GPS and navigation skill

by Honolulu Mother

Technology: Use or lose our navigation skills

Is GPS ruining our ability to navigate for ourselves?

The above articles suggest that our increased reliance on automated GPS or smartphone directions is eroding our ability to get around without them. Do you find that to be the case? Do you think it’s a problem? And has GPS ever betrayed you?

I don’t use GPS that much myself, largely because I live on an island and I know how to get places, and if I don’t, I can easily check the directions and even “drive” down the street via Google StreetView before I go. But when I have used it, it has a different “feel” than finding my own way and I can see how it could over time replace the old-style navigation skills.

I haven’t gotten spectacularly lost following smartphone directions — not like the Gibraltar guy! — but I did once end up at a residence when trying to get to the local ice rink with a car full of girls. Maybe it was the owner’s house? If I’d been really looking around instead of trustingly following the directions I would have realized the problem sooner.

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188 thoughts on “GPS and navigation skill

  1. I have poor landmark-based navigation skills naturally, so GPS is fantastic for me. GPS also got me out of a jam on the country paths (road or lane would be too generous of a description) of rural England. Amazing level of detail was available.

    GPS has also cut down on arguments while traveling. I recall some doozies on trips during my childhood. Mom was navigator, dad the driver – not always a good combination. And trying to re-fold those maps!

    I do have a decent sense of when I am headed the wrong direction (like if I’m headed south when it should be north) and eventually can figure it out on my own.

  2. I use GPS for getting to birthday parties in the suburbs or if I just want to know the fastest way to get somewhere around town. Atlanta is a pretty easy city to navigate and I generally know where things are so it’s more a question of is it faster to jump on the highway or go through town.

    GPS is probably affecting my innate ability to think about how to get somewhere on my own. I blamed pregnancy for ruining my sense of direction but maybe it was really GPS.

  3. Back during the turn of the century, I’d print out mapquest directions to get me from the airport to the hotel and it would only take me one trip to be able to make the trip without directions. With GPS it usually takes me 3-5 before I can make it without having to use GPS.

  4. I’m perhaps overly concerned about this, especially for my kids, who I fear won’t rely enough on maps and the importance of getting a general feel for an area before they set out. I took the Littles on a road trip some years ago and decided I’d make them figure out the directions based on our prior examination of a road atlas and their basic knowledge of U.S. geography, rather than listening to the GPS. The problem was, we were driving from MI to Naples, FL, so they pretty much could guess, “South?” and be right each time.

    My new car has a very American NAV system — doesn’t know its correct way around Ontario at all — and I’m sort of relieved. I feel like I’m re-learning the area, after years of being lost in thought on the 402/427/400 and only making traffic changes when ordered by the NAV. Now, I’m looking around more, thinking more and making my own decisions (if I don’t, the blasted NAV takes me into downtown Toronto instead of letting me bypass it via the not-so-new tollway).

    I think this is one of those cases where I’m sort of ridiculously anachronistic — I lament things like bank savings books and check writing and driving with maps, and I probably need to just get over it and live in the 21st century, or at least allow my kids to live in it.

  5. I was grateful for GPS this weekend when I had to go to a baby shower in the suburbs of Seattle. It was all cul de sacs and streets that end and no grid to be seen anywhere. It would have been a major pain to navigate on my own if I didn’t have GPS.

  6. I will add that it drives me crazy when the kids ask, “How much further” on a trip we do regularly (to the cottage, or to see my parents) instead of looking at the scenery, spotting landmarks or mile markers and figuring it out themselves. They’re too busy looking at screens to stare out the window and commit the landmarks to memory, the way I did, and it bothers me far more than it should. I actually refuse to answer the question when they ask it, and make them look out the window, spot signs etc and figure it out. I’m sure they think I’m nuts. And I’m certainly inconsistent, because for example, I’ll spell any word for a kid, no matter how simple, rather than making them look it up.

    This lamentation of bygone days where we looked out the window for hours on end and played “Bury all your horses” or wrote down license plate numbers, etc., really is something I can’t seem to let go.

  7. Kinda like GPS, I had a real moment of “we’re living in the future” this past weekend when I bought a new “smart” battery charger (for big, 12-volt car/boat batteries–I had one that was totally drained).

    You connect it, plug it in, and the computer just takes over. $50.

    I’m probably extra impressed because this three-stage process was something I had to learn about and memorize a long time ago, and draw the graphs of current vs. voltage, and it was a big deal.

    https://www.batterystuff.com/blog/3-stages-of-smart-chargers.html

  8. ATM – it’s this car trip game where you count all the horses on your side, and your sib counts them on her side, and then when you spot a certain thing on her side (for the life of me, I can’t remember what this magical thing is — I want to say a silo, but that seems too easy), you say, “Bury all your horses!” and she has to start again at 0. Good for hours of fun. We were apparently a boring people. :)

  9. Risley – never heard of that! Horses probably would not have worked for most of our family trips. Maybe cows, barns or out of state license plates. And of course VW punch bugs.

  10. We drive by GPS. It is awesome for traveling. It also helps to share directions for outings when you can just send directions instead of telling them. Also, it helps in dropping off scouts, so they can type in their address and text their parents exact drop off/pick up times.

    Shout out to the Young Eagles program. The boys did test flights with scouts and had a great time.

  11. Bury all your horses must not have made it across the river. I have never heard of it, but I’m now going to make my kids play it!

    I use google maps to estimate travel time. I rarely use it for step by step navigation. I pride myself on my navigation skills. This winter I was down in Florida and we were looking for mini golf to kill time before our flight. We had been there about 5 years earlier and I had a general sense of where it was, so I brought it up on my phone and was like, yep still there. My DH was insistent that his phone gps would lead us there, so I was overruled and sat quietly as gps lead us in the opposite direction, through a somewhat sketchy neighborhood, to a gas station. We were so far away from the tourist area, and with rush hour traffic starting to build, we instead just went to the airport. The kids were so disappointed. Common sense would have told DH that we weren’t headed to a tourist mecca.

  12. Rhett – no idea. I completely admit it’s crazy for me to lament these car trip things the way I do. I’ve embraced all kinds of modern things and have no idea why the car is my last hold out. I’m sure if you could talk me out of it, my kids would send you gifts.

  13. I have no sense of direction. At all. I used to leave hours early for appointments to give myself time to get lost. I hated it. The only town I can find my way around is Palo Alto because I spent so much of my youth riding my bike around getting lost and eventually getting home again, and nowadays my parents would be arrested for letting out of their sight. I love my GPS and I will never give it up and it has improved my life hugely.

  14. I agree with Rhett that using navigation makes it harder for me to remember the route. So, I now look at the route beforehand to places I vaguely know and will pull up directions on my phone but will navigate without turn by turn directions. With both my kids, I ask them to pay attention to the local roads, see if they know the route to familiar places. My DH is very good with directions but I think now he has become overly dependent on GPS and the route it tells him to take.

  15. We were once going somewhere with BIL in two cars (3 hour drive to another state). I asked him which of two routes he was taking. He said “whatever GPS says.” I said “but there are 2 routes, along two different highways. We want to stay on the same road as you. Which way do you prefer?” He couldn’t answer or even understand what I was asking.

    I use GPS about once a month. For normal meetings, etc, I go on Google Maps and write directions down. It helps me learn where things are.

  16. The other thing to keep in mind with Waze (and now google maps I assume as Google bought Waze) is that it’s calculating your route based on real time traffic. We have a policy now of “always trust the Waze” after disregarding it’s suggestions only to find out an overturned tractor trailer or some such was the reason it suggested a crazy route.

  17. I use Waze all the time, but it has issues with back roads. I use it to go new places, and because it will reroute based on traffic, but it spectacularly wrong sometimes. And when we were in Hawaii, and in some parts of California. it really wanted us to make a circuit around the downtown of the city were going to. It was bizarre,

    I have a pretty good sense of direction, and I’ve lived in this region for over 30 years, so I can find my way around between towns pretty well. GPS is great for finding places in town, but it doesn’t always work.

    My kids don’t have as good a sense of direction. It might be because only the older one drives and the others don’t pay attention. My middle one has a go to answer if I ask her where she is on the way to a competition. It is always the same town, and she doesn’t seem to realize that if you are going north to town A, you aren’t going through the go to answer town, which is to the south.

  18. I usually only use Google Maps to tell me which route (out of a possible 2 or 3) I should take if there is traffic, or how long it will take me to get to work, etc. I have used it to get to birthday parties etc. but I try not to – if I am listening to the phone I am paying less attention to the landmarks around me.

    I noticed this also with my youngest sibling – never paid attention to where we were going when growing up, and now can’t navigate around our hometown like middle sibling and I can.

  19. GPS has been liberating for me. I don’t like to drive, and I particularly hate driving in unfamiliar places. Worst of all are unfamiliar highways because everything moves so fast and you can’t pull over easily to check your directions. A mess of exits comes up, and whoosh, you are on the wrong road. I can’t think that fast. So for years, I avoided driving on unfamiliar highways. I just wouldn’t go, or I would research a back route. But now, with decent GPS, I feel a lot more confident when I have to make a trip like that. I still research the route, pretty obsessively, ahead of time. But the GPS is helpful in telling me when the exit is coming up.

  20. I have a good sense of direction, but I definitely find GPS to be useful in the burbs. A problem that I am having is my cell service. It often craps out in certain locations, and then I am stuck. If I happens to know that I will be some place with bad service, I’ve started to print out the directions in a few cases.

    We don’t have GPS in our cars because we use the phones.
    I’ve been driving for more than 30 years between the boroughs, and I learned a new route from Waze last month. It is interesting to see how that algorithm must have to work to find the fastest route when every highway is backed up with traffic, construction and accidents. I decided to trust it even though it took me a strange way in Manhattan, and it saved a lot of time. Plus, I have another route for really bad traffic days when i can’t take the train.

  21. I have to admit that I do not remember staring out the window and admiring scenery when I was a kid on a long road trip (and we took a lot of them). Maybe because driving across Kansas or Iowa is so frickin boring. I used to long to see a tree. Anyway, we mainly whined and asked “How much longer”, or fought amongst ourselves until our parents yelled at us.

    My kids read in the car. I wish I could do that but I get woozy. I hate riding in a car more than anything. It is the most singularly boring activity I can think of.

  22. With kids, it probably doesn’t help if they have spent most of their years prior to having to drive in the back of the car. When I am in the front passenger seat, I tend to pay more attention.

  23. Risley- that sounds like a Canadian thing Robin Scherbatsky would talk about on HIMYM

  24. My kids read in the car. I wish I could do that but I get woozy.

    Same here. I wish I could read on the elliptical as well, but I get nauseous just thinking about it.

  25. as kids we didn’t have a TV in the car or other tech gadgets, looked out the window on long trips looking for different states license plates or would bring a book or crossword puzzle

  26. DS sometimes plays with an iPad in the car, but he still has a great sense of direction

  27. I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that he reads while he works out, I thought that was a great idea that I could maybe try on the exercise bike but haven’t yet…

  28. I have gps and I like it more for all the data (how much longer, upcoming gas station, the ability to query for a restaurant, traffic alerts) vs necessarily how to get someplace, like western & central NY hockey rinks. By now, although most of them are in really obscure places, I’ve been to just about all of them but every once in a while. I have a very good sense of direction, but so does DW, so we still argue.

  29. Ris,
    maybe because DW’s SUV is foreign, its gps does just fine in Ontario…took us right to YYZ the way I would have gone.

  30. This comes up a lot in the Au Pair host parent community. On one hand, you have young adults who are dealing with a new system of driving and a whole new city, and GPS eliminates some of the stress. On the other hand, paying attention to pedestrians, bicycles, eye contact at four-way stops, is harder with GPS, in my opinion. For a confident and competent driver, I think you sacrifice learning the greater area when you use GPS. That is the price I am often willing to pay, for efficiency. However, for a new and inexperienced driver, I think GPS can lead to a type of distracted driving.

  31. Wine – haha, so true re Robin. Only I fear her story would’ve involved hunting rifles too.

    Fred – yeah, if I tried to go to YYZ, my Nav system would likely say, “Pardon me, but wouldn’t you prefer DTW?” ;) Or given the brand, Flint.

  32. “I will add that it drives me crazy when the kids ask, “How much further” on a trip we do regularly (to the cottage, or to see my parents) instead of looking at the scenery, spotting landmarks or mile markers and figuring it out themselves. They’re too busy looking at screens to stare out the window and commit the landmarks to memory, the way I did, and it bothers me far more than it should.”

    Really? “How much longer” was standard fare in the pre-electronics world, where there was nothing else to do beyond bug your brother or sister. My parental solution for that was to answer with an accurate estimate the first time, and then just say “15 minutes” from then on. Eventually they figure it out.

    Also, I’m assuming that the horses die when you pass a graveyard? That’s when you lose all your cows, at least.

  33. Ada – how long do Au Pairs take to drive competently ? I had a former colleague who, I thought expected too much of the Au Pair as far as driving was concerned. The Au Pairs seemed to have fender benders routinely. I felt a lot of those were because my colleague was expecting them to drive to congested places like they had years of driving experience.

  34. I like GPS best for finding shops or dr offices I’ve never been to, and navigating through cities I’m not familiar with. My eyes aren’t great, so I have to focus on building numbers to figure out if I’m getting close, and that makes me a hazard – I could easily rear-end someone. It is so helpful to have the voice tell me my destination will be on the right in 400 feet. Then I can just keep my eyes on the road.

    And when my kids are driving through downtown Dallas themselves with all the constant construction – who knows where they’d end up. They need the advance warning to get into one of the two left lanes or whatever. I think it’s great.

  35. Ah, LfB – that was it! A cemetery made your sister have to bury all her horses! (My brother would not deign to play).

    I don’t think we ever asked that question of our parents – likely because we were looking out the window and knew the answer. But possibly because my father wouldn’t abide it. Either is possible.

  36. OT, ITA with the “learning by doing.” I had an absolutely horrendous sense of direction as a kid, but as soon as I started driving, it clicked in, and I haven’t had a problem navigating since, except in a forest or mall or underground tunnel or similar place where there really is nothing to anchor yourself to. And I do find that it does *not* come naturally when I use the GPS to get somewhere. The funny thing is that I couldn’t even tell you what I was paying attention to/not paying attention to — it’s not like I am consciously thinking “turn right at the McDonald’s.” But I do see the difference.

    Also agree that I did not have that issue with printed Mapquest directions. It’s something about turn-by-turn. I think part of it is that I am watching for the name of the road and mileage and whether it’s NSEW, whereas I naturally notice things like, hey, there’s this little uphill and then a curve by the big tree and then you turn. So I think turn-by-turn is distracting me from the things I naturally navigate by, and forcing me to pay attention to other things that just don’t stick in my head. I think Mapquest worked better because I at least had the orientation of seeing it all on the map, so it didn’t feel so much like wandering my way through a maze — it felt more like working my way from X to Y in my head, and the question is which streets go through and where you cut off, etc.

    I do love the magic of The Google when in a strange city. However, it is easy to get in trouble — you always get there, but it’s not always the fastest way, or the way that makes the most sense in retrospect. It doesn’t seem to account for stoplights that well and takes me on what looks like a shortcut that goes right through downtown and takes forever. And then there was the jaunt in Scotland when we were trying to complete a loop, and GoogleMaps showed a road that covered the last maybe 5 miles — but it turned out to be a logging road, with two ruts and stuff growing in the middle that was noticeably higher than the clearance on our rental, so we had to back out of that and turn ourselves around to go the long way.

    I also worry about my kids, because they are so used to having the phone for everything that I just don’t think they’re ever going to develop that skill set. Which *is* useful when you are traveling strange places, at least as a gut check about whether you’re completely off-base.

  37. MBT – I once had an interview in the Dallas building w/ a hole at the top. I figured I’d get there by feel by constantly looking for the hole. But it was foggy, so I was hopelessly lost. No GPS option back then but more planning on my part would’ve been wise.

  38. I use the GPS to navigate in Portland. I print directions from Mapquest (I hate Google Maps because it won’t let you print directions) routinely, because I don’t always have cell service on back roads.
    Many phones (iPhone included) have GPS-only capability that communicates directly with the satellite for when you don’t have cell service. If you want to have street directions, I think you have to download that in advance.

    Mr WCE got a satellite transmitter last year that transmits hits coordinates while hunting. He downloads forest service maps to his device before he goes and then uses the GPS in his device (iPad or phone in addition to transmitter) to find/track his route. It’s kind of interesting to see his velocity and altitude changes over the course of a day of hunting in the mountains and to imagine the ravines, etc. He learned to navigate with a compass and I expect he’ll teach the boys that as well, since that is more reliable in the event of a dead battery or zombie apocalypse.

    GPS directions have gotten much better in the past few years. Oregon had a few cases where people would take a snowed-in forest road because the GPS told them to and then get stuck and freeze to death. I think more directions software is considering the seasonality of the roads, plus options like Waze route based on traffic. At the local university, they also inform people who have newly arrived from places like South Korea (where they call a forest what I would call a park) about how large a national forest is and warn them about getting lost, which has helped.

  39. “paying attention to pedestrians, bicycles, eye contact at four-way stops, is harder with GPS”

    It seems that way to me also.  I found I have to remind myself to pay attention to my surroundings more instead of mindlessly listening to GPS directions.

    I’m sure I’ve lost some old navigating skills from relying on GPS.  The articles point out the value of spatial skills, and it reminds me of this article.

    Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist.

    … unavoidable changes in the genetic make-up coupled with modern technological advances has left humans, well, kind of stupid….

    … humans were at their most intelligent when “every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.” Under those conditions, adaption, he argued, was much more of a matter than fight or flight. Rather, says the scientists, it was a sink or swim situation for generations upon generations.

    This sounds reasonable.  So when the apocalypse is upon us, some of us will be better equipped to figure out an escape route even without using GPS.

  40. In my city, most of the time I will look it up if I am not familiar with that part of town, if I know there has been a lot of consturction, or it requires a lot of detail due to one way streets or high density of buildings. Then I general drive it on my own, but may have GPS on with no sound in case I run across a problem.

    Waze has this AWFUL quirk of taking you to a “less busy” street that then makes you turn left across busy traffic with no light. The traffic may not be that heavy, but the speed and the distance between the cars can make you sit there forever!

    A few times GPS has not worked…took me to the park, but to a road that dead ended into its border and not into the park entrance is the most memorable!

    I tell my kids that they need a general idea of what their town looks like in their head. Here are the 3-4 main NS streets, there are the main EW streets and how to get to/from very common places we go. This also will give them some idea about how long it generally takes to get somewhere. GPS often tells you WITHOUT traffic, especially if you are looking it up online in advance.

  41. When we attempted to use Waze (?) to go to Legoland in California, it took us to the Deliveries Entrance. That was annoying.

  42. “humans were at their most intelligent when ‘every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.’”

    Only if nature rawly selected based on IQ alone, and not, say, reaction speed, endurance, disease resistance, ability to tolerate long periods of starvation, etc. etc. etc.

    I will agree that human intelligence is probably changing, as many more people are surviving what used to be deadly diseases and genetic conditions, and the traits that lead people to survive through childbearing and childrearing today are not necessarily the same as thousands of years ago.

  43. I like the emphasis on the difference between education and intelligence. Some managers are strongly preferring PhD’s for hiring right now and they don’t seem to consider that part of the lack of diversity in the hiring pool (diversity in terms of socioeconomic status as well as race) is that most people who get a PhD have parental support for undergrad (so limited student loans), medical insurance, housing during summer, etc. and so are disproportionately upper middle class.

    Equally bright people who stop with a BS or MS (based on either a standardized test score or GPA) are more likely to come from working class backgrounds. They end their educations earlier in order to earn money/limit the interest piling up on student loans.

  44. humans were at their most intelligent when “every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.

    That’s very unlikely to be true do the burden of disease and malnutrition. As an example, the 15 point boost that occured after they started adding iodine to salt:

    The economists found that in the lowest-iodine areas—the bottom quarter of the study population—the introduction of iodized salt had stark effects. Men from these regions born in 1924 or later were significantly more likely to get into the Air Force and had an average IQ that was 15 points higher than their predecessors.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2013/07/23/how-adding-iodine-to-salt-boosted-americans-iq/#.Vx-sFPlJmM8

  45. CofC,

    Crabtree acknowledges that the data isn’t there because a slow genetic deterioration in intelligence can’t be detected So, it’s mostly just his wishful thinking. What a load of BS.

  46. When I wrote this up I forgot (or had repressed?) the most egregious Google Map miscue ever, the tunnel to Logan incident. We were in MA and heading for a North End garage recommended by my sister, happily following Google Maps’ directions. I started to get a bad feeling as I realized the left turn it had instructed us to take was directing us into an onramp heading underground — there was no way to back out of it by then — yes, it took us into the tunnel to Logan, because our destination sat directly over the tunnel. It was a very bitter experience to be driving in the tunnel headed to Logan and hear the voice telling us, “You have reached your destination.”

    After returning to downtown Boston from our expensive (toll) little airport round trip, we then had the fun of trying to find our way using Google Map — but absolutely ignoring any directions it tried to give, because it was convinced that the tunnel was the way to go! At some point my sister called to let us know the garage was full anyway, we decided to just get to the North End and drive around and take whatever public garage we could find, and eventually we were all having a wine-fueled family feast and the day got better.

  47. Totally off topic, I have earned massive mom points today. DD and a friend have been talking forever about doing a bake sale for their summer band trip (we have told them lunches and spending money are on them, which is not insignificant). Last night at about 8, they get the idea to hold it by the school where everyone is going to vote today. My first thought is “gee, awesome advance planning.” And my second thought is “but it’s really an awesome idea!” So we do the grocery store run, and they spend the next three hours baking the breakfast stuff (plan is to hit the before-work crowd, come home and bake more, and then hit the after-work crowd).

    So this AM I take pity on them and get up myself before 6 to whip out the last-minute stuff while they wake up (I figure hot Pillsbury cinnamon rolls will sell like, well, hotcakes at 7 AM). They get out and start selling. Then around 8 I am looking at the pile of stuff that is still left to bake and realize that if they come back at 10, they will never get this stuff done by 4 (and it’s supposed to rain by then, too). So I spent the entire morning making up all of their boxes o’ stuff (lemon bars, raspberry bars, two types of brownies, cupcakes, etc.), and I top it off with a triple batch of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, which I had waiting for them to add their different chips and sprinkles and M&Ms to when they walked through the door at 11:30. So they reloaded and are back out there (they just sent a panic request for lemonade, which I schlepped over).

    It did make for a fun client call when the mixer was going (“there’s this funny background noise” “really? must be my other line ringing”), but the kids are having a blast, and I think they are making a significant amount of cash. And I’m getting the quantity of “I love you, mom”s that you get only when your teen realizes exactly how much she owes you. :-)

  48. Our kids can’t read a map the way we did, but not sure it matters as much anymore. Back in the day, if you got lost without the right map in the glove compartment, you were just as helpless as you would be today without cell service. When we lived in DC, I had well-worn copies of the big ADC street maps for DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland in my car, and was able to get anywhere without GPS or even mapquest. After we moved to flyover country, I got the local version of the ADC map and it was OK, but after buying my first Garmin I rarely looked at the map again. I agree that there is something lost in not having that map in the car and being able to get a ballpark idea of the route in your head. Following audible turn by turn directions requires a huge leap of faith, and also prevents you from overriding those directions when you know that they are taking you somewhere, like an HOV-only road, you do not want to go. But in an unfamiliar area, GPS is marvelous. I have no interest in turning back the clock.

    However, I have one kid who recently bought a turntable, and another who would really like a typewriter, so perhaps maps will someday become cool again too.

  49. LfB – awesome! I am getting bad Totebag points today because I am having the kids skip math class so I can get some work done – nanny is out sick with what may be the mumps (!!!) and will be out tomorrow too as per our pediatrician’s recommendation.

  50. DW has mentioned for several years now that she’d like to have a small garden. I had hoped that it was just a passing phase, as it’s one of those things I have next to no interest in. But whatever that desire is to spend a lot of money to impractically grow a small portion of one’s own food wouldn’t go away, and Sunday morning she asked if I would help build it. So we started at Home Depot and spent about $300 on a very simple and easy kit of pre-cut and fitted cedar boards to make a two-section raised-bed garden, weed barrier, deer fencing and stakes, and 25 yds^3 of soil (on sale). The hard labor part was using a spade to chop up the patch of existing hard, rocky clay so that, eventually, when the roots outgrow their garden soil, they can find deeper purchase. And then figuring out how to dig holes and drive the posts for the deer fencing. But by mid-afternoon, we had a fenced garden. She’s buying the plants today.

    I would have resisted, or at least complained, a whole lot more than I did if she had not been so cavalier and accommodating about my boat splurge.

  51. HM,

    We have had similar struggles with GPS in Chicago, where it insists that we have reached our destination on the upper level of Wacker Drive and we are trapped in Wacker Drive hell on the lower level. It happened to me once on a trip with the boys, and even though I warned DH on a subsequent trip NOT to rely on the GPS, he ignored me and I had to sit silently when the exact same thing happened again.

  52. HM, sorry! I routinely ignore Google if we are driving in Boston – sometimes it wants you to make an illegal U-turn or left turn or something that you just can’t do in addition to sending you places from which there is no return. ;)

  53. I have learned that it’s a good idea to pull up the full set of directions and glance through them to make sure they make sense before committing to a guided navigation.

  54. GPS – we bought one of these 4 years ago. You got that right – 4 years ago – to take a road trip to VA. It gets some use, but we can’t get it to update (it keeps telling us it has no more storage and we can’t figure out how to get it to dump the older maps). Anyway, we both have iphones now, so our GPS collects dust.

    I have a great sense of direction, even with GPS. Mostly because I don’t blindly follow its instructions. I use it to get me through tough patches, but really rely on myself. DH has a terrible sense of direction. It’s amazing he can get anywhere.

    I see how GPS’ can make us stupid, though, and agree. If you blindly follow instruction you aren’t creating your won maps (much like anything else – no critical thought is needed to follow instructions). I’ll probably still teach my kids compass skills and map reading. Just to have the knowledge of how to do it. Like navigating by stars. I can find key constellations and stars, so I can go in a direction necessary. However, that skill is useless in a light-polluted region.

    LfB – you’re an awesome mom. I hope your DD and her friend make a boat load of money. You’ll have to keep us informed.

  55. I love reading maps and looking at atlases. A silly pastime, but when I’m bored on a car trip I’ll pull out a map just to look (until I get nauseous). My favorite maps are of ski hills. Even my kids will pull out ski maps of Aspen or Park City and plan what routes they would take.

  56. Lemon, I like the maps of amusement parks or tourist attraction areas that are not-to-scale and full of little fun drawings of what’s where.

  57. Mr WCE loves maps and drew lots of them as a kid. He would have been a great cartographer. Unfortunately, there isn’t much demand for cartographers anymore.

  58. This discussion is reminding me of the longest trip that I took with paper maps. I traveled with some friends out west for a month. We went after our college graduation. We drove over 8000 miles, but we went to AAA before the trip and mapped out the entire trip on those little triptiks. They gave us paper maps for every region/state that we were going to drive through on the trip. We used their maps, and the approximate drive times to make hotel reservations (by pay phone using a calling card) before we left college.

    no cell phones, no GPS and lots of paper. It worked! We did a lot of our driving on interstates, and we rarely went to major cities except Denver and all of the cities in CA. I don’t think we got lost, but we did stay in some bad motels. I wish we had trip advisor when we picked the hotels from the paper AAA books.

  59. I use the navigation system in my car. I can’t see on my phone when I’m driving, and I don’t like the voice commands. I prefer to just glance at the big screen, and I like how it automatically zooms in and out to give you sense of what’s coming up.

  60. Lauren, we went by AAA for paper maps before our trip around the mountain west last summer. It was very handy in all the no-cell-zones we were driving through!

  61. I’m still a AAA member, but I think it has been at least 15 years since I ordered maps. It actually is a good idea for the cell phone issue. We went to a lot of national parks on that long trip, and I’m sure we would have cell issues in some of the remote places even though it is 2016.

  62. LfB, you need to milk this for years.

    I have learned that it’s a good idea to pull up the full set of directions and glance through them to make sure they make sense before committing to a guided navigation.

    Yes, this. I prefer to print maps off of Google or Mapquest, and I always verify the directions look good.

    I heard about that guy in Iceland, which of course is really funny in light of our trip there this summer. I trying to decide whether to get a GPS with the rental car because it’s over $100 for 9 days. I think we’ll be okay with maps, but one of the places we are staying is remote enough that their directions are “here’s our GPS coordinates”.

  63. Fun comment – I put a world map shower curtain in my kid’s bathroom a few years ago. They look at it everyday, now when they have quizzes on the regions of the US or state capitals – the information is in the bath.

  64. “We went after our college graduation. We drove over 8000 miles, but we went to AAA before the trip and mapped out the entire trip on those little triptiks. They gave us paper maps for every region/state that we were going to drive through on the trip.”

    I did exactly the same thing for my law school long-way-home trip (W to CA to see Eddie Murray play, N to Oregon, across to MN, then P’burgh and home). I still remember flipping those little books — and I held onto those maps for years.

  65. I’m still a AAA member, but I think it has been at least 15 years since I ordered maps. It actually is a good idea for the cell phone issue. We went to a lot of national parks on that long trip, and I’m sure we would have cell issues in some of the remote places even though it is 2016.

    When we were driving back from Lincoln last fall, DS and I were watching a football game using the Sunday Ticket online access, and even along I-80 there were several areas where we lost the signal.

  66. “LfB, you need to milk this for years.”

    @DD, I will be lucky if it makes it to Mothers’ Day. :-)

  67. Lauren, they make you go in to the local office to get the maps and trip books now, as they’d prefer to push you to use their crappy little map app instead.

  68. I’m also very fond of fantasy maps, and very *very* fond of maps of real places done in the style of fantasy maps. Like this one, for Risley:

  69. We got the books from AAA for our trip next month. I may jet back and get better maps of the area, but for the time we’ll be in the middle of nowhere, the directions are pretty easy (stay on X highway for XXX miles type of thing). Plus, we can print out maps if we need to at my friend’s house before we go.

  70. AAA doesn’t even have most of the maps anymore. I was seriously irritated when I logged on to see if I could get new Bay Area / Monterey Bay Area maps, and the answer was no. They have maybe 12 maps anymore.

    I too drove from California to North Carolina in 1984 with just one friend and a bunch of maps in my ’78 Toyota Corolla. Somewhere around Ohio all the motels were full up so we just kept driving and driving. It was actually kind of fun.

    I’ll probably still teach my kids compass skills and map reading.

    There’s no harm in that, but it reminds me of one of my philosophy professors who had a farm and kept ranting at us about how we kids didn’t have any practical skills, like how to slaughter a calf. Yeah, you know why? Because we have these things called “grocery stores”. I still don’t know how to slaughter a calf and yet I have not starved to death.

  71. Basically, I like maps with pictures and see it as a negative that modern cartography discourages sticking dragons in the larger bodies of water.

  72. Vermont Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie- I always thought cheese and apple pie sounded like a disgusting combo, does any one really eat this?

  73. As kids we took a lot of road trips and our dad made us navigate with the road atlas. He liked back roads and always had a lot of maps. DH and I both carry a US road atlas and California gazetteer in our cars in case we are out somewhere and find some back road we want to explore. There are several stretches of the western highways where cell service is still spotty or nonexistent. Driving across Nevada, going between Death Valley and Great Basin National Parks last year, we were flagged down twice by different lost motorists who missed the turn for the road south to Vegas because they were relying on their phone for instructions and there was just no reception. One of the guys had no bearings whatsoever. He was so completely lost and disoriented that he was in a panic. It took a while to calm him down enough to get him to look at our road atlas and show him how to get to Vegas.

  74. HM/Lemon – love trail maps for ski hills, amusement park maps, too.

    Nice fantasy map, HM! I was just telling DD about GichiGumi as we drove alongside it last w/e. I said, “You know, from the song, ‘The Edmund Fitzgerald,’ by Gordon Lightfoot.” To which she replied, “Never heard of it, or him.” She’s lucky she didn’t end up IN GichiGumi!

  75. OK, I did, in fact, laugh out loud at hotdish. :-) Though I never did once have chili verde in CO — I’d have been more likely to say something like a bison steak, or grilled elk loin.

  76. Ris, I hope you weren’t near my side of Gitche Gumee and didn’t stop to say hello. :)

    In all the states I’ve lived in, the food map is correct. Michigan could have also been Coney Dogs.

  77. I loved those old AAA Triptiks.

    On Monday I got free jumpstart from AAA. They came to my home after I unsuccessfully tried starting my battery with portable power source thing. I also learned that I need to drive my old car once a week or so because otherwise the battery gets drained.

  78. We always buy topographical maps (the kind you have to order from Longitude Books or similar place, or did before Amazon swallowed the world) of remote destinations. We love maps. I always check out the route in advance on my computer so I have a good idea of where I am going. I use my Google Maps app on the phone when I get in the car, even if I know more or less where I am going. I can get distracted and forget to get over in time for my exit. Also, the addition of Waze and traffic alerts is very helpful. I NEVER look at the phone. Just listen to the lady.

    The most important use, in my opinion, is when you have to find 62 Melanie Drive in some subdivision in a suburb halfway around the circumferential highway. I can drive in Boston no problem, but the suburbs are like a homogeneous maze to me.

  79. Vermont Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie- I always thought cheese and apple pie sounded like a disgusting combo, does any one really eat this?

    It seems to be on every restaurant menu in Wisconsin. It’s actually delicious. That said, in all my time in VT I’ve never seen or hear of them putting cheddar on pie.

  80. I use AAA for flat tires and dead batteries, and the hotel/Amtrak discounts. Pays for itself. I never have to wait a long time for service where I live and drive. And now AAA members can do all their RMV stuff at AAA offices.

  81. Lemon – of course not! At risk of being kicked out of this group, we were checking out the directional school. Still pretty far from you.

  82. I use AAA rates in hotels when we can get a lower rate. We saved the cost of our annual fee on the trip we took in March. We don’t qualify yet for other hotel discounts such as govt, or similar. If it is a high end hotel, we use our Amex Platinum instead for upgrades and free breakfast. There isn’t usually much overlap between the AAA hotels and Amex Platinum hotels.

    We used AAA for several flat tires when our babysitter drove our car.

    I like the peace of mind, and I tend to use some of the discounts for enough stuff that it pays for itself.

  83. Thanks everyone. I just got a flat tire, and so I was thinking about it. I’ll take the plunge and see how it goes.

  84. “AAA doesn’t even have most of the maps anymore.”

    Wow. I guess I better not get rid of the box of maps I have from when I was living on the continent. Before any road trip, I’d go to the AAA office and pick up some large area maps to see how to get where I’d be going, and then local maps with full street detail.

    While google maps and mapquest has largely obviated the need for such maps, I don’t have a large plotter at home, and those ~20″ x 30″ maps give you a combination of perspective and detail that you can’t get on letter-sized printouts.

  85. Weird to me that NY has only Buffalo wings. Maybe NYC is too diverse for one dish to dominate? I would have added pierogi, pizza and knishes. There are some good wineries and craft beers out of NY as well.

  86. So I am actually back to wondering if AAA is worth it. It seems like everyone offers discounts now, and they all have different deals. So AAA gets me a good deal on Hertz, but so does the ABA; meanwhile, if I want to use Avis, AARP has some killer discounts. I really did love the triptiks and trip planning services, and back then it was sort of the universal discount. Now it feels like it’s just the emergency car service, and you get that for several years with a new car anyway. We’ll probably keep it anyway, because by the time I get a new car, it will be because DD has my old one, but it just doesn’t seem like the value it used to.

  87. “When we attempted to use Waze (?) to go to Legoland in California, it took us to the Deliveries Entrance. That was annoying.”

    IIRC, when we went to Legoland, we looked at their website for the general location. Then we got on 5 (or, since we were in SC, the 5) toward Carlsbad, and looked for the signs pointing us to Legoland, which pointed us right to the visitor parking lot.

  88. Risley,

    Have you ever been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to see the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibits?
    I remember loving that song when it came out, and being stunned to learn that the events it described had happened only the year before.
    Now that song will be in my head the rest of the day….

  89. “but it just doesn’t seem like the value it used to.”

    We dropped it when we moved here because we don’t need it for road trips, and we pay a lot less for roadside assistance through our auto insurance.

    Besides the maps, discounts, triptiks, and roadside assistance, I really liked their tour books– do they still provide those?

  90. “Now that song will be in my head the rest of the day….”

    Not just that one. I’ve got some other Gordon Lightfoot songs playing as well.

    Sundown, you better take care…

  91. Scarlett – not yet, but if DD ends up at the school on that lake, we will check it out for sure (she and I discussed this en route).

    Sorry to you and Finn about the ear worm.

    BTW, I worked for a time in the RenCen, spitting distance from the Mariner’s Cathedral whose “church bell rang and it rang 29 times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

  92. “Yes, it took us into the tunnel to Logan, because our destination sat directly over the tunnel.”

    The same thing happened to us about 8 years ago! And we know Boston really welll – but had not driven there since the end of the Big Dig project. Yep, we too ended up at Logan.

    However, I can also remember that when my father took me up to Boston for college, he got incredibly lost and ended up on a completely wrong bridge going to another town. This was way pre-GPS of course, and he supposedly also knew Boston since we had lived there for a couple of years when I was younger. I think it is just easy to do stupid stuff like that in Boston.

  93. Before GPS, I would not drive anywhere without one of those incredibly detailed street atlases for the area I was driving in.I had piles of them.

  94. “The hard labor part was using a spade to chop up the patch of existing hard, rocky clay ”

    I think the more appropriate tool for that would be a pick or mattock. Sounds like a good workout.

    What are you growing? If you like pesto, I suggest basil. Basil is pretty easy to grow, but it’s expensive to buy enough for a batch of pesto. It’s also great for caprese salad or margherita pizza.

    Another reason pesto is expensive is the cost of pine nuts. We substitute macadamia nuts, at about 60% of the cost.

  95. Leeks are very cost effective to grow, although it may be too late to put them out now.

  96. DW like to use google maps/waze because it’s been pretty good at helping avoid jams, especially when she’s a passenger.

    It’s sent us on a lot routes that we normally wouldn’t even think of using, or weren’t aware of.

    One concern I have with it, however, is that it’s turning some streets into thoroughfares that are not intended to be thoroughfares, e.g., residential neighborhoods where kids play on the streets.

  97. I have AAA. Yes, there are some discounts, but usually I can get those thru AARP too. And I have been asked for my actual AAA or AARP card maybe twice at hotels, so most of the time you can get the discounts by just checking the box during the online reservation. I still find they have the maps and trip books we need/want. But mostly I think it’s peace of mind that if one of the 5, yes now it’s 5 drivers, of us gets stuck we can just call AAA and get towed to the nearest AAA approved garage. I just have the basic membership.

  98. For pine nuts, I have found Trader Joe’s has the best price. Better than the wholesale clubs and much better than the natural food places.

  99. “I hate riding in a car more than anything. It is the most singularly boring activity I can think of.”

    It depends on the company, the available music choices.

    When I was much younger, a buddy and I used to go skiing together a lot. It was typically a 3 to 4 hour drive each way, but we would easily chat the entire way and still have lots to talk about when riding the lifts.

  100. ” there are some discounts, but usually I can get those thru AARP too.”

    I’ve been getting AARP membership invitations that include cards. I should hang onto the cards even if I don’t follow up on the invitation.

  101. I’ve found GPS directions to be especially useful while on foot, which has often been the case lately when we’ve been tourists.

    HM– lol.

  102. @HM: You beat me to it. I believe we have Rhett to thank for that one, don’t we?

  103. My favorite Gordon Lightfoot song is “Approaching Lavender”. Apparently he won’t sing it anymore because it became kind of a gay anthem. But it’s a great tune.

  104. Risley,

    Actually, the church bell “CHIMED till it rang 29 times.”
    The song is on one of my Spotify playlists, so I didn’t even have to ask the Google….

  105. Ah yes, Scarlett. Love that it’s on your playlist. I really never get tired of that one.

  106. About Au Pairs learning to drive, I think people do have unrealistic expectations. Europeans (especially Germans) tend to come as well-trained, but inexperienced drivers (they tend to be on the younger side 19-20, and they often start driving at 18.) South Americans tend to have more experience, but have very different expectations about right of way, rules, etc. Both groups need specific instruction about dealing with pedestrians, school buses, school speed zones. I don’t worry too much about fender benders – we fortunately haven’t had one yet, and that is what car (and umbrella) insurance is for. I do worry a lot about her hitting a pedestrian (they are quite bold in our city) and try to spend a lot of time emphasizing that aspect of driving safely. We require them to get a local license (which our state and our insurance does NOT require). We hire driving instructors for 3-10 hours of instruction. One company here has all ex or off duty cops. I suppose I could do it myself, but they have clearer instructions and far more patience. I consider the $200-600 it takes to get my Au Pair licensed just another child care expense.

  107. Triptiks and Gordon Lightfoot? I’m back in the 70s. I’m listening to Lightfoot right now.

  108. Final report: they were out there from 7-5:30, minus a lunchtime stop to bake the cookies. Sold every single thing they made. Grossed $368 on a $120 outlay; the other mom and I agreed to contribute our share of the ingredients/disposable pans as a contribution, making it $184 per kid. DD is now whining about having to do the dishes, so the ILYs lasted about 2 hrs. :-)

    And now she is subtracting out how much she owes a friend for her prom ticket, and what she will need to spend for the dress and shoes she plans to shop for. And my little spendthrift just frowned and said “I really don’t want to spend all this money I just earned on that.” :-) :-) :-) Mom FTW!

  109. But mostly I think it’s peace of mind that if one of the 5, yes now it’s 5 drivers, of us gets stuck we can just call AAA and get towed to the nearest AAA approved garage.

    My experience is they’ll tow you anywhere, not just a AAA approved place. Although we have the higher level, so maybe that’s why. I got the higher level for the extended towing range so if something happens in the mountains, they’ll take us back to town. I got a flat on the highway about two years ago and they had me back on the road about 35 minutes after I called. I figure one call a year is break even and the discounts and anything else are gravy.

  110. I’ve had AAA since I was 16, I don’t use it every year, but every few when I do need it make it worth it. I think of it as insurance. I do use the discounts every year and I have used the travel agent a few times. Love that I can use it like a DMV – too bad they don’t do drivers tests.

  111. LfB, impressive!! Why are the schools closed? I know NYC is closed this week for Passover, but are your schools closed for a different reason?

  112. I am behind a day – I haven’t read the GPS comments, but just read all of latest ones from yesterday’s post. The topic of age/dementia/storytelling reminded me that I heard George Shultz give a speech at a Scout dinner/awards night a year or two ago. He knocked it out of the park, and I just checked that he must have been about 93 years old! I don’t know what his secret is, but I would like to be like him when I am that age.

  113. Triptiks – Yesssss!!! Oh, the memories.

    We have AAA for all four of us (still paying for DD’s – I hope that AAA is the last thing we are still covering for her), and it is mainly for peace of mind, but I do try to get discounts for rental cars and hotels.

  114. I love maps. Before I had an iPhone (and didn’t bring a book) I could while a way the time if I had to wait in the car by studying the San Francisco Muni Map (that has all of the bus routes). I never got tired of finding new streets or seeing where a particular bus went.

    They are harder to find these days.

    There is also a secret, fake street on the map that was supposed to prevent someone map forgery. I don’t know how rampant that sort of thing is/was.

  115. I don’t have AAA, but have similar coverage through my insurance. When I found myself stranded on the side of the highway recently, I called for a tow. Before the tow truck got there, a AAA guy who was driving by pulled over and got me going again. I paid him all the cash I had on me. So even though I’m not a member, I think it would be worth the cost.

  116. Anybody have kids at UT Austin? This guy:

    http://alcalde.texasexes.org/2013/05/five-questions-for-brent-iverson-uts-next-dean-of-undergraduate-studies/

    is someone I went from kindergarten through 8th grade with, before his mom transferred him to Catholic school where he would get homework every single night. That was important to her. He was the nicest possible kid. Incredibly smart, athletic despite his small stature, friendly to everyone.

  117. On map reading – in 5th grade the big project every year was you had to plot a trip across either Canada or Mexico, coast to coast. You had to write up what route you were taking, how many miles you were driving each day, how long that would take going whatever the speed limit was at the time, and then what you were going to do at each place you stopped. We got to work on it a little each week for what seemed like a long time – I apparently really enjoyed it if i still remember it now.

  118. That actually sounds similar to the 6th grade silk road diary project my kids have done, except you’d be imagining yourself as an 8th century trader, going by caravan / camel instead of car, and going from Damascus to ChangAn. But the part about choosing your stops, writing down what you did each place, what you traded, etc., sounds the same.

  119. Hey guys, I need some clothing help. My daughter can’t find a prom dress that fits. We’ve tried Macy’s and nordstroms with no luck. She wants a two piece, long dress. She wears a 0 petite. Any suggestions?

  120. David’s bridal has a good selection of appropriate dressss, and a lot of wedding gown stores want to get into prom sales. Cache if your local mall has it- limited but on trend. Mod cloth is probably too funky for prom, but blue fly has lovely things. For the very precocious, there’s Rent the Runway.

    What didn’t she like about the dresses?

  121. So far her problem has been that everything is too big. We spent a day shopping at the mall. Middle DD found lots of choices, older DD found one dress that fit and she didn’t like it.

  122. Man, I wish my kids had cool projects like that. Their annual project is more generic — once year it was “you have $200, plan Thanksgiving dinner”; last year it was something similar. This year I am annoyed: the project is “you have $1MM to spend, spend it to prepare for your future,” and then they give them suggested categories and caps (e.g., house no more than $300K). So I, of course, said “take $500K and put it in an index fund, because in 55 years at 8% that will be $34MM. And he said, “no, mom, we’re not allowed to *keep* any of it, we have to *spend* it all.” Rant triggered. How can you “prepare for your future” if you’re not allowed to invest anything? You’d think at least the power of compounding would be something worth teaching, along with “how to plan and cost out a big vacation.” Grrr.

    So now I am trying to think of things that DS could “buy” to “prepare for his future.” Maybe a rental apartment building or something. :-)

  123. Now I’m reminded of a math project that was “you have $500 to donate to poor people”. I assume it appealed to educrats since it was a triple play that could count for math, art, and character education. The way it was graded, as long as you were suitably charitable and could draw well, you got a good math grade. *sigh*

    I suggest Nordstrom’s for prom dresses. A long dress will likely need to be shortened for a petite girl, and they offer free alterations. Dave’s Bridal offers lots of choices, which may need some lead time for ordering. I think a two-piece may be hard to find, though.

  124. LfB – I agree. Investing is spending. But maybe they just think that’s too easy of an answer? The small apartment building is a good idea. The people on here talking about it convinced me to sign up for the Frugalwoods’ emails, so I recently read that the Cambridge home they had purchased for $400-something and lived in until recently is now worth $800-something and renting for over $4k per month, covering its own mortgage and the mortgage on their new Vermont homestead.

    Your bake sale story gave me an idea. My older kids have been asking to do the same thing, and it’s never been a great time (plus I want potential customers to understand that this is entrepreneurial, not a fundraiser for charity), however, we have a neighborhood garage sale coming up, and I think that could be the perfect Saturday morning to give it a try.

    Finn – DW got two tomato plants, one blackberry, one strawberry, cucumbers, peppers, maybe something else. So we’ll see. I had mentioned basil, and I forget the reason why she didn’t want it, at least not yet. Oh, we also have mint now–there’s nothing like iced tea with fresh mint crushed in it, or mint juleps.

  125. @Milo — Yeah, I think they just didn’t want kids turning in a one-line project (“I’d stick it all in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index”). But you’d think they’d at least include an option to invest part of it.

    The garage sale bake sale is a great idea, and I suspect you will get lots of extra $$ regardless. I’d say half the money DD and her friend made came from people buying one muffin and paying with a $5 or $10 and telling them to keep the change. I figure the adults were probably just *thrilled* to see kids trying to earn the money themselves, instead of having it given to them — it’s sort of a natural totebaggy anodyne against Entitled Twit Syndrome. Plus your kids are younger and cuter and thus will rake it in. :-)

    Also, do you have a fence for the garden bed? We gave up on strawberries after the bleeping rabbits ate them all three years in a row.

  126. Oh — and mint is basically a delicious weed that is just this side of kudzu in its ability to spread, so prepare accordingly.

  127. Cordelia – http://www.promgirl.com/shop/styles_and_trends/two-piece; At least for ideas.I also tried googling “two piece prom dress” and click on shop. It brought up some suggestions from retailers that have brick and mortar shops.

    AAA – worth every friggin penny for me. DH blew 2 tires in less than a year and AAA came to the rescue both times. It saved me in CT when I locked my keys in my car. We have the plus plan to get us extended towing – I think it’s 100 miles. Every year we need it once and it pays for itself right then and there. We used the discount for our hotel next month, and I use it at NY&Co and other retailers.

    Map projects – I used to get those at school and loved them. I’ll probably have DS do one when he’s old enough. Spread some maps out on the dining room table and have him plan a trip. Sure, Google could do it faster and more efficiently, but the imagination is gone there.

  128. yeah, it has a very DIY-looking fence to keep the deer out, but I wonder if the rabbits could just hop right through. Didn’t Peter squeeze under the gate, even though it cost him his new jacket?

  129. I’ve told this story before, but it perfectly captures BIL. He had AAA coverage for his ’92 Civic and in its final year of service, he used his maximum number of tows (five, iirc). When he was ready to buy a new car, he saw an ad promising $500 over KBB value on any trade-in, so with a buying service price on a new car already arranged, he confirmed that the trade-in didn’t actually need to be running in order to get the $500 over blue book, and he used his last AAA towing to have it moved from his driveway to the dealership parking lot.

  130. LfB – $184 for band trip lunches, plus prom expenses will go quickly :-).
    I admit to get sucked in and the clothes for special occasions get pricey. I was fussing so much with DD’s communion dress and veil, that DH said he would pay her to elope rather than have a wedding.
    DS and DD participate in neighborhood lemonade stand, a for profit venture. Some proceeds may go to charity.
    DS had a group project where they had to plan a vacation with airfare, hotels, meals, transport costs. It seemed very Totebaggy to me.

  131. Mint is a perennial if it’s allowed to run wild. And it will run wild (see LfB’s Kudzu comment). It functions as an annual in a pot. I suggest a pot. Save yourself.

    This weekend I get to work on my garden again… and we’ll buy plans in 2 weeks, right before vacation. I’m excited! We’ll get tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and other things. I’ll probably also get lettuce seeds and potato seeds. Though, I may convert one bucket into a strawberry bucket. I also have wild raspberry and blackberry in the yard.

    My only concern is my neighbors. Our garden is in the front yard, and some of them are very devious…

  132. Cordelia,
    DD got her dress from http://www.promgirl.com for only $99. I told her that I would only pay $100 for a dress and anything above that she would have to pay for. Needless to say she was motivated to keep costs low. They have lots of great looking dresses.

  133. Milo-Next thing you know your DW will be asking you to help her build a chicken coop because nothing is better than fresh eggs :).

    Every year the organization Bike Virginia sponsors a huge three day bike ride in which hundreds of people participate. The location changes from year to year. About ten years ago the route took them by our house. DD thought that it would be a great idea to have a lemonade stand for them at the end of our drive way. After all, she reasoned they will get hot and thirsty riding their bikes. I had a hard time convincing her that they would be going by too fast to stop and buy a drink from her.

  134. Sheep – I might side with your DD on this one. I would think that most of the people were riding more leisurely than competitively, and fresh, real lemonade on the side of the road? I would stop.

    If the mint spreads like weeds, I’ll just have to buy Jim Beam by the caseload, and make up a lot more simple syrup.

  135. Milo- for the garage sale bake sale, I would suggest bottled water as well. They can buy it at Costco for about 10 cents a bottle and can sell for $1-$1.50 a bottle. Sold out very quickly in my neighborhood. Also, they just bought donuts and resold at a significant mark-up.

  136. That’s a great idea, MBT, and it will give me an excuse to get out my oversized rolling cooler.

  137. Milo,
    The mint is indeed a weed in your climate. Seriously. Dig it up now and put it in pots. You can leave the pots in the garage over the winter (or bring them inside for year-round mint juleps) and never have to buy it again, but you will deeply regret allowing it to roam free. The bunnies won’t eat it for you. They prefer camomile in their tea.

  138. Sheep Farmer – my coworker has chickens… when they produce more eggs that her, her husband, and dog can handle, I get a dozen or so. They are heavenly. If my city allowed chickens, I might think out it.

    Milo – I’m thinking of letting the mint run wild in its own raised bed. This way I can tell DH where to mow safely and keep it at bay. I may build that in the backyard where I don’t really have any other plants right now… but it will jump ship, so need to be extra careful…

  139. I still remember how much fun my sister and I had when we did a bake sale for our neighborhood yard sale

  140. Cordelia – promgirl looks like your best bet, although I might try both that and David’s and see which fabrics look better. :)

  141. Fred – of course. I really don’t have experience with fresh eggs… but the consistency of the whites was different, the yolk was more golden. I basically stared at my son’s uncooked dinner for a while trying to absorb it all. Then he screamed and I started making his scramble/omelette.

  142. Thanks everyone, we’ve looked at promgirl, and Davids. I am less concerned with price than she is. She is a senior, is valedictorian, and got enough scholarships to make college less expensive than we planned for. She can have whatever dress she wants that fits. The problem is that she is barely big enough for a 0 petite. Is there a store for tiny people? All but one dress at Nordstroms were too big.

  143. Don’t get chickens. They are filthy, nasty creatures. Especially don’t get roosters and let them run loose. They will attack people

  144. Cordelia – have you tried Nordstrom online ? I have found that for petites Nordstrom and Talbots fit me perfectly.
    Nordstrom online seems to have sales of special occasion dresses and the marked down prices are reasonable.

  145. Cordelia – get it tailored down if it is too big. You can also try brick and mortar stores – usually there are a few size 0 left at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, etc., since it is a less popular size.

  146. I am short and small boned. Talbots and Ann Taylor both have petite sizes that are actually petite, The stores cater to more adults than teens (way conservative cut and style), but if she got a plain black dress and paired it with funky accessories, it might work. Also, the black dress would serve her well in college.

  147. @ Cordelia – try Zappos. You can search by dress size, and it’s free shipping and returns, so you can order a number of dresses and try them on at home.

    @ Houston – we have AAA, and happily discovered while we were visiting your city that it gives great discounts at the museums there. It paid for itself several years over.

    I have planted tomatoes, mint (in its own pot), basil, cucumbers, red peppers, banana peppers, basil, and rosemary this year. So far the tomatoes are going gang busters – it’s been a warmer spring than usual. The mint, surprisingly, has not yet taken off. Usually it’s my best performer.

    On spending vs. saving – I was making my list in anticipation of a “Do it Now” challenge, and I am really struck my how many of my to-dos are to buy something that I’ve been putting off but that we actually need. Some little (new lunchboxes for kids), some bigger (Adirondack chairs for the beach), but at least 15 – 20 purchases that I seem to delay for no particular or good reason.

  148. “I hate riding in a car more than anything. It is the most singularly boring activity I can think of.”

    “It depends on the company, the available music choices.”

    I agree with Finn, a few hours in the car with the right people and right soundtrack is a blast

  149. The Frugalwoods bought a run down single family house at the right time, I believe in Area 4, the last neighborhood in Cambridge to succumb to gentrification. Single family homes are worth their weight in gold anyplace in the city.

    Investing in real estate is still investing, even if the teacher doesn’t think so. I think that buying an apartment building would be okay for the assignment because you and all of your family could live in it as well.

  150. Cordelia – get it tailored down if it is too big.

    I was going to suggest this as well. Find one she likes and have it altered to fit.

  151. On clothing for petites,

    I live in a plus-size community, and after going down several sizes during treatment has real problems finding clothing to fit. Size 2 was too big and no grownup store carries size 0. I really wanted to stop the petite Asian women I saw at the grocery store and beg them to tell me where they found their clothes but figured that wouldn’t go over well. But I can ask here. Where do small-boned 100 pound adult women buy clothing? (I no longer have the weight issue, thanks be to God, but just wondering).

  152. Cordelia, I don’t have a solution but I was in a wedding with two 0 petite bridesmaids and the bride was challenged to find them dresses. (I am as average as can be, fortunately.)

    Milo, you might grow some giant sunflowers from seed. My kids really like those and the birds eat the seeds at the end of the season.

    I’ve enjoyed the mint discussion. I’ve read that it grows like a weed but my attempts have eventually died, probably because we don’t have enough heat. Cruciferous vegetables grow well here. Tillamook has been a leading dairy area since Oregon was settled because vegetables won’t ripen so the farmers raised cows on the abundant year-round grass.

  153. “you might grow some giant sunflowers from seed”

    I could, but I’m supposed to be against this whole thing, remember? When I daydream about living in a place like Scottsdale, I think of how nice it would be to have nothing but a big, shaded patio, a swimming pool, and a yard full of rocks and cacti that require nothing from me.

    Anyway, DW put a couple flowers in a planter and zip tied it to the outside of the deck railing, where it will get tons of southern exposure.

  154. ““you have $1MM”

    I’m reading that as $1 million million, or $1 trillion. Spending all of that would be an interesting exercise.

  155. “My only concern is my neighbors. Our garden is in the front yard, and some of them are very devious…”

    A couple of CCTV cameras, a video recorder, and some signage to point out the cameras might help.

  156. “““you have $1MM”

    I’m reading that as $1 million million”

    That’s because engineers see M as an abbreviation for the prefix mega, or 10^6, but lawyers see it as the Roman numeral for 10^3.

    “A couple of CCTV cameras, a video recorder, and some signage to point out the cameras might help.”

    Up the shore from my parents is an oyster growing/harvesting area with just that setup, including prominent signs.

  157. Scarlett, I think stores carry what there’s demand for, so if no one buys the 00 of a given brand in your city, the stores may not carry it even if it would be available in a different area.

    Also, I’d say that higher-end brands often run to smaller sizes. As do teen-oriented brands, but that’s not what you’re looking for.

    Maybe you should fly here for the January and July sales at Neiman’s! They always seem to have plenty of 0 and 00 on the rack.

  158. “That’s because engineers see M as an abbreviation for the prefix mega, or 10^6, but lawyers see it as the Roman numeral for 10^3.”

    Since there seems to be no confusion on $1K being $1000, using $1KK to designate $1,000,000 would seem to eliminate the confusion of what $1MM is.

  159. Hmm, this might be a totally useless suggestion, but pulling together others’ suggestions suggests one possible course of action is to go to Nordstrom’s to find styles she likes, then trying to find them online in her size, with alterations at the store as necessary.

    I’ve heard Nordstrom’s does alterations for stuff you buy in the store, and I’m assuming they’ll also alter stuff you buy from them online, which may not be a valid assumption.

  160. “sales at Neiman’s! They always seem to have plenty of 0 and 00 on the rack.”

    To HM’s point, I’ve also seen quite a few shoes at the local Nordstrom Rack in EE and EEE widths.

  161. “That’s because engineers see M as an abbreviation for the prefix mega, or 10^6, but lawyers see it as the Roman numeral for 10^3.”

    I’m going to guess that you and your DH don’t use the M in your financial planning. Could lead to some significant miscalculations.

  162. I’m tiny (2P, headed back to 0) and have had success with Ann Taylor and Talbots. I just got a stunning Sue Wong dress off Amazon – might be worth a try. Generally I find the high end designer brands don’t do as much vanity sizing, so a 0 is really a 0.

    The tiny Chinese ladies order from Asia or have dresses custom made in Chinatown – I’ve done both for cheongsams and occasionally business suits.

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