Google questions that keep you up at night

Q:  why don’t college teachers check their email in summer

A:  Because we do not get paid to.

Also, because your grade is final and no amount of whining from you will change that.  Unless a mistake has actually been made, but that’s not your argument.  Your argument is that you worked “real hard” even though the grade book shows otherwise.  You gotsta turn in assignments to get credit for them and you can’t get extra credit after the fact.  In other words, college teachers do check their email in the summer but chose not to reply to yours because there was no reason to.

Q:  my kid has mandarin enrichment, math enrichment, gymnastic, piano lessons and swimming lessons and she is d till asking for dancing and skating, is it too much for a 6 year old

A:  Probably not– 6 year olds are pretty flexible, especially if ze is asking for more.  HOWEVER, it sounds like too much for any sane parent, unless you’ve got a chauffeur who isn’t you.  And no, you don’t need to find an excuse that it’s not in the kid’s best interest in order to say no.  You can say, “Mommy and daddy aren’t martyrs and we already take you to 5 extracurricular activities and we don’t want to do any more driving.”  That way when (if) your 6 year old is a parent, she doesn’t feel like she has to sacrifice everything for her kids either.

Q:  who is an ideal student?

A:  We were.

Q:  should i buy a house in december

A:  why not?  There’s less supply and less demand in the winter compared to the summer, so you may be able to get a bargain or you may have to keep looking until Spring when people start putting homes on the market.  Also, some areas have more seasonal housing markets than others (college towns will have very limited supply in December, but also very desperate sellers).

Q:  is a second job at minimum wage worth it

A:  Not to us, but it might be to you.

Q:  do 2 year olds know how to manipulate their parents?

A:  Depends on the kid.  Generally we like to assume that kids want to do what is right, and when we do that, they tend to believe it too.

Q: what is level 3 monitoring in the emergency room visit

A:  Extremely expensive.

Q:  how tosay i can be shy at first then warm up

A:  with a t-shirt.

Q:  is it silly to have a full length blind on a half window

A:  A little bit, but we don’t judge you for it.

Q:  being grumpy pros and cons?

A:  Only pros.  (We lost our amateur status.)  [Not actually true– we’re not getting paid for our grumpiness.  We can still compete in the grumpy olympics, and not just in the off-season.]

Update on personal sagas: DH’s relatives, DC’s school

DH’s Relatives

It turns out that if you are truly poor and have a zillion brothers and sisters (give or take), the Pell grant covers 100% of community college, including books.  So… so far we’re not paying for any of the relatives’ schooling.  Although they screwed up with the books and forgot to order them, despite multiple calls to the people.   Because the books are being bought via the grant, the school orders them for the students instead of the student being reimbursed… and they never actually checked to see that they were ordered when DH’s relative called, so the eldest daughter doesn’t have them.  She is borrowing from a friend until they come in.

She got a nursing home job (yay!) and spent the summer working and saved up to buy a clunker.  She will be working p/t to pay for her gas.

Already she says she likes community college classes a lot more than high school classes.  I hope she does well.  Right now she wants to transfer to a 4 year school (to major in architecture, but I’m hoping she’ll change her mind as there are very few job opportunities for architecture majors and it’s really hard to get into the architecture programs at the state 4-year schools).

DC1’s School

Right now they have 1 student fewer than what they need with normal fundraising and minimal services (down 20 students from last year).  The hope is to make up for it with extra fundraising.

The new head of school is professional and refreshingly not crazy.

Even better than that, the ineffective board president has been replaced by an extremely competent woman who is new to the board.  She’s getting things done.  She communicates professionally.  She’s a pleasure to deal with.  This was a new and unexpected pleasure.  We foresee a positive trajectory for the school if these two women remain in charge of things.

There are 10 kids in DC1’s 2nd grade class, down from the 15 that were in the first grade class (including DC and hir best friend who were technically in K, but spent half the day in first).  10 is still a good number for a private school class and doesn’t require an additional aide, although DC says they have a student teacher helping out.  The syllabus for the year that was sent home is intriguing.  They’ll be starting junior great books and doing book reports and science reports and all sorts of exciting and fun stuff.

DC’s formal dress shirt for formal days still hasn’t come, so DH picked up a too-big used one that will do for hir while we wait.

So that’s our excitement.  I sure hope it is a good year!

And one more

Remember my cousin who didn’t have the Catholic wedding?  They’re expecting twins.  :)


  • I was so excited when they told us our insurance would cover “maternity care” with us only having to pay one $30 copay.  Turns out it only covered the DOCTOR.  The HOSPITAL is still deductible (bigger this year!) + 30% coinsurance.  Apparently actually giving birth isn’t considered maternity, although the doctor being there to catch it is…  So unexpected bill for $1200.  Which is still less than what DC1 cost us 5 odd years back.  Another reason I’m glad we did natural childbirth (saw the cost of an epidural while I was trying to figure out why we were getting this bill) and only stayed one night instead of two.  However, if we’d known, I woulda been able to set up an FSA for a 25% discount.
  • DC2 is so adorable.  I could totes gush.  Very bright eyes that we’re thankfully starting to see more of during the daytime (not just night).  Ze LOVES baths, especially getting hir hair wet.  Ze is a gross-motor junkie and still does the crawling reflex during tummy time.  Ze has also broken the family record on rolling over.  Ze is also way ahead on the pooing curve, but DH mainly has to deal with that.  Sploooort.
  • DC1 has gotten over the doting grandparents being gone and is back to hir delightful regular helpful self.
  • Apparently my breasts are a bit overactive this time around.  One side drips and the other side keeps going down the wrong tube for poor DC2.  DC2 is a bit of a chunk.
  • Speaking of nursing and eating, I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight after less than 3 weeks.  Hungry babies are awesome.
  • Some people are just bad with money even though they make more than we do.  Hint:  if you make more than we do (and we make reasonable amounts if you include our partners’ incomes) and live in an area that costs less that where we live and haven’t had a major uninsured medical trauma or nasty divorce … we don’t want to hear your complaining about being broke.  Especially when you then also talk about the stupid purchases you’re continually making that are contributing to you not being able to pay down your high interest debt.  We don’t actually care if you’re in debt, we just want you to not complain about it if you’re not going to fix it.
  • I had always wondered if it was true that sweet potatoes would explode in the oven or microwave if you failed to poke them (like with a fork) first, but was too afraid to try it out.  Turns out it is true, and partner had no idea you were supposed to poke them.  He knows now.  Although only 2/5 that he put in actually exploded.  Myth confirmed!
  • There’s a new spamming system that keeps giving really awesome comments on our posts… until I realize they’re just copying things I’ve said and reposting them as their own.  Well, technically they’re still great comments, but they get deleted anyway because nobody here needs to buy silver.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 14 Comments »

Planning charitable giving

Knowing how much to spend on charity each year can be difficult.  If you’re not in a religion that tells you hey, you have to give 10% if you want to be saved, making the decision of how much to spend on oneself, how much to spend on charity, and how much to save for our own future rainy days is not easy.

And then there’s the guilt whenever you look at worthy causes.  Do I really need a year of lattes or to pay down my mortgage faster etc. if that means a kid doesn’t get mosquito netting and dies of malaria or another kid could go to private school or a cat’s life isn’t saved?  (And, of course, who is more worthy?  The kid in the developing country who could get malaria, the kid in the inner city who won’t get as good an education, or the fluffy kitty cat?  And where does the ACLU fit in?  How can we justify any spending at all?)

This XKCD comic does a great job of exploring that dilemma.

On a more serious note, it can be good to budget one’s charity. Choose a dollar amount or a percentage amount of income or some other target, just like any other portion of what you spend. Then plan your spending around that. Like the comic, you don’t want giving to be a chore and something that causes you deprivation… if that happens you might stop giving at all.

By planning charitable giving first, just like you plan savings first, you should be able to spend guilt free, because your spending choices are being made at the expense of other spending choices, not at the expense of giving.

In reality:  I’m a soft touch… when people ask for good causes and good organizations I have a really hard time saying no, especially for things that hit education, kitties, or cancer.  So I do a fair amount of unplanned charitable giving compared to the regular planned giving we do.  But I’m also not as generous in terms of the amount I give as I thought I would be back before I started making a real income.  Part of that is that we’re saving for future charitable giving (on DH’s relatives… turns out a Pell grant pays 100% of community college if you’re truly poor… I should update on that situation), but it’s still not as generous as I’d thought we would be at this income level.  Lifestyle inflation does creep up on a person.  And there are so many tax-advantaged savings vehicles we haven’t maxed out yet.  Not to mention the fact that primary residences can be expensive.  Maybe we will give more later, maybe we won’t.

Do you give?  Do you plan charitable giving?  How do you plan charitable giving?

Link love

Linked from CPP, from blag hag, how sexist atheists suck just as much as other sexist people, among other things.

We Are Respectable Negroes on why Joe Biden can say things Republicans shouldn’t.

Super-hilarious post on assessing pie, from Academic Cog. It will ring true to anyone who’s had to go through ridiculous assessment processes.

Club thrifty’s post on her house-buying addiction made me giggle.

I’ve been really enjoying some in depth posts really getting at early retirement issues from retire by 40.  No specific link, but every 2-3 posts is a really great one on the topic.

Stolen from mad woman with a laptop:  Kate Harding tells us why it is our moral duty not to have any fewer than say 5 children.  Think of the prodigies we’re not birthing when we stop at 2 (or 1 or 0).

Creative Savv talks about teaching your 7 year old to cook.  I can’t wait until DC1 is tall enough to reach the stove without a stool.  (Ze does make hir own peanut butter jelly sandwiches these days.)

Barefoot doctoral talks about how women are different from ducks.  Spiked penises are involved.

Some fantastic and introspective posts from FGA and oil and garlic.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the Grumpies: College advice

Sasha asks:

I am interested in majoring in [awesome social science] with a specialty of criminology.  I’ve been looking at schools like [state flagship with top awesome social science program] and [overpriced NYC school with a reputation for poor financial aid] and other schools but I haven’t grown attached to any so some help would be fantastic.

    I have some regulations about school and stuff and here is list the I have come up with:
                          1) I want to go to a big school with many opportunities. I realize that I will probably change my mind about my major and I want to make sure that if I do I have a lot of options to choose from.
                          2) I’d like to go to a school that does not require the SAT. I need to work my ACT score up (since it is only a 26 so far) and I don’t have time to study for that and have a job and school. I realize that already cancels out some schools but I’d rather work on ACT than SAT.
                         3) Out of state is totally a possibility. In fact I would really like to leave the state if I can.
Are these reasonable guidelines?  What other advice do you have for me?
First off, the redacted state flagship school just happens to be one of the best places in the country for your proposed major.  It may be your best option.
The emphasis in criminology limits your options considerably, but as that emphasis is generally is only taught in graduate programs or outside the major in interdisciplinary criminology courses, you may want to consider waiting to take those classes until after college, or perhaps over the summer at a different school.  We don’t think you should apply only to programs that allow you to take a course in that emphasis.
In addition to big universities, you may want to look into smaller schools that are part of consortia.  These often combine the best features of large universities and smaller schools.  Some of the better known consortia schools are also generous with the financial aid.
We think that not taking the SAT is a big mistake for several reasons.  The first is that your ACT score is good, but not great.  It’s probably not going to earn you big money from schools desperate to have you– that may conflict with your regulation 4.  #2 and I both did way better on the SAT than we did on the ACT (I don’t think I broke 28 on the ACT but got in the upper 700s on the SAT).  Some people do better on one test vs. the other.   The second reason is that reg 2 conflicts with reg 3.  The ACT limits you geographically– it is much more popular in the midwest than in other regions.   Third, you don’t have to send your scores to schools until after you’ve seen how you did if you’re worried about getting a low score.  Fourth, if money for testing is a problem talk to your guidance counselor about getting financial help to take the test. Finally, remember that colleges will count your savings from job earnings at a higher rate than they will count your parents’ earnings.  It may be a better use of time to study for the SAT than to have a job that first semester if it translates to more money for college.  (Second semester you will have already turned in your FAFSA… senioritis ho!)

The actual cost of tuition may not be what is actually important if you are eligible for need-based aid.  If your parents truly do not make a lot of money, you should be eligible for a lot of need-based financial aid.  This aid often comes from the schools in the form of grants.  Some schools have more resources to give this aid than others.  As you are applying, find out how generous these schools, especially private schools, are.  One of us went to a pricey private school and it cost her less than going to the state flagship because her parents made very little money and she got huge grants from the private school but only moderate grants from the cash-strapped state school.  Her sister, otoh, went to a less generous private school and it cost more than the state flagship would have (said sister makes like a bazillion dollars now and loved college and didn’t drop out of her major like every female we know who went to the flagship in that major did, so it was probably a good choice… however, your proposed major is warm and fuzzy at the flagship).

So those are our thoughts on your guidelines.  We’d like to open it up to the readers now– what advice would you give Sasha?

Why I love anime

Because they’re almost all mini-series.

Generally you know if you’re starting something, it will finish.  It will have nice closure.  You won’t be left hanging.  If the show gets popular, it is still going to finish the story line and end.  They might add a new season, but it will also have a story line that has a crafted ending at the point in which it starts.

As a kid I HATED when the puppy never made it home or we never found out if the pirates were successful at getting rid of the evil miasma that was taking over the world.

Now at least sometimes we get some closure when they take a beloved series cancelled too soon and make it into a movie.  Though in the movie (spoiler alert!) everybody gets killed off.  Failing a movie, sometimes we get to see the last couple of unaired episodes on dvd, like with Wonderfalls.

Another reason I like anime is that it tends to focus on perseverance over innate talents.  In a series DC1 and I are currently watching, Law of Ueki, that idea is spelled out point-blank.  The main character loses “talents” as the series goes along and makes the point that that loss just means he needs to work harder, and that he can still enjoy the process of something like running even if he’s lost his innate ability to run well.

That idea that you can escape your circumstances also shows up with a recurring theme that you can create our own families, our own lives, our own destinies.  We can surround ourselves with other imperfect people and help each other grow.  As one of my favorites, Fruits Basket, says in the opening song, “I can’t be born again, but I can change a little every day.”

OTOH, #2 doesn’t like anime — most of it.  I have seen some lovely and wonderful examples, but mostly it irritates me.  I can’t stand how all the women have BIG EYES and teeny tiny mouths.  Just bat your lovely eyelashes and don’t talk, airhead.  Sigh.  Anatomically impossible women’s bodies in children’s outfits creep me out.  Yes, I know it is a cultural thing that I will not fully understand, not being steeped in that culture.  Still, ick.  IBTP.

#1 notes that #2 is talking about anime that #1 does not watch (well, maybe some harem anime…).  There’s a lot more to anime these days than male fantasy, especially with anime that is appropriate for children (a necessity when one’s child is old enough to ask awkward questions).  There are a lot of strong smart female characters who persevere for their own reasons.  Ginormous breasts are also absent from most of the anime I watch.  There’s even animes in which the girl starts doing something because of a boy, but like in Legally Blonde, through her struggles she realizes the boy isn’t worth it but she is.  Another of my favorites, Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge, turns the Pygmalian story on its head– 4 pretty boys are recruited to transform a goth girl into a lady, and instead she changes them.

Any other anime likers?  What do you like most about the art form?  For non-anime watchers, have you ever been annoyed by a series ending before there’s closure, or deciding to drag out a story arc way too long after the show gets popular?

Growing needs

Tiny babies fuss, (murfle, make expressive faces and wiggles,) and cry to communicate, but the communication gets more difficult as their needs grow.  Here’s what seems to be the ticket for us so far (and the order that we check things in… hungry?  wet?  need burping?)

On Day 1, all DC2 needed was milk from a breast and ze was happy.  Ze would fall asleep with a smile, tiny arms wrapped around a ginormous breast.

Day 3, DC2 discovered that wet diapers are uncomfortable.  If a breast didn’t satisfy, check the diaper.

A few days after that, DC2 discovered gas.  Gas problems could be solved eventually by walking, patting, and eventual burps or poops.

Sometime in the second week, DC2 got a bit more existential and came up with two new needs.  The need to direct hir own locomotion, something ze is mostly physically unable to do, which causes a lot of frustration and forces us to be very careful that ze doesn’t just fling hirself from our arms to the floor, and the need not to be bored.  We think these are related.  Initially lights and ceiling fans kept hir from being bored (the trip from the hospital to the car was *amazing* to hir for that reason), but they seem to have lost their initial luster.  It is darned hard to entertain a bright-eyed often awake newborn who is no longer satisfied with the same sights and cannot yet hold onto a toy.  So we do a lot of walking around.  Thank goodness for big sibling, and thank goodness DC2 seems a bit less traumatized by tummy time than DC1 was.  I guess we’ll be going out a lot once I’m fully functional and the two week don’t take the newborn anywhere moritorium has been lifted.  (Also we have a mobile in the mail as DC1’s mobile broke into component parts sometime in the past 5 years.)

I could turn this into an analogy about life-style inflation, but I don’t think it fits.  I think a better analogy is one of ambition.  Needing more than a serving of warm milk can be frustrating because warm milk is easier to obtain than a lot of things.  But having more needs, especially existential needs, can also be a driver for growth.  Ambition can help us do things we never knew existed when we were satisfied with a full tummy.

But still, we’re not looking forward to when DC2 discovers that tummies can be upset by things other than the need to burp or poo.

What evidence do you see of growth and growing needs in your life?  Are you satisfied with being satisfied?

Personal assistants and other outsourcing

Life with a baby is suddenly hectic again, especially when you’re used to living with an elementary schooler who can entertain hirself pretty well.  Especially that whole not sleeping thing.

One thing that is recommended for we middle-class and upper-middle-class folks when time is of the essence is outsourcing.  Pay someone to clean, to do yard-work, child-care, and all the little errands that need to be done.  The higher the value of our time, the more we should be outsourcing.  Someone else should buy groceries or take things to the recycling center!  Get a personal assistant to take care of the honey-do list.

In the past, when DC1 was tiny, we did on occasion hire a college student, generally one of our mother’s helpers or a friend of theirs, to just go through our to-do list and get things done.  For less than $100, a huge amount of crap weighing on our minds for weeks, months, or even years, would get done over the course of a weekend and could stop nagging us.

Any time we have any sort of plumbing problem, we call our amazing plumbers, secure in the knowledge that for the cost of $80 and parts everything will be better.  It just isn’t worth it to try to fix it ourselves when we know they’ll do it right the first time without us getting dirty or wasting our time rushing to Home Depot.  (My sister, who makes way more than I do, recently fixed her garbage disposal, which would have been fine if her housemate hadn’t not realized it was broken for over a week.  The disgust factor alone would have be getting out my checkbook.)

Outsourcing can be awesome.

On the other hand, DH is currently doing all of our yard-work.  We’d love to outsource it, but after going through something like 7 different companies we just gave up.  Either they try to cheat us by charging more than was agreed to, or they run over our blueberry bushes with the mower, or they do a great job for a few years, then graduate and sell the company to someone who mows over our blackberry bushes.  Finding new people we can trust who won’t kill our lawn is just way more trouble than it’s worth.

Similarly with cleaning folks… you can get a crew who will cost an arm and a leg and sometimes do a great job and sometimes suck, just depending on who is on the team that week, or you can get a one-person company.  The really good people everyone recommends aren’t taking on new clients.  The folks who are taking on new clients do a great job… at first, but then start turning your countertops yellow (despite the repeated explanations about bleach) and scraping your hardwood floors while ignoring things they used to do a good job on.  They get complacent.  And so, we just live in squalor.  Squalor uses fewer chemicals too.

Since DC1 started going to preschool and our mother’s helpers and previous folks graduated, it became difficult to find someone to do personal assisting kinds of work.  Sure we could advertise, but interviewing folks for something that’s only going to save the time of a weekend…well, we might as well take the goodwill stuff to goodwill ourselves.  Or just put off that chore.

And let’s not even go into tax implications and making sure the help is legal so when the President of the United States tries to appoint you to a high level position there isn’t that as a reason to block the candidacy.

So yes, outsourcing can be awesome, but good help is hard to find.

I am looking forward to having mother’s helpers around again.  In the past they cleaned the kitchen while DC1 nursed.  A small part of their jobs, but one that made me happy.  I’m hoping for the same with DC2.  Hopefully we’ll find some awesome childcare help.  Paying above market wage seemed to help last time and will hopefully help this time too.

Do you outsource?  Why or why not?  What do you outsource?  Have you had trouble finding good people you can trust?  Where do you find great people for outsourcing?

Link loving

CPP asks an important question.

John Scalzi teaches us How not to be a creeper.  And a followup, for the d00dz. (Bonus: you will get a song stuck in your head forever.)

We’re light on links again because of BABIES!  Also syllabi and crap like that.

Hello, baby:

(bowties are cool)

The Doctor speaks Baby:

Also:  Amazon is having a $2.99 sale for Georgette Heyer books on Kindle.

Madwomanwithalaptop and why you should give money to Tammy Duckworth.  I did.