link lava

Cherish the scientist discusses homeschooling and gifted children.

Yes I am cheap has an amazing story about how she engineered her layoff.

I am officially tired of the anti-Sandberg rhetoric.  I’m especially tired of people saying that she’s destroying her children.  That said, the CNN reporters have been having a good streak this week.  (Again, don’t read the comments.)  1 2 3 And here’s Laura Vanderkam’s review.

Miser mom posted this week.  Yay!

This CNN story on a new charity like donors choose for foster kids made me cry.  Last I checked, they’d run out of people to donate to because of the huge influx of donors, but hopefully everything is back up again by now.  It is a wonderful idea.

Show us your bookshelf!

Afford Anything discusses breaking habits.

Single Mom Rich Mom pointed us to this gawker article about how it is easy to preach minimalism when you have a huge security net underneath you.

Challenges of parenting a gifted kid.  Perspective from away from the oven.  Another by childhood inspired.  Let’s just say, this week we’re a little ticked off at backlash against parents of gifted kids.  Here’s a response to the idea that gifted kids don’t need anything special until third grade from

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

Ask the grumpies: Lower cost pampering substitutes

In Monday’s post, Debbie M brought up the point that if you figure out what it is you really want when you’re thinking about that Caribbean vacation or whatnot, you can often figure out a way to meet that need much less expensively.  (I believe this may be mentioned in YMoYL, but don’t quote me on that.)

She says:

And then there’s also strategizing about what makes you happy. If you want to feel pampered, do you need to visit a tropical island? Or would you be just as happy with an in-town spa or fancy hotel, a massage, a facial, or, in my case, fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and a good book? Basically, whenever you’re about to spend money (or time), you can try to back up and figure out what your real goal is and then try to brainstorm if there is any better way to achieve that goal.

That got into a conversation in the comments section:  what other ways can you pamper yourself at a lower cost?

Debbie M asks:

And maybe oilandgarlic can share a list of Frugal Substitutes! We can always use more of those!  And Flavia, I’d like to hear more examples you’ve found where you can convert more expensive indulgences into cheaper ones.

At grumpy rumblings we are big fans of buying whatever you want at the grocery store, thus saving money from unsatisfying meals out.  (Though we do eat meals out!)

We re-read things sometimes instead of buying new.  And, in general, reading about things is a nice substitute for inventing a fantasy travel device.

But I dunno… we’re not big Mani-pedi people, so it’s hard to think about what is a substitute for something else and when what we do we’re doing because it is better than something else.  We actually prefer staycations.

Donna Freedman had a recent post about having a pretend breakfast cafe with her nieces and nephews as the staff.

Grumpy readership, help Debbie M out– how have you converted expensive indulgences into cheaper ones?

Does forcing kids to be bored teach them useful skills?: A deliberately controversial post

Related: does forcing kids to be with sucky people teach them important life skills?

We argue: no

Boredom leads to trouble and increased drop-out rates.   It would have to be an important skill to make up for the negatives.  But it isn’t.

As an adult, you have more control over your environment, so learning these skills (such as they are) may not be as applicable as we’d wish.

Better: give kids skills to manipulate their environment, so they know they can change it.

If they do have to be occasionally bored or to deal with sucky people, why not learn that on the job as adults? It’s an easier lesson to learn when you’re making the choice to deal with it because you’re getting a higher paycheck or other perks to your job.

And nobody should have to put up with a sucky work environment as an adult. That’s why we work so hard so we have options and freedom to change things, even if our parents sacrificed in their own work environments for us.

This post was brought to you by our childhood selves, who were bored as crap in school and got nothing useful out of grades 1 – 8.  [#2 says, except 4th grade with Mrs. A.  She was AWESOME.]


  • 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?

Latte factor vs big item spending

One of the good points that Laura Vanderkam makes in her book,  All the Money in the World, is that if you don’t buy the big ticket item, if you spend less on your wedding, take the cheaper vacation, buy the less expensive house, hold on to your car a few more years etc., then that money can easily buy a large number of lattes, weekly housecleaning, and so on.

Earlier personal finance books, such as those by David Bach, mention the other trade-off.  By not indulging in those lattes, you can get that fancy vacation, the bigger house, the wedding of your dreams, and so on.  (Of course, he also makes the point that if you’re not saving for retirement, the latte should probably go until you’re making ends meet and providing yourself a safety cushion).

Elizabeth Warren with her balanced money formula combines these two views, by saying that really no more than 50% should be going to the mandatory items like your housing, and something like 30% can go to either lattes or vacations (or both)– your choice. 

What view is right?  Well, it all goes to diminishing marginal utility.  At some point you have had enough lattes that another one isn’t going to make you marginally more happy than saving the equivalent amount for a big ticket item.  At some point with housing, your house is nice enough that rather than paying for more housing you should allow yourself little treats.

The problem, Vanderkam notes, is that people tend to misjudge the happiness they get from small daily treats compared to larger ticket items.  Most people would be a little happier indulging a small amount regularly compared to having the large annual vacation.  Although, with anticipatory happiness while saving for the big ticket items, those happiness numbers may be more equal than some happiness studies claim.

So should you get rid of that latte factor in order to buy the house or the vacation?  Or should you buy a smaller house and scrimp on vacations so you can have a cleaning lady or Starbucks without guilt?  Only you know the shape of your utility function and where it hits your budget constraint, and only you can make that decision.

Are more a saving up for big purchases kind of person or a sweat the big stuff so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff kind of person?  Or has your budget constraint shifted so you can have both?

link loved

All righty, some links that may call you to political action.  Check them out anyway!

Delagar explains how government is the solution.

Fusion on the fly talks about how we treat our sick and poor.

Club Thrifty talks about how the health care sector in the US is messed up.

Mike the Mad Biologist links to some informative graphics about wealth and inequality in the US.

CNN talks about how men can step up to help end domestic violence in the country.  Do not read the comments section.

And some more links:

Hush, by request, discusses innovation vs. productivity.

Shakespeare experts:  check out this week’s Sheldoncomics.  The one before this too.

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

Barbara Eden can sing.

Ask the Grumpies: Horsie help! (Calling Bogart…)

Linda is going to Scotland for 16 days and asks a bunch of stuff:

So here I am again getting excited about including some riding into my trip to Scotland. This will not be a riding-only vacation, but I’m hoping to include two to three half-day rides while I’m there. Physically I’m in decent shape and go to the gym regularly. I’ve already told my personal trainer about my plans and we’re including more core exercises and work on my inner and outer thighs. I’m also taking a spin class once a week to increase my aerobic conditioning because I know how much of a workout riding can be.

O yeah.  This is where I’d recommend starting lessons ASAP so you can see which muscles on you personally will hurt the most, and you can work on those in the gym.

What questions do I ask stables to find one that will help me be a competent rider for my trip?

Heck if I know!  I would tell them what you want, and ask if they can accommodate your goals in the time you have.  Ask about schedules, price, etc.  Ask them if you can work on a wide variety of techniques because out on the trail you won’t be *as* concerned about diagonals, etc., as you are about communication, control, and working over a variety of terrain.

While I’m sure I’ll have to do indoor and arena riding, I’m also looking for practical experience riding a horse on a trail with an English saddle. Is it naive of me to try to locate someplace that offers this option?

I don’t think it’s naive at all, because that’s what I do!  The place where I am does EVERYTHING in an English saddle:  dressage, trail riding, cross-country, jumping, games of skill, even the occasional barrel race.  We also ride outside in every weather (sometimes bareback), which I imagine is very beneficial to what you want to do.  I guess it depends where you are.  Where are you?  I guess my only advice is to call around.  Experiment with what length of stirrups feels good to you most of the time — for an English-trained horse and an English saddle of any type, you will want the stirrups a good deal shorter than Western riders use them.  You will want them short enough that you can stand up if you end up having to jump a ditch or something, but long enough that your legs are relaxed, and bent some-but-not-a-lot.  Ask your instructor.

Any recommendations on riding gear?

Never get on a horse without a helmet.

You can get one for $50 or maybe the place you’re going will have them to borrow.  You can also get helmet covers that are fleecy things that pull over the helmet and keep your ears warm when it’s nippy.  A ventilated helmet will be cooler in the heat.  Good fit is essential.  Ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help you fit one.

Always wear gloves.  If things get out of control and you have to really haul on a rein or a lead rope, the last thing you want to worry about is rope burn.  There are lightweight summer gloves (~$25?) if it’s going to be warm.  Plus, this saves you from sunburning your knuckles.

Wear sweat-proof sunblock and lots of it.  Tie your hair back so it doesn’t blow in your mouth when you need to concentrate.

While I can afford riding lessons now, I don’t have any equipment. I plan to also be doing a lot of hiking and walking

I think you should be able to borrow whatever you need, with the possible exception of footwear.  Ask around.

in Scotland, and since I am planning to pack light and carry it on the plane, I don’t want to bring hiking shoes *and* riding boots or any clothing that doesn’t have multiple purposes. I’ve been looking online and am hoping that a pair of boots like these could be dual purpose. (I likely won’t need a heavy lug sole for the type of hiking I’ll be doing.)

Gosh, I really don’t know.  Especially for English riding, good footwear is essential.  You’ll need a heel on your shoe or boot so that your foot can’t slip forward through the stirrup (you can break your ankle).  You also don’t want a lot of deep tread on it, because you want your foot to be able to slip backwards out of the stirrup if you fall off (if it doesn’t the horse will drag you along willy-nilly by your foot — very awful; or if you can’t get your foot out fast, the horse might fall on top of you).  If you have big ol’ Western stirrups, this is probably less important.  If you are riding bareback or with no stirrups you can wear whatever you want.

It’s probably down to your comfort level and instructor’s recommendation.  You can get ankle boots (search for paddock boots such as these  )
which could double as daily-wear shoes, and optionally pair them with half-chaps.  I don’t know that the half-chaps are strictly necessary; I guess it depends on the pants you’re wearing.  Certainly paddock boots + half-chaps might be cheaper and more versatile than good field boots.

Personally, if I were going on a riding vacation, I’d bring my own tall boots, helmet, and gloves, because that is what i’m comfortable in, and I would borrow the rest of what I needed.  Maybe I’d actually borrow the helmet too, for space/packing reasons.  Again, it’s up to you.

Are half-chaps necessary when only doing a few days of riding here or there? A pair of gaiters or gaiter-like gear (which is what half-chaps sort of are) could come in handy under water-proof pants while I’m hiking so I’m thinking they may not be a waste of money. And I may need half-chaps for lessons, too. I expect there to be days when it will be wet so I’m already committed to buying and packing some water-proof hiking pants; hopefully I can also use them while riding if we’re out on a wet day.

If you take lessons somewhere, they probably have guidelines about this.

Do you do much riding outside in the wet? What do you recommend to wear when just getting into riding?

Layers.  Lots of layers.  Remember that cotton and wool are crap when wet.  I wear underarmour underwear (compression gear or heat gear) to wick away the sweat, and in the winter I put long underwear over all that.  Then come my riding tights, and then sometimes another pair of extra pants over that to stay warm and dry.  layers on top, too!  Bring extra socks!  A headband or bandanna is very useful.

Maybe I’m over-thinking the preparation for this particular trip, but I am hoping to include some horsey-type vacationing and leisure more regularly in my life. Any advice you can share — even if it is just suggested forums where I can ask more people for advice like this — will be very helpful.

I’m sure there are forums but I’m not on them so I don’t know.  Good luck, it sounds like so much fun!!

Can anybody fill in the missing gaps for Linda?


We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog day to let you know that



Now both halves of the blog are tenured!  We promise to remain grumpy though.


*censored by #2 who is an evil evil person, though still very proud of #1!

Unnatural Mother

The title is what a famous single academic called another famous academic after hearing that the latter spent her post-delivery hours in the hospital (no doubt while her newborn napped) working on a revise and resubmit.

I, too, am an unnatural mother.  (Though with my first, I did catch up on the Harry Potter series in the hospital– there was a 3 day regression running at home, so giving birth came at a good time.)

I don’t identify with the standard tropes.  And I think I only introspect on motherhood when I read one of these tropes and find I don’t identify with it.  Since I no longer read the NYTimes and am off forums, that happens a lot less frequently these days, and I suspect I’m happier for it.

Grad school changed my entire sense of self in the way that bootcamp tears someone down before building them up again.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy changed me to become closer to the person I wanted to be.  Motherhood, not so much.

I don’t feel that motherhood has changed my life in ways I never would have dreamed.  It’s been pretty much what I expected.

I did think I would still love my cats as much as my babies, but it turns out that they actually did become second-class citizens.  Loved and cosseted, but no longer the most important creatures in the house.

DH says that he never would have noticed how many curse words and how many panty-shots there were in Goonies before having kids.  He also still feels just as much himself before and after kids… and he is pretty much just as I’d imagined he’d be.  (Wonderful, of course.)

Loss of autonomy… no, that’s what work is for.  Also, as my grandmother always said, hire good help.

Overwhelmed… well, sometimes, but not usually.  DH is really great with children and once we got DC1’s food issues figured out (green peppers) it wasn’t so bad.  There was a semester of awfulness in which the three of us were constantly sick, but that’s not entirely DC1’s fault– it was a bad flu year for everybody.  We did wait to have a second child until the first was able to entertain hirself and could help us out, which helps.

It is true that my kids are amazing.  (And I hope all parents think their kids are amazing.)  They get more amazing every day.  I don’t want them to stay babies– I love seeing them grow into responsible small adults.  (And with that evidence, how can I feel guilt?)

Would I be different without children?  Well, yes.  All my life I’ve been tackling difficult goals and usually I figure out what it takes to get where I want to go and decide whether or not the effort is worth it.  That year-and-some of infertility with the miscarriage was the first time that I ever thought that maybe no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted something, no matter what I put myself through, I might not be able to get what I wanted more than anything.  Because my body was failing me.  But then I unexpectedly got pregnant in the end and that lesson remained unlearned.  So DC1 brought me back to the me who tackles challenges, and that lesson will have to wait another day.

So I may be an unnatural mother, following in a long line of pragmatic career women with perfect children, but I am a happy self-confident mother.

Are you an unnatural mother?  What tropes do you or do you not identify with?  Whether or not you have children, what has changed your life (if anything)?

The Grumpies Weigh-in on Current Issues

Topic 1: students who don’t read the syllabus.
 (or, take your F and go away)
email me and you will see
how very angry I can be
 #2:  scary!
 #1:  I know right
 #2:  “Dr. #1 is scary.  Don’t take classes from her unless you’re really smart and responsible.”
 #1:  True story
Topic 2: Boobs.
 #1:  so who do you agree with re: boobgate, Historiann or Dr. Crazy?
 #2:  I haven’t read dr crazy yet.  I did read historiann and mildly agree with her.
 #1:  I also agree with historiann
and also understand that most people would have excused the misogyny if he’d at least been funny (and not just “women have no sense of humor” unfunny, but even unfunny to sexist men!)
 #2:  My partner chuckled occasionally, but also felt that a lot of it fell very very flat.  He remarked, “Chances that Seth McFarlane ever hosts anything again:  Approaching zero.”
#2:  I’m reading dr crazy too, and I slightly agree with her as well.
#1:  I think Dr. Crazy is right that this points out the standards of Hollywood.  But I also am fairly sure that was not Seth McFarlane’s intention.  I think that no, really, his audience is jerky 12 year old boys
#2:  actually I think it kinda WAS his intention
#1:  really?
#2:  yes, but our views are not mutually exclusive.  He could be honestly poking at Hollywood while at the same time also appealing to 12-year-olds
 #1:  and even if it did, hollywood can feel good about slamming him down and getting back to business as usual, meaning he messed up.  He needs the “wink” to show he’s being ironic.
 #2:  I feel like Seth McFarlane at the Oscars is such a tiny blip in the landscape of prevailing misogyny that I can’t get that upset about it.
 Sexist or not-sexist, I wish he had been FUNNIER
 #1:  that’s what everyone is saying!
 #2:  some parts were mildly funny
some parts… were bombs
(relatively independently of what the subject matter was)
 #1:  also I watched Will Ferrell accept the Mark Twain award, which also made me laugh and had a little bit of poking at the patriarchy in it, which was a pleasant surprise
 #2:  Yes!
 #1:  the steve martin/alec baldwin intro to the oscars was not actually particularly politically correct, but it sure was funny
 #2:  ah, see, here:  I agree with Flavia:  “I actually wasn’t particularly bothered by the “boobs” number. It was the casual, relentless misogyny in the rest of MacFarlane’s act that did it for me. Like his description of “Zero Dark Thirty” as testimony to women’s ability “to never, ever let anything go.” Like his saying that it didn’t matter if we can understand a word Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz say, because they’re great to look at. And on, and on. “
 #1:  right
 #2:  right
the boobs number was actually somewhat amusing.  The “women can’t let go” joke was offensive.
 #1:  I don’t think seth mcfarlane was trying to point out misogyny– I think he just is a misogynist
 #2:  he can be both.
 #1:  well, I meant boob controversy as teh whole thing
he lives and breathes misogyny
can’t help it
 #2:  and here is where I agree with dr. crazy:  “And so, while I don’t think that McFarlane was a laugh riot, and I am deeply suspicious of the way that irony is used as an alibi for sexism these days, I didn’t find him demonstrably more offensive than most of the pop culture that I encounter on a daily basis.”
 #1:  no, it was obviously the combination with being offensive and not being funny
even ricky gervais was forgiven for skewering hollywood becasue more folks found him hilarious
Topic 3:  Creepy education.
 #1:  I think that this is a good idea:  but MUST we start an article about education with an assassination analogy?  I think that’s tasteless.
 #2:  more than a bit creepy
 #1:  yes
 #2: intro analogies are pretty bad journalism anyway
 #1:  goddamn, I know.