Monday open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread for anything you’d like to discuss.  Maybe politics?  Here’s a question to ponder:

What event divided your life into “before” and “after”?

The survey so far shows that many of us are interested in doing a Totebag 30-day Challenge. — 19 yes, 10 maybe, 6 no.  I’ll get it organized.  Should we start right away on April 1 or wait until May 1?  You can express your preference in the comments.

P.S. — send posts.

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233 thoughts on “Monday open thread

  1. “What event divided your life into before and after?”

    I can think of quite a few.

    My sister’s death when I was 7 followed by the birth of my brothers a couple years later.

    Moving to Vermont.

    My parents’ divorce.

    Moving to Seattle.

  2. “What event divided your life into before and after?”

    Getting married and having kids. Our family really anchored my life, which seemed kind of shallow and pointless before.

  3. Probably getting married and moving to Atlanta. It’s hard to believe we’ve been down here for over 12 years – most of my adult life. I still consider myself to be a New Englander but I’m really not anymore.

  4. SSM – forgive me if you mentioned it before and I wasn’t on that day, but I didn’t know your sister died, or that it happened when you were so young, and I was really struck by that. What a thing for you (and your family) to go through.

  5. Before/after list: Graduating college – being really on my own. Death of my aunt – she provided unconditional love more so than my parents, her loss felt like that was gone forever. Kids – life changes alot. Aging parents – that point that is hard to pinpoint exactly it shifts from you relying on them to them relying on you.

    Challenge – either…of course participation will depend on the challenge.

    I have a topic to send…just need to get it together…

  6. I’d say freshman orientation, my life before that day was totally different from my life after.

  7. Life before and after:
    1) driver’s license
    2) high school/college
    3) college/post-college
    4) marriage
    5) kids
    6) navy

    With the possible exception of #1, they were all monumental shifts.

  8. DW amd I started couch shopping this weekend. If someone would have filmed us it would be the next internet meme. Anyway, we’re split because I really want one that reclines, and she really wants one with the longer end piece, like this:

  9. Denver – we have the longer end piece – it is the BOMB but I wish we had enough room for long end pieces on both sides!

    Before and after points for me:

    – Going to college
    – Starting work
    – Buying a house with DH
    – KIDS

  10. Denver – We have a reclining one. I think for our next one, I agree with your wife. Recliners don’t allow a coffee table to be right where you want it. Also, since ours has the recliners only on the two outboard seating positions, but not in the middle, it means that one person has to sacrifice the recliner in order to initiate physical contact.

    If you want to compromise, get the couch she wants in the picture and also get one of those coffee table/ottoman hybrids (it will give you bonus points on your Murray Anti-Bubble Score).

  11. DD, I am sitting on a sectional with a chaise end – get the chaise end. Two if you can fit them :)

    But I’ve never had one with the built in recliner….

  12. Denver: I agree with your wife. That’s a really nice sofa! I will buy something similar the next time we need one.

  13. Milo, the coffee table is a big issue with DW not wanting the recliner. The issue I had with the one she really liked was that it is too deep, so I felt like I was slouched over even on the non-chaise part. The hybrid coffee table makes a lot of sense because our coffee table it wood, and your legs go to sleep when you put them up.

  14. My before/after point is moving to Denver. I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and I met DW not too long after I moved here.

  15. Denver – is that your home or a store? Looks lovely! (And clutter/kid free.) I like the stools against the wall in the background. I also like the hanging lamp overhead, but it looks low. Does anyone wack their head on that?

    I also agree with your wife. We love having a longer end piece on our sofa.

  16. We may be couch shopping soon too. Denver I love the look of that sofa with the chaise.

    DH has decided he wants a sectional (after telling me for years it won’t work in the room) but we need it to be low profile because we have a narrow family room. I want something like this but from somewhere else because I’ve heard West Elm furniture is not great quality wise.

    http://www.westelm.com/products/henry-3-piece-sectional-h063/?pkey=chenry-living-room-furniture&&chenry-living-room-furniture

  17. I have several before and afters, but a major one is a conference I attended at the Arizona Biltmore. I stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix because the Biltmore was sold out. I was exposed to a life style and a level of wealth that I had never experienced before in NY. I could see it in NY, and I had 1% friends, but this was my first time really experiencing what it would be like to be like to live that way.

    I came back to NY, and found a real apartment within a week. I ended my dead end relationship too. Our engagement actually ended in a rental office.

    I took risks with my career, and lived overseas. I was living in this phase of career, money and fun until we had a baby. My priorities changed again after that moment. I cared less about career success and money. I became more aware of happiness, health and life is short.

  18. I’m up for 30 day challenge. But if it’s a “do it now” one, shouldn’t it start April 1? :-)

  19. Before/afters

    moving to Germany when I was a kid
    going to grad school
    having kids

  20. The befores and afters for me are independent events, but all very much related:

    1) birth of my son
    2) death of my wife
    3) transition from biglaw to small law to virtual retirement and becoming an almost SAHF.
    4) vastly reduced income.

  21. Life changing events:

    1. Leaving home/going to College
    2. job in Biglaw
    3. Move to London
    4. Return to NY
    5. Leaving Biglaw to go inhouse/ Marriage (happened at roughly the same time)
    6. Kids

    Of all the changes, leaving Biglaw, marrying DH and having kids have been by far the most life changing, and mostly in good ways.

  22. Denver – is that your home or a store?

    That’s just a random photo I found for illustrative purposes. Our house is not that neat or put-together.

  23. DD got in a fenderbender a few weeks ago. No one was hurt, she wasn’t drinking or texting. It was her fault, and the car she drives is in the shop. The insurance coverage provides for a rental car. I am driving the rental car, she is driving my commute car until hers is fixed. I am getting some feedback from few other parents and teenagers that DH and I are incredibly indulgent and that they or their kids would NOT have something to drive if their kid got in an accident.

    My reasoning is somewhat along the lines of:
    1) Everyone makes mistakes, particularly when learning something new. This was a mistake.
    2) It is spring, which is our busy time and taking away her car would be more of a punishment to DH and I than her.
    3) She is mortified and remorseful.
    4) She has to deal with aunts and uncles and pseudo aunts and uncles knowing what happened.

    Are we overly indulgent?

  24. Cordelia – that is a tough call. For DH and I “taking away her car would be more of a punishment to DH and I than her”, is often a key consideration, when perhaps it shouldn’t. For a fender bender, I don’t think you’re being overly indulgent, especially if she is truly remorseful and trying to make amends.

  25. She had to call the police after the accident, although they didn’t come out and I did make her call the insurance company, talk to the claims agent and explain what happened. I was standing by while she talked to the insurance company.

  26. No, I don’t think you’re indulgent. I agree that everyone makes mistakes, and if a lesson is learned, no additional punishment is necessary. Adults get into fender benders and get speeding tickets, too, and they have a lot more experience behind the wheel.

  27. I don’t think that sounds indulgent on the face. What’s the alternative? That you drive her everywhere? That sounds more like a punishment for the parents. Is the rental car even costing you anything out of pocket?

  28. DH and I are incredibly indulgent and that they or their kids would NOT have something to drive if their kid got in an accident.

    I could see if it was something that indicated gross negligence or irresponsibility. Getting a ticket for going 90 in a school zone or some such. Then I would say they were obviously not responsible enough to operate a motor vehicle. But, if they rear ended someone because they didn’t realize the road was slick and they didn’t leave enough space between them and the car in front? That’s just something you have to learn.

  29. 1. Summer associate position 2L summer. It was the first time I had been around large group of UMC-rich people for a long period of time. The summer was mostly parties and social events and they took us to their summer homes and on their fancy boats. And I realized there wasn’t anything particularly special about the people.

    2. Meeting my now husband

    3. First baby

  30. OK, here is my parenting question. DS1 is a junior in high school. He is responsible, gets good grades, and makes good decisions. DH and I are thinking about taking a 3-4 day anniversary trip in June. We are thinking about letting the kids stay home by themselves. Grandparents will be near by (but not in the house) in case of emergency.

    Similarly: We are thinking about taking a week long family vacation to Colorado. DS1 might have an internship that necessitates him missing the trip. Is it ok to leave him home for a week (no little brother). We will not alter our vacation plans and the internship is a fairly prestigious one where he does STEM research in a university lab.

    I feel that these two decisions are ok, given that he’s going to college in a year and will be living on his own anyways. I stayed alone when I was in high school, and it was a non-event. However, I did not stay alone for this long of a time period.

    What would you do?

  31. Ditto to Rhett and Houston, I don’t think that’s indulgent at all, especially since the rental car is covered. It was an accident that wasn’t because of gross negligence, these things happen. That’s what insurance is for. And as you said, her not having a car would be more of a punishment to you and DH than her.

  32. Houston, if you are comfortable with it and he’s comfortable with it, I think it’s fine.

  33. @DD — Well, I guess I’m in the minority and agree with you — and FWIW the Stressless couch we bought has all three seats recline. :-) A hybrid coffee table/ottoman would be perfect, so you can put your feet up on it when you recline (conveniently, Stressless makes one of those, too, but we already had one).

    My before/after is the @5-yr period when we moved to CO and had the M/Cs. The “before” me was very much of the “work hard and make good choices and everything turns out right” variety — I had finally found a job where I clicked, and despite all odds I found the right guy, and then despite even longer odds, he found a job near the job that I loved. And then 2 years later everything reversed and started going wrong, and I played freaking Pollyanna the whole way downhill. His job went away and we transferred to CO one year shy of partnership. Crap. But it’s CO, which is awesome, and we’ll play outside and look I got a job in my actual field and we’ll have adventures and build our dream house and have more time to start a family. And then we had the first M/C, and, ok, it happens to a lot of people, at least we have resources and good doctors and all. And then we had the second M/C, and everything went pretty black for a while, because I couldn’t get over 14-year-olds throwing babies in trash cans while I did everything “right” my whole life and couldn’t keep a baby. And the job I was so lucky to get was soul-destroyingly evil. And then I finally, finally got a pregnancy that took, and I took a leap of faith and quit to telecommute, and see, things worked out after all, because telecommuting part-time will be great with a new baby, and I can sit in my home office and watch deer walk across my yard. And then his job went away when I was 8 mos pregnant and we wound up in ABQ with two mortgages and a newborn and no connection to anyone or anything, and I just couldn’t muster the energy to bring Pollyanna back out and believe that everything happens for a reason and that whole load of hooey. Even once we finally escaped and moved back here, the first few years I was almost scared to relax for fear that the other shoe would drop again.

    It was a major life lesson, that doing everything “right” doesn’t provide any protection from a shitstorm, and that there’s always another shitstorm coming; that sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down, and that you have zero control about which side of the curve you’re on at any given point in time. So all you can do is enjoy the good times without getting too high and expecting it to go on forever — and not get too low about the bad times, because they don’t go on forever, either.

  34. Cordelia – I agree with others, but I can understand their initial reaction, too. Likely they’re viewing it as much through a financial hardship lens than from a responsibility/punishment perspective.

    Houston – Yes to both. And I stayed home alone for a week at a time on a regular basis during high school.

  35. Cordelia, I had a classmate who “accidentally” drove her new car through the wall in her boyfriend’s house, into the living room. (She blamed the driveway.)

    Her parents bought her another brand new, fully loaded car.

    And a few months later she drove the new car through the same wall.

    Guess who got car #3?

    *That’s* overly indulgent.

    The parents giving you a hard time either haven’t had a lot of time with a new driver or have been very lucky, because a lot of new drivers make mistakes.

    If I were you I would just say you were glad no one was hurt and ignore their commentary.

  36. As the oldest, my parents would not allow me to stay home alone overnight until I was 18. But by the time my youngest brother was in HS, he was staying home alone for a week when he was a junior.

    I don’t know what we will do, as my 8yo is still scared to stay home alone while we go to the corner store, but I hope that by the time he is a senior, he will be responsible and confident enough to spend a few nights at home alone.

  37. @Houston — as long as he feels comfortable, go with it. Your reasoning is solid. Consider it training wheels for college.

    @Cordelia — No, you’re not being overindulgent. There are a gazillion things to pay attention to and remember when you’re driving a car — I think every one of us has occasionally changed lanes without checking the blind spot and gone “oops,” or discovered that the brakes take about 10′ more than we thought and said “whew” that we made it in time. A brain fart on something like that is to be expected, especially when you’re learning — it’s *why* insurance is so high. Now, obviously, if the kid was doing stuff they know they shouldn’t do, then, yeah, the car is a privilege and can go away. But kids are human and make mistakes, and if that’s all it was, and no one was hurt, etc, there’s no reason to pile on and be punitive.

  38. My initial idea for a Totebag 30-day challenge was that we could each pick a particular activity, not that we would all do the same thing. However, it appears some folks are thinking of one activity that we would all do.

    Maybe a good compromise would be to select one activity for the group, but leave open the option for individuals to select their own alternate personalized challenge activity if they wish. I understand having one activity for everyone could make it more of a bonding experience, but I didn’t think that was realistic for this group. Any thoughts?

    Cordelia — not indulgent at all IMO
    Houston — I may be the exception, but I would probably not allow my high schoolers home alone for a week. Even if the kids are responsible, their friends or acquaintances may pressure (or force) them to act irresponsibly. I’m just more cautious about these situations because I’ve seen things, but obviously you know best in how to treat your kids.

  39. Cordelia- unless she was driving recklessly, I don’t think you’re being indulgent. No reason to punish someone unnecessarily for a true accident. If she’s a responsible kid generally speaking the embarrassment of wrecking the car was consequence enough I think. Glad she’s ok!

  40. A hybrid coffee table/ottoman would be perfect, so you can put your feet up on it when you recline (conveniently, Stressless makes one of those, too, but we already had one).

    How do you put your feet on the coffee table when you are reclining? The footrest comes up and you feet are on that and won’t reach the coffee table.

  41. Cordelia – I agree w/ the others. We all make mistakes, and when we do, it’s nice to know our parents are behind us. Knowing our parents behind us also makes us more likely to TELL our parents about our mistakes. This wasn’t one she could hide, but there’ll be other mistakes she can conceal from you, and keeping open communication, without judgment, etc, makes you more likely to hear about all of them. I would definitely tell her how much the repairs cost, how much your premiums will go up (if they will), and I would have her go with you to pick the car up, etc — just so she can see ALL of the consequences in terms of cost, time suck in dealing with the auto body shop, etc. I would also expect her to admit it was her fault, refrain from making excuses for it, and apologize for the cost + inconvenience — the way any responsible person would do. But all of that can be done w/o blame or judgment.

    Houston – I’m about to leave DD for a week while DH and I go to NYC. I stayed alone frequently, for a 1-2 weeks at a time, when I was that age. When she was younger and DS was her age, I left them both alone for a week or so. I’m giving DD the option of having 1 friend stay with her for some of the nights if she’d like the company. Double standard alert: I wouldn’t have given DS that option, I don’t think.

  42. Houston- would totally depend on the kid to me, as well as social scene in your area. Are teen house parties a “thing?” Or do even the popular high schoolers just get together to shoot hoops and play X Box? If classmates are starting to get into partying and you have a good kid, but super popular and center of the social scene? Would probably not, because your house could get trashed, or there could be drinking and driving situations if word gets out that the parents are gone. If your kid and his friends are on the nerdier side and you know they couldn’t organize a crazy party even if they tried, I would do it with no worries.

  43. I wouldn’t leave a minor overnight because I remember the stunts I pulled in similar circumstances. Once at college, different ballgame and much less likely that a parent or the police try to come after me if something happens.

  44. COC and Rio: DS has a very nerdy group of friends. They don’t even physically hang out. They text and do Google hangouts. I’m not too worried about out of control parties, but I still might have a friend drop by randomly a few times to make sure that nothing crazy is happening (she lives 2 blocks away) and we will definitely remove the liquor from the house before we leave.

  45. “How do you put your feet on the coffee table when you are reclining? The footrest comes up and you feet are on that and won’t reach the coffee table.”

    The version we bought just reclines but the footrest doesn’t come out, so you need an ottoman or coffee table or something. I agree, the coffee table was a problem with our earlier version, which did have the footrest.

    “I wouldn’t leave a minor overnight because I remember the stunts I pulled in similar circumstances.”

    See, and I would, because I remember the stunts I *didn’t* pull. :-)

  46. “See, and I would, because I remember the stunts I *didn’t* pull. :-)”

    This, exactly. Youth is wasted on the young.

  47. The version we bought just reclines but the footrest doesn’t come out, so you need an ottoman or coffee table or something.

    Ah. IMO, the whole point of getting a recliner is the footrest.

  48. I never had occasion to stay home alone, more’s the pity. 2 younger siblings and parents that NEVER LEFT = never ever ever. I think I still have never been in my parents’ house by myself!!!

    Now I leave the 8yo home ‘alone’ while I take the other 2 to dance class – DH is sleeping upstairs, of course – training them early not to get in trouble. :)

  49. @ Cordelia, what Rhett said.

    Houston: my only concern would be other kids. We had a situation in our neighborhood where a high schooler was home alone for a weekend, word got out, a party showed up at her house, and it spiraled out of control. Her parents thought she was responsible enough to be home alone, but she didn’t shut the part down due to peer pressure issues. Could you do something like leave him alone, but have grandparents there every evening (but not spend the night, just eat dinner with him, help him putter around/get some house chores done, etc) – then leave?

  50. I know some of you have IEPs and 504s on your kids or have considered them – what pros and cons should I think about?

    We are talking to the school next week about enrolling DS in kindergarten.

  51. Risley – thanks. I also had a close friend die in a car crash a couple years later when I was 10. I feel like I learned early on that horrible things can happen for absolutely no reason.

    However, if my sister hadn’t died, my brothers would not have been born (and I love them dearly), my parents would probably have divorced earlier, and we might not have moved to Vermont (which was difficult at the time but ultimately a good thing). I do wonder what it would have been like to have grown up with a sister relatively close in age rather than brothers who are so much younger. On the other hand, I’m pretty close to both my brothers – and having a sibling close in age is no guarantee that you’ll be close to each other. My brothers are closer to me than to each other but don’t get along that well (they are only 2 years apart).

    I realize that I didn’t put down college, marriage or kids. All obviously are significant changes – but maybe because those changes to me were more natural evolutions. Whereas my other “before/afters” were more cataclysmic.

  52. We really really, really need a new loveseat. But we never have time to go shopping. And I can’t really bring myself to order it online. I want to sit in it first. Has anyone had success ordering furniture online?

  53. @DD — well, yeah, you need something to put your feet on. We just find that a suitable coffee table works fine for that purpose (and avoids the problem of “where do you put the coffee table where you can reach it but the footrest won’t bang into it”).

    So you get a couch like this (not ours, but looks fairly normal): http://www.ekornes.com/us/stressless-sofas/stressless-arion-lowback/3-seater, and then you get one of their combo footrest/coffee tables, like this: http://www.ekornes.com/us/accessories/ottomans/oval-pall (this one has a tabletop with a removable cushion; they also have versions that are more like ottomans that you can slip a wooden top onto).

  54. “Has anyone had success ordering furniture online?”

    We have a fainting couch in our bedroom now that DW ordered online.

  55. Seattle: I order a ton of stuff online, but for a loveseat, I, too, would want to sit on it first.

  56. Rhett – not that I remember! If I had a PT job during summers, she would only run errands when no one was home/during the day (my siblings were at camp and I was at my job).

  57. LfB, I don’t like to recline that much. My natural comfort zone is more upright. So a couch that reclines without footrests is totally pointless to me.

  58. @DD, ok, not following. The sitting position in the new sofa recliner with the feet on the coffee table is the same as the old sofa recliner with the footrest out (basically, our footrest would pop up and the recliner would go back a little, and then if you wanted to really recline, you’d sort of slide it out more). But it sounds like the ones that you are looking at are more upright even with the footrest out?

    I will say that the one thing I miss from the old couch is the ability to nap horizontally — when I’d get insomnia, I’d end up sleeping there, and it was really comfy. Our new couch works kind of like three recliners all attached together, so you have the sort-of bucket-type seats, with little ridges in-between. Most comfortable recliner ever, but if you want to stretch out lengthwise to nap, not so much.

  59. LfB, what I mean is I like to sit upright with my feet up. Most reciners have the footrest come up and then you can adjust the recline position. The footrest is the important part to me. Putting your feet on a coffee table or ottoman isn’t quite the same, but if we’re going to go that route, there’s no point in having the couch recline.

    Unless it’s a full recline, I find reclining to be very uncomfortable. Like on a plane, I don’t understand how anyone finds reclining the seat to be comfortable.

  60. Houston,
    My somewhat nerdy, brilliant, and extremely risk-averse nondrinking DS ended upon in the ER with alcohol poisoning after making an uncharacteristically stupid decision, so I now try to think outside the box on these matters. And when we left college-age DS alone for a couple of days, a storm knocked down three trees in the side yard that almost hit the house, so I also think about worst-case scenarios of the purely mechanical kind. If she’s willing, having your neighbor check in every day is a great idea and would go a long way toward managing either kind of issue. Removing the alcohol is also a good idea. You can treat the June trip as a trial run for a longer absence. Most likely, everything will be fine.
    Is your DS ok with being left to hold down the fort?

  61. “And when we left college-age DS alone for a couple of days, a storm knocked down three trees in the side yard that almost hit the house, so I also think about worst-case scenarios of the purely mechanical kind.”

    One of the first times my mom and stepdad left me by myself while they went out for dinner, our chimney decided to partially fall in on itself. I, of course, was convinced that someone was trying to break in using the Santa method. They came home hours later to find me sitting on the couch, staring at the chimney, with my baseball bat armed and ready to go.

  62. SSM, we bought our couch from Costco online based on reviews only (it was not available in store) and we are very happy with it. It was one of the cheaper models, though, so our expectations were moderate.

  63. Houston, I do think it’s worth considering whether your son might appreciate some company for some of the days. I’m remembering one time that I was babysitting my siblings and we thought we heard a noise downstairs. It was nothing, but it freaked me out and if it had been the first day of a week alone would have been really unsettling. Even now, when my husband is traveling I tend to sleep really poorly. I doubt any teenager would admit to that kind of concern, and it probably depends on the kid.

  64. LfB, you didn’t call the police?

    DD is still much too young to be left alone, but one of the things that gives me pause is the risk of a break in or fire while we are out.

  65. I’m like L — my parents never left the damn house. Okay, they went to the grocery store, but thinking back, I don’t believe Mom ever spent a single night away from the house after the 1960s. Damn. And in the 60s it was just family vacations, so we were all together.

  66. When I was a junior in HS my parents left me home alone for a week. An ice storm came through, knocked out power, cancelled school for a few days. I was able to find the walkman, listen to the radio to find out school was cancelled, and go back to sleep. I woke up later, figured if the power was out for longer than a day I’d go to my friends house. The next morning power was back on and school was open and life continued.

  67. “I know some of you have IEPs and 504s on your kids or have considered them – what pros and cons should I think about?”

    Sky – If you are enrolling in a private school, I would not mention the need for an IEP/ 504 until after you’ve been accepted unless there is a really obvious need for an accommodation (e.g. wheelchair, deafness).

    (Have to run, weird afterschool daycare mix-up. More later.)

  68. Houston, I hope to be able to leave my kids at home during a similar situation. If we still live next door to the extremely-attentive Austrian lady, I’d just tell her and she would doubtless provide me with multiple daily updates. My grandparents went to visit the missionaries in Africa for 6 weeks when my Dad was a teenager and left him home on the farm to do chores. He went to Grandma’s house for suppers.

    Milestones:
    math camp (there are other people like me in the world)
    move out of house for engineering internship
    starting to date Mr WCE
    Mr WCE’s Dad’s cancer diagnosis
    infertility/late pregnancy loss/first kid/Mr WCE’s Dad’s death (4 miserable years)

  69. If going away to college at 18 weren’t such an enshrined tradition, and instead we were all somehow plopped together into a conference room to develop from scratch a suggested timeline for kids to grow up and leave the house, then there is no way this group would ever decide that 18 years is sufficient to gain personal independence from parental supervision.

  70. Before and after event: the violent rape as a college student would definitely be in the top three.

  71. Houston, we have left out Junior at home with just our college age daughter, who does her own thing. Because he’s pretty conservative and thinks some of the stunts his friends pull are idiotic, I explained why I didn’t want his friends to know we were gone. I tried to give him the mental picture of having to police his friends and deal with the aftermath, based on my high school experiences. He seemed pretty determined to not let anyone know. And like your son, he prefers to socialize in ways other than in person. I did ask for daily texts to let me know he was surviving. Will he have his license? A new driver was what I was most worried about, because we have no family anywhere close.

  72. Before/after :
    -moving from east coast where I was walking distance from adoring grandparents to middle America where it was just us.
    -grad school/financial independence
    -working (I can remember discussing with a friend how HARD life was as an adult and trying to balance work and seeing my friends and time with my fiancée. I was such a twit -had no idea what hard is).
    – child number 2. First was so easy, I was poorly prepared.

  73. ATM, public school.

    Several other parents have suggested getting the IEP, but I’m afraid that having accommodations could be used against us later if I push for academic enrichment/acceleration in middle or high school. (Yes, that’s forbidden by the statute, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.)

  74. “Okay, they went to the grocery store, but thinking back, I don’t believe Mom ever spent a single night away from the house after the 1960s.”

    RMS, exactly the same here.
    My parents did go off for a long weekend when my youngest brother was in high school. He was another nerdy kid who had never been any trouble, but the lure of the empty house was evidently too much. One of his nerdy friends drove his car to school, so DB and nerdy friends slithered away after homeroom, stopped at the grocery store for Captain Crunch — which was forbidden by my totebag mom — and headed home for a morning of comic books and sugar overloads. They were so surprised by the truant officer’s knock on the door that they ran upstairs and hid in his bedroom closet, where they were discovered by said officer, who was convinced that they had been doing drugs. “Where are the drugs?” he bellowed over and over, and was finally convinced by the soggy cereal bowls in the kitchen that they were not, in fact, doing drugs. He hauled them back to school, but never contacted any of the parents. My parents did not learn about this incident until the toast at my brother’s rehearsal dinner.

  75. DD, your and your DW’s preferences aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I’ve seen mix/match sets that would allow, for example, one end to be a recliner for you, and the other end to be the longer end piece for her.

    Note that the longer end piece isn’t any more compatible with a coffee table than a recliner, but the photo you posted still has a coffee table. You just need to select a coffee table that’s short enough to fit in front of the part between your reclining end and her longer end.

    At our previous house, we had a reclining sofa/loveseat set, with the center of the sofa being the only non-reclining position. We liked it a lot, and rather than a coffee tables, we had a corner table (we positioned the two at 90 degrees relative to each other) and end tables.

    Like you, I don’t like my sofas too deep. I do like high backs, so that if I’m tired, the sofa will support my head.

  76. AFT, I’m sorry that happened.

    If you told me that in the non-virtual world I would give you a big hug and pour you a cup of tea.

    Virtual hugs are not the same :(

  77. Houston, we’d be comfortable leaving DS at home alone for a week. He’s earned our trust, and we also know his friends and their parents, so if we were concerned about what DS and his friends might do while we’re gone, we’d talk to the parents and enlist their help.

    I’m not as sure that we’d leave both DS and DD home alone.

    When I was a senior, my parents left me home alone for about a week. I think that was their first trip without kids since my eldest sib was born. I was so heavily scheduled, between school, PT job, practice, homework, and weekend gigs, that I really didn’t have time to get into trouble, or perhaps more accurately, any more trouble than I’d get into were they home.

  78. We decided we would not get recliner couches if we had it to do all over again. The geometry just doesn’t work out right to produce comfort all the time for all users.

    I agree as to forgiving the car incident. That is why we have insurance.

  79. “LfB, you didn’t call the police?”

    @Sky — Nope. Don’t know why — it seems like such a “duh,” right? But I was in a panic and not thinking clearly. I just remember not wanting to overreact and look stupid, but also being afraid to leave the room for too long (pre-cellphones! just wall phone in the kitchen!), in case someone crept in while I wasn’t there. So I just sprinted to grab my bat and came back to stand watch until they got home @4 hrs later.

  80. @WCE – have you been to Bend? I’ll be heading there this summer. Wondering if you have any restaurant recommendations.

  81. Lemon, Bend is quite near Mt. Bachelor. One thing on my todo list before kids that I never got to was to go skiing there during the summer. I’m not sure if that’s still an option, or if that’s a victim of global warming.

    It’s a bit farther to Crater Lake. Before kids, DW and I biked around the lake, which was a great way to see it.

  82. Cordelia, I don’t think you’re being indulgent, especially if the driving she’s doing is necessary transportation that would otherwise require you or your DH to serve as chauffeurs.

    I also think that getting her right back driving, while the fender bender is still high in her consciousness, will probably make her a better, more careful driver. OTOH, revoking her driving privileges for something relatively minor might have set back her progression as a driver.

  83. Sky, what basis would the IEP or 504 be on?

    I have one kid on an IEP who has always been in the highest classes, and another with a 504 plan who is in all honors classes. It has been a struggle to keep him there, because of his daydreaming and lack of organization, but the 504 plan has really helped, not hindered him.

  84. “It was a major life lesson, that doing everything “right” doesn’t provide any protection from a shitstorm, and that there’s always another shitstorm coming; that sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down, and that you have zero control about which side of the curve you’re on at any given point in time. ”

    OTOH, I’m guessing that doing everything “right” put you into a position to whether the sh1tstorms and to thrive afterwards.

  85. I have no problem with kids being on their own in high school. My problem would be if the party got thrown at *my* house. Our neighbors had over $40K worth of damage done to their house and car. I felt really, really bad for them, because they really thought their daughter could handle being alone and it just snowballed out of control.

    I was left alone for a week at a time several times in high school & it was totally fine.

  86. Finn – Crater Lake wasn’t even on our minds, but now that you bring it I’m interested in a day trip. My DH already brought up summer skiing (he use to go out to OR annually for it), but I want more hiking and save skiing for winter.

  87. List of changed my life events – only those for which I have a clear before and after memory/picture.

    Ages 14-16 – Taking charge of my life, first getting Mom to move so I could attend a different school, then deciding to leave high school a year early
    Age 22 – Baby (giving birth and keeping him despite pressure to make other choices)
    Age 27 – 2nd child dies of cancer
    Age 40 – Big 6 job
    Age 42 – Divorce
    Age 48 – Empty nest
    Age 54 – Marry DH

    DD – I agree both with you and your wife. I have multiple seat recliner and large TV in the rec room (two easily moved side tables for food and drink) and sofa (DH nap space) grouping with extended seat (reading space) and coffee table in the living room. No TV on main floor, just music.

    Houston – I would have no issues with the summer week before senior year of high school while the older child is doing his internship. The grandparents are nearby, and presumably they and/or a friend could drive over to check on him and feed him once or twice, and you can set up a daily check in schedule with you. I would not choose to go off on an anniversary trip for 3-4 days leaving 16 and 13 or whatever the exact ages are. That is more a question of the dynamics and the added responsibility falling on the older one for the sib. My two cents.

  88. I missed the first trip would be leaving both home alone. That I know we couldn’t do with ours – they don’t fight often but when they do they’re out for blood. I am dubious that would change much in 4-6 years.

  89. Crater Lake is a bucket list destination, IMHO. It is a bit out of the way, so if you are in the vicinity, I wouldn’t miss it.

  90. Houston – The summer after my junior year in HS, my mom went overseas to visit my dad for 90 days. I was left at home with my grandmother, but it was so I could babysit her not the other way around. I had a job, I did the grocery shopping, we shared meal prep, etc. I still went out with my friends – I could drive and she couldn’t. So, if your son is responsible, knows the rules, etc. I’d leave him at home. Yes, make sure there is an adult he can turn to if he needs them and someone to check up periodically if you feel the need.

    Cordelia – I think you did the correct thing. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. She is getting the experience of reporting the accident and going through the process, which is also a learning experience. I agree if the accident was purely irresponsiblity, I’d be more likely to “punish” the behavior.

  91. Before/After – coming to the U.S. on my own changed things completely for me. Internally, I knew I was capable but everyone’s perception of me changed with that. I was also much happier after – I was feeling very unoptimistic and sad about the way life was turning out prior to that.

  92. I’ve been to Bend many times. No restaurant recommendations, although everywhere in downtown Bend has great Northwest craft beer. The Eastside McDonalds has a Playplace.

    Near Bend, consider hiking Black Butte (just west), National Volcanic Monument (just south), drive along Crooked River to deep gorge (slightly northeast), hiking Smith Rock (my boys complained about Misery Ridge), the High Desert Museum (ASTC reciprocity agreement), Dee Wright Observatory (McKenzie Pass summit, road opens around 4th of July) and for longer trips, John Day Fossil Beds/Painted Hills and Crater Lake. Recall that the road around Crater Lake opens after 4th of July and closes end of September, typically.

  93. MM, no idea. I don’t think he would qualify under the criteria listed in the IDEA, but I am often surprised.

  94. You guys who are torn between recliner sofas and chaise-end sofas would not like ours — we have this kind:

  95. Lemon, I would recommend the side trip to Crater Lake given that you’ll be in the vicinity anyway.

    Just curious, is this a business trip, or a visit friends/relatives trip? I’m thinking that if you hadn’t thought of Crater Lake, it’s not primarily a sightseeing trip.

  96. HM, that’s classic, with the hollow tile walls and jalousie window, it looks just like someone’s house.

  97. I ordered a Handock and Moore leather sectional couch , sight unseen (but I know it’s a good brand )on line from a furniture outlet in Hickory NC and could not be more pleased years later . It was a good deal and exactly what I wanted.

  98. WCE, thanks for the correction. Mt. Hood, not to be confused with Mt. Hutt (ski area in NZ).

  99. Finn – it is a vacation trip…just DH and I. We were thinking staying around Bend for hiking and sampling the local brews. The idea came up last week so I haven’t given much thought to what to actually do, other than have a nice trip sans kids. The other idea was Mt. Hood or the Coast.

  100. Back OT, there were a couple inflection points in my life that could’ve put me on a much different path.

    One was choosing a college. I was pretty clueless back then, but looking back, the option I didn’t pick would’ve put me on track to be a WS analyst, perhaps even somewhere like GS.

  101. I’m kind of agreeing with Milo on the 18-yr-old thing. When your kid’s a year from being completely out of the house and eligible to vote, it’s time to be letting out the rope. Best case, you trust him, he lives up to your expectations, and you know you can cut him incrementally more slack. Worst-case, he lives down to your fears, and you know he’s not ready for that kind of freedom yet. I don’t want to keep such tight rein on my kids that they don’t know how to handle freedom when it arrives all at once.

    But I also really don’t think the critical issue is “will the kid have a party.” I think it’s “will the kid do something that is so stupid that it is life-changingly bad.” Kids learn by screwing up — some more than others (mine, at least, appears insistent upon learning only from her own screwups, and not from the experience of anyone who has inhabited this earth before her). And if she’s going to have a major, humongo “free at last” screwup — like getting blind drunk and passing out — I’d rather her learn that particular lesson where she is at least relatively safe in her own house, instead of out on the street somewhere (having gone to school in an area where college kids were occasionally known to freeze to death after passing out in the wrong spot).

    Insert requisite disclaimers here — of course that’s not ok, of course I’m going to try to put age-appropriate checks and balances into the equation to prevent it, etc. But one thing this particular kid has taught me is that there is only so much I can control, so I’d better raise her to learn to control herself and develop good judgment. And a party (even one that gets out of control) isn’t the worst thing in the world if your kid learns what a horrible idea it is to do 8 kamikazes or that he can’t trust friend X or [insert life lesson here] — while you are still close enough to provide the oversight that helps keep a bad decision from turning into a life-changing one, and to help pick up the pieces and put things back together again.

  102. Did anyone else see that the daughter of the Danish ambassador was married to one of the Belgian bombing victims for the last two years, but neither told their families?

    I’m not sure I would be able to be as gracious as the ambassador if I found out one of my kids had been secretly married.

  103. DD, if you already have a recliner, do you still want/need one for the sofa?

    Yes. Of course it’s a want vs a need.

  104. Thanks for everyone’s comments and support. Part of my reasoning has been that I have narrowly avoided the type of accident DD got into several times in the past month.

  105. Sky – If you’re child is transitioning from existing services to those provided in school, go ahead and discuss it. Otherwise I’d get your child evaluated if you haven’t already to see exactly what accommodations are necessary. Once your child is in school, the school will not be generous with services, especially in mild, borderline or hard to diagnose cases. Additional services later are hard to get. It’s far easier to cut back existing services later.

    My kids are in a G&T (gifted and talented) track and at least 4 other kids in their class get services. One for hearing impairment, one to overcome a very strong Japanese accent and difficulty with speech, the others I’m not as sure about.

    I’d be happy to discuss more offline. CoC has my e-mail.

  106. Cordelia- not sure if this helps but I agree with everyone else. All because I hit my mom’s parked car today. I misjudged the distance pulling into the driveway and hit her car. No damage but it happened in front of the hoard of people gathering at my house to do DS’s EI eval. Embarrassing doesn’t cover it.

    Sky- publicly gracious. Privately probably not so much.

    OT- I’m all for a 30 day challenge.

    Events that changed me-
    1- going to grad school
    2- DS with his cleft lip/palette and IUGR
    3- parents divorce at 20 years old

  107. SSM – I posted last week about Joybird for sofas. We bought one unseen from the web, they have a very generous return policy (up to one year after you buy, I believe they may even come pack it back up). We love the couch so much, but it is definitely a Book Club kind of couch, not a Netflix Marathon kind of piece.

  108. Ada,

    I think we have the same taste. Have you found a nice looking Netflix Marathon sofa?

  109. Rhode, my aunt will never live down the time she hit my uncle’s car in an otherwise empty parking lot.

  110. Rhode, generally DH and I are the only one on our road. I have a hopefully unreasonable terror of running into him and having to explain that to the insurance agent.

  111. In her younger, more spry and cantankerous days, my grandmother floated a theory that my aunt was intentionally crashing cars because my uncle, her son, was too cheap to buy her a new one.

  112. @ AFT, wow, that’s awful. I’m sorry that’s your before and after. Definitely some totebaggers here have been through some very rough times.

  113. Rhett – this is what we have in the TV/kid space. It is surprisingly comfortable and kid resistant. IKEA has newer similar leather couches. It’s no Lazyboy, but I can only sacrifice so much function for form.

  114. We’ll start the Totebag 30-Day Challenge on May 1. That will give us more time to coordinate.

    STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAILS!

  115. Sky, regarding the IEP/504 question.
    Have you done private testing for your child? IOW, do you know there is a disability that may affect learning? If you believe your child would benefit from support services, you can move ahead to get them now and most likely arrange for declassification later on. At least, that’s what I’ve seen locally and have heard from other places.

  116. It has been my experience that it was difficult to get accommodations. My son was diagnosed with dysgraphia and some other learning issues in 2nd grade, but I was told they were it going to offer accommodations because he wasn’t failing. Instead, they treated his frustration with writing over the next few years as a discipline issue. When he started failing English in 4th grade I again requested accommodations, but they said the evaluation process had changed and we’d have to start over. At the end of 5th grade they write up some accommodations, saying he’d need them for middle school. When I had the first meeting with the middle school teachers and counselor, 2 teachers didn’t show up, saying that “Son is very bright – he does not need accommodations.” That same teacher would call me to complain that he wasn’t taking notes. It was ridiculous. He finally received accommodations about a year after we moved to the charter school, in 8th grade. So my recommendation is to start now. As others have said, if your child does not need the accommodations in the future, the school will definitely push to drop them. On the concern it will hold him back, not having accommodations held my son back. He tested into the GT program in 2nd grade, but because he struggled with the mechanics of writing, they didn’t place him there.

  117. My niece is going to Skidmore, her first choice. She plans to be a high school math teacher and at this point plans to major in math at a school which is not STEM oriented. She doesn’t test well but scored in the middle of the SAT range for the school, and had very good extracurriculars. Although I can’t ask for actual numbers the list is 55K (should be reduced a bit by loans and small grandparent contribution, maybe small prizes/grants). House is paid for, paid up whole life on both parents principal college savings vehicle, expected inheritance 350K, but parents are now 62 and 59, combined income mid 100s, 4 living grandparents in their 90s, and also have a hs junior who might need extra help through life (family history of depression & auto immune – mild juvenile RA and special hs adjustment program). They are going to send her no matter the financial burden. Would you?

  118. “They are going to send her no matter the financial burden. Would you?”

    It probably goes without saying, but NFW.

  119. They are going to send her no matter the financial burden. Would you?

    Absolutely not. Many state schools have special programs for training math teachers. UNC Chapel Hill used to have one, but I don’t know if it’s still there.

    But for Skidmore? No way. An Ivy, maybe, or a super-selective small college. Then she’d have a much bigger choice of teaching positions. I don’t think my sister needed a Stanford education to teach special ed, BUT it got her a bunch of job offers, including the one in the Palo Alto Unified School District where she spent her career. I don’t think Skidmore is going to open that many doors.

  120. “They are going to send her no matter the financial burden. Would you?”

    What are the other options? My gut says no — if my kid wants to be a teacher, we have some local schools that are historically known as good teacher’s colleges, so I’d probably push her to that option, or to a local public. OTOH, if the other places she’s admitted to are equally costly considering any aid, or provide a significantly worse fit for who she is/what she wants to do, I’d probably suck it up and send her. But first we’d have a discussion of how much teachers make and what kind of lifestyle hit she’s going to take to pay back the loans on that salary.

  121. Meme, going to Skidmore would likely ensure she gets a teaching job in a high end Totebag suburb.

    The starting salary might be $50k-$60k, but after a masters and 10 years of service, it would be more like $100k, with generous benefits and pleasant students.

    The question is what her salary would be in the non-Totebag city school she could teach in if she went to a cheaper school. (And whether she would have the stamina to do that.)

    Around here the salaries are pretty similar, but it depends on where she wants to be.

  122. Meme,

    It would all hinge on the discount. If they had to pay the entire $60k then I’d say no. If the school takes $15k off and the parents take 15k out of savings, cash flow $15k and the kid borrows $15k, then I’d say that’s reasonable.

  123. “Meme, going to Skidmore would likely ensure she gets a teaching job in a high end Totebag suburb. ”

    Really? Based on what?

    “If the school takes $15k off and the parents take 15k out of savings, cash flow $15k and the kid borrows $15k, then I’d say that’s reasonable.”

    Only the first part is relevant. The other three, you’re like a car salesman constantly massaging the four boxes of down payment, trade-in, monthly payment, and payback period.

  124. I’m with Milo- I’ve never seen evidence that fancy degrees lead to more suburban teaching jobs. Or that more suburban jobs lead to the highest pay. Doesn’t DC have some of the highest paid teachers in the nation?

    I think it is wrong to treat an 18-year-old’s career ideas as set in stone. How many people now are in a job that they knew they were going to do when they were 18?.

    I think the real question is whether Skidmore offers sufficient value to this young woman. I think that’s not even debatable without knowing the amount of money she is paying. Having gone to a liberal arts college, I knew many people who majored in math at a non-stem school. Some of them have authentic totebag stem careers now. Some of them went to grad school in Stem.

  125. The other three, you’re like a car salesman constantly massaging the four boxes of down payment, trade-in, monthly payment, and payback period.

    Like reasonable people do? Personally, with no mortgage and a $150k income they should be able to cash flow $2500/month. So, the question becomes are they comfortable giving up what that $2500 could buy to send their daughter to the school of her dreams. The same holds true for the kid, she’ll graduate with $60k in debt which would be $458 for 20 years. In 5 years of teaching they will forgive $17,500 and in 10 years they will forgive the rest. How comfortable is she with having that $458 a month hanging over her head for the first couple of years.

  126. ““If the school takes $15k off and the parents take 15k out of savings, cash flow $15k and the kid borrows $15k, then I’d say that’s reasonable.”

    That’s still 180K per year to get a teaching credential. It hard to see how that investment pencils out.

  127. That’s still 180K per year to get a teaching credential. It hard to see how that investment pencils out.

    Why does it need to pencil out? If the parents are happy to give up what $2500/month could buy to send her to her first choice school that’s a reasonable decision. Could they buy a boat, a condo in FL, retire a few years earlier? Sure. But, if they are happy to forgo that consumption – more power to them.

  128. “How comfortable is she with having that $458 a month hanging over her head for the first couple of years.”

    It would likely mean foregoing her own early investing, delaying buying a house, etc.

    There’s also the matter of how much her parents have in their own retirement savings, and the combined effects of withdrawing $60k from it now.

    And the effect this could have on the younger sibling who might need support down the road.

    And for what? Skidmore? Why?

  129. It seems the question is whether this is an investment or a consumption decision?

  130. And for what? Skidmore? Why?

    It’s where she wants to go and where they want to send her. It’s sort of like Finn and private school. Would his kids be fine in public school? Sure. Does he find value in spending money on private school vs. other things? Yes. So, it seems like a perfectly valid choice.

  131. It seems the question is whether this is an investment or a consumption decision?

    It’s both.

  132. We’re spending our long weekend in the tropics with another family, and they have a HS junior.

    She’s interested in Skidmore because it’s one of the few schools that she visited that she felt like she fit. They’ve visited approx 15 schools, but her choice is limited to driving distance from NY metro. She is looking for a school with 5000 – 9000 kids, academically challenging and within driving distance. She has great grades, multiple APs, a recruited D3 athlete and she was told that she wouldn’t be able to touch any top 30 school.

    Her parents thought Skidmore was a waste of money, but I can tell that they’re changing their mind. She has two other choices that she prefers and are more academic – if she accepted.

    I was in the gym last week, and I heard my neighbor complaining about paying for 4 years at Syracuse. He is going to pay for his daughter, but he had a lot of complaints. I just don’t understand parents that complain in March of senior year. He should have discussed this with his DD during junior year if he thought it was a waste of $.

  133. Keep in mind that a large percentage of teachers leave teaching within a few years. What will give her the most value if she changes her plans?

  134. I see what you’re saying. But I’m not confident that the parents would agree with your characterization that the choice of Skidmore over state school is acceptable simply because any form of legal consumption is acceptable as long as you can afford it. I could be wrong, but I suspect that they’re expecting more from it than that.

  135. A degree in math can be very valuable and transferable to several occupations. DH has a math degree from a liberal arts school and that has helped him tremendously as a software engineer and as a lawyer.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if she changes her mind on what career she wants after college. Also, the dropout rate for teachers is pretty high, so there is a chance that it wouldn’t be her long-term profession.

    I don’t know how Skidmore ranks or the alumni connection. Similar schools here have pretty strong regional alumni networks. I think you can also get a 30-year loan for debt over $60K, which lowers the monthly payment to similar to a new car loan. If my kid wanted to go to their dream school, I’m very inclined to pay for it, even if on paper the financial investment of it doesn’t make sense. In this specific case though it’s hard to know the best answer without knowing the true cost and the finances of the parents.

  136. I could be wrong, but I suspect that they’re expecting more from it than that.

    More in terms of what?

  137. “More in terms of what?”

    Prestige, distinction, academic rigor, possibly higher pay in the future.

  138. “It would all hinge on the discount.”

    Mostly. And along those lines, my niece with somewhat similar credentials just got a @$100-150K scholarship to go to a comparable school, bringing the total cost down almost exactly to what she would pay at the local public — and she was *not* at the top of her class or the top of the school’s SAT range. I think these schools are very, very good at targeting aid to families in that income range to make it at least somewhat competitive. So I would not assume the delta is as big as it may look from the outside.

    I also think schools like Skidmore have a stronger regional presence. I wouldn’t necessarily pay up to send my kid there, because she is not likely to end up in that area and so wouldn’t get the “bump” Sky talks about, but it might be worth it in an area where there are a lot of alumni/name recognition to open doors. I have always been on the wrong side of that equation and faced a lot of “if you’re so smart, why didn’t you go to [insert lower-ranked-but-locally-favored school]?” on my return. That benefit is harder to quantify, but it’s definitely there, so don’t overlook it. Especially if you aren’t 100% sure of what you want to do.

  139. I don’t know much abou Skidmore, but I would want to understand the rigor of the math program there. If she didn’t do great on the math section of the SAT, I would be hesitant to spend that much money per year on a program that might not be best suited for her strengths.

  140. Teachers’ salaries are much lower in this part of the country than what Sky describes. Friends who teach in Oklahoma have said the starting salary is $38k. Mid-career is not significantly higher. There is no way I’d pay that, for teaching or a whole lot of other professions. I feel strongly that money is much better spent on a state school undergrad plus a masters than full freight at a mid-tier private, and is likely cheaper.

    I hate to get on my soapbox, but this is a huge point of irritation for me. So many young people think they “deserve” to go to their dream school, then want debt forgiveness when they realize the reality of paying back the huge amount of loans they’ve taken out. Adults, whether parents or college counselors, should be helping them make better decisions.

  141. I ran numbers based on very broad assumptions for this case, and the annual net price to attend Skidmore would be $35,528 after subtracting the Skidmore Grant of $31,072. (Nice!) Then a loan of $5500 plus work study brings it down to $28,000. Sounds comparable to a state school. This is a very cursory first step in determining your cost to attend, but it’s a good starting point. You can run the numbers here:
    https://skidmore.studentaidcalculator.com/survey.aspx

  142. Is the rigor of the math program considered in terms of “What is the delta between the incoming student and the outgoing student?” or “What is the quality of the incoming student, such that the outgoing student will be STEM-graduate-school capable regardless of the quality of the teaching?”

    I’m reminded of this article on undergrad teaching assistants for the math courses at Harvard.
    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2007/5/14/students-teach-as-course-assistants-english/

    I just finished “Catch Me If You Can” and am reminded of a guy from math camp who broke into military computers as a juvenile and later was wanted by the FBI for something related to banking fraud. He clearly had the necessary incoming capabilities…

  143. I would send her to Skidmore because I had such a great experience at my SLAC. DH and I both have great friends from college and I think the alumni networks are very strong at those small schools. I never looked at Skidmore but it has a similar profile to the SLAC DH and I went to. I have a few sorority sisters who majored in math in college and became math teachers (one now a SAHM). Those schools are very good at targeting aid to the middle class.

  144. On Skidmore – no, I wouldn’t send my kid there unless she received a significant merit package that made the price comparable to a state school. I went to a small liberal arts college that is consistently in the US News Top 10. I absolutely loved my time there – however, few people have heard of it out here in Seattle. I was able to go there because I got a great financial aid package (parents had just divorced, mom going back to school after 20 years of not being in the workforce). DH and I make too much money to get any financial aid. And my alma mater doesn’t give out merit aid. We can’t afford the $65k+ price tag.

    DD and DS will either need to go to a state school (could probably either be in-state or out of state) or to a place that gives significant merit awards. I’ve already compiled a list of schools that don’t give out merit aid (so no point in considering them) and schools that give out significant awards. DD is a high school sophomore. I plan on having a discussion with her this summer to help set her expectations.

    The cost of liberal arts colleges/universities has become way too expensive and it’s just not worth paying full price (which kind of kills me to say because I’m the daughter of a college professor who taught at a private liberal arts school and I loved my experience at my college).

  145. For a student who plans to teach math, I would want to know the former (as well as the profile of those in the major; I would want her to be at least average for that particular program). I would want to make sure she has a really good chance of getting through the expensive program.

  146. @WCE – I didn’t research Skidmore to see how many classes are taught by TAs, but at the SLAC I went to every one of my classes was taught by a professor. I only had TAs for supplement language practice classes and as an aide in the labs. I would guess that Skidmore would have most classes taught by professors.

    I would also look at graduation rates. Some schools do a great job of getting students through in 4 years vs. larger state schools where most students need 5 years to get their degree. I think Lauren’s comment about fit is important to consider in regards to being able to graduate.

  147. I don’t think most math teachers are coming out of competitive STEM programs. The math teachers I know went to SLACs and majored in math with a minor in Education or went to a state school and got their masters in their college of ed after doing something else. Several of my friends from college are teachers (mostly in the NY/NJ region so they do quite well) and that was basically their profile (major in sociology, math or psychology) and then student taught their senior year of college.

  148. @seattlesoccermom – how do schools determine need based aid? I remember when I applied to schools, I was surprised how different my financial need was from comparable schools. Could be that Skidmore would want your kid for geographic diversity and give them more aid.

  149. I would say that being naturally good at math and being a good math teacher are almost unrelated talents.

    The ideal math teacher understands the math that (s)he is asked to teach, and perhaps a bit more, and is really good at understanding the various ways students can fail to understand math and helping the students overcome those limitations.

    Mathematicians tend to be of the “I don’t understand why you don’t understand” persuasion when faced with struggling math students. None of my math teacher relatives think I missed my calling by not becoming a math teacher.

  150. WCE – I agree with that re: natural math ability v teaching math. I would want to make sure she makes is through and that there are more people like her than those who want to be quants.

  151. “If my kid wanted to go to their dream school, I’m very inclined to pay for it, even if on paper the financial investment of it doesn’t make sense. In this specific case though it’s hard to know the best answer without knowing the true cost and the finances of the parents.”

    I agree. I am not dismissive of it on the face – but it depends on a lot of nuances that aren’t included here. I agree with Rhett that it is a trade-off, and that it’s hard to make the judgement for someone else not knowing what the actual trade off would be. I know that I prefer paying for private grade school to living in a bigger house, retiring a few years earlier, having more security via larger investment accounts, or having more of a preference for “leisure” . That said, I certainly believe that going to the best school possible on paper is not necessary for a successful career, so I would not always chose to spend the $$ depending on the circumstance.

    Also agree with WCE that teaching math is more about being a good teacher than being good at math, although obviously you need a certain level of aptitude as well. I think being too good at math is probably a hindrance to being a good math teacher in a way that it might not be for some other subjects (history for instance).

  152. So many young people think they “deserve” to go to their dream school, then want debt forgiveness when they realize the reality of paying back the huge amount of loans they’ve taken out.

    Along these lines, I have a friend in Indiana and her son really wanted to go to IU, it was his dream school. They are solidly middle class. His choices came down to going to IU with a scholarship and loans that made it just barely do-able, or to go to IUPUI and work part-time at a major employer, which would set him up for a solid career path with the company after he graduated with no student loan debt. He went to IU because that was his dream, and he flunked out freshman year because he never went to class.

  153. Mathematicians tend to be of the “I don’t understand why you don’t understand” persuasion when faced with struggling math students.

    That’s the same reason why great athletes usually are poor coaches, like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, etc. When something comes naturally to you, it’s hard to understand why other people have difficulty with it.

  154. Best Boston suburban school system North is not a source of diversity for Skidmore, and Boston, where she will return absent some other draw, is not within the alumni referral orbit. The parents don’t look at it as investment, but not entirely consumption either. Her mother wants to send her wherever she wants as a thank you for being the good girl all the way through and actually loving her very difficult sister. Her father, the primary breadwinner (Mom, who is a truly great person, just has too much kid stuff on her plate to work more than part time) is a product of NYC college system and was overruled on this decision. (My ex’s family, into which he married, is a steamroller as I have described with respect to my own life.) My estimate was 35K per year on the parents’ dime after grandparent contribution, her earnings and loans. UMass Anherst is 28K list all in for in state, half the price of Skidmore. Grandparents would contribute less, perhaps only summer enrichment stuff, in that case.

  155. tcmama – each college has a college cost calculator which is supposed to give you an estimate of how much aid you would qualify for and the expected parent contribution. I don’t know how accurate it is.

    I feel like we get penalized on these because we bought our house in Seattle 20 years ago and it’s probably tripled in value. Which if we ever want to leave Seattle and move to an area with less expensive housing, is great. But since we want to stay in Seattle, it does us no good as all the other houses have also tripled in value. So it doesn’t help us out in our ability to pay for college as I’m not willing to move so our kids can go to their dream colleges.

  156. +1 to WCE. You have to be bright enough to understand the math, but it’s far more important to be a patient, persistent teacher.

  157. A couple weeks ago, I was having a long conversation with someone who would score very highly on the Murray quiz and would be considered working class based on profession, mannerisms, and general carriage.

    Anyway, he commented that he had paid off the same house three times, the latter two the result of home equity borrowing to send his two kids to college. His son went to a mid-level state school, but was “only” teaching high school history, a fact which caused him to roll his eyes in exasperation.

    A little surprised by his reaction, I said “Oh, that’s a cool thing to do.”

    He said “It’s fine. But he’s earning $47k a year. Come on, that’s not enough.”

    It was interesting because I didn’t think that was a particularly bad income, but to someone who’s earning a lot more than that without the benefit of a $100k degree and four years of lost earnings, it’s nothing but a poor ROI.

  158. Cordelia’s question about investment vs. consumption for college attendance was spot-on. I had never framed it that way before. I like it.

  159. “I wouldn’t send my kid there unless she received a significant merit package that made the price comparable to a state school…. I’ve already compiled a list of schools that don’t give out merit aid (so no point in considering them)”

    Wouldn’t you consider need-based aid? Why limit your kids to merit aid?

  160. “I feel like we get penalized on these because we bought our house in Seattle 20 years ago and it’s probably tripled in value. ”

    Are you planning to send your kids to a HSS that uses the CSS to calculate EFC?

    The FAFSA does not ask about home equity, and some HSS that use CSS don’t either (e.g., Harvard). One way some people try to reduce their EFC is to pay down their mortgages.

  161. “Cordelia’s question about investment vs. consumption for college attendance was spot-on. I had never framed it that way before. I like it.”

    I’ve thought about sending CoC a possible post based on this.

    It seems like in most discussions of spending on college, like this one, most posters look at it largely as an investment. I’ve always puzzled about that, given that so many posters have also commented here, in other discussions, on how they value experiential spending; those two seem to be inconsistent with each other. It seems many here look at college as just a means to an end, and not an experience, quite possibly a life-defining or life-altering one at that.

    I’ve looked at college as a combination of both. My college experience was really, really fun, and to the OT, was one of the things that divided my life into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ I hope my kids enjoy their college years at least as much, and that’s definitely one factor to consider in the decision process.

  162. “They are going to send her no matter the financial burden. Would you?”

    Well, actually the financial burden is limited and predictable. A quick look at the website indicates the list price is more like low to mid 60s (tuition ~$49k, room and board starting ~$13k, plus books).

    I might, depending on finances. With house paid off, good income, and college savings, if I could pay it without dipping into any other savings, and already have sufficient retirement savings, I would definitely consider it.

    OTOH, I’d also make sure other options are considered.

  163. “my niece with somewhat similar credentials just got a @$100-150K scholarship to go to a comparable school, bringing the total cost down almost exactly to what she would pay at the local public”

    This is exactly why I would encourage everyone here (and especially WCE) to not rule out schools with high list prices. Look at what the school has to offer first, without considering cost; if it looks attractive, look at the net price, not list.

  164. Thanks Finn. I hadn’t realized there was a difference between the FAFSA and the CSS.

  165. WCE, I don’t have time to read the article now, but my understanding is that the big impact of multiple kids WRT EFC is that it is split between the kids in college.

    E.g., your first kid’s first year in college, his need would be based on your entire EFC, but if twins start college before first graduates, then need-based aid for each is based on EFC/3.

  166. SSM, perhaps more to your point is that need-based aid tends to punish those who make sacrifices to save for college, relative to those with similar income histories who don’t make those same sacrifices.

  167. Finn, please respond later if it works for you. It’s true that during the years I have multiple kids in college, I’ll have EFC/2 or EFC/3, but I still have ~12 years of EFC vs. 6-7 years of EFC for a two child family.

    When DS1 goes to college, the calculator assumes the needs of my household of five are only $5k less than an empty nest household of two parents. It’s not fair to my youngest three kids to limit their grocery, medical, clothing, school supply and activity expenses to $1700 each annually while providing ~$20-$30k to DS1.

  168. Her mother wants to send her wherever she wants as a thank you for being the good girl all the way through and actually loving her very difficult sister.

    This would be a pretty compelling reason to me – sounds like she stepped up and was the family member they needed her to be, and in turn they want to give her something that’s important to her. I would put a lot of value on that myself.

  169. “It’s not fair to my youngest three kids”

    I don’t know that fairness has anything to do with the EFC calculation (e.g., my 3:43 comment).

    Your lament is one flavor of a common lament, that the EFC is unrealistically high. I haven’t really looked at that myself. I plan to start filling out the FAFSA once I finish our taxes, at which point I’ll be better able to comment on the EFC calculation.

  170. FWIW, some stats from prepscholar:

    Skidmore:
    Section Average 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
    Reading 618 560 680
    Math 621 570 670
    Writing 628 570 690
    Composite 1867 1700 2040
    Avg GPA: 3.71

    UM Amherst:
    Section Average 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
    Reading 590 540 640
    Math 618 570 670
    Composite 1208 1110 1310
    Avg GPA: 3.73

  171. That’s why the increase in average college discount rate isn’t really a good answer to college price inflation. If the list price is affordable through some combination of parental contributions and/or student earnings (summers, part-time work), then you don’t need to worry so much about getting it discounted because you can see up front whether it’s affordable or not. Once you get to where the list price is beyond what you can pay, you’re more or less at the mercy of the college’s view of what sort of net price they consider appropriate given your stats, family income, family size, etc.

  172. Finn, I notice in your comparison that Skidmore admits have significantly higher SATs, but marginally *lower* GPAs. Curious.

  173. “This would be a pretty compelling reason to me – sounds like she stepped up and was the family member they needed her to be…”

    I think it would be a compelling reason for me to steer her away from an unnecessary and non-remunerative $60k in debt, and if I could help out more down the road with house down payment or the like by keeping those funds available in the family, I would be more likely to do that.

  174. SATs are very close; math is virtually identical. But UM-Amherst stats don’t include the writing test.

  175. OK, nice reading comprehension on my part there! You’d think even after skimming it the first time I’d have taken a second look before commenting on the supposed disparity . . . Thanks, Finn.

  176. “Once you get to where the list price is beyond what you can pay, you’re more or less at the mercy of the college’s view of what sort of net price they consider appropriate given your stats, family income, family size, etc.”

    Or your kid’s test scores, grades, ECs, URM status, etc.

  177. It seems like in most discussions of spending on college, like this one, most posters look at it largely as an investment. I’ve always puzzled about that, given that so many posters have also commented here, in other discussions, on how they value experiential spending; those two seem to be inconsistent with each other. It seems many here look at college as just a means to an end, and not an experience, quite possibly a life-defining or life-altering one at that.

    Not to mention that they also talk about how fantastic and wonderful they feel their own college experience was.

  178. DD – posters from both public and private schools consistently say that, which suggests that people tend to like wherever they go.

  179. which suggests that people tend to like wherever they go.

    Or, that people on this self-selected board were particularly good at identifying places that would be the right fit for them at a young age. As I think I’ve shared before, I had a sibling flunk out of college freshman year, so I think there’s some validity to and value in recognizing what is and isn’t a good fit for you.

  180. I hear what you’re saying Lark, but I don’t buy it. Partly because I’m a believer in the value of learning to adapt to different environments, I think that there are sufficient options in state schools to find a good fit. If you’re still not motivated to get to class and do your homework, then go ahead and flunk out. Get a job for a few years and try again when you’ve grown up. You’re an important member of the family, but not the sole member or the center of it, and you don’t just get to drain a quarter million dollars because you want extra hand-holding.

    I’m not even entirely convinced that 17-year-olds are all that great at weighing these choices to determine what would be a good fit. These are the same kids, after all, who just yesterday could barely be trusted to stay home alone for a week.

  181. I think many private colleges are a bait and switch, so I wouldn’t make a decision to attend unless aid were guaranteed for all four years. I would be too worried that an acceptable first year aid package would be substantially reduced and we’d be forced to come up with the money or make my child transfer.

    In my area, I also don’t see value from networks. Yes, good teachers and physical therapists go to George Fox, but they also go to Western Oregon University. I have heard from acquaintances on the East Coast that people care a lot more where you went to college. I was mildly amused when one colleague asked another colleague about Brown University, where her daughter is attending, and my colleague responded that, “It’s a small liberal arts school in Rhode Island.”

  182. “It’s a small liberal arts school in Rhode Island.”

    That’s true, and what else could you say? “It’s one of the IVY LEAGUE colleges!”?

  183. I don’t think most 17 year olds are good at weighing the options/making these decisions on their own. A certain kitten went to a particular college in part because her HS boyfriend went there. Of course, we promptly broke up within a couple months. Glad it was a school that I otherwise liked!

  184. I think that some kids will feel uncomfortable at UMass or other large state schools because they’re too large. We have a neighbor with a kid that barely lasted a year at Penn State. He was overwhelmed. A kid in my town graduates with approx 150 other kids. A large state school might be cheaper, but it might be too large for some kids. Some kids need a smaller, more nurturing environment to succeed in college. I don’t think that all kids can adapt to the large state Us.

  185. I don’t think that all kids can adapt to the large state Us.

    There are plenty of small state Us as well.

    You’re an important member of the family, but not the sole member or the center of it, and you don’t just get to drain a quarter million dollars because you want extra hand-holding.

    If the parents are on board with it, why not?

    In my area, I also don’t see value from networks.

    I assume you’re talking about alumni networks, and this is my experience as well. I’m sure it’s because of the fields I’ve worked in and the areas where I’ve lived. I’m guessing if I worked in investment banking in NYC I might see things differently.

  186. DD, yes, the reason I see limited value in networks is because of the field I work in. I overheard a manager talking about a candidate and “Harvey Mudd” was mentioned, but the site manager wasn’t familiar with Harvey Mudd, which is probably the third most prestigious engineering/science school on the West Coast, IMHO.

    My colleagues who went to prestigious schools avoid talking about it. The colleague whose daughter went to Brown is a Brown undergrad herself, I think, but I only found out because I was chatting with her at a scholarship banquet where her daughter was a recipient.

    It will be interesting to see how networking changes and if private schools become more or less socioeconomically diverse. I don’t know how much of the value of networking is that people come from similar backgrounds and whether disadvantaged students are welcomed into those networks. It seems like children of professors are overrepresented among Totebaggers and professors’ children would fit socially into a small liberal arts school environment even if they come from families with lower incomes than their peers.

    At my undergrad, I remember driving with four dorm mates, some from out of state, to the state fair in Des Moines. The fact that most people were on a very limited budget meant it was easier to find free/cheap fun than it would be at a school where parents usually pay the bills. People were invited on outings even though they’d sometimes have to decline because they had to work. This probably relates to Finn’s observations about peer group. I was in the middle of the pack financially.

  187. Milo, I don’t really disagree with you. It’s hard for me to imagine encouraging ours to go to a SLAC when we have such good public universities. I don’t think for a minute the $60k tuition/room/board at many of the Southern SLACs is worth it. But I still sympathize with the mother’s position here and I can’t say the answer would be so easy for me.

  188. Lark – Gotcha.

    “There are plenty of small state Us as well.”

    Indeed. At least in Virginia, it’s shocking how many there are.

    Coming home on I-81 a year or so ago, we were detoured by an accident and ended up doing a driving tour through Radford University. Then on a biking trip, I stumbled through Longwood in Farmville. Both very nice towns, too.

    While we’ve had one babysitter go to VT and two to UVA, our current one has decided on Christopher Newport University, yet another small public SLAC with an enrollment around 5,000.

    I suspect that there must be a high correlation factor between teens who are willing to work for pay (babysit) and teens who choose public universities.

  189. I don’t think I will ever get actual numerical data. They are so frugal that they may have a lot more put by than I thought (but in retirement accounts and whole life, good choices for college aid calculations), or he may make more money. I looked up Skidmore details and list price is 66K fully loaded, and I tried estimated numbers into several different private college “what will it cost you” calculators and came up with wildly different estimates. And Best suburban Boston school system means that their paid for small 3 bedroom house is worth 900K. Paid work even when they like you and you are relatively cheap is chancy over 60, and they should expect to live into their 90s, but they are not going to start throwing money around in retirement. The main objective is keeping his employer provided health insurance until younger one turns 26, at which time Dad will be in his 70s. He will be Medicare age soon enough, but Mom and younger daughter would be uninsurable were it not for mandated health coverage.

  190. Meme – What do you think is the motivator for them to choose this school over a similar public option? Not “the DD’s a really good kid and they want to do right by her,” but, as supposedly frugal people, what do they think this school is offering her to justify its cost premium?

  191. “And Best suburban Boston school system means that their paid for small 3 bedroom house is worth 900K.”

    So when the younger sibling graduates in a couple years, they can sell that and move to a small 3-bedroom somewhere else that costs no more than $400k. Annuitize the $500k difference at 6% and you’ve got an additional $30k per year coming in.

  192. “the reason I see limited value in networks is because of the field I work in.”

    WCE, apparently my experience is quite a bit different. I worked in the same (or similar) field, and saw a lot of networking going on. I recruited for my employer at my alma mater, and my undergrad advisor would send me resumes from some of his students, which I would pass on to managers I knew were hiring, and I was able to place several of his students.

    There was, in general, a lot of recruiting by alums. I worked with a number of Rice and Cornell grads because my division had managers who were alums of those schools and annually recruited at their alma maters.

    My employer also made sure that they regularly recruited at most of the top engineering (and material science) schools, and I’ve worked with a lot of alums from places like Stanford, MIT, UCB, UIUC, and UCSB.

    My experience was that you’re a lot more likely to get recruited nationally from MIT than from directional U, and your resume was more likely to get a look if you graduated from Harvey Mudd than from directional U or Cal State Somewhere (although locally, I worked with a lot of SJ State grads).

  193. I think my experience is different because we’ve hired only minimally for the past ~18 years and when we recruit nationally, people don’t stay, so management is starting to recruit at lower caliber local schools. I am from the tail end of the “old” national recruiting model. The industry has declined so much that many grad students are international students who are trying to immigrate. Talented US citizens are choosing other areas to study.

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