The Totebag Onion

by Louise

Sky recently posted a topic that commentators felt sounded like something from The Onion. Here is your chance to post Onion-like parodies on any topic. Go for it!


200 thoughts on “The Totebag Onion

  1. Area Mom Surprised by Testing Pressure in Local School. “I had no idea they expected so much of 6 year olds!”

  2. Area mom devistated to learn that son’s difficulty with fractions could mean calculus track forever out of each.

  3. Hey guys, here’s my PSA for today (not an Onion-esque headline):

    I got a call today at 730am on our landline from an IRS impersonator. I knew it was that because the IRS always first sends a letter; they’ll never contact you by phone unless you’re actively working with them on something. The number they called from was 206 257 7016, which seems like Seattle, but is most probably a boiler room operation overseas. The Treasury department inspector general has a website all about it:


    (not intending for this to be a hijack!)

  4. Southeast US Mom to round up procrastinating student.
    On Friday, Louise a SE US Mom, wondered about her kid’s day at school. Kid was assigned a group project in the dark ages prior to Christmas break. Kid formed an awesome trio with two other boys. One kid’s project piece is MIA. Louise has ordered her kid to round up said procrastinator or she will lasso the kid herself. Project is due today.

  5. Area mom was devastated to hear her basketball prodigy 3 year old, refuse to play basketball anymore! Area mom has immidiately started plans for a long tennis career for her tennis prodigy, with Golf career rivaling the best of best for her golf prodigy as plan B.

    (Actually this would be funny if it were not true about me. Can’t help myself!)

  6. “Coastal Lawmakers Pen Deal to Move Flyover States to India, Reducing Flight Times and Interstate Trucking Costs”


    Area Wealth Management Consultant Ascribes $20M Fortune to Frugality, Middle-Class Values

    Darien, CT – The first rays of morning sunshine are only beginning to peek through the leafy trees along the Merritt Parkway, but Liam Bennett has already been awake for an hour as he calmly pilots his Audi A6 past the early commuters on his way to the office.

    “I bought it USED,” he quickly assures me, when he notices that I am admiring the dashboard’s burled walnut inlaid among hand-stitched sheepskin. “You should have seen what kind of shape the Beemer was in when I traded it–my daughter had done a number on it learning to drive.” It’s one of many examples of how the 46-year-old founder of the wealth management firm Nutmeg Capital has been able to build a very successful small business through frugal living and delayed gratification.

    [and I’d go on from there]

  8. “Twin boys make it to adulthood without an ER visit. Mother attributes it to their docile manner and preference for sedentary activities.”

    IRL – at the ER (again) last night. 12 stitches on the forehead, all due to a trip and fall onto the corner of a wall while arguing with his brother. Sitter, helpless, just feet away. 5th (!) scar on this kids’ face all due to similar accidents. Helmets are coming into style yes?

  9. The new top selling diet book is “Half a cookie.” Author Delia McArdle explains the plan:

    “It’s really very simple. You can eat whatever you want, but only half portions. So you can have half a cookie, half a brownie, half a slice of pizza, and so on.”

  10. The College Board has announced they will be cancelling the May administration of the well-known college admittance exam the SAT, citing lack of interest. Although surprised by the turn of events, a College Board spokesman said “parents have come to realize that the test just doesn’t matter, and have indicated they’d rather see their children sleep in on a Saturday, then spend time playing video games, drinking Mountain Dew and snacking on junk food with friends. “

  11. Voter to allow six months for presidential campaigning.
    Feeling more worn out than the candidates themselves concerned voter s seek to limit length of campaign. Six months is more than enough time to decide which one of these great candidates and representative of the American people should grace the White House. Mind you, they grace us with their presence. They stop working the moment they are elected the voter said.

  12. Mom’s Secret Strategy to Get Kids to Do Homework: Candy & TV

    Actually, this is not a satire. A friend of mine asked me for advice and I realized it boiled down to candy and tv. DS is unmotivated to do homework (pleasing the teacher or getting a gold star is not sufficient as it was for DD). Math in particular can be challenging. So we’ve evolved to a system where he earns tv/screen time by doing homework – and if he’s doing math, he gets an M&M or two for every completed math problem.

  13. Mom Thrilled to Learn Child Has No Interest in Team Sports!

    This one also true. Our oldest child is very into team sports – so carpools are a big part of our lives. And while I’m glad she loves soccer (and is now also picking up lacrosse), I’m quite happy that our second child hates team sports and instead does aikido – and he can walk to the studio from our house. No driving required.

  14. SeattleSoccerMom – Did you ever watch Parenthood? Candy was the secret motivator for Max to do homework that Christina shamefully admitted to Julia.

    We are not above bribery in my house.

  15. Area Boys Become Clean Freaks; Insist All Dirty Laundry Be Placed in Hampers and All Food Wrappers Be Placed in Trash.
    “It’s exhausting,” reports their mother. “I can hardly get the peanut butter on their toast before they’re wiping up the crumbs and putting dishes in the dishwasher.”

  16. Area Husband Likes Wife’s Minivan So Much, He Buys One For Himself.

    “It’s a great commuting car,” he says, “practically drives itself. And with all the room, it’s so easy to take clients out to lunch.”

  17. Lark, DS2 is actually like that, but he’s only two so he keeps throwing out *anything* left out that he thinks doesn’t belong: cups and plates (some still in use), his socks when he takes them off, his siblings’ toys that were left on the floor….

    I’m hoping that it eventually gets the other two to clean up after themselves :)


    College Park, MD – A recent study from the University of Maryland, which has the nation’s economists and childhood development experts puzzled, reveals that children described by their parents as “gifted” are actually the most likely to receive few, or even no gifts at their birthday parties. Even more disturbing, what little they are given tend to be gifts that they and their peers rate as “boring,” “dumb,” “OK, I guess.”

    In a multi-year longitudinal sample of 2500 children born between 2006 and 2010, researchers found a significant negative correlation between a child’s “giftedness,” as rated by his parents on a scale of 1-5, and the number and peer-assessed value of the gifts he had received for his most recent birthday. At the extreme end of the distribution, children who were rated by both parents as “5” on the gifted scale were more than 200 times as likely than average to have endured a birthday with no gifts whatsoever, with those parents often opting for what many enthusiastically described as a “used book exchange.”

    “I’m at a loss to explain these conflicting findings,” chief researcher Dr. Julianne Weissberg-Schultz mused. “For these parents to have such a glaring misconception about how much their children are being ‘gifted’ indicates a disturbing lack of self-awareness.”

    That confusion may not be limited to the parents who believe their children are well-gifted, as the inverse appears equally pronounced. Children described by their parents on the lowest end of the gifted scale (rating of 1.5 or less) received, on average, 28.3 more gifts. Furthermore, these were often the gifts to which their peers across the board assigned the highest value. Camouflage dart guns, Elsa-themed makeup vanities, and battery-powered ATVs–the three gift groups rated most highly by the children–were very popular among the “least gifted,” but nonexistent among their so-called “gifted” counterparts.

  19. “Did you ever watch Parenthood? Candy was the secret motivator for Max to do homework that Christina shamefully admitted to Julia.”

    Do you remember PTM’s assessment? “What a perfectly miserable family, with each character more despicable than the last.”

    I’m laughing remembering it, and could never summarize it better.

  20. Second Grader Declares “Life Will Be Over” If Essay Does Not Win Contest

    Faced with a classroom-wide competition for the best letter to an author describing this week’s reading group selection, local student Amanda Sinclair announced to her assembled family that her “life would be OVER” and she would be “permanently humiliated in front of everyone” in Mrs. B’s second grade class if she did not win.

    After spending two hours combing through her personal library, which contains 437 books, Miss Sinclair devised a spreadsheet to determine which books had sufficient humor, “cool factor,” and familiarity to the rest of the class to maximize her chances of victory.

    “If I choose my favorite book – and really I can’t decide between The House of the Seven Gables and Great Expectations – the students voting won’t have heard of it,” moaned the weeping Amanda, clasping a box of tissues. “But if I stoop to their level and select something popular like Fly Guy or Captain Underpants, I would be betraying myself. I haven’t read those since preschool!”

    Although Mrs. B instructed the class to vote based on the content and structure of the letter rather than the book chosen, Amanda was not reassured. “Please!” Amanda snorted. “Everyone knows the boys will all vote for the letter about the Star Wars Little Golden Book. And the girls prefer the Perky Puppy series, even though it is plainly derivative of Puppy Place.”

    Her multi-factor weighted analysis resulted in a tie between Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona and Roald Dahl’s Matilda, which the other children had seen on Netflix or Hulu Plus. Amanda selected Matilda, which she felt had a shorter title and thus would be easier to persuade others to write on their ballots.

    After writing a seven page letter with a metallic purple pencil on floral letter paper, Amanda amassed a collection of stickers, beads, sequins and embroidery thread to distribute as part of her “Vote Matilda!” campaign.

    “When I’m done, not only will everyone know that Matilda is a great book, but there will be no doubt that I am the smartest second grader in Mrs. B’s class. And, quite possibly, the world,” added Amanda modestly.

  21. Before you google, I changed the names to protect the guilty. Otherwise it’s as accurate as everything I read in the Daily Mail.

  22. I haven’t read those since preschool!”

    Late bloomer, huh? That must sting. I assume she had to be taught to read? She didn’t just figure it out on her own? God bless her.

  23. Y’all are awesome. I wish I had time/bandwidth today to think that creatively — every politicial idea I have comes out like Rhode’s. Milo, you are on a roll. . . .

  24. Sky, compare to

    Area High-Schooler Baffled by Suggestion He Enter Essay Contest

    Asked about his intentions regarding a local high school’s announcement of an essay contest in which winning students can win cash prizes, George Park, 15, of Honolulu, expressed surprise that anyone would think he would enter such a contest. “If [English teacher] Mr. Boatman gives significant extra credit then maybe I’d do it, but only if he gives it to everyone who writes the essay. To get the money I’d have to write an essay good enough to beat all the juniors’ and seniors’, and that would take way too much time, and I still might not win. It’s not worth it!”

    Park then added, “They shouldn’t put these announcements up on the website where parents can see them.”

  25. Too funny Milo and Sky !

    Parents discover the benefits of free play
    Southeast Area parents Louise and Paul were pleasantly surprised to find their kids enjoying the benefits of free play. The Minecraft playing kids are enjoying the impending spring weather by playing outside. This has meant polishing their basketball and soccer skills as well as learning new cuss words from their friends.

  26. Woman Who Kept Maiden Name Not in a Witness Protection Program

    When PTA President Kristen Breckenridge saw the name Sarah Jones on the list of people purchasing tickets to this year’s Fillmore Elementary School Talent Show, she was worried. “As the President, it is my job to know the parents of all 357 students here at Fillmore. I go to every class party and fundraiser, and station myself at the playground gate at drop off to make sure I don’t miss anyone. And yet I had never heard of this Sarah Jones. So I was concerned.”

    She immediately brought the list to her Vice Chair, Heather Smulkins. “I was suspicious, too. I’d never heard of Sarah Jones, and my kids are in kindergarten, first, third and fourth grades. Kristen has a fifth grader. So we went right to the second grade room moms to track her down.”

    Concerned that the ticket buyer might be an undercover talent scout from Hollywood, the second grade moms scoured the class lists, but found no children named Jones. Then they formed a “Find Sarah Jones Committee,” with a dedicated Facebook page.

    Imagine their surprise when they received a message – from Sarah Jones! “Hi! I’m Sarah! We have actually met, but maybe you didn’t know I kept my last name. The kids are Cziplienski.”

    After the alleged Sarah Jones produced a marriage certificate, her passport, and original birth certificates with raised seals for the children, she was allowed to purchase three tickets to the Talent Show.

    When told of the committee, Ms. Jones was bemused. “Who else would buy a ticket to the Talent Show? Only a parent would be willing to watch children sing off key and dance off tempo.”

    “We are just glad she didn’t turn out to be a terrorist or in a witness protection program,” said Mrs. Breckenridge. “But we forgot to find out if she is still married,” noted Mrs. Smulkins, ” and if her husband is available, that would be good to know so we can set him up with someone.”

    “Still married!” called Ms. Jones, waving goodbye with her envelope of tickets.

  27. Small Town Shocked Over Reports of ‘PSAT-Ditch Pact’

    Cupertino, CA – Parents, school officials, and community members of this quiet, Bay Area bedroom community are reeling and grasping for answers as they learn about an alleged “PSAT-Ditch Pact” that involved as many as 18 local high school sophomores who made a secret pact to skip the Spring session of the College Board’s Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. Media reports are conflicted as of press time, and the mayor has stressed that there is no proof of any pact, but parents are outraged nonetheless. While it is not uncommon for approximately 4 students every year to miss the PSAT, usually due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, the shocking four-fold increase in untested students suggests a motive far more disturbing might be at play.

    “You try to raise your kids right, and teach them morals and values, but you just never know what they’re going to do” commented a distraught school guidance counselor and mother to two teens Patricia Hopson. “You can only hope and pray that, as they become mature young adults, they’ll be able to appreciate the damaging effects on their future that can result from a decision like this, one that they make in the passion of a heated moment.”

    Others are dumbfounded at what they see as an appalling lack of responsibility. “I’ve come to believe that the Spring PSAT of sophomore year is the students’ best chance of maximizing their early potential on the Math portion, since they’re fresh off of Algebra II,” explained local parent and College Board enthusiast Zachary Finnegan. “It affords them the opportunity to learn their areas of strength and weakness so that they can spend the summer preparing for the Fall PSAT, when it really counts for NMSF qualification,” Finnegan went on, referring by acronym to the National Merit Semifinalist designation. “That can mean a lot of scholarship money, you know! But now, who knows what’s in store for them in the future?” he wondered, visibly disturbed. “This is going to make their lives a lot more challenging; one wonders if they’d even be able to take Calculus as seniors.”

    Even though emotions remain raw as the town tries to make sense of what happened, the captivating story has not escaped the attention of the national entertainment media. A spokesman from Lifetime Media has confirmed rumors that the network is investigating the possibility of a made-for-television movie centered around the Pact. Additionally, NBC Universal is rumored to be considering a one-time revival of the long-running ‘Law and Order’ series in order to feature an adaptation of the event.

  28. Women Not Sure If They Are Real Friends Or Just Customers

    New Canaan native Jennifer Watson, 43, remembers how she felt after she quit her high-powered career on Madison Avenue to stay home with her twins. “We had three nannies quit before they were three months old, and yet I still wanted to work. So when I learned that I could stay at home with them and create a new career selling healing essential oils, it was like a dream come true,” she gushed, fingering an amber-colored bottle of lemon pomegranate essence.

    Lisbeth Smyth-Owens, 45, felt the same way. “My new employer sells cosmetics formulated to work with your blood type,” she explained, “which prevents broken blood vessels and cysts at the skin surface. And if I develop my down line, not only will I be selling a product that helps women, but I will be driving the midnight purple Yukon XL ordered for all district managers!”

    “The great thing about being a work-at-home mother is that I can still be there for my kids,” added former attorney Lindsay Chase, 39. “Plus, if I meet my sales target for this certified fair trade jewelry line, I may be selected for the annual sales meeting…in Hawaii!”

    To meet their monthly sales goals, the women take turns holding parties in each other’s homes and purchasing each other’s products. “My husband has a lifetime supply of Jennifer’s Organic Healing Shave Oil,” says Lisbeth. “I’ve never felt such a smooth chin.”

    “And my oldest daughter has really stocked up on Lisbeth’s Anti-Acne Ointment, Type AB. We actually didn’t know her blood type and had to bring her to a lab for testing, but it was totally worth it,” laughs Jennifer.

    Of course all the women, their daughters, sisters, friends and housekeepers have bracelets from Lindsay. “You wouldn’t believe the environmental damage and employee abuse that is rampant in the jewelry industry today,” sighs Lindsay. “I’m so glad that I can offer these ISO certified, Six Sigma products with a fair trade certificate, so we can ‘Look Great While Doing Good! ™.”

    But privately, the women confess that they are not really sure if they have anything in common besides multi-level marketing. “Mostly we talk about how our husbands say these are barely-legal pyramid schemes,” sighs Lindsay. ” But what pyramid scheme is really going to generate enough money for a trip to Hawaii?” “Or that Yukon XL with sat nav and moonroof,” adds Lisbeth. “Wait until you see me driving the carpool in that!”

  29. Rhett – I typed 1146 on my phone at McDonald’s.

    It’s a gift! It really is. I’m very impressed.

  30. This is hilarious! IRL, I am just like the essay writing kid Honolulu described, so I totally get the thought process.

    Sky, your PTA one is the best yet! Glad I am not drinking anything!

  31. “It’s a gift! It really is. I’m very impressed.”

    Eh, you read the Onion long enough…

    I remember exactly where I was when my brother told me about this “new website” that’s “like a newspaper, but it’s not real. Like, they have articles that are written just like real articles, but they’re absurd. There was this one about a police officer who responded to a car alarm going off, and they write about it like it was a very serious and dangerous situation…”

  32. Bahahaha!

    A weeping Joe Gillespie is comforted by his daughter Sonoma

    Mother Jessica Gillespie, 42, panicked this morning when her daughter Sonoma, 7, was nowhere to be found. After a fruitless search of her Needham house, Gillespie enlisted her son Mateo, 4, and husband Joe, 47, in knocking on neighbors’ doors. At 8:15 am, the family alerted WBZ and Needham police to assist with the search.

    Gillespie collapsed at 8:35 am and was whisked to the Newton-Wellesley emergency room along with her husband and son. Shortly after 9 am, neighbor Lynn Darling, 58, was walking her trio of Pomeranian therapy dogs when she spotted Sonoma looking out the Gillespie living room window. Darling quickly called police, who returned Mr. Gillespie and Mateo to the family home.

    “I was just sleeping late,” yawned a mystified Sonoma. “Where’s my Frozen cereal?” Mr. Gillespie wept as he prepared his daughter’s cereal.

    Needham police alerted DCF, but the Herald’s calls to the Roxbury office went unreturned this morning.

  33. L, that’s classic! (We bought that Frozen cereal. You know what’s annoying? When you’re running late and someone pours an entire box of cereal on the table so he and his brother can eat only the blue marshmallows. Grrrrrrr.)

  34. I saw a fantastic Christmas Newsletter online years ago, but haven’t been able to locate it. Will post it for the Totebaggers if/when I find it. It was a hoot.

  35. Suburban mother devastated by her child’s racism.
    Last weekend Christine Folsom overheard her son telling his friend that the family was going to a Spanish restaurant for dinner. When she realized that he was using “Spanish” as shorthand for “Mexican”, tears welled up in her eyes as she anguished over her failure in raising such a racist young man. How had she failed to teach him that chimicangas were ethnically so different from tapas, and that the ignorance of his comment would forever mark him as bigoted in the eyes of friends, neighbors, and future employers.
    When last contacted, Ms. Folsom had enrolled her son in a remedial course, “Cuisine for the Culturally Sensitive Diner”. He had also made plans to volunteer in the “sopa cocina” located several towns away.

  36. Southeast Mom discovers rewards of encouraging music
    SE Mom, Louise snorted at being compared to “Tiger Mom”
    Amy Chua. “No, piano or violin, she said”. Surely there are other instruments like the cello or the harp that the kids will enjoy playing
    At “Be in the Band” day, Matthew and Hannah have picked the trombone and the trumpet. “Cool jazz instruments”, say the kids, we can practice together. When last heard from Louise was looking up Bose noise cancelling headphones.

  37. Local Child Shocked to Learn Kale Hidden in His Smoothies!

    Bentley Tesla Rodriquez unceremoniously spit his banana raspberry smoothie all over the floor, after realizing his parents had been blending kale into them for years.

    “Kale,” he exclaimed. “I don’t like kale, it’s green. Green’s the color of puke.” The 8-year-old has had a smoothie as an after-school snack for as long as he can remember. He always asks for banana raspberry because he likes the color they make when mixed together. “It’s a pretty pink-y orange color!”

    Bentley’s mother is devastated at the child’s realization. “I don’t know what we’ll do. Blending kale into his smoothies is the only way to get him vital nutrients. We only use organically grown kale from our rooftop terrace garden. Bentley even takes care of the plants himself. I blame myself.”

    Her husband was much more understanding. “It’s OK dear. I left the kale on the counter. I didn’t know Bentley was in the kitchen.” He softly wept into a handmade handkerchief. “We’ll get through this.”

    We followed up with the Rodriquez family two weeks later. Turning their tragedy into triumph, Mrs. Rodriquez started an online petition with Burpee, the national seed and plant distributor, to come up with pink kale. “My son only despises kale because it’s green. If it was pink, or some other fun color, like blue, he would eat it again.” The petition currently has 4 signatures.

    Bentley refused to come out of his treehouse for comment.


    Exclusive FOX-25 report

    Local mother of two, Christine Ajemian, 39, of Somerville, was distraught to discover this week that her children had replaced the entire contents of her closet with Lululemon yoga pants, mom jeans, and sweaters from Lands’ End. Watch our FOX-25 exclusive as Kathryn Burcham goes inside the Somerville Closet of Terror!

  39. Observer – Weird timing. I was just explaining to my young son earlier this week that describing someone as “the black lady” is not racist, it’s descriptive. Lots of nuance in these types of discussions. You may not know but my husband and sons are Hispanic and Caucasian.

  40. Milo – In 1998 that was biting humor in context – the only relevant fact in the eyes of many about a gay person was his sexual orientation. The Onion could and probably would publish a virtually identical article today substituting Muslim for homosexual and it would make the contemporary version of the same point.

    I am in awe of you all. I don’t have that sort of humorous gift.

  41. Local Kindergartner Furious His Paycheck Still Hasn’t Been Direct Deposited

    NETWON, MA – Kermit Samuelson, 5, a kindergartner at Underwood Elementary has been to the office on at least 3 occasions to ask when he should expect his paycheck. “If they think I’m going to sit here all day churning out worksheets for free, then they have another thing coming.” A visibly angry Kermit said earlier today. “I knew something was up when they didn’t make me fill out a W4 or give them a canceled check. But, honestly have they repealed the 13th Amendment? I’m dumbfounded!.”

    That’s the best I could do :-(

  42. i’m just curious about something. You guys got the allusion to the pregnancy pact in Gloucester, Massachusetts, right? I wasn’t sure how well that would convey or if people still remembered it.

  43. I got the allusion. And I refrained (till now!) from pointing out that PSATs are only given in the fall ^_^. Actually, I thought Finn would have brought that up by now.

  44. “only relevant fact in the eyes of many about a gay person was his sexual orientation.”

    Including in the eyes of the reporter, who feels obligated to insert the unnecessary appositive phrases.

  45. The other day Youngest was having a massive temper tantrum in public because I woke him up from his nap when I took him out of the car. A woman about my age came up to us.

    Woman: What is he?
    Me (wanting to say “an alien from the planet Zorg”): A two year old.
    Woman: No, what is he?
    Me, increasingly annoyed because I think I know where this is headed: An angry two year old who would rather be asleep.
    Woman: I mean, is his dad Asian?
    Me: Yes.
    Woman: My kids are half too, where are yours at school?

    Whole situation turns around, good thing I didn’t get as rude as I wanted to….

  46. This one is based off a true incident at our house last week.

    Local Mom Praises Son for Not Hitting Classmate After Classmate Smeared Booger on Him on Afternoon Bus

    Volatile Twin received an extra half cookie for his after school snack last week, but he waited for that snack longer than usual. He was uncharacteristically eager to take a shower after school. After receiving permission to take a shower, he explained that he needed one because Classmate had picked his nose and then touched Volatile Twin three times on the bus ride home.

    WCE complimented volatile twin, so-named in part for his tendency to kick or hit before thinking, for his self control.

  47. While Sky and Milo are awesome at this game, I’d give the Totebag of the Day award to Denver Dad for the Half a Cookie Diet Plan.

  48. And if you were wondering how long you have to sit on hold to speak to a representative at the College Board, the answer is 48 minutes. Pro tip: go to the bathroom before you call.

  49. The Joy of Half a Cookie: Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle with Food

    Is an actual book.

  50. WCE – that is fantastic. My volatile twin lost it because his brother dared to turn their bedroom light off after 10 pm. The smallest things are SO important and irritating.

  51. Local Mom calls CPS over Nana’s TV and snacks

    Mémé La Mew, a long time resident of the Heights, was released from police custody this evening after her daughter in law phoned CPS to report an incident of child abuse. The distraught mother returned early from Pure Barre to discover that the babysitting grandmother was allowing the children to watch commercial TV and eat store bought cookies and crackers. La Mew watches the children three times a week so that their mother can maintain her youthful figure and spiritual disciplines, but was unwilling to follow the recipe cards for organic home baked snacks or the detailed lesson plans for creative activities, and that in fact the drawings and crafts presented as the children’s work had been produced by La Mew herself during multiple viewings of The Little Mermaid and Wrestlemania XVII.

  52. Administrative Assistant Devastated by Job Loss; Supervisor Described as “Insensitive” for Failure to Offer Extra Credit

    Brittany wiped the tears from her eyes as she described her last day at her first job as a data specialist for Aetna. “So, like, she [her supervisor] told me that I needed to convert the, like, files or something to a different — I don’t know, some kind of system — by last Friday. Like, I do NOT work well under pressure and I’m not really good at details. My mom says I’m just a different kind of learner and everyone should, you know, make ADJUSTMENTS for my learning style. Anyhow, so I’m like really trying to finish the files but my boyfriend wanted to hang out and like I figured she didn’t really NEED the files by Friday since she was like going out of town the day before and stuff.” Brittany shuddered and took a deep breath. “But when she called me Friday afternoon to ask where the files were and I told her, well, like, I didn’t think you really needed them,” she said I was FIRED! And when I asked her if I could make up a song about converting files for extra credit, instead of you know, actually converting the files, she hung up on me! Can you believe that she could, like, be so, INSENSITIVE!”

  53. Milo – That was the joke!!! The fact that in the regular media in that day if a gay person was in a story it was all about his being gay.

  54. Meme – I know, but they’ve gotten just a little more self-righteous over the years. My impression, perhaps incorrect, is that they would sarcastically report on the community’s reaction, but they would not satirize the “reporter” in the same way.

  55. One of the great newspaper parodies of all time. Not the Boston Globe. Hub Man dies in nuclear blast (New York destroyed). This was from early 80s, a sequel to Not the New York Times “published” during the 78 newspaper strike.

  56. A visit to grandma’s reveals that child not only tolerates gluten but also really enjoys it.

    Haley Springfield returned from a week long trip to Taos New Mexico to find that her five-year-old daughter, Juniper, had spent the past seven days eating homemade bread, cookies, pasta and cupcakes. She appeared to have a rose ago and her cheek and was running and playing with energy in a way that was completely out of character. Coincidentally, Haley is the author of a popular blog which highlights the ways to create every day foods for children without gluten. Haley’s mother, Barbara stated ” Little Juniper just loves everything I bake in my oven. I tried to eat some of the bread that Haley sent along, but it didn’t taste right. I think I might’ve gone over. ”

    Haley affirms the Juniper will still be in the “gluten-free classroom” when she starts kindergarten next fall.

  57. Teacher can’t teach child who doesn’t have 504 plan

    6th grade teacher Alice Jackson Reports she goes home in tears every day because she has a student who doesn’t have a 504 plan so she doesn’t know how to teach him.

    “All my other students have plans I’m required with detailed instructions on how I have to teach them. It’s been soon since I’ve e had one without a plan, I’ve forgotten how to teach, ” she said. “I don’t know what to do with a student who doesn’t need special accomodations.”

  58. Milo, those kids probably had already taken practice tests and projected their scores to be well above the cutoff, and (taking the Rhett approach) saw no ROI in taking yet another practice test. They probably spent the time bolstering their EC portfolios, which would have a higher ROI for college acceptance and financial aid.

    One tipoff that it was a satire was the non-Asian name of the parent of a student in a Cupertino HS.

  59. Hmm, on second thought, I can see Asian parents taking non-Asian names to increase their kids’ odds of acceptance to HSS.

  60. MBT, just curious, why were you calling the College Board? Was there a question you couldn’t get answered at College Confidential?

  61. Finnegan – I was going to come up with Asian names but I wouldn’t be very good at thinking up some, plus we’ve probably had enough controversy on racial sensitivity for this week.

  62. Finn, to request the form to request accommodations as a parent. They don’t put the form on their website. You have to call or email to request it, and they won’t email it to me, they will only send it snail mail.

    I did take the advice given here to set up a meeting. My email requesting a meeting was immediately replied to, which was great. The person indicated they had already set up a meeting with the more experienced person to find out what they need to do and that they would contact me right after that meeting. I still haven’t heard anything back, so I am hedging my bets by trying to get the form to apply without the help of the school.

  63. I should have worked in, “Said precocious yet none the less redshirted 6 year old kindergartener Kermit Samuelson.”

  64. “College board enthusiast” and pink kale- these are killing me.

    I’m still here and reading along- you guys keep me entertained during these crazy nights of up-every 2 hours. Not really able to type well one-handed on my phone so my commenting will probably be sparse for awhile.

  65. The good life
    Neetu and Vikram Sharma, residents of Redando Beach, CA strive to make a better life for their kids. Their 60s apartment is pure vintage California, lacking a washer/dryer, dishwasher or elevator. We don’t need air conditioning, they said, we have a Mediterrean climate. Forget, Cupertino – our schools are very competitive and our rents are reasonable. We will have enough saved for a house by the time our kids are in college. Look, they said we have a tiny home kitchen just like the ones you see in the magazines, but we don’t lack for great Ethopian or Irish food. We have a problem deciding where to eat every evening. So, what if you get a Trump palace in Cary, NC – everyone knows that place is the boonies. We are urban people.

  66. Neetu and Vikram Sharma

    The best part of this is thinking up the names. It gives me a new appreciation for Julian Fellows, Ian Fleming, etc.

  67. Urban Farmer Unable to Subsist on Rooftop Harvest

    Joshua Silber is disappointed in this year’s crops. “It’s been a tough year,” says Silber, 27. “My heirloom cherry tomatoes succumbed to white blight. My Thai mile long purple beans were eaten by moths. And the variegated carrots grown from seed stored at Versailles in 1812 – well, those just never sprouted.”

    Silber’s farm is located on the roof of a former garment factory in Red Hook, where Silber and his partner live in a penthouse loft they built themselves from upcycled materials. Inspired by the Brutalist movement and Oscar the Grouch, the two used packing crates, an old dumpster, and 156 cardboard boxes to build their two bedroom apartment.

    On the sunny terrace, the cracked asphalt is adorned with 20 large galvanized tubs that house the soil needed for planting. “We calculated the weight of the topsoil we needed, to make sure the roof trusses would support it all,” explained Silber. “Fortunately, the building below us is vacant, so although we have had some minor leaks in the irrigation system we created from a discarded fire hose and old water bottles, no one has complained.”

    In addition to vegetables and fruit trees, Silber has tried his hand at livestock: they have six rabbits, two goats, a hive of bees, and a dozen chickens housed in a coop from Williams-Sonoma – a gift from a neighboring farmer, Silber confessed sheepishly.

    Unfortunately, the livestock has not offered much of a harvest. “We are ethical vegetarians, so we comb the rabbits’ fur and spin yarn for our knitting co-op – we would never eat them. The goats were supposed to give us milk for artisanal cheese and raw milk, but there was some sort of mix up and we got billy goats,” laughed Silber. “But they are very entertaining. The bees swarmed to a new hive back in July, and the chickens just haven’t gotten around to laying. They have gotten to be very friendly with the rats, who are so happy they have gained weight.”

  68. Couple Concerned Home Renovation May Never End

    It all began fourteen years ago, when Joe and Megan Flaherty had a second child. “All we wanted was an extra bedroom and half bath, so Megan’s mother could visit the grandkids,” Joe, 47, shrugged. “Then we learned about something This Old House magazine calls ‘scope creep.'”

    “I told Joe when we bought this house that we would only be able to live here for three years, four max,” added Megan, 45. “It was a three bedroom, two bath house then, and it didn’t even have a two story foyay. Not a granite countertop in the place.”

    Gesturing at the house, which has grown from a modest 1,850 square foot ranch to a 9,350 square foot Tuscan-inspired villa with Neoclassical accents, Megan described the process. “The first architect told us we would need to enlarge the kitchen to sell the house later: no one wants a four bedroom house with a dinky kitchen. So we spent a few months – well, really a year – planning a larger kitchen. Then we added the pantry, downstairs laundry, the half bath, and the mud room, and knocked out all the interior walls for the great rooms.”

    “And when the first general contractor had poured the foundation, we looked at it and thought it was too small. Our kids are really active and we have three rescue pugs and a large gerbil collection. So we had him add the four car garage, but then we had to go back to the architect and found out we should have updated the plans first. Oops!” giggled Megan. “He said his practice was getting super-busy and we needed an architect with time to focus on our needs, since we are just so detail-oriented and aesthetically sensitive.”

    “Right after that, our GC quit too. Megan had been watching a lot of DIY TV, and she saw Holmes on Homes do a really informative segment on framing. She was just showing his guys how it should be done when somehow the miter saw broke,” Joe said. “He walked off the job and never came back.”

    “The new architect suggested we finish the basement and add a media room, exercise room, playroom, his and hers offices and a man cave, and I insisted on a yoga studio so I can meditate away from the children. It’s very important that I remain centered in the midst of all this construction chaos,” Megan explained.

    After the next two GCs, six designers, five lawsuits, nine permit delays, and a minor electrical fire, the work was done. “We think it looks great,” grinned Joe, “but we had to secure the last loan on the gold and silver fillings in my teeth. Lucky for us, I had a lot of cavities as a kid.”

  69. You guys are awesome. Your creativity should be rewarded, of course with half of a cookie, or perhaps a dessert tomato!

  70. Local Artisinal Farmer Worried About Climate Change

    Madysyn Ryte-Bensenhurst’s Artisinal farm is located in a precarious area- 5 feet above sea level. During heavy storms half her property foods. She built an elevated house for her 2 goats and 4 sheep to take shelter during the floods. However her chicken coop is still on the ground. Her 7 chickens, one more than allowed by her Artisinal status, are forced to float during the floods.

    “I’m unsure what to do. They don’t like the raised coops. They won’t climb the ramp.”

    Undeterred she figured out a solution. “I trained my dog to corral the chickens onto a kayak. The dog pulls the kayak towards dry land. When the food recedes, she returns the chickens to the coop.”

    Note- based on a true story.

  71. After reading yesterday’s comments, my mind seems to be picking out the Onionesque qualities in every news story I’m reading this morning.

    Real:  Alt-Operas Unite the ‘Beer and Champagne Crowds’

    Onion:  Hipsters are now able to attend live opera without having to jeopardize their Sunday brunch and craft beer budgets

    Real:  U.S. Says Marketing Is Reason Apple Won’t Help Unlock Phone

    Onion:  New data indicates that Apple is in business mainly to make money

    Real:  Poorest Students Feel the Bite of Rising College Costs

    Onion:  Poorest Students Feel the Bite of Rising College Costs

    (Well, it was hard to think of a more Onion-like version for the last one.)

  72. Area Mom laments the popularity of her daughter’s unusual name

    Atlanta Mom, Abigail 45, was complaining about the popularity of her daughter’s name, Hannah. We scoured, 1532 Old Names Made New and yes, even the bible. We were pleased that our daughter was the first to be called Hannah. But, then we found Hannahs everywhere. Three younger Hannahs came right away when my teenager stopped answering to her name. They even had a TV show named after her ! Then, that Scandinavian company opened a store in mall. They have the wrong spelling though. One less Hannah that has our girl’s name.

  73. This is NOT an Onion article or parody, but I thought the other California might want to know to take action if they choose

    “Parents across California have grown concerned after learning that a Sacramento-based federal judge ordered the state Department of Education to release sensitive records for more than 10 million schoolchildren to lawyers and consultants representing special education advocates.

    The records include names, some Social Security numbers, home addresses, disciplinary records, medical information and progress reports for students who have attended a California public school since Jan. 1, 2008. Under U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller’s order, access to the data would be tightly controlled by a special master with expertise in cybersecurity.”

    The article is here

    along with a link for the form necessary if you want to opt out of release of your child’s info

  74. Cordelia, that should have been done on a opt-in basis. Why on earth couldn’t they have sent the same notice out asking people to opt to have their contact information released? I don’t have time to figure out if this is ostensibly for class certification or on the merits, but either way it’s not the usual procedure.

    Sorry that case is being litigated by idiots.

  75. Sky and Ivy- the kayak is more of a joke but her chicken coop is starting to flood. She’s not sure how to deal with the flooding so I suggested she load the chickens in the kayak and have the dog tow them.

  76. Local 4th grader Paisley Smith-Johnson was distraught to find out that Girl Scout cookies “actually taste good and don’t make me sick.” After years of being told by her parents that the Girl Scouts were an evil empire created by the Right Wing to force children into Capitalism and that the cookies they sold were going to give her cancer, an overnight visit with her cousin has changed her life.
    “For years my mom has told me that Samoas were filled with red food dye #7, processed sugar, and palm oil, which you know is destroying the rain forest. She even told me the chemicals caused brainwashing. Heck I’ve even protested outside of Wellman’s grocery store when the Girl Scouts had their table. I just don’t know what is true anymore”.
    Paisley went on to describe how she was sleeping over at her cousin’s house, who is a 5th grade Girl Scout. After dinner, which consisted of restored wheat germ pizza with organic arugula, her aunt placed in front of her a tray of cookies. “I asked my aunt where the dessert tomatoes were and she gave me a confused looked and told me that the cookies were dessert. I watched them eat with what appeared to be enjoyment. I still refused to touch one, but then after an hour I noticed than none of them appeared to be sick so I gave in.” Paisley added that she quickly ate a whole box of Tag-a-longs and Samoas.
    The next day her mom overheard Paisley talking to a friend about wanting to joining the Girl Counts and eat more cookies. Upon hearing this, her mom quickly put the whole family on a cold-pressed juice cleanse.
    At the time of press there is no word on if Paisley has eaten any more cookies.

  77. This was on my FB feed. I’ll paraphrase.

    “Our wonderful, caring teen group is in [generic Caribbean island] helping build homes during their school break Such a generous group of kids.”

    That is the caption to a photo similar to this:

  78. No comment on that perfect SAT story.


    I bet it was:

    First generation working class immigrant fails to win admission to Harvard because he was too ashamed to mention his humble origins in admissions essay.

  79. What is not mentioned is that Patels are and have been small and large business owners in countries all over the world. What is surprising is that the 2400 SAT scorer is doing medicine instead of being a full time enterprener.

  80. Thanks for all of the comforting words. I definitely appreciated a post like this because so many of you are very talented and it was a fun relief.

    IRL, the Patels in my community DO own the local motel!

  81. On all counts he seems like the perfect candidate for Ivies, so I am confused why he was rejected.

  82. Humble origins are clearly apparent in the bio section of the Common App, and the teacher or counselor letters from diverse schools will often mention them. No idea why this kid was rejected by the Ivies, except that those schools are drowning in applications from outstanding, high-achieving valedictorians and sometimes the admissions decisions at the margins are just random. If he wrote poor essays, that might have doomed his file. There are several hundred perfect scores and thousands more with scores in the top percentiles. Many, if not most, of those kids are also top of their class. The Ivy League doesn’t have room for all of them.
    But one would think that geographic diversity would have worked in his favor…

  83. He was a Presidential Scholar, and that is a heavily essay-based application, so he probably didn’t write poor essays on his college apps.

  84. It is hard for a kid like this who has worked hard to get over his rejection. Rejection stings. It would be too easy to say, rejection from the Ivies was the best thing that happenned to him. But it could turn out that way.

  85. Why on earth couldn’t they have sent the same notice out asking people to opt to have their contact information released?

    Because then very few people would opt in and they would have nothing to work with.

  86. My thought on the kid from shark tank is that he really did not need the SAT success, and we really do not need him using his talent to further the SAT industry. Wouldn’t it be better if he used his talent for authentic efforts like a motel or finding gravity waves?

  87. Denver, the release of the names and addresses of potential class members is not usually an opt in for those reasons, but the level of detail demanded by the plaintiffs here is extraordinary: medical records (so it implicates not just FERPA but HIPAA), IEPs, standardized test scores and grades, mental health information, discipline records….

    Their notice doesn’t even mention HIPAA!

    I went back and read the Judge’s ruling on the motion to compel, and it sounds like she is so annoyed at the state for inadequately briefing HIPAA (or hates them so much in general) that she wants them to put the HIPAA objections in a privilege log. As a practical matter that’s impossible even if it weren’t obscenely expensive, for reasons far too boring to get into here.

    They ought to brief the whole motion to compel over with better lawyers.

    Who is admitted in California? ;)

  88. Sky, I agree it should be opt in instead of opt out, but I thought it was pretty obvious why they made it opt out.

  89. Intrigued, I read a separate article about this guy. He was rejected from “every Ivy he applied to” – which was Harvard and Princeton. I’m sure he would have had a lovely time at Cornell.

  90. Satire:

    Star Student Rejected by Entire Ivy League for Taking Family Vacation in 4th Grade

    Not satire:

    Schoolwork, advocacy place strain on student activists
    Students struggle with mental health, academic pressures as they act on social justice responsibilities

    “There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on,” said David, an undergraduate whose name has been changed to preserve anonymity. Throughout the year, he has worked to confront issues of racism and diversity on campus.

    His role as a student activist has taken a toll on his mental, physical and emotional health. “My grades dropped dramatically. My health completely changed. I lost weight. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills right now. (Counseling and Psychological Services) counselors called me. I had deans calling me to make sure I was okay,” he said.

    How would you feel if this were your kid and you were paying $66k/year to send him to an Ivy League?

  91. CoC,

    I think that post on advocacy might tie into Scarlett’s comment about poor essays. I would imagine that the essay is a key part of the sales pitch that a kid makes to get into a given school. My theory is that he went with a pitch that failed to connect with his intended audience.

    But, then I’d need Scalrlett to elaborate more or what would be considered a poor essay in this case.

  92. He was rejected from a md/ba program at Brown, not regular admission. Stanford is not an Ivy. Being valedictorian at a poor school does not necessarily indicate academic prowess.

    Maybe the kid was discriminated against because of his last name, maybe school admissions are ridiculously difficult and unfair. However, most people know that Harvard rejects lots of perfect SAT scores every year. It seems a lot of fuss is being made about a kid who initially got 1760 on his SAT. He is obviously a savvy business person – that may not have been communicated on his college applications.

    These stories about “brilliant kid rejected from Harvard” always feel like too much hand wringing to me and emphasize the (false) notion that there is a list of steps that should enable you to gain admission to whatever college you choose.

  93. It seems a lot of fuss is being made about a kid who initially got 1760 on his SAT.

    Yeah, but going from 1760 to 2400 is maybe more impressive than going from 2250 to 2400. 2250 to 2400 is a kid who’s already a test-taking natural putting in a little time to polish and perfect. As compared to him refusing to accept his apparent testing level and instead, once he knew where the goal line was, pouring in time and analysis to make sure he reached it.

  94. It probably comes down to right coaching. He mentions that he was the Indian stereotype. If he had a different school or a different set of parents they would have told him to volunteer or set up a program for the clients of his parents motel. He didn’t and his coming from a poor school district couldn’t overcome that. If the definition of success for a particular immigrant community is to be a doctor or an engineer, I will take that over having the kids dependent on their parents.

  95. When I was recruiting for Big 6, I would interview and have five kids who worked their way through full price accounting school, whose mom died when they were 14 or who cared for a disabled sibling, who had major awards or other achievement, including helping in volunteer situations, all with similar high honors GPAs. We could hire 1. If I were an admissions officer a top school, I would probably have a large number of South and East Asian motel and restaurant and other small business owners’ high achieving children to choose from, much as InMyDay® there were dozens of Ivy level candidates from my ethnic group at most large well rated urban and suburban schools, but not all ended up gaining admission to top 25 colleges. I am not speaking of quotas here, just the fact that it took extras to stand out. I didn’t get in everywhere I applied.

    It is not his perfect SATs and being valedictorian that surprised me as being insufficient. It is the fact that he was a Presidential Scholar.

  96. My understanding of the CA case is that the plaintiffs asked for anonymized records, and the DOE said they couldn’t do it. Reading between the lines, it appears the judge is ticked off that the DOE swore they couldn’t redact any information and thus ordered them to release all of it. Of course, now the DOE (and the CA PTA) is on record saying that is terrible and all the parents should opt out if they want to protect their children’s confidentiality, which is a boon to the DOE because it makes it harder for plaintiffs to make their case. For my own kids I will opt out because I don’t really want all of their info released subject to the ability of a nonprofit to keep all that data secure. Plenty of more secure places haven’t managed to keep data secure. But I’d prefer to see the plaintiffs get anonymized data so it’s possible to see if they can make their case.

  97. But perhaps being a Presidential Scholar from Nevada isn’t as impressive as being a P.S. from New York or California.

  98. More likely it’s the timing: Presidential Scholar is announced in early May, after Ivy decisions are already made. So it can only affect a decision on whether to admit someone who’s already on the wait list.

  99. “It is not his perfect SATs and being valedictorian that surprised me as being insufficient. It is the fact that he was a Presidential Scholar.”

    Well, on one hand, by the time the cutdowns are made among the applying nominees, the application deadlines have come and gone, and envelopes have been mailed out. So the fact of his being a PS wouldn’t matter in college admissions.

    OTOH, my understanding is that the PS application includes a lot of essay writing (DW recently talked to a friend whose son is a nominee this year, and found that he will probably not apply due to the amount of time it would take to complete all the application requirements). So his having been a PS (or is it like Eagle Scout, where once you attain that rank, you are one forever?) suggests that he has strong writing skills.

    “In 2003, Harvard rejected well over half of all applicants with perfect
    SAT scores, up from rejecting a quarter a few years earlier, and in 2010 Princeton acknowledged it also admitted only about half.”


    While there are various possible definitions of “perfect SAT scores,” I think most people would consider that to be 2400/2400, or 1600/1600, depending on when the test (also likely assumed to be SAT I, not SAT II aka achievement test or subject test) was taken.

    This is what I’ve told DS, and more recently have had to tell DW (and what DS’ college counselor told us). HSS are reaches for pretty much everybody, even kids with 2400 SATs.

  100. It is hard to stand out from the sea of top, well-rounded students. It certainly helps to come from a top high school, with teachers and college counselors who have cultivated relationships with admissions staff at the sought-after schools. It also helps to have overcome some adversity. But admissions staff really don’t have that much to go on, and they have only 20 minutes or so to spend reviewing a file. With interchangeable transcripts and test scores, it comes down to the list of activities, 2 letters that are also usually interchangeable, a one-page essay that may or may not be the work of the applicant, and whatever (short) supplemental essays a college may require. So it’s not surprising that so many admissions decisions seem random.

  101. Changes to the SAT in the past couple decades have truncated its range. A perfect score on the SAT is less impressive than it was 25 or 50 years ago.

  102. “Changes to the SAT in the past couple decades have truncated its range.”

    I don’t know what they looked about earlier, but I have read that a 700 back in my day is equivalent to a much higher score today.

    But WRT truncating, take a look at this:

    Note how as you look at scores going up from, say, 2100, it’s almost perfectly monotonically decreasing for each step up to a higher score, as you would expect at the higher end of a Gaussian distribution. But then going from 2390 to 2400, there’s a huge jump from 237 to 583. This suggests that if the test had granularity above 2400, there would be a continuing, decreasing, distribution, and that the 583 is the integral of all scores 2400 and above.

    So IMO, there is a potential huge difference between a 2390 and a 2400, just as there is one between a 790 and 800 on any section of the test, or on a subject test. Below 800, the test is much more likely to be measuring the student’s skill set; at 800 or above, you’re at the compliance limit of the test, and you don’t know if the testee (I do not suggest using the plural of this in polite company) has an 800 level skill set or a 1000 level skill set.

  103. So it’s not surprising that so many admissions decisions seem random.

    We’ve talked previously about the studies that show colleges would do just as well simply admitting applicants randomly from those who meet the school’s minimum requirements.

  104. Real, not parody from the weekend WSJ:

    Haute Home Schools Designed to Give Kids a Bespoke Education

    A photo

    House manager Madelynn Hughes, left, sits in the dining room with 16-year-old Katie, working at a computer. Like the other children, Katie studies both in the home and at facilities around New York City, such as the Museum of Natural History. DOROTHY HONG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Ms. Piatt and her sons are recording an album together. Though their formal schooling is done, the boys continue to create and learn in the home, Ms. Piatt said

  105. What Really Goes on in a College Admissions Office?

    Some of this is common sense, but I firmly believe this makes a difference:

    Help your student clearly represent himself or herself.

    All parts of the application should help present a consistent image of the student.  This helps him stand out, particularly if there are distinguishing elements that are presented well.  And I’ve come to conclude that recommendations can be very important, even if they include flaws, because that shows honesty.  If a teacher at a known high school writes that this student is “the most [fill in the blank with a positive characteristic] that I have ever taught”, it’s usually a good thing.  I hope Scarlett and others can chime in.

  106. Rhett — His failure to project a certain image, in various ways, could very well have been part of the problem.

    I love Shark Tank, and I’m going to go watch this kid’s clip. Somewhere else I read that he did not project himself as confidently as he could have. My observation about ST contestants is that the most successful ones can give the key facts and figures plus they project a passion that connects with the Sharks, even if they are not smooth in their presentations.

  107. I think this is a great idea. Everyone benefits from small goals and incentives:

    Volleyball metaphor: setting up Rhett for the spike here:

    Hinging dollar amounts on individual microachievements probably creates a bunch of kids running around thinking, ‘How can I get the next 250 bucks?’ instead of focusing on what’s really important — which is learning,” said Suzanne Gurland, the dean of curriculum at Middlebury College in Vermont, who has studied processes that help children thrive in school.

  108. As opposed to getting into college, staying in seems to be a challenge as well. I was talking to a neighbor whose son went out of state to a large well known southern college. The kid is back home after a semester. His father says he came home of his own accord – too much partying. He is going to take classes at the city campus of State U. This kid seemed very responsible and I would not have expected this issue.

  109. Louise, I think it’s wise to expect that. It seems that almost all totebaggers with older children have had at least one take a break of some kind from college.

  110. “staying in seems to be a challenge as well.” Don’t I know it!

    Honestly, I have continued to believe the historic numbers which say 1/3 of the population has bachelors degrees hold a lot of truth. Meaning far less than everyone is cut out for college. Even totebaggers’ kids. At least not at age 18/directly from high school. Some/many will benefit from some seasoning / life experience. Maybe it takes working a minimum wage retail job with a not-very-nice/understanding boss and some rude customers every day for a year to provide the necessary motivation.

  111. “The potential risk is that introducing monetary rewards could curb students’ intrinsic motivation to succeed in school, or their innate enjoyment of activities like reading, in favor of striving for scholarship dollars.”

    Mwah-hah-hah-hah-hah. Spoken like someone who has never had to worry about how in the world she was ever going to afford something.

  112. Milo,

    I was going to post one. It’s just like the movie The Money Pit.

    Am I reading it correctly that they had the tank-less water heater doing double duty as a furnace?

  113. Rhett – It sounded that way. It’s not normal for the heating system to be combined with drinking water, right?

  114. introducing monetary rewards could curb students’ intrinsic motivation to succeed in school

    I don’t think she quite grasps the difference between a love of learning and the love of busy work that one needs to do well is school.

  115. RMS,

    It was inspected:

    The Hickses had paid for an inspection, but many of the problems were hidden behind the redone walls. Mr. Hicks said he wished that he had picked up on subtle signals the inspector may have been sending. “He was a little bit more apologetic than he should have been,” he said. In the basement, the inspector noticed that the beams supporting the kitchen had been notched to run wiring and pipes, reducing the load-bearing capacity. “You are not supposed to do that,” he told them, “but are you going to have 40 people in the kitchen?”

  116. Maybe it takes working a minimum wage retail job with a not-very-nice/understanding boss and some rude customers every day for a year to provide the necessary motivation.

    I know that working for temp agencies in the summers during college encouraged me to STAY IN SCHOOL. The worst one was being a reproduction clerk in an engineering firm, stuck in a tiny room with an Ozalid copier belching ammonia fumes all day. That had to be an OSHA violation. Anyway, school looks pretty good from there.

  117. Milo and Rhett – sounds like they had a really poor inspector, not noticing the non-load-bearing walls???

  118. Once they moved in, problems quickly mounted. New windows had been installed in some rooms, but haphazardly, without insulation. A contractor told them that the previous owner had removed a load-bearing wall without putting a hefty beam across the ceiling to make up for the missing wall. “Nothing was shoring up the second floor,” Ms. Hicks said. An electrician told them the wiring was not grounded, and that a fire could break out at any time.

    Uh, I really think an inspector should have seen that.

  119. not noticing the non-load-bearing walls???

    I got the impression they needed an engineered beam but they used some 2x4s instead which might not have been apparent under the drywall.

  120. One thing you learn from watching endless episodes of Flip or Flop is that house flippers always use the cheapest, crappiest materials. So buying a house that was purchase within a few years and immediately fixed up for sale should be a warning sign.

  121. We have lived in two older homes. We had a few minor issues with the first pointed out to us when the house was inspected by buyers, when selling it. In our current house a few issues cropped up
    After we had been living in it two years or so. This caused the inlaws much heartburn. Their take was all these issues should have come up at your home inspection when you bought the houses. They didn’t was our point. We had independent home inspectors. Though our issues were no where near the posted article, we did spend money getting them fixed.

  122. beams and insulation are under drywall. An inspector’s not going to see either.

    Really, for as much as houses cost, it’s unnerving how little you actually know about them when you buy them.

  123. “Have your student describe not only what position he or she held, but also what he or she did in each activity and the milestones reached. Fit that description into the limited number of words/characters that the application allows.”

    That is a good suggestion and one that many applicants overlook. There can be a real difference in the prestige of generic activities/positions from one school to another, so make sure the reader knows that you beat out ten other players to become the section leader, or whatever.

    One applicant included a one-phrase summary of each activity like this:

    Baseball (oufielder, 9,10,11,12) Caught balls that happened to be hit near me

    I wanted to let him in solely for sense of humor, but the rest of the file suggested that he wasn’t actually trying to be funny.

    Activities are really important, but many applicants list them in apparently random order, instead of from most to least significant. An admissions counselor who is skimming through a list of 12 activities, the first 7 of which are 1-week volunteer gigs, might well miss the “two-sport team captain” and “Eagle Scout” entries tucked in at the end. (Eagle Scout is a big deal, and a great essay topic, so it’s a mystery why some Eagle Scouts write about something trivial.) And, yes, a teacher/counselor letter with the magic words “most ____ or best ____ student I have seen in a decade” is golden, except when the blanks are filled with “compassionate” or “kind” or “diligent.” But the reason those letters are so helpful is that they aren’t common. (Except for the one counselor who wrote a gushing, superlative-filled letter about Student A (“most consistently impressive student I have encountered in 15 years” blah blah blah), and a virtually identical letter about Student B. Unfortunately for her and the students, I read them back to back.) Students may not really know which teachers write the best letters, because no one gets to see them.

  124. RMS,

    I get the impression that inspections are of limited value in many cases. And, they are of especially limited value when the previous owner was intentionally trying to hide something.

  125. We lucked into a great inspector – referral from a real estate lawyer at my first job – and when we bought our house, the real estate agent was really p***ed off when she learned who the inspector was! (We learned later on that she had used him for her last purchase – LOL)

  126. “But the reason those letters are so helpful is that they aren’t common. (Except for the one counselor who wrote a gushing, superlative-filled letter about Student A (“most consistently impressive student I have encountered in 15 years” blah blah blah), and a virtually identical letter about Student B. Unfortunately for her and the students, I read them back to back.) ”

    Corollary: My kids’ high school is 2 miles from the local R1 university. Roughly right, 1/3 of the graduating class from the HS applies to the university each year, and I’d guess >75% of the applicants (so 40 kids) are well qualified for admission. But offers are made to about 10 every year, because the admissions office has to keep geographic diversity in mind. So, parents, remember that your kid is not just competing against the total pool of x thousand applicants, but also against kids from his/her HS graduating class. If my kid is objectively middle of the pack among those in his class who apply to any school from his HS, he’s probably not getting the admit. Sometimes picking a college to which your HS classmates are not applying will provide an advantage.

  127. When I bought my first (and only) home I walked it with an inspector who was super diligent and educated me on what was going on. He gave the house an A minus. The owner was astounded when I asked for something on the price for windowpanes that had lost the double pane seal (looks like water spots that dried on the window) and to have some rotten insulation removed from the attic. But the only reason I asked for anything was because of my own inexperience in touring the house initially – the bathroom floor was damaged near the tub and it was hidden under a rug – I had not picked up the rug. I was planning to redo the bathroom anyway, but I was annoyed about the floor, so I asked for something else. Almost every existing house is sold as is – in our hot market, that is not a red flag. Waiving the inspection condition is not all that common in a really old house in trying to gain an advantage in a bidding war. All cash is the big differentiator.

  128. All cash is the big differentiator.

    Is it because with cash you can close in a day? If someone has $800k in cash and someone else is willing to put $425k down and get a mortgage for $425k wouldn’t I, as the seller, take the $850k? Or, is “all cash” a euphemism for someone who can pay more?

  129. Re: old houses and inspectors: IME, the really bad stuff is impossible for an inspector to see. Something obvious, like a foundation crack, sure, but structural, wiring, plumbing stuff is largely hidden in the walls. So a good inspector will note what he could *not* look at and recommend more detailed inspections from other experts where appropriate, but you have to really look closely to realize that — something I think most first-timers don’t really have a clue about.

    We were both smart and lucky with this house. It was a raging market, and so we had a lot of pressure to move things quickly and not make waves (they had a higher backup offer sitting in the wings). So we told our real estate agent to get us the best, most thorough, most experienced-in-old-houses inspector she knew. And then we specifically told him that we wanted a full detailing of issues — NOT because we were going to be going back and negotiating, but because we knew we could not. All we wanted to know for the deal was were there any deal-killers, like a $50K foundation repair. The rest of it was just for us to know what we were getting into, so we could plan out the things we would need to fix/address. I think that took off a lot of the pressure, because the inspector could be very thorough without worrying about killing the deal (and losing his referrals from the agent, etc.).

  130. “If someone has $800k in cash and someone else is willing to put $425k down and get a mortgage for $425k wouldn’t I, as the seller, take the $850k?”

    Not if you want a guaranteed close. Mortgage lenders have their own requirements. Even “pre-approved” mortgages fall through. Lenders require termite inspections. FHA (I think) requires its own inspections, including seller-made repairs before the loan goes through (so you can’t even negotiate for the “put cash in escrow and let the buyer deal with it” route). And even when you do close, sometimes it’s 60 or 90 days instead of 30, which means more mortgage payments. Or maybe the paperwork doesn’t get done in 30 days, the lock expires, the rates rise, and the buyer can’t afford it now. Stuff happens and deals fall through. A lot of people learned this the hard way after the crash. Things may be easier now, but it’s still fresh enough that sellers are more likely to take the sure thing.

    If I needed to be out, I’d take the $800K in cash.

  131. Re: the Nyt money pit article – the couple said something about how you “really have to have a great relationship with your inspector” and they should have “read beteen the lines and understood the looks he was giving them”. Um, No. The inspector is working for you, you are laying them, and a professional will give you a full and honest assessment. Some things can’t be seen, but a qualified inspector should be able to thoroughly evaluate the plumbing, electrical and furnace systems.

    Related, our 1920 remodel is coming to an (mostly on time) end. There were certainly some surprises when we opened the walls up (1930s newspapers for insulation, 1970s Hustlers for other kinds of warmth). Also, the 40 year old addition and attic remodel was not correctly supported (much like the nyt piece). There are never good surprises behind old house walls. However, nothing was truly surprising – it is a 90 year old house that had obviously not been well kept. It now has new siding and really bright purple paint on the outside (not so atypical for the neighborhood). Can’t wait to be finished and move.

  132. If someone has $800k in cash and someone else is willing to put $425k down and get a mortgage for $425k wouldn’t I, as the seller, take the $850k?”

    Although dealing with someone else getting financing is a hassle, wouldn’t you just require earnest money up front, subject to forfeit if the deal falls through?

  133. The inspector is working for you, you are laying them, and a professional will give you a full and honest assessment.

    Don’t most people take their realtor’s recommendation when looking for an inspector? If that’s the case he has a huge conflict of interest.

  134. “subject to forfeit if the deal falls through?”

    If something had fallen through, we would have gotten our money back.

  135. All cash is the big differentiator.

    See, we’re still shopping in Santa Cruz and our buyer’s agent (who has been great, unlike every other real estate agent I’ve ever used) has said that that doesn’t really matter. We could pay cash, but are getting a mortgage for our own boring reasons. We did get the lender to agree to say that there are no financial contingencies, and apparently that’s as good as cash. The seller knows the financing isn’t going to fall through.

  136. Milo,

    I think she means you’d offer them $825k with a $25k non refundable deposit. If you can’t close for any reason they keep the $25k.

  137. Also, in hot markets, appraisals become an issue for people borrowing to buy. So do e. Ah be willing to put 425 down and qualified to borrow 425, but if the appraiser sys the house is work 775, the borrower may need to come up with an extra 75k. When the market gains 10% per year, appraisals may lag. This happened to us when we bought our first (in Fred’s neck of the woods). However the purchase price was under 100k, and the appraisal was off by a few thousand. We had to scramble to come up with the money (graduating from school, dh unemployed because we were moving cross country). Cash offers take a lot of risk out of the equation and a lot of time. We could have canceled the transaction (75 days in), and the seller would have had to start over.

  138. I would rather have more $$ and financing than a lower all-cash offer, but if we REALLY needed to sell then cash is better.

  139. “If you can’t close for any reason they keep the $25k.”

    I know what she means, but mortgage contingency and inspection contingency meant that we would get our earnest cash back. It’s really just protection against changing your mind.

  140. “for our own boring reasons”

    You mean like
    – not tying up your cash in an illiquid asset?
    – like being able to borrow at a low enough rate that you can expect to earn more over the long haul by keeping your own money invested in a mix of stocks and bonds?

  141. Here’s something I don’t understand. We have a buyer’s agent. Why wouldn’t the seller’s agent be more inclined to sell to someone who doesn’t have a buyer’s agent so she (the seller’s agent) can just keep the entire commission? I’m actually a tad worried about this. We’re bidding on a house with multiple offers right now and if I were the seller’s agent, I’d just take a lower offer from someone without a buyer’s agent.

  142. be willing to put 425 down and qualified to borrow 425, but if the appraiser sys the house is work 775, the borrower may need to come up with an extra 75k

    Why would the bank back out if you were still putting down 40%? I could see if you were putting down 20% and the appraisal would put you below 20%.

  143. You mean like
    – not tying up your cash in an illiquid asset?
    – like being able to borrow at a low enough rate that you can expect to earn more over the long haul by keeping your own money invested in a mix of stocks and bonds?


  144. I were the seller’s agent, I’d just take a lower offer from someone without a buyer’s agent.

    I assume that’s grounds for losing your real estate license? You’re obligated to bring the highest and best offer to the seller not keep it under your hat and bring them the one that gets your the biggest commission.

  145. RMS – I also wonder about that. We always try to go directly to the listing agent for the properties we are interested in for that reason.

  146. The 1920s house had a bit of a bidding war, and we obviously won. We had removed the inspection clause and “pre inspected”. It’s common here – a more casual inspection, without documentation, before the offer is made. We weren’t to worried about it, as we were expecting to tear down it studs and replace all major systems. The competing offer would have nettd the sellers more more money, but likely would have fallen apart post inspection. (Cash would have been a big differentiator here).

    @RMS – I think it is exceedingly uncommon to purchase without an agent. Who writes the offer?

  147. I’m with Rhett and L here. I think if people are really in a hurry to sell, then they probably need to get every dollar they can out of the sale, and they won’t be accepting the offer that’s $50k short, anyway.

  148. ” I think it is exceedingly uncommon to purchase without an agent. Who writes the offer?”

    My brother sold his house not too long ago with no agents. He watched neighborhood sales for a while, put an ad online for about 5% less than what an agent would likely want to list for, and got a full price offer the next day from someone who did not have a buyer’s agent. I think they got a lawyer to draw up the paperwork.

    Selling my grandparents’ house, my Mom had a real estate agent suggest a list price, but ended up selling without an agent to the adult daughter of a neighbor for about 6% less than that, and she did not have a buyer’s agent.

  149. @Rhett – perhaps. For us, we had to put 10% down and the bank agreed to finance 90%. We agreed on a price of 90k, and had 9k + closing in our checking account. The house appraised at 85k. Now we needed to put 10% down, 8.5k and the bank would loan us 76.5k (90% of appraisal) and we needed to come up with 5k more (4.5 more than planned).

  150. Re all cash. Let’s think about what is going on when a house is sold. If it is a flip property, the flipper usually has paid cash, often financed with interest costs, owes his contractors on 30 or 60 day terms, and makes his money by getting in and out quickly. Or you have a p&s in on the house you want to move to, and you need to close on time on your house or lose the house you are buying. Or it is an estate sale and it has dragged on (often previous sales have fallen through because the old house is a dump) and there is huge pressure from one or more principal heirs. The seller in all of these cases doesn’t want to wait 30 days to find out that the sale doesn’t go through because interest rates reset, the buyer’s mortgage company doesn’t appraise the house for the full purchase price, or there is a contingency that voids the sale if the buyer can’t sell his existing house. RMS prosperous second home buyers who want to finance are usually fine, especially if they are buying in a vacation area where the sellers are not individuals moving to a new home. In a market like ours with a lot of Asian buyers who want to pay cash, the person with the mortgage is playing catchup.

    From watching House Hunters, I often see a fairly large forfeitable earnest money payment on large properties in the West and Southwest. In MA it is very hard to keep the deposit on a normal house contract that the buyer backs out of, even if it is not an expressly detailed contingency.

  151. I would like to put in a plug for Redfin, for those of you in areas serviced by them. They are not commission based, and refund 1% of the commission when you are buying or selling. We have been super happy with our experiences with them (we will see how the sale of current residence goes – listing in a few weeks).

  152. Rocky “well…yeah”

    That’s why when we retire and move away, if we buy a place I’m probably just going to put 20% down and separately fund an account with the cash we get from selling our current place from which the monthly payments are drawn. I know all the advice is to be mortgage-free in retirement but if I have an account that can cover 360 payments (and I would finance it for as long as I can)without impacting the rest of my cash flow, why wouldn’t I? Why tie all that cash up in something that can prove hard to turn (back into) cash?(Assumes a low-enough borrowing cost).

  153. a lot of regional variations

    Has anyone seen any of the house hunters international in Australia? Apparently, depending on the state, the majority of homes there are sold via auction.

  154. RMS, here the agent has a legal duty to make the best deal for the client rather than maximizing his own fee. IRL some of them ignore it, but if the seller finds out….

  155. “wouldn’t you just require earnest money up front, subject to forfeit if the deal falls through?”

    When we were selling, we did take a very small earnest money as a signal that someone wasn’t serious, and I have used a large earnest money to signal that we are serious and have plenty of liquid cash. But in reality, the deals always have contingencies that allow the buyer to get the cash back — that’s why things like inspection contingencies and appraisal contingencies and mortgage contingencies and sell-the-old-house-for-a-sufficient-sum contingencies are so unappealing to sellers. And if you are in an area that is hot enough that you have many people willing to waive those contingencies, you also probably have people making all-cash offers to try to beat out the competition. So I’m not sure it’s usually $800K cash vs. $850K with mortgage — it’s usually more like 3 or 4 offers within a few thousand bucks of each other, and one guys offers all cash to beat the pack.

    On remodels, I am always amazed that people don’t keep a big contingency fund in the bank. I was watching HH Renovation this weekend, and you just see it coming: they’ve already planned the reno at their max budget before opening a single wall (which you can tell because she wants a built-in bench in the nook, and the designer says she can’t afford the extra $600), and then — dum-dum-dummmmm — the designer says “let’s get rid of those soffits and take the kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling! At which point I am yelling “noooooo! don’t go into the soffit!” Because anyone who has ever renovated an old house knows that soffits exist solely to HIDE something — even if it was put in for aestethic reasons, some enterprising plumber or HVAC guy saw it as an opportunity to run some pipe. Sure enough, they get out the sledgehammer, and oh no! there’s a pipe in the soffit! We didn’t budget for that! Now what do we do?? Because we didn’t even know what a soffit was until 5 minutes ago, but now we *must* have them gone! And we’re already at our max budget! Followed, of course, by similar discoveries in every other wall. I just don’t get how you buy a 75-100-year-old house, with the intent to remodel it, and don’t put aside at least 20% for Things That Aren’t Up To Code Or Will Otherwise Go Wrong. But it’s the same thing, every week.

    Of course, maybe people aren’t that clueless and it’s all for drama. It is “reality” TV, after all.

  156. And until I sold my mom’s property in Maryland, or watched house hunters, I had never heard of the seller paying closing costs. I took a slightly lower offer from a person who was putting 50% down and did not ask for closing costs. Time and hassle matters, and regional real estate markets do differ. I did not have a buyer’s agent. The seller’s agent took less in commission as a result and that helped with the price.

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