Ask the grumpies: How to play with little kids

Leah asks:

How do you play with your kids when little? Anything I should be doing, or is interaction of any type sufficient?

Short answer:  Any type of (positive) interaction is sufficient.

Longer answer:  The books mostly say to do what I do naturally, probably because my mom was trained as a head start teacher before I came along.  The following will speed things up in the areas you focus on, but so long as you’re not leaving the baby alone in a darkened room, they will pick things up just from experiencing the world and focusing in one area may slow down another.  Basically they’re sponges so it’s all ok.

Talk to your baby even when ze can’t talk back.  Pause for responses as if you’re having a conversation.  Start with baby signs.  Narrate what you’re doing.  Make eye contact.  Create rituals together: these are soothing to babies, kids, and grownups!  Maybe there’s a certain game you play or a song you sing.  But don’t get rigidly attached to the rituals.  Say silly things, sing and dance.

Tummy time!

You don’t have to treat your baby like a delicate flower– babies are surprisingly sturdy.  If you want an earlier walker, carry your baby against you in a sling rather than in a cradle carry or a stroller.  Avoid jumpies, walkers, bouncers, or anything that allows movement without a person actually walking.  Spot your baby while ze practices standing or leaning on things, but don’t feel like you have to give 100% support.  (If you don’t want an early walker, don’t worry about this stuff.)  Carrying baby in a sling while you go through life will also help develop their vestibular system when you bend, twist, tilt, crouch, etc.

If you want great small motor skills, provide lots of things to practice small motor skills on.

If you want an early reader, read a LOT and trace your finger under the words you’re reading.  Babies (and dolphins!) can also sight read from flash-cards, which is rather remarkable, but I’m not convinced that’s actually a useful skill.

If you want an early counter, include counting in your day-to-day activities.  Count swing pushes.  Count baby lifts.  Count fingers and toes and cheerios.

If you want an early pottier, read The Diaper Free Baby and introduce the potty now.  Whenever now is.  Get in tune with your child’s peeing and pooing habits and get out of the diaper and over a potty during those times.

Maybe ask your kid to tell you a story about what their toys are doing.  Say “wheeeeee”  and “once upon a time” a lot.  Show them how to make goggles with their fingers.  Let them entertain themselves [with appropriate supervision].  Take ’em to the park and let ’em loose.  Get a dog [Ed: ??? NO DO NOT!!  This suggestion was quite obviously placed by the one of us without kids.] and let them tire each other out [ed:  you can see that this suggestion is not unlike the “have another baby to tire the first one out” suggestion].

Grumpy Nation:  How do you play with babies and toddlers and little kids?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 44 Comments »

Why comment on blogs?

As I’ve noted before, I’ve been on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s bad list (she says her assistant put me on– I haven’t checked since writing this post to see if I’m still on it).  Essentially I can comment in the morning and then sometime in the late afternoon or evening, my comment appears not as a new comment, but as if it were never in moderation to begin with, sort of in the middle of a conversation that has passed it by.

This process has made me wonder about the point of commenting.  I mean, if all I care is that the blog-owner (or hir assistant) read my comment, then that situation should be fine.   But what if I don’t actually care about the specific proprietor and probably care even less about assistants?

Do I want fame, or links back to our blog or to rile things up or to see myself speak?  These are potentially painful questions.  If I’m just commenting to annoy people, well, then maybe I shouldn’t be commenting.  If I’m doing it to try to drum up business for our blog, then we should monetize it so as not to waste that effort.  If I just want to see myself speak, it would be better to turn the comment into an entire post rather than leaving it as a flyby freebie.  (Especially since we have a few money posts in the blog queue right now but nothing else!)

Ultimately, I think I care about the conversation.  I like learning things about people and maybe having people learn from me too.  I like seeing different perspectives because they make me think too and I like to think.  I also care about people not believing things that aren’t true.  I care about people not thinking that they have to feel guilt and etc. for living their lives the way that is working for them and for their families, no matter what other people on the internet say.  Admittedly, this latter reason sometimes makes me irritated and I have to take a break after leaving a possibly sharply worded comment here or there.

Now, of course, you should never wonder about whether or not you should comment on *our* blog.  We treasure every comment (except, of course, those of the occasional tiny-penis man who slips through before getting blocked).  Our commenters have really nuanced and thoughtful conversations– it’s a point of pride that when people link to us, the link more often than not says, “read the comments section.”

Why do you comment on blogs?  (Or if you can be enticed to de-lurk, why *don’t* you comment on blogs?)


  • Do you ever wonder if some of the crazier blogs out there are really just performance art?
  • Do you ever hope they are?
  • Does anybody chew gum anymore? (#2’s partner does.)
  • Who put the bop in the bop shoo wop?
  • Why do little things annoy me so much?
  • Do you think swamp zombies are moister or more decomposing than any other kind of zombie?
  • Will I ever get used to how awesome it is here in Paradise?  I hope not! (#1 hopes to be enjoying her Paradise soon, but only has a year of it– it’s unlikely she will have time to get used to it!)

August Mortgage Update: On feeling comfortable about spending more than we earn

Last month (July):
Years left: 1.6666666667
P =$1,121.04, I =$93.36, Escrow =$809.48

This month (August):
Years left: 1.583333333
P =$1,125.48, I =$88.93, Escrow =$809.48

One month’s prepayment savings: $0

Yes yes, I know spending more than you earn, no matter the circumstances, is heretical among certain segments of the PF community (particularly the early retirement community, though presumably not all of them are living off dividends, some of them must be drawing down based on some % rule post-retirement).

This year I’m at half-pay and our housing, health insurance, and daycare expenses are approximately doubled.  We could actually make that work (barring big emergencies) without spending more than we earn if we didn’t eat out, cut down on organics, didn’t spend money on activities for DC1, were less quick to throw money at problems, and so on.  Essentially, if we cut down our discretionary expenditures from what we were spending before we got to Paradise.

But we planned and saved for this.  Right before we started having to spend out with deposits, moving expenses, and so on, we had saved 84K in checking earmarked for this year.  (Technically 20-30K of that is emergency fund and money for next summer when I’m not paid at all, but that’s still at least 54K earmarked for increased expenditures and riotous living.)

We want to be able to enjoy living someplace where there’s things to do and food to eat.  We want to take day-trips and go to restaurants and have the ability to say “yes”… just for a year before we go back to our small town where we have to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest real city.  Where it’s harder to spend money.  There’s lots of free things we want to do around here too, but for the year, we’d like to try some of the not so free stuff as well.

And gosh darn it, I want to be able to do it without feeling guilty!

How best to do that?

Well, one of the things that bothers me is when I have to transfer money from savings to checking.  DH’s paycheck goes to checking while mine goes to saving.  Whenever we spend more than he makes, I have to transfer money from savings to checking.  That always provides a check on the spending… if I have to transfer more than the usual amount, I feel guilty and cut down on spending.

But in this case, I don’t *want* that guilty feeling or that check on spending.

Still, I also don’t want us to go hog-wild.

So… I sat down and figured out how much over our regular amount we should be spending, multiplied that by 12, and transferred that lump sum amount from savings into checking.  (The interest rates on both savings and checking are small, but the rate on checking is marginally higher.)  When that amount is gone, then we really will need to put the brakes on spending.  There’s still plenty extra left in savings as a cushion, but depending on when we run out of the checking money, we will be able to re-evaluate at that point if we want to transfer more, cut down our spending, and so on.  Rather than making adjustments every month, we’ll make an adjustment if the money runs out.

Will the money run out?  Previous experience suggests that we tend to spend a lot of money when we first move to a place, and then settle down into predictable less spendy patterns wherever we are.  I imagine that will happen here within 12 months as well, after we’ve done the museums and zoos and tourist traps and have figured out where the best low-cost and free things are that will make up our regular routines.  We’ll get closer to spending what we actually earn, possibly a little less.  But we’ll see where that crossover point is!

Do you ever feel guilty about spending money when you shouldn’t feel guilty?  Or the opposite– do you sometimes not feel guilty spending money when you think maybe you should?  What do you do to manipulate your feelings about money so they match up with your thinkings?

summertime and the linking is easy

Let’s do this thing.

We very much love this Breaking Cat News (especially Elvis-kitty)

I don’t know where this storyline is going but it sure is cute (it’s getting grim as it goes on)

Let’s play Guess the Race (again)

And then we can go ARRRGH at this

and also Fcuk the po-po at this: “What’s wrong with you guys?“, indeed.  Indeed, sir.

Bonus book recommendations: Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Read ’em.

Check out these wacky old pics

Getting ready in the morning sucks.  (Key problem: morning.  Ugh.)

This cartoon really captures a part of my childhood: SPACE MUSEUM.



Ask the grumpies: getting out of unproductive funks

First Gen American asks:

How do you suck yourself out of an unproductive funk. Do you find that allowing yourself to wallow in it for awhile is actually is more helpful than beating yourself up about being unproductive.

Yes, with the caveat that beating oneself up about being unproductive can sometimes be an important component of wallowing in it.  To get the full wallow a little self-hatred is necessary.

To get out:  Just Do IT.  Sometimes I will ask #2 to remind me about vans by rivers and request a kick in the posterior.

#2 says:  I think the how getting-out part for me has involved meeting people at coffee shops.  I haven’t done much of that recently.  Hard deadlines also make me ridiculously productive.   Unfortunately last-minute deadline blitz is unsustainable, if for no other reason than RSI.

We here at grumpy rumblings love to cross things off lovely lovely lists.  Sometimes even if I can’t be productive, I can write a list about what it would take to be productive.  Then day two I can cross one of the things off the list.  Breaking up tasks into smaller tasks is great for goal motivation.  Doing them from smallest to largest is also good for motivation, though one of us works best when she has an important goal that she doesn’t want to do hanging over her head– it makes all the other tasks on the to-do list seem so much more worthy of doing by comparison.

I guess it depends on WHY the funk.  I have anxiety which I manage with meds and awareness of it.

It’s also important to ATTEMPT to realize that it’s really not so bad once I get going.  Starting is hard! But starting is often the hardest part. Like Boice says, tell yourself to do it for 30 min– if that’s too long, then 10 min, or even 5 min. You can do almost anything for 5 min, and once you’re started it usually isn’t so bad.

What do you do, Grumpy World?

I hate the way I’m more racist when I’m tired

When I’m tuckered out I am SO bad at not being racist… I do that thing where I get people of the same race/gender/height/bodyshape/hair color mixed up with each other.

And then I do that embarrassed white woman thing where I turn bright red, make up excuses, then keep apologizing way after the time that it’s appropriate to be apologizing. I understand that just makes it worse, but I cannot stop!

Most of the people I know are polite about it. Except this one prominent economist who I keep getting mixed up with the same guy, usually late at night the same day of the same conference… he thinks it’s hilarious and now makes a point of asking me who I think he is (I haven’t gotten it right yet, mainly because I know the other guy by name because he works in my field but I’ve actually seen the other guy more often). I deserve that, though I can’t remember his name right now (whereas I can remember the other guy’s name…).

And I could make excuses that I’m pretty bad with whites too (which is true– I mostly identify people by their height and hair color), but it’s far worse with non-whites.  I’m terrible with names.  I’m terrible with faces (but not terrible enough to believe I have that medical thingy where you can’t recognize faces… I do recognize faces of people I know).

And I know it’s not just me.  I know there’s tons of research showing that when we’re tired or have too much cognitive load one of the first things to go is correcting for implicit biases.  But it’s still pretty excrementy of me.

All of this is to say, I wish I were either less implicitly racist or I were always less tired!!!!!

(And yes, I know that some people are going to say that this post is just making things worse because it makes the problem all about me.  You know, like white women do.  [Because nobody ever says that about white men; they always get credit for just trying.]  But at that point I throw up my arms and say, “I think I am going to ignore that and take a nap.”)


  • I wonder how it feels to have something stuck in your whiskers.  I wonder if it’s like hearing a ringing in your ears.
  • Instead of reimbursing me for 2 months of summer health insurance (when I switched to DH’s plan), my university decided to charge me for another two months.  Fortunately they fixed it– ~$1400 deposited in my account.
  • Of course, when they did that I realized that this summer they’re still treating me as if I’m full-time, which means I screwed up on the health insurance decision for this summer.  What I should have done would be to keep my health insurance until *my* open enrollment period, then switch to DH’s plan using the reason that my health insurance has changed.  Doing that would have saved ~$700 for the two months.  Of course, there was also another month that was double-booked with health insurance because we had a bunch of doctors appointments and I didn’t want to deal with changing everything over.  I’m wavering on whether or not that laziness was worth ~$300.  (Added to that is us not realizing that DH’s health insurance started when it did, so we might not have been able to shut it off that month.)
  • I had garlic butter tatertots from a foodtruck.  #2 mocked me for never having had gussied up “gourmet” tatertots before.  Hmph.
  • I’m a lot cooler online than I am IRL, just so you know.
  • I’ve hit another professional milestone in my career– I’m being asked to write tenure letters and be an external reviewer for dissertations outside of my own university.  Um, yay more service?
  • Being able to pour Trader Joe’s X over Trader Joe’s Y, or to just pop Trader Joe’s Z into the microwave makes dinners a lot easier.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 21 Comments »

Why it is so important to get out of debt and to start investing

In 2005, I had 50K in the taxable stock market.  How did that happen?  We got rid of DH’s debt really quickly by living on beans and rice (more accurately, potatoes and marked down produce).  Then we lived like regular graduate students and kept our expenses low.  Finally, we saved up the money we would have spent on rent for two years from when we were resident assistants.  That’s where the big money came in.

This post isn’t about how we got the 50K though.  I’m not actually sure how much we put in (I don’t have the cost-basis information at hand), though I’m fairly sure it was less than 50K (probably more like 36-40K, because that’s what we saved on rent).  This is what happened *after* that 50K.

In 2005, I got a real job that allowed me more room to save for retirement than I could use.  That meant I stopped putting money in the taxable stock market and put it all in tax-advantaged funds.  So that 50K from 10 years ago is a point-in-time snapshot.  It’s all in index funds and ETFs (mostly the S&P500 and Nasdaq, with a little bit of the Dow– essentially your three major ways of measuring the market).  Earnings are all set to DRIP.  I haven’t added anything to it, I’ve just let the money ride.

10 years later (as of this writing), that portfolio is worth $126,000.  That is double and a half.  252% of what it was 10 years ago.  That’s including the worst recession since the great depression.  I just let the money ride all the way through (even/especially during the dark time when it dipped below 40K).

Contrast that with DH’s unsubsidized student loans at 8.5%.  He owed 10K (quite a bit more than he actually borrowed).  If, instead of paying those loans, he’d deferred them during graduate school, he would have owed $15,227.95 at the end of that deferment.  That’s a 50% increase.  If he had followed their suggested payment schedule after that, 5 years from now with his last payment he would have paid a total of $26,992.80 on that 10K loan.  That’s a ridiculous cost for borrowing money.

I can’t even comprehend credit card levels of interest, which average around 15% and can get much higher.  Just that 8.5% student loan had me literally hyperventilating when I found out about it.

The downside of high interest debt is that it takes money away from you without you getting any benefit from it.  It puts you in a precarious situation because you have to make those payments (or go through a lot of heartache and hassle to get them deferred or negotiated down via bankruptcy)

I was running through the thought exercise about whether or not we could live in Paradise on just DH’s take-home salary (something we’re not doing next year) if we sold the house and the answer is that after the big expenses rent, daycare, health insurance, and retirement, we would have about $1050 left to spend on everything else, from car insurance to riotous living.  Currently we spend 2-4K on everything else.  That would be a pretty big cut.  But… we have a lot of money saved.  And that money is making money.  We could stop contributing to retirement at this point and we might still be ok, so long as we picked it back up after the daycare expense was gone.  We could undrip our taxable stocks and that would bring in some income.  We have a cushion that would last us until I found work.**

We’d be ok.  And although having this cushion/buffer/etc. did take hardship and sacrifice early on, having killed the debt and invested a bunch means that money is now working *for* us keeping us from having hardship and sacrifice now.

High interest debt takes money away from you without giving you anything in return.  Investment gives you money without you having to do anything to earn it.  Make your money work for you.  Sacrifice and save early so you don’t have to sacrifice more later.  And early can mean today, because today is always earlier than tomorrow.

Compound interest is amazeballs.  Unsubsidized debt sucks potty words.

Have you experienced the joy of compound interest or the drain of high interest debt?  How did you get there/how did you get out?

**Not that I have *any* plans to quit my job!  But I did have this horrible worry that I would get squished by a semi truck while biking to work next year and DH would have to fend for himself without my half salary.  Then I remembered that he’d also get 500K from my life insurance plus funeral expenses from my work insurance which should tide him over until he decides which city he wants to move himself and the children to after the year is up (oddly, he refuses to make that hypothetical decision now and says I’m worried about unlikely events because I’m stressed about the move!).  So the exercise was moot.

link love

This week in racism (selected, not exhaustive).  What is WRONG with people?


A link from leightpf explaining the mega backdoor roth

But where is the Bishop’s Bird Stump?

20 schools responsible for 20% of graduate school debt

Miser mom with uses for canning rings

This is really great

This is badass

#7 is my favorite