Out of curiosity…

So my kids were not blessed with fast-growing hair.  For each of them sometime before age 1.5 they ended up with awful mullets.  Their heads grow faster than the hair, so it gets short on the sides with the proverbial party in back.  Awful.

For boys, that’s an easy fix.  First haircut and you’re back to presentable.

For girls… there’s either the pixie cut, or there’s the putting up teeny tiny rubber-banded spikes on the side of the head (“Pebbles-style”)… and I think that’s it.  Maybe a person can try to even it out, but it’s still going to be longer in the back than on the sides.

So what do people do with the toddler mullet?  Just leave it?


  • EC update:  At almost 15 mo, if the potty is in visual distance, DC2 will take hirself to the potty, sit down (the sitting down is what took the most effort– but ze finally no longer gets hir leg stuck in the potty while trying to sit), and pee and/or poo.  If no potty is in sight, ze will just go wherever ze is.  If the diaper is still on, ze will use the diaper while sitting in the potty.
  • DC2′s diaper rash is SO BAD when hir diaper doesn’t get changed right away after a poo that ze got sent home on Friday because of it.  Poor darling.
  • When I mentioned to hir new daycare teacher that DC2 will go potty on the potty if they take hir, the teacher said very emphatically, “Not in THIS room.  We do NOT do pottying in THIS room.”
  • We’re counting the days until we can transfer DC2 to the Montessori that starts at 18 months.  Ze has a slot reserved and everything.
  • We miss the old daycare.
  • It’s unlikely at this point that we will get any money back from our 4.5K prepayment from the old daycare.
  • DC2 had been eating wheat and enjoying it, but we’ve stopped it again on the off chance that that is why ze is allergic to hir poo.
  • DC2 seeks and destroys pens and pencils, breaking them into their component parts.  Ze is very good at climbing and can get them wherever we hide them.
  • At a party the other day, DC2 picked up a nerf gun that had 2 cartridges loaded and another next to it.  Ze carefully removed the 2 cartridges, then loaded the gun with all 3.  Upon learning that we did not teach hir how to do that, an adult nearby said we’d have to watch out for hir.
  • One of my goals is to make sure that DC2 survives childhood.

Overstimulated October

I can handle two children (or maybe it’s just DC2– DC1 is pretty chill) or I can handle students being around, but not both.

I’m not used to this.

I’m not used to needing the door closed.  To need silence without background noise.

Every day is exhausting.  I come home, play a bit with the children, help DC1 with hir chores, and then I feel like crawling under a desk.  Please everybody just leave me alone.

When DC1 was this age, I could still get work done if I wasn’t actively doing chores or taking care of the toddler.  When DC2 was younger and napped once in the evenings I didn’t feel so incredibly overwhelmed.  When school was out of session for the summer I was mostly ok.

It’s not that there’s too much work to do.  It’s not even that my brain has gotten too much work (although that happens sometimes).  Heck, I’m not even as sleep deprived or as frequently sick as I was when DC1 was a toddler.  I’m just completely overstimulated.

Some of it is introversion, and I seem to have become more introverted.  But it’s not just introversion.  I need silence.  I even asked DH to turn off Netflix the other night because I couldn’t handle the noise.  Because he’s a darling he’s taken to listening with headphones.

I wonder if this is going to go away or if I’m going to need to make a big change to my life.  It’s limiting not wanting to see so many people, to avoid talking to people.  I dread most social engagements and have been saying no to a lot of work activities just because I don’t want to be around people.  I want to be alone.  Someplace quiet.

I do love my family very much… but these days I love them most in small doses or when they’re sweetly sleeping.

(#2 says: I call that “October”.  It is officially Exploding Head Syndrome Month and begins Sept 17th.  I relate to Milburn.  Why do you think I put that ear-protection headgear on my wishlist?  It’s so I don’t have to hear things.)

A post for Ana on 529 plans

We were poking around on medical moms blogs when we came across this comment from reader Ana. She said she wanted to just be told what to do with 529 plans because she’d hit the paradox of choice and everything was all complicated.

The post was almost a month old so  we felt silly for replying to it there, so we figured we’d reply to it here and hope that Ana saw it.

Also:  a disclaimer.  We’re not financial advisers.  Take our “advice” such as it is at your own risk.

Step 1:  Check to see if you live in one of these states that offer tax breaks for 529 contributions.

1a.  If you do, then go with your state’s 529 plan.

1b.  If you don’t, then go with Utah.  There are some other 529 plans that are now just as good as Utah’s but Utah’s has always been ranked among the top and we hope will continue to be ranked so.

Step 2:  Pick a plan company within the plan.

2a.  If Vanguard is one of your options, go with that.

2b.  If not, then look at the fees.  Pick one with low fees.

Step 3:  Pick a fund from your choices.

3a.  You want to look for terms “age-based”, “life-cycle” or “target-date”.

3b.  If there are multiple choices among these options, then it doesn’t really matter which one you pick.  They’ll be different in terms of risk and possibly fees.  You’ll again want to focus on the lowest fee plan first.  If your kids are little, more risk is better, if they’re closer to college, less risk is fine.  Don’t worry about the risk if you can’t decide– flip a coin or something.  It’s better to pick something randomly than to pick nothing at all because you’re worried about getting the “best”.

So, if you’re in a state that doesn’t give a tax advantage, you want the Utah UESP Vanguard Age-Based Aggressive Global fund.  And you’re done.  If you’re in another state we’d be happy to poke at their options for you.

Put in what you can.  We like putting some away automatically each month.  Something is better than nothing.

Are you saving for your kids’ college?  How?

Top 20 baby words

DC2 is about to the age in which ze starts saying things, so I got to wondering what are the early words that babies say.

Fortunately, there’s research on this topic.  I came across a 2008 article from some psychologists at Stanford that includes a chart titled, Rank-Ordered Top 20 Words for Children Who Can Say 1–10 Words on CDI and Percentage of Children Producing Them, by Language

It’s Table 4 if you click that link.  They include Hong Kong and Beijing’s words as well.

Here’s the words for the United States (copied from Tardif et al. 2008).
(n = 264)

Yum Yum
Woof Woof

My first word (not counting Ma’s and Da’s) was the same as my oldest’s first word, “Hi” there on the list.  DC2 hasn’t gotten to “Hi.”  Months ago DC2 was saying key (for kitty) but that seems to have dropped out of the lexicon and has been replaced with Ca (for cat).  Dog has been added.    Ze says, “Yeah,” a lot to signal agreement. Ze can make three different sounds that dogs make — “bowwow” they taught at daycare, “woof” I taught hir, and DH taught hir panting [update:  ze can also make stuffed dog make the slobbery dog kisses sound now, so that's 4].  Occasionally we’ll hear a ba for bottle, or a bana or nana for banana.  Ze may be saying a lot more, but it’s awfully difficult to tell with the pronunciation.  I remember that DC1 was really into animal sounds, especially barn animals, when ze started to talk in earnest.

Do you have any cute baby word stories?  What was your first word?  Were your first or your children’s first (if applicable) on the list?

Stupid “opinions” on gifted kids

A lot of people seem to think that they are entitled to spew their opinions on gifted kids, parents of gifted kids, and gifted education without having read *any* of the research or without even ever spending time with gifted children.

Here are some of the things you should stop saying on the internet, behind people’s backs, or to their faces:

1.  Why do gifted kids need to be challenged anyway?  Why can’t we let kids be kids?  What’s the rush?

Gifted kids who are not challenged are at a greater risk of dropping out than normal kids.  They’re also more likely to have bad behavior than gifted kids who are sufficiently challenged.  And, if they’re not challenged early on, they can flame out spectacularly when challenged later as young adults.  (All of the previous statements are verifiable from pretty much any research-based book on gifted children.)

On top of that, most children find learning to be fun and to be part of childhood.  It is only adults who seem to feel the need to make learning not fun.  Fight that.

2.  It’s so important for kids to be with their same-aged peers.  It may not be important in elementary school, but just wait until they’re old enough to drive/go to prom/go to college.  Then you’ll see.

Gifted kids are often out-of-synch with their same-aged peers.  It would be great for them to hang around other gifted kids their same age, but many populations don’t have a large enough population to support gifted classes, and tracking is not currently in vogue.   A Nation Deceived makes a clear and convincing case that gifted kids actually do *better* socially on average when accelerated than when with same-aged peers in a normal classroom.  As for driving and prom… those are not the end-all and be-all.  Not all kids go to prom.  Many freshmen go to prom with seniors.  If a freshman hangs out with juniors, hir friends will be driving anyway even though ze can’t, and not all kids have cars or get licenses at 16 anyway.  In terms of college, there are many possibilities not limited to going early, taking a gap year, taking courses at the local college or community college, and so on.  There’s an exciting world of possibilities that may be even better than the status quo.

3.  I knew a kid who skipped grades and ze was totally messed up.

Correlation is not causation.  Gifted kids are often odd and out of synch compared to other kids.  Chances are they’ll seem messed up in the view of some subset of the population whether or not they’re accelerated.  Compared to gifted kids who are not accelerated, those who are accelerated do better academically AND socially, according to A Nation Deceived.

4.  Being bored/miserable/picked on/the only person doing work on a group project is a part of adult life.  Kids need to learn to get used to it in school.

When you’re gifted and do well in school, you can often sort yourself into a profession in which you’re more likely to be surrounded by other competent hard workers doing interesting things.  Being picked on is not normal as an adult.

5.  I’m so sick of hearing X complain about the problems she’s having with her so-called gifted kid, if the kid is actually gifted, which I have my doubts.  Gifted kids don’t need special treatment, not like real special needs kids.  She should just shut up.

It is not easy being the parent of a gifted child.  Gifted children are often intense.  They often do not sleep much, are energetic, are sensitive, act out, get depressed, can be crippled by perfectionism, and many other things, particularly if their needs are not being met.  And society is not set up to help meet their needs in many places.  Additionally, parents of gifted kids often do suffer from isolation.  They often cannot talk about their kids to other parents.  It is wonderful being a parent of gifted children, but there are also challenges.

6.  Kids aren’t really gifted, they’re just hot-housed by over-achieving parents.

We don’t believe there is a such thing as over-achievement (that’s an opinion).  However, gifted kids often achieve quite a bit without the least bit of hot-housing (that’s a fact).  Parents do often provide more academic enrichment for gifted kids because that is what the child needs to help behavior and happiness, but there are generally no flashcards or pressure involved.  Gifted kids often teach themselves to read.  And reading is fun!  All kids are sponges, and gifted kids seem very eager to soak things up.

Remember, opinions and facts are not the same thing, and sometimes incorrect opinions that are not based on actual facts can do real damage.  Do you really want to be one of those people who hurts an entire group?  Well, we know that none of *our* readers would, but occasionally people find their way to us via google.  If you’re in that situation and you say stuff like this, knock it off.

What are incorrect “opinions” that you find annoying, gifted-related or other?

Ideas for volunteering at DC1′s school?

DC2 will be in daycare next year and DC1 will be in third grade.  DH will be working on starting a consulting business.  I have tenure.  We think we may have more time to get involved with DC1′s school this coming year.

DC1′s school is still hurting from the disastrous financial management last year.  It’s down to 50-odd students.  The management is much better now, but it takes years to recover from bad publicity.  We’re hoping to help out some, but aren’t sure what best fits their needs and our desires and abilities.

We’re currently on the financial committee.  Their large-grants committee is in terrible shape, but their version of the PTA seems to be doing ok.  We don’t want to go on the fundraising committee, though it is insane how much that particular committee has dropped the ball and bungled things this year.  We also did a stint on recruitment last year and find that to be pretty thankless.

They also have parents doing regular helping out in class.  They have room-parents.  There’s a lovely woman doing a gardening program with the students.

My graduate degree is in social science, and really isn’t something I can teach at the K-12 level.  I do, however, have a wide range of experience in math education, both teaching and tutoring.  I even spent a year doing gifted pull-out math once a week for fourth graders in an inner city school.  (Though I would have to recreate my box o’materials– even if it still exists it is in my parents’ basement back in the midwest.)

DH has degrees in engineering and computer science.  He will probably be the adviser of the robot team next year.  He wanted to do that the first year, but for one reason or another the students didn’t field a team.  This year they did, but we had a brand new baby so that was off the table for us.

Any suggestions for what we should suggest to them, if anything?

Book Review: The Zebra Said Shhh…

The Easter Bunny brought DC2 a paperback copy of Wandering Scientist’s The Zebra Said Shhh.  I figured I’d review it here.

The quality of the book itself is quite good.  The paper is thick and better suited to destructive little hands and mouths than most non-boardbook children’s books.  Well worth $11.25 (or $9 if it’s on sale).

The pictures are quite nice and are similar to several of our other children’s books.  I think this style that looks like cutouts was popularized by Eric Carle, though these are not as sparse and come with full backgrounds.   I especially like the parrot.  Lots of bold bright colors.

As for the story, it has a pleasant repetition and simple concepts for its target audience.  It holds the same wish fulfillment for adults that Go the F**k to Sleep does, only without the profanity.  If only saying “Shhh” worked on small human children.  There’s always the hope that books like these will build that connection.

After the excitement of breaking open plastic Easter eggs and scattering their contents (raisins) over the floor waned, DC2 was immediately drawn to the book.  Ze opened it, folded over the cover, chewed on the inside a bit (another note:  the book itself was not made in China), and generally seemed to enjoy it.  Miraculously, the book is still in really good shape.

When DC1 (age 6) woke up and started going through DC2′s loot, hir attention was arrested by the book and ze immediately read through it.  Later I noticed hir reading it out loud to DC2.  So that passed some sort of test.

In any case, I recommend purchasing this book.  It’s a good solid children’s book in every respect.  And we own a lot of children’s books.  Hat-tip to both Wandering Scientist and to X-ist publishing.

April Mortgage Update: Still wrestling with next year’s money goals

Last month (March):

Balance: $82,617.28
Years left: 6.666666667
P =$881.26, I = $333.14, Escrow = 621.66

This month (April):

Balance: $81,065.97
Years left: 6.5
P =$887.38, I = $327.03, Escrow = 621.66

One month’s prepayment savings:  $2.62

So, as we’ve discussed, this past year we’ve been contributing $500/month to each of the DCs’ 529 funds.   DH and I have been contributing to various forms of IRAs (now all Roths) since we graduated from college.  We’ve been putting money in 403(b)s and 457s as well, and are now pretty much caught up to where we should have been retirement-wise had we not wasted our youth frittering away our time in graduate school.  We’ve also been paying around $600 extra each month on the mortgage (though that varies with our escrow).

All of that is going to stop being automatic next year, other than my mandatory 403(b) contributions (~12% of my salary if you include the match).

We will have some extra money on top of our emergency fund at the end of the summer because (in theory) I’m getting summer salary.  This will be somewhere between 18K and another number (depending on things like emergencies, whether/when DH gets consulting, and so on).

Last semester when DH was thinking about quitting his job, we wrote out a list of priorities of what to do with extra money above and beyond our emergency savings.  #1 was 529 plans.  #2 was DH’s Roth IRA, #3 was my Roth IRA, and so-on.

Now I’m questioning the wisdom of putting money in the 529 plans before funding the IRAs.  On our current path, our children may very well get financial aid, which is something we hadn’t been planning on when we started the 529 saving.  Mint tells me that DC1 has over 40K at this point and DC2 has over 4K.  Do we really need to keep putting 12K/year away in these funds?

Earlier when I talked about this, I suggested filling up DC1′s 529 and not doing much with DC2′s, even though we are planning on paying for four years of college for each.  The reason would be that if DC1 doesn’t use all of hir money, it could easily be transferred to DC2 and we could stop saving for DC2.   People didn’t like that because they didn’t want DC2 to feel like a lesser loved child.  I want to emphasize that we will be paying the full college tuition for both children to the schools of their choices, even if 529 pots are unequal sizes (which they will be, even if we contribute the same amount just because of the vaguaries of the stock market).

Also, I would love to just put money into the Roth IRAs now, but there’s always the chance that DH will make a full salary before the next fiscal year is out and push us over the limit.  Undoing that sounds like a hassle.  Though maybe that’s too unlikely a proposition to keep us from waiting until January.

Anyhow, here’s our dream list of savings:

$12K/year in 529 plans (6K/kid)
DH Roth IRA (5.5K)
My Roth IRA (5.5K)
Mortgage prepayment (up to the amount left)
My additional 403(b) (17.5K/year)
My 457 (17.5K/year)
A SEPA or other self-employment retirement vehicle for DH (up to the amount he earns or 51K whichever is smaller)
Taxable stocks (infinity!)

Keeping in mind that I already must contribute 12%  to my 403(b), that we’ve caught up with where we should be an our ages and income on retirement, that our mortgage is as described above, we want to pay full tuition to college for two children, we’re in the 25% tax bracket (we were also in that bracket before DH left his job), and we have a healthy emergency fund in cash, In what order would you put extra money and why?


  • I now understand why my parents let my sister tear up my stuff.  If tearing up the receipt that came with DC1′s library books keeps DC2 happily and safely entertained for 20 min, that’s worth the confetti and loss of a “bookmark”.
  • This early potty training is AWESOME.  Seriously guys, I cannot tell you how absolutely cool it is do to this part-time pottying with diapers the rest of the time.  DC2 prefers pooing in the potty and we prefer dumping it out of the potty to cleaning it off hir rear.  It is SO much easier getting started than it was with a 15 month old who had already been diaper-trained.  Just like the book said it would be.  Wish we’d had the book when DC1 was 6 months old.  If you have a baby who can sit-up, get a potty and just try putting your baby on it as soon as ze gets up in the morning (or after a nap).  It is addicting and totally awesome.  (Also saves diapers and lessens the ick factor.)
  • I think we discovered one of the anti-perfectionism tactics that DC1′s first grade teacher used last year.  Last year when DC1 got a problem wrong and we’d ask hir about it when the homework came home, ze would shrug and say, “Yeah, the reason I got that wrong was [this silly reason], I know it’s [correct answer] now.”  This weekend I wanted to discuss a comment hir teacher had left on a math problem, saying that DC1 should have rewritten the (Saxon math) problem and done borrowing, which DC1 had done one of the Singapore math ways in hir head instead (and gotten incorrect).  DC1 said ze had never looked at the homework and never looks at hir returned homework(!)  So ze has had no clue about what ze has gotten wrong or right or why (except on spelling tests, for some reason).  And it isn’t discussed in a growth mindset way, but is treated as a fixed mindset thing– you do the work and it’s done and that’s it.  So I guess we’re going to start going through homeworks to talk about and to demonstrate learning from mistakes.
  • DC2 waves hello and bye bye.  It is SO CUTE!  Update:  and claps!  Update:  first word [older sibling's name]  Ze also sounds like a happy little puppy when ze gets excited.  *pantpantpant*
  • DH said, “It wasn’t so much an accident as an out of potty experience.”  Then he started talking about the pottygeist.  He tried to make a joke about the excretionist, but it failed.  DC2 thought it was hilarious, but who can trust what the potty gallery thinks?

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