When do you open presents?

When I was a kid, after much negotiation with our parents, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest of our presents on Christmas day.

As an adult, I don’t have to wait.  I open them as they come.  In fact, I used this amazing three tier rack which was this year’s Christmas present to me from my MIL to hold rolls, cornbread, and zucchini bread at Thanksgiving this year because she does her Christmas shopping early.  Similarly, I told DH I wanted a better reading lamp situation and he got me this amazing floor lamp that does everything I wanted and doesn’t even require a hole in the wall or a headboard for the bed (my favorite part:  the way the light switch lights up when I fumble for it in the dark).  I have been appreciating it for weeks now.  I have also been enjoying downloading my shiny new kindle book presents as they come– I will read them through our holiday travel.

#2 is different– she likes surprises and opens everything on Christmas morning.  I know this because she always thanks me via IM on Christmas.  (See also:  her birthday.)

Of course, what one does as an adult doesn’t necessarily translate into what one forces on one’s children.  Part of the magic of being an adult is that you no longer have to do what your parents tell you to do, but before then you mostly have to.  So that means since the kids have gotten old enough to understand Christmas, we’ve generally been saving their Christmas presents for them to open on Christmas morning.  Given our in-laws’ generosity, this can get overwhelming.

This year we’ve got complicated travel plans.  On the 23rd, we’re taking the kids to the city where they will stay at my sister’s with my parents.  Then we will join them on the 24th.  Then on the 25th, we’re getting on a plane to visit DH’s family.  I asked my mom if she wanted to see the kids open their presents from her (she’s already sent them via the magic of Amazon) or if we should open them before heading into the city.  She said whatever was easiest, noting that we shouldn’t have to drive presents all over the place or leave them at my sister’s.  So we’ll be doing some of the unwrapping on the 23rd.  DC1 will be able to pick out which new books to take with hir while traveling, something that will make life easier for everyone.  Then there will be more presents on the 25th since my in-laws have decided to ship the kids’ presents to their place rather than ours (which itself brings the logistical hassle of getting stuff back home).

This past Saturday I let DC1 open the present from my mom that I knew was a Rubix Cube because zie had gotten so good at the computer version that I thought maybe it was time for a real one.  Zie has been spending every non-chore moment this weekend messing up and solving and messing up and solving again.  (In fact, it’s likely that the ~$10 Rubix cube would crowd out time spent on the ~$250 handheld Nintendo thing that my MIL is getting hir if zie opened them the same day!)

On the one hand, I feel like spreading things out allows each gift to be appreciated and to give me maximal pleasure.  On the other hand, it does take away a little bit of the magic of Christmas.  But we do always do the stockings (full of candy!) on Christmas even if some of the other presents get pushed earlier.  And maybe the magic of Christmas should be less about gifts and more about family, I dunno.

And of course, poor DC1 gets showered with even more presents just a few days later given hir holiday birthday.  This year we’re traveling on hir birthday so we’ll probably celebrate with cake the day before with the in-laws and maybe with my sister on the day.  We’ll see.  We will leave hir birthday presents from us* and from my parents to be unwrapped when we conclude our travels.

*My sister claims this violin tuner is really a gift to ourselves…she’s not wrong.

When do you open gifts– as soon as you get them, or do you wait until the celebrated event (be it a religious holiday or your birthday)?  Has it changed as you’ve gotten older?  If applicable, do you enforce the same rules on your children? 


Lately link loves

… have been late

Last chance to sign up for this year’s ACA health insurance is Dec 19th!

Jerry Brown is pretty awesome.

A guide for resisting the Trump Agenda

Cloud’s activism agenda

South Africa in 1948 and parallels to Trump.

A small subset of Trump’s conflicts of interest.

Voting rights

Ohio’s 20 week abortion ban is pretty horrific.

How google search empowers racists.

How to help syria

We gave books to the liberation library

another charity


We agree

local cat unfazed

fragile masculinity imagined

Vanity Fair (similarly:  Mother Jones)

Don’t sneak.

How to save on required minimum distributions when you have a lot of money saved for retirement.  (Also see the comments sections for discussion.)

throwaway mentality

food processor recall

need this

I already knew about the baldness, but the rest of this interview is quite delightful.

retail therapy

excellent cat drawing

Adorable kittens

Ask the grumpies: Help! Need unsweetened non-dairy creamer recommendations!

Chelsea asks:

Soliciting advice for a good unsweetened non-dairy creamer. Right now I just use whole milk in my coffee, but would like to experiment with going dairy free for awhile. I looked at my local grocery store, and almost all the options were sweetened somehow, and I really don’t like sweet coffee. I’d probably prefer coconut or almond-based rather than soy, but would try soy if that tasted the best. I don’t like alt-milks, but I’m hopeful I could come up with a creamer solution.

We at grumpy rumblings have got nothing.  I guess if I were going dairy-free I’d try just coconut milk.  I find other kinds of non-dairy milk to be a bit sweet and I hate the taste of soy milk.  So I guess I’d go coconut, then almond, then rice.  Other people have different preferences.

This website has suggestions for fancy dairy-free creamers.  Nutpods looks like an option.  There are a bunch more of varying sweetness levels and bases on that link.

Here’s a link to making your own from almonds and dates.

Good luck with your quest and report back to us!

Grumpy Nation, do you have favorite unsweetened dairy-free creamers?

Action in the face of hate

As this post from delagar shows, my university is not the only university that is seeing an upsurge in hate incidents since the election.

The responses to these incidents by university leadership and by the community is extremely important.  My university, as it has been for all the years that I have been here and all of the bigoted racist things that one student or another has done (because this state school has never been a liberal paradise), has had a quick and strong response.  Now, as in the past, the university president comes down hard and reminds all of us that hate is not one of our school’s values.  Hate goes against our honor code.  Our school is inclusive of all.  (When, in the past, it’s been a student doing something horrific, usually said student ends up voluntarily leaving the school prior to an expulsion hearing, something that would never happen at say, Yale.)

This time around the president was echoed by student leaders, by the faculty staff, by our deans and so on.  Protests and education activities have been planned and all are invited.  A stronger response than anything I’ve seen previously, perhaps because everybody realizes that we must nip these kinds of things in the bud before they become normalized.  Because they are not normal.  Our mostly white male leadership is sending a strong signal that this behavior will not be tolerated, not on our campus.  I feel supported.

My university is also not the only university where a few “I’m not racist but… this is not a big deal/free speech means freedom from criticism but only for bigots/etc.” blowhards have piped up after the incident has been condemned.  The official response to these nay-sayers is also important.  In this most recent case, our dean came down hard (but politely) on one of our lecturers (a practitioner, which means he’s making about the same as faculty and has full benes) who condescendingly replied-all with one of these “I’m not racist but…”s to the official student response from student leaders in our major.  The dean’s firm response sends a signal to the students that they should keep fighting and to nay-sayers that they need to stop being oblivious jerks.

If your university hasn’t been making these kinds of responses there are still things that you can do.  Your voice alone may not do much (though it will still help), but you can ask your university president, your faculty senate, your chair, your dean, and so on to give an official response.   Especially if you are tenured.  Especially if they are white guys.  Nobody should officially accommodate hate, and silence can be seen as consent.  And maybe some of these folks just need a nudge to do the right thing.   When they important administrators do speak up, thank them for doing the right thing and making the environment safer and more inclusive.  Because their official actions do mean a lot.

If you’re at a university, have you seen an increase in hate incidents?  What has been the response at your school to these incidents?  Have you done anything in response?

In which #1 is irritated by DC1’s public school teaching the “stock market game”

DC1 is in Gifted and Talented Pullout this year, and one of the things that they do is participate in a competition called the Stock Market Game.

As an economist and someone with a personal hobby interest in personal finance, the stock market game irritates me SO MUCH.  The criteria for winning is to be the team that has made the most money picking hypothetical stocks after a set time period.

The way to win this game is to be in the extreme tail of the normal distribution.  Of course, that’s also how to get the lowest score.  Essentially, the game rewards risk-taking, punishes diversification and fails to punish losing gambles.  Since it is a winner-take-all game, there’s no benefit to going for a middle-of-the-road strategy.  You’re going to lose just as hard in the middle of the pack as you would taking enormous chances and being the lowest ranked team.  So you might as well gamble and hope for that upside.

Of course, with real investing there are real losses to taking on risk and losing.  This game equates being the second highest scoring team (or really, the fourth highest scoring team) with being the lowest scoring team.  Anybody who aims for the more sure middle is going to lose because some other teams took risks.

Also, there’s a reason that real stock market investing is a long-term game, not a short-term one.  Games that praise short-term gains and ignore the long-term may even discourage investing because they show the market to be much more volatile than it actually is over a long time horizon.  Of course, that may be better than kids growing up to invest their retirement assets in the extremely risky portfolios that have the likeliest chance of winning this kind of game.

I’m not the first person to complain about this stupid school-sponsored game.  Here’s confessions of a stock market game winner.  Here’s someone at the WSJ complaining about how it teaches exactly the wrong lessons.

(And, just in case you’re a new reader:  You should invest in low cost broad-based index funds for long-term investing.)

Have you ever played the stock market game?

Link love

Why it matters that HRC got 2.7 million more votes and counting.

Why Pat McCrory lost and what this means for what we can do going forward.

Donald Trump still doing nothing about conflicts of interest.  Here’s more on that topic.

Education secretary pick also has conflicts of interest.

Evan McMullin on what we should do going forward.

Important thread on how the nytimes whitewashes white supremacy.

Pope Francis on fake news.

They want to hurt their fellow Americans.

Love is not enough.

Stop blaming the victims.

GOP should have run on gutting Social Security in the most recent election.

Trump transition is ousting civil servants who helped with Obama climate policy.

More FBI harassment.

This makes me feel queasy (domestic violence, OH abortion law)

So creepy.

Hairspray today.

Poverty line.

Financial planning for the top 1%.


steampunk parrot does science

Behavior study wants to know how cats learn.

The 2016 annual hater guide to the williams sonoma catalog.

Dec 14-25 for a very special BCN.

Ask the Grumpies: Favorite books for pre-readers?

Leah asks:

Fave books for kids not quite ready to read?  We’re rocking a lot of Curious George, Corduroy, and Pout Pout Fish. Just looking for new library reads for my 2.5 year old who LOVES books.

Rented Life adds:

My kid, same age, loves books too. I second that question.

Allyson adds:

I also have a two-year-old and we could use good library reads, lots of books in the house already. Her fave is Where is Spot? and we have it in English and Spanish. Lift-the-flap books are big in my house. Can I add a request for recommendations of classic children’s books in Spanish that may be easy to find? Some translations seem to work with the rhythm of the originals and some are more literal and not as much fun to read.

First up, check out the comments in this recent post.

Leah– one series I would add to that list is the Froggy books.  Those along with the Clifford books hit our DC’s interest at the same time as Curious George.

Allyson– Our favorite lift the flap books are the ones by Karen Katz, of Where is Baby’s Belly Button fame.  She has a bunch of these.  We also loved Dear Zoo.  A related much loved cut-out book is Where’s that cat?  There are a ton of Where’s Spot books as well, though I am not a fan of the Easter one (the kids like it, but it bugs me that [spoiler] Spot finds an egg on the table after mean old female hippo tells him to get off the table; Spot also gets more eggs).

Spanish translations: Our favorite Spanish translations are Buenas Noches Luna and Insectos asombrosos (which you probably won’t find).  We also like the bilingual books by Eric Carle, such as Animals Animales — these are fun because they have moving pieces.  Our DCs also really loved My First Spanish Word Book.  We do have a bunch of other Spanish translations but they’re not popular.  Wandering Scientist is probably good for asking for other suggestions.

Our general recommendations for these age groups are:  Anything by Sandra Boynton, anything by Mo Willems.  These will age well as your child ages.  Your children are probably also on the cusp of being able to sit still for Red Fish Blue Fish or Dr. Seuss’s ABCs or Go Dog Go! or Put Me in the Zoo, but you could also wait another year.  They will definitely like the board book versions which are shorter.


Books for 3 year olds

Favorite children’s books (this has a number of classics like The Little Engine that Could and Ferdinand and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes)

What say you, Grumpy Readers?