We love ice cream

LOVE IT.

Also gelato.

#1’s favorite is anything chocolate with nuts.  Though she loves many many other kinds of ice cream.

#2’s favorite is coffee ice cream, with kahlua and chocolate syrup on top.

#1 notes also that she loves real whipped cream.  And chocolate syrup.  Ooh, and she’s been jonesing for a turtle sundae since she left the midwest… at some point she’s just going to have to roast and salt her own pecans.  (Update:  partner is a dream boat and I am the luckiest woman in the world.  Happy satisfied #1.  Sticky syrupy kitchen…)

Do you like ice cream?  What’s your favorite kind?

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Adventures in cloth diapering

With DC1 we got a gift of newborn-size g-diapers.  They were a pain to use and leaked.  So we didn’t use them.

We flirted with cloth diapering more in earnest around the time to start potty training.  On the recommendation of a friend, we used Fuzzibunz pocket diapers, size medium.  We had 6 of them and used them pretty much on weekends (since we didn’t want to bother daycare) and sometimes evenings.  When DC1 was completely potty trained during the day and had grown out of the mediums, we bought 3 size larges for night and some insert doublers.

Fuzzibunz were ok.  A bit of a hassle compared to disposables, but not too bad.  We swore we would cloth diaper DC2, but only after poo got solid.  It is much easier to remove solid poo.

Fast forward several years.  And me being sick of emergency late-night Target runs, but unable to buy in bulk because DC2 grows out of a diaper sizes in an unpredictable manner.  (We seem to have settled on size 2 for a while at this point, but who knows how long it will last.)  I figured if we had some cloth diapers in reserve, we could at least wait until morning to run out to the store.

Cloth diapering technology has improved dramatically.  After a bit of internet research, we decided on BumGenius All-in-one (organic, though really I just cared about the AIO part).  These are one size fits all by way of an ingenious snap system.  Instead of being pocket diapers, they have two layers of inserts sewn on the inside, but in order to enable relatively fast drying (80 min in the dryer in our experience), they’re only sewn on the top and bottom edges of the insert/diaper and there’s space between the diaper and the insert while washing and drying.  Except that snaps are a bit more finicky than velcro (but last longer), they’re really no more difficult than disposables in terms of ease of use.  Even with non-solid poo.  (Though note:  we are breast-milk only so the poo doesn’t smell bad… it might not be this easy with formula poo.)

After use, we throw them in the washing machine.  Once we’re ready to do a full load of laundry (or we run out of cloth), something that happens once every day or two, we rinse them on cold.  Then we throw in the rest of the laundry, add soap, and do a regular cycle.  We dry for 60 min, clean out the lint filter and any obviously dry laundry, then dry another 20 min.  Not much more effort than our regular laundry cycle.

I had originally bought 6, just for emergencies, but they were so clever and so nice to use, I got another 6, for a total of 12.  We don’t make the mother’s helpers use them and we don’t use them at night (since we’d rather DC2 sleep than wake us up demanding a diaper change).  So DC2 still goes through ~48 disposables each week, or half a box of the size 2s (ze is ahead on the poo curve on top of being a hearty pee-er).

Anyhow, cloth diapering technology is really amazing these days and it’s gotten much easier to use.

We were not paid for this post and neither Fuzzibunz nor Bum Genius knows we’re alive (if they did, that would be kind of creepy).

Have you or has someone you love tried cloth diapering?  How did that work out?  Any favorite brands or tips?  (Alternatively, have you ever wondered why parents with young kids talk about poo all the time?)

Scholastic Dilemma

The second grade teacher said she’d totes do Scholastic, just like the K teacher did last year.

I tend to drop somewhere around $200/month on Scholastic when we get the flyers.  Otherwise I don’t generally buy books any more.  (People buy books for me from Amazon.  I’m kinda itching to buy some myself.)

DC1 has really gotten into a lot of the series I’ve bought from Scholastic.  The Magic Treehouse books have been read 2-3 times, as have the A to Z mysteries.  Ze’s really into mysteries now, so ze devoured Cam Jansen and Jigsaw Jones and Nate the Great, even though they don’t take very long to read (I think 20 min or so for the Cam Jansens).  Ze really wants the Calendar Mysteries and the Patriotic Mysteries (or whatever they’re called) by the same author as the A to Z mysteries.  And, you know, more books.

Ze still has plenty of books ze hasn’t read, it is true.  Even books at hir reading level and (in theory) interest level, though no more mysteries right now.

What have we been doing instead?  Saturday mornings while DH and DC2 snooze, we hit the library.  They don’t have more than one copy of most anything and generally stuff is checked out, but DC1 has been finding things to read in hir series of interest, even if out of order.

So, the dilemma– should I ask the teacher when we’ll be getting Scholastic flyers?  As soon as we get a flyer I will start spending large sums of money because I’m a total addict.  I want to buy more books, and I wanna buy them cheap.  (And there’s totes still room in DC1’s second bookcase.)  But also… each month we delay that’s $200 or so I don’t spend.  This year we can afford my habit.  Next year, maybe not.

Link love

We may not have been able to answer that question about how much a master costs, but here’s an article on how dominatrixes (dominatri?) pay their taxes.  Spoiler:  same as most small businesses.

Cherish the scientist talks about the problem with men telling her what to post and not post on the internet.

Unladylike Musings with a reminder to give yourself some TLC from a hot guy.

Hush is seeking advice on school choice for her five year old.

Scicurious answers the question of why walnuts are shaped like brains (well, not really).

A cute video of Big Bird on SNL.  Warning:  painful avian puns.

The Atlantic refuting the “economic proof” that Ryan’s plan works.  (I’m not sure what to think about the fact that I’ve had pleasant conversations with both economists mentioned).  I like the way that this article points out that just because an economist says, “under these assumptions the plan works” doesn’t even mean the economist thinks the plan works (or if he does, that other economists will agree with the assumptions)!  But politicians will take whatever they can get and twist it.  Too bad we don’t use adjectives, because then we could say “heroic assumptions.”

Because you need something sweet to clear out your mind after thinking about politics, here’s some lovely Sunday Sweets from Cake Wrecks.  Warning:  you will get a song stuck in your head, but it’s a good song and you won’t mind.

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

Your googly questions

Q:  what else can be done with vertical blinds when they wear out

A:  #1 suggests an exorcism.

Q:  how to writye a response to a unit review

A:  if you’re my department?  Very snippily, making sure to throw junior faculty under the bus.

Q:  does milk come out as long as baby keeps sucking

A:  Yes.  You are always producing milk, though sometimes the baby doesn’t think it is enough.  Recall that milk is demand-induced-supply, so that even if there’s not enough milk now, there will be a bigger supply after you get some sleep or by this same time tomorrow.  Also:  Sometimes the baby doesn’t want milk, just to suck, in those cases ze manipulates the breast to get little to no milk.

Q:  can i have a baby and finish my phd

A:  Assuming you’re not infertile, probably.

Q:  not needing a second kid..but should i

A:  why?

Q:  is getting a second job worth it?

A:  Depends on the circumstances

Q:  get a second job to pay down credit card debt?

A:  Good idea!  Just make sure you don’t rack up more because you’re so tired.

Q:  why buy a house that’s not in a good school district

A:  They tend to be cheaper for what you get otherwise.

Q:  what other things we can eat instead of maggie

A:  Ice cream.  (Says maggie.)

Q:  is it alright to force a kid to learn something

A:  Yes

RBOC

  • It’s really disappointing reading wikipedia articles on REM songs.  They’re honest about why they wrote a song and what the meaning is (unlike, say, TMBG).  This leads to me finding out that songs I thought were really deep are really about one of them attempting to write the most inane lyrics he could come up with, or another coming up with a song because he was learning to play a musical instrument and it seemed to fit.  Urf.  Maybe they’re still deep but it’s just a subconscious deep.  We should all stand in the place where we are.
  • We have no readers from Greenland.  At least not since wordpress started keeping track for us (Feb 25, 2012).
  • We’ve been pondering why people around here are so curious about baby nocturnal habits.  My theory was that it was some cultural thing like how Midwesterners are always talking about the weather.  DH thinks it’s schadenfreude pure and simple.  He may be right!
  • DH has been using the powerpoints of the previous 102 professor… with the new baby and teaching both 101 and 102 and him being a lame duck, he didn’t see much point in going all out.  Unfortunately, after going through an entire day’s worth of powerpoint, a student asked a question that showed that the entire day’s example was wrong.  And had been taught incorrectly for FIVE YEARS.  The students have been upfront about begging him to do his own notes (one of them even said, “You’re a better teacher than this”).  So he thinks he’ll have to make that change.
  • I always seem to get rewarded for things I did ages ago rather than what I’m working on now.  I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing in terms of my emotions and well-being, getting rewarded with a 1-5 year delay.
  • Related:  #2’s summaries of her work are always really down-playing her publications and excited about current and future work.   I think she should be upbeat about her pubs too.
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mothers helpers

A mother’s helper is basically a nanny who only works when you’re also there.  Ze generally also does light cleaning.

With infant childcare there are several options.  You can go the nanny route, and work at the office while the nanny stays home with the baby.  You can do in-home childcare, which is similar except the care provider is in hir home rather than yours.  You can do center daycare, which is regulated by the state and includes many people taking care of many children.

We decided to go the mother’s helpers route for several reasons.  First, it was suggested to me by a famous woman in my field who had done the daycare route and was constantly sick (and the baby was constantly sick) and she wishes she’d done the mother’s helper route instead.  Oddly, when she had a second child she went the daycare route again and completely disremembers having any such conversation with me.  (She’s not the first famous person in my field to pour hir heart out to me and then forget I exist…)  Second, with our first baby, I was terrified of having a nanny looking after the baby unsupervised.  What if ze left the baby to cry all day?  What if ze shook the baby?  The fact that I didn’t trust myself alone with the baby added to that paranoia.  Third, the daycare centers didn’t have an opening for an infant until 8 months *anyway*.

Enter college students.

We always had at least two mother’s helpers at a time. When one was out sick with the plague it meant we didn’t lose an entire week.  (And presumably if one had to leave the job we would have been left partially in the lurch.)

With our first child we had some stunningly great mother’s helpers, and DC got very different things out of each (for example, that first semester, H was super active, M was basically a pillow for DC to recuperate from hir wild days with H).

With our second child we’ve had more scheduling difficulties, and we did have one quit before midterm to take a daycare job, despite having assured us when we hired her that she would stick out the semester.  So it’s been a bit stressful from that aspect.  However, I’m not sure that alternatives would have been any less stressful.  Fortunately this semester I have leave from teaching which I did not my first year, and DH is a lame duck with his job, so it’s been easier to weather these interruptions.

The mother’s helpers job is basically to entertain the baby when ze is awake and to either hold the baby when ze’s asleep or keep an ear out if ze is sleeping in the bassinet or pack-n-play or on the floor.  When I’m gone, they bottle feed the baby.  When I’m there they bring hir to me when ze is hungry and do light housework, starting with the kitchen.  When the baby is upset, ze goes to DH or me and we comfort.

As good as the childcare my kid is getting, I have to say my favorite part is having a clean kitchen at the end of the day.

What childcare arrangements have you or your kids done?  How did those work out?

Is GDP how we should be measuring success: A deliberately controversial post

Chacha and Linda commented on an earlier post that they didn’t like the way that success of a country is measured by GNP (gross national product) or GDP (gross domestic product), basically how many goods and services are sold in an economy.  Having more goods and services doesn’t mean a country is doing better and focuses on materialism as a sign of success.  [They also talk about the lump of labor fallacy, but that’s the subject of someone else’s post.]

Believe it or not, in economics we don’t assume that GDP is directly a measure of success.  We really care about happiness, or, as economists like to jargon it up, “utility.”  GDP does measure stuff, and stuff is something that we put into our utility functions.  Assuming free-disposal (which, admittedly, is a pretty big assumption), that is, that if you don’t want something you can get rid of it at no cost to yourself, then more stuff is better (or at least not worse).  We’re all about maximizing happiness, and stuff is just one thing that goes into that equation.

We would love to measure actual happiness.  But… it’s hard to measure happiness.  Even if we ask people, we’re not really sure if they’re telling us about relative happiness or absolute happiness, or if there are cultural differences in how to answer the happiness question that make differences in happiness not comparable across countries.

But we can measure stuff, so that’s what we measure.

We do also use other measures besides GDP: things like poverty rate, infant mortality rate, income inequality, literacy, etc.  These tend to give a measure of how a nation’s poorest citizens are doing.  Each of these captures a measure of a country’s success, but alone each cannot give a full picture.

What do you think?  How should we be measuring success of a country?  Is GDP a valid measurement?  Is happiness our end goal?  What would you measure instead?  (And should we even be comparing countries?  Why or why not?)

link love

Miser mom on the importance of practice and making mistakes.

Play fight repeat with a suggestion to help your kids with their teachers (and increase emotional awareness).  Also check out her more recent posts.

Samuel L. Jackson with another profanity laden nighttime story.

Not of general interest talks about the best time to do anything.  Surprisingly, the answer is not later.

Laura Vanderkam has been on a roll.  Check out her recent posts.  Here’s one on weird media narratives of female perfection.  Baking is mentioned.

Hard to shop for with Penny Arcade.  (#1 thinks #2 has been trawling the archives lately.  It probably stops the pain.)
Sigh.  Politicians.

We were an editor’s pick in this week’s carnival of personal finance over at Tie teh Money Knot! 

Ask the grumpies: 403(b) vs. Roth

Leah asks:

If I don’t get a match with my employer 403(b) yet, is it better to just max out my Roth IRA? I haven’t been able to do that yet, but now I have enough of a paycheck to do so.

Is it advantageous to contribute to a 403(b) if I don’t think I’ll be at a job for more than a few years? Are those easy or hard to roll over?

Also, is it better to max out my Roth this year or pay off my student loans ASAP? I have enough in the bank to do one or the other. My student loans come due soon at the shocking 6.8%! (Shocking because, uh, aren’t interest rates super low? I’m amazed that my student loan rate is higher than advertised mortgage rates right now.) I’ll be draining my efund to pay off the student loans in full; they’re subsidized, so this would mean I won’t pay any interest at all on them and essentially just floated that money for two years. I figure it’s worth draining the efund because my spouse also has an efund that is sufficient for us, and I am also in a job with earnings that will pay the efund back this year. And it is both penny and pound foolish to save money at 0.8% APR to create 6.8% interest on my loan.

If you get a match with your employer account, that’s generally the way to go.  It is very difficult to beat a 100% immediate return on investment.  (Or even a 50% return if they only match at that rate.)  However, if the employer doesn’t match, there are a number of things you should be thinking about when deciding whether to go with the 403(b) or an IRA.  (Note, below I am assuming you don’t want to do anything crazy like putting rental properties in your retirement account– something you can do with an IRA, but not with a 403(b).)

1.  Do I qualify for an IRA?  If you’re not making a decently large amount of money then chances are you qualify both for the Roth and to get the maximum deduction on the traditional IRA.  Now, this is a bit less important because for the time being you can contribute to a traditional IRA and immediately roll it over into a ROTH, but that’s a little bit of a pain when you have a work retirement option already.

2.  Do I want to take the deduction now (as with a traditional plan, so your tax bill is lower this year) or do I want the deduction in the future when I’m old and drawing from the Roth (as with the Roth option)?  If you want the deduction in the future, does your 403(b) plan come with a Roth option?  If not, then the IRA Roth is the thing to do.  Otherwise the two are equivalent– you could either do a traditional 403(b) or a traditional IRA.

3.  How sucky are the investment plans in my 403(b)?  If Vanguard is one of your choices, then it doesn’t matter which you choose (after going through 1 and 2).  If you’re stuck with a high cost annuity or Ing is your only retirement option… then go with the IRA.  How do you know if your investment plan options are sucky?  The main things you look for are Fees and Choice.  It is hard to beat the fees at Vanguard.  Even Fidelity and TIAA-Cref are a bit higher, although those are reasonable options.  In terms of choice– you want to be able to buy low costs index funds and/or ETFs without having to pay a huge fee to do so.  Even better is being able to buy a cheap Target Date fund that you can just set and forget.
As for how hard is it to roll over a 403(b)– it is pretty easy.  You call up Vanguard, or whatever company you want to use, they ask you some questions, they fill out the forms, contact the company, and basically do everything for you.  However, there is a problem that sometimes people forget to do anything with their 403(b) before a window has passed with them leaving employment and they end up taking a penalty and getting sent a check for the balance of their account.  If you think that’s likely to happen to you, just go with the IRA.

Re: your loans.  That interest rate is high enough that paying them off seems beneficial over saving for retirement (but save what you can anyway!)  If they were 2% like #2’s loans are, we’d say to hold on to them because you can’t even get a mortgage at that rate.  But they’re not.  It also sounds like you’re covered in the event of a true emergency.  (If you weren’t, we’d have to talk about what to do about float, and how much you can really afford to pay off.)  So go for it!