Ask the Grumpies: What to do with bad houseguests?

Wally Waffles asks:

A friend of mine with two kids wants to visit me this summer and stay at my house. The two kids (both girls – who are like 11 and 7?) do absolutely nothing to help out when they are visiting. Nothing. They don’t even take their own plates to the kitchen after dinner. I’m single with no kids, so feel uncomfortable asking them to do things – but it is a source of tension for me. We spent xmas together last year and I felt like I was having to do everything for the two kids and their dad (who also does nothing). And I really needed a vacation too! Any advice on how someone who doesn’t have kids can address this? I just don’t want to have them come and wreak havoc on my house and expect me to do everything for them. I will be resentful and frustrated. Of course, I could ask them to stay elsewhere, but this is an ongoing issue.

#Disclaimer.  We’re from the Midwest and midwestern hospitality rules are clear that good guests clean up after themselves and offer to help in the kitchen and doing yardwork and maybe helping with that new deck or whatever big project the host has been putting off (if healthy and able to help).  Hosts are to play the 3 asks game with the guests to determine which help they are willing to accept and which help they aren’t (as well as the extent to which guests actually want to help).  We understand that hospitality rules outside the Midwest aren’t quite so orchestrated, but guests should still use the rule that they provide as little work as possible for the host, including cleaning up after themselves, as a minimum, and offer to help out otherwise.  They should also take the host for a meal out and pay for it.

The dad who does nothing is the bigger problem than the kids in terms of being a good host. You can ask the kids to put plates away but it’s less polite to ask the dad. I mean, you still can, but it depends on how good of friends you are. He sounds like he was raised in a barn and is raising his children the same way.

Personally I wouldn’t have them at my house. It sounds awful. I would have a hard time spending time with the guy at all.

That said you have options.

1. See what happens when you cheerfully ask the dad to help out in the kitchen and tell the girls it’s cleanup time. This could go fine or it could result in dad writing a dear Wally letter later (my parents got a bizarre letter telling them they were awful hosts for asking the husband of a couple help with outside (bbq) grilling when they stayed at our house while traveling across the country—no big loss).

2. Talk to the dad ahead of time saying you’re happy to have them but you were exhausted last year/last summer and they need to help out.

3. They stay elsewhere or just don’t visit this year.

Back when I was always on childcare duty at DH’s in-laws, I would make sure every play session ended with a clean-up session.  Kids were willing to take instruction from me.  I have never felt the least qualm telling other people’s kids to help out.  And I’m perfectly happy for other people to instruct my kids to clean up after themselves (#daycare).  Some parents don’t like it though. So it’s not like it’s a sure thing– the dad might get irritated.  If he does, then you have to think about how much you value his friendship if he gets upset vs. you being resentful from him being a dick.

They may know this song (not from Barney, but from preschool or elementary school).  Almost every kid I’ve interacted with knows exactly what to do when I start singing it and sings along too.:

But again, the problem is not the kids– you can ask them to pick up after themselves.  It’s the Dad who is old enough to know better and is old enough to be a good example and to guide his kids.

Grumpy Nation:  What advice do you have for Wally?

Ask the readers: Collagen?

One of my colleagues recommended collagen powder because my nails have been brittle and breaking and I’ve definitely been showing signs of aging.

She’s a bunch older and her hair and skin do look great.

I ordered some from the brand she recommended.

On the one hand, collagen powder seems pretty squicky and I’m not sure about the real benefits and any potential costs.  And it’s not like vitamin D where I take a pill and 20 min later I feel peppy (I have a Vit D deficiency)– even the places that say that collagen powder works say it takes minimum 30 days to see any effects.

Any testimonials?  Word of mouth?  MD opinions?

What are we getting people for Christmas this year?

All Amazon links are affiliate.  No non-Amazon links are affiliate.

DC1: A laptop.  I thought we would pair it with a backpack, but it turns out hir current backpack is on the recommended list for college kids and other backpacks we were considering are good for travel (they hold a lot of stuff) but too heavy for walking to classes, or are too small to add class stuff in addition to a laptop.  I had been thinking about a slide whistle but also think that might be a punishment for the rest of the family.  After a lot of discussion (that included DC1), DH realized that his laptop from his previous company that went out of business is really powerful and we know it works, so … I guess DC1 is getting some hand-me-downs.  Zie previously had asked for a drawing tablet for Christmas and I was like, oh, here, have my ReMarkable that I don’t use, you can have it now.  We’re also making hir an additional user on my credit card.  But that also did not cost us any money.   I think DC1 is also getting a really nice hand-me-down monitor because DH is getting himself a very fancy new monitor.  I guess we will make up for all the buying we’re not doing now in August or September next year when zie goes off to college.  (The Amazon wishlist for relatives includes:  Headphones, a wallet, Akata Woman, the latest What If book, drawing pads, a classic music composition textbook, some AP study guides… if relatives don’t come through on those we will buy them.  The in-laws are getting hir a luggage and a soda stream.)

DC2 is getting a bunch of books.  Zie is getting more Bad Guys books and Keeper of the Lost Cities books.  Also we’re switching DC1’s awesome socks subscription over to hir because DC1 doesn’t really need another 12 pairs of socks and DC2 has definitely been jealous.

My sister:  A fish spatula.  More jellyroll pans for roasting vegetables (she requested dark, otherwise I never would have bought non-stick).

MIL:  We got stuff off her amazon wishlist, which also happened to coincide with notes we had made from last Christmas, in that she added one of those fancy apple peelers to the list.  We pounced on it before Thanksgiving as soon as she added it since we were planning to get her one anyway.  Then a kitchen stand, wind chimes, and a personalized mailbox cover for her favorite sports team.

FIL:  Cabela’s gift card, same as usual.

The rest of DH’s extended family continues to be just the kids, though DH gets something for his brother anyway.

Nephew-in-law 1:  Speks geode and another Speks thing.

Niece-in-law 1:  From her wishlist:  Sailor Moon playing cards, How to draw cute food, The art of drawing manga, Kawaii origami.

Nephew-in-law 2:  lots of Bad Guys books, a game off his wish list

Niece-in-law 2: Nate the Great, a Henry and Mudge book, Frog and Toad books, this camera off hir wishlist.

Nephew-in-law 3:  The truck full of trucks was on a lightening sale off the wishlist.  SIL also requested books on vehicles/machines/etc. and instead of buying some we’re handing-me-down some since we need to get rid of books that DC2 has outgrown.

Niece-in-law 3: This toddler piano that was actually on the nephew’s wishlist, but they’re twins and toddlers and all the stuff on her wishlist is still toy cleaning stuff and toy makeup.  SIL also requested books on animals, and instead of buying some we’re handing-me-down a lot since we need to get rid of books that DC2 has outgrown.  As DC2 noted, too bad neither of them is going through a dinosaur period right now.

Are you getting anything interesting for folks this year?

Link Love

Wondering what’s up with OMDG? Find out here!

This history teacher wants to buy an LGBT flag (along with basic school supplies and a fan), and it is about to expire (less than 5 days left), meaning they don’t get it and they lose all the funding people have donated so far.

Meet the new covid omicron variants for this winter.

I’ve continued to do postcards to voters in Georgia.

h/t natural scientist explanation of Christmas holiday for teachers

 

 

Ask the grumpies: Postpone sabbatical to try for funding or not?

Lisa asks:

I’m curious about your experiences being on leave. I am supposed to be on sabbatical in the spring, but the sabbatical funding I applied for did not pan out, and I have been so preoccupied with the mess [in my department] that I have been unable to make an alternate plan. I’m trying to decide whether to cancel/postpone my sabbatical or go ahead with it and hang out elsewhere as much as possible. I won’t be able to offload everything, but could offload some of it. But I hate to “waste” a sabbatical and don’t think postponing would be a problem (the Dean is well aware of the mess and the amount of involvement I have with it). It sounds like the leave has been good for you even if you’re not really “gone”.

I would definitely see what the rules are on postponing— Ours are competitive and we’re not allowed to postpone.  Also if you get a sabbatical after X years, does that mean your next sabbatical won’t be until X+1 years?

I knew the department head in another related department and just asked if I could have a desk over there.  It’s in another building.  He said yes and wrote me a letter of support.  They had space to give me a desk in an office with a window, which I wasn’t expecting.  There’s even a couch although it’s a bit musty.  (Everyone remarks on how cool the couch is but nobody actually sits on it.)  I changed my parking permit over and informed my current head that those were the dates I was no longer doing service (though I actually did process a bunch of course waivers after that date, and of course I also did the promotion and tenure stuff I wasn’t allowed to not do).

You should be able to offload everything. The best part of sabbatical is breaking service ties and starting fresh when you get back. (I won’t be able to this time— the chair has kept my spot for me as program coordinator and we’re now hiring for 6 new positions instead of just the 5. And adding I don’t know how many new programs without any thought put into them because the new college president values speed over anything else.). If you can’t do that it might make sense to wait until you can.

For academic readers– saving up for a half-paid full year leave is wonderful if you can do it. The first time we were able to do it, DH really got why savings might be useful.  Before then I think it was just something he did because it made me freak out less.

I’ve definitely felt more “away” when I’ve actually been in another state and my time away has been more respected in those instances.  But also we haven’t had to deal with finding housing or renting out our house, so that’s something.  Currently our furnishings are probably too worn to rent to people and there’s that awful Trump flag across the street.

Grumpy academics:  What are your thoughts on local vs. away sabbaticals and on postponing a year?

Your children can do chores

This is a post draft from 2012.  All that it had was the heading– your children can do chores.

I’m not sure if this was a result of mommy bloggers complaining about waiting on their kids, or if it was just a reminder to myself that kids are often more competent than one realizes.  They start out so little and then grow so quickly.  So you forget to let to let them try things like putting on their own shirts.

Now, in 2022, we’re all at the age (#teen/#preteen) where they want to help less and it would be less effort to put their dirty dishes/socks away or to take their laundry out of the dryer rather than nagging them to do it themselves.  But also DC1 is going to college next year and needs to not be a horrible roommate/dorm person.

I worry especially for boy children– some of them seem to be able to skate through life with mommy waiting on them and then replace mommy with girlfriends and eventual wives.  Some of them never learn to take care of their crap and that’s unfair to future women who love them, or at least live with them.  Boys need to get used to doing chores as a service to their future partners.

Did you help out around the house as a kid or was taking care of chores a shock when you were on your own for the first time?

Things I haven’t told you about work this year

  • I’m actually on leave this year.  I can’t go anywhere because DC1 is a high school senior, so I’m hanging out in another department.  This is very nice.
  • They screwed up my salary by giving me a full paycheck the first paycheck in October.  Then no paycheck the second paycheck (I still owe them $44).  This has screwed up my retirement because I have a set amount extra taken off and because there was no paycheck last month, I didn’t get it.  I don’t think with my half salary (plus extra fees) that there’s enough money to fill up my accounts even if I try to max them out if I only get the November paycheck.  I’m not sure if the December paycheck counts for 2022 or 2023 (it’s supposed to be disbursed Jan 1, but is always disbursed the last business day before that).  If it counts for 2022 I think I can max out both, but if it doesn’t, I can’t.
  • Despite being on leave, my department head put me on the promotion and tenure committee for the guy who is currently suing the department because he wasn’t promoted the last time he went up, despite not having any new publications since tenure except in teaching journals (the kind where you say here’s a classroom exercise you can use in your classes), and not a whole lot of them earlier.
  • I said no, I will not do this, but I can be on the committee for the junior faculty member I’ve been mentoring (she does work that has a lot of intersections with my areas of expertise) and have read all the papers for.  The chair ignored that email and I got one from the head of the suing guy’s committee trying to set up a meeting.  I replied all and refused because I am fricking on leave.
  • It turns out that the suing guy refuses to work with any department member who denied him full in the past, so he refused to be on the committee of the person I mentored so I ended up being on her committee anyway.  The department head wrote me a kind of jerky email saying that zie had discussed with the dean and provost about whether I was still obligated to do service while on leave and they had said yes, the department head could force me to do service.  But because I had more knowledge of the junior member’s cv, zie was graciously allowing me to be on that committee instead of the suing guy’s (they didn’t replace me).  No mention of the other guy taking himself off the committee (and why was he allowed to do that but I was not?) and needing that slot to be filled.  But the other committee members informed me and were grateful that I was there, especially since I was able to write up the research statement for the committee (everyone gushed about what a great job I did after… which is both nice and makes me cringe because doing a good job is rewarded with more service but not more time or money).
  • I was supposed to get a $2000 additional payment (along with a plaque– currently have a printed paper award that’s supposed to be a place holder) for a small awards thing I was awarded in September and I thought that might fix up the retirement problem, but it has not yet come.  I should probably check on that.
  • Did I mention that I am the only full professor without a fellowship, professorship, or chair?  This includes the woman who is similar to me but does zero service, doesn’t answer student emails, has been here less time than I have, and has a slightly higher google scholar count than I do (she has also been out 3 more years than I have and has gotten a number of sweet deals to not teach).  But she does research in the same area as the chair who likes her more than me even though zie can’t “trust” her on committees or to teach classes.
  • Brainstream:  I think the chair might have a fixed mindset.  It’s weird though because the professor in question used to teach just fine.  It’s just that after starting a field experiment she stopped being able to do anything other than research.  And yet, I did a field experiment before she did (my NSF grant ended just as hers started) and was able to still meet my other commitments.  Still, it seems to me the solution is not to protect her research time at my expense but to get her to go back to doing the minimum for teaching and to start actually doing service.
  • Brainstream:  The department head has trouble about thinking about gestalt fairness.  Zie tends to think in terms of “we have to have everyone teach an undergraduate course and core course” rather than thinking about the entire teaching/service package.  So some people get really lucky in some areas or really unlucky but then get the average load in other areas, which as a whole ends up being extremely unfair.
  • Brainstream:  Zie also takes the wrong message from things.  I got angry about being told to do an additional small service (straw/camel — this was reading over a master’s thesis for an award committee) after dying of service that year and being promised that I would be done for the year after the last thing zie begged me to do (I had said, yes, I will do this but it has to be the LAST thing you ask me to do this year), so instead of taking the lesson not to renege on promises, zie took the lesson that I never wanted to read over masters theses for the award and this master’s thesis committee is so terrible that it should be equivalent to half of the two course reduction that people get for paternity leave (they are supposed to get additional service to make up for the class reduction since we don’t have real parental leave).
  • The other professor does some service external to our university (again, as do I and earlier) so she can’t actually be incompetent.  She just doesn’t care.  And why should she?  She’s getting rewarded for selfishness.  The department head is worried she will leave, but she has been on the market every year since she got here and nobody has hired her yet.
  • I had a fellowship very briefly but I lost it upon becoming a full professor.  This information was not in the letter when I got my fellowship.  Also nobody in admin noticed.  So for a month I was trying to figure out why they couldn’t reimburse a $50 journal submission fee.  I think I may have already complained about this.
  • The one competent person in admin services recently moved to a different state, so she’s not there anymore.
  • I’m very worried that I will never be able to leave because I don’t have a top 5 journal publication.
  • Being on leave is such a contrast to being in the department.  I have a high teaching load compared to other economists (average or low compared to humanities profs– I don’t know how you guys get any work done!)  I have an insane service load compared to even people in my department, including a lot of things that I get zero credit for (I have complained about this in the past).  I was worried that I was becoming stupid and would never have any good ideas or time to get things out again.  But I am thinking deep thoughts!  I am being productive!  I am happy and meeting people and giving keynote talks that go over really well and I’m getting grant proposals out and papers under review.  I’m excited about research and both new and current projects. It’s like I’m back to being me.  My department overload and feeling unappreciated and not being given time or money was seriously hurting me.
  • I went back over to the department yesterday and the people who are competent at service are dying.  They haven’t washed their hair.  They’re frazzled.  They told me about all these stupid directives coming from on high admin that the head isn’t slowing down or pushing back on.  (Hardcore!)  And that’s going to continue into next year except other competent people are going on leave.  I don’t know how I am going to be able to honor the research commitments I’ve made this year in that situation, especially since I’m also supposed to be teaching a new prep.
  • I think I need to have a discussion with the department head before I go back about how this is untenable.  My counterpart in another field who also does outsized service is feeling the same way (but will be on leave next year), so maybe we can approach hir as a united front.  We’re both program coordinators, and the only program coordinators with the full teaching load, even though we’re coordinating the two biggest programs (the other coordinator has a center and does no research anymore, just public outreach).
  • There are a couple of professorships and one chair available, but the dean has decided to take them from our department to distribute across all of the departments in our school (we recently had a re-org).  So I will continue not having a fellowship, professorship, or chair.  These have been open for some time and we were told to apply for them this summer (previously they were just appointed by the department chair) and there would be a committee that would make the decision.  But a couple months after that, we were told in a lengthy email that they would be open to being reassigned to another department, and there would be another committee (headed by someone from the other department), oh, and btw, I no longer have a fellowship and it was going back in the pool too (this was in the email sent to everyone, thanks).  That was almost 2 months ago and still no decisions.  But at least I have a bursary now.
  • IT says that we can’t work from home unless we use a department laptop because we are not allowed to do university business on our own devices.  Except dropbox is still broken on my computer in my home office because when they update it it often (but not always) defaults back to a drive that has no space in it.  I wouldn’t have to download so much stuff, except that the computer in my office is too slow to download on the fly and use stata.  What’s really weird is that the computer in the office I’m using now in the other department has no problem– it’s fast and logging on is fast and dropbox works and is fast.  It just works.  Also we’re not allowed to get reimbursed for software using grant funding.
  • Another irritating thing is that the dean just assumed I had a professorship, which I never did.  We got into an argument about the IT bullet above (which probably wasn’t a great idea on my part since having a dean disliking you isn’t great) and he made a comment about using my professorship funds.  Which I have never had.  Another full professor also thought I had a professorship because she assumed I got one when my colleague who is a substitute for me but does no service got one.  It’s like not getting maternity leave all over again!  Everyone assumes you got the benefit you didn’t get, which is worse than just not getting the benefit.
  • Was this cathartic or did it make things worse?  I don’t know.  I just know I’m dreading going back to work next year and it’s only November.  And if I hadn’t gone in yesterday I could have ignored it.

Link love

How nachos and nazis are related but also not.

Fascinating story about how those ivermectin pushers defrauded people.

Hey!  Double-blind actually is important.

What’s up with A Natural Scientist?  Find out here!

What’s up with Wandering Scientist?  Find out here!

Ohio measles outbreak.  Unvaccinated children are hospitalized.

Interactive maps of the Roman world!

 

Did Attractive Girls Get Worse Grades When Classes Moved Online?

Ask the grumpies: Do you loofah?

Leah asks:

 Loofah/Scrubbie or washcloth or hands to clean your body?

#1 I guess a washcloth or nothing?  Depending on if it’s a bath or shower.

#2 Loofah

RBOC

  • While I was gone both DC2 and DH made muffins without recipes.  After seeing the results, I realized that DH was emulating Keith from the Try Guys– he made cinnamon mini-muffins with raisin bran on top.  DC2 is definitely the Zach.  Hir muffins had 3 kinds of tea and… peppermint marshmallows(!).  They were … interesting.  I am impressed that they both made reasonable muffins without even looking at a base recipe.  But DC2 is really the only person eating hir muffins, though zie brought one to school and one of the friends zie gave a piece to asked for a second piece.
  • Houseflies are nature’s cat toys.
  • I had been unable to do many reverse flies (this is an exercise thing) and then all of a sudden it was no problem to do them!  Growth!  I’m getting stronger!
  • The weird thing is that some exercises that were trivial when I started (arm circles, wall reach) are now more difficult.  Not hard, but like, I can tell they’re exercises whereas I couldn’t before.  Are my arms heavier?  Are there muscles resisting that didn’t have the strength to resist before?  These are warm-up exercises so it’s not that I’m doing them after more intense workouts.
  • I gained 4 pounds traveling.  I ate a LOT of really good fish tacos.
  • Taskmaster is just SO GOOD.
  • Christmas seems to have started later this year– last year it seemed really early, I guess.  I was a little surprised by Thanksgiving because it didn’t get not hot until like a week before.  In-laws haven’t updated their kids’ wishlists yet.  I hope they do by Thanksgiving so we can shop on the couch after eating turkey.
  • This year my sister is going to her boyfriends’ extended family celebration, so we are doing a tiny only-us thanksgiving (with traditional food– last year we did Brazilian take-out) and then going to visit them that Saturday.
  • My in-laws are planning on doing Christmas pictures with a professional photographer on Christmas Eve (the two youngest grandkids weren’t in the last picture).  Orders are:  Grey or Red only. I don’t own anything red (#Spring) and I wore my two grey outfits in the last two professional photos and I’m pretty sure neither of them currently fit (#PandemicWeightGainNeverLeft).  I have a lot of black dresses that fit though… So I either need to buy some grey clothing or ask if black is ok.  I hate shopping.
  • Update: I do have this one dress that I call the frumpy teaching dress that’s grey and white (Posh (not sponsored) makes a face mask that exactly matches it!).  Completely forgot about it.  Presumably there will be children in front of me (there are 8 children) so it won’t be so obvious.  Though I guess DC1 is taller than I am so might be behind me!  One day I will be the shortest person in these pictures(!)  That’s what happens when you marry into a tall family.
  • It’s amazing how green part of your lawn can get when there’s a water leak.
  • I recently visited a place I lived for two years as a child and one thing that really stuck out– the crows sound the same there as they did when I was a kid (caw caw caw) but they sound different than crows elsewhere.  Birds really do have regional accents.  Though out here it’s all grackles and buzzards.  I’ve always felt a fondness for crows and seagulls that I don’t have for other birds.  Though I have a really good robin imitation and I do appreciate viewing hummingbirds and cardinals and I dunno, peacocks (though I don’t really like to hear peacocks).
  • I found out I did not give Covid to the one guy at the summer conference who couldn’t go home if he got it who I sat next to at dinner (outdoors) the day before I knew.  Masks + ventilation rock.
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