Sunshine and answers to questions

A gai shan life tagged us with questions.  Here are our answers.

1. What’s the best thing you’ve purchased or been given in the past six months?

The services of my wedding planner

We just replaced the tires on our car.  That’s pretty cool in the way that we no longer have to refill the tires with air every 2 weeks.  I guess.

2. What’s your favorite snack? (No one gets to say fruit.)

I like crunchy salty things.  I also like dark-chocolate covered edamame and pretzels.  Cheez-Its go well with red wine.

But what if fruit is my favorite snack?  Bananas are quite possibly the world’s most perfect fruit.  Also I love apples and dried dragonfruit (and in season, what’s more wonderful than cherries?).  Other than that, chocolate and nuts.

3. What form of exercise do you hate the most. (“All” is a perfectly acceptable answer.)

Almost ALL of it, most ESPECIALLY if it’s outside.  Yuck.

Tie between running and tennis.  Both of these because I tend to pass out in the heat (really, just standing in a tennis court outside is gawd awful) and also running makes my lungs burn and my throat dry out and I want to die.

4. If you could afford/manage to live anywhere, where would it be?

Here in the same area where I already live, but with a lot more money so we could afford to buy a cool place in a cool location.

Paaaaridise.  Also with a lot more money.  :)

5. What’s the geekiest hobby or pastime you have?

There are sooooo many answers to this.  Right now I’d say Magic: the Gathering (a collectible card game).  Specifically, I only really understand (and play) a version called Commander or EDH (which I just found out stands for Elder Dragons with Highlander rules [There Can Be Only One of each card in your deck]).*

My first deck was built for me by my partner.  It’s easy to play but doesn’t win a lot (mono white).  All you do is put equipment on creatures and then attack.  Then I built another deck (green/white) with lots of help from 2 people, which is quite a winning deck if I pilot it right.  It’s a fast mana-ramp to awesome fatties.  Then I recently built a deck all by myself, which I am still trying to figure out how to tweak right.  Mono blue flying wizards.  I hate it when people take control of my stuff and then beat me with it (a danger with the green/white deck because it has huge creatures).  I don’t have the brainpower for more than 2 colors in a deck yet, nor do I have the working memory to deal with a deck with lots and lots of synthesis.  My partner tends to play this way but he has 20 years of experience on me; I’m doing well for a beginner!  If you have read this far without going into a coma then I’m pretty surprised.  Also I’m starting to get interested in card art; I like the Ravnica lands and some stuff by Veronique Meignaud, who hasn’t done a lot of art.

*Another form, drafting, is SUPER hard.  I’ve tried it but I have enough trouble when I know what’s in my deck beforehand!

When my free time isn’t taken up with kids, anime is my geekiest hobby.  When my freetime is taken up with kids um… my only two hobbies are blogging and reading novels.  Which do you think is geekier?

Feel free to leave your answers in the comments, or comment on our answers, whichever.

What’s on your iPod?

This video because I am a huge nerd.  Also this video (NSFW!) because it is the funniest thing in the whole world.  Kanye’s song Power.  Albums and songs by Monty Python, MC Frontalot (quite a lot of songs), U2, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (singing Handel), Kathleen Battle, Michelle Branch, OAR, old Madonna, TMBG, Jessie J, Jonathan Coulton, the Muppets, P!nk, the Police, the Lion King, and the complete soundtrack of Labyrinth.

Podcasts about books and video games and other nerdy stuff and general stuff (some from  A photo of my cat.  A photo of my coolest pair of shoes.  A cartoon.

#2 does not have an ipod.  It is very sad.  Hir DH mostly keeps audio books on his mp3, and the occasional wait wait don’t tell me podcast or splendid table podcast.  We outnerd #1.  NPR nerdz!

What about you?


Why my internet searching is no good for conversations in polite company

I was having a little pillow talk with DH about how I suck these days at making polite small-talk (this may or may not have been related to spending time with his extended family).

He was all, you’d think with that blog and all that time you spend on the internets you’d have plenty of topics of conversation.

And I was all, we-lllll, not really.

I mean, what do we talk about on the blog?

Feminism.  Nope.  Not in polite company.

Racism.  Nope.  Ditto.

Bragging about kids.  Not with his family (who have their own kids), not at toddler birthday parties, no siree.  Not a chance.

Money.  I wish.  I do get to talk about this with DH’s father, but for the most part this is not a topic of conversation to bring up with DH’s family because we’re doing really well and they don’t want any suggestions.  They really don’t.  Similarly taboo at toddler parties.  Back when we did parties in cities people would ask me about personal finance, investing, and/or the economy once they found out I was an economist, but that hasn’t happened in years.  Maybe because they know they’ll see me again and don’t want to talk about their own finances?  Or maybe because nobody wants to go near talking about politics in polite company (for good reason) in a polarized red-purple state.

There’s still food.  I can totally talk about food.  That’s like the one conversation I was able to participate in over break at DH’s (though I had several opportunities to discuss toddler poop, but chose not to– that’s all on me).  Food is what I talk about when I have to make conversation with a job candidate whose area of research I have no knowledge of.  I like food.  Food is awesome.

Books… I don’t normally talk about books because I sort of only read Spec Fic (and recently I’ve added regency romance).  It’s always exciting when I find out someone else is a Spec Fic reader, but I’ve had work colleagues I’ve known for years and it’s only recently that one of us has come out as a science fiction/fantasy reader.  That’s always exciting, but it’s something one doesn’t talk about.  I recently found out that my RA also comfort reads Georgette Heyer.  But romance reading is something one talks about even less than fantasy!  Most people seem to discuss book club books in polite company and I really don’t read or enjoy them.

In truly nerdy company I used to be able to discuss anime, but nobody watches it and what with the kids and all I don’t really have time to either.  (Though DH and I have been slowly making our way through the third season of Natsume Yujincho.  Apparently if you stop watching anime for a while new seasons come out!)

Interestingly, with the exception of anime, these are all topics I can and do discuss with my family on a regular basis, with politics added as an additional topic when my extended family gets together.  Families are all so very different.

Once the topic of weather has been completely exhausted, I’m a pretty dull person in polite company.  That’s why we have the blog.

What do you talk about when you make small-talk?  Is it anything at all like what you talk about on the internets?  Where do you get topics of IRL conversation?

Mornings at Casa Grumpy with #1

6-something:  DH gets up and takes a shower along with other morning ablutions

6-something a little later:  DC1’s alarm goes off and ze gets up, does zir morning teeth brushing, potty, etc. and gets dressed

somewhere between 6:45 and 7am: DH returns from his shower which wakes me up

7:  I hop out of bed, do my morning ablutions, grab cereal and milk and check my email and my online comics and the blog while eating.  DC1 is generally dressed at this point but if ze has been distracted, I go, “hey!” on my way to morning ablutions and ze finishes getting dressed.

7:08:  I put my used mug back at the sink and while in the kitchen check that DC1 has gotten breakfast, usually a cereal bar, and has put hir lunch (that ze made the night before) in hir lunch bag (sometimes ze leaves it in front of the microwave, so it’s a spot check).  Take my lunch and DC2’s lunch out of the fridge (both made the night before) and put it on the island.

7:10:  If DC2 hasn’t gotten up, DH puts hir clothes on.  (If DC2 has gotten up, ze goes potty, eats breakfast, usually a banana but sometimes cereal (which either DH or I get for hir by request), and gets dressed).  I get dressed.

7:15: DH or I make sure DC2’s lunch has been taken out of the fridge and put next to the door.  I make sure I have my lunch and it’s in a bag in my bag.  I double check that I didn’t need to get my external harddrive.

7:18:  Everybody gets rounded up to go to the car.  Last minute checks that we have everything.  DH puts a sleepy DC2 in the carseat while I grab a banana or cereal bar and give it to hir (unless ze woke up on hir own, in which case we have a spirited discussion about shoes or jacket and are just a little bit silly before being strapped into the carseat and we end up leaving a little late).

7:20:  DH goes back in and locks the door to the house, we exit the garage.  I turn on NPR.

Somewhere between 7:30 and 7:40 depending on traffic:  Drop off DC1 at dropoff.

2 min later:  Take DC2 in to daycare.  Check in.  Put bag and lunchbag and water bottle away (if DC2 is not groggy, ze does half of this).  Take DC2’s coat off.  Take DC2 to the potty if that didn’t happen at home.  Throw away the banana peel and part of the banana if DC2 ate what ze wanted in the car, help DC2 to the table to finish if that’s what ze wants.  Give DC2 a big hug, tell hir that I’m going to work and daddy is going to work too and at the end of the day daddy will pick up DC1 and then DC2 and then we’ll all go home.  Kiss and bye!  (At this point ze is generally, “yeah mom, whatever, cya.”)

8:00:  Roll into work.

And a bonus:  Mornings at Casa Grumpy with #2:

Morning:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Who made your lunch as a kid? (And who makes your kids’ lunches if applicable?)

When I was in second grade, my father made my lunch for me.  Because he was a European immigrant, I generally had a roll (my favorite were onion rolls), a hunk of cheese or sliced carrots and a piece of fruit, often an orange that he would score for me for easy peeling.  All in an old plastic bread-bag.  People made fun of me for not having a peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwich.  They made fun of the scores on the orange.  They especially made fun of the plastic bag.  In third and fourth grade, my father had bouts of employment that took him away from the family for months at a time and I ended up mostly eating hot lunches at school.

In fifth grade, the teasing about every aspect of my life got worse and nobody ate hot lunch (possibly because they were more expensive).  It was time for me to start making my own lunch because my mother simply did not have time on top of everything else.  So each week she’d get me whatever I wanted at the grocery store that I could throw together (within reason– we couldn’t afford lunchables).  A standard lunch for me would be one of those neon orange soft cheese and cracker packets (store-brand handi-snacks), a bag of doritos, a juice box, and maybe a piece of fruit all in a nice brown lunch bag that we’d buy by the pack.

Possibly in seventh grade I started making more wholesome lunches because my father was back and no way were we wasting money on junk food with him around.  I also started making my sister’s lunch at the same time I made mine– sandwiches with two slices of bread and standard things in the middle, a piece of fruit, and maybe a homemade cookie (as I had learned to bake).  When I left for high school, I’m not sure if she started making her own or just got hot lunch.

Today we make our toddler’s lunch (alternating dinner from the night before in a metal thermos with random healthy stuff in a bento-box) and DC1 makes hir own lunch (usually a nut-butter/cookie-butter and jelly sandwich) and a bag of gummies.  We hope that DC2’s wheat allergy is gone before ze starts demanding nut butter and jelly sandwiches like DC2 did in preschool.

#2 says, I remember my mom making lunches for me when I was little, because I remember the little notes she’d write on the napkin.  Stuff like “Have a great day, [my nickname [ed guess: Pookie-pie] [nope] ]! XOXO Mom”.

When it came time for me to make my own lunches, I do remember using stuff like Lunchables (which had just come out and were nowhere near as fancy and varied as they are now).  I also made sandwiches– I have a certain opinion about making PBJ so that the jelly doesn’t soak the bread (put peanut butter on it first [#1 notes:  this is correct]) and the correct peanut butter (crunchy [also correct]).  Also, I ate a lot of cold cuts in sandwiches that I mostly made myself.  Lots of granola bars.  We were not allowed to have doritos or any bagged chips/crisps in our house, and no cookies either.  I remember having an insulated lunch bag.  I have no idea what my sister had for lunch, she’s so much younger than me.

This was all in, say, 4th or 5th grade through 9th grade.  In 4th-6th grade there were also some times where I went home for lunch, mostly with my one friend to her house, and ate whatever stuff they had there.  By 6th grade we were trusted to walk to her house, unlock it, eat, and get back to school on time by ourselves, but we didn’t do it every day, because it was a little bit far to walk in the time we had.  I think the Lunchables in the school lunchroom were 7th and 8th grade.  I never got a hot lunch at school, except for very occasional treats that were pizza days.  [#1 notes:  whoa, I completely forgot that in 4th grade I lived close enough to the school to walk home for lunch, which I would do on a pretty regular basis.  That probably isn’t allowed anymore unless a parent actually shows up at school to do the escorting.]

Tell us about your school lunches, Grumpeteers.  It brings back surprisingly detailed memories, just like Anne Lamott predicted in her book Bird by Bird.

In which we pay an estimated tax penalty

So, last year, with DH’s unemployment and our various deductions, we ended up getting $500 back from the government at tax time, even though we hadn’t paid in estimated taxes.  So this year we figured we weren’t required to pay estimated taxes because Turbo Tax said we hadn’t last year.  We were wrong.  Why?

1.  One of my legacy stock funds (American Century Trust from back when my father took care of my investments) decided to sell parts of itself and cause a capital gain of 6K which it then reinvested in itself.  It did this last year but only for 2K and hadn’t done it for the previous 12+ years so I thought last year was an aberration.  I was wrong.  Now I want to sell the entire thing so I don’t get these surprises each year.  (On the plus side, when I investigated last year, this capital gains thing they do lowers the capital gains that will accrue when the stock is actually sold.  Still, unlike my father, I prefer my investments to be simple and predictable.)

2.  I was stupid and made major charitable donations Jan 2015 instead of Dec 2014 because I didn’t understand our state tax situation for next year because … yes I know I have a phd in economics don’t judge me.  (I suspect Brigitte Madrian thinks I’m stupid too.  This is one of my great sorrows in life.)

3.  The stupidest of the stupids… I ridiculously assumed that if we claimed 0 deductions on withholding that the government would take out about the right amount of tax for our income so I wouldn’t have to think about taxes on the wage part, just the non-wage income income.  That is apparently seriously untrue.  Yes I know we are how old and never realized this before… but we never had to stop paying estimated taxes for a year and then start up again (and we had bigger mortgage tax deductions…).  Gov’t withholding  on your wages is not enough once you hit a high enough income.  I don’t know why I assumed it would be… it’s not like they can take out larger percentages of your paycheck as your income goes up.  [Update:  The gov’t DOES take out the appropriate amount of income if you’re single (and work steadily).  And the way it does it is by taking a larger % out of larger paychecks (unlike Social Security which takes out the same % and then just stops when you hit the cap).  The gap between monthly payments as a single vs. as a married is substantial and at my income level seems to be assuming that the spouse is earning less.  Which, in this case, he really isn’t.]

4.  We’ve never actually made more than 150K/year before and hit the tax penalty.  So we thought we only had to pay 100% of last year’s tax, which we were sure we’d do because DH has been employed all year instead of unemployed half the year… turns out we actually needed to pay 110% of last year’s tax.  And somehow we paid something like 108% of last year’s tax, give or take.

Add to that are the things we knew were changing, like less housing interest, and it turns out we both owe the government a pretty hefty 4 figure check and have incurred a penalty of $31.  It’s a good thing we’ve been saving up.

By the time we figured this all out, I was basically like, $31?  Screw it.  (Should we figure out if we can pay estimated taxes for 2014 now to eliminate the penalty?  Whatever.  Screw it.  It’s $31.  Which feels like nothing when you’re already writing a check for over $6K.  Even though it really isn’t nothing, I’d pay $31 not to have to think about taxes anymore this year.)

Apparently if we pay our tax bill early, we can cut the penalty to $21.  At least according to TaxAct.

Now to figure out the estimated taxes for next year… because there’s nothing like following up a huge check with another huge check.  But hey, rich people problems.  If only I didn’t feel so dumb.


Because everybody cares about my life as much as I do.  (Not really!)


After one week at the new daycare, DC2 decided ze loved it.  Ze proudly proclaimed that ze had friends and named some.  Dropping off only took a little lingering.  After two weeks, ze stopped having nightmares.  Dropoffs became, “Yeah mom, bye, whatever” (though more in body language than words) and instead of clinging and crying ze complained about getting hugged if my coat was wet from rain.  Ze informed us that ze loves hir teachers.  Every day when we pick hir up ze says, “I had a good day.”  Since starting, hir eczema has also been entirely gone, which makes me suspect that they’re a lot better about making sure that ze doesn’t accidentally eat wheat.  Either that or there’s some topical allergen ze isn’t being exposed to in the new place (that just happened to not always be present at the old place).

High quality daycare is amazing and awesome.  What a difference!  I am a bit worried about next year though… I feel like we haven’t quite been fair with DC2 compared to DC1 who never had to experience a bad schooling experience.

Nice kitty who sometimes pees on cloth:

So far we’ve tried having 4 litterboxes for 2 kittens (6 litterboxes for 3 cats, but the other two are in the utility room instead of the master bathroom the kittens use as home base).  One covered litterbox (formerly 2 covered litterboxes), 3 uncovered.  3 with standard litter, 1 with special pine litter.  Different depths of litter.  Scooped every single night whether they need it or not.

They stay in the master bathroom (~100 sq feet, lots of windows, cupboards, scratching posts, a cat house, etc.) overnight until the late afternoon.  This keeps our older kitty from feeling overwhelmed and has allowed us to minimize pee damage.  They’re used to it and willingly go back to their home-base at night when it’s time to go.  If we let them out earlier they often just stay in the room.

We’ve tried not leaving cloth out, for example, putting our bedsheets away before letting the kittens out.

We’ve tried litter retraining (not letting the kittens out of the master bathroom while we’re out of town for a few days).

All of these have worked to decrease the amount of peeing on things, but none eliminated it.

The most recent thing that we still have our fingers crossed for was Prozac.  Nice kitty did not like being pilled at all, and while on Prozac she would hide from us and mostly stay under our bed or in the master bath during their family time.  The vet said to try it for two weeks.  During those two weeks she didn’t pee on anything (other than the litter, presumably), even though it seemed to make her more anxious rather than less anxious!

After the two weeks, we stopped the Prozac, because nice kitty really hated being pilled, and the vet said it was possible that even after stopping Prozac after the two weeks her peeing on cloth habit might also be gone.  So far so good.  But we keep waiting to find something peed on.

So those are my updates.  Fun times.


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