. Do I want to switch employers? Probably not. My current work schedule is pretty cushy, and my commute isn’t horrible. Wrong. At the End of February, our beloved Associate Director of PV Operations announced her resignation, and I suddenly realized that there wasn’t anything keeping me at PAREXEL any longer. I wasn’t getting exciting new projects every month as I had been for the first year in the Pharmacovigilance department, and most of the people who I could learn from had left the company. I was a great study lead, but my manager didn’t have any further plans to promote my development. And with 10+ direct reports, she had little time for me, anyhow. So when I got a call at the beginning of March to see whether I would be interested in openings at Karyopharm, I took the bait. I was deemed not experienced enough to take a PV Scientist role; however, there was interest in me taking a contract PV Specialist. That was not a simple decision because although I was very excited about the idea of developing the safety profile of a first-in-class oral oncology drug, I was not excited about the idea of being a contractor. Fortunately, they gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and 2.5 weeks after starting with Karyopharm in April, the VP of PV was able to make me a verbal offer for a permanent position. Interestingly, two of my PV colleagues at Karyopharm are former coworkers from PAREXEL. Small world!
- Although I’m not looking for a new employer this year, I’m still full of dreams and ambition. I’d like to be a pharmacovigilance scientist when I grow up, someone who goes beyond individual case processing to detect, evaluate and manage drug safety risks. Towards this goal, I’m toying with a few mini research project ideas pertaining to pharmacovigilance and signal detection methodology. Based on my past track record, the odds of me following through on these ideas are not high, so this is more of a naive New Year’s Resolution than a true prediction. Haha! Naïve, indeed. Karyopharm has ensured that all my mini projects involve Pharmacovigilance Operations. Things were relatively simple for my first two months after starting at Karyopharm – aside from a time-consuming clean-up project – but then we hired and trained 3 new-to-PV associates, brought all case processing in-house, went through a restructuring that gave me 3 direct reports, and prepared for health authority inspections and postmarketing pharmacovigilance operations.
- Son, on the other hand, recently coauthored two full papers, positioning himself well to apply for new positions after he hits 3 years with JM in April. (His employer’s matched retirement contributions will be vested at that point.) I can’t claim full knowledge of Son’s career goals, but I would not be surprised if he took a new position this year or next year, given the high rate of turnover at his company. Bingo! Son just started a new position in Cambridge two weeks ago. So far, it seems to have been a really good career move, taking advantage of the experience he gained at his two previous industry employers.
- Admittedly, if I’m going to think about Son taking a new job, I also have to think about moving to a location more proximate to his future job, i.e., closer to Boston. Odds are that the next job offer Son gets will be inside I-95, perhaps smack in the middle of Cambridge. I’d like to hold off on buying a new house until my student loans are paid off, i.e., in about 2 years, but Son and I agree that neither of us can take a job in Boston/Cambridge unless we move much closer to the cities; the commute from Worcester-ish is too long. I have difficulty imagining moving in 2018, but if a new job for Son is possible, moving is, too. This now falls on the list of 2019 predictions. My commute to Newton has been okay, but Son’s commute to Cambridge is long. We plan to list our house in April and move closer to Cambridge when school gets out for summer.
- I do not foresee any astounding cognitive leaps for Alina in the next year, but watch out for that girl on the gymnastics mat. She makes up for Peter’s lack of competitiveness or physical prowess. We could carry on with fun and games at our neighborhood Little Gym, but part of me is inclined to let her try classes at a more competitive gym with better instruction at a cheaper hourly rate. (I can tolerate the gymnastics instruction at The Little Gym because I am not a gymnastics connoisseur, but the dance instruction makes me cringe to watch.) I did have her start at a USA Gymnastics center in the fall. She grew out of the 2-year-old class at the Little Gym, skill-wise, so I had her start with the 3-year-old class in January. That class was good skill-wise, but the main goal of that class was to get the kids to participate without a caregiver present. Alina went along with that plan for the first couple classes, but then she went on a I-only-participate-with-mom strike. She also discriminated against male teachers and wouldn’t accept their help with skills at all. We’re getting along much better now that we’re in a 3-year-old class that welcomes moms into the gym, has a friendly female teacher, and is significantly bigger than the Little Gym (no pun intended). She’s a strong girl who is no longer afraid to take a huge jump into the foam pit, can easily put herself into a wall-assisted handstand, does sprightly donkey kicks and tick-tock-hops, can skip and gallop, and can pull herself up to make “Mickey Mouse ears” with rings while swinging with a toy held between her feet. The 3-year-old developmental milestone that has amazed me the most, though, is Alina’s drawing. Her fine motor skills at age 3 are at least as good as Peter’s at age 5. She does know her letters and how to write her name. She can write “I❤UMAMA.” She does not know how to read, but she is organized and theatrical. After the first reading of a book, she wants to act out the story. Her mind is very different from Peter’s.
- Peter, Peter, Peter. If we don’t lose him to online gaming, he will do good things with his life. Probably not great things; he is not driven enough to move mountains. But he will make people happy and contribute to society in creative ways. For the short term, I foresee a Pac-Man or Super Mario-themed birthday party in our future. I am sad that we probably won’t have any more geography-themed parties, but on the other hand, Peter can probably relate to his peers better through Minecraft/Mario/Pac-Man/Pokemon than though capitals of the Canadian provinces. We went with a Mario Party-themed birthday party. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me o control and did not quite live up to Peter’s imagination, so I think I will decline to do a Peter-planned birthday party at home next year. Since we’re planning to move, it may end up being just a special trip with the family next year, e.g., an amusement park or water park. Despite the birthday party difficulties, Peter really seems to be doing well in school this year. He started methylphenidate in the spring and benefits from the long acting formulation: he gets more classwork done, appears more motivated, enjoys lessons more, is more introspective, and may even be more organized. Despite the teachers each year warning that the next grade level is much more demanding, I feel more confident than I did in first or second grade that Peter will rise to each new challenge.
- Now that Alina is becoming less demanding, the thought has crossed my mind that we could try getting a cat once again. Alina loves animals, and Peter would love to have a cat, too. Would it make a good birthday present? Peter and Alina do still ask for a cat occasionally. My mom said that she plans to get us a cat when she visits in March, but Son is against cat ownership, given Pumpkin’s furniture abuse and untimely demise, Bella’s puking, and the smell of cat boxes. I’m also thinking that the cat should wait until after we move. At that point, I won’t mind taking care of the cat box.
- My parents are planning to visit this summer before embarking of a cruise of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Our vacation plans are still up in the air, but we should take at least a week off this summer while our new day care provider is closed for vacation. Maybe we’ll visit Canada? Maybe Hershey, PA? Maybe North Dakota? Maybe Washington, D.C.? We spent a week in Minnesota in July. It was lovely. We visited the Roundhouse Museum, the Minnesota State Capitol, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Castaway Bay, the Minnesota Zoo, Oliver Kelley Farm, the Mall of America, and my sister’s apartment.
- My sister’s great triumph of 2017 was landing a nice job as an assistant for the college partnership program at the community college she once attended. It was wonderful to see her get a position that actually capitalized her past experiences and degree in human resource development. I’m predicting that she will continue to live (and work) happily ever after in her new position and apartment through 2018 and beyond. Check! Kelly is living and working happily ever after. She and my mom are planning a trip to New Orleans this spring.
- My brother’s future is less certain, though I do see teaching, a teaching credential, and scuba diving in it. Will he stay in Korea? Will he teach English in a different country? Or will he do something totally unexpected, like join the Peace Corps? I’ll take a wild guess and say that he will get a job teaching in Japan before 2018 closes. Close! He took a teaching job at a college in Shantou, China. There are pros and cons with respect to his last job. On the plus side, he does not need to work nearly as many contact hours as he worked in Korea, On the minus side, he is paid less than he was paid in Korea. On the plus side, cost of living is cheaper and there are fewer ways for him to spend his money, so he saves more money. On the minus side, there are not many other expatriates to befriend in Shantou. On the plus side, he is not spending time befriending kindergarteners, so he doesn’t get sick nearly as often. He started his own weblog: http://teachingaround.com/index.html And he’s planning to pursue a Master’s in English Teaching in 2019. It’s nice to see his career settle into a logical course, though he’s still young enough that we could expect some plot twists.
Other 2018 highlights:
At this point, it feels like Alina has been potty trained forever, but I guess she only really potty trained a year ago. It was ridiculously simple in the end: we only had to stop sending Pull-Ups for her to wear at day care. Her prior day care provider wouldn’t allow her to wear underwear until she had gone 2 weeks without an accident, but when you’re wearing Pull-Ups, you have zero incentive not to wet yourself. I banned Pull-Ups over the Christmas break, and when Alina started with the new day care provider full-time in January, I told her that Alina was potty trained. Poof! She was potty trained!
February and the first half of March were snowy. For Alina’s birthday outing in March, we went to the zoo and had a good time but did have to dodge snow piles and mud puddles. The indoor tropics area was my favorite, but the kids loved the amazing three-story-high playground, despite the blanket of snow covering the ground.
Peter stuck with karate lessons for a full year, ending when he earned his orange belt in August. Now he’s doing swim lessons which seem to be going well, but we may need to invest in a family gym membership to enable him to practice between lessons. He also did a sculpture class at the Worcester Art Museum in the fall. His creations were not anything to brag about, but I like the art education component of the program, given that he professes to want to be an artist when he grows up. I think he could be a good graphic designer; he has the creativity and spatial reasoning for such a career… and I think that he can get by with mediocre manual coordination as a graphic designer. My dad, on the other hand, is still betting that he will work for the State Department when he grows up. For now, I just plan to help him explore options.
My company’s summer outing was at Canobie Lake Park. It was a fun time for the kids, but the lines for the non-kiddie rides were long, and the water park was very crowded. I guess it’s good that Peter was still a smidgen too short for the 48″ minimum height rides and good that my kids still like kiddie rides. We took the kids to Edaville again in October per Peter’s request, but they weren’t particularly interested in the rides. Alina liked riding Thomas the Tank Engine around the park and seeing Dino Land. Peter liked playing with trains in the gift shops and seeing the model trains. As long as they enjoyed what they did, I count it as a successful excursion.
For Son’s birthday at the end of October, we went to the Great Pumpkin Festival at the Ecotarium. Again, Alina liked the train ride and Halloween decorations, but Peter found them a bit too spooky for his liking. Luckily, there were non-spooky indoor activities as well, so there was something for everyone to enjoy. Personally, I was underwhelmed by the outdoor display of carved jack-o-lanterns because they were plastic and obviously reused from prior years. When the kids are a bit older, I hope that they will let me take them to see the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island; I’ve heard that that display is quite impressive.
As for me, I got a beautiful present for my birthday this year: granite countertops. We started planning our kitchen remodel in August, and after some bumps in the road, our new cabinets arrived in November, the countertop arrived on my birthday, and we got the new stove, microwave, and backsplash installed by New Year’s Eve. A couple pieces of trim still need to be installed, but we’re ready to move on to the painting phase of prepare-your-home-to-sell.
Time for my 2019 predictions:
- Selinexor will gain market approval. (That one deserves a knock on wood. It will be rather depressing if it doesn’t get approved after all our efforts in 2018.) I’ll stick it out with Karyopharm, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the postmarketing transition. I’ll get some sort of promotion to acknowledge my role as a people manager. (It’s slightly awkward at the moment that I have a direct report with the same title as myself, but she has been exceptionally gracious through the poorly-planned department reorganization.)
- Son will stay busy at his new workplace and leave me home alone with the kids a couple times while he goes on business trips.
- We’ll list the house in April, accept an offer in April, and close on the house in late June.
- We’ll be shopping for houses in May. I’ll get antsy. We will end up lining up a rental for the summer. I’ll agonize over whether we should move to Milton versus Braintree. We’ll end up buying a house that is more expensive than Son would like and has a smaller lot than I would like (or maybe has a worse kitchen than I would like or be on a busier road than I would like). It will probably require oil heating, given that this is Massachusetts, but if I’m lucky, it might have central air conditioning.
- Alina’s day care transition could also be challenging. Will I be able to line up an in-home day care provider for her? Or a day care center? Or maybe I’ll just want to get a nanny for the summer? If she’s lucky, Gram will be around to help with the transition. She loves Gram. But she’ll probably be content as long as she has a female caregiver; she has told me that she likes “new teachers.”
- Alina might learn to pedal a bike or trike this summer. I’ll be impressed if she can do a “true” lunge-kick-over-style cartwheel by the end of the year. I don’t think she’ll start reading the way Peter started reading when he turned 3, but she could certainly have sight words by the end of the year. Hopefully, she’ll become more emotionally mature, willing to negotiate, and malleable. She has come a long way in the second half of 2018, but it’s still a battle to get her to decide what to eat for dinner.
- Peter agreed that he would be okay with switching schools as long as the switch occurs over summer break. Peter optimistically pointed out that perhaps he’ll be reunited with his friend, Amara, who moved away from West Boylston last summer. It is a small world, after all. I’m sure that the teachers at his new school will think that he’s very, very quiet… until he gets oriented, finds a couple friends, and starts making happy but silly running commentary on the world.
- Peter’s first MCAS testing will be this spring. I do think he could do above average. Probably not anything astounding; he just doesn’t have an intrinsic desire to check his work and ensure it’s perfect. (Though to his credit – he did get 100 % on his Spell-A-Thon at the beginning of December.) I think Peter will really like fourth grade because they should finally learn U.S. geography in some depth.
- Should we adopt a cat? I think we’ll probably give up our fish tank when we move. Maybe a cat will arrive after we settle in.
- Our big 2019 vacation will be to visit Vietnam in the second half of February. Beyond that, I think my time off will be in support of our move. We should have plenty of fun exploring new neighborhoods, though.
And with that, I think I’ll make a calendar appointment to check in her once per month in 2019. If nothing else, it will be good to make sure that I write about my family and that my goals are on track.
Happy New Year!