Open thread

Discuss whatever is on your mind today.

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122 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. I’ll start: cars and trucks! DH’s lease recently expired on his old work car. He now wants to get either (1) a used pickup truck or (2) a car with a hitch, and a trailer, so he can bring tools and eventually some sort of large equipment (large mower/small tractor) back and forth to the timber property. He wants to spend around $10K. The vehicle would be used for both ‘regular’ work meetings (where he is going into the city/suburbs for office meetings, 1-2x/week) and for transport of tools and whatnot. What would you get?

  2. $10k gets you an adequate truck, but I’m not familiar with how nice it has to be to get to office meetings. The ones on CL for $10k are capable, but showing their age.

    As SM and Rhett said, I like the Ridgeline, but I like the new model at $30k+, not necessarily the old one. I think the towing capacity is around 5,000 lbs, but I’d want to conservatively limit that to 3,000. It’s probably fine for a “large mower/small tractor.”

  3. L – I’m a GM person when it comes to trucks, so take that for what it’s worth. Depending on the size of the trailer, you can get away with a smaller pick up (I like the Colorado myself – I owned one for 9 years and it was great on gas mileage for the city/’burbs and could be packed to the gills without issue). My FIL loves his Silverado. Though, that may be big for your needs. If you are a Toyota person, the Tacoma can’t be beat.

    The Tacoma and Colorado went head to head on Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year with the Colorado just edging by the Tacoma.

    Both are smaller – so towing capacity is limited – but get great gas mileage and are easier to park for those city visits.

  4. SM – The very first comment on your Ridgeline article:

    “It’s a Honda.. truck.. I don’t care if it picked up VS models and placed them neatly on my lap.. it’s a Honda. Hell give me an F-150 over that thing, at least when the Ford craps out and it will, you can hit the yard, close your eyes, toss a stone and hit 10 of them.”

    Old stereotypes die hard.

  5. Random question: Any recommendations for sitter services or drop in childcare for a 10-year old in New York City? I am going to a conference in midtown from 12-5 and bring DS with me for the weekend prior. Not staying at a hotel.

  6. Milo, what? When I click that link, the article I get starts with “In one of mankind’s greatest technology triumphs since the beer cooler ice chest got wheels, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline pickup has turned the truck bed into a sound system with the addition of six speakers to the bed walls. Now you don’t need to roll down the truck windows or open the doors to hear “Hail to the Victors Valiant” or “Sweet Home Alabama.””

  7. SM – The article was fine (I didn’t know about the speaker thing, it must be an add-on option). I was just shaking my head at the first comment to the article.

  8. School Calendar – My DD#1 goes to a private school, so they are not subject to certain state laws, such as the school start date of no earlier than the last Monday of August without a waiver. But, DD#2 is now in public school and not happy because, the later start date impacts the semester end date. Specifically, the districts had to choose between either (a) they get Wed-Fri for Thanksgiving or (2) they get exactly 10 weekdays off for Christmas, but is often means, like this year, that they go to school the week of Christmas. This is all to allow the semester to end before Christmas. The school district struggles because either way parents are pulling kids out for family travel. The “penalty” at Christmas is that those who leave early take their exams in January.

    For those of you whose school year starts after Labor Day, do you finish the semester before Christmas? How does it work?

  9. Sorry Milo, didn’t notice you said “comment”. You are correct. But L knows how to be discerning in reading.

  10. Anyone have good food recommendations or “things I must see” in New Orleans? I’ll be there for about a week starting Thursday.

  11. @L — I don’t know if you can find one of these in his price range (I think it is a fairly new model), but I was impressed by this one — https://www.edmunds.com/mercedes-benz/metris/2016/used/vin/?vin=WD3PG2EA9G3108319 — you can get them outfitted for either passengers or cargo, so obviously cargo here. I like the security of being able to lock stuff up and hide it inside, plus it’s normal-sized (I think it’s a touch smaller than the Sprinter), and so he should be able to drive it around like a regular car. And you can get a cargo hitch if he needs more space.

    Then again, it definitely lacks the macho of a pickup or the swankiness of a go-see-clients car. :-)

  12. But it’s iconoclastic enough to say “I don’t give a f***about your standards for ‘the macho of a pickup or the swankiness of a go-see-clients car'”

  13. For those of you whose school year starts after Labor Day, do you finish the semester before Christmas? How does it work?

    When I was in HS starting after Labor Day, our fall semester went into January.

  14. Thanks all. So with the truck, would you *also* get a trailer to tow the stuff with? I am envisioning just putting the mower in the truck bed. For that maybe he should just get a car and trailer. Hmm.

    LfB, that swank van also says “surveillance van” or “potential child molester”. Particularly in white! ;)

  15. Yesterday, after doing some online research, DH and I walked into a specialized e-bike store and bought e-bikes. We got different kinds, but they all work kind of the same way. They’re SO. MUCH. FUN. Whee!

  16. Has anybody here used an air couch or seen one in person? I’ve seen ads for them all over, am thinking of getting one for a niece who has spent years of her life on the sidelines of soccer tournaments, waiting for her team to play again, and now at rowing regattas.

  17. It looks like there are all sorts of ramps for sale that could facilitate that. But I think you might find your mower choices limited by the size of the bed, especially if you were to get something like the Tacoma (smaller truck) or something like the Ridgeline (four-door). So if you want four doors and a big enough bed, you end up with a really big truck that’s probably more than you need, anyway, whereas the trailer would have been more efficient.

    Curiously, this looks like it was a discussion topic on “GlockTalk,” surely a new site for Totebaggers. :)

    http://www.glocktalk.com/threads/riding-mower-in-pickup-bed.1534238/

  18. Austin – here, we start after Labor Day (by state law, thanks to the tourism lobby) and the semester ends around the end of January. I would have thought this would be terrible, as it means kids would spend their winter holiday worrying about final exams, but none of my kids has spent 5 minutes of the break on such worrying, so I really have no complaints about the set up. They generally have about 2 weeks of classes after break before exams start, so lots of time to study.

  19. We have an early 2000’s Tacoma, and I would recommend it for your needs. It’s 4WD, we have a ramp to put vehicles in the truck bed, and a hitch for towing. It is easy to handle and park and it is insanely reliable. It is also in your preferred price range.

  20. While I’m asking for gifty advice, how about experiences with VR headsets that work with an iphone, a slight step up from Google Cardboard? Reviews contradict each other a lot!

  21. Here, my kids are just hitting the middle of the second quarter at Christmas. We start very late, and the school year ends at the end of June

  22. On my mind today is that it’s the anniversary of a close friend’s unexpected passing a few years ago. She would have been the absolute best auntie to my kids (who were 2 and in utero at the time), so it’s one of those incidents that proves that life is unfair. She would have been an incredible emotional resource for them growing up.

    It makes me think about non-family members who play a big role in our kids’ lives. What are some ways to develop and nurture those relationships? It’s kind of awkward to say, “I’d love my kids to spend more time with you.” And things are just so busy these days – hard to make time for relationships for our kids with other adults. But so critical in my opinion.

  23. Risley and DD – That is interesting because the teachers here seem to realize that the semester is about to end just before the Thanksgiving break and that they aren’t as far along as they need to be. The result often is to load the kids up with “end of semester” projects and homework just before the holiday that is due shortly after they return. If you don’t work on it over the holiday, then you are pulling late nights the first week back, then you only have a week/week and a half before finals. The kids are worried that based on this history, the teachers will have this same realization right before Christmas if the semester goes into January.

  24. No matter when the school year started, our kids were always finished with finals before the Christmas break.

  25. SM – I don’t know about those headphones, or air couches, but you certainly put a lot of thought into Christmas gifts.

  26. We start after Labor Day and now the 1st semester ends at the end of Jan, same as Ris, MM, Lauren, probably Kerri.

    My kids 7-12 used to end the semester before Christmas and weighted the 1st semester 40% and the 2nd (longer) semester 60%. I think that got to be too much math for some parents to comprehend so a few years back they went to the 1st semester ending late Jan and things being weighted equally. I saw no problem with it. Really made for a much more enjoyable Christmas – New Years time.

  27. Austin – that’s never happened to my kids, but I could see it would be a drag.

    CalAtty – sorry about your friend. My DD’s godparents are not relatives, and it was important to me that she be close to them. I didn’t ever ask them to spend time alone with her or make it known I wanted them to be active in her life, but I invited them here a lot (they live in different states), made the trips down to see them (with DD) several times, and had her call them fairly regularly, or make cards for them, or send them school photos, etc. I treated them (and had DD treat them) as though they were an aunt or uncle to her (and my other kids), and the result is that they seem like an aunt and uncle to all of my kids, and I know my kids seem like nieces/nephew to them.

  28. When I was in high school, we started after Labor day and our second semester always ended in January after mid terms. Mid terms always fell the week of MLK so you had all that day to study if you wanted and then did you midterms Tuesday – Friday.

    My kids are ES and are on a trimester – we start third week of August. The first trimester ends in November and their report cards come home the Friday before our Thanksgiving break. I’m not sure if the MS and HS follow the same pattern but that could make for a really crappy holiday/break depending on your grades. Though my kids don’t get letter grades. There are four options: not meeting standard, partially meeting standard, proficient in standard and exceeds standard. I find this somewhat difficult to ascertain what this means in terms of grades. I’m assuming that not meeting is the D/F, partial is B-/C proficient is A-/B+ and exceeds is A+. I see papers but not all of them add up to the 100 standard so not always sure what they should be working on. A perfect example is my oldest had his big 4th grade project (paper done in school and a diorama done as homework). When we where at the exhibit his teacher told him that he was one of two kids who did the best on his diorama and followed all directions. She took a picture to use as an example for future classes. I have no idea what that means in terms of his grade or how it was even weighted against the paper portion of the project. DH and I don’t know if that means he will get an “exceeds expectations” in social studies next report card or if it truly means nothing. This is a project they worked on for over a month.

  29. Fred – That 40-60 split would be a nightmare in high school when some classes are only one semester long!

    CalAtty – Sorry about your friend. As I have no sibs and my partner is the younger of the kids (2) in his family as well as of his cousins, AND we started having kids late in life, we tried to keep other adults going in our kids’ lives. It has been a struggle as often adults are meandering through our lives as well. They have a few adults who have been around most of their lives, but not that they are necessarily close to.

  30. It makes me think about non-family members who play a big role in our kids’ lives. What are some ways to develop and nurture those relationships? It’s kind of awkward to say, “I’d love my kids to spend more time with you.” And things are just so busy these days – hard to make time for relationships for our kids with other adults. But so critical in my opinion.

    I agree. We have no family local except for DW’s aunt and her partner, and they are not kid people. They like the kids fine, but they aren’t the kind of people to take younger kids out alone or things like that.

    Fortunately a good friend of ours has become a surrogate aunt to the kids and has this kind of relationship with them. I don’t know how you push these relationships, though, it seems like they just have to happen naturally.

  31. “There are four options: not meeting standard, partially meeting standard, proficient in standard and exceeds standard.”

    This 1-4 is what we have for K-2. I was OK with it before, but there’s a learning curve for parents who wanted to extrapolate “my child should get all As” to “my child should get all 4s.” Because there are many objective standards that simply can not be exceeded (e.g., recognize, identify, and write letters A-Z), no matter how bright and precocious the child is. If you can do that by June, you get a 3.

    They would also break the standard down by quarter, so the standard would be to know A-I by November, and if you do that, you get a 3. If you know more at that point, you can get a 4. But then the best you can do for the fourth quarter is a 3, so it’s going to give the impression that you went down in that area.

    That was all understandable to me, and then they changed it to year-long standards with everything evaluated based on the June metric. So my bright second grader got a November report card with a whole bunch of 2s. “Doing great!” the teacher writes.

    I just stopped paying attention to the K-2 report cards. There will be enough time to obsess over grades from 3-12.

  32. Milo, humorous comment, given that the blog has a tradition of helping plan one of your gifts every year. What are you doing for her this year anyway?

    Cal Atty, that’s a nice question. You could send it in for a full day’s attention. In our case, it has proven easier to find people willing to take on that role for my son than to get him to accept them. His robotics coach noticed his abilities quickly, and a basketball coach made a clear offer to be part of his life, but he sees no need for such involvements. His godparents are in the U.K., where we have visited them once. We have a standing invite to join them at their summer place in France, but haven’t gotten there yet. We used to see his godfather once a year at a conference, and he now has visited us (once with family) three times, so that relationship isn’t as close as I wish. Neither of them is as into corresponding with the other as I’d like. My sister and BiL are godparents for one niece, and I think they’d like to have a similar role in my son’s life, but just as I resigned myself to their non-response at my attempts to be close to their son’s when they were young, they seem to accept that neither Isaac nor I are interested (but I am in touch with one of their sons more than any other such relations in our family)

  33. Denver, can you explain what you mean by “naturally”? It seems to me that most relationships require driving to get together, and concomitant planning, so parental involvement.

  34. SM – I meant it as a compliment.

    We’re taking a family weekend trip to NYC in two weeks. But we’re not buying anything fancy this year.

  35. Milo, I didn’t take it as a negative. My second year of college, my mom broke into tears when she opened my gift to her, claiming it was the first time anyone had thought of her in choosing her gift. A bit dramatic (she very rarely cried), but since then I’ve had a rep in our family for giving good gifts. Seeing that most types of communication with my family seem to go awry, I’m happy to put in the effort to come up with the right stuff (apologies to N Armstrong) Lest that last sentence come off too negatively, I’ll add that we just had a good weekend with my parents. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that the two of us absconded Sun morning, part of it is my parents’ wonderment at word processing when I type & print their Christmas letter with paragraph spacing and indents, and the font of their choice. Sunny skies, a working hot tub, and my dad’s cookie-decorating skills didn’t hurt either.

  36. It is ALWAYS somewhat hard to figure out how your kid is doing due to a lack of consistency. This year one class DD has, the teacher wants the average test grade to be an 80 and tests are 70 of the overall grade. To get that test average every test is HARD, so she can round up to get the scores where she wants them. DD is usually in the 80-85 range. At teacher conference, I was told she was in the 2nd quarter of the class, gradewise. In another class, the teacher expects that you should get 90 or better on every test and tests make up 50 percent of the grade with the rest being participation, homework, and pop quizzes at varying rates. In this class, the kids with lower than a 90 have that grade either because they do poorly on quizzes or turn in homework late.

    To Milo’s point, I had a job that did that…if you did everything in your job description the best you could get was meets expectations. However, you needed at least one exceeds to be eligible for a pay raise. Some managers would give you an exceeds if you took something in your job to the next level, others would only give you an exceeds if you took on work outside of your “normal” tasks. Made everyone nuts.

  37. Aha – info is readily available on the DMV’s website, who knew? “Depending on the size of the trailer, you may only be required to register it, but not title it. If the trailer and its cargo have a combined weight of 3,000 lbs. or less, you are not required by the MA RMV to title it. You may choose to voluntarily have it titled though, as proof of ownership. This may come in handy should you ever wish to sell the trailer.”

  38. It is sad but we see DH’s siblings and their families less than I anticipated. The times we have gotten together have been fun for the kids but torture for the adults because the in laws complicate things with their drama.
    The end result is that visits have become very few. In a weird way, I feel sad but glad at the same time.

  39. L – if your DH only has occasional use for a trailer, many places rent them (in RI, the local place is Taylor Rentals… not sure if that’s a MA brand too). You can rent a specific sized trailer, drive your truck up, hook up and be gone.

  40. Louise: That’s too bad. I hope you can find a solution such as getting together occasionally without your in laws.

  41. Louise/Cal Atty – one cheerful aspect to this is that as kids get older, they can take on these relationships themselves and make them even better/closer.

    My 19yo son has made a huge effort to keep in touch with relatives and the close friends of his parents. He has taken to calling his grandparents every week, he texts my sister, a few of his cousins and a couple of uncles quite often, and for the past few years, he’s been visiting a number of relatives during his school breaks. Because he can drive himself, he can arrange to see them at his convenience, instead of having to wait for DH and I to be free. Also, since he’s young, he thinks nothing of driving all night, popping in for a half day visit, and driving back again.

    His youth also makes it easier, I think, for him to invite himself to these peoples’ homes. He’ll call up and say, “Hey, grandpa, I thought I’d come see you and nanny for a few days — sound good?” Or “Hey, friend-of-my-dad-since-second-grade, I’m going to be in Toronto this Sunday. What if I stop in for brunch before I drive home?” Many of us don’t feel right about, or make time for, those kinds of spontaneous visits, and we wait to be asked. DS is having none of the waiting.

    Inspired by his example, DD drove to Ontario to spend a recent school break at her paternal grandmother’s, having invited herself and her BFF there for the weekend. The kids choose these visits for times when they’re off school but DH and I aren’t off work, so the kids are free but we’re not. If they had to time them all at our convenience, they’d rarely get to go.

    As a result, they end up seeing relatives and old friends of their dad’s quite a few times/year, and more than their dad and I are able to do. It’s allowing them to develop really strong relationships with these people, and of a different kind than when the entire family is there together.

    All the rellies are thrilled to be dropped in on this way — I get these gushing emails from both sets of grandparents each time, and from my sister and brother and my ex’s siblings and childhood friends, talking about how much it meant to them to have the kids make the trip to see them. And who knows, maybe most people would prefer to be joined for 24-48 hours by some young, fun HS and college kids rather than by an entire family.

  42. I think public schools in NY follows the same midterm schedule that existed when i was a kid in NY which is exams in mid to late Jan. I was so used to that schedule that it was a big shift when I was a freshman in college and I had to do work between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I really wasn’t used to a December with that much work, and I actually enjoyed the ability to enjoy the holidays and the parties in December vs. being stuck in a library.

    I liked the Jan midterms because it was still a few weeks after Christmas, AND it always started after MLK. There wasn’t much to do in January except study. I think it is a little different in the burbs because of all of the snow days and late openings. I see that some of neighbors get a little more stressed when they’ve prepared for an exam and they don’t know if there will be school. I only had 2 snow days in 13 years in NYC publics, so that wasn’t an issue for me.

    to anon at 10:50 – I wonder if Kerri knows a babysitter or a service in the city. All of my sitters are local and I don’t know if they would be free to go into the city on a weekday? I am assuming it is a weekday?? I know one college kid at Barnard that might do it, but it depends on when you will be in NYC and her class schedule.

  43. Jeezopeat! I figured out what air couch I wanted to get and started ordering it online. I had some questions about their various deals, so chatted with cust service. I also texted with my mom about having it sent to their house, since that’s where we’ll see the niece. In that amount of time, it went from available for store pickup (save $10) in Tampa, near my parents’ in Florida, and near the airport we go through in Ohio to… not available for pickup at any of them. And I’m getting it in purple, not exactly the most popular color.

  44. Denver, can you explain what you mean by “naturally”? It seems to me that most relationships require driving to get together, and concomitant planning, so parental involvement.

    I mean that the relationship/closeness grows naturally. Our friend liked the kids and they liked her. She’d see something that she thought the kids would like to do so she’d ask if she could take them. They’d have fun and want to see her more. Etc. We didn’t ask her “Do you want to be a surrogate aunt to the kids?”

  45. Risley, that is so wonderful of your kid. My brother was like that when about that age, but in a testament to to weirdness of our relatives, we got snarky comments about his behavior. I felt really sad, and it kept me away from copying my younger brother.
    We are so far away from family and my kid is an only. I worry about it sometimes. My sil is a few hours away, but her and her family are complete opposite of us. We do have one set of friends who we really like and they have slightly older kids that my kid adores. We planned on asking them to be godparents, but they are really weird and flaky in certain ways and do not keep contact for extended periods.

  46. “Because there are many objective standards that simply can not be exceeded (e.g., recognize, identify, and write letters A-Z), no matter how bright and precocious the child is. If you can do that by June, you get a 3.”

    At his first performance review, DS2 was expecting a stellar report. He works for a software company making widgets, for want of a better explanation, and he produced more widgets by far than his peers put together. He got the equivalent of a 3, and when he asked for an explanation, they told him,”oh, we love your work, but we never give new people a 4.”

    A few months ago he was casting about for another, higher position, and was given the message that he would not be considered because he is far too valuable where he is. Now he knows that, at least at this firm, he should have aimed for the number two or three spot on his team.

    It’s been quite a learning experience and one for which he was not really prepared at school. But he is learning fast.

  47. My kids’ school is in the midst of a transition.

    For years they’d started in late August, and had first semester finals right after winter break. We weren’t fond of this arrangement– during DS’ sophomore year, we had a great trip, but got back only a couple of days before school started again, and he told us it didn’t give him enough time to study, so last year we cut our trip short, which no one was really happy with.

    Last year, we got a new principal, and this year she moved finals to the last week of school before the break. But this resulted in uneven semester lengths, so next year they’ll start a week earlier, and have a two week long spring break. We’re looking forward to using the break to visit DS, wherever he is, next spring, borrowing Cordelia’s idea. Perhaps we’ll pick him up at school, then go skiing someplace.

  48. RMS;ADA – would either of you mind saying the brand of ebike you bought?

  49. Finn, public schools here just made that switch. Classes used to start around Aug 20, and exams were the week before MLK day. They decided exams should be before winter break (which I absolutely think is so much better–the only way to really let the tension off during the school year), so last summer was short, like maybe 10 weeks long, and they started on Aug. 10. I hope they don’t continue to start so early, but I am glad that my kid will be off (and I also won’t have to stress about his schoolwork) during break.

  50. Dell – that is sad about your relatives’ comments re: your brother’s attempts to go see them. I wonder if your DS will end up traveling to see your sister’s family? Kids have that way of not really caring about the things we care about: even if her family is opposite of yours, your DS might really like seeing them. ?

  51. Open thread comment to Rhett – I was fascinated with Westworld. I have to admit that the twists and turns were all completely obvious weeks before reveal to those of us who really get into this sort of puzzle. Maeve was the most enjoyable and least predictable of the hosts, and if I understood the dialogue correctly, she overrode her latest programming at the end to get off the train. Probably the most ineffective acting job was young William – he didn’t make the transformation believable, if that word can be applied to this sort of fantastical show. Unlike Lost, where I think they were making it up without a definite endgame as they went along for so many years, I believe that there is a complete plan. HBO wants it to be a successor to GOT – at least 5 years of shows. Next season they will probably dispense with most of the “meta” commentary on the nature of entertainment. The intentionally boring orgy in the background scene in one of the middle episodes was, in my opinion, intended as a negative comment on the obligatory HBO scenes of that sort that add nothing to the plot of a show and to which the viewer has become completely desensitized.

  52. This thread has reminded me that I want to provide some feedback to our principal. The extended spring break starts a week earlier than the older break, and thus ends at the same time. In both cases, it’s before all college acceptance decisions are announced, and thus it’s difficult to make visits during the break.

    I’m going to ask that they consider adding the additional week after the existing break, rather than before.

    One other benefit of finals in December for seniors is that then can then have time to focus on getting any remaining college apps out.

  53. I have a Public bike. Because I looked at the specs and said, “uh, seems like all the others”, it was cheaper, and they are just soooo pretty and well-designed (aesthetically, I can’t speak to the bike-ness at all).

  54. RMS mentioned Specialized.

    Every time this comes up I think of Ada, wearing a pointy hat, passing guys in lycra shorts.

  55. I am at a band concert tonight. This is enjoyable. Tomorrow, I will be at beginner band rehearsal, not so enjoyable. But hey, they all get better in time.

  56. Here’s a funny story on “making friends in middle age.” There was a new player on DD’s softball team this fall and the dad and I were pretty friendly. After the season, I asked him if he wanted to get together. We finally had lunch the other day. As we were getting ready to leave the table, he said something like “This was fun, thanks for reaching out. I’ll see you in the spring.” Then on the way out, he took a selfie of us. It was very odd.

  57. Who mentioned The Crown? DH and I are watching it and really enjoying it. Thanks for the tip.

  58. Who mentioned The Crown? DH and I are watching it and really enjoying it. Thanks for the tip

    I wasn’t the one who mentioned it, but I really enjoyed it until the season ended. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

  59. Denver, it is a funny story. But the fact is you need cover for certain friendships. I’ve been getting together with two high school friends a lot since I’ve been coming out to California. We all get along great, but the friends — call them Jimmy and Susie — dated in high school. So when we all get together, Jimmy and Susie can tell their respective spouses “I’m going out for dinner with Jimmy/Susie AND Rocky.” I’m the implied chaperone.

    Similarly, in order to have it not be all, y’know, gay, you might need to get the wives involved.

    I don’t make the rules, people, I just report on them.

  60. Here’s one right up this groups alley:

    Long story short, they lost a bunch of good teachers at DD’s school last summer. The teacher she has for language arts is really bad. DW has been up in arms since the start of the year when she found out the first book they would read (Inside Out and Back Again) they read in fourth grade. It took them forever to get through it. We had a very contentious conference with the teacher back in October and we even met with the principal and assistant principal as well. I’ve never seen DW worked up like this.

    Now they are reading Unbroken, and after about 6 weeks are still only about 100 pages into it. DW really wants to pull DD out of the class and homeschool her for language arts. I’m at the point we’re I’m starting to agree that this class is totally useless. This is even the advanced class so there’s no higher class to move her into.

    I’ve been of the mind that sometimes you get stuck with clunkers like this and just have to deal with it. But I’m starting to get swayed that this is just a complete waste of DD’s time and she would be better served if she could just go to the library or office and read on her own for 45 minutes.

    Are we just nuts for even considering bringing this up to the principal?

  61. DD, I had a similar situation when I was in HS. I pulled out of my American History class and enrolled in World Civilizations at local CC. Bonus was that World Civ was a core requirement at flagship U, and CC credits transferred directly.

  62. Denver, is this school a charter? Is this the same school with the Spanish subs that do not speak Spanish? If yes, I would speak to the Principal because I have learned that they’re sometimes the last to know about problems. They DO respond or remedy problems with a teacher if enough parents discuss with the administration.

  63. Riskey, when my kids are old enough I will tell them that they can go visit the relatives on their own, no need to wait for us.

    I am glad y’all liked the Crown. I mentioned that I am watching The Untold History of the United States. After seeing the Tsars of Russia on Netflix , I so want to go to Russia and see the palaces and churches. My Dad visited there at the height of the Cold War. The tour group wasn’t allowed to talk to people they saw. They were also followed everywhere they went.

  64. @DD: Am I recalling correctly that she is 8th grade? I generally tend to agree with your initial response (I personally tend to vent and complain and let things ride, reminding myself that life isn’t perfect). And you are right that one bad year won’t hurt too much (especially in English lit, where there is less of a specified “building block” approach than, say, math). But if it’s that bad and you don’t need to deal with the school ever again, screw it — take care of your kid. You’ve tried (repeatedly) to work with the school, they have proven themselves incapable of or unwilling to fix the problem, so you’ve done what you need to on that end. Now do whatever you think is best for your DD.

    Based on your description, I would also put this in the category of “you need to have your wife’s back” moreso even than your daughter’s.

  65. I watched a few episodes of the Crown again when I was at the gym. I really enjoyed it, and I am glad they’re bringing it back.

    I know it’s sappy, but I’ve been enjoying This is Us.

  66. Thanks for the replies. Yes, it’s a charter school. Yes, it’s the same one that had the Spanish issues last year (which they did eventually resolve), and yes, she’s in 8th grade and we’re done with the school forever after this year.

  67. Denver, several people here have advised me to let my kid learn how to deal with boredom and crap circumstances. I’m not certain that’s always the best advise, especially for. a kid dealing with anxiety/depression, but you and your wife could look at this through a “what kind of emotional lesson can this teach her” kind of lens. Seeing as it’s a lit class, I don’t think doing the same book again is so awful, and going slowly might mean that they are digging more into the issues the book brings up–learning about the depression and NYC and Gilded Age millionaires and so on while reading ths screenplay for Annie, for example. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening.

  68. DD – Your wife has a point. Around here there are a few “big” things the 9th graders are expected to get out of middle school lit and when they don’t it can make 9th grade hard/stressful to catch up. The one that seems to be consistent is how to annotate the book you are reading – mark the metaphors, symbolism, vocabulary, plot events. Many pre-AP 9th grade English assign a book and annotating it as the summer assignment, meaning it is due the first day of class of 9th grade. The underlying component of this is that you have to know what a metaphor is or you can’t identify it and/or annotate it in the book.

    I would find out what is expected at the school your child will be going to next year. If the teacher isn’t preparing the students for that, I’d either be supplementing (homeschooling that class) or in the school’s business regularly.

  69. Oops – Hit send to soon…I forgot to add that when my DD#1 was first learning to annotate, it took them forever to go through a book. The teacher would have the students say what they annonated in the assigned reading and then they would discuss what they missed and/or why what they marked was correct/incorrect. She still hates doing it, but each summer (pre 9th, 10th and 11th) it has been the assignment. DD#2 in a different high school had it as her pre 9th summer assignment.

  70. DD, I concur with LfB’s advice. And since this is her last year at that school, your “reputation” as that PITA parent is unlikely to follow and hurt your kid in the future. That is one aspect of speaking up that I’ve learned is a real thing.

    Anyone have cooking pan advice? I’ve been looking for a large (12″ or larger) pan with double handles that I can use on the stove top and in the oven. Also non-stick preferred. I haven’t pulled the trigger because, well because I’m a procrastinator. Today a Le Creuset pan that mostly seem to fit my needs is the value of the day at QVC. $199.98 and beautiful. But it weighs over 13 lbs. and that’s an issue for me.
    http://www.qvc.com/tsv.product.k44635.html?sc=PRODFEED

    I’ve seen others (Scanpan) that are about half the weight.
    Scanpan CTX 12-3/4-Inch Covered Chef’s Pan https://www.amazon.com/Scanpan-12-3-4-Inch-Covered-Chefs/dp/B0023PVZD6
    Williams-Sonoma Professional Nonstick Chef’s Pan (25% off) http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/williams-sonoma-professional-nonstick-chefs-pan/?cm_src=AutoRel

    Another promising brand is Pensofal, which is also lighter.

    Any thoughts on these brands or others that might fit my needs? I’ve found the large double-handled pan of this type gets a lot of use at my house.

  71. COC – I like circulon. I know I have a double handled non-stick pan. 99% sure it’s circulon, but I can’t find the link… this isn’t it, but it is oven safe and has the double handle:
    https://shop.circulon.com/Cookware/Circulon-Symmetry-14-Inch-Stir-Fry-with-Helper-Handle-Black-87381.html#product-useandcare

    I have that one too and it’s very light – my mom can lift it ~8″ above her head to put it on top of the fridge for storage.

    I also have Calphalon and haven’t had any issues – though those pans are sticky.

  72. Any suggestions for NOLA? Leaving tomorrow and won’t be back until the 16th. Restaurants, sites, anything at all? Any locals?

    Fred – we can never forget what those men and women sacrificed.

  73. Yes, Fred. It is interesting because older kid has to read news articles, analyze what is being said and answer questions. So, he had gotten exposed to lots of historical and political articles. The history of why Japan attacked was mentioned. I have been reading the articles because they have been very interesting.
    Any recommendations for Grammar practice ?Kid gets very good notes, and does practice homework but still needs a bit more practice.

  74. Thanks for the pan suggestions! Both those look relatively lightweight. I’ll look for those brands.

    When I say two-handles, I mean two SMALL handles, like a casserole dish but not as deep. It makes it easier to store, put in the oven, and more attractive (imo) as a serving dish. Like this:

  75. Rhode: My favorite restaurant in NOLA is K Paul’s. There are a ton of walking tours, which will give you a history of NOLA. I don’t have one in particular to suggest, as I’ve enjoyed them all.

  76. COC: Please post the one you decide on. I have a similar pan that needs to be replaced after 10 years of use. My price range is lower than yours (sub-$75).

  77. @Rhode — Haven’t responded, because I assumed others closer would, and I haven’t been with kids and so don’t really know kid-appropriate stuff. For the grownups, any John Besh restaurant is delicious — I am not a vegetable person but had the most delicious veggies at Domenica. For kid-appropriate fun, I would do the tourist thing at Café du Monde — he would adore the beignets (I still go there whenever I have time, because, man, they are delicious). Honestly, my favorite thing is just wandering through the French Quarter during the day, when it’s less crowded/loud.

  78. @CoC: I adore my Le Creuset casserole like the one you mentioned and use it from stovetop to oven all the time. I do *not* like nonstick pans for anything but cooking super-sticky things like eggs or fish, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it in the oven in general (I always worry about volatilization of the nonstick coating, though that’s probably not an issue at standard oven temps). I have found that the good-quality pro-style aluminum pans are actually surprisingly stick-resistant as long as you heat them before adding any oil — this is the one I got — http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/williams-sonoma-professional-stainless-steel-essential-pan/?pkey=csaute-pans&&csaute-pans (I prefer the long handles with opposing loops, but they have a two-loop version as well). Plus you don’t have to worry about the nonstick coating coming off (I do get annoyed with having to replace my nonstick pans every 5-10 years as they lose their nonstick)

  79. CoC – Given that you seem to be looking for a dishwasher safe non stick pan that is 2 1/2 to 3 in sides, not full dutch oven sized (4 in sides), I would go with the williams sonoma scan pan on sale. That is a good value. Unlike LfB, I am not a fan of LeCreuset. They are very pretty for the table, they can go in the dishwasher, but they are very heavy and frankly if searing meat is part of the prep for the meal I don’t find the enamel pans do a good job, so I have to use a regular skillet or saute pan first. The appearance of the dish as a serving vessel is not a consideration for me, because I don’t like a hot pan on the table and I have a lifetime’s accumulation of serving pieces.

    Houston – I usually go to Bed n Bath with my 20 percent off coupons and browse when I am looking for a less expensive pan. I once found an anolon pan that is one of my go tos, but they don’t make that style anymore and the new versions look too flimsy. In this sort of pan, a bit of weight is desirable, and you can tell by lifting it if you feel confident. Many aluminum pans are not dishwasher safe – either the coating wears off or the solvents discolor the outside.

  80. Rhode re: NOLA:

    -Wander the antique stores on Royal street. Such stunningly beautiful things, even if antiques are not really your thing. The craftmanship is just gorgeous
    -I enjoyed the aquarium. Last time I was there (3 years ago) there was also a museum about Katrina that was really worth going to. Unsure if that was a permanent or temporary exhibit.
    -Coquette on Magazine Street was where I had one of the best meals of my entire life. Absolutely stunning food. But you would have to try to find bad food in NOLA, don’t think it exists.
    –I like Cafe Beignet (on Royal street? Can’t remember although in my head I could walk to it) much more than Cafe du Monde for both Beignets and coffee
    –Wander around the residences in the french quarter – the architecture is so beautiful, and decorations this time of year gorgeous.
    –Camilla Grill for breakfast. mmmmmm

    NOLA is one of those places we go again and again. Various family have lived there over the years, lucky us.

    Also – there is a daily paper that you can pick up in kiosks around town, and it will have schedules for various performing arts. We have seen so much amazing live jazz just from picking up that paper and seeing who’s playing that day.

  81. Rhode, it can be fun to ride the streetcars. Audubon Park is nice and somewhat quieter and more out of the way if Little Rhode needs to run around. The Historic Voodoo Museum is both edumacational and entertaining. I haven’t been to this place, but I read an article that made it sound good: http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/ . Seems perfect if Little Rhode likes bugs.

    Other than that, I’m afraid that I spend my time eating all the beignets, po’boys, pralines, etc. and drinking all the hurricanes.

  82. Rhode, I agree with everything that’s already been said about New Orleans. Wondering around, looking at the architecture, trying local restaurants, everything is good. Since it’s the right time of the year, I would say absolutely go to the Christmas lights display at Celebration in the Oaks! You can wander around, or take a mini-train ride. They sell food, and if I remember correctly they have things like a Ferris wheel as well. It is a beautiful display of lights, and a really fun festive atmosphere to wander around in. I’m sure you can find pictures of it on the Internet to get an idea, but it is totally worth the time

  83. Apropos of nothing, our nanny went to a funeral yesterday, and after spending 3.5 hours after school schlepping the kids back and forth to various activities (and the interminable waiting, yelling, etc. associated therewith), I feel like we should give her a bigger bonus!

  84. @Rhode: I forgot: for breakfast, I like Café Soule and the café in the bottom of the Prince Conti hotel (it’s not at all a “hotel restaurant”). Last time I visited, a local guy who is a total foodie recommended Killer PoBoys for the best poboys in town, but they were closed, so I can’t vouch for that.

    I’d also say a trolley ride through the Garden District is worth it — as you know, with the little guy, the ride itself can be the entertainment, and you can look at the pretty houses.

  85. Thanks all!

    This is a work trip – so no little one (except the one attached to me). I’m sad to leave my boys behind because I’ve gotten used to traveling with an army. It’s going to be weird to be solo – whole bed to myself, no need to stress about meals/bed times, just need to remember hat and gloves because work is sending my on a boat trip on the coldest day of my visit (high is going to be 49). I seriously don’t have the clothes for all this… :)

  86. RMS – totally keeping them in mind… DH wants to go there one day and I foresee having kids along. I can’t get rid of them for at least ~16 years.

  87. I would find out what is expected at the school your child will be going to next year. If the teacher isn’t preparing the students for that, I’d either be supplementing (homeschooling that class) or in the school’s business regularly.

    Austin, this is a total non-issue. For all the faults of the school, they are way ahead academically of most of the other middle schools in the area. DS is in 9th grade and he said they are doing stuff in English that he did in 7th grade.

    The teacher used the excuse that they were learning new analysis skills as the reason for taking so long with the first book, and then they would go faster with the following books. That’s clearly not the case.

  88. The teacher’s statement is in line with what Austin and I suggested. But your daughter does not show any signs of having learned any new analytic methods?

  89. “…a day that will live in infamy.”

    Fred, over the past week we’ve been hearing personal stories and reminiscences, which can be a little odd with the familiar places. I’m still thinking about the Japanese language school that was having its Sunday morning class when the bombs started falling and the windows blew in. They sent the kids home but one little girl didn’t get up — she was still alive, barely, but died at the hospital. One of the boys ran safely to his grandmother’s saimin shop in Liliha — there’s still an old school saimin shop in Liliha which is the one I picture even though it’s not the same one — but the saimin shop then got blown up and he and all but one sibling were killed.

    My own family story doesn’t have a tragic ending. My great-grandfather was walking home from church when a Japanese plane came in close overhead and dived at him, but didn’t fire. So just a scare and a story to tell his grandchildren.

    Of course we have plenty of the remaining Navy vets in town for the ceremonies too. My husband went in to work today against his better judgement because the whole Pearl Harbor area is just going to be a godawful traffic mess.

  90. “The one that seems to be consistent is how to annotate the book you are reading – mark the metaphors, symbolism, vocabulary, plot events.”

    Yes, my kids did a lot of that in 7th and 8th grade too. They made sure that any books we bought for English weren’t already marked up.

    There are a ton of cheap copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” available at the school carnival every year, fully annotated.

  91. The teacher’s statement is in line with what Austin and I suggested. But your daughter does not show any signs of having learned any new analytic methods?

    Nope. If anything, they are going slower with the second book than the first one.

  92. So I guess for most of you, the 75th anniversary of the attack must not have been such a huge thing in your local paper, radio, etc.

  93. It’s gotten some coverage here, but nothing more than other anniversaries. I did just see a patient who is a WWII vet who told me his story of where he was and such.

  94. “the 75th anniversary of the attack must not have been such a huge thing in your local paper, radio, etc.”

    Well, it was for me.

  95. Finn, well, obviously you’re reading the same paper I am and probably listening to the same stories every morning on KHPR! That’s why I said “most of you” and not “everyone else including Finn.”

  96. HM, There is a little bit of coverage in the local paper, but not what one would expect for the 75th anniversary.

  97. So I just went into the online grade book and realized the my high school kid’s English teacher hasn’t entered a single grade since mid October.

    I have had many conversations with the principal about this teacher assigning work without any feedback.

    Any suggestions?

  98. “I have had many conversations with the principal about this teacher assigning work without any feedback.”

    Given that you’ve already had many conversations, another conversation wouldn’t seem to suddenly make you into “that parent.;” you either are or aren’t by now.

    Perhaps a short email pointing out that the issue is still ongoing might be appropriate.

  99. What happens when you contact the teacher (cc guidance) about grades?

    How many of your kid’s classmates’ parents do you know? Several complaining at once (as long as you aren’t an identified ringleader) could take the spotlight off you and put it on the teacher.
    Make sure your kid has been turning in work. I once said something about a teacher not having grades posted and found out that oops, she had, but my kid was out that day & didn’t have his make up work in yet.

  100. SM

    I’ve discovered that the not entering grades spans two kids in two separate schools with several teachers.

    I actually don’t know how much, if any work has been assigned. The teachers stopped entering anything over a month ago. In one class, the kid says they have been doing a lot of work, in another, other kids says they just do oral work.

    The principals response is to contact the teachers and ask the teacher why they aren’t entering grades. Not going to do that.

    The high school kids in my child’s English class are concerned but can’t do anything for fear of retaliation.

    So, charter schools and vouchers are a bad thing because…..

  101. “So I guess for most of you, the 75th anniversary of the attack must not have been such a huge thing in your local paper, radio, etc.”

    Not much, no.

    And I see a little bit of your perspective because I have a FB friend whose DH is stationed at Pearl Harbor. Her DH has been involved in the ceremonies, in uniform, and their kids’ (public?) elementary school has been participating. I’ve seen a lot of pictures. It looks like a multi-day event where they flew in any 90+ year old survivors they could and put on quite a nice show. The kids did a lot of one-on-one interaction with survivors. It’s their last chance.

    Unrelated to Pearl Harbor, I saw this on FB yesterday.

    As I understand it, when a plane lands on a carrier, you come in as slow as possible, just like any other plane landing. But as soon as you hit the deck, you gun the engines just in case.

  102. …because they take control of schools out of public hands and put it in private ownership with no accountability (other than the threat to close the school, which can only happen if there are alternatives) and because they suck off money from actual public schools that are open to all comers. From my (admittedly limited) experience, entering grades online is seen by schools as a lesser responsibility. We’ve had a couple teachers that don’t do it. I’ve never seen one change that because of parent complaints, except for one who entered a few after I said something, but then no more. Most disheartening is when you don’t see them until it’s too late for the kid to do anything about it

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