Ask the Totebag: Transitions

by Denver Dad

DS just started high school. During the first week, he seemed to be a bit moody and was starting to show signs of the anxiety issues he had a few years. At the end of the week, he sent an email to DW, the gist of it saying that he doesn’t like HS and wants to go to an online school. It was very mature and well thought out. I know HS is a tough transition, and more so when you go from a small school (550 students total in K-8) to a 1,200 student HS. DW and I agree he needs to give it time so he can settle in, and agree that online school is not an option (I am not interested in debating that).

We’ve already talked to our pediatrician about restarting the antidepressant he was when he had the issues a few years ago, and we are working on finding a counselor/therapist as well. We are going to reach out to the guidance counselor to see what she suggests because I’m sure other kids from his previous school have gone through the same thing (a lot of them go to this HS).

My question is, what are some things that you did to help your kids with the HS transition that seemed to help? And conversely, what are some things to avoid saying or doing that just made things worse?

And we can discuss the transition to college as well.

Advertisements

Worst pets

by Honolulu Mother

Researchers in the Netherlands have recently identified the mammals least suitable as household pets — science! — and this Vox article helpfully runs through the 25 worst:

The 25 worst mammals to keep as pets

Grizzly bear and bison seem like obvious bad ideas, but it’s a good thing they warned us about that fennec fox.

Do you have pets? Cat, dog, or small mammal / bird / fish? Have you ever had or considered having an unusual pet, or worked with an exotic animal in some other context?

Allowance and chores

by Seattle Soccer Mom

I thought it would be fun to compare notes on how much allowance kids receive, what (if anything) they have to do to receive it, and whether they have to save parts of the allowance for long-term savings or charitable donations. I also thought it would be interesting to share info on what kids do for chores (I often learn that my kids are capable of much more than I’d been asking them to do).

Here’s what we do:

Allowance: 11 year old DS receives $5 a week. He doesn’t have to do anything to get his allowance but does have to do chores (see below). 16 year old DD has to do dishes 4 times in order to earn her $10 allowance. We added this requirement last year when it was hard to tell if DD genuinely didn’t have time to do the dishes because of homework or if she was just trying to get out of doing the dishes.

Both kids can spend their allowance however they want; we don’t make them put part of it towards long-term savings or charitable donations. DD is naturally a saver and doesn’t spend much. DS is a natural spender and doesn’t save much. The only time DS has intentionally saved money was when he was saving up to buy a mini-iPad. This was a good experience for him. Most of the other things DS wants are inexpensive – either hotwheel cars or songs on iTunes.

Chores: Both kids are responsible for doing their own laundry and putting it away although “putting it away” is loosely defined. DS shoves his clothes in his drawers (no folding involved). DD keeps her clothes in the laundry basket or strewn about her room (she has both a bureau and a closet but does not seem to make much use of them). I’ve decided that as long as I don’t have to deal with their clothes, I don’t care.

Both kids have to unload the dishwasher and put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. DD has to do dishes after dinner. In the summer, each kid has to cook dinner once a week. We have a housecleaner who comes every two weeks; the kids are responsible for making sure their rooms are clean enough to be vacuumed and that they’ve put out clean sheets. If they fail to do so, then on the weekend, they get to pick up their rooms, vacuum, and change their own sheets.

DH would like the kids to help out with yard work but he keeps hoping they will naturally volunteer on their own. I have told him pigs will fly before that happens and he needs to tell the kids he wants their help rather than making it an optional activity.

Exercise at work

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all heard how dangerous it is to spend all day sitting, and it’s recently been reported that we should be getting at least an hour a day of moderate exercise to counteract the effects of sitting down the rest of the day. But finding the time is difficult.

This Thrillist article proposes that exercising at work should be normalized:

YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE AT WORK WITHOUT FEELING LIKE A  FREAK

I have a yoga ball, aka an adult hippety-hop, that I sit on from time to time, although I’m dubious as to whether that really does much for my core. I just like bouncing while I work. Other than that, I just try to walk out a bit at lunchtime and take the long way to and from the bathroom. I do think my colleagues would look a bit askance at deskside burpees, wall squats, and so forth.

How about the rest of you? I remember that Risley has her under-desk cycle — is it still working out well? Have others found a good way to get in a little exercise at work? And do you think exercising at work should be a thing?

Making new friends as you get older

by Honolulu Mother

This Vox article talks about the increased difficulty of making new close friends as one moves away from young adulthood:

On the other side of the 30, we keep adding casual friends, but most of us won’t gain close friends like before; no more best friends. The 30s are a time for settling in to friendly acquaintances and hanging on to faraway friends over texts and Facebook.

Author Kate Shellnutt notes various reasons for this, including increased work and family responsibilities as well as the presence for most people of a spouse who may fill the role of best friend. However, she also concludes that making new friends isn’t easy at any age, and it’s still a goal worth striving toward.

I certainly find it much slower to make new friends now than in college or grad school, and really I’m more likely to develop family friends than individual friends. And that’s not surprising — whereas once I shared meals and living quarters with roommates / housemates and had plenty of free time to do things together and just hang out, now I live with my own family and my schedule is pretty full. But perhaps as we become empty nesters, that will change again.

What has your experience been of making new friends in your 30s, 40s, and later?

Fired

by Louise

This article caught my eye. One party was fired by their firm, the other was not fired by another firm and continues on.

On a radio show, I listen to callers describe situations and listeners and radio hosts guess whether they were fired or not. Many times, I have thought the callers must have gotten fired, but no – they carried on.

Have you been fired? Or know of situations where people should or should not have been fired?

Fifth Third Fired Counsel Over Relationship With Fannie CEO

Caught between two countries

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

A certain well-received novelist has written this essay about feeling
caught between two countries:

A writer with two countries

I’m very clearly USAn. I use that instead of “American” because I get
yelled at by my Canadian friends if I say “American”. I’ve lived in
California, North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado.
But I feel like either a Californian or a Westerner. The whole gun
control debate doesn’t hit me the same way it hits East Coast folks.
(Yes, gun violence is bad. I’m against it. But I don’t have the same
revulsion to guns that East Coast people seem to have). I don’t know as
much about Colonial history as my East Coast friends, but I can tell you
a lot about Junipero Serra and SIr Francis Drake and the 1906 SF
earthquake, and my mom’s wedding ring was made out of a gold nugget that
was dug up by one of my dad’s 49er ancestors.

Do you feel fully USAn, or do you have a more regional alliance? Are you
a Southerner, an East Coast elite, or something else entirely?

What I ate yesterday

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Weird Appeal of ‘What I Ate Today’ Videos

Inspired by the popularity of YouTube “What I Ate Today” videos, I propose we all share similar information.

What did you eat yesterday?  List it all, if you dare.  Or you can make something up if you’d rather keep your secrets.  We’ll never know the difference anyway!  But I am genuinely curious about Totebaggers’ real eating habits.  If you can remember that long ago, list what you ate over two or more days.  Add commentary to help us understand your choices.

Was yesterday typical?  Was your day rushed or relaxed?  Did you cook, take out, go out, have leftovers, or something else?  Are you happy with your diet or do you wish you ate better?  Do family members struggle with trying to eat healthy?  What have you eaten today?

What are your favorite “fast food” meals, either traditional like McDonald’s or something easy to prepare at home?

Trend alert:  US retail sales of eating and drinking establishments are now higher than those of grocery stores.

Expand demand-based pricing?

by Fred MacMurray

So we’ve come to accept variable, demand based, pricing in:

  • airline tickets — you might have paid $hundreds more or less than the person you’re sitting next to depending on when you bought your ticket.
  • sporting events, where some games are now “premium” and ticket prices are higher for those games than “regular” games
  • Uber, depending on the current demand for their services
  • Auto insurance, which is based on your driving record and even your credit rating
  • Flowers (Valentines Day)
  • Some restaurants (holiday brunches, Mothers’ Day)

And there are others.

How do you feel about demand-based pricing? What if your mechanic adopted the same thing (e.g. the Friday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving it costs 2x the normal rate because everyone wants their car looked over, the oil changed and tires rotated before the big drive to Grandma’s)? Your barber / hairdresser? Why are we accepting/understanding of this scheme for travel, but not for some/many other day-to-day things?

Flow = Adult ADHD??

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this article’s suggestion that the experience of “flow,” when you’re intensely focused on your work and distractions seem to drop away, may actually be an expression of adult ADHD.

When Adult ADHD Looks Something Like ‘Flow’

If I weren’t distractible I wouldn’t be a Totebag regular, but when I shut my door and set my status to busy and really dig in to some big project I do experience flow and am often surprised to find that hours have gone by. Do you find this article to be consistent with your experiences?

Summer Reading Fun!

By Seattle Soccer Mom

Fellow Totebaggers – what are the books you’ve enjoyed reading this summer? Or the books you haven’t liked?

Here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed this summer:

“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren – combination memoir and science writing. Very good.

“Fool Me Once” – a page-turner thriller by Harlan Coben. I couldn’t put it down.

“Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld – a fun, lighthearted retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

“Cure: A Journey into the Science of the Mind over Body” by Jo Marchant. I found this book fascinating – it looks at the connection between the mind and the body. It’s written by a science reporter who has a PhD in genetics and microbiology – but is very readable (lots of really interesting stories).

“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker – a chance meeting between mythical beings takes set in turn-of-the-century New York. Part fantasy and part historical fiction with a fairy tale-like quality about it.

And of course “Untethered” by Julie Lawson Timmer.

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to discuss any subject of your choosing.

August marks the end of summer for many of us.  I am trying to enjoy every minute of the warm weather, and I’ve decided summer is my favorite season.  What’s your favorite time of year?

Here’s another thought.  Did you ever watch Wife Swap?

Wife Swap is an American reality television program that was first broadcast on the ABC network in 2004. In the program, two families, usually from different social classes and lifestyles, swap wives/mothers – and sometimes husbands – for two weeks. The program will usually deliberately swap wives with dramatically different lifestyles, such as a messy wife swapping with a fastidiously neat one, or a wife who only cooks vegan swapped with a non vegan wife, documenting the cultural and social differences that the two families discover with the new family member….

Which Totebagger would you switch with to make for an entertaining episode of Wife Swap because of your “dramatically different lifestyles”.  Or which other Totebag family is so similar to your own that you would blend in seamlessly?  Can you imagine swapping with a famous family, like the Kardashians, the Duggars, the Mr. Money Moustaches, or others?

What’s So Special About Finland?

by WCE

This Atlantic article discusses differences between the U.S. and Finland. I liked the emphasis that speaking English as a first language is a natural advantage that people in the United States have. I enjoyed the part about what citizens receive in return for high taxes, because in the U.S. model, upper middle class citizens pay taxes at marginal rates comparable to those in Scandinavia but must still pay significant amounts toward childcare, healthcare and college for their children. I think that the diversity of the U.S. compared to Finland in terms of the background and culture of its citizens is both a benefit and a disadvantage, depending on the situation. Discuss!

What’s So Special About Finland?

“In terms of immigration, if you have a situation like you have now in Europe—huge numbers of immigrants coming in all of a sudden—that’s a very difficult situation for any country. But if a lot of these immigrants also [have] education levels [that] do not help them in this society to find work, then this puts strain on the system. The system is built on the idea that everybody works, everybody pays taxes, and then they get these things in return. Whereas in the United States you don’t really have any [government-provided] benefits. That’s not so much of a problem in terms of immigration.

In higher education, the Nordic approach of offering everyone free tuition is a really good system for educating the whole population well. On the other hand, the U.S. has fantastic research institutes, leading Ivy League universities [that] are amazing, [and] their resources are very different from the resources that Nordic [universities] have.

Friedman: Many Americans might say, “This all sounds great, but you guys are paying sky-high taxes. We don’t want anything to do with that.” How would you respond?

Partanen: First of all, the taxes are not necessarily as high as many Americans think. One of the myths I encounter often is that Americans are like, “You pay 70 percent of your income in taxes.” No, we do not. For someone who lives in a city like San Francisco or New York City—where you have federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, property taxes—the tax burden is not very different [than the tax burden in Finland]. I discuss my own taxes in the book and I discovered this to be true: that I did pay about the same or even more in New York than I would have paid on my income in Finland. I’ve talked to many Nordics in the U.S. who say the same thing.

The second thing is that there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.

Checklists

by Honolulu Mother

Atul Gawande now has a book out based on his 2007 New Yorker article on the use of checklists in medicine, piloting, and other fields:

THE CHECKLIST

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

His basic take is that although those doing complex work are reluctant to adopt a tool so simple as a checklist, they have proved a very worthwhile way to reduce costly errors and improve outcomes.

Do you use checklists for work or home tasks, or do you create checklists for others to use? How helpful do you find them?

Reconnecting with an old love

by Mémé

Every now and then I’ll come across an article that stirs a memory or just have a stray thought and search FB for a long lost friend. About a year ago I did that and found my first boyfriend from sophomore year of high school. His current picture was not much to look at, but I did see an old photo on his public page that reminded me of how handsome he had been. I sent him a message (which goes into Facebook purgatory unless you pay money) and said, well, if he ever finds it I’ll hear from him. He did reply six months later, we did a heartfelt “friend”, and I decided to schedule a meet up on my recent trip to DC.

We sat in a coffee shop for 2 hours and caught up on the 43 years since we last ran into each other. We didn’t reminisce much about high school because we only went out for six months and went on with our lives. However, he is the only guy other than my two husbands that is at the level of “in love” for me.

I am still processing the experience. I felt awkward after a while, not for romantic reasons, but because my life turned out so much better than his. There was no increase in heart rate, although at one point he cocked his head just so and I caught a glimpse of the boy inside the man. He has a quiet responsible life, late marriage with youngest kid 20 years old, not happy in his marriage, middle class and tied to working as long as he is able, but his conversation was full of regrets about the road not taken`, recounting all sorts of recent sad events – not bitter, just resigned and a bit hard on himself. He never finished college because he went off the rails at 21 for a year or two and was just afraid of risk after that. (I guess it turns out he is a depressive, too. I am three for three.) I took a 15 year hiatus from myself from age 26 to 41 and lived through some tough luck, but I got myself back. He just figured out how to get by. I did ask him if his grand passion, a fabulous artistic woman he fell for at 17 and whose eventual rejection sent him into a tailspin, prevented him from moving on personally. He loved her like a guy in a tragic romance novel to a degree I have never again encountered from a man in real life. He said to me, I don’t think so, that’s an interesting observation. Still, my wife did ask me to burn all the pictures from that era (he just hid them). Ya think?

Totebaggers, please share your experiences of going back to the past, happy or not. Do you have any desire to track down old friends?

Handyman for a day

by Grace aka costofcollege

I’ve been seeing variations on this Angie’s List deal.

$279 Handyman for the Day

Are you tempted?

Your list of projects around the house seems to keep growing with no end in sight. Skip the hassle and let the professionals do the work for less with this great offer!

$279.00 for 8 labor hours of skilled handyman services (1 worker for 8 hours or 2 workers for 4 hours each)
Deal can be used for everything from shelving installation to minor electrical and minor plumbing repairs

Assuming you could get a competent handyman, do you have any projects you’d like to get done?  I can think of a few, including that sagging garage trim that needs to be straightened, weatherstripping around some doors that needs to be replaced, and a new doorbell.  If I gave it more thought, I’m sure I could come up with lots more.  What about you?  How about landscaping or housecleaning chores that you’d like to take care of with a similar deal?

Have you ever used a service like this?  One thing I thought of was that I’d want to be very organized and make sure to have all the materials on hand so that minimal time would be wasted on trips to the hardware store.

What’s your next home project?

Financial education for kids

by Finn

Having a kid who’s close to graduating from HS, this article caught my attention:

5 Financial Concepts To Teach Your Teen Before High School Graduation

What do you think? Do you agree with the five concepts? Are there any others you think should be added? How do you plan to teach these concepts to your kids?

On a related note, do your kids’ schools offer classes in personal finance? My kids’ school offers one, but DS tells me he won’t take it because he’s already maxed out on the number of classes he’s allowed to take, and doesn’t want to give up any of them.

Next year they plan to offer some short courses, with personal finance being one possible subject. With the PSAT being moved from Saturday to a school day, the school decided to cancel classes on PSAT day, and instead offer things like personal finance seminars for the freshmen and seniors. Another possible time for some short classes is the weeks after AP testing.

When fictional children grow up

by winemama

Harry Potter and the curse of middle age: should fictional children ever grow up?

The best children’s books celebrate the innocence and joy of childhood. They capture and preserve it. Do we really want to know that Just William became an accountant or that Charlie sold his chocolate factory to Nestlé and took up golf? Speaking personally, I felt a sense of betrayal when we glimpsed Harry as an adult at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was reminded of a wonderful film, Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between, which is as much about childhood as it is about love. At the end, the youthful Leo, played by Dominic Guard, is transformed into the elderly, ghost-like Michael Redgrave. “Leo, you’re all dried up inside,” he’s told and he doesn’t disagree. That’s what growing up can do to you. It’s what children’s books fight against.

Thoughts about seeing favorite characters as grown-ups?
Do you enjoy seeing this peek into the future, or does it ruin the magic?

A link between neurotic unhappiness and creativity

by WCE

Creative and neurotic: Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

This article positing a link between neuroticism and creativity discusses a correlation with no known mechanism, so we can speculate unencumbered by data. Mr WCE and I both have trouble turning off, and for him especially, that leads to sleep difficulties. I can’t tell how neurotic I am, but I know I spend a lot of time living inside my own head. When I spent a month in the hospital before my twins were born, it was hard to read books and so I mostly did Sudoku puzzles and thought, with some listening to music. Apparently not everyone is like that.

What’s The First News Story You Remember?

by Honolulu Mother

This Deadspin (Gawker affliate) item asked its readers what was the first big news story they were aware of as kids:

What’s The First Big News Story You Were Aware Of As A Kid?

Judging by the comments, either the Challenger explosion or the first Gulf War was the first memorable news story for many readers. Totebag readers probably skew older, though.

For me, it was Watergate. I think my parents had as much fun trying to explain that one as they did answering my question about whether Watership Down was about bunnies, or people. (“Well, it is about bunnies, but it’s really about people.” DID NOT COMPUTE.)

How about the rest of you? What was your first news story?