Ask the grumpies: recommendations for steamy romance novels for a newby?

xykademiqz asks:

I have a confession to make. I read some romance when I was a teen, and then pretty much nothing for like 30+ years. having moved toward horror and sci-fi genres, as well as miscellaneous literary fiction. Until a few weeks ago, when I picked up a couple of romance novels and haven’t looked back. I am pleased to report that my mood and will to live have been greatly improved by the re-introduction of this genre into my life. Who knew? (Clearly, you knew, as did romance readers everywhere.)

I am a relative n00b to the genre, but I read r fast, so I’ve managed to read a fair amount so far and some trends have emerged. It turns out I like my romance super steamy and explicit, mostly (not necessarily) contemporary, and mostly (not necessarily) funny. I would be delighted to get some recommendations.

The books I’ve liked so far, in my thus-far short excursion into the land of HEA and aided by the Amazon algorithms and Romance Rehab recommendations, were books by Melanie Harlow (After We Fall series and Cloverleigh Farms series), Avery Flynn (The Hartigans series), and a few books here and there by Nicole Snow (some stuff), Carian Cole (Rush), and a few others. The funniest book I’ve read in a long time is Hard Code by Misha Bell. I laughed out loud throughout.

How do you feel about genre mixing? (We asked)

Oh yes. Genre mixing FTW! Btw I also read mystery/suspense, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, so I am a sucker for a good plot (interesting, with tension, brain tickles, etc), and would absolutely love to see them mixed with humor and romance. Thanks!

#2 is more into erotica than #1 is, but she gets most of it from fan fiction (she’s especially into Holmes and Watson fanfic? Also star wars. )

I have not read any of the authors listed above, but now I’m curious.  They all definitely have similar covers, so there’s something going on!

The funniest Rom Com I’ve read recently was Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall.  Hall is supposed to have some highly rated extremely explicit stuff (Spires series, maybe?), but I haven’t actually read any of it yet.  The non-explicit stuff other than Boyfriend Material I’ve read has been pretty disappointing.  His Billionaire books have the same kind of cover vibe that the other books you’ve been reading have, so maybe those will fit?

The Harmony series by Jayne Castle isn’t erotic, but there are sex scenes.  I really like the spec fic set-up and world building in these.

KJ Charles is historical, but if you like plotting she is hard to beat.  If you’re into heists, Any Old Diamonds is a great place to start.  She’s also got paranormal.

Jordan Hawke has a large number of spec fic (mostly paranormal) series, some of which are extreme bargains as ebooks.

Courtney Milan is mostly historical, but she’s great with plotting.  The Brothers Sinister boxset is a good deal.

Jackie Lau gets towards erotica, but she’s more slow-burn than plot.

Rebekah Weatherspoon is not particularly erotic or plotty (there are sex scenes), but she’s definitely funny and cozy.  Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny is a good place to start.

A lot of Alexis Hall, KJ Charles, and Jordan Hawke are m/m (or occasionally m/nb).  There’s so little m/m stuff out there (more than there used to be, but still not a ton) that it’s really interesting to see how standard tropes get turned on their heads when both heroes are male.

I am positive that the readers of Grumpy Nation will have lots of excellent suggestions for you.  Grumpy Nation!  What should xyk read next?  What do you recommend?

 

Ask the grumpies: ritz vs. saltines vs. wheat thins vs. triscuits

Leah asks:

Which are better: ritz, saltines, wheat thins, or triscuits?

#1  Triscuits, hands down.  We go through two boxes a week.  Wheat thins are good but if you think about them while eating them you’ll realize they’re kind of sweet like cookies.  Saltines bring back memories of being broke and having a lot of saltines with peanut butter, which actually isn’t such a bad memory since they’re tasty and filling, but saltines are also kind of like salty paste, so…

#2:  Ugh.  Ritz or saltines. Boo whole wheat.  Wheat thins ore ok.

Note that triscuits and ritz and saltines should be boycotted until nabisco stops abusing its workers.

Update:  Strike is over!

Ask the grumpies: What’s your reading speed?

Leah asks:

With books, do you tend to read through quickly, or do you like to take breaks and let the story simmer?

#1 says:  Both!

#2 says:  It depends on the book.  Mostly I read stuff that goes down easy and that gets sped through but sometimes I’ll read something delicious like Boyfriend Material and I have to take breaks to savor.  Or I’ll read something that’s ok and I take breaks because it is put-down-able.  Or I’ll read something that’s harder than my usual fare and I have to take breaks because it’s hard.  Or sometimes I will speed through the first time and savor the second (I do this a lot with KJ Charles).

Grumpy Nation:  What is your predominant reading style?  When do you read what how?

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?)

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?

 

Ask the grumpies: Realistic numbers for a 529 plan

First Gen American asks:

What’s a realistic number as your max for 529 savings per kid? Is it 4 years at a state university or something different and why?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Please consult an actual financial professional with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research before making any life-changing financial decisions.

This is going to depend on a whole lot of things–where you think your kid will end up going, how much financial aid you think you’ll get, whether there are younger siblings, how much you can afford to contribute, and so on.

If you’re high income and you think your kid might go to one of your state universities, then yes, 4 years at a state university seems really reasonable.

I don’t like our state universities– our graduate students from our state schools (even ours) often come in thinking only in terms of black and white and multiple choice one right answer.  Students often don’t know how to use the library system because they never had to.  Many of them can’t write essays with topic sentences.  Our students from regional midwestern schools are generally better able to think in terms of shades of grey.  So… that’s not going to be an option for our kids.

We also have two kids, so anything leftover from DC1 can go to DC2.  Also, DC1 and DC2 have both skipped a grade or two, so it might make sense to just do a masters degree before going into the workforce just to be closer to a normal age for that.  With DH employed again, we’re back in the “not eligible for financial aid” category.  Not even at Harvard, which is particularly generous to high income parents.  (Here’s the Harvard calculator)

So what we did was try out a few calculators for various colleges that DC1 might be interested in going to.  Here’s some older posts on that.  Ponderings on college costs from 2015.  College savings are hard to plan from 2017.

I think I will revisit those posts…

DC1 currently has:  $253,277.50 .  DC2 has about $130,000 (we plan to re-start saving for hir once we know if DC1 will have any leftover).

I have assumed the full tuition cost of DH’s Alma Mater (a private “regional ivy”), which is around $55K tuition give or take, plus the calculator’s default for room and board.  I don’t think Harvey Mudd (our most expensive potential option) is going to happen.

This calculator says we should be saving about $500/mo more for DC2.  We’re going to wait on that.

This simple calculator says we should have a surplus of about $3K for just DC1.  If we do, it will go to DC2.

Basically, if we oversave for DC1, it can go to DC2, but if we oversave for DC2 then it is not as easy to deal with.  Someone has to use the money for some kind of education or we will need to pay a penalty.  Now, education could be a professional degree or a fun class for us, but I’d rather not have to come up with something in order to use up money.  It’s also possible that we could transfer the 529 to a child who could then use it for a grandchild, but we can’t predict the future and our kids may not have kids.  We could do something similar to transfer it to a nibling, but I don’t know that we have any plans to pay for our niblings and there are 6 niblings from two siblings so I’m not sure how fair transferring to just one person would be.  (I don’t think there’s a safe direct path to transfer to the relatives we are paying for and they’ll all be in their 30s and 40s by the time DC2 finishes college anyway.)  You can get money put into a 529 back without penalty if your kid gets scholarships for the amount of the unexpected scholarships.

So, to sum, for us we saved for an expensive private school for DC1 using a number of different online calculators (that take into account parental income) and then less than that for DC2 (who is 6 school years behind).  We have stopped at this point after doing a couple of lump sum contributions and will rejigger once we know where DC1 is going and how much that’s going to cost.  We have the ability to cash-flow things if necessary and can also take out parental loans if that seems like a reasonable thing to do.

As a reminder:  Max out your retirement savings first– 529 money counts for financial aid purposes but retirement savings does not.  If I could go back in time, I would have maxed out our retirement first.

Grumpy Nation, what is the max that you would save for your kids’ college?

Ask the grumpies: Ice cream preferences

Leah asks:

Hard scoop ice cream or soft serve? Best flavors? What about things like cold stone, DQ, etc?

I remember the first time I had soft serve ice cream.  It was from a food truck at a lake where we went camping in Northern California.  It was a revelation to me.

Later I had soft serve places like McDonalds and similar food places.  It was… not as good.

Then I had soft serve ice cream from a food truck in San Francisco maybe half a decade ago and it all came back to me.  It was the Northern CA high quality soft-serve that was good, not my memories that were wrong.  Inferior soft serve is not as good as hard scoop, but superior soft-serve is better than superior hard scoop.  Since then we’ve found a single food truck in the city closest to ours that has similarly good soft-serve… I don’t know if it is still in business though.

Just straight-up vanilla for soft serve.  Or a vanilla chocolate twist.  Yeah, the vanilla chocolate twist is best.

For hard scoop I like lots of flavors– probably my favorite is anything with mint and chocolate.  But I also like chocolate with other things as well.  And I like fruit ice creams and gelatos.  I mean… it’s all good.

Not crazy about cold stone– I think it’s overpriced.  Mixins are interesting, but I’d rather have them mixed in during churning or on top.  The last time I had DQ I was six months pregnant with DC1 (driving from grad school city to work city) and threw it up so I haven’t been able to eat it since.

Man, I LOVE ice cream.  Here are more posts about ice cream.

Ask the grumpies: Can we talk about masks?

Lisa asks:

Since you mentioned masks, can we talk about that for a minute? I’ll be teaching a class full of students tomorrow – they should be masked and I will be masked. I’ve been reading about which masks are “best” (for me and for my kids who are at school). But I feel like the “best” masks don’t work so well for a few reasons.

If I were to fly on an airplane or something, I’d wear a KN95. Best protection, fairly easy to wear. However, when I’m talking, the KN95s and surgical masks move all over on my face and I’m constantly adjusting them, so I can’t really wear either of those options to class. The Old Navy masks fit me really well and stay on well while I talk, so that’s what I’ll be wearing, even though cloth masks are not as efficient at filtering things out. The ON masks are triple layer, though, which is not nothing…

Same issue for my kids – the two oldest can wear KN95s although one of them prefers the ON masks. I feel like either is OK since they’re vaccinated and the vast majority of the school is masked as well (for now). The little one doesn’t have any KN95s that fit well (we’ve ordered a few to try), likes the ON masks pretty well, but is wearing some double layer minecraft character masks I got as a special back to school surprise (which is clearly my fault, I should have made them stick with the triple layer ON). I’m wondering how much of a difference it really makes. As long as the mask fits well and the kids will wear it, and as long as everyone is wearing a mask and the ventilation is good, I’m hoping our cloth masks are protective enough. If we were in the situation your DC1 is (few classmates masked or vaccinated), I’d go for as much protection as possible. But I’m hoping that with near-universal masking the stringency doesn’t have to be as high. What do people think?

I am not a medical professional and I don’t study the effects of masking or modern virus transmission.

From what I’ve read and from what natural scientist has said, the #1 thing (after will your kids keep them on) is fit.  Filtration particle size is a distant second after that.

If everyone else is masked, then yes, it is safer!  It is such a simple solution, and yet evil evil people have made this a political issue such that I will “get in trouble” if I ask my students to wear masks.  I had a really cute anonymous survey planned at the beginning of class where I was going to compare people who got Moderna to people who got Pfizer across another characteristic, but I have to scrap that because we got a lengthy email from general counsel about not asking people if they’ve been vaccinated, even anonymously.

DC1 likes cambridge masks and primalwear masks.  They are thick and hot and expensive.  DC2 is a HUGE fan of enro. They are light, washable, fit really well, and are cute(!) but they are likely sold out.  We have been unable to find KN95 that actually fit DC2, though that’s moot now that zie is homeschooling, at least until DC1 or I bring covid home. DC1 also likes the Old Navy masks, but they don’t fit completely around hir face–there’s gaps, so that’s out of the question for now.

The last two days at student orientation I’ve been rethinking my mask choices because so few of our students were masked (like 30% the first day and maybe 10% the second day). Day 1 I double masked with a crappy “Vote” mask and a KN95 construction style and it would just not stay put (though to be fair to n95maskco.com, I’m not sure if I used one of theirs or one of the KN95 from the grocery store– I had better luck double masking with them and a cloth mask back last February). So day 2 I double masked with a really nice (and very expensive!) disposable N95 (Respokare® NIOSH N95 Respirator Mask) that works way better. I’m trying to decide whether to steal one of DC1’s fancy masks or to just use N95 or to double mask with an N95 and a cute but useless redbubble mask. My initial plan of loosely and comfortably masking is completely out the window.

Double masking was hard on my ears last spring and I had some trouble keeping both sets on my ears at all times.  N95 are nice because they’re head straps, not ear straps, though they are incompatible with me wearing a pony tail.  DC1 has added the head straps to the ear straps on all hir Cambridge masks.  We’ve been doing a lot of experimentation.

Jenny F Scientist adds:

I did a post on this (http://naturalscientist.blogspot.com/2021/07/masks-yet-again.html) and the answer is… ??? Everyone wearing a mask is definitely more effective than any non-N95 mask you could wear (and even those, if the fit is not PERFECT, are generally no better than a surgical mask, no really, they fit test them for medical professionals annually with hoods and a bittering agent and really and truly the fit is no longer okay after 3-5 on/off cycles). If you look at Figure 5 there, the *source* wearing a surgical mask captures 90% of particles and the receiver also wearing one will capture another 50%(ish). And also, yes, fit, i.e. sealing, makes a difference (SMNat vs. SF data points; N95 with vaseline or without).

I have worn N95s and KN95s in both medical and scientific settings, everyone hates it and they are super uncomfortable and sweaty no matter what. I tried to wear a really fancy Cambridge Mask in the airport last week and I was so hot I nearly fainted and had to take it off. “Objectively the best but unwearable” is, as you say, perhaps not ideal.

Honestly the next best thing you can do in a classroom is more air exchanges: tape a 22″ square filter to a box fan, mask off the edges with cardboard if you want, and set it running in the doorway…. (like this but you can do it with one filter: https://www.texairfilters.com/how-to-improve-the-efficiency-of-the-box-fan-and-merv-13-filter-air-cleaner/)

SP says:

I’m interested in this topic. In the toddler classes mask use among kids was pretty spotty, but they seem to be more consistent in the preschool so we are trying to upgrade our masks. By the time I went to google to see what was recommended for kids (Enro, but probably not a fit for toddlers, and happy masks), they were completely sold out with months long wait list. OK, fine. I am starting with a better fitting set of masks with low cost, which is better than some of her others – but still shopping around for something I’m happier with.

On the flip side, it all feels a bit futile because LO is not yet 3, so even best case use seems to be marginally useful with a room full of little ones. (Teachers are masked/vaccinated too.) And I’m happy to take ANY margin I can get, I just don’t know how much difference the mask choice will make in the long run. And they also must remove masks for nap time (indoors, 1-2 hrs). But, this presumably is not going to go away any time soon, and her proper mask usage will likely improve over time, especially with comfortable/good masks.

Alice adds:

I tried to get a better quality of mask (happy masks, others) for my 5-year-old, and got too frustrated by the Not In Stock situations everywhere I looked. It doesn’t matter what’s best if you can’t get it anywhere. We’re still using basic cloth masks with a filter pocket, and I’m using the PM2.5 filters that you get from Amazon. She at least loves the patterns. (Space! Favorite colors!) Based on what I see at pick-up, she’s on the middle-to-high end of standard for her class. Everyone is wearing masks (thank goodness for the mandate), but there are definitely kids wearing single-layer no-pocket masks. They do all have them on, though.

 

Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on tattoos?

Leah asks:

What are your thoughts on tattoos?

#1:  I don’t have tattoos but I think lots of tattoos are really cool.  I watch art shows about tattoos.

#2:  I guess now is my time to talk about whatever undiagnosed psychological problem it is that I have about body ornamentation.  I have never had pierced ears or any other piercings.  I do not have tattoos.  I’m fine with other people’s tattoos and earrings.  I get feelings of revulsion thinking about permanent or even semi-permanent body modification of my own body.  I don’t wear jewelry except my wedding ring and watch and then only when I’m out and about.  I take things off as soon as I can.  I think I would be pretty comfortable in a nudist colony assuming my allergy problems didn’t keep me permanently covered in hives.

When I was little I always assumed I’d eventually get pierced ears, probably around age 14 which was when one of my friend’s moms said she could get them.  But then in middle school when other girls started getting pierced ears, one of the girls in my gym class had a dangly earring torn out of her ear (thankfully not in my gym class– possibly at home, possibly as child abuse) and it never healed up right.  Then a couple years later in middle school a bunch of other girls got horrific infections and… just… no.

And on top of that when I was younger, tattoo inks weren’t as good as they are now and there were so many older people at the grocery store with sagging skin and ugly blue tattoos that no longer fit their bodies because they’d been different shapes decades before when they first got them.  And I just … didn’t want to get something as a teen or 20 year old that would look terrible when I turned 70.

And then I went to the field museum and saw an exhibit on body modification…possibly set up to thrill and disgust, but it made me realize that in the Western world we do the exact same things– if you find the neck lengthening necklaces problematic or the bumpy tattoos like they showed in Black Panther, well, it’s not really different in the US.  What’s culturally accepted seems normal while something only slightly different elsewhere seems bizarre.  But really, body modification is kind of bizarre no matter what or where it is.  (See also: circumcision– most men in our generation in the US are circumcized.)

That said, I was in support of my other high school roommate when she got her first tattoo– it was a pretty cool rose (on her breast) and the inks were good and could be updated.  Lots of millennials have fascinating or adorable tattoos these days and more power to them.  And it’s easier to get them removed if one has second thoughts or one’s body type changes.  I can appreciate other people’s adorable earrings.  But… not for me.  Do Not Want.  No piercings, no tattoos.

Ask the grumpies: Roth IRA contribution max the gross or take-home income?

First Gen American asks:

Your child can open a Roth IRA if they have earned income. I am still unclear if the max contribution for that calendar year is equal to the gross or take home income.

According to the IRS, it is “your taxable compensation,” so that is going to be neither gross nor take-home, but taxable… it’s probably easiest to see this on the pay stubs themselves.  There should be a line on there.  (For me, it’s absent my pre-tax health insurance and other accounts, but not absent taxes!)

(Standard disclaimer:  We are not professionals, please consult with an actual professional or do your own research before making any life-changing decisions.)