Public vs private pre-school

by winemama

Opinion: Middle-class families need more public preschools

I am very fortunate that our state offers public pre-school. Private pre-school is very expensive, which is a huge burden on the middle class. Did/do your children attend pre-school? Was it private or public? Should there be public pre-school offered in every state? Discuss.

The Funnies

by Honolulu Mother

I recently came across an article on Charles Schultz’s long run with Peanuts, and the way the strip changed over the years.  I grew up with those paperback Peanuts compilations that everyone had, so the 60s and earlier strips were familiar to me, and then of course I was reading the 70s strips in the paper every day as they ran.  I agree with the article that the later strips all about Snoopy and his extended family were . . . not good.  It was somewhere in the midst of an extended story arc about Spike talking to a cactus that I finally stopped reading the strip.  Although Woodstock I always liked as a kid.  Then again, I liked Garfield and Marmaduke too at that age, so I wasn’t really a discerning comic connoisseur.

Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t around yet when I was a kid; I’m sure I would have loved it if it had been.  My own kids certainly do.  The same goes for Foxtrot, for that matter.  The kids have pretty well loved my Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes paperback collections to death.  I have a particular fondness for Foxtrot’s Camp Bohrmore story arc.

Bloom County was big during my teen years, along with The Far Side.  My husband has a precious, irreplaceable Far Side mug that he sweats over whenever a kid uses it.  Calvin and Hobbes appeared on the scene when I was in college, and that was also when I discovered Life in Hell — this was in Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons years.

Of currently running comic strips, there are several I enjoy, like Pearls Before Swine, but none that really stands out as The Best.  I have mixed feelings about some of the family-based strips.  Take Zits — it never was a favorite, and still isn’t, but lately I keep getting the unsettling feeling that I may actually be the mom from the strip.  Regardless, the Sunday funnies is far and away the most thoroughly read piece of the paper every week, especially by the kids.

Some old-style comics have online, unofficial “improved” versions with strategic editing.  Garfield Minus Garfield, for instance, or Dysfunctional Family Circus.

And then, of course, there’s the wide world of webcomics, which is a whole field by itself.  Skin Horse, XKCD, and Hark! A Vagrant are some of my favorites.

Does your household still get a newspaper in which to read the funnies?  Or do you read them online, or in book form (even checked out of the library)?  Which strips are your favorites?  And are some of them associated with different parts of your life?

College rankings

by LauraFromBaltimore

This article follows up on a recent discussion we had:

College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution

The article and accompanying graphic seem to do a decent job of discussing the different ways to measure the value of a college degree, including the pros and cons of each. Personally, I like the “value added” approach they discuss (the revised Brookings approach in the article), because it tries to take away the impact of a number of factors that seem to be self-selecting (and I’m sure it’s, ahem, entirely coincidental that my own alma mater looks a lot better under that analysis than under the College Scorecard approach). But this crew seems to enjoy nothing more than data analysis and college education, so — discuss!

How are you parenting wrong?

by Honolulu Mother

How are you parenting wrong?

Now I want to try Twitch Plays Parenting. My sons would pay more attention to that than my actual parenting.

My failings that I’m aware of are probably: insufficient tigering, does not hold their feet to the fire enough on chores, not always willing to listen to some long account of some tedious thing. In other words, all the things that result from getting home tired and with not that long a time to get everyone fed in the evening. My failings that I’m not aware of, I’ll hear about years from now.

Sports Betting vs Daily Fantasy – What’s the Difference?

by  Mémé

Here is one of many recent articles prompted by the deluge of DraftKings and FanDuel ads during fall sports broadcasts.

Why Betting on Fantasy Sports Is Legal But Betting on Regular Sports Is Not


1. Do you play fantasy sports (in the old sense of a league among friends/colleagues with modest cash prizes and a lot of beer, pizza and bragging rights)?
2. Do you play daily fantasy games?
3. Do you place bets with a bookie?
4. Do you see any difference between 2 and 3?
5. Do you see a difference between betting on sports and other gambling activities?
6. Do you consider gambling a victimless crime and think it should be legal across the board?

Or do you just dislike (as I do) the proliferation of shows and segments and ads ads and more ads focused on fantasy not actual games?

The power of routine

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders

What’s your routine?

How 12 Highly Productive People Used The Power Of Routine To Achieve Greatness

Keeping to a routine can help save your energy for other more important stuff.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue: Why I eat eggs for breakfast everyday

Mark Zuckerberg:

He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.

Do you use the power of routine to achieve greatness, or at least to enhance your happiness and productivity?  How important are routines to you?  Perhaps you’re more of a free spirit who believes routines are boring and confining.

Marriage and car maintenance

by Thang

Some time ago, I was thinking about marriage, as one of my friends was going through a divorce, and I felt that it was like watching a car accident. So I was thinking how can we help people understand what they have to do to maintain their marriage. I figure since everyone drives/own a car and so should at least understand the care and maintenance of a car, and once you equate a marriage to that, it’s much easier to digest.

So, here is my car analogy

What kind of driver/car owner are you?
Car Marriage Rationale:
Gas Sex If you don’t put gas in car, it doesn’t go far
Scheduled Maintenance- oil change, 15K tune ups, etc Anniversary, Birthday celebrations Without maintenance car would begin to fall apart
Maintenance – new brakes, tires, etc. Vacations Not replacing worn out parts caused car to fail
Car wash Movies, dinner out Not washing/cleaning car cause it to look old/shabby
Not causing accidents by driving badly Not causing marriage troubles by treating wife/marriage badly Sometimes cars in accidents are never the same again because of structural damage
Not getting into accidents by driving defensively Not causing marriage troubles by being aware potential trouble spots and avoiding it. No matter whose fault it is, an accident will damage a car, sometimes irreparable
What kind of car are you?  
Type Characteristics
sedan bland, functional
sports car flashy, fun, not functional, often high maintenance, attract lots of attention
van bland, functional, family oriented
fancy sedans flashy, functional, often high maintenance
trucks functional but not family oriented, not comfortable


The ‘simple’ life

by LauraFromBaltimore

I almost didn’t read this:

Cabins, the New American Dream

I don’t really have a cabin fetish, and I’m not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement, so I thought, meh. And then I got to this part:

“The truth is, without a modicum of success and career-preoccupation, this life would look a bit like poverty — like the rural existence people have struggled for so long to escape. The desire to have not is a desire of the haves.”

Which seemed to explain why I don’t really have a cabin fetish and am not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement. I think my people are just a few generations too close to the farm to appreciate the “simple” life. The movement (such as it is, and as generally photographed in the NYT) feels a little like modern-day slumming, with wealthy dilettantes rhapsodizing about the joys of the simple life and playing house in the woods for a few days before going back to the real world. I look at the kitchen in the picture and don’t see simple, plain, humble; I think, dude, try cooking three meals a day in that puppy, then tell me in a year how awesome it is.

And yet I do feel the pull of self-sufficiency. I make jams and cook, DH woodworks, and none of this is economically efficient; we do it because we like doing for ourselves. I watch Tiny House Hunters and see twenty-somethings building teeny homes on a $20,000 budget, and I am happy to see them deciding for themselves what they truly need and what makes them happy. I read in the Washington Post about people building communities of tiny houses in alleys and back yards and I think, awesome, good for them. I look at Airstream trailers and I get it: affordable, beautiful, well-designed freedom.

So maybe it’s not the thing itself. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a cabin in the woods. Maybe it’s the difference between building something genuinely humble with your own hands, because that is what you can afford, and building an $800,000 cabin that only looks humble, so you can really-truly-I-mean-it experience “the simple life.”

Exotic locales

by Ada

I enjoyed this recent piece in the Atlantic about someone who has achieved his goal of going to every recognized country in the world – and the 10 places it was most difficult to obtain visas to visit (who knew that Saudi Arabia did not allow tourists?).

The Hardest Places in the World to Visit

It reminded me of this piece published in The Onion during the Arab Spring – when tourists were evacuated from many Middle Eastern nations. A good friend had just been to Libya the month before – she had talked up the trip for months – such a safe place, amazing Roman ruins, really under appreciated. She had a great experience – and fortunately missed the turmoil by a matter of days.

State Dept. Asks U.S. Citizens In Libya What The Hell They Were Doing In Libya

Another interesting take on this is about a place where guidebooks still matter – Myanmar. “The travelers one sees there are mostly Germans, many of them visibly miffed that we’d brought our daughter somewhere so seemingly remote as to be at the very end of the Lonely Planet. If a three-year-old’s there, it must be too late.”

Confoundingly Picturesque

We traveled to the Amazon headwaters to stay in a lodge several years ago. We took a plane over the Andes from Quito, a bus several hours down a dirt road and then a motorized dug out canoe several hours into the rainforest. Our travel time from Quito was about 10 hours. I realized that it would be faster to get from Quito to New York City than to the jungle cabin we slept in

What remote places have you been?

Boyz to Men

by Louise

My experience prior to having a boy has been around girls and women. I had male cousins but still women dominated. Then, I became the mother of a boy. It was a different experience. There is lots of energy that has to be channeled or burnt off.

Band Aids fly out of the medicine cabinet. The learning process is different. The color blue was with us for many years. Now, it is a gradual transition from a boy to a man. Socks, shoes and athletic wear are a riot of colors. The brighter the better. Unkept hair is giving way to a more groomed look. The one male teacher is the leader of the pack.

What are your experiences around boys and boyhood? How about the transition from a boy to a man? Three cheers for boyhood!

Best and worst retailers

by Grace aka costofcollege

4 reasons Walmart is the most-hated retailer in America

Probably no surprise to most of us, Nordstrom scored the highest and Walmart the lowest.

When I bought a prom dress at Nordstrom last spring their service was impeccable, as usual.  I have enjoyed the service and atmosphere at Walmart stores in other parts of the country, like Texas and Arizona, but not so much here in New York.

Which retailers are your favorites for service, and which do you loathe?  Are you gravitating to more online shopping, or do you prefer brick-and-mortar stores?

 ***  ALSO, we’re running short on posts so feel free to send some in.  ***

Getting the chores done

by Sky

What systems do you use to keep your household running smoothly?

I’m starting to think about going back to work, but will need to streamline the household work first. We have a once-monthly housekeeper, but the rest of it is my job. DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM, but his participation is limited by his work and commute. (His own stuff is always impeccably neat, at least until the children find it.)

For chores, I’ve just assigned each day of the week a time-consuming chore:
Mondays = Laundry
Tuesdays = Baking & dusting (I have to do a fair amount of baking due to kids’ food allergies)
Wednesdays = Floors & errands
Thursdays = Laundry again
Fridays = Meal planning & grocery shopping
Saturdays = Yard work

About a month in, this seems to be working, except that with sports practice and games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I often have to throw in another load of laundry on Saturdays.

I clean the bathrooms and kitchen and tidy up the kids’ toys every day.

My kids all have their own chore lists – even the toddler. There is a small cash incentive for each chore completed, because my kids are not motivated by stickers.

The chores for the younger two include making their own beds (with help), wiping the kitchen table, putting dishes in the sink, sweeping the floor, and putting away toys.

The oldest (6) is expected to make her own bed and lunch. I’ve heard that some of her friends can do laundry and cook breakfast, so we are working on those. With the return to school and sports, the incentive system is not getting me the amount of work I would like – DD decided this morning that she would rather watch Curious George than get 25 cents for making her bed.

How have you gotten your kids to do their chores? What kinds of chores do you expect them to do?

Back to school night

by Denver Dad

What do people thing about back to school night? We’ve usually found it to be pretty informative and worthwhile, but our school changed it around this year and it was pretty much a complete waste of time.

They used to do it the standard way where you started in your kid;s homeroom and then went to their classes where the teacher provided the syllabus and discussed the specific class. You got to meet all of their teachers and find out what would be covered in each class, what they were expecting from the kids, etc. It worked very well.

We have a principal who is starting her second year and she decided to change it up this year to try to fix what she thought the flaws were, which were time spent moving between classes, and juggling classes for multiple kids. So the new format was to have a room for each grade (there are only 2 classes per grade so space wasn’t an issue) and have the teachers come to the room. Then they had a second session, where they would repeat the presentations so you could go to one grade and then to another if you needed to.

However, in our opinion it failed miserably. First, they do performance grouping, and there was only one math and one language arts teacher in each room. I went to 8th grade and DS’ math teacher wasn’t there, and DW went to 7th grade and DD’s math teacher wasn’t there. And they just talked in generalities – all I found out from DS’ LA teacher is that they will read 7-10 books and have to do a 10 page research paper. No specifics as to what books or anything else. The math teacher said they are using a new curriculum this year, but didn’t give any info as to what will be covered at each level. DW said the math teacher in her room went over what they are covering in 7th grade math, but DD is in 8th grade math so that didn’t help.

Then the science and social studies teachers stayed in one room. So all we found out about 8th grade science is they are doing chemistry and physics, there was nobody to answer questions or provide more information. DW said all they heard about social studies was what they read on the PowerPoint slide because nobody in the 7th grade room knew anything about it. And because they were doing two sessions, it was too short. Time ran out before the SS teacher could start his talk in the 8th grade room, so he had to whip through it in about 60 seconds. The Spanish teacher did go to both rooms, but because of the time crunch, she only talked for about 2 minutes and couldn’t get into nearly as much detail as she has in previous years.

How do they do BTS night at your schools? Do you find it worthwhile?

I want a pink iPhone

by Grace aka costofcollege

The 10 most important things from Apple’s iPhone 6S event

Are you buying anything new?  I’ll probably get an iPhone 6s, maybe in rose gold.

As usual, my brain seems to shut down when it comes to shopping for electronics.  Particularly now that Verizon is ditching contracts and subsidized devices in favor of new contract-free plans.  This comment from a CollegeConfidential thread was helpful.

There are 2 reasons to buy the new iPhone. (I pre-ordered the large one this AM.)

1. 3D Touch. This changes how you access and do things on your phone. We all have lists of emails and messages, etc. and we have to open this and then tap to move back and do something else to shift to another program. 3D Touch – which is an accurate name – uses the force of your press to “peek” into an email or message or a little harder to “pop” it open and then be able to do stuff like reply or whatever all without actually opening up the app, having to move back and forth among apps, etc. … Once you see this in action, it changes how you interact with your device….

2. Live Photo. Think Harry Potter: the new default for the camera is to capture 3 seconds with your shot “in the middle”. If you think about it, it’s an application of burst mode converted algorithmically into something else. What happens is you get a picture just like now but if you touch it, it comes alive. So your kid smiles at you. And you can put one on your lock screen and Facebook and Instagram, etc. will be supporting it soon. It’s really that Harry Potter effect of living pictures. … it’s on by default and you just touch the photo and it moves.

They talked a lot about the camera improvements but I haven’t seen any work yet other than their demo….

What grabbed me about the new iPhones is they presented the great mass of users with immediate ways to simplify their interactions with their phones and immediate ways to enjoy them more.

There’s also an interesting change in the way we buy phones. First, Apple’s new way is you can now buy the phone from them for a monthly charge AND this charge is not excessive and includes Applecare+, which lasts 2 years and includes accidental damage (though the service fees for replacing or repairing a wrecked phone remain high). Basically, a 64GB phone is $36 or $40 (for the Plus) a month and that’s $4 more than Verizon, for example, charges but includes Applecare+ and you can upgrade each year. Second, I use Verizon and decided to order from them because they “offer” a credit against your line charge when you buy. So I’m paying about $35/month for the 64GB 6S Plus but they credit me $25/month. That needs a bit more explanation. You’ve probably seen the new ads for Verizon’s plans. If you get one of those and buy a new iPhone, they’ll give you a $20 credit each month but since I already have a plan I can keep mine and get $5 more. So to me the actual cost per month is $10/month and I’m selling my old phone for about $120 so I’m not actually paying anything other than an activation fee for the new phone. And I can sell my new phone and keep this cycle going with very little to no outlay for the newest phone.

What are the latest and greatest technology products or features you are currently enjoying, or just lusting after?  Let’s talk technology.

Kids riding shotgun

by Finn

When your kids ride in a car, where do they sit?

In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s an article that says that, “In cars made after 2006, a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying in a car crash than someone riding in the front passenger seat, according to a recent study….”

“The rear seat is still best for kids under 9 years old, probably because of the added protection of child restraints. We still recommend that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back.”

Shortly after reading this, DD sat in the front seat of my car for the first time (well, for the first time while the car was being driven). We were going to a camping trip, and the back of the car was full of stuff, so that worked out well, and she and I had a very nice conversation as well; she was quite excited about going back to school.

When will your kids move up to the front seat? For families with multiple kids, does this signal a return to the days of kids fighting over the front passenger seat?

Non-traditional learning

by Louise

Why Unschooling Is the Next Wave of Home-Based Education for Kids

What is Unschooling?

Unschooling 101

I know families who are homeschooling their kids. In these families the mother was already at home and for whatever reason, starting very early the decision was made not to send the kids on to traditional schools. These families follow curriculums put out by publishing companies. For high school they are thinking of supplementing with online courses. This is still not unschooling which goes a step further.

Does your family or people you know follow non traditional learning approaches? How has that worked out?

Please bring a main dish and salad or dessert . . .

by WCE

Between scouts, church and sports, potlucks are common in my life right now. I’m interested in potluck-friendly recipes that aren’t too fussy. A crockpot meal or casserole is a straightforward main dish and I have tons of great dessert recipes, but salads are harder. I don’t like them to require mayonnaise, be too time-consuming to prepare, require me to visit a specific grocery store, require ingredients that aren’t “adequate” year round, be too high in calories or anything my kids won’t eat, since we’ll be eating the leftovers. I also would like my salad to be visually appealing, so I typically choose a yellow bell pepper to contrast with the avocado, red onion, black beans and tomato in this salad. (You can also use mini peppers in a pinch.) This recipe is one of my favorites. What other suggestions do you have for potlucks? Feel free to expand this into a general recipes post — I partly just want to share this salad recipe, since it’s become a favorite. The lime juice, olive oil and salt in this particular quantity are ideal.

2 c shell macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 c tomatoes, chopped (or use grape tomatoes, halved)
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 c diced red onion
1 diced bell pepper
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained (I like low salt S&W)
4 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lime (I use ~3 T bottled lime juice)
1 t salt

Toss ingredients through cilantro with pasta. Mix olive oil, lime juice and salt into a dressing; toss salad with dressing mixture. Ideally, refrigerate for 1-4 hr before serving.

Are You a Super Recognizer?

by WCE

Do You Have a Face-Finding Superpower for Fighting Crime?

This National Geographic article on people who fight crime by recognizing faces exceptionally well intrigued me. I read the New Yorker article (linked within) on prosopagnosia by Oliver Sacks and did the University of Greenwich facial recognition test. I recognized 5 out of 14 faces, so I’m not good at it, even though the faces are Caucasian and I grew up around mostly other Caucasians.

I’m curious about whether women would be easier to recognize than men are and whether women have roughly the same range of facial recognition ability as men do. I’m also curious if this ability changes with age. The military is largely young and male, and it seems like this ability would be really useful when fighting terrorism. I’m also curious if Mooshi thinks computers will ever be as good at recognizing people as super-recognizers are. Of course, I accept at face value the claim that the distribution of this talent in the population is largely Gaussian, like virtually every other human characteristic.

On a personal level, I read the article because I feel like I’m bad at remembering people and wondered just how bad I am. In the lab where I work, we wear bunny suits that cover your face. People have observed that colleagues notice women’s pregnancies earlier when they wear bunny suits, because of how their gait changes. In the lab, we recognize people by their gait rather than their face.

The article on Oliver Sacks made me think of my Dad and Mr. WCE, who can both remember how to get somewhere after a single visit. My Dad sometimes remembered which way to turn in a village in Germany nearly twenty years after his only visit. Mr. WCE carries a GPS now, but he hunted with topographic maps for his first couple decades in remote areas of Washington and Montana. To my knowledge, he’s never been lost. One of my friends has an uncanny ability to remember what people wear. She remembers my clothing, including shoes, and has occasionally made comments like, “You were wearing that shirt last time I saw you.” This talent amazes me, since in my world, the purpose of clothing is to keep other people from having to look at me naked. On an emotional level, I’ve enjoyed watching the development of Baby WCE’s face over the past months as I nurse her, from squished newborn to a face so like her father’s that my colleagues who saw her commented that she looks JUST like her Dad.

Are you a super-recognizer? Do any of my reactions trigger similar thoughts of your own?

Farmed Fish

by Louise

Farmed fish could bring us cheaper food, but is it ethical?

I have wanted to discuss this topic. We like fish but usually don’t buy salmon or tilapia. We prefer wild caught but will buy farm raised shrimp. We eat fish often enough where we can tell if something doesn’t taste right but we are not experts able to tell if the fish is farm raised or wild caught. We also buy fish from Asian markets which are frozen and shipped over (mainly Asian mackerel and sardines). Are those from waters that are over fished? I don’t know. It’s fishy, all right….discuss.

‘September is the Other January’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

… January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time … September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

I’m back from summer traveling and feel energized to start and finish some projects.  I look forward to getting back into a more structured routine.  How about you?

How much does your routine change when school starts?  Do you welcome the change?

Horrible Jobs

by Grace aka costofcollege

In advance of Labor Day on Monday, let’s talk about jobs.

You may not be surprised to learn that middle managers are some of the unhappiest workers.

… In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.

What’s so bad about a middle management job?

All of the downsides of being a subordinate, combined with all of the downsides of having to tell people to do things they don’t want to do.

What’s your opinion?  Are you or have you been a middle manager?  What is the worst job you ever had?  And what did you learn from that experience?

There will not be a post on Monday, Labor Day.  But we can keep our conversation going here.

School Start Times

by AustinMom

I know my kids’ private school start dates are earlier than many as both start the week of August 17 this year.  The article below talks about school start times and how middle and high schoolers shouldn’t start before 8:30 am given their internal clocks stay up to11 pm and they need to get the requisite 9 hours of sleep.  Our middle school begins at 8:00 am and high school begins at 8:20 am.

In our metro area we have at least 6 different school districts with different start dates, though not before August 24, and different start times.  Those high schools with 9 am start times do not let out until 4 pm and kids riding the bus are often not home until 5 pm.  The main complaints of parents I have heard about this later start time are (1) the kids have an hour or more at home after the parents have left for work before they have to leave for school, (2) after school sports practices then often go over into the dinner hour, and (3) it often means the kids are up doing homework after parents have gone to bed.

Some discussions I have had with other parents have raised the following points about 9 am starts – (1) start time really doesn’t matter because often club or some sports practices are moved to the mornings which still puts the kids on campus as early as 7 am, (2) after school activities are just shifted later, so a 4-6 pm practice moves to a 5-7 pm practice, which interferes more with the dinner hour, especially if you have younger kids whose school hours in the same district are 7:45 am to 2:45 pm, (3) kids with lots of homework (especially after an after-school practice) often aren’t in bed by 11 pm as you have just shifted it later in the day, and (4) even to take the bus for a 9 am start kids are to be “at the stop” by 8:15 am, so assuming they are getting up at 7:30 am, they would have to be in bed by 10:30 pm to get their 9 hours.

Totebaggers – What hours do your kids attend school?  Do they start earlier than 8:30 am?  Do you think it’s a problem?  Do you like later start times, if your district has them.

You won’t believe how early school starts in some states


by Rhode

We just experienced our second power failure this summer. In 9 years in RI, we’ve lost power 2 times before this summer. This trend makes me think about generators.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to buy a whole house generator. Is it worth the cost? Could we get away with a generator to run the refrigerator, a lamp, a charger, and maybe a space heater?

Do you have a generator? What type? How large? What appliances or electronics do you run on your generator?

Family Movie Night

by Seattle Soccer Mom

On Friday nights, we often like to order takeout/delivery and watch a movie. Our kids are 15 and 10 so it can sometimes be a challenge to find a movie that both kids enjoy. Here are some recent movies all four of us liked.

  • Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Allen Rickman. PG. Highly recommend this comedy – all of us enjoyed it.
  • My Cousin Vinnie with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. Rated R because close to every other word is the F word. If you don’t have a problem with frequent use of the F word, it’s a pretty funny movie. All of us enjoyed it.
  • Oceans 11 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. PG-13. What’s not to love?
  • Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. PG. A classic.
  • Elf – we like to watch this at Christmas and let the kids invite friends over to have an Elf dinner: spaghetti with chocolate sauce, candy corn, pop tarts, etc.
  • When the kids were younger, we really enjoyed Hayao Miyazaki’s movies: Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away,….

Fellow Totebaggers – what movies or tv shows do you like to watch as a family?

The Really Big One

by WCE

The Problem:
The Cascadia subduction zone will likely experience a magnitude 8-9 earthquake off the Oregon/Washington Coast. Based on historic periods between major quakes and knowing that the last major quake was in 1700, the chance of a major quake by 2060 is estimated at 1 in 3. Coastal regions will be inundated by the resulting tsunami. Utility infrastructure, roads and bridges are expected to be severely affected.

WCE’s Commentary:
This article is kind of long, so I’ll summarize it and paste a quote for the less interested. I will also note that if your child wants to become a paleoseismologist, (s)he should consider Oregon State. I was motivated to read it in part by paying the bill for our Earthquake insurance, which is 50% of our regular homeowner’s insurance premium and has a high deductible. Another article noted that 80% of Oregonians don’t carry earthquake insurance. One author helpfully noted that the federal government will pick up the tab in the event of a disaster. A bridge/seismology expert for the State of Oregon (met her once) is concerned by the lack of interest/concern regarding the likely destruction of much of our infrastructure. A tsunami would affect the Oregon/Washington/BC Coast- I’ve included a map of the likely Oregon effect from a related article.. So this post could go in all kinds of directions. :)

From the article:

… In Oregon, it has been illegal since 1995 to build hospitals, schools, firehouses, and police stations in the inundation zone, but those which are already in it can stay, and any other new construction is permissible: energy facilities, hotels, retirement homes. In those cases, builders are required only to consult with DOGAMI about evacuation plans. “So you come in and sit down,” Ian Madin says. “And I say, ‘That’s a stupid idea.’ And you say, ‘Thanks. Now we’ve consulted.’”

These lax safety policies guarantee that many people inside the inundation zone will not get out. Twenty-two per cent of Oregon’s coastal population is sixty-five or older. Twenty-nine per cent of the state’s population is disabled, and that figure rises in many coastal counties. “We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.” Nor will anyone save the tourists. Washington State Park properties within the inundation zone see an average of seventeen thousand and twenty-nine guests a day. Madin estimates that up to a hundred and fifty thousand people visit Oregon’s beaches on summer weekends. “Most of them won’t have a clue as to how to evacuate,” he says. “And the beaches are the hardest place to evacuate from.”

Those who cannot get out of the inundation zone under their own power will quickly be overtaken by a greater one. A grown man is knocked over by ankle-deep water moving at 6.7 miles an hour. The tsunami will be moving more than twice that fast when it arrives. Its height will vary with the contours of the coast, from twenty feet to more than a hundred feet. It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land. Nor will it be made only of water—not once it reaches the shore. It will be a five-story deluge of pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Really Big One


Cutting The Cost Of College

by MooshiMooshi

Everyone loves to discuss the high costs of university education, and everyone seems to have an opinion as to how to get those costs down. This article looks in some depth at the effort to deal with significant funding cuts at U Wisconsin Eau Claire, which is a classic directional state U, and one with a pretty good reputation. The son of one of my best friends went there, and had a lot of good things to say.

There are some points of interest in this article. First of all, the funding cuts forced the administration to look closely at some of their processes, which really made no sense in some cases. Layers of administrative approvals to get catering? That is the kind of thing that just adds to everyone’s workload. As I have noted before, a lot of times universities end up with lots of bureaucracy, added costs, and added workload (usually dumped on faculty and lower level administrators) because there are no real chains of command. Everyone in the various administrative offices are all doing their own thing. The one-stop student services office is also a great idea. I have never understood why universities make students run from office to office to get things done. So there is a silver lining to these cuts – forcing the school to weed out and streamline offices and processes.

However, the centralized advising is a huge mistake in my opinion. And each advisor will have 300 students? In a school with a 30% 4 year graduation rate? Seriously? My department is actually trying to wrest advising away from the central advising process, largely because we think it will improve retention. The centralized advisors make so many mistakes, mistakes that actually cause students to have to spend more time here.

And of course they will end up with fewer course sections, which will also make it harder for students to get finished on time.

It is interesting that they used alums to help identify inefficiencies, instead of hiring consultants. I assume the alums were volunteering their time? That is actually a really interesting idea – instead of hitting up alums for money, ask for time instead.

Struggling to Stay True to Wisconsin’s Ideals

As usual, the comments on the article are interesting too. Do you have anything to add? How would you approach drastic cuts at a school like this if you were the president?

Are Engineers Good Marriage Material?

by Grace aka costofcollege

 10 Reasons Engineers Make Good Partners

I don’t agree with all their reasons, but some good points are made.  Let’s explore this further.

10 Reasons Engineers Make Bad Partners

10 Reasons [fill in the blank with another profession] Make Good/Bad Partners

What makes for a good or bad partner?  Any correlation with profession?

Alcohol or Marijuana?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Dr. Aaron Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University who also writes columns for the NY Times Upshot. In the linked article below, he sorts through the dangers of alcohol vs. marijuana for teens. Dr. Carroll argues that alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes (no link for pot); there are alcohol related deaths (e.g. binge drinking deaths) but not pot related deaths; more ER visits due to alcohol than pot; alcohol is more of a danger when driving; and a higher % of users end up dependent on alcohol than on pot.

His conclusion:

When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

Fellow Totebaggers, which would you rather your teen experimented with – alcohol or marijuana? (and yes, let’s assume the first choice would be “neither.”)

For me personally, since I’ve never smoked pot, I’m more comfortable with the idea of DD experimenting with alcohol. After reading the article though, I’m a little less freaked out about the idea of DD experimenting with pot (my first choice is still “neither.”)

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

Pets and More Pets

By Sky

We already have a cat, but my kids have decided we also need a dog. Luckily the pleas of the youngest are still limited to pointing at dogs and saying “woof woof” plaintively, because the other two bring it up every time we see one.

I think I have persuaded DD and DS1 to settle for some betta fish for now, but I started to wonder if I should have campaigned for a virtual pet when I started reading about tank cycling and betta sororities. I manage sibling fighting all day as it is!

What pets have you had? What low maintenance pets would you recommend? Have you had any exotic or unusual pets?

What about pet care? How much do you think is reasonable? Does your pet get holiday gifts and go on the family vacation?

And most importantly, who does the work? Are there any Totebag children who walk the dog and clean up the mess, or is it all on the parents? (I know what the answer will be in my house, so we are not getting a dog!)

Continue Ban On Gay Blood Donors?

by winemama

Should the Red Cross change its stance on blood donations from gay men in light of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage and other recent events? Safety is the main factor, but I would think they could ensure safety without such a strict rule (male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977). It seems like it is based on an out-of date stereotype.

Currently this is the rule:

You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.

You are at risk for getting infected if you:
  • have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
  • are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
  • have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
  • have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
  • received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia

Panel Recommends U.S. Keep Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Joint Statement Regarding National Gay Blood Drive

Blood Donor Eligibility: Medications & Health | American Red Cross

Home Remodeling Advice

by axs54

This post is from a long-time lurker from the TOS.  Recent discussion has prompted me to submit a post.

We have been living in our house for about 9 years and are considering doing a large addition (add master suite, expand kitchen, add mudroom, etc). Our house is a typical (for Boston suburbs) 1960’s raised ranch, which our family of four is outgrowing (it is 1,500 sq. ft.)

We are in the very initial stages of the project. We have hired an architect and he is just beginning his work on the plans. We are looking for any suggestions re: contractor management, accommodations (we would have to move out for at least one month), and any other pitfalls that Totebag readers have experienced. It seems that a decent number of regulars has gone through a significant home improvement project, so please share your wisdom!

Why Organic Agriculture is a Colossal Hoax

by WCE

The Colossal Hoax Of Organic Agriculture

I’ve mentioned before my concerns about organic agriculture and how it’s implemented. This article discusses some of the issues that affect consumers but it doesn’t discuss the production issues, such as lower yields, associated with organic agriculture. Organic produce is popular among my set in the Pacific Northwest but its proponents don’t seem particularly knowledgeable about its pros and cons, so I’ve learned to smile and nod. Is anything in this article (it’s short) new information for you? Do you share my skepticism about organic food from China or Mexico?


Dressing Down At The Office And Elsewhere

by Grace aka costofcollege

The trend toward more casual dressing draws mixed opinions.  I mainly like it, but sometimes it goes too far.

For the love of God, stop dressing like crap

… So while you can hold on to your crop tops and ratty band tees, you may also think twice about where and when you wear them. After all, if you dress better, you’ll feel better.

Recently while enjoying sushi at a “nice” local restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the guys at the table next to us who were dressed like this guy, but with team logo tank tops.



I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sometimes a bit confused about appropriate dress.  Lately my questions have been more about men’s sartorial style.

What does “business casual” actually mean at your workplace?  This seems to be common garb for the men I’ve seen lately on their way to the office.  Later when the weather turns cooler, many will add a blazer to their look.

Is the “3-day beard” look acceptable at your office?  Even if you don’t look like Ben Affleck?


And can men wear shorts everywhere these days?

Do you trend toward casual or more dressed up?  How do people dress at your workplace?  Do you care how other people dress?


by Honolulu Mother

My husband suggested this article for a Totebag topic:

How to Fix Our Interstates

The following are his comments on it.

“I found this interesting on several levels.

First, the article is in contrast to my father’s perspective on the interstate coming to Washington state during his coming of age as a driver. His claim was that many of the planners of the initial interstate build favored ring roads around the major cities, but that the merchants of the day overrode that in pursuit of tourist dollars.

Second, having commuted the “interstate” in Hawaii for several decades, I have often found myself stuck in traffic and wondering if the whole thing would move better if we added stoplights for through traffic and merging traffic at major choke points and treated it like any other major city street. Our highway in urban Honolulu is actually grandfathered under design requirements of the 60s. As I understand it, our upgrade options are severely limited short of bringing the system into compliance with current requirements.

Third, I lean libertarian and tend to agree that if we left transportation funding and decisions at the local level we would achieve better results. Under the current system, if a local government spends ninety cents in added costs for federal compliance to receive a dollar of federal funding it counts as ten free cents.

It’s traffic, folks, I know everyone’s bound to have opinions.”

Rewards That Aren’t Raises

By AustinMom

When we first start out in our careers, it is often all about the money as parents withdraw their financial support and our paychecks must cover all of our basic needs plus our desires. However, when pay exceeds those basic needs, do we value that raise or other rewards, such as more time off?

The article below opines that workers who are taking other rewards in lieu of raises may be hurting themselves in the long run. In my opinion, the article mixes some non-monetary and monetary benefits in the same category. For example, paid health insurance – assuming you will carry health insurance, shifting the cost from the employee (automatic payroll withdrawal) to employer paid does free up cash for the employee. Others, such as time off or access to a gym membership you won’t use (due to location or desire) do not impact your paycheck.

Has your company shifted to other rewards in lieu of raises? How has it affected you? How do you see it affecting the next generation of workers (including your kids)?

Companies have found something to give their workers instead of raises

What’s for Dinner?

By Seattle Soccer Mom

I’m always on the lookout for dinner ideas that I can make in 45 minutes or so and that at least 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Do you and your partner split the cooking or does one of you handle most of the cooking? I do most of the cooking; DH cooks once a week and makes something easy that doesn’t require a recipe. This summer, I’ve started having the kids each cook dinner once a week. DD is 15 and DS will soon be 10.

Cooking a family dinner was one of the bigger adjustments we had to make after having kids. Before kids, DH and I would often do our own thing on weeknights. I’m ok with having cereal for dinner while DH likes a hot dinner preferably including meat/fish. DD takes after DH. DS is a pickatarian. I love sauces – so I often make things where the sauce is added at the end or on the side so DS can have his plain (or uncontaminated depending on your perspective). I aim for cooking something that 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Here are some typical dinners for my family – what does your family like to eat?

Fish –salmon, Dover sole, or halibut. Generally pan-seared with some sort of sauce (salmon with a port wine sauce; Dover sole that’s been breaded or coated in parmesan with a tarragon sauce). If we’re splurging, crab cakes from a local fish store (easy and delicious but expensive). Clams steamed in white wine. I learned to eat seafood as an adult so my repertoire is pretty limited.

Chicken/Steak – on the weekend, I often like to do some version of roast chicken thighs – easy but takes a little more time. Pan-seared chicken cutlets with a lemon white wine sauce or steak with a stone-ground mustard sauce. Panko crusted chicken thighs with egg noodles.

Pasta – favorites include pasta with a tomato-vodka cream sauce (with either prosciutto or bacon); kale bacon pasta with fresh oregano; pasta with a sausage-vermouth cream sauce.

Easy – tacos; steak salad (broiled/grilled steak on top of a bed of greens with goat cheese, tomato, avocado); spaghetti with marinara; ravioli with prosciutto, pear, and avocado as optional toppings; grilled cheese/BLT’s.

Other – chicken pot pie, lasagna – I have two easy recipes from a great cookbook called “Keepers.” For the chicken pot pie, you use puff pastry for the topping – and it includes bacon. Yum.

Where do you take your out-of-town visitors?

by Grace aka costofcollege

One Los Angeles resident wanted to offer his out-of-town visitors “authentic” local experiences as well as typical tourist attractions.

Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.

I’ve faced this dilemma twice in my seven years of Angeleno-hood, and for the second time last weekend. For my parents’ most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.

My out-of-town visitors can check out famous local attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Broadway shows, but they can also spend a quiet afternoon at a less well-known place like Untermeyer Gardens on the Hudson River.


What are the famous tourist attractions near you?  And what are some other “authentic experiences” that visitors to your area might enjoy?  Do you host visitors very often?  How does it usually go?

College Budgeting Fail

by ssk

I just read this online and thought it might be a starting point for a blend of two of our favorite topics: paying for college and teaching fiscal responsibility.

22-year-old college student blows her $90,000 college fund and blames her parents

While this article (and the accompanying videos) is tongue-in-cheek, it makes you wonder about how you have done (or will do) teaching your children about finances. Has anyone encountered a young person like “Kim”?

Marriage In The Real World

by Moxiemom

The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

Saw this in this week’s Modern Love column and felt like it really spoke to my 19 years of marriage and would be good required reading for all people considering marriage. I also found the positivity of the comments section to be a big surprise. How about you, do you think this is a realistic portrayal? Do you wish someone had told you something like this before you got married? Unmarried toters – does this make marriage more or less appealing? Discuss.

Household Appliances

by SWVA Mom

I’m getting ready to move into my new home, and fortunately it comes with all appliances except washer & dryer. The laundry room is a little tight – just a space between the garage and kitchen – so I don’t want the extra-large, super-capacity set from my current house. (And H wants to take them anyway.) Anyone have a recommendation?

I’m also very sad to be leaving my dishwasher behind. We were never happy with the one we originally selected for this house because it was too loud. So when the dishwasher in our rental property died a few years ago, we got a new one for home and had the installer take the old one to the rental. It’s a Miele, and I can actually have a phone conversation in the kitchen while it is running. The dishwasher in my new place is actually the same brand I had before but the model is one step down! I guess I’ll just have to remember to run it when I leave in the mornings or when I go to bed.

Totebaggers, what are your favorite home appliances? And let us learn from your mistakes – what about choices you have regretted?

Housing ‘Trends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

The tiny house movement

Could you live in a tiny home that measured “between 65 to 400 square feet”?  I’m enjoying the tiny home shows on HGTV, but no thanks for me.  Maybe 1,000-1,200 square feet could work.  This family likes their small space.

4 People, 650 Square Feet: A Love Story

This made me laugh.

And, real talk, when someone went No. 2, the house had to be evacuated. The bathroom’s proximity to the kitchen was equally disturbing. The folding door did not, I repeat, did not seal odors well, and you had to wash your hands at the kitchen sink.

Modular homes

9 new built-in-a-day modular homes rise in Yonkers

The factory-made houses appear to be very well made, and offer some nice architectural details and lifestyle choices, including hardwood floors, crown moldings, second-floor outdoor decks, master suites, glass pocket doors on either side of the dining room, granite counters and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, and a washer/dryer on both floors. The bedrooms are carpeted and the bathroom fixtures are chrome.

Check out the slide show at the link to see the process of building these module homes.


Here are the listings.  At $650,000 each, they are relatively affordable for the area.

Why is homeownership slumping?

Homeownership rate drops to 63.4%, lowest since 1967

Household formation, however, is rising. The number of occupied housing units grew, but all on the renter side….

What’s your take on this analyst’s opinion?

“All the governmental attempts (certainly aided and abetted by many players in the private sector) at boosting homeownership has gotten us to this point in time with all the havoc it wreaked over the past 10 years. It’s just another governmental lesson never learned, of don’t mess with the free market and human nature.”

What housing trends interest you?  What do you foresee?  Are you ready to downsize, upsize, or stay put?

When Reality Hits

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I’m 28, I just quit my tech job, and I never want another job again

Young person learns that jobs are sometimes boring and stupid and your
personal fulfillment isn’t the boss’s priority. Film at 11.

More seriously, should we be doing more to help our snowflakes
understand that the adults around them will suddenly stop caring about
their Maslovian self-actualization as soon as they turn 22 and hit the

Should You Book Your Flight On A Tuesday?

by Grace aka costofcollege

You’re booking your flights all wrong

This article says it’s a myth, but last week I booked a flight that dropped in price on a Tuesday, and I’ve had that same experience at least a couple of times before.

What’s your experience?  Any tips for booking flights?  Hotels?  AirBnB?  Other travel tips?

Summer Books

by Honolulu Mother

I meant to send this topic in the late spring, so it’s a bit late in the season, but since we’re apparently low on posts I thought I might as well send it in.

Let’s talk about beach books, aka shit lit. What are you reading this summer? Trashy nonfiction still counts — Primates of Park Avenue, the book by the lady who claims to have uncovered “wife bonuses” came out last month. All the also-reads for Primates seem to be shit lit — I haven’t read the sample of Crazy Rich Asians, linked to from the Primates book, but unless the cover is greatly misleading, it’s shit lit. I read a lot of genre fiction for my light reading — mysteries, fantasy, SF — and in that line, I really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s new book, Uprooted. That one’s probably too well written to really be shit lit, but it’s fast paced and very readable.

One of our road trip audiobooks was The Colonel and Little Missie, by Larry McMurtry. It was a fun look at the lives of Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, with the story-telling feel you might expect based on the author. Bear in the Back Seat is another eminently readable non-fiction choice. My 10 year old ended up reading part of it too after hearing me laughing. Those of you with a farming background may particularly enjoy his description of how he decided to change his focus away from agriculture.

If you’re reading Dostoevsky or Piketty this summer, I suppose you can share that too. Are more serious books on your summertime reading list? Or do you save those for the fall, or for the twelfth of never?

The Course Not Taken

By Sky

What class do you regret not taking?

While in graduate school in a non-medical field, I had the opportunity to take an EMT course for free, as long as I committed to a certain number of volunteer hours. Back then, I had the time for the class, but not enough to be sure I could do the volunteer hours.

Now I wish I had taken it, even if I had to pay for it.

I have had to deal with all sorts of minor medical kid emergencies, and I really have no idea how to tell a sprain from a break, or the start of anaphylaxis from bad hives. I’ve spent much more in unnecessary co-pays than I would have on the class – today’s jaunt to the x-ray for a possible broken ankle will cost me $800.

What class would you have taken if you could do it over again?

What would you take now if you had more time?

Managing Screen Time

by WCE

Screen time v play time: what tech leaders won’t let their own kids do

This article on how different technology leaders manage their kids’ use of technology made me consider what limits are appropriate. My boys love TV, Netflix, Minecraft, etc. and their daily time is subject to completion of chores and homework. It can also be revoked for misbehavior. We have a Waldorf school nearby and I know people who like it, but avoiding screen time/electronics until you’re 12 seems unnecessary and a lot of work for the parent… and I’m all about avoiding lots of work for the parent. On the other hand, I worry about excessive gaming by my future-young-adult sons. Lack of self control in this area has affected college achievement and marriages of people I know.

When I spent a couple hours in the hospital lab for gestational diabetes testing, I took along a Disney Classics book from the library book sale and read my children the long stories I never read them at bedtime, due to lack of anything else to do. I try to make choices to interact in nontechnological ways. I sometimes waste too much time on the computer, especially when I’m tired or stressed or know I’ll be constantly interrupted if I try to read a real book. However, I also do lots of work on the computer (paid work as well as paying bills, researching travel, e-mailing with family, reading up on taxes or home repairs, managing finances). Sometimes the distinction between doing work and wasting time isn’t always clear. When our carpet cleaner seemed to be misbehaving, I read a lot about what was wrong and watched some videos on how to disassemble it, but read far more Amazon comments on different machines than strictly necessary since we didn’t end up replacing it. I do a lot of shopping online. Knowing where to find a replacement for the electric teapot and ordering a long-sleeved white shirt for Twin 1’s Storm Trooper costume are cases that come to mind.

What are your views of screen time and kids? Am I the only one who admits to wasting time this way as an adult?

Telemedicine — Yay Or Nay?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Telemedicine may be the wave of the future for many types of health care.

The same forces that have made instant messaging and video calls part of daily life for many Americans are now shaking up basic medical care. Health systems and insurers are rushing to offer video consultations for routine ailments, convinced they will save money and relieve pressure on overextended primary care systems in cities and rural areas alike. And more people like Ms. DeVisser, fluent in Skype and FaceTime and eager for cheaper, more convenient medical care, are trying them out….

But telemedicine is facing pushback from some more traditional corners of the medical world. Medicare, which often sets the precedent for other insurers, strictly limits reimbursement for telemedicine services out of concern that expanding coverage would increase, not reduce, costs. Some doctors assert that hands-on exams are more effective and warn that the potential for misdiagnoses via video is great.

Legislatures and medical boards in some states are listening carefully to such criticisms, and a few, led by Texas, are trying to slow the rapid growth of virtual medicine. But many more states are embracing the new world of virtual house calls, largely by updating rules to allow doctor-patient relationships to be established and medications to be prescribed via video. Health systems, facing stiff competition from urgent care centers, retail clinics and start-up companies that offer video consultations through apps for smartphones and tablets, are increasingly offering the service as well.

My new doctor has a terrific email system that allows us to conveniently discuss health issues.  I know a person who is very happy with her Skype psychotherapy sessions.  The possibilities are intriguing.

What’s your experience with telemedicine?  Do you welcome the convenience, or fear that it will lead to many errors and lower quality healthcare?

‘Odd’ Jobs

by Sheep Farmer

The many different ways people make a living fascinates me. Most of us who read the Totebag have predictable jobs-lawyers, professors, engineers, etc,, but what I find interesting are the unique ways that people have found to make a living. For example, DH has a friend who is an apiarist. He makes his money not only from selling the honey and the beeswax. but also from selling bees to those who want to start their own hives. DD has a classmate whose dad has a business making large fiberglass sculptures for theme parks and other road side attractions. Totebaggers, what jobs do your friends and family have that you find most interesting? Do any of you have any unusual business ideas that you hope one day to pursue?

Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

Public Speaking

by Grace aka costofcollege

Hillary Clinton Can’t Give a Decent Speech. Does It Matter?

… Great speeches require something Clinton has refused to give: exposure, access, the illusion of intimacy….

Rhetorical skill alone has become something of an essential skill for the modern politician. It has put several of them on the map as serious presidential contenders, from Ronald Reagan to Mario Cuomo to Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.Consider the defining campaign speeches. At the 1992 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton memorably invoked his belief in “a place called Hope,” while George H. W. Bush delivered a weak and disjointed address littered with phrases like “serious business” and “You bet.” There were Obama’s 2008 remarks on race and John F. Kennedy’s on religious freedom.

Speech making may be important to politicians, but I doubt anyone counts on beating Clinton just “because she can’t give a good speech”.  And it’s not as if many of her opponents are particularly outstanding in that department.

I agree that great public speakers give “the illusion of intimacy”, and in that way they effectively engage their audience.

Are you a good public speaker, or even a great one?  How did you build up your skills?  Or, do you fear public speaking?  How have good or bad public speaking skills affected your career or other parts of your life?  Which politicians are the best and the worst speechmakers?

Related:  “How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking”

Out-of-print Children’s Books

by WCE

I looked for Scott Corbett’s book The Lemonade Trick at the library and was disappointed to find it was no longer available. Fortunately, Amazon has used copies. A couple other favorite children’s authors — Sally Watson and Sydney Taylor (All of a Kind Family) — now have their books back in print. We have a collection of Childhood of Famous Americans books (including lots of out of print ones) and other history books, including the Badger books. What books did you enjoy as a child? Are they still available? Have they been removed from libraries for a reason? (I doubt that drinking unknown concoctions made with your Feats o’ Magic chemistry set is still an acceptable plot line for children’s literature.)

Who Goes To College?

by MBT

Here is a chance to test your knowledge based on years of discussions on this site. The NY Times wants you to draw a graph showing the relationship between family income and college enrollment. The article links to a couple of other similar studies plotting relationships of various markers of achievement to family income. How accurate is your graph?

You Draw It: How Family Income
Predicts Children’s College Chances

The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many childrearing practices are reactionary — parents raise their kids partly in rebellion against how they were raised. We often complain about how every kid now has to be treated like a special snowflake, and groan about helicopter parents making bizarre demands on schools and colleges. But I know why that happened — when I was growing up, we kids conformed to the system, not vice versa. We didn’t get any snacks during the day and I was often hungry. Not only was there no school choice, but your parents couldn’t even pick which teacher they wanted you to have. No one had learning disabilities — you were either smart or dumb. Things like Scout Camp were long exercises in being scolded for all your moral and physical failings, and being forced to eat disgusting canned carrots, being punished as a group for something stupid that one or two of the brat-girls did, and so on. Rules were rigid and punishments were swift and often unfair. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

So that’s partly why today’s kids are snowflakes, and each has to have customized care and an IEP, and why no one can have peanut butter because Madison’s allergic, and why frantic parents are now faced with a million decisions about schools and programs and teachers. It’s because my generation said “As God as my witness, my child will never eat canned carrots or put up with Mrs Sorenson for 6th grade. Their lives will be better.”

Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against? What will schools look like in 40 years? How will recreational activities be handled? Will future children get one bowl of gruel per day and a sound beating for being dyslexic? Will they complain that they didn’t have parents, just friends who happened to be biologically related? Will it be Tom Brown’s School Days?

Sunday Routines

by Grace aka costofcollege

I enjoy reading the New York Times “Sunday Routine” series, where “prominent New Yorkers recount their weekend rituals”.  It fascinates me that so many stick to a consistent routine on weekends, but I must admit that I’m the same.  These days my Sundays are usually relaxed, often taken up by a leisurely family activity followed by a grilled steak dinner.  Pretty boring.

Make-up guru Bobbi Brown usually takes a walk and then does brunch with her son.  Tim Gunn of Project Runway always spends a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum, where he has a lunch of tea sandwiches with a glass or two or wine.  Yankees Executive Jane M. Rogers usually sees her grandson and cleans house while still checking in on job duties.

What’s your Sunday routine?

Credit cards for kids

by Finn

I can see the light in the tunnel that is the approaching train of DS graduating from HS and heading for college. Some time before that, I should get him a credit card so he has a chance to learn how to use it before he leaves for college.

When do you plan to get your kids their first credit cards? What kind of card will it be? Will it be just his or her name, or will it be connected to your account? Do, or will, you let your kids use your card before they get their own?

DS has used my card a couple of times, on a trip. We sent him across the street from the hotel to get some breakfast for us, and there was no problem with him using my card.

Flying Alone

by Sky

At age 8, my father took the train alone over 100 miles, and transferred trains in New York City, to get home from summer camp.

At age 14, I flew cross country by myself, with transfers, in the days before cell phones.

When do you think kids should be allowed to travel alone?

When would you (or did you) allow your child to fly, or take a city bus, subway, or train without an adult accompanying them?

What limits have you set with your tween/teenage kids about traveling by themselves? What were you allowed to do?

The 4th of July open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling patriotic this weekend?  Or just feeling happy that you have a long weekend?  Going out or staying in?  Are you going to see a fireworks show?

Here’s your chance to hijack our discussion with anything that’s on your mind.  Some random links to get us going:

Eating ‘healthy’ food may not make you fit: Study

Take a walk for your mental health.

President Obama and Jeb Bush find common ground in their stance against adding peas to guacamole.

The dance recital

by Mémé

We often spar on the Totebag about what is Middle Class, invoking regional and educational differences in raw income numbers and in cultural markers of that status. But recently someone remarked about dental health that an astounding percentage of US kids now have braces at some point in their lives. So straight teeth are a fairly universal middle class marker.

I recently had the opportunity to observe another of those universal middle class markers. The end of year Dance Recital.


A neighbor suggested that they take my eldest granddaughter to dance class along with their same aged girl. Her Cambridge/Portland alternative style parents had no idea what they were getting into. Coco and Ella (assumed names) ended up on stage for 130 seconds of a 2 ½ hour extravaganza in 50 dollar gold and sequined tutus stomping their tap shoes to a cover version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I knew enough to bring several wrapped and beribboned roses for presentation to the young performer.

The school is clearly the secondary “fun” one in their area – the only marginally competent numbers were adult tap and the break dancers. But all was forgiven after the chubby mentally handicapped teen with glasses and a diaphanous gown glided across the stage with her group as best she could to Every Little Thing You Do is Magic.

Totebaggers, please share your recital stories from your children’s or your own life. Parents of physical or mind sport athletes, feel free to weigh in on sports banquets and the like.

Fashion trends

by MooshiMooshi

Are Totebag tastes migrating to the upper class? Evidently rich people are increasingly rejecting flashy items with logos.

Why Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada are in trouble

And Gap is doing poorly, in part because millennials are also rejecting logoware.

How millennial shoppers have made Gap’s uniform look obsolete

Will Totebaggers need to start adopting flashy items in order to differentiate themselves from the rich bozos and the teens?

Who should be on our $10 bill?

by Finn

It looks like we will be seeing a woman on our $10 bill soon. What woman do you think should be on that bill, or what woman would you like to see on that bill, and why?

One restriction is it cannot be a living person, so that rules out Beyonce and the Notorious RBG, among others.

And please, no suggestions of so-and-so because that means she’s dead.

Rich or Poor – Can You Teach It?

by AustinMom

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

This came through my Facebook feed as it likely did for other totebaggers. I found the initial list of items of how the rich differ from the poor as interesting. However, the author then provides a list suggesting what we (parents and schools) should teach our children. I was expecting some level of parallelism between the two lists, but to me it seems that he went on to suggest what he thought was important. I noted that he did not suggest that parents attend back to school night, encourage academic achievement in order to make the honor roll, or instruct their children on proper flossing habits. What did you think of the list? Do you have other things you think are more important than the list the author provides?

Neighbors From Hell …

by Anonymous

Do you like your neighbors?  Apparently there is a link “between having good neighbors and a healthier heart”.

Maybe your neighbors are not the friendliest, but at least they don’t take advantage and quietly buy part of your property after a mix-up with property taxes.

Woman whose home straddles two states loses half the property in tax mix-up and discovers her life coach neighbor has snapped it up for $275 and will only give it back for $35,000

Then you have the case of the Michigan man who had his neighbor’s house demolished after secretively switching address signs.

Most of my neighbors are wonderful, but there’s the one whose kid stole some precious items from us and then blamed it on another neighborhood kid.  And then we have the feuding neighbors who have a spite fence between their properties, and the guy who tried to bribe the housing inspector so he could illegally rent out part of his house.

Do you love or hate your neighbors?  What good or bad neighbor stories do you have?  Are you a good neighbor?

Life Insurance And Guardianship

These two topics seem to go together.

L sent in a post about life insurance.

Kind of a different take on this. Do Totebaggers have life insurance?

Lean In Isn’t Just About Professional Fulfillment. It’s Also About Worst-Case Scenarios.

Rhode has questions about guardianship.

A recent Totebag topic shifted to safeguards in the case of death of a spouse. I worry about what happens to DS if DH and I were to die together.

Now, I know both families would rally and DS would want for nothing. But who should we ask to be DS’s guardian? Should that person (people) also have control of any finances? How do we make sure that DS is still integrated with both families?

On being a guardian: Have you, or someone you know, denied a request to be a guardian? Why? Also, DH and I are guardians to my godson and his older sister. Do we have to include them in our guardianship plans?

For quick background – I am an only child but am very close to my extended family. DH has 4 siblings and is somewhat close with his extended family. We have a few good friends, though I’m not sure how many would want to parent my son. DS’s godparents are my best friend and DH’s BIL.

What else do we need to discuss?

Coping With Fatigue And Frustration

by Mémé


Twenty one months ago I took down my shingle for good. Rhett (and several of my children) were sure that after a few months I would go stir crazy and want to get back to work, or failing that descend into some twilight state on the recliner with HGTV on continuous loop.

I am happy to report that I am usually busy when awake. Sometimes it even feels like too busy.

Prior to retirement I never understood how people who had very hectic lives while working suddenly felt so busy when 30-50 hours per week were eliminated from the schedule. I now know the reason. Any time I put on shoes and venture off my own property, it counts as a half-day. Not in real time, but in psychic time. When I was working full time, if I took off a morning I crammed in grocery shopping, haircut, maybe a doctor’s appointment too. If I only had one of those things to do, it was an hour’s add-on to a full work day, perhaps time shifted a bit. No longer. The one- to one-and-half-hour errand is it for the morning or the afternoon. If I actually spend four hours on an activity, I often add late lunch or a short errand on the way home. That counts as a full day.

Of course the most precious regular activity is taking care of my grandchildren. It appears that what works best is for everyone is for me to be the go to sitter for those random but constant short time slots when mama can’t be in two places at once. We have arrived at the point where Nana is just one of the regular adults who might or might not be the one to show up at preschool pickup or meet the school bus. This is beyond price.

The one concern I have is sleep. Not that I don’t now have plenty of time to get it, but after years of running on fumes I was not expecting the degree to which I can’t really do well with the slightest unplanned deficit. It takes all of my adult self control and then some to keep my patience if a last minute grandma call, especially to watch all three kids, means that I have to get up two or three hours early.

Totebaggers, how do you cope with schedule disruptions, especially those that make you tired and strung out? Do you have any tips or restorative foods or back up plans that you go to when your fatigue and frustration makes likely an imminent explosion or serious error or words you can’t take back?

Middle School And Beyond

by Louise

Totebaggers – I need a middle school and beyond road map. Basically what exams, classes and camps to look out for. I am swimming upstream not knowing when to sign kids up for PSAT/SAT and other exams, how to have kids prepare etc. Now all school information for parents is online, so if I don’t look carefully I am afraid I’ll miss things.
I know for instance there are 8th grade placement exams – what does that mean?
Not having been through this school system facing decisions on what to have kid take, I value the Totebag collective wisdom.


by Louise

Totebaggers, from the brand post, it seems that only a few of us care for brands. Many of us value experiences. Experiences aside, are there things we are vain about? My old neighbor, a regular guy who couldn’t care about brand names, did all the work around his house and yard himself, drove a very ordinary car, had two fine looking old convertibles in his garage. He drove them in the summer and I was always taken by those cars when he went past with a jaunty wave. These days, I see vintage open bed trucks with families driving to Starbucks on a Saturday morning.

Like these gentlemen, do you have something you are vain about? Do you have great hair for example, that you wear just so? What about a fit figure? A pretty garden? Any signature dishes you make? Any collections you are proud of ? What are you vain about?

What Have You Learned Lately?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Learning opportunities are everywhere — your job, your family, books, your community, travel, schools, and the Internet. is an online education company “offering thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills … taught by industry experts. Members have unlimited access to watch the videos, which are primarily educational.”

Lynda Weinman founded in 1995, and recently sold the company to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion.  Weinman was ahead of her time in exploiting the benefits of online education.

“Everything we are talking about right now in online learning—how can we create lifelong learners, how can we support people changing careers, all of this stuff she was doing before it was the hip thing to do.”

Some photography courses caught my eye, and I hope to use them soon to learn more about editing and organizing photos.  A local camera shop may offer supplementary instruction.  I keep meaning to take a course in statistics.  Over the last few years I feel as if I’ve slacked off on learning new skills or improving existing ones.

What have you learned lately?  Do you consider yourself a “lifelong learner”?  Have you tried or something similar?  Or are you in a phase of life that leaves little time to learn new things because you are simply too busy keeping up with your juggle?  (Not that you don’t learn many valuable things just from doing that!)  Maybe when you retire you’ll have more time to focus on your continuing education.  What learning goals, personal or professional, do you have?

News from yesterday:  LinkedIn Offers Users Free Courses for the First Time

Related:  25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Your Big Backyard

by WCE

I attended land grant universities. In a college discussion, Finn asked me if the local land grant university is a good school. “It depends, ” I thought. If you want to study volcanoes, oceanography, veterinary medicine, rangeland management, wildlife biology or forestry, it’s a very good school. We have excellent researchers in the cultivation of pears and berries. But it probably doesn’t rank very high with US News. (It’s #138.)

Recently, I saw Facebook posts from a friend who studied forestry and then moved to Montana and Wyoming. She posted a picture of a young moose stripping leaves that she took on their family hike (below) and a video of a grizzly bear across a stream from them. I also saw a NY Times article about what researchers at University of Montana (#194 according to US News) are learning about songbird communication in the presence of predators. (It’s linked below).


I’d like to know more about birds, and the sounds I hear when I meet the bus or go for a walk are mostly those of various birds and squirrels, so the article interested me. My kids recently watched a video about pythons in southern Florida, and they were impressed by a huge python that had crawled through the sewage system into someone’s toilet. What’s interesting about nature where you live? Do you know what is under study about nature in your local area?

Here’s the NY Times article on bird warnings that I enjoyed.

When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen

How Those Crazy Studies Make the News

Both Honolulu Mother and Rocky Mountain Stepmom sent in posts about this article.

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all noticed how contradictory the conclusions from “scientific” studies in the news can be on many topics — what foods are good or bad, what type of exercise is effective or injurious, what parenting choices have good or bad effects. Sometimes this may be the result of a better understanding of a subject over time — surely the fact that eggs and butter, so reviled a generation ago, are now good for you again is an example of the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But most of the time, contradictions multiply and it’s never clear from the reporting what the studies were even based on.

Now a hero of our time has provided the explanation: it’s because the news media will publish any piece of crap study that sounds authoritative and has a headline-worthy conclusion, as outlined in the article linked above.

But notwithstanding the flaws in the study identified by its own author, I’m going to stick with his conclusion and make sure to get my chocolate every day. Because science!

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The article linked above is about the way science journalism works, or doesn’t work. One of its main points is that journalists are lazy. That resonated with me because of two work experiences I’ve had.

In 1983, I finished a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree at Berkeley. World’s easiest degree, but that’s not important right now. I had an internship at the KPIX news library. KPIX was and maybe still is the CBS affiliate in San Francisco. I got to see the local news produced every evening, and it was…startling. The reporters and producers just trolled popular magazines for stories they could regurgitate. I fetched Glamour magazine articles for the reporters to crib from. They stole from every conceivable source. It was disheartening.

My first job after library school was as an indexer for what was then Information Access Corp. (Remember Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature? It was like that.) We indexed popular magazines, trade magazines, and five newspapers: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal. We sat in front of our Apple 2e computer and read every single article in the papers and assigned index terms. It was a very peaceful way to make a living. But one thing I learned very quickly was that the newspapers all stole from each other regularly. The same article, with just a few changes, would appear in all the papers, and no, those articles weren’t from UPI or AP. They were by-lined by staff writers. There was clearly no independent verification going on. See article, crib article, print article. Again, very distressing to naive little me. The worst was the “end of year wrap-up” stuff. You might as well just burn all the papers from about Dec. 10 to Jan 5, because unless Manhattan gets nuked, there will be NO actual news whatsoever.

Totebaggers, do you trust the news? What’s your preferred source? Are you as skeptical as you would like to be? Or do you tend to believe stuff just because it’s in print? And do you believe that chocolate can accelerate weight loss?

How Much To Spend On A Wedding Gift

by Grace aka costofcollege

June is a big month for weddings.  A recent CollegeConfidential discussion asked about the appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift.  Opinions vary, to say the least.

This comment …

This is sooooo variable, by region of the country, socioeconomic status, how close you are to the people involved. There are weddings where I’d give $100 and feel fine, and those where I’d give $1,000 (my nieces/nephew)….

… prompted this response:

I can’t imagine spending that much for anyone but my own kids.

Several factors come into play.

In addition to region of country, another factor quite simply is your income. One family’s $300 check is done without a blink of an eye, another, $300 is the grocery bill for the month!

How much do you spend on wedding gifts?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

by Honolulu Mother

In Hawaii we don’t really have an off-season for gardening . Grass grows year-round, and there’s no general off season, although specific crops are seasonal — and it looks like a good year for lychee! I know that most of you are more tied to the seasons on this, though, and you must be well into the gardening time of year now.

Our gardening and landscaping focus is on the edible or the fragrant. I have an herb pot (a strawberry pot with herbs in the holes) convenient-ish to kitchen along with a giant rosemary bush. We periodically plant eggplant, tomatoes, and other veg in a bed up on the hill behind our house; right now it’s had all the overgrown junk ripped out for a reboot after we return from our summer travel. We have an assortment of fruit trees, an allspice tree that produces no allspice berries but is very fragrant when it flowers, scented roses, gardenia, and night-blooming jasmine.

There is very little in the way of garden design in the yard, as we just tuck plants or beds in where they seem to fit. Perhaps with more time we would do this in a more planned manner and without the periods of neglect when school and kid activities get busy. I see lots of retirees gardening as I head out or return home on weekdays, and their yards show the benefit of regular care.

What do you do with your yard or garden? Are there any serious gardeners out there? Do you outsource it all to a yard service or teenaged child? Or do you combine yard service with your own gardening? Do you try to grow your own food to any significant degree? How much do you try to design your garden? And whether or not you actually execute these plans, would your ideal garden be the grounds at Versailles, a cottage garden, a rock garden, or something else altogether?

What We Owe Our Elders

by Sky

My husband and I both come from large families with several childless aunts and uncles. Over the past few years, we’ve learned that some of them have put us in charge of their affairs as well as our parents’.

For geographic and professional reasons, we are the obvious choice to be someone’s executor or to hold the power of attorney.

But they are all within a decade of each other, and the prospect of managing the care of 6 or more 80-somethings across a few states is daunting. Better than the alternative, of course, but still daunting.

What have you needed to do for your older relatives? Other than making sure the documents are in order, what recommendations do you have?

Fast Dinner

by Sky

I’m a poor cook with low standards that probably disqualify me from the Totebag, but I’m trying to improve.

Several nights a week my daughter has practice that ends at dinnertime. I’ve been coping by buying dinner at the restaurant in the same complex, but this is not doing the waistline any favors.

What reasonably healthy dinner can you prepare in 15 minutes or less?

Assume ownership of all kitchen appliances, including an Instant Pot and sous vide, but lots of distraction while cooking and limited toddler palates that aren’t going to eat sriracha :)

Financial Safeguards For The Unemployed Spouse

by Sara

I’m a new empty nester and 2 mothers in my situation have been dumped by their husbands – and neither has worked in 15 years. Turns out their husbands blew through all their joint savings accounts so now both women are going back to work in low-level jobs. I think there still needs to be more awareness of long-term consequences of giving up your career as a mother – and actions you can take to stop free spending spouses if they seem out of control ( freeze bank accounts is one).

Tell us about your schools

by Grace aka costofcollege

Tell us about your local schools.

Do you have school choice?  Do you have charters, magnets, or other options for selecting public schools outside your neighborhood?  Do you use private schools?

What do you like about your schools?

What do you dislike about your schools?

Have your children been well served by their schools?

What else can you tell us?  Demographics?  Amount of homework?  Grading?  Discipline policies?  Quality of instruction?  Technology?  Communication to parents?  How they address needs of special education and/or gifted students?  Choice of extra-curriculars?  Transportation?  Class sizes?  SAT/ACT scores?  Number of NMSFs?  Anything else?

How about the schools you attended?  Are your kids’ schools better or worse?

Did your local high school make it on the U.S. News Best High Schools Ranking?

Use GreatSchools to complete the following surveys for the HIGH SCHOOL your child attends, attended, or will likely attend.  (Reduced price lunch program information is under the “details” tab.)

Do You Know Brand Names

by Grace costofcollege

In many business and social situations, there’s value in being savvy about brand names.  Like it or not, we are often judged by our clothes, cars, and other accouterments of life.  And knowing the same about others can help us be more astute in all types of relationships.

Here’s the hierarchy of luxury brands around the world

Do you know how to pronounce Hermes or other brand names?  To make it easy on myself, I only say “Stella” when ordering my favorite beer.

The Right Way To Say 15 Brand Names You’re Mispronouncing All The Time

Are you brand-savvy?  Can you tell the difference between a Cartier and a Timex? (Okay, that’s probably an easy one.)  How important is it for you to know brands?  Do you feel judged by the shoes you wear or the car you drive?

Dating And Marriage Across The Lines

by Louise

My children are first generation Americans. As they grow, I wonder what advice I should give them about dating and marriage. In the home country, marriages that used to last till death do us apart, are increasingly coming apart at the seams. So, advice on this topic is hard to impart.

Here, it seems that there are invisible lines. I wonder how other families would feel at having a first generation Asian boy/girl dating their kids. At school and in their lives my kids are surrounded by other Totebagger type families of all stripes. I am presuming it is most likely they will date/marry Totebagger Junior.

How have your kids handled dating/marriage. What about dating across lines? What advice do you have for kids?

Too Much Academic Pressure On Students?

by Sara

Real question: how hard should parents push top academic students without crossing the line. Where is the line? Valedictorian at our school had no friends or hobbies – like an academic robot programmed for Harvard. At our high school, one father said he wouldn’t pay for a non- ivy. Another mother hired tutors for every subject to give her daughter the edge (daughter now struggling academically at an ivy).

Memorial Day 2015

by Grace aka costofcollege


“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

This photo is from a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, a moving ritual that honors U.S.soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  The dedication and precision demonstrated during the ceremony was impressive and confidence-inspiring.

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day?

Vacation Talk

by Rhode

Spring has finally sprung in my neck of the woods, and it has me thinking of how to use my vacation and personal time…

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Also, if money and time are no object, where would you go on vacation, who would you take with you, how long would you stay, and what would you do?