How often do you flip your bed?

We try to flip it once a month, though sometimes we don’t and we flip it when it starts getting uncomfortable.

How often do you flip yours?

Do I think I am better than other people?

Specifically, do I think I’m better than DH’s family?

Of course not.

I mean, I definitely think I’m a better person than anybody who advocates separating asylum seekers from their children and then torturing them, but DH’s family are good people.  Most of the people I genuinely think I’m better than currently work in the White House.

What I do think we are is better OFF.  We are better off than the rest of DH’s family.

Most of that is luck and taking opportunities granted.

Some of that is choice (ex. the decision to have two working parents instead of one).

But even those choices are made based on our specific utility curves and our specific budget constraints.  I firmly believe that we are optimizing based on our budget constraints and our utility curves.  DH’s family has different budget constraints and different sets of utility curves.  I assume they are optimizing as well.

What we’re doing for DH’s relative with the kids is increasing the budget set, but mostly only for higher education for the kids.  We pay for application fees, tuition, and books.  We only do this for the kids who want to go to college and we stop when they stop wanting to go.  We may wish that more of them would go, under the assumption that they don’t have full information, but that’s up to them.

I firmly believe that people with privilege have a responsibility to make things easier for people who don’t have that privilege.  Privilege comes with the responsibility to level the playing field.  That means political action and it means giving people a hand up while you’re waiting for political action to work.

Why don’t we just give money to them, unasked, no strings attached?  Because that would be weird.  That would strain relations between DH and one of his best friends. (We do at Christmas and when they’ve had an emergency, but those are socially accepted times to give.)  And tuition and books is something we can anticipate and budget for and can easily be separated into a separate mental bucket.  Also, so far it’s been pretty affordable.

(In case you’re wondering, this is in response to a mean “just trying to help” message from Anonymous in New Jersey.)  (From well over a month ago.)  (It keeps getting pushed back because the pandemic is more important than my musings on privilege)

Link love

Open the country protests are an astroturf operation

Trump owes tens of millions to the Bank of China and the debt is coming due soon.

Wondering about when you’ll get your stimulus check?

Quarantine crapfts thread.

XKCD with a yeast conspiracy.

Ask the grumpies: Why are you mostly against red-shirting?

J asks:

Do you see any benefits for me holding my daughter back from starting kindergarten? Her birthday is a few days before the cutoff.
Reasons for holding her back in my head: another year of relaxed preK learning, slight advantage for her getting into gifted programs, more confidence (potentially). Drawbacks that I see: 1) she might be bored academically if she is the oldest and this might lead to behavior problems, 2) it would cost more money to pay for another year of full-time preK.
I don’t see much research on girls being held back. It’s mostly about boys.

So… this is really the wrong place to ask for positive things about red-shirting (the term for starting a kid late in K).  #1’s kids are both grade-skipped (even the one whose birthday is a few days before the cutoff) and #1 and #2 both wish they’d been grade-skipped.

Kindergarten programs vary tremendously across the country, but most of them are still a transition into first grade even in the places where kids are expected to be reading and doing simple addition by the end of the year.  That’s because a lot of kids still come in without having had any pre-K and they need to learn how to do things like sit still, take turns, follow instructions, stand in lines, and so on.

On this blog, we don’t see learning as inherently a bad thing.  The idea of not getting to learn when you could is anathema.  Why start a year behind when you don’t have to?  If not already reading, why hold back the phonics tools to read and all the joy that comes from that?  Why not get challenged while you’re still young and it’s still fun and you’re not expected to know everything already?  Starting later always seems less relaxing because there’s more pressure from expectation.  It is easier to drop back than it is to jump forward should troubles arise.

Academic advantages from redshirting tend to disappear by around third grade (athletic advantages persist).  For kids on the margin of finishing high school, redshirting can make the difference between not graduating and graduating simply because of compulsory schooling laws– that is, a kid who is a senior age 17 is more likely to graduate from high school than one who is 18.

I’m not entirely sure what the advantage of being in a gifted program is for someone who doesn’t need to be in a gifted program?  If a kid needs to be in a gifted program, then they should be, and if they don’t, they shouldn’t?  The idea is to address a special need.  Depending on the tests they use, an additional year may or may not help because many gifted tests are age adjusted.  I guess there are arguments for it if it’s not actually a gifted program but a program for academic achievement, but so much more would be gained in terms of learning by being on grade-level rather than being behind.

Schools are also more likely to diagnose special needs than preschools and get kids with special needs intervention, so that is another benefit of starting on time as most interventions work better the earlier they start.  (I vaguely remember my sister getting speech therapy for a lisp.)

In terms of confidence, I don’t know about the research, but I do know growing up, we knew who was a year older because they “flunked kindergarten” or started late.  That was definitely worse than being on the younger side.  People against grade-skipping are always asking about what happens when our kids hit puberty age etc. (answer:  it has not been a problem for DC1), but being on the earlier side of physical development also has the possibility of being unpleasant… much better to not be the first person in your cohort going through it.  Similarly with grade-skipping folks are always asking “what happens when it’s time for college” (answer:  we’ll figure that out), but as someone with a PhD, I can say I had more options for timing fertility than my friend in the same program who had started kindergarten late (and I needed that time since it turned out I was infertile).  And… if something goes wrong in K-college (ex. mono), there’s more options if you are on the younger side than the older… nobody wants to be 19 or 20 and still in high school.  It’s easier to delay going into the labor market during a recession with a masters degree or stay another year in college to pick up a different major etc. if you’re younger rather than older (unless you have wealthy parents willing to support you for years, of course).  There’s just less room for mistakes and changes when you’re older and wanting to start an adult life.

And that’s why I don’t see the point in red-shirting unless there’s a really good reason, or sports are super important (like, professionally important) for a family.

In terms of actual advice:  Take things a year at a time.  It is far easier to drop back if things aren’t working out than to get back to a normal grade.  Since your kid has been in pre-K (and thus knows how to sit in a circle, not hit people, etc.), it is probably going to be just fine.  If it isn’t fine, then you can decide then and try again later.  (And if the kid is hyperactive in preschool, she may blossom in Kindergarten with more challenges–that’s the main reason we started DC1 at 4.)

RBOC

  • We cancelled the summer family trip to the popular Midwestern destination, taking advantage of United’s “cancel before May and reschedule sometime in the next 24 months at no extra cost” opportunity.  We still haven’t cancelled the Portland anniversary trip because we went through another airline and we have to figure out how to do that, though we will need to cancel the AirBNB by the end of the month to get our money back.  DC1’s summer camp hasn’t been cancelled yet, so I guess we’re holding off on that as well.  Also my big summer conference is online-only this year.  So we’ll have a bunch of airline miles and suddenly instead of having 3 weeks of travel this summer, I don’t.  DH is regretting not taking his birthday off from work since he no longer needs to use 2 weeks vacation for summer travel.
  • The Walmart in DH’s (small rural) hometown got completely bought out– literally emptied from food to clothes to large appliances— after the stimulus money came in.
  • The kids’ schools have been cancelled for the year and they’ve started having grades and new material again.  The idea is that grades will appear on the transcript but will not be included in the GPA.  For students without internet access, they’ve made free wifi available in school parking lots and have handed out tablets.
  • There’s now things that need to be turned in for grade three, which is a subset of things that are assigned.  We’re just doing the things that need to be turned in, and not any of the assigned stuff that doesn’t.  It’s not technically optional, but who is to know?  Plus a lot of these things that don’t need to be turned in are either things DC2 doesn’t need more practice on (ex. zie is about a year ahead in math) or that require a ton of parent involvement and things that we don’t have access to (ex. specific gardening projects).  So for folks who are struggling with make-work projects and unnecessary projects in grades where grades don’t matter… just don’t.  I give permission.  You getting your stuff done is more important.
  • That doesn’t mean that we don’t have stuff for DC2 to do.  Zie is still doing hir full set of weekend workbooks every day except Monday.  On Monday zie does schoolwork.  Tuesday-Sunday are the weekend workbooks.  Piano practicing is every day.  We’ve also added 15 minutes of room cleaning along with regular chores of putting away the silverware and folding/putting away any of hir own laundry.  With all this home time, DC2’s room was becoming an enormous disaster area.
  • We’ve had to start waking DC2 up earlier because zie would get super grumpy about not having time for a full two hours of videogames/shows and then have trouble getting to sleep at night and the cycle would repeat.  So… apparently 7 year olds are a bit like toddlers?  We’re now making sure zie is up by 9, though we really haven’t been able to enforce bedtime because zie keeps sneaking books under the covers no matter how many times we cut hir off.  We don’t have the energy to do a harsh enforcement, so forcing a wake-up seems easier.
  • DC2 has also noticed that zie can will baked goods into being by just announcing that zie wants them… putting it out into the universe.  I worry zie will move to LA and become a proponent of The Secret.
  • DC1 has been working diligently mostly on school work and studying for the new modified AP exam.  We’re not quite sure what to do to help but we’re figuring it out.  Hir history teacher has required class meetings 3x/week at 1pm which is irritating because they’re not supposed to have any required meetings and ALL the teachers want to meet at 1pm so DC2 can’t go to optional meetings from other teachers.  This wouldn’t be so bad if she posted the information/material/deadlines/ways to turn in assignments any other way.  But she doesn’t.
  • DC1 has been overall much more relaxed– getting to bed earlier, having some time to play video games (zie is on the third go-through of Undertale).  The best part is there’s no art projects for English anymore, just writing and content.  Still, DC1 managed to get a low grade on a timed quiz because zie thought scene 1 was the same as Act 1 and hadn’t read the entire first act of Romeo and Juliet.  So we’re back to getting low grade warnings via email.  But at least they’re more deserved?
  • The relative’s kid who got into college ran away from home (because of the quarantine) to live with the much older married woman who has/had been abusing him and is not doing his homework so he is not going to graduate from high school after all.  I always worry what would have happened if we hadn’t interfered– would he have finished high school?  Or would he have dropped out earlier?  Or did we really have no effect?  Are we helping or making things worse?  Or just too far away to change anything?

What to do about the yeast shortage

I don’t really understand *why* there’s a yeast shortage because it like… just grows.  I assume this is probably something to do with supply chains and maybe manufacturing the non-yeasty parts (jars?).  If you want to bake yeasty things and your grocery store has been out, this post is for you.  (Now, if your concern is the flour shortage, we just got 50lbs from nuts.com and wandering scientist just bought 25lb from central milling.)

If you have SOME yeast left

Starter

Make a starter and put it in your fridge.  Feed it every time you make bread and occasionally (at least once every two weeks) if you don’t make bread.  My quick google search on this is not at all helpful– everyone wants you to make a sourdough levain, which is a type of starter, but not the best choice if you have any active yeast in your house.  (I will explain later.)  So let me dig up one of my bread books and get more detailed instructions for you.

  1.  In a glass jar (or quart/gallon ziploc if you don’t have a suitable jar) that you can keep in the fridge that will hold at least 3 cups of flour, put yeast (either one packet or the equivalent) and half a cup of warm (warm to the touch, not too hot) water.  Let it sit until the yeast dissolves.  Then stir in 2-3 cups of flour.  It doesn’t have to be exact.  You don’t have to have any specific kind of flour so long as it’s some kind of gluteny flour.  So all purpose flour or whole wheat flour are great.  Rye is fine if that’s what you’ve got, but it may limit what you use the starter for.  Then let it sit at room temperature for 2 days before using, or put it in the refrigerator for two weeks (you want it to have some room temperature time for flavors).
  2. Every time you make bread, use one cup of the starter in place of water/yeast/one cup of flour.  Replace what you’ve taken out with a heaping cup of flour and half a cup of water, give or take. In theory you should let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours before putting it back in the fridge, but unless you’re making bread every day or two you can ease up on this.
  3.  If two weeks have passed and you haven’t made bread yet, go make bread and go back to step two.  Otherwise throw out a cup of starter and add in a cup of flour and half a cup of water.  This is called feeding your starter.  You will need to feed your starter every two weeks if you don’t make bread.  In theory you should let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, but unless you’re making bread the next day you can just stick it back in the fridge.

IIRC, if you leave it a long time, sometimes some of the liquid separates.  This is normal.  You can either stir this back in or pour some of it out, whatever.  The starter itself should be liquidy but thick… gloppy I think is a good description.

The starter will generally not be a sourdough if you use this method so it will be fine for brioches and other light sweet breads.  It will gain flavor over the months (and years) you use it.  We’ve found the flavor to be more of a warm yeasty almost beery flavor as it matures, but it may be that there are different iterations… we’ve done this a finite number of times.

Old Dough

Make bread dough as you normally would.  After the first rise (or second if you forget), grab some dough (or just don’t make the bread and keep the entire dough).  Wrap it in wax paper and then in tin foil (and if you want to be really fancy, you can put it in a ziploc).  This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or you can freeze it.  Whenever you want to make bread, thaw some dough (“walnut size”), let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours, and then incorporate it with the new bread dough as you mix it.  When you start running out, repeat the process of grabbing dough (or grab some for freezing each time you make bread).

If you have NO yeast

Bread without yeast

Discover the joys of quick breads.  There are many Irish Soda Breads well worth making.  Try different varieties.

Does your grocery store carry pizza dough or frozen dough?

Instead of using (all of) it to bake, save some for the “old dough” method above.

Make a levain

A levain is a sourdough starter made with ambient yeast.  DH has tried this at several points in our life and only the most recent one, using the technique from Flour Water Salt Yeast was successful.  This is what we currently have in our refrigerator.  AS A WARNING:  Getting this started WASTES flour.  Maybe waste is the wrong word, but when you thought you’d stocked up on flour before the stay-at-home order and all of a sudden you’re facing a flour shortage, it is easy to give this levain a side-eye.  I had to put a stop to it and we converted the levain to a starter by using the “put your levain to sleep” method and then treating it like a regular starter (see above).  I suspect that you still need to throw out a ton of flour at the beginning, but once it has settled down to regular use you should just be able to use the starter and replace with flour and water as above.  At least, that’s been working for us so far.  ANOTHER WARNING:  Some of the smells early in the process are TERRIBLE.  Awful vinegary awfulness.  But that’s the way they’re supposed to smell?  One of the nice things about the book is that he tells you what it’s supposed to smell like at each step.  So you’re like, why yes, this is supposed to smell terrible.

One of the interesting things in the book was how it talked about that even though there are different ambient strains of yeast across the country and there are different ways people start these (there’s a grape skin version in Baking with Julia), none of it really matters because it’s the same yeast that survive no matter where you are in the lower 48 in the US.  We’d always thought this hadn’t worked when we lived on the east coast because their yeast sucked.  But no.

The process is too lengthy to type out here and there’s probably copyright infringement, but here’s someone’s blogpost about living through making the levain.  There are a lot of other levain/sourdough starter recipes out there, but be aware that they might not work out.

This levain starter is a sourdough and has a pleasant lightly sour flavor.  It is great for making no-knead breads.

Maybe you can try this Oregon trail yeast?

We still have a little of this free Oregon Trail yeast in our freezer.  We made a starter with it maybe a decade ago and it was amazing until it got too sour even for DH and we sadly let it go (knowing we still had some in the freezer).  But it’s a high quality yeast.  It’s free with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, though it sounds like it might take up to six weeks to get to you.

Borrow in a social distancing safe manner from a friend who is rich in yeast

And then make a starter!  Or old dough.

What are you guys doing for yeast?  Do you have any left?  Does your grocery store?  What would you do with 25lb of whole wheat flour and 25lb of durum flour?

Link Love

Trump’s name will be on stimulus checks, likely causing them to be delayed for people who need them most.

Helpful list of resources from Frugalwoods if you have lost your job or had your hours cut.

A story about how the WI Republican Party tried and failed to win a state supreme court election by putting people in danger.

Preventative annoyance mitigation from xykademiqz

except I think you should shower because hot showers are nice and no need for work pajamas.  Your night ones are FINE.

I am eternally grateful for that sea lion comic because it reminds me that I don’t have to explain to some idiot on the internet that no, one hospital or hospital ship being empty in NYC doesn’t mean that we should stop the quarantine.  After I’ve explained how countries with enough protective gear, medical supplies, and (more recently) tests don’t have to quarantine and can still flatten the curve because they have hospital capacity!  If we’d been prepared we wouldn’t still be quarantining!  One hospital that’s empty for red tape reasons ugh…I just can’t even.  Oh, and it sounds like the premises that idiot was using about Sweden etc. were just plain wrong as well.  (Here’s a better article, h/t agaishanlife.)