Trip of a lifetime

by Milo

Looping With Little Ones

The family featured in this article took a year off from work, sold their house, bought a used cruising yacht, and took their three kids on a trip around the Eastern half of the United States via the Great Loop–the 5,000-mile circular journey from the mostly sheltered waters of the Eastern Seaboard to the mighty Midwestern rivers known to East Coasters like me only through the novels of Mark Twain.

I’ve mentioned that this is a brand new retirement goal for me, but this family, with children close in age to my own, got me wondering why they would do something like this and I wouldn’t. There are reasons, to be sure. He’s an independent contractor; I’m an employee. We’re pseudo-Totebaggers and therefore are loath to alter the kids’ path through traditional schooling. I’d feel too much regret over a year’s lost earnings at this point in my life.

But, oh to daydream about the possibilities if I were a little less boring and a little more adventurous.

What do you think about this trip in general? How about with kids, specifically? What great, long journeys have you enjoyed, or plan to do, or dream about?

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227 thoughts on “Trip of a lifetime

  1. I would rather stab myself in the eye repeatedly than live on a small boat with my 3 kids for a year.

  2. Same here! I feel claustrophobic just thinking about it! I also refuse to go on cruises! Not only do I have wicked motion sickness, but the thought of being out on the sea and not being able to get to the land immediately makes me uncomfortable.

    having said that, I would love to do something like this on road, with lots of breaks.

  3. LOL Cat! I am with you! This is part of why we are buying a bigger house. ;) Also, at least 3 out of the 5 of us get motion sick – I cannot be below decks on a boat for more than 5 minutes without feeling sick. Blechhhhh.

    I have to tsk at these parents for naming their second and third kids “Ryann” and “Jaxon”. Gah!

  4. +1 to Cat.

    I have talked to some parents who have done a few weeks in an RV during the summer and that sounds neat. Flew out to Denver and then did the national parks, Jackson Hole and other places like that. We drove to Missouri to visit my sister in the fall and that was the first time I had ever driven over the Mississippi river. I’ve been an East Coaster my whole life and have flown to the West Coast but have never really seen the middle of the country so an RV trip sounds intriguing.

  5. Through my Instagram feed, I have come across some families who do this on land-Airstream living. Once particular family has 3 young kids, 2 parents, travel all over the North American continent. Dad work remotely, so having good internet connection is a must. Apparently this is getting to be more common. The idea to me sounds great- no traditional jobs, seeing new places, meeting new people, “freedom”, however, the reality sounds awful-closed quarters, no privacy, no “home”, which to me would feel really odd and uncomfortable (I like having a home base/anchor!). Of course, on Instagram, everything looks great! No mention of what to do when someone is sick, grouchy, lack of clean clothes, bored kids, etc.

  6. Cat and Dell – they did the trip in a year, spending a month in Marathon Key. They got off the boat plenty. It sounds like they spent the same amount of time in the boat that you do in your house.

    That being said, I am on the fence. I wouldn’t want to sell my house, but to afford the boat, I’d have to. And to save enough to live without salary for a year (and have enough for boat repairs and side trips) would take some doing, especially in my life now. But the timing is right for their family – their oldest was still young enough to bounce right back into school. Imagine a tween or teen in that situation? Dear lord.

    I’ve always wanted to do something like this – but mine was drive the entirety of Route 66. I still want to do that, actually. Maybe when the kid is older.

    Our longest vacation ever is coming up next month – a trek to Idaho/Montana to see 3 National Parks and visit a few friends. DS will most likely be walking, so this should be an interesting journey. We’ll be gone ~2 weeks. If I survive, I may dream bigger.

  7. “”We did everything together, always,” says Danielle, including laundry.”

    No thanks!

    I enjoy cruises, because everyone can do their own thing and get together for lunch, dinner, and shore excursions. The perfect blend of family time, couple time, and alone time. Also, I learned that I do get seasick on smaller ships, but am fine on the large cruising ships.

  8. Rhode that trip sounds exciting. Do give us a trip report. We might do Utah parks late spring or early fall.

  9. That sounds like so much fun Rhode! Are you doing Yellowstone and Grand Teton? We did those before we had DS and I want to go back so bad!

  10. We’re pseudo-Totebaggers and therefore are loath to alter the kids’ path through traditional schooling.

    From the totebagger perspective, I’d think an experience like this could be used really nicely on a college application.

  11. My high school friend Elizabeth is right this minute in Turkey with her 11-year-old daughter. Elizabeth retired from teaching at 55 (and obviously had her daughter later than usual) and wanted her daughter to see the world, so they’ve been traveling all year. I think it’s been a mixed bag. Dad got left at home, though he’s come out for parts of the trip. (E.’s parents had mucho dinero, which is how this got funded.) Getting daughter to do her schoolwork has been challenging, but I’m sure all the educational aspects of traveling have been great.

    A guy I knew growing up went with his family around the world for a year when he was in 6th grade. Four kids, all under age 14. They went in an RV. Dad was a professor at Stanford and this was a sabbatical year. They had to do actual correspondence school — mailing in their homework assignments via snail mail. He thought it was a truly great experience. It got him very interested in history, and he’s still a history buff.

  12. Now that we’re staring at the empty nest, I am a little regretful we didn’t do more really big family trips. Most of our vacations have been with DHs family. Since we have no nearby family, I prioritized getting to spend time with grandparents, cousins, etc. but looking back not so sure about that.

  13. “From the totebagger perspective, I’d think an experience like this could be used really nicely on a college application.”

    The mom did mention how much fodder the kids had for school assignments, show and tells, etc… Think of the Harvard apps!

    Dell and Wine – we are heading to Boise, explore the foothills, then drive to Yellowstone visiting Grand Tetons and Craters of the Moon. One will be on the way to Yellowstone and one on the way back. Then a few more days in Boise, complete with a girls only trip to a hot spring spa. We’re even pulling a Totebag suggestion and renting a 7 passenger SUV to see if we like it. Our exploration party will include 3 adults and 1 toddler. We are staying outside Yellowstone in a family suite style hotel, and at a friend’s place in Boise.

    Re: the names – I nearly stopped reading at Jaxon. Ryann didn’t get me too much, I went to HS with a girl with the same name and spelling. Every year, I anxious away STFU, Parent’s Name Round up. DH is also good about sending me names he reads in his Ivy League U’s alumni magazine.

  14. Benefits Lawyer – we’ve always done spring break as a family trip and otherwise we go to visit our parents in RI/Cape Cod for vacation. Right now we just go to Florida because it’s close and easy but I can see starting to do further away places once my youngest is a little older. My oldest is already dreaming of Europe/Caribbean/Hawaii type places.

  15. We did a trip in December to the Caribbean with the kids. The older two were so easy – stayed up late, slept in, ate when/what we ate, happy to splash around in the pool and then watch a movie in the room, etc. Packing for them was easy – clothes/a few toiletries/a couple toys and travel car seat. Done. I feel like I am starting to have some hope for an easier/less time-intensive stage. Maybe once the youngest is 3? The youngest was fine, but she had diapers, PNP, still takes bottles (which is partially my fault and partially because she is tiny and needs the calories), earlier bed/wake-up time, very active, etc.

  16. I’m with Cat on both the names and the non-appeal of living with my kids on a boat for a year.

    We can barely make it an hour in the car without someone (or multiple someones, as happened a few weeks ago) throwing up.

  17. Our summer plans have been downgraded. We were planning a trip to London, until London plane tickets climbed to $1700+tax each. Same with other interesting parts of the world. We are now doing 2 road trips. One to Colorado to spend a week hiking/biking, and one to Nashville to see a cousin of DH’s and their new baby.

    Next year, DS1 will graduate from high school and we will take a big trip to Bali. Unless terrorists start blowing up tourist destinations again, which is what happened last time we planned to go there.

  18. One to Colorado to spend a week hiking/biking

    Do you know where you’ll be? One of the mountain resorts?

  19. We were prepared to move for DH’s job to Asia a while back. Not on a boat, but it would’ve been a cool adventure for a few years. My ex was totally for my DD and DS having that experience, but we couldn’t get my stepkids’ mother on board, and we didn’t want to have 4 of us go w/ them staying behind, so we didn’t do it. That pretty much determined any similar trip would be out of the question, too, so we have watched with some wistfulness as people around us have done this.

    After undergrad, my brother lived on a sailboat in Toronto. A few years later, he married my SIL and the 2 of them motored down to Miami, then sailed over to the Bahamas, where they remained for a year, living on the boat and sailing from island to island. We visited a few times and there were all kinds of families homeschooling or unschooling on nearby sailboats (call me overly Totebaggy or just plain snobby, but to do it on a motorized yacht feels like cheating to me. Note I haven’t done the trip myself, either under sail power or motor, so who am I to say this. But still). One of the boats I recall was called “Kelsey’s School” and Kelsey was about 8. Each time they’d sail to another island, she’d learn all about it in some kind of lesson plan. (Her mother also taught naked yoga on the boat. Interesting family).

    My brother and SIL met countless people doing the same trip as retired persons, and almost to a person, the retirees begged my brother and SIL to NOT wait until they were retired to do something like that again. One couple had put the trip off, and when they finally could do it, the husband had some major physical limitations and had to seek help from neighboring sailors like my brother to do a lot of the things on his boat. That really resonated w/ my brother, and although they didn’t repeat the confines-of-a-sailboat-for-a-year idea, when he and SIL had 1 kid around 2yo and another about 6weeks, they sold my brother’s business in Toronto and moved to an island, ostensibly until the 2yo started kindergarten. They’re still there, and the 2yo is now a college sophomore.

  20. “But, oh to daydream about the possibilities if I were a little less boring and a little more adventurous.”

    This. +1000.

    I dream of taking a summer/year off and just traveling — the summer would be the “RV around the US” trip, the full year would be the “travel all over Europe and wherever else we can get to” trip. But when the kids were young enough to do that and not screw up their schooling, we were still recovering from the multi-state-job-losses-and-moves, and having finally achieved security/stability, I was loath to give it up. Now I am getting restless, but DD is in HS (i.e., very specifically-defined tracks), and it wouldn’t be fair to her to take her away from all of her friends and have to quit softball and everything.

    Thinking about this a lot, actually, as DH is really not happy with his job right now (has his first real pointy-haired boss in probably 15 years) and just got recruited for an awesome-sounding opportunity in the Dallas area. Part of me wants to say screw it and go (I could telecommute), but the bigger part says we have a good thing going here and DD is best served staying put instead of upsetting the apple cart just because we’re bored and pissy of late.

  21. “I feel claustrophobic just thinking about it!”

    For me, as long as I could be outside, I’d be fine. Any power boat needs a flying bridge. And on this particular trip, you’re never out of sight of land.

    “Part of me wants to say screw it and go (I could telecommute), but the bigger part says we have a good thing going here and DD is best served staying put instead of upsetting the apple cart just because we’re bored and pissy of late.”

    Just wondering if you mentioned it to her?

  22. PTM – right? Of all the things to do naked, that must be the grossest.

    BTW – how close are you to Little Haiti and what are the chances you know of a guy there who has a company that sells refabbed vintage FJs?

  23. “just got recruited for an awesome-sounding opportunity in the Dallas area”

    Come on down! Dallas is great.

    “Naked Bikram Yoga?”

    Ewwww…

  24. Ris, my friend, I live relatively close (a few mile/90 minute drive) to Little Haiti. What the hell is a “rehabbed vintage FJ”?

    The only thing I can think of is an ex-alcoholic, football field judge, but certainly you have plenty of those in Michigan!

  25. Before Easter dinner, I was telling everyone about my new plans to do this (at some point) and looking at pictures of different boats on my phone, and of course there were different conversations going on. In a smaller group, my SIL asked when I was thinking of retiring, and I answered that I didn’t know, but possibly between 50-55. My brother says “Oh, that’s way too early,” to which she responds “I don’t know, I think I might retire at that age.” (This is coming a lot sooner for her than it is for me, as he’s my older brother, and she’s a few years older than him.) Now my brother’s rolling his eyes saying “If you’re retiring that early, then we shouldn’t be looking at such big houses to buy.”

    Now my Mom says “If you do it, let us know, and we’ll do it with you.” I said “You better go now if you want to, you’ll be in your 80’s before I can take you. But, if you do still want to do it then, we can split a bigger boat for it.”

    So we’ll see.

  26. I backpacked around Europe in my early 20’s and am very glad I had that experience – but not sure I would want to do that with my family. Not to mention that if we had to homeschool DS while traveling, I’m not sure all of us would make it home alive. This would also be true if we had to homeschool DS while staying at home.

    I am looking forwarding to traveling with DH once the kids are out of the house (but more along the lines of weekend getaways to two week trips – not a 6 month or year sort of thing).

  27. Milo – you should do it. Rent out your house to help offset the cost and let your index funds compound while you’re gone.:)

  28. I would love to do this, and always thought that crazy months long trips would be part of my future, even/especially with kids. Then I married a super responsible DH who likes the comfort of home, and gets exactly 10 days of vacation per year. So, we’re still sorting this out. I foresee some month long trips in the next few years, once the youngest doesn’t react to staying up late with getting up early and having a tantrum every 15 minutes for the rest of the day. And naps, we need to be done with naps.

  29. We’re pseudo-Totebaggers and therefore are loath to alter the kids’ path through traditional schooling.

    Or is it more the entire unconventional nature of it all? I know several people that have very unconventional paths into the upper middle class and above, but I’d imagine many here would not be fans of their path until they saw that it actually paid off. I could see this trip opening them up to unconventional paths in life which might be more stressful on a parent than a kid who goes to flagship state to major in accounting.

  30. I didn’t know, but possibly between 50-55.

    If you run the numbers and rent out your house is it really going to matter if you take a year off now and retire at 51-56 the impact is going to be fairly minimal.

  31. PTM – I’m talking about those vintage Toyota Landcruiser FJs that run about $50k or so. There’s a guy in Miami who rehabs and sells them, and someone I know is dying to work for him, so I thought I’d see if just by chance, he was a client or friend or whatever. Long shot, but you gotta take them.

  32. This post inspired me to quickly Google some round the world trip ideas. This would be something to do in a time frame ranging from a month to a year. Three months may be the maximum for me. I’m older than most of you, and I’d be interested in doing this with my H or with a friend or relative. I might be reluctant to spend the money, but after yesterday’s post I realize even more that I should enjoy some “adventure” travel before I become too frail or need to lug around a luggage full of meds.

  33. Sorry, Ris. I don’t know him. Let me ask around church on Sunday. We have some real car people there.

  34. “Just wondering if you mentioned it to her?”

    Nah, she’s the kind to freak first, ask questions later. (Yeah, I know, apples, trees, etc.). No sense panicking her over something before it’s somewhat close to being an option.

    Plus I don’t think DH is *that* interested — he’s balancing “big promotion” against “it’s in Texas,” and I think the latter is winning. (he is pretty ridiculously prejudiced against TX, and I think it makes him look like a doink and am not even going to try to defend him on that point, but it does decrease the likelihood he’d want to pull the trigger).

  35. When I was a kid, my family made one trip to the continent, so my parents made it a big, memorable trip. My dad must’ve saved at least two years’ worth of vacation, probably three, and we did a 6 week long road trip reminiscent of the Griswolds, complete with the big station wagon from Detroit and some misadventures (e.g., the suitcases on top of the station wagon coming loose on the way to Yosemite). We started in San Francisco, went to Yosemite, Anaheim (Disneyland when they still had E tickets), San Diego, Vegas, Arizona, CO, then back to SF. Lots of camping, Travelodge, and Denny’s.

    It was a great experience, and I recently got to relive some of it– in cleaning up my parents’ house, 8mm movies from the trip were found. I was the only one who wanted them, so I took them, and have been slowly taking them to get copied onto DVDs, which also allowed me to share it with my kids.

  36. Our neighbors lived on a boat as Milo describes. They returned to flyover country when health concerns forced them to be near family. They are neat people.

  37. “From the totebagger perspective, I’d think an experience like this could be used really nicely on a college application.”

    Oh I agree.

    I think that this sounds really great in theory but parts of it in practice would definitely be annoying. I always like the idea of being a total free spirit and risk taker, but in practice, I am just not that person. And neither is DH. I don’t think he even pretends to want to be. But seeing the country from a boat for a year? That sounds pretty damn cool. And more fun to do when you are younger & have kids to share the experience with. The kids really did seem to be the exact right age since they were old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient and helpful, but not old enough for homeschooling to be overly complicated.

  38. “If you run the numbers and rent out your house is it really going to matter if you take a year off now and retire at 51-56 the impact is going to be fairly minimal.”

    Objectively, I want more money before I give up a guaranteed thing with great benefits and take myself out for a year, plus it would mean DW challenging the good thing she’s got going, especially since it would include homeschooling.

    Subjectively, like you said, I’m just not ready for something quite so unconventional. But by my early 50’s, the kids will all be out of college.

  39. PTM – Please go out and have a cortadito for me so I can vicariously enjoy it. I’m having a NYC cortado right now and, wow, is it not the same. Very disappointed.

    SSK – I think you asked about my assembly line job. Back in HS I had an internship with a local engineering company, rotating through various departments. The next summer they asked me back to work in their assembly department. It was more like putting together a kit and then testing it than what you’d probably think of when you hear assembly line. I put together valves that regulated air/fluid flow for aerospace and medical products and tested their performance before they went on to the quality control department. Involved some welding, work with magnets, hand stamping serial nos. They offered me a job at the end of the summer, but I decided to go to college.

  40. As much as I love to travel, and I love boats, this kind of thing holds zero appeal for me. I am not cut out to be a homeschooler.

  41. Milo, how about a scaled down version? Take a couple of months during the summer, so school isn’t affected, and rent a yacht or an RV.

    Our window of opportunity for something like is nearly closed. Perhaps we can do something next summer that ends at DS’ school of choice.

    We couldn’t do it when the kids were younger because it was hard to save enough vacation time for an extended trip; we needed to use a lot of it for the work days when the kids were off from school and we didn’t have another care option.

    Also, one of the tradeoffs DW and I knew we were making in sending our kids to private school was that we wouldn’t be able to travel as much as we could’ve otherwise.

  42. We’ve been watching the Tiny Home show on HGTV, and while I wouldn’t want a true tiny home with a small child, thinking about a house that would be about half the size of our current one. cheaper and less maintenance, more time and more money = win/win

  43. “But by my early 50’s, the kids will all be out of college.”

    This is the sort of thing a kid could do in a gap year, whether between HS and college, undergrad and first job or grad school, job and grad school, etc. You just need to get them to synchronize their gap years.

  44. Winemama – smaller is not always cheaper! =) When I’m thinking of moving or I see friends’ houses in the suburbs one of my first thoughts is “Gosh who is going to keep all of this clean?!”

  45. “valves that regulated air/fluid flow for aerospace and medical products”

    Mass flow controllers? I could’ve been one of your customers.

  46. Finn – the ones I worked on where small (fit in the palm of my hand) and very specialized. The other big company in the area that did larger and more commoditized stuff was (is?) Moog.

  47. Finn – I could probably do three weeks with lots of pre-planning at work. But that’s certainly an idea. Then the question is where can I rent something and for what segment of the Loop? I’m kind of intrigued by the Erie Canal–I’m fascinated by the period in our history when people spoke proudly and aspirationally about “conquering” nature to fulfill economic destiny.

  48. “But by my early 50’s, the kids will all be out of college.”

    You seem so assured of that, but it’s understandable. Even when I was younger, I would never have been so confident of where my kids would be in the future. But maybe you really meant that by your early 50s you will not be paying college tuition. :)

  49. But, one thing DH and I really want to do in retirement is spend an extended amount of time in one city – 6 months in Paris one year, 6 months in London another year.

  50. Lark, I’d like to do that too. Maybe not 6 months, but a month or two at a time.

  51. “one thing DH and I really want to do in retirement is spend an extended amount of time in one city – 6 months in Paris one year, 6 months in London another year.”

    I would love to do this at least once or twice.

  52. “But maybe you really meant that by your early 50s you will not be paying college tuition. :)”

    True. In the grand scheme of things, my three have far more advantages than most. They get four years of tuition (or if there’s a delay for some reason, that’s fine). But really, if they can’t get their sh1t together after everything we’ll have given them, then it’s on them.

  53. @ ATM – one of the first cities we want to do is NYC :) We go up at least once/year for a long weekend, but I’d love to really experience it as a semi-resident.

  54. “This is the sort of thing a kid could do in a gap year, whether between HS and college, undergrad and first job or grad school, job and grad school, etc. You just need to get them to synchronize their gap years.”

    I really like this idea. I too would have resisted doing this with my parents, but maybe my kid will be different.

  55. and this is off topic but have you ever owned a log cabin? love staying in them, but not sure what kind of time and money the upkeep is to keep the wood looking pretty

  56. word press just ate my post

    off topic but thinking about buying a cabin – what kind of time/money to upkeep the wood?
    anyone owned one here?

  57. From wine’s cabin link:

    The Shawnee National Forest is highly valued by the residents of Illinois and surrounding states. Although Illinois is the nation’s 4th most populous state, and 24th largest in size, it ranks 48th in the amount of public land set aside.

    ??
    Is that supposed to be impressive?

    “I graduated in the top 98% of my class.”

  58. Anothertwinmom – have you thought more about moving? If I recall correctly, you were considering moving to the suburbs?

  59. but maybe they are saying that Shawnee area is highly valued due to the lack of public land in the state as a whole

  60. tcmama – Every time I think about middle schools I think of moving. (My kids are in 3rd grade.) But there are large downsides to moving, primarily that both DH and I work in Manhattan and moving would in all likelihood lengthen our commutes. I worry about not being closer to home/at home afterschool/early evening while the kids are in middle and high school. Plus I really do like Brooklyn.

    The most successful combinations I’ve seen are where one parent is stay at home in the suburbs and the other works in Manhattan, or, where both parents work, at least one parent works from home/in the suburb and the other works in Manhattan.

    Part of my issue is that I’d like to be the one to stay at home or work from home while DH commutes, but that doesn’t seem possible given my job /salary.

  61. “one thing DH and I really want to do in retirement is spend an extended amount of time in one city – 6 months in Paris one year, 6 months in London another year.” In fact, this is our retirement plan.

    The urge to do it now comes from the fear that life will intervene and we won’t be able to pull it off, because one of us gets sick, or my mom needs a lot of care, etc. So we are making a point of taking bigger trips now than I ever would have agreed to 5 years ago (because of the $/time off work). It doesn’t completely scratch the itch, but at least if one of us gets hit by a bus I won’t have delayed all gratification so long that I missed all the fun.

  62. I can see our family taking month-long trips. Mr WCE gets 5 weeks of vacation this year, he can buy a week, and they lay him off for a week at Christmas. His main challenge is taking all his vacation. He can do the majority of his job remotely, so I can also see him working out a deal where he works a half-day every other day during a month off to help all the people he normally helps as a senior engineer. We probably wouldn’t sail but we might hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail or tour East Coast historic sites.

    My German Literature/Statistician friend’s son is looking at going to college to do research in data structures. He has a full tuition scholarship to a state school because of his PSAT score but he got a GED rather than graduate from high school. He wasn’t a NMF (only NMSF) due to his sub2.0 GPA. He spent ~5 years after high school as a cook on a historic sailing ship out of Seattle. Now he thinks he knows what he wants to do (he’s tired of being a cook) and he is going to try to test out of much of the undergrad com sci curriculum and start taking grad classes in statistics and data structures. I expect he’ll finish his undergrad degree fairly quickly and get picked up as a research assistant by a professor.

    Despite the county’s 70% on-time high school graduation rate, I am confident my boys will either graduate from high school or get a GED, qualifying them to go to college if/when they want to. I’m also confident I could homeschool my children adequately to get them through the GED.

  63. ATM, I’m really interested in hearing how your family’s life unfolds in NYC if you choose to stay there. I don’t have a good idea what day to day life is like there.

  64. Well Finn, I sure talk about it often enough!

    My only security against being outed is that NYC is so big and there are lots of working mom lawyers like me. I may change my handle at some point but I haven’t thought of a new one that fits.

  65. I agree that NYC would be a great place to spend a few months! I also want to do a ton of cruises.

  66. ATM – I’m interested too like Finn. The school thing is fascinating to me. We have pretty strong public school options. For privates – a lot of private religious schools are around for under $10k and the top privates are probably around $25-30K a year. Most everyone I know sends their kids to public schools.

    What is the process there for getting into schools?

  67. “I could probably do three weeks with lots of pre-planning at work.”

    Three weeks a year for 17 years should allow you to do the entire loop.

    I’d guess that the amount of pre-planning required would go down from year to year until it becomes a routine.

  68. When I was younger I thought that I was a real free spirit and was only constrained from acting fully on it by a) a lack of funds and b) the little people who lived with me. It was part of getting to know myself (again?) at 50 or so when I realized that I am a bourgeoise at heart. Yes I have interesting taste in design, quirky hobbies, and a hodgepodge of views, but I spent my entire adult life longing for home ownership and a stable marriage and (little did I know) non-human housemates. I don’t want to be away from home more than 2 1/2 weeks at a time. I suppose I could get used to a driving distance weekend/vacation home, but not two seasonal residences.

  69. Schools – I could write a novel on NYC public and private school admissions processes. Having twins and one with an IEP just complicates it further. Let me give this some thought and I’ll either send something for CoC to post (since I am actually working today) or I’ll post a really long post over the weekend.

  70. There is a “controversy” in NYC right now about the entrance exams to some of the specialized public high schools. I am about to submit one of the articles about the exam/entrance requirements to CoC for a future post. I went through the process as a child, and I am curious to know what all of you think about it because you have the luxury of being objective since you don’t have to live through the process.

    I actually think the process for middle school in NYC is much harder than HS. You really have to know the system, your kids, and sometimes roll the dice to get your child into the best public school for your child.

  71. Ada – sure do! graduatestudentlife at gmail

    Gap Year – Lord I would never have done that with my parents. Talk about the 7th level of hell. At that point I wanted out.

    Milo – could you stand to be on a boat with your wife, kids, and parents? Even on a bigger boat that seems like a lot… But the question is how likely they’ll be willing to go with you at that point.

    I read above (and I think LfB liked it) was being less boring and more adventurous. That’s DH. I’ve worked very hard for 17 years to get him to jump out of his skin. We moved him out of the microscope of family life in northern NJ, and then convinced him playing hooky to take a drive to see the fall foliage is OK. Now, I’m up to 2 week vacations with a toddler where anything and everything will probably go wrong. Before we’re retired, I’ll get him to month plus trips.

    I’d love to take a month or two off and just go somewhere. Rent the house out, rent a house there, or find some way to have a base of operations. I can check in with work to make sure the world is spinning properly, but really be off the clock. I have a giant “state of the union” style report due in September. And I just got invited to give a talk in December (and I need the summary and title now… of course… and I don’t know how the work will turn out so I can’t write anything specific… the damn thing is 9 months out! ). I think I may January off.

  72. “Milo – could you stand to be on a boat with your wife, kids, and parents? Even on a bigger boat that seems like a lot… But the question is how likely they’ll be willing to go with you at that point.”

    No, I never considered that possibility. We’re not going now, and my parents wouldn’t go now, anyway–*they’re* still working!

    Later on, if it’s just DW and I, I like the Beneteau Swift 34. If we’ll have company, the 44 would be nice (although its larger draft might get a little dicey in places like the Great Dismal Swamp).

  73. but I spent my entire adult life longing for home ownership and a stable marriage and (little did I know) non-human housemates.

    I was talking to a high school friend about what my life would have been like if I’d never left Palo Alto and just stayed in the house I grew up in til my parents died. She said, “your house would be full of cats and your back yard would be littered with empty Tab cans and you’d shout at clouds.” I said, “That sounds awesome“.

  74. We are taking 11 days this summer to travel (2 travel days, 9 at our destination). That’s enough for me right now. I don’t want to be away from work longer than that (the perk of being your own boss, you actually enjoy what you do…), and that’s the outer limits of how long DH can be gone. This is the longest trip we will have taken since having kids, and definitely the longest trip our kids have done. Will be interesting. A lot of togetherness…

  75. I try to be as adventurous as I can. I would love to do the boat loop. DH loves a nice cool hotel. DS is turning out the same way. DD, OTOH is quite the sport. We try to see different areas of the country, so our kids have been on vacation to various states and seen interesting places. We also travelled pre kids, which was nice.
    When the kids are older, I will take both or one on a more adventurous vacation. DH would not like roughing it so he will have to stay home.

    @Milo – have you been to the Thousand Islands – border of US and Canada ? That area has locks (we saw those in action) on one of our vacations. You can take boats through the locks and that is a fantastic area for a family summer vacation.

  76. I like stability but some days, I have too much stability and therefore under the guise of “betterment” I have sneakily taken off.

  77. “the Thousand Islands”

    This brings to mind The Deerslayer and images of birch bark canoes.

    I never read the book, but I did read the Classics Illustrated comic.

  78. “Now that we’re staring at the empty nest”

    Is your senior your youngest? Any decisions yet?

  79. “one thing DH and I really want to do in retirement is spend an extended amount of time in one city”

    Ditto. We’d also love for our kids to join us there for as long as they can.

    I’ve also written here before of wanting to spend extended time at or near a ski area, with season passes.

  80. Louise, no I just thought it was a salad dressing. I’ll have to look into that.

  81. “I might be reluctant to spend the money”

    Have you reviewed your financial situation recently?

    With college approaching, I’ve taken a look at our finances for retirement to help ascertain how much we can afford to spend on the kids.

    It turns out we’re in better shape than I’d thought, in large part because when I first charted retirement plans, many years ago, there was a lot of chatter about social security going broke, so I didn’t plan on SS income. But as retirement approaches, SS is still solvent, and projects to provide us a nice chunk of income. So now I’m thinking we may be able to comfortably do a lot more traveling in retirement than I’d thought we could.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that as retirees, not bound by school or work schedules, we’ll have the flexibility to minimize travel costs by traveling during low seasons, on the least expensive travel days, etc.

  82. Oops, The Pathfinder. Wrong Cooper novel.

    Perhaps once I’m retired I can actually read the book.

  83. Every time someone mentions locks on canals, I think of when Top Gear created a hovercraft and took it down a river with locks and a fish weir. It was a hilarious mess.

    I want to travel to the Stanley Hotel in CO. I wanted to go for their paranormal activities and tours, but I just read that they are discontinuing all that. Now I’ll have to go for the views. Not bad, but I was hoping to kill two birds… kinda like Mount Washington, NH (our first and so far only baby free trip back in August).

  84. I visited the Stanley Hotel in CO last year. Very cool, at least my family thought so.

  85. I feel that we travel enough now. We take a week-long vacation for winter break, spring break, and about 2 week-long trips over the summer.

  86. CoC, I loved this line:

    Was cultured yogurt any more well­mannered than its uncultured counterpart?

    I don’t know if this is an April Fools posting or not, but the Ivy acceptance announcements were yesterday.

    I’m also wondering what schools are looking for in an essay. Do they want creative writing like this? Or are they looking for something more factual about the applicant, why he wants to go to that school, and what he would bring to that school and make it better?

  87. “one thing DH and I really want to do in retirement is spend an extended amount of time in one city”

    “Ditto. We’d also love for our kids to join us there for as long as they can.”

    Finn — You could encourage your kids to do a semester abroad in college, and then your wife and you could rent an apartment for the semester in the same city where the kids are studying! It would be like taking helicopter parenting to a whole new level. ;)

  88. “The most successful combinations I’ve seen are where one parent is stay at home in the suburbs and the other works in Manhattan, or, where both parents work, at least one parent works from home/in the suburb and the other works in Manhattan.”

    I see the same thing here. I have no desire to work in the suburbs, and no desire for even one of us to have a long commute. And we mostly enjoy living in the heart of the city anyway. But we’ll see. School is only somewhat daunting as DS can stay through 8th at his current school if we choose. We may pay for 16 years of private school, but it’s worth it to us to have the ease of having everything within easy walking/cab/transit/bike distance. Are MS separate in NYC? Here, most grade schools are K-8, so if there are really only two major competitions to get into a decent public school. There are some IB programs and Junior High Academic Centers that start in 5th and 7th grade, respectively, but it’s not the mass chaos of the main entry.

    TCMama – I have suburban friends who have taken advantage of Open Enrollment & other public choice options in your neck of the woods. It sounds as difficult as our urban system to navigate. But everyone who has taken advantage of schools outside of their home school seems happy with their school choices so far. The city families we know there are all in private.

  89. Anothertwinmom – that is so interesting. I had been picturing you in more of a “Lucy on the candy line” situation, but I have revised my mental image!

    Finn – I tried to read The Last of The Mohicans (as an adult) and found it slow going. I would prefer a comic book version, most definitely!

  90. I want to travel to the Stanley Hotel in CO

    90 minute drive from my house. C’mon down!

  91. “We may pay for 16 years of private school, but it’s worth it to us to have the ease of having everything within easy walking/cab/transit/bike distance.”

    That’s what we’ll end up having done, with the opposite easy distances, but I’m sure I will still think it was worth it.

    OTOH, I’m also sure I’ll enjoy the extra sleep I’ll be able to get without having to wake up early to help get the kids out the door on time.

  92. “Lucy on the candy line”

    LOL! Thanks for the laugh.

    OTOH, I don’t think ATM would’ve been asked back had she been like Lucy. l’m impressed that she can weld.

  93. Ivy, the public middle schools in NYC are generally 6-8. There are a few that are 5- 8, but there are only a tiny number of schools that are K – 8. You have to test into those few schools, and it is very difficult to get admitted. Some of the private schools do run from k – 8, and then some of those parents will scramble to get into HS. Some of those kids will try to test into the public elite, or performing art high schools in the city. Many of my friends tried to find a private that runs from elementary through HS so they didn’t have to repeat the process to get admitted to HS.

  94. The DD who chose not to attend the same sunny university as her sister heard from her advisor that her essay was considered one of the best to date at that institution of learning. It was a reflection on how the death of her older sister (before DD was born) had altered every single person in the household, and indirectly also her. Now that was something worth reading, if hard for mom. Older DD wrote an essay very much like the Costco one discussing her unusual name, with some memorable lines about how her parents (I beg forgiveness) were sure she was a boy and had chosen Gideon for the name and how she was lucky as a chubby four eyed brain, but a girl, not to have spent her childhood being beaten up. Anything that doesn’t cause the admissions counselor’s eyes to glaze over is good.

  95. @Ivy – all but one family from our daycare center went public. More families with kids are staying in the city and some elementary schools are really popular. We went private in small part due to the craziness of trying to figure out middle and high schools. We know where we’re going all the way through. We had friends move within the city for middle school. Everyone we talk to seems happy with their choice.

  96. Increasingly, privates here are K-12, accepting additional students along the way, typically 4, 6,7, 9.

    It is very nice to not have to worry about admissions between K and college. That gives parents more energy to channel into college admissions.

  97. Finn – you are right, but now that you mention welding, my mind has to go to Flashdance!

    Anothertwinmom – I didn’t mean that you acted like Lucy did on the assembly line!! Just that you stood in one place while something went by you that required you to process or build the next stage.

  98. “It is very nice to not have to worry about admissions between K and college. That gives parents more energy to channel into college admissions.”

    And how!

  99. Here is a lovely medical school admission essay, from an acquaintance. I searched for a couple key terms online to locate it, because I knew she had it on a personal website. It appears other websites have taken it as their own as well.

    I think you see the hallmark of many successful essays. Well the writer has done some interesting things, it really creates a compelling story of how she has ended up at this junction in her life, and where she intends to go. This writer did not end up as a pediatrician, as her essay suggests. The reader, having just read 100 essays, remembers her as “the cheerio applicant”.

    Also, of note, she is contacted periodically by medical school admissions personnel. It turns out that this essay is often plagiarized. So, despite it being about 20 years old, it is still a compelling story.

    http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=13066

  100. “Anything that doesn’t cause the admissions counselor’s eyes to glaze over is good.”

    Basically this. It should reveal something about the candidate that is consistent with the rest of the application. I’ve mentioned before that I think the student would benefit from branding himself (the “Cheerio applicant”) to stand out. [Cut to Milo smirking at the silliness.]

    One essay I saw included the unifying theme about the applicant’s quirky habit of obsessively trying to watch every shuttle launch live regardless of wherever he was and whatever he was doing. It provided a good framework to highlight and unify various aspects of the student’s life.

    I still think that article about the Costco essay is a hoax. Besides the essay, the fact that the student’s high school and city are not provided makes me suspicious. Plus, I could see where someone thought it would make a funny contrast to the many articles about minority students who get in to all the Ivys. ‘Look, a generic white girl writes an essay about the generic Middle America experience of going to Costco and gets into Harvard.’ (Okay, I’m probably just very cynical about all this.)

  101. RMS, it’s been a brutal admission season:

  102. Aw, Cordelia, I’m really sorry to hear that. Hugs to your daughter.

  103. Cordelia–sorry for the tough week. (DS got waitlisted this week at his reach school). IIRC, your DD got into a great school with great aid, so I hope it all works out for her.

  104. HM,

    Thanks, she will be fine. She has more good options than she knows what to do with. She got into three really good/top schools for what she wants to study. She can only go to one.

    She applied to some Ivys to see what would happen. She got waitlisted…hmmm. She didn’t want to go there anyway. And she got rejected from Stanford, which means she is part of the 95% and she didn’t like it when we visited. What hurts is that she got rejected from her top choice.

    Based on the responses, it appears she applied to safeties (my assessment is that if the offered her enough money to make it state school cost equivalent it was a safety), two matches (offered admittance but no money), and high reaches (waitlist or rejections).

    RMS’s Onion post doesn’t strike me as satire at all. For the past month, DH and I have been wondering if we would pay for the top choice private. From her stats, it was plausible that she could get in, but unlikely that they would offer money. Which meant we would need to decide if we were willing to come up with an extra 30K per year for that school. Given that she is almost certain to go to grad school, and commodity prices keep falling, it was getting harder and harder to justify the expense.

    For the next two, I need to get a better understanding of what college admissions officers are looking for.

    Since I’m whining/venting…..she is valedictorian, she plays two sports, has been on a varsity team since she was a freshman, teaches swim lessons to underprivleged minority kids, has been a president of two organizations, held offices in others, is a 4H All Star, has raised championship livestock. Has been a state speaking finalist 7 times and is a state champion. Her SAT/ACT scores put her at the 95 percentile. What more do they want?

  105. Anon: Congrats on the great accomplishments of your daughter and her successful applications to several great colleges/universities. We will go through this soon (DS is a junior), and am very curious about how the process works. Thanks for sharing your family’s POV and results.

  106. Anon – I think that is the unanswerable question – what else do they want? And the answer is “nothing” – there is nothing more that she can do or could have done. She is completely qualified to be admitted to any college in the country. The problem is that there are so many other girls with comparable activities/grades/scores that only a random few will be admitted to the most competitive colleges if they don’t have a hook.

    It is frustrating because we encourage our kids to achieve these things with the possibility of a top college acceptance as a goal, but statistically it is unlikely that they will be admitted. However, you can’t flip it around and say “why bother, you’ll never get into Stanford, so there is no point in working hard.”

    The only thing you (generic you – as a parent) is to make sure that they apply to a variety of schools so they have several options, and to help them understand the odds at the top schools, if they are in that range. DS applied to one Ivy league school as a huge stretch, and he was pretty blasé about it – he figured he’d rather try and get rejected then not try at all. His cousin, who was similar to your DD in achievements and actually had a chance at acceptance was rejected or waitlisted, and was of course more disappointed. She got into a bunch of great schools, though, and had plenty of options.

    Anyway, I hope your DD is ok with the rejections and waitlisting, and happy about her choices. The rejection from her top choice hopefully does not affect her too much longer – she has to turn her focus towards the great colleges she has to choose from!

  107. Thanks for everyone’s comments. DD will pick herself up and go forward. And if she has her heart set on her top pick, she can try to transfer or go there for grad school. There is always a plan B.

    I’ve been pondering some things as I am procrastinating on the paperwork I have to do. DD has, in the words of her speech coach, “suffered some crushing defeats”, but she also is a state champion. Although I would prefer that she was never disappointed, I don’t know that you get one without the other.

    Once she got the news that her top choice didn’t want her, she pulled out some of the college rankings books we had and started looking hard at the other schools. She and DH are off visiting one of the really good schools she got into. The next few weekends he and I are going with her so she can pick. I suspect it will be fun. I also suspect she will go to the university that is a cult, but a really happy cult. My only concern is that that university is filled with handsome young men with a charming accent.

  108. Anon – I’m drawing a blank on the cult/charming accent school. Can you give another clue without giving it away?

  109. OK, I think I have it! Thanks, and I am sure that she would have a lovely experience there.

  110. “What more do they want?”

    URM.

    Or more generally, some sort of hook that distinguishes them from the crowd.

    From all the reading I’ve done, it sounds like at the HSS, e.g., it’s not necessarily good enough to have been a varsity athlete, but being a recruited athlete is a big hook. Or from examples we’ve seen, it’s not good enough to be a very good musician, but if you’ve won state or regional competitions, that can be a hook.

  111. CoC, I’m not so sure the Costco essay is a hoax. But the timing of Ivy announcements is perfect for such a hoax.

    “Plus, I could see where someone thought it would make a funny contrast to the many articles about minority students who get in to all the Ivys. ‘Look, a generic white girl writes an essay about the generic Middle America experience of going to Costco and gets into Harvard.’”

    I’m not so sure that she is a ‘generic white girl.’ Although there’s nothing there that says she’s not, I don’t discount the possibility of her being an URM; perhaps she has a Hispanic grandparent. The writer might have intentionally left that out to create the perception of a ‘generic white girl.’

  112. Anon: I passed along my contact info to COC. If your DD ever needs “boots on the ground”, feel free to reach out to me. We are familiar with the University.

    COC: I also *finally* submitted a post.

  113. “It is frustrating because we encourage our kids to achieve these things with the possibility of a top college acceptance as a goal, but statistically it is unlikely that they will be admitted. However, you can’t flip it around and say “why bother, you’ll never get into Stanford, so there is no point in working hard.””

    The strategy I’ve employed with DS, and need to start employing with DD, is to set the goal of having the academic qualifications to get into any (non-subject specific) school in the country, but to make sure they know that the top schools will be reaches for them no matter how well they do academically (e.g., Stanford rejecting 69% of kids with 2400s on SATs).

    Being at that level academically, however, will make them attractive to lower tier schools that offer merit aid and avail them of a plethora of options. In particular, being NMSF opens a lot of doors to merit aid, although not to top-tier schools, which only offer need-based aid.

    The unpredictability and seeming irrationality of the selections of the top schools is being driven home for DS by the recent decisions for current seniors. He’s seen some absolutely top-notch kids get rejected by their top choice schools, but he’s also seen a couple of kids in his physics class, who he classifies as mediocre, without any hooks he could discern, get into such schools.

    Apparently, getting into a given school, especially the selective ones who use the ‘holistic’ process, can hinge on making a connection of some sort with someone in the admissions office, so it seems to me that the essay can make a huge difference.

  114. Anon – as soon as you said “happy cult” I knew where you were talking about. That school is just a tiny bit over an hour from my house, and I’d be happy to be a local emergency contact for you if you need it. I sent my contact info to CoC. It is a large school, but my daughter said it doesn’t feel large at all, because you see the people in your major in many of your classes.

    It is a very friendly, pretty conservative place, and a safe campus. I think you wouldn’t have to worry about her at all there.

    Best of luck to her on making her final decision. What an exciting position to be in for her. I’m sure the sting of not getting her first choice will pass quickly as she focuses on her options. And congrats to you – I’m sure you’re very proud of her.

  115. “Apparently, getting into a given school, especially the selective ones who use the ‘holistic’ process, can hinge on making a connection of some sort with someone in the admissions office, so it seems to me that the essay can make a huge difference.”

    A mediocre essay can certainly doom an application, but even an excellent essay will not move the needle very much, because it simply takes too much time to read and carefully assess the merits of thousands of essays. My impression after reading hundreds of applications was that few 17-year olds have the skill to make a compelling case with a 650 word limit. I wish that students and their parents could see how difficult it is to make decisions based on what we see in the Common App. After all, there are more than 25,000 high schools in the country, all of which have valedictorians and at least a dozen varsity sport captains, club presidents, band section chairs, yearbook editors, regional chorus stars. The letters of recommendation are often formulaic. Some 1.6 million kids take the SAT, which means that there are 80,000 kids in the top 5%. There are only about 30,000 seats in the top 20 schools. The “holistic” process is far more random than measured, and most selective schools could very easily admit the next 2000 students on the list without making much of a dent in their numbers.

  116. OK, it’s taken me a while, but I think I know the school in Anon’s cult reference.

    Is it one with a big-time DI athletic program, with notable recent success? Located in a relatively small town (i.e., much smaller than Houston or DFW)? Private?

  117. “DD has, in the words of her speech coach, “suffered some crushing defeats”, but she also is a state champion. Although I would prefer that she was never disappointed, I don’t know that you get one without the other.”

    Don’t the defeats make the victories sweeter?

    I’m glad DS has suffered defeats in debate. It’s important to learn to deal with failure and see it as part of the learning process.

    BTW, I assume being a state champion means she has qualified for nationals. Has she participated? I’m curious as to what nationals is like.

  118. It is snowing here – we are supposed to get 3-5″ today and 4-6″ tomorrow. The kids will be amazed! April storms were routine for me growing up, but not after having had 65 degree weather in the past week.

  119. The weather is crazy here. Huge storm last night with so much lightning, hail and eventually snow. It is sunny now, but winds are non stop, and it is just so loud. I couldn’t even open my storm door this morning because the wind was is so strong.

  120. Cordelia, congratulations to your DD!

    My goal for my kids is that they will be academically qualified for the HSS, not that they will be admitted. They are better off getting merit scholarships and going elsewhere.

    It never was a truly fair merit-based system, and it never will be unless they are forced to use only blind-graded entrance exams.

  121. Would someone email me and tell me what the damn Texas college is? I’m looking at a map and I can’t narrow it down.

  122. haha I can’t figure it out, either. The first one that came to mind was one that specializes in a field with which L will soon become very familiar. But I’m probably wrong.

    Anyway, I have contact info in case Cordelia wants to connect with some TX totebaggers. It’s a wonderful feeling that totebaggers stand ready to help each other out, and I feel I could contact any of you if I needed guidance or advice.

  123. What does HSS stand for? I see this term a lot when our conversations turn to college, but I can’t figure out what it means.

  124. I was hoping after the medical posts the last few weeks, I would know more about when someone should go to the ER. I assumed waiting until urgent care opened would be fine, but then relative was sent to the ER. Went to urgent care twice and sent to ER twice in a week. Ended up getting admitted the second time at the ER. He got a diagnosis this weekend, and he did a smart thing to record his conversation with the doctor, which I found super helpful. He was able to email it to family and will be useful for listening to again when his diagnosis sinks in more. Listening to it made me realize how vulnerable one is when sick in the hospital. Relative is smart and asked good questions, but you could tell it was a lot to process when not feeling well.

    The audio recording was pretty small file size for a 25 minute conversation. I thought it was a useful tip to pass along, especially for those who might be sharing care with someone in a different geographic location. It’d be an easy way to provide updates without losing information in translation.

    Congrats on the college acceptances! Still haven’t figured out what school it is in Texas.

  125. Tcmama, that’s a great idea. I’m going to suggest it to my SIL because she splits many of the appointments with us. There are apps that my daughter plays with that could just as easily be used to record some of the care instructions.

    I think that it’s a school that is located in a city that shares part of it’s name with one of the words in our moderator’s name. I’m just guessing.

  126. Recording the conversation is a great idea.

    I think HSS is highly selective schools, but I’m just guessing.

  127. My SIL recorded a visit with MIL’s doctor. It was a great idea and enabled DH and the other siblings immediately to be on the same page. Much easier and more accurate than taking written notes. MIL was being evaluated for memory loss issues, so it was especially helpful to hear her exact responses to the questions.

  128. Although I’ve read in Consumer Reports and elsewhere that Turbotax is free for both federal and state filing in most low-income cases, one of my kids got charged for the state return. This is annoying as it came up at the end of the process and the charge is more than her refund. She didn’t complete the process and therefore did not pay. Now I have to research what the heck happened. My quick Google turned up other similar complaints.

  129. CoC, was it just a charge to file?

    I’ve been using TTax for years, but I’ve always mailed in state returns because there was a charge for electronic filing, and some years my returns weren’t eligible for e-filing.

    So my suggestion is she check and see if can print out her forms and mail them in. If not, then take some screen shots, ten copy them onto paper forms by hand and mail them in.

  130. Sky, great minds think alike.

    But, do you let your kid(s) apply to HSS? What if your kid actually gets accepted?

    I’ve heard mostly good things from people who’ve gone to HSS, or from people who know people. However, I recently heard from a friend who heard from a friend about his daughter’s experience at a HSS (after turning down a full tuition scholarship at USC) not being enjoyable because the academics were so tough and there was limited support for students who struggle with that.

  131. RMS, you made my day! Thank you.

    That little puppy is going to look so good at The Villages that I can’t bear it. Unfortunately, because of Junior’s high school, I won’t be there for four years. Sigh.

    incidentally, three people were gunned down last night in the demilitarized zone where we plan to move this summer. I am thrilled.

  132. … and that means, I’ll be within spitting distance of 70 when I make it to The Villages. Why did I have Junior so late in life? Why couldn’t erectile dysfunction (or loss of interest) affected me sooner? This is all rather depressing thinking of my Lincoln Continental sitting in the hot sun while I wait patiently.

  133. Finn, I didn’t get the cult reference. I thought it was some type of sports fan from the first guess. I understand now that the reference is old, and I have a new guess that makes more sense.

  134. PTM – I was on vacation in your fair state. I thought of both saac and you. In my mind, I was thinking….ahh this is what they meant when they posted that description.

  135. Lauren, that’s just my guess; I could be wrong. But the word, “cult,” and the general geographical reference conjured up a certain incident, and a quick check on Google Maps (I’ve learned a lot about Texas geography) showed its location to be consistent with the hints.

  136. “incidentally, three people were gunned down last night in the demilitarized zone where we plan to move this summer. I am thrilled.”

    Because it will depress property values?

  137. You don’t think for a minute that I’m going to buy anything up there Finn, do you?

    I just want to be able to drive Junior to the local Fuddruckers (a high end restaurant up there) without getting gunned down in a drive by as we are passing the Walmart.

  138. PTM – just general descriptions – the traffic, the retirees, the strip malls all basking in the blazing sun.

  139. RMS. We were discussing furniture refinishing recently by a resident of the college town, if I am correct.

  140. Mémé, that’s the town I’m thinking of. Actually I wasn’t referring so much to furniture refinishing as the repurposing of older furniture, rather than discarding; the context was a discussion of how difficult it could be to get rid of unneeded furniture.

  141. I think Lauren’s guess is correct. It is widely referred to as a cult down here because there is a very strong culture, and always ranks near the top of the “happiest students” lists.

  142. Finn, assuming they are qualified, I will let my kids apply anywhere. Even Harvard :)

    We would have a serious conversation about ROI before they decide, though. There are plenty of majors and programs at the top schools that still have poor ROI.

    That said, I would strongly discourage my kids from going to law school.

  143. Well, I’m guessing a completely different school.
    Cordelia, please don’t feel any pressure to let us know the schools your D is looking at. We’re all curious and nosy, but it doesn’t mean we want you to share more than you and your D want to share. My S doesn’t want people to know until he decides, and it’s his story, not mine.

  144. “I think Lauren’s guess is correct.”
    “I also guessed the one that Lauren is thinking of.”

    Lauren had an initial guess, then a second guess after I posted some thoughts. So which of those guesses do you agree with?

    I think “cult” got Mémé and me thinking the same thing.

    Sitting here working on taxes, this blog provides a welcome diversion.

  145. Slightly on the college topic….is anyone interested in tomorrow night’s game? We’ve been watching all of the games, but I was surprised at how lopsided the games were on Sat night. I really hate Nova due to an old rivalry, but I couldn’t believe how well they played on Sat night. DH feels the same way about UNC due to a different rivalry so we really don’t care which team wins as long as it is an exciting game. The only thing I do know is that we will be watching with the heat on in the house since there is another freeze warning for tomorrow.

  146. I think Lauren’s initial guess was correct. I get your thought process for your guess, but think it’s the other school

  147. I like Huffington Post’s headline about the Syracuse/UNC game – “Academically Sketchy Program Defeats Academically Sketchy Program.” It was referring to the athletic programs at each school, not the schools themselves.

  148. I googed “Texas Cult College” and I’m pretty sure it brought up the right school.

  149. Lauren’s 12:10 post is the one I’m thinking of.

    Cordelia’s DD could probably never imagine that a bunch of grownups all over the country are trying to guess one of her potential college choices!

  150. Yeah, SSK. It’s not right, in my opinion, that we are trying to research or speculate on things that really aren’t our business. If Cordelia wanted to share, I’m sure she would have.

  151. I’m not really comfortable having my conversations recorded, and most hospitals have a policy against recording patient/physician interactions. In theory, everyone should be given detailed discharge instructions. In practice, you should probably just ask. Curious- I never see people requesting copies of their medical records so that they can get a full and complete story. One of the things that HIPAA did was guarantee you were right to receive copies of your medical records. Does anyone do that? It’s probably much easier than getting hold of the parent’s physician.

  152. Tangentially related topic: I recently saw a young teen patient with a significant burn over a part of the body that a swimsuit would cover. I spoke to one of the burn specialists at the multistate traums Mecca, in order to arrange appropriate follow up. After the conversation, the “transfer specialist” was still on the line. She requested that I take a photograph, with my phone, and email it to their secure address. She said it would facilitate continuity of care. She stated it was no problem because the email address I was sending it to was quite secure.

    I’m kind of appalled. I have no interest in having photographs of a minor’s private parts on my telephone. Of course I could delete the photograph right away, and delete the email out of my sent folder, but who knows where it might get backed up in the meantime in a place that is still accessible to me. (And law enforcement.). As a profession, we have clearly not internalized some of the fundamental principles surrounding the transfer of medical information. We love to tell people that we can give him more results over the phone because we cannot verify their identity (which is a load of crap) but would still use a personal cell phone to photograph genitals.

  153. “Can’t give them their results”

    I clearly haven’t internalized the importance of proofreading.

  154. I think it’s pretty common for oncologists doing “determinative” sessions to have patients ask to record the session. When my FIL and Mom were diagnosed with cancer and in the decision making process, they asked and received permission to record the long appointments with their doctors. They also tended to review the last major appointment before the next major appointment.

    I requested and received the medical records from DS1’s delivery. It seemed the easiest way to find out what kind of episiotomy and forceps had been done/used, given that the hospital he was born at and my gynecologist didn’t seem to have any standard communication method at the time. Now I think my gynecologist could see an electronic record.

  155. Ada, when I had my late second term pregnancy induction for my baby with a lethal abnormality, there was a lot of effort made to maintain my privacy due to the controversial nature of the procedure. Despite my distress, I was faintly amused to see the ultrasound screensaver pop up with the names and time/date stamps of the last 10 ultrasounds done on that machine. I suspect others were “verification of lethal abnormality” ultrasounds.

  156. I am in awe of the achievements Cordelia posted. On 4H, I passed several cattle and horse ranches while on vacation and somewhere I saw, 4H.
    I love reading Cordelia and Sheep Farmer’s posts.
    I loved the landscape and someday, I will take up a farm job for a few months.

  157. “I am in awe of the achievements Cordelia posted.”

    Agreed! I have a link closely related to this topic, but I’m reluctant to post it because it almost sounds as if Cordelia could have written it. Cordelia, have you been posting on other sites about your daughter’s experience?

    Thank you, Finn for the tax comment. I think maybe filing the state return by paper may be the way to go.

  158. @ Lauren – YES WE MIGHT HAVE A PASSING INTEREST IN TONIGHT’S GAME.

    When I first posted on TOS, I almost chose the handle Tar Heel. But passed because I thought it was too identifying. hahahaha

  159. I recently fell for a classic blogger’s trick of being enticed from a comment in one thread to click on the link for the commenter’s blog, and I discovered “Root of Good.” He’s like a mild-mannered, more rotund version MMM in Raleigh, NC, with three kids. He and his wife retired with $1.5M in their mid-30’s.

    But for those of you preparing your tax returns (at the 98th hour, imo :)) this post from just before they retired was really fascinating. With $150,000 household income, they had a total federal tax liability of only $150. And that’s without any mortgage interest.

    The keys were two maxed out 401(k)s PLUS a maxed out 457, plus mandatory pension contributions as a NC state employee (convertible only to cash value), daycare FSA, healthcare FSA, five exemptions and three child tax credits.

    http://rootofgood.com/make-six-figure-income-pay-no-tax/

    The name is really clumsy. I kind of like him, though. I read his four posts on cruising.

  160. Ada – your perspective is interesting and actually surprising to me. In this case my relative who is in his forties, single, no children, recorded the conversation with his doctor. I’m pretty sure the doctor knew he was being recorded. For my relative, I think having a recording is extremely helpful for him to review and process what he heard. He is smart, but not Totebag smart. Being able to replay the conversation helps him process what is going on. He also requested his charts and has sent them to a doctor friend. Doctor friend recommended his emergency contacts read up on his disease and that relative should get medical bracelet and possibly medical tattoo. It’s a rare chronic disease that should be manageable, but a crisis can be life-threatening.

    I found the recording helpful for several reasons. First, the patient doesn’t always hear what the doctor says. The doctor stated info several times and you could tell the relative wasn’t fully grasping it. They also discussed the different tests being done to confirm diagnosis and what each one did/was looking for. Very confusing for someone who is very sick with a non-medical background. Also, I think it’d be hard to look at a chart and match it up with what happened in real time. The doctor gave a very good summary in layman terms about the disease. Finally, having his emergency contacts hear the recording made us more informed and gave us a lot of comfort that he was getting good medical care. I’m pretty sure that another relative would push to have a second opinion without hearing the actual conversation.

  161. FWIW, if you are in MD, ask first before recording — MD is a dual-consent state. In theory, though, ITA with the concept — MIL had a followup scan last week, and even with both her and FIL listening and FIL taking thorough notes, it was clear that there were things they just didn’t process/recall.

    I hope Cordelia feels like following up — I was totally convinced it was the maroon place, but now I’m wondering if it’s the green.

  162. I am hoping that when the time comes – both my kids will be qualified enough to be future Tar Heels. Whether they have the grades or are interested in attending is a different story. That campus is supposed to be a happy place. People who have attended, love their school and are proud fans. They do NOT like the other famous blue school in the vicinity.

  163. Louise,
    Thanks for the comment. Come visit any time and we will put you to work! I even have an extra bedroom if you want to stay for a couple of weeks. :)

  164. Curious- I never see people requesting copies of their medical records so that they can get a full and complete story. One of the things that HIPAA did was guarantee you were right to receive copies of your medical records. Does anyone do that? It’s probably much easier than getting hold of the parent’s physician.

    It also won’t give you most of the info that the provider discussed with you. It can also be difficult to find the relevant information. When we get skilled patients admitted to a SNF from the hospital, we usually get 100 or so pages of documentation that we need to wade through to find the pertinent info. And the provider’s notes are written for other providers, not for laypeople.

    A good provider will have a conversation with the patient and family explaining the condition, treatments, prognosis, etc., in a way that the patient and family can understand. None of that will be in the charting. Most people will be much better served by having a recording of the conversation or taking the time to speak to the provider directly than trying to figure out the records.

  165. I got copies of my medical records when I transferred care to a new surgeon.
    The new surgeon discovered a retained foreign object during his procedure. He took six photos with his personal iPhone and sent them to us for our records, and I forwarded them to an attorney friend for potential legal action. I suppose that the only person with standing to object to the existence and retention of those photos is me, but I don’t really know the protocol for photos that are part of medical records.

    MIL’s doctor is one of the physicians of a certain age, practicing in a community hospital setting, who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to HIPPA, and I’m not sure SIL told him that she was recording the appointment session.

  166. “When I first posted on TOS, I almost chose the handle Tar Heel. But passed because I thought it was too identifying.”

    Because there are so few of you…. ; )

    Good luck, Lark!

  167. I requested and received all of my medical records after I had my first baby. It was kind of a train wreck and I wanted to read them. So many mistakes! From seemingly innocuous ones to kind of concerning ones. It did not inspire a lot of confidence.

  168. Scarlett – I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you! It sounds so shocking, but not as uncommon as we would think?

    Did you switch to the new doctor because you were concerned, or was it just a coincidence?

  169. Lark–also rooting for UNC, but only because there is $$$ involved in an office pool.

  170. “The new surgeon discovered a retained foreign object during his procedure.”

    Was it a Junior Mint?

  171. DH and I have been talking and we decided if we do fly anywhere this year, will probably be Phoenix Arizona area, any one live in AZ?

  172. at the 98th hour, imo

    Hey, man, some of us don’t get the K1s until the last minute.

  173. “Hey, man, some of us don’t get the K1s until the last minute.”

    +1. Filed for my extension weeks ago. Expecting my last K-1 this week, maybe.

  174. The other thing that the RoG family is doing now is keeping their income, which is too high for Medicaid, right in the sweet spot for maximum ACA subsidy.

  175. LOL Houston. There are more Tar Heels enrolled at this moment than there are residents of my current town, so it would have been the better handle. :) Maybe next time we all switch it up that’s what I’ll go with.

  176. I suppose that the only person with standing to object to the existence and retention of those photos is me, but I don’t really know the protocol for photos that are part of medical records.

    They are subject to the same HIPAA rules as written documentation.

  177. Scarlett – that’s awful. I remember that you had mentioned some “non-oncologic” complication. That iatrogenresis at its worst. It is, fortunately, quite rare now. I have seen this one time in my career. It’s also something that hospitals millions of dollars and hundreds of hours working to prevent.

    I wonder if my lawyer would allow me to record a conversation with her? I feel like professionals who have high liability and an expectation to give very specific advice like to limit the scope of remarks that can be attributed to them.

  178. @DD – which means photos should be behind a password on any device. Electronic Personal Health Information has certain security standards that must be met (that was the original impetus for HIPAA) and personal phones often don’t meet that standard. I don’t send emails from my personal account about patients, even to people who have a legitimate interest. Nobody who is at all conscientious does.

  179. Ada, in my practice we all use phones for work email, so I’m assuming they’ve ensured we are HIPAA compliant (I know, that could be a dangerous assumption). So I would think taking a photo on a phone and emailing it to other providers is also HIPAA compliant.

    And as an aside, the original impetus for HIPAA was to allow people to keep their health insurance when they changed jobs. The privacy rules were added about 5 years after the original passage.

  180. Thanks for the offers of help/local assistance and kind words. You guys really are wonderful. Let me think on it for a bit.

    The school is maroon, although I am curious about the green one.

    I haven’t posted on any other sites, so I am curious about the other site with my doppelganger.

  181. Hah! I was right!

    I must celebrate, given how rarely it happens (I am mom to a 14-yr-old, after all). :-)

  182. I didn’t think it was the green one until Finn mentioned the cult remark. There was a famous cult related event in the early 90s in the town where the other school is located. I initially thought of maroon because that school makes more sense for the person that you’ve shared with us.

  183. “With $150,000 household income, they had a total federal tax liability of only $150. And that’s without any mortgage interest.

    The keys were two maxed out 401(k)s PLUS a maxed out 457, plus mandatory pension contributions as a NC state employee (convertible only to cash value), daycare FSA, healthcare FSA, five exemptions and three child tax credits.”

    Just based on that info, were I in that situation, I wouldn’t have played it that way.

    Paying just $150 in taxes means they’re in a low tax bracket, and all those 401k and 457 contributions will be taxed eventually, probably in a higher bracket.

    I’d take advantage of being in a low bracket, and put the 401k money into a Roth 401k instead. More generally, I’d want income taxed at a low rate now rather than at a higher rate later.

  184. Anon, we have quite a few friends who went to that school (including a few who graduated within the last 5 years) and they all LOVE it.

  185. DD – If you are sending out email from your phone, via yahoo that says, “Mrs. Smith is having her gall bladder out May 17, when do you want her warfarin stopped?” you are very likely in violation. Emails over non-internal networks need to be encrypted if they contain PHI. All the organizations I have worked for have had strict policies on this, explained in detail during HIPAA training.

    “Information systems housing PHI must be protected from intrusion. When information flows over open networks, some form of encryption must be utilized. If closed systems/networks are utilized, existing access controls are considered sufficient and encryption is optional.”

  186. “all those 401k and 457 contributions will be taxed eventually, probably in a higher bracket. ”

    Not in their case. They’re retired at 33.

  187. Milo, SSK, my thoughts went immediately to the history of joint and several liability. (In a case where a patient had a sponge left in him after surgery, and the various doctors/nurses present all denied leaving it and wouldn’t testify against each other, it was impossible for the patient to establish that it was more likely than not that any particular person had done it . . . hence the development of the concept that you could hold them responsible as a group. At least that’s how I remember it. Law school was a long time ago.)

  188. Ada, we are sending it through our practice’s email system, not our own personal email accounts. If it’s a violation using our phones, then it’s a violation using a PC.

  189. Milo, the family in your post differs from us in their decision to use traditional rather than Roth IRA’s, having HSA option, having student loan interest and having capital losses.

    I disagree with their decision to defer taxable income rather than use up their 15% tax bracket.

  190. Well, if their withdrawals from non-Roth IRAs and other retirement acccounts funded with pre-tax dollars will be so low that those withdrawals will all be taxed at 15% or less, then it does make sens to pay the tax later. although increasing tax rates could mess with those plans.

  191. What Finn is saying. And remember that the choice is paying the marginal 15% on the entire contribution, whereas the distribution will be 10% on the first $18,000, and really that’s $18,000 adjusted, so well over $30k-something, maybe $40k, I would estimate, after exemptions and deductions for health care expenditures, property taxes, etc.

  192. It depends on how many more years they expect to have three dependents and whether they plan to start withdrawing at 55, 59 or 70 1/2 and when they choose to start taking social security.

    It also depends on how taxes are imposed on inherited 401(k)’s in the future, whether they have to be paid out in 5 years or can be annuitized over the recipient’s lifetime.

  193. Sky, I switched to a new surgeon at a major medical center after I had to insist, over the objections of both my local surgeon and the alleged infectious disease specialist he consulted, that my local surgeon remove a clearly infected implant. Unless it’s a true emergency situation, I will never again go under the knife in this community. Live and learn. Our next move is going to be somewhere within easy driving distance of an NCI-designated cancer center.

  194. “and whether they plan to start withdrawing at 55, 59 or 70 1/2 and when they choose to start taking social security”

    I’ll have to read more of his posts, but I imagine they would spread out Roth conversions throughout early retirement so they can have a crack at it before 55.

  195. “Our next move is going to be somewhere within easy driving distance of an NCI-designated cancer center.”

    Hey, we have one of those. But traffic is so bad that I don’t think anywhere is within easy driving distance.

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