DH has done a lot less baking since gaining employment, but the kids have done some.  The kids have done less since school started, but there are some summer treats in there.  And DC1 now knows the difference between baking soda and baking powder!  Because sometimes you have to learn by making mistakes.

These are from our new cookbook, Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain. We didn’t make the croissants– those are actually grocery store croissants, but the filling is homemade ricotta berry cheesecake and extremely good.

He’s been doing a lot of banana sourdoughs… when we don’t eat all the weekly bananas before they go bad he throws them in with some sourdough starter and makes a bread. The end result is only very mildly banana, unlike banana quick breads. This one has chocolate chips. It was very good.

Chocolate chocolate chip waffles.

Deep fried day old pizza dough balls.

Another recipe from Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain. These are (store-bought) puff pastry with chocolate inside and cocoa powder on top. Extremely simple to make but they seem decadent.

DH felt like making drop biscuits. I assume these are from the Old Fashioned Cookbook since that’s our go-to drop biscuit recipe.

Chocolate chip cookies from his own recipe and an interesting citrus pudding from Time to Eat. It separates into cake on top and a citrus pudding sauce on the bottom.

Eggplant pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. We’ve been going through the recipes that we skipped the first time through. They have all been surprisingly good.

Focaccia. I think DH has been doing a lot more cooking without a recipe since unemployment hit. I think also he’s been mostly making things he’s made before rather than trying out new recipes (other than things I force on him from Time to Eat and My First Cookbook).

Marinated zucchini pizza from Williams Sonoma pizza. This was amazing. Even the kids were willing to eat it. Even DC1 who hates zucchini and is the reason we skipped this the first time through the book.

These were cheese cookies, I think from an online recipe. I liked them, but nobody else liked them enough to keep the recipe.

This was a pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. It was achingly sweet. DC1 isn’t a huge fan of oranges so didn’t eat much. DH and I found it too sweet. DC2, who liked it quite a bit, gradually got through it in a week of lunches.

I think this is a chocolate chip cookie cake from My First Cookbook by ATK. DC2 made it with help.

Chocolate cupcakes (Barefoot Contessa) with leftover lemon frosting (Cake Bible) from DC2’s birthday cake.

DC2 asked for a lemon cake from The Cake Bible for hir birthday.

A slice of DC2’s birthday cake.

We had extra pie dough that we needed to get rid of so these are some kind of empanada even though they aren’t really shaped like empanadas.

Random sour dough.

A pupusa from My First Cookbook by ATK.

I think this hunk is actually the few biscuits remaining from between when the biscuits came out of the oven and when I got the camera. I believe DC1 made these from hir baking book before school started.

Some kind of random bread.

This pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza was AMAZING.

What is bread?

DC2 made these chocolate peanut butter rice crispy treats from My First Cookbook by ATK.

These are apple cinnamon donut-hole muffins from My first cookbook. DC2 made them.

Some kind of calzone from Williams Sonoma Pizza.

Must be bread.

DC1 made this streusel coffee cake.

Some kind of chocolate chocolate cookie.

DC1 made this raspberry Clafouti.

Cranberry nut bread.

DC2 made these ooey gooey butter cookies from one of MIL’s recipes. They use cake mix!

A fruit pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza.

This bread got a little burned.

I don’t know…. some kind of cake.

This is a cabbage streudel from the Victory Garden cookbook. It is is one of my favorites.

One of the kids made these blueberry muffins. Probably DC1.


DC1 made these berry scones.

Who gives a crap toilet paper review

The cupboard in the children’s bathroom now (they were almost out of tp).

Who gives a crap has no idea who we are.

After reading about supply chain shortages, I did some impulse buying late one night.  Because I’m weird, this impulse buying ended up being Bougie toilet paper from an online company.  It turns out that buying toilet paper is a pretty common response to reading articles about supply chain concerns, but most people stock up on their regular brand!  My reasoning was that if we had long-term supply shortages that affected toilet paper, we wouldn’t really know when they would happen and we’d use up the nice toilet paper, but we’d keep bad quality toilet paper around without using it until we had to.  (And indeed, there is still some very bad quality pandemic toilet paper in the guest bathroom.)

I did read a lot of reviews about Who Gives a Crap online, but most of them were sponsored and spent 3/4 of the review talking about how terrible toilet paper is for the environment and how recycled toilet paper is better.  There was maybe a single line talking about the toilet paper itself.  (Usually, “it’s ok, but don’t expect Cottonelle.”)  Then some gushing about how cute the wrapping paper is.

If you really want to help the environment, call your elected officials and lobby them to encourage regulation on companies.  Contact companies and tell them to do better.  Buying things to help the environment is usually not going to have that big an impact, especially compared to legislative change.  That said, if you really do want to help reduce turning old growth forests into tp sewage through your own actions, then get a bidet so that you use even less to and if you want to go hardcore, use family cloth instead of tp.

The wrapping paper is cute.  It is true.

Colorful wrappings on the recycled paper toilet paper

It would probably be even cuter if it didn’t have the “who gives a crap” decal printed on the center.

So… reviewing.  After hearing people say that it was worse than 7th generation recycled, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we didn’t think the recycled paper (not an affiliate link) was worse than 7th generation.  I would even argue it’s a little bit better than 7th generation.  It’s definitely rough, but it’s also triple ply, not double ply like 7th generation which makes it a bit sturdier.  If you get it wet enough (say with a big sneeze because you haven’t taken Zyrtec yet), it does tear, but it doesn’t tear with normal wiping.  It’s also waaay better than Angel Soft which was our least favorite tp in testing.  I’d say probably on a par with Trader Joe’s brand.  Also of note:  there is no pilling, which is my least favorite aspect of some toilet papers.  Cost at this time is $1/roll (double roll) with free shipping.

Premium bamboo toilet paper comes in sophisticated black and white wrappings.

The bamboo toilet paper (not sponsored) was surprisingly decent.  It’s a tiny bit softer than the regular (but not as soft as Quilted Northern) and sturdier– it does not tear even with the biggest sneezes.  Again, there’s no pilling, which is good.  I wouldn’t swap out this tp for a soft kleenex, but there are facial tissues out there that this is softer than.  This is $1.08/roll (double roll) at this time.  (If my calculations are correct, this is about 2x the price per sq ft of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush from my local grocery store.)

On the top: the recycled paper. On the bottom: the bamboo paper.

DH said he wouldn’t mind having the bamboo tp on a regular basis so I moved it from the guest bathroom to ours.  We have plenty of the colorfully wrapped bougie recycled tp to use in an emergency.

To the far right on the bottom are Quilted Northern Ultra Plush 4x Mega rolls.

Would I recommend getting this?  No, not unless you really like the outside wrappings or have trouble buying tp at the store.  I don’t know what the environmental aspects of bamboo tp are compared to wood (obviously bamboo is a weed and old growth forests take a long time to be replaced, but in terms of energy and water, I don’t know), but the bamboo tp is reasonably nice– probably better than what you have at work.  If you were to buy from this company for reasons unrelated to the environment I’d spend the extra 8 cents per roll for bamboo.

Again, if the environment is your main concern, a squirt of water is going to be better than any paper.

How do you choose toilet paper?  Have you tried any online brands?

Late Link Love

I was very burned out on activism and had to take a break.  But it’s still really important to do.  Here’s some things you can do too.

Vote Forward is focusing on Virginia 2021.  They are planning to send out letters on October 16th.  If you have a printer you can start writing them now.  You can order stamps directly from the USPS here.

I don’t know if Postcards to Voters has any current campaigns, but they are a way to help boost turnout in local elections.

5calls gives phone numbers and prompts on important issues to call your senators and congressperson about.

about those ivermectin studies

A Gai Shan Life asks how do you know you’re rich?  (I don’t feel very rich right now, but I will on Thursday when I get my first paycheck for the year!  In fact, I think DH and I are *both* getting paid.)

Fioneers interviews Mr. 1500 about life after FIRE.

Do you still have trouble focusing?

At end of life, woman, 44, with ovarian cancer urges others to know symptoms

I’m not the only professor dying because undergrads don’t know where they put their files.




Ask the grumpies: Any benefit to shooting for an ivy?

Chelsea asks:

I would be curious to read your thoughts about choosing a college. Particularly the perceived benefits of trying to go someplace like an Ivy or MIT or Williams. My DH and I both went to our flagship state school and have well-paying jobs and live happy, quiet lives. Honestly, is there any reason to do anything other than that if we think that’s what’s in store for our kids? Meaning, we hope they have well-paying jobs and happy, quiet lives. I have one child who has special needs and I’m not sure what higher ed will bring for him, one who loves math and science and may be interested in engineering, and a 3-year-old. Obviously, I would not try to stop a kid from going to a prestigious school if said kid really wanted to go, but it seems like so much stress for… I’m not sure what benefit.

Disclaimer:  We gave DC1 a Fiske Guide and said you can go to any college you want to with the following rules:  1.  It has to be in this book.  2.  It has to have at least 4 little academic desks out of 5.  3.  No out of state state schools– if you go out of state it must be private.  (This bummed DC1 out because the UCs are attractive, but we’re not paying private school tuition for a public school when zie can go to the honors college at our flagship at a fraction of the cost.)  This is such an important and personal decision that I don’t think we can make it for DC1.  Plus I feel really guilty for all the people I pushed into Caltech when I was a teenager.  (One of them is now a nurse, another is mid-level management at a large brewery after a stint in the marines, I’m not sure what happened to the other, but she also almost dropped out.)

Most ivies are pretty easy and have lots and lots of grade inflation. The education is about the same as at good Flagship state schools. But you get cachet and connections. In terms of the academic research, going to an ivy over a state school benefits life outcomes for low SES kids but doesn’t have any effect on life outcomes for high SES kids.  (There’s a lot of research on this topic going at it from a lot of different directions.  I think the Carolyn Hoxby/Sarah Turner field experiment has an extensive literature review.)  Ivies also tend to have extensive support networks in place and just more resources more generally.  (They may also cost less if you’re eligible for financial aid!)

Top graduate programs like taking students from ivies, but they also like taking them from top SLACs and top flagship schools.  If you’re in a state with a good flagship, it’s still possible for your kid to get into the #1 program for whatever graduate field they are interested in.  It may not be possible from a regional state school or a less prestigious SLAC.  But it will still be possible to get into a top 10 program and definitely a top 30 program, most likely.  Life is easier when you’re graduating from one of the top schools, but if you work hard and demonstrate awesomeness you can still do very well from a top 30 program if you’re in an in-demand field.  (I cannot make any claims for Humanities where the labor market is much weaker.)  Basically working harder in high school and going to a top ivy can make the rest of education easier if you plan on going that route.  But most people don’t.

I didn’t get into Williams (waitlisted *sob*), but there are benefits to (prestigious) SLACs in terms of the college experience.  It is NICE to have small classes and professors who know you and all the cute little traditions these schools tend to have.  I have school spirit for my undergrad even though our sports sucked and nobody cared about them.  One potential problem is that they sometimes have limited classes and if you want to take a specific course if only one (married) professor (with adult kids) teaches it and goes on leave or has a fist fight at a local restaurant with another professor because he’s sleeping with that assistant professor’s extremely young wife* and you can’t handle taking a class from him, you’re kind of SOL.

I also think that consortiums are really great– if a bunch of small schools get together and allow cross-enrollment, you can get the benefit of a small school but also not have to worry so much about getting the classes you need for your major in the exact semester you need them into your schedule (this is also a problem at large state schools– classes you need can fill up and make it difficult to get required classes when you need them).

We are not honing our kid to get into an ivy. If we were, we wouldn’t have skipped. Zie would have taken high school classes during middle school (meaning we’d have to drive every day to drop hir off). We would have forced hir to do competitions. And I’d probably be forcing hir to coauthor papers with me or DH would be pushing DC1 to get programming things out into the world. Not having those special things doesn’t mean a person can’t get into an ivy, but having them makes it more likely.

A small part of me wishes I’d gone someplace like MIT or Caltech as a college student (though not really Caltech because it’s so brutal). In high school and college I was searching for like-minded peers who just loved learning for learnings sake. These two engineering schools have lots of them as undergrads. Students at my fancy SLAC were way more interested in the OJ Simpson trial than in thinking or tinkering. (Not all of them– I did have my people in the math major, but not the econ major.) Any large enough school is going to have like-minded people, but you have to find them– you won’t necessarily get placed with them, and if you’re like DH or me and tend to hang out with people who are geographically close you may not connect with them.  It’s easier if you go to a school that draws more people who share your interests.

Grumpy Nation:  Are there any benefits to choosing an ivy?  Do you have a better answer for Chelsea or any interesting reminiscences?  

*Did I mention that drama may be a problem at small schools?  (I think it’s hilarious that Wikipedia has locked said professor’s wiki page with a note about slander– if no charges were pressed, it couldn’t have happened, right?)

An update on having skipped two grades: the high school years

Looking back, skipping DC1 two grades has accomplished exactly what we set out to accomplish.  DC1 is being challenged an appropriate level in school.  Zie has to work to get As in many of hir classes.  It would be nice if zie always succeeded, but I’m not sure that two additional years would fix the stupidity, capriciousness, or sheer right-wing craziness of some of these English teachers or that one Spanish teacher.  I do think that getting high grades in the other classes would take less work if zie had a couple more years under hir belt, but it is good to learn how to study.

What we are missing out on is DC1 being clearly one of the top genius students in the school for hir year.  Zie is definitely in the top 10% and is taking all 5.0 courses (except one required semester of PE and the first two years of Orchestra which are only 4.0) and a packed schedule of AP classes, but zie is not Tabitha (valedictorian, name changed) or Rylan (top junior, name changed).  Zie isn’t blowing away scholastic bowl (name of team changed) or qualifying for nationals at all three exams for math, chemistry, and physics (in fact, DC1 FORGOT to even take the qualifying math exam last year!!!!).  DC1 isn’t much of a joiner and hates competition… I assume with a couple of extra years zie would have more free time and it would have been easier to bully hir into one of these things.  With more free time, I suspect DC1 would have a bigger sound-cloud and maybe more stuff on hir youtube channel, as well as a potentially viable video game or two under hir belt.  I don’t know how attractive those would be to colleges, but …

Skipping two grades in many ways is much less impressive than single-subject acceleration would be.  (But soooo much easier on the parents who don’t have to drive to middle school to drop a kid off at the high school in the middle of the day.)  It’s more impressive to be a freshman in AP physics than it is to be a junior of the same age in that class.

With two more years, DC1 might have been more attractive to schools like MIT and Harvey Mudd.  (And depending on how viral hir hobbies got, maybe someplace like Stanford, who knows!)  Zie could always take a gap year to explore life and become more attractive to top schools, and that may still happen.

But, I think having skipped two grades, it’s ok to go to a college that isn’t insanely difficult.  Like, I understand why Obama had to transfer from Occidental. Occidental is great, but I would literally have run out of classes to take at my level before I hit senior year.  I’d have had to transfer or graduate early (or get a third major if that’s allowed…).  If DC1 had not skipped a couple of grades and done single-subject acceleration instead, I think zie would be in the same situation that I would have been in given college credit as a high schooler.  Skipping two grades means that it’s ok to get that additional difficulty while picking up a masters (or maybe a PhD, who knows what DC1 will end up doing?).  So going to one of these smaller schools that is likely to take hir is not off the table (for example, zie was really impressed with the love letter the Fiske guide wrote to Grinnell).  I don’t know how competitive zie will be at the regional ivies (ex. Northwestern, Vanderbilt. etc.) but those would probably be fine too, though DC1 seems less interested in them.  I mean, sure if you’re going that level it would be nice to have the cache and excessive grade inflation of a Stanford or Harvard, but these top private universities give excellent educations.

Sidenote:  In the larger scheme of things I’m glad my (prestigious SLAC) alma mater got rid of legacy admissions, but at a personal level I’m a little annoyed!  I do think that it would be perfect for DC1 in terms of difficulty level and support networks, but DC1 is not really that good a fit from a what-they-say-they-want in admissions standpoint.  (I really was a perfect fit in terms of what they wanted outside of grades and test-scores in a way I wasn’t for the prestigious SLAC I was waitlisted at.)  DH’s uni still has legacy.

Before I get too derailed about college admissions, let me get to the part that inspired this post.

So DC1 is a junior now and is the same age as the average Freshman, give or take (younger if there’s a lot of redshirting).  Spanish 3 was so awful (see above note about the terrible teacher) that a ton of current juniors just decided not to go on to Spanish 4.  That means that DC1 is one of two juniors in a class with a bunch of dual-language Freshman who took Spanish 1-3 in middle school.  Originally Tabitha was in that class, but she decided to drop and take study hall so she could devote more time to being the best at sports and extracurriculars.  The other junior in the class was thinking about dropping too, but DC1 begged hir not to– “Don’t leave me alone with all these freshmen!”

There’s also a Freshman in hir AP Physics class.  I’m like, this is great, what’s hir name?  You can get to know other high achieving people your age.  And DC1 is like, but zie’s a freshman!

Zie completely and totally identifies with the junior class and with being a junior.  Because of some course selection choices and being in varsity orchestra, zie also knows a few of the high achieving seniors.  Zie mostly socializes with what I would call “normal mostly college-prep kids” and not the other kids who are taking all AP courses.  Zie seems to fit in with them just fine, though this semester in order to protect hir sibling zie is not sitting at their lunch table because they are ignoring social distancing protocols.  Zie says they talk across the table and wave.  Zie does not get invited to things (there was a birthday party once pre-pandemic at a friend’s mom’s apartment, but that’s really it) and doesn’t go to dances or anything like that.  Zie doesn’t text hir friends (I don’t think?) but does have an active life on Discord on a minecraft forum playing and hosting text-based mafia-style games (I think?).  Zie seems really happy with hir level of socialization.  Zie is just kind of a low-key chill person (much like DH).  Most of my friendships throughout my life have been situational as well– just whoever is around without any deep connections.  DH may have been my first really close friend.

Sidenote 2:  DC1 also noted that zie sleeps a lot more than hir friends and gets teased about it.  (Zie is usually in bed by 10pm.  But gets up on hir own around 7am every day including weekends.)

One part of the high school experience that DC1 is missing is the drama(!)  My colleague is always telling me about the dating tribulations of her senior (the salutatorian) and their friendship group (which includes Tabitha).  I reported back to DC1 and zie said, “Why would it take so much time to get over being dumped?  Shouldn’t it be like just a few hours?”  Which… there’s something to be said for doing hardcore AP classwork while *not* worrying about your crush or any of their drama.  (DC1 mostly hangs out with same-gender peers who are also not dating, whereas the super high-achieving friendship groups are mixed gender and sound pretty incestuous in terms of dating– meaning they all date and dump each other.  I am so glad I am not dealing with teenage dating angst either as a participant or first-level observer anymore!  The stories through my colleague are more than enough!)

I do feel a little bit guilty that DC1 is unlikely to be finding true love in high school because we skipped hir two grades, but there’s no guarantee that zie would have followed DH’s family norm (they all have married their first significant others that they met in high school) instead of the more random could happen at any time norm in my family (or indeed, most families).  And zie will still be a good catch in college or out or may decide never to date at all.  That’s up to hir.

So, as a whole, no regrets so far.  DC1 seems to be happy too.  Would zie have gotten into Stanford with another two years?  Who knows.  Is that worth it over wherever zie will end up going instead?  No idea.  We made these decisions for DC1 back when zie was 4 and 5 years old (and zie would have started Kindergarten even earlier if zie had been the decision-maker!)  What comes after is up to DC1.


  • I almost impulse bought a bidet.  But it looks like the $30 version might have too much water pressure and cold water sounds unpleasant.  The $450 version requires some research since it’s a full seat and lid (will it fit our toilet?) and requires electricity (our outlet is across from the toilet instead of behind it).  So in the end I didn’t.
  • I did, however, buy $100 worth of bougie low quality toilet paper from who gives a crap.  Look for a review after it gets here!
  • I’m pretty sure these are all supply chain anxieties– I don’t want to run out of toilet paper again!  Why not load up on nice (admittedly bad for the environment) tp?  Well, we would *use* it.  We’re more likely to not run low on the bad quality stuff.  And these do have pretty wrappers.
  • The dehumidifier we got seems to be working on the formerly musty cupboard.  I don’t think we can stop running it though– there’s probably mold there between the shower and the cabinets just waiting to be activated by moisture.  But we can’t have anybody come in to do anything about it.  Also we think this is probably going to be a demo job.  It would be nice to replace the plasticky gold shower stall, but if we did that the rest of the master bath would look bad.  If we take out the cabinets, we would just replace them with identical cabinets.  I’m not really sure what to do if there’s no way we can get between the two with bleach (and it looks like there isn’t.)  We need to talk to an expert without actually letting an expert into our home.  Not sure what to do.
  • Dehumidifiers heat up a room.  The bathroom is super toasty.
  • All these “libertarians” complaining that people don’t want to work aren’t actually libertarians because true libertarians KNOW people don’t want to work.  It’s in econ 101.  It’s why people have to get paid.  It’s why we have labor/leisure tradeoff models.  Econ 101 models cannot conceive of a world in which people get value from labor– if we did we would call it leisure!
  • The dean came in to talk to us about why students aren’t wearing masks in class.  He was, not surprisingly, unmasked.  Because he believes that people can’t hear him if he has a mask on.  And that it’s ok for the person lecturing to be not wearing a mask if all the students are.  But the students don’t have to wear masks, so…  After my outburst last faculty meeting, everyone else in person (including the chair) put masks on, but only after they’d finished eating lunch.  The secretary did not eat.  She is immunocompromised and should really not have to be in there.  He also noted that our department has had a covid positive professor.  (I don’t know who.)
  • We decided on just gifts for the kids for Christmas, but DH’s sister with the 4 kids (the rest of us have 2) is still a little unhappy about this.  We’re not really clear on what the unhappiness is– is it that she wants less stuff or is it that she feels guilty that she’s giving 4 gifts and everybody else is giving 6?  It’s hard to know, especially since this is all second hand (third hand for me through DH) from MIL.  MIL also mentioned that SIL has too many kids books and her bookcases are full… which was that directly to use because we usually get books for the kids?  I don’t know.
  • One thing I really don’t like is that she has put up her amazon wishlists for the four kids and both girls (a one year old and a five year old) have make-up kits and toy vacuums and stereotypical girly girl look I’m just like my mommy who has an unequal marriage toys, but both boys have super cool gender neutral toys.  I’m going to let DH deal with this since it’s his family, but I can’t imagine getting things off the girls’ wishlists even if that’s what SIL wants (and maybe the 5 year old wants 4 different make-up kits, but I doubt the 1 year old has given that preference).  There are a couple of books for the older kids still on the wishlist so maybe it’s not a complete moratorium on books.  DH always calls her up and asks if she’s ok with what he’s getting them anyway and she has said no about things they already own.
  • Unrelated:  SIL’s husband just got diagnosed with covid.  Really I’m surprised it took them this long.  At least SIL is vaccinated even though the four kids aren’t.  And they let MIL know right before she got to the house to visit them instead of after so MIL was able to turn back around.

Link love

DC1 was exposed to covid in study hall this week.  Fun times.  Oddly the number of cases in the district has dropped dramatically… still high for those of you in sane places but much lower than the first month of school.  I don’t know if this is lack of reporting or if people have been masking/vaccinating/recovered because of how bad it was.  A local college student died of covid which seems to have spurred better behavior, though what a terrible sacrifice.

Scalzi with a reminder not to get complacent about politics.

Interesting thread on one company’s experience with a company-wide vaccine mandate.

This guardian article could have been paid for by the period underpants industry, it’s so convincing.  Has anybody tried these?

It’s common for people to say that nobody on their death bed ever wishes they’d worked more.  I thought this poem (h/t excelsiorbev) was refreshing.  Ha!  Or, maybe he’s talking about how he should have taken more of these moments… that’s one of the things about poetry, there’s often ambiguity.  But I suspect the last line about chickenhawks and the previous line about horse poop may point to the former interpretation.  Not that I believe the farmer has wasted his life, but perhaps if I stop now, I will have wasted mine.  DH’s company did a company-wide meeting and they had to talk about what drives them and most people had some sort of variation of helping people (which makes sense because this is one of those startups that will save lives if they are successful).  I would have said making the world a better place.  Poetry, man.  Thought-provoking.  Introspective.


Ask the grumpies: Children’s chapter books for sensitive young readers

Alice asks:

To the best of my knowledge, my kid read her first independently-read word when she was about 2.5. Now, at 5, she’s technically proficient. If we do every-other-word in a new book, she reads them all with some mispronunciations for more complex words. I’ve really struggled and failed to find books for her that she might want to read independently, though. She’s reluctant. The problem is that from an emotional level, she Does Not Want to encounter (a) rule-breaking/bad choices, (b) mean behavior between characters, or (c) things that scare her. She will ask me to stop reading a book to her if the drama level is too high for her. And it seems like all of the books I can find at her technical reading level are too high-drama for her, even things an adult would look at as no big deal. For more than a year, I’ve been reading nonfiction to her at bedtime, along with a couple of beloved Boynton board books. Nonfiction doesn’t bother her, and the Boyntons are meant for a pretty young audience.

I was a voracious reader, but didn’t learn to read until 6 and didn’t fall in love with it until 7. I’ve been worrying that I’m not setting her up to be a big reader because I haven’t found the books she loves yet. I would very much like for her to be someone who enjoys reading, though. A love of reading has brought me so much good, I want the same for her.

High sensitivity is not uncommon among gifted kids.  DC1 and I were/are very similar (DC2 OTOH, delights in books about protagonists behaving badly– during our last poetry unit, one of hir poems is dedicated to Bad Kitty).  I’m still a little traumatized from Matthew dying (spoiler, but not from Bad Kitty).

Non-fiction is great.  DC1 read a ton of it in preschool and early elementary school.  Scholastic was wonderful for increasing our non-fiction library.

For fiction, one thing to look into is older books.  There are a couple of types of older books.  There’s books like Penrod or The Great Brain that are horrific to our 21st century sensibilities in terms of kids casually abusing each other or their pets– you’ll definitely want to avoid those.  But there’s also early-mid 20th century slice-of-life books where nothing bad ever happens and you just don’t get that emotionally engaged with the characters.  So *early* Henry books from Beverly Cleary, but not later Ramona books (where the reader actually identifies with Ramona and her feelings, or, in my case, with Beezus).

The Five Little Peppers are another series of books in this genre.  The first two in particular.  From our adult eyes, bad things seem to happen (and are overcome), but the way it’s written kids don’t really pick up on the problems because of all the “good cheer”.  Similar is All of a Kind Family.  Eleanor Estes has a number of these (here’s Ginger Pye — the Moffats might not work out as I’m vaguely remembering that DC2 loved them and DC1 and I cringed a bit).  IIRC I didn’t have any problem with Betsy-Tacy, but once Tib got added to the mix things got a bit more dramatic (as an adult reading these to DC2, who loved them, there’s a lot of very interesting and pretty modern social commentary on class, religion, and immigration that completely went over my head as a kid).

Similarly, Pippi Longstocking has all sorts of adventures that should make one cringe, but they don’t because she’s so irrepressible.  (Though be careful– Pippi in the South Seas is kind of racist and definitely colonialist.)

L. Frank Baum has a number of short stories set in Oz or related places where nothing at all bad happens– they’re dreams of magical lands made from candy.  DC1 and I could also handle the first two Oz books without problem– there are adventures and from an adult standpoint it seems like bad things happen, but as a kid they weren’t emotionally bad.  In the third book, there are some genuinely terrifying creatures, like the nome king, the wheelers, and a princess who cuts off people’s heads so she can change her head depending on what she wants to look like for the day (this last one, oddly, I did not find as horrifying as the former two when I was a kid).

A more modern book with “just the right size” adventures is The Adventures of Miss Petitfour.  The worst thing that happens in this book is running out of marmalade and that is easily solved by a trip to town (with a bit of magic thrown in).

Books recommended by commenters:

Nate the Great — these are very short mysteries.  They do hit a perfect sweet spot, but they just don’t last very long… they get outgrown pretty quickly.  Cam Jansen is somewhat similar, but has longer staying power, and you may need to screen some of them first.

Frog and Toad — DC1 loved these with what would have been to pieces except they have extremely good binding.  There are a few bits here and there that are uncomfortable but they get resolved very quickly and everything is going to be ok.

minca recommends:

– Sophie Mouse
The Owl Diaries
– My Furry Foster Family
– Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
– Zoey & Sassafras
– Calvin & Hobbes
– Magic Treehouse (she’ll skip any “scary” parts)

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle does have situations that *should* set off people behaving badly triggers, but for some reason, especially in the first two books, they didn’t.  Again, I think it’s that it seems more abstract than personal in a lot of these early-mid 20th century books by American authors so the logic centers are engaged rather than emotions?

As your kid gets older, 20th century American magic books like those by Edward Eager will be readable — they do have bad situations but you KNOW that everything is going to turn out ok… in the end everything always seems to happen for the best.  The same is not true for British books of the same vintage (exception:  Bed-knob and Broomstick … though also compare The Borrowers to The Littles and it’s clear that the American version is more optimistic and fun)– with those there often seems like if anything is going to go wrong it will, and at best they will get back to where they started but with more knowledge, after a lot of fighting.  For a more modern take on adventure where it’s obvious everything is safe underneath, try Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

Grumpy Nation, what books would you recommend for sensitive children?


Abandoned Wednesday post ideas from 2010

  • We have a ton of money posts and a ton of Ask the Grumpies, but these Wednesday posts are a bit harder to come up with.  I guess all I think about these days is money and work and whatever interesting questions Grumpy Nation comes up with for us?  I’ve been dipping into our archives for ideas and it’s a bit crazy how irrelevant or not applicable so many of these things are now.
  • The oldest abandoned post is called “On the Importance of Moxy.”  It only has a title and it was started in 2010.  I’m pretty sure it was about faking it until you make it and how you shouldn’t put yourself down because people start believing it.  But now I know more about the double-bind that women are in and how hard it is to get that humble yet confident thing right.  And the literature says to praise other women and have other people praise you, but what happens there is that sometimes other people don’t praise you back and then they end up getting resources because the powers that be think you’ll be ok with that.  I’ve gotten so negative!  Not just cynical, but also negative.  Maybe I’ll delete that one.  Still– don’t put yourself down.  That never helps because people do believe you.
  • The next one is about Nice to Live vs. Nice to Visit (also 2010) and I think that was about how nice it is to visit some places (Boston, LA) but not as great to live there.  4 years of Trump has made me rethink what it means for a place to be nice to live.  Though I still am worried about the unhealthy body images that LA indoctrinates people with.
  • The last 2010 post was a Mini-rant that I thought for sure I’d just use sometime when we needed a post.  Maybe I’ll do that even though the thing it’s ranting about isn’t as big a deal as it seemed to be 10 years ago when unhealthily messed-up “raw/honest” etc. was in.  With picture-perfect influencers being “in” right now it’s a bit outdated.  Still, there may be a backlash brewing.  Maybe you’ll see it next week!  (But also maybe not!)
  • After deleting or scheduling those 2010 posts we now have 142 items in drafts (not including this one which is scheduled).

Do you have any thoughts on places that are nice to live vs. nice to visit?  How important do you think moxy is?  Have you worked on not putting yourself down or does it come naturally to you?  Are you interested in me going through 2011 next?

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Teaching a first semester required course

This is a post initially started in 2011!  But apparently not much has changed in the intervening 10 years…

Teaching a first semester required course is really hard!

The reason for that is that you’re not just managing expectations about the class itself, but about the major and about what it means to be a college student (or graduate student!).

It’s ok to tell them that they need to be taking notes.  They honest to goodness don’t know.  A lot of them went to high schools where they could just get by on their smarts.  In college, at least in a challenging major like ours, they are going to need some memory aids.  It’s ok to tell them to put their cell phones away and laptops down.  I tell mine that they need to be taking notes with pencil and paper and they can only use a tablet if they have a stylus.  Trying to draw diagrams using a laptop without a stylus is a huge waste of time and takes them out of the more important parts of actually understanding the lecture.

We also added to our core syllabi information on how college is different from high school– they’ll be expected to think and deal with ambiguity and ask questions, not just memorize lists.  We tell them they should expect to be stressed out sometime in the middle of the semester and they will feel dumb, but at the end of it they will feel a lot smarter.  That seems to help a lot.

A lot of books written by white-haired white dudes will tell you to treat students like adults.  My teaching evals got a lot better when I started treating them like toddlers (keeping in mind that I would be an excellent pre-school teacher).  Students understand the “teacher” persona and seem happiest when a female teacher fits into a box that they can understand.  They like guidelines and structure and clear expectations while still being expected to learn and grow.

For those of you that teach, do you have any tips and tricks for students just starting out?  For those of you who have been taught, what do you wish your first semester teachers had done, or what did they do well?