Who needs a NMSF house?

by S&M

We’ve discussed not so smart technology before. Now it seems the pendulum is really swinging back, from “cram in all the tech” to “moderate tech” to….what?

I don’t feel the need to have internet access for every single thing. We’ve had motion-detector lights in the bathrooms for several years. They get us to the potty in the middle of the night, but don’t blind us. During the day, it’s nice to avoid the very loud fans that come on with the overhead lighting in there. (Aside: I know one visitor to Germany, where these are de rigueur in public facilities, who recalls the lights going out  too early, and living in terror the rest of her trip, afraid that it would happen again.) The following made me laugh “those of us that just want to wake up in the morning feeling like our body loves us back don’t need a bunch of touchscreens. We just want a cup of coffee to pep up so that we don’t walk into our office screaming at everyone”. I love my little mocha pot, and sometimes use a simple pour-over cone. Works for me. And grilling? Isn’t that all about getting in touch with the primal lure of fire?

How about you? Do you embrace a dumb house?

LOW-TECH WAYS TO LIVE THE HIGH LIFE AT HOME

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94 thoughts on “Who needs a NMSF house?

  1. Sure, you’ll be able to turn them on automatically instead of reaching all the way over to the switch by the door,

    The switch by the door only turns on one out of 6 lights.

  2. I am definitely on the low tech side of things. I have a piece of paper over the camera on my computer, just in case someone is watching. I have seen too many “smart house gone bad” movies and tv shows, from weird 70’s shows as a kid right up to MI6 where Matthew McFaddyn installs a brand new door/window security system in his house – but unknowingly brings home a briefcase with a bomb in it……and the little girl ruins the key card with chocolate icing – so they are trapped in the house with a bomb!!!!

    Obviously, that isn’t happening to me, but I am uncomfortable with things like a remote control that lets me talk to it or the Echo that listens to what I say, and now can take pictures of me in my daily outfits. Those seem to be helpful, but I view them as unnecessary intrusions in my life. I think our phones, TVs and computers know enough about us as it is; even if it is just for marketing purposes now, I can see it changing to something less benign in the future.

    I also chose not to have our security system be through the phone and cable company – I like things divided up between different groups.

    I don’t mind walking around my house to turn on various lights, as I always need more steps! I can see that some of these advances would be very helpful if I was disabled or physically impaired, but for now I prefer to do them myself.

    P.S. I love my iPhone, and I will admit to turning off the alarm via the phone – it saves a mad dash up the garage stairs to disarm it in time.

  3. I guess we do. Except, when we replaced our heater and air conditioner last year then new thermostat that was installed is Wi-Fi enabled. I do love the app on my phone that lets me set the system temperature e.g. today when no one is in the house from 8am-5pm at a low temp and then turn the heat on at 5 to begin warming the place (unless, of course it’s already warm because of the weather).

    Other than that and our computers/smartphones we’re not a very connected house. No motion sensor lights anywhere except for the big garage door entrance.

  4. We’re low tech too. My FIL gave us an Echo for Christmas and I got rid of it – I found it creepy. We have a lap top and phones (although my phone is really terrible) and that’s it. If our alarm system didn’t run through our internet I would turn the wifi off at night as well.

  5. We used to have smart switches in the old house, but they were expensive and the remotes stopped working after a while, so we had to use them the regular way. I don’t like motion sensor lights – what if you don’t want to wake the kids up, etc.? We have tiny LEDs that plug into lights all around the house now, so they illuminate just enough to see where you’re walking in the dark, like these https://smile.amazon.com/Maxxima-MLN-10-Night-Light-Sensor/dp/B002SVANCY/ref=sr_1_40?ie=UTF8&qid=1493652814&sr=8-40&keywords=led+plug+in+night+light

    I like saying “OK Google” to my phone so I don’t have to type when driving, but we don’t have anything in the house yet that we can talk to. We do have Google Home to play music in all the different rooms, though, which is really nice.

  6. If we lived in a less temperate climate, I would definitely be attracted to a thermostat that I could control remotely, to save on heating/cooling when no one is in the house.

  7. We have thought about getting a Nest (or similar), but it just doesn’t seem worth it overall. Our heating/cooling bills are low, and our old school programmable thermostat is mostly fine. If we were going to do it, it would have made sense to do it when we replaced either the furnace (2015) or a/c (2016). I should check into what the total rebate/tax break would be, but I’m too lazy. I just don’t care that much.

    We are pretty low-tech all around I guess, except for smartphones. No Alexa (and the thought freaks me out a little bit). We have motion-sensor lights outside, but just regular lights inside. The idea of upgrading those doesn’t seem that appealing. I’ve been looking at TV’s – mostly just shocked at how thin and cheap the new ones are, but I don’t really see a reason to upgrade. Upgrading to HDTV from an old tube TV was such a huge, huge difference, but this is a marginal improvement from our 10 year old TV.

  8. I would turn the wifi off at night as well.

    To make sure the kids aren’t on their devices?

  9. The mention of motion sensor lights reminded me of a funny story. DS went to use the bathroom at church during an evening kids choir class. He was in there for so long that the motion sensor lights turned off. The bathroom was pitch black, and he couldn’t see anything and didn’t know what had happened. We were looking for him everywhere but couldn’t find him. DH opened the bathroom door but didn’t think anyone was in there because the lights were out. DS was petrified, which was sort of a good thing because nobody had known he went off to the bathroom.

    I don’t think I’d like motion sensor lights at home. We’re really low tech right now. I sometimes use “OK Google” but I’m not super impressed by the speech recognition. Maybe it is something that would get better as I used it more.

  10. SSK, I’m with you on the Echo or Alexa, or any of their friends. Nice list of “too-smart house” stories. Is the one mentioned in the article the first of that genre?

    What is an “old school programmable thermostat”? I must be old if things I think of as new and high tech are now ancient.

    L, does Google Home require the same device in every room?

    I’m happy using a computer for anything we watch, and DS seems to be as well. TVs have changed and gotten complicated. I could see getting a big screen just for mirroring a laptop screen, but don’t think they sell them that way. I might DS a projector for his birthday. These are also in the running (I have until October to figure it out)
    http://www.yankodesign.com/2017/04/22/mellow-musical-table/
    http://www.yankodesign.com/2017/04/11/good-vibes-for-all/

  11. We have a lot of high tech in our house, mainly in the form of computers and software. But the house itself is lowtech. We don’t use phone apps to control anything and we don’t have any of those Echo/Alexa doohickies. I am such a geezer that I still wish I could fully control the TV from the TV itself rather than having to constantly hunt down the remote (which always seems to be as far under the sofa as possible, or crammed into a stack of books or perilously close to the trashcan).

  12. rhett – nah (they’re not old enough to have devices, although would love to prevent my husband from using his phone at night) but I’ve read some studies that wifi can interfere with sleep.

  13. People at work make fun of me for listening to my >20 year old Sony radio instead of Spotify or Pandora, but I like it. And it works. It’s vintage now – looks like it’s going for like $50 on EBay. We also listen to FM radio a lot at home.

  14. Our thermostat can be controlled by an app. As the person who has hot flashes, being able to change the temperature without having to turn on a light and wake others up is a plus.

    We have motion detector outside lights, plus a few that come on based on a timer. Our driveway/walkway is fairly long and the motion detector lights don’t work well until someone is already past the hazards! We used to have an interior light on a timer, but I think that went away because we are home more. I hated to come into a completely dark house after work, but also hated leaving the light on all day.

    I don’t like Siri because she doesn’t seem to hear too well and doesn’t seem to learn (unlike some software). A friend loves their echo, so we are watching to see if it is just because it is new or if it lasts.

    On the sort of smart category, we have 5 indoor cats. 4 have one diet, 1 has another. We bought 2 pet feeders that open based on sensing the pet’s microchip. You can put more than 10 chips in the memory of a single feeder. We bought one just to see if they would all use it and programmed all cats in the same one. Now that we have 2, the cats still try to open the one that isn’t theirs some times. This is much easier and consistent than trying to do this without tech. The overweight cat (goal to lose 3 pounds – 20% of her weight) is down about 1/3 of a pound.

  15. @Ivy, my son listens to baseball on his olde tyme radio when he falls asleep at night. I don’t want a smart home. Just more things to break. I too hate that you can’t just use the buttons on the tv. They should bring that back.

    I use a paper calendar since Google Calendar betrayed me. According to them I am still volunteering in my daughter’s 1st grade class every year (she’s in 9th now). The only thing to make it all stop was to delete my entire google identity. Paper might not be with me but it is never off line.

    Also – sort of related, why doesn’t my iphone let me program specific days that I don’t want my alarm to go off instead of having to just manually turn it off? WOuld be nice to say “No alarm on July 4th, Thanksgiving and the day after, the day we have teacher conferences etc.”

  16. Our driveway/walkway is fairly long and the motion detector lights don’t work well until someone is already past the hazards! We used to have an interior light on a timer, but I think that went away because we are home more. I hated to come into a completely dark house after work, but also hated leaving the light on all day.

    Replace the outdoor light with one that is just photo sensitive so it stays on all night. With LED bulbs, the cost is about $10 a year. Same with leaving a light on inside.

  17. DD – We prefer a timer to having them on all night. The inside light hasn’t been a problem since he is fully retired and I work from home 95% of the time. So, we leave a light on if we are going out and won’t be home before dark.

    Moxiemom +1 on the alarm setting. I would much prefer an option to opt out of holidays as well.

  18. I would not retrofit my home to link appliances. We have a basic programmable thermostat. It is set for three changes per day, weekday and weekend. The most useful aspect is that if someone is chilly or hot and overrides, the default setting restores at the next changeover. No wifi. With cats, we have to keep the house at a decent temp always. I have inexpensive timers on the downstairs lights and remotes for the lamp in the bedroom. Led night lights. I hate motion sensors.

    The article is funny as to what it sugggests.. I have no need for a so called smart TV, but I couldn’t find one at the mass market price, Many people already have a single serve ground coffee no pod set up, because they want to fill a travel mug and or avoid waste. As an aside, my over the top fancy home espresso machine bit the dust after two and a half years and a full warranty rebuild in the middle precisely because I DID use it 6 times a day and not 6 times a month or year. It was clearly designed for light use.

    But no one will ever convince me that a Japanese style wash let toilet is foolish.

  19. I agree with the alarm setting for holidays! Otherwise, how is it any better than my old alarm clock from 1998 with the “weekend sleeper” feature?

  20. I need to hijack on a car question. Out of the blue, I got an email from the dealership wanting to buy my minivan. It is a 2015, with roughly 30K miles. I bought it because my old one needed a fair amount of work and I didn’t feel like putting that many $$ into an older vehicle. In hindsight, I liked my old van MUCH more. The goal was to keep the vehicle another 3 years and then slightly downsize to maybe CRV size. But, I have been driving more lately and have been rethinking how long I wanted to keep it.

    So, when I got this call, I thought, well let’s see what they offer expecting them to low ball it. The offer is higher that what Edmund’s says is the trade-in value, but lower than the sell it yourself value. I looked at Carmax as well in my area and the offer is slightly more than the sticker prices at Carmax on similar year/mileage of the same vehicle. But, as you would expect there aren’t many of them for sale.

    I am looking at the Pilot EX-L (avoiding the tourning with transmission that has been having problems). They are discounting the Pilot slightly (though not significantly) as well. I am that nerd who took my measuring tape to ensure the few things I tote around often will fit. They will, but one will be tight. The features otherwise are similar to what I have now. I am not sure whether to go with the 2WD or AWD. We don’t do a ton of unpaved roads, but I read that the AWD seems to hold the road better. On dry paved roads I haven’t really been able to tell the difference.

    Thoughts?

  21. L and others I love the Sonos speakers, too. The voice activated ones are in employee home testing now. We subscribe to a streaming service called classical archives. Pretty much every recording of every piece ever made.

  22. “But no one will ever convince me that a Japanese style wash let toilet is foolish.”

    My IL’s have these, and they are fantastic. I have seriously considered upgrading ours.

    I love having a programmable coffee maker. We set it up on weeknights & coffee is waiting for us when we get out of the shower. That’s the kind of thing where an app wouldn’t improve the process though because you have to put the water in anyway. It’s like how I picked the Anova over the Joule sous vide because the Joule is only controlled by the app, which I found extremely annoying. I want to be able to set it up from the device itself since I will have to physically set it all up anyway (and likely have wet hands & not really want to be messing with my phone at the same time as vacuum sealing chicken).

  23. We are basically a 20th-century tech house — timers, solar lights where there isn’t any power, standard programmable thermostat, standard alarm, etc. We do have a universal remote that turns on the TV, DVR, and sound bar, but half the time it doesn’t work on at least one of them so you need to get that remote anyway (plus I discovered last night that it doesn’t let you do close-captions on Netflix). I am very much a Luddite in the kitchen, having followed Alton Brown to the realization that a decent knife (and a Kitchen-Aid mixer) can do almost everything you want.

    I think there can be somewhat of a fine line between helpful inventions (e.g., programmable thermostats) and things that (try to) make things too easy (e.g., a grill that cooks your steaks for you? really?). I know Rhett is all big on new tech as a way to keep learning new things so we don’t all get dementia and keel over — but sometimes I feel like I get more of that from doing things the old-fashioned way. E.g., I don’t have awesome knife skills, but I get to practice every time I chop something by hand; if I rely on my Cuisinart, I get to spend 30 seconds the first time figuring out how to get the lid on right to make it go, but then it’s just pushing a button. So which is really “better” for continued learning and growth? Similarly, I am not yet 100% accurate in telling the doneness of meat by a touch, but I am getting there; if we create a grill that makes a perfect steak, where is the opportunity for humans to learn to do it themselves?

    Honestly, I’d probably be better off if I didn’t have a TV remote either and had to get up every time I wanted to change the channel or skip a commercial. But that’s just a bridge too far. :-)

  24. Since we’re started the car hijacks…what is the quick easy way to buy a pickup? I know what we want, I’ve emailed dealers in the area, with the specifics I need. The ones who have called back, I’ve told that I am going to buy soon from whoever has the vehicle I need at the lowest price. What else should I do?

  25. We are pretty low tech. The only things that I can think of are a fancy thermostat, home alarm that I control through an app and Sonos throughout the house (I usually stream Sirius). I think my husband has some fancy tv streaming things but I can never even figure out the Firestick and my kids have to do it for me, so I don’t even attempt to touch his stuff.

  26. Pseudonym,

    The timing may be a little off. It’s 5/1, the later we get in the month the higher the pressure on dealers and their staffs to meet their numbers.

  27. We had a chromestick (whatever that is called). It was alright, but we watch streaming apps through the PlayStation now, and that is much easier.

  28. Pseudonym,

    The timing may be a little off. It’s 5/1, the later we get in the month the higher the pressure on
    dealers and their staffs to meet their numbers.

    I know, but we can’t wait until the end of the month.

  29. I know, but we can’t wait until the end of the month.

    If I had been on the ball, I would have purchased it six weeks ago.

  30. Oh, wait, I forgot: we also have DH’s DIY security system with the motion-sensitive cameras that store the pics in the cloud. Or whatever. You see how much attention I pay to it.

  31. That “holiday” alarm setting idea is brilliant. I wonder how many people are late to work or school the day after a 3-day weekend because of that.

    I still don’t know the difference between old and new style progammable thermostats–that description is the only kind I know of. But it’s not worth further explaining. I’m not buying one any time soon. My parents have the type described in one home, and intentionally went back a step when they needed a new one in the other house.

    If I was to invent a home convenience, it would be having the water faucet come on by itself when the garbage disposal was turned on.

    Meme, what about a good old hand-held sprayer attached to the tank, as in many Muslims’ homes? I’ve never used the Japanese style you describe, but not being able to direct the spray sounds awkward to me.

  32. Meme – I should tell my parents about that streaming service. We have good speakers (Cambridge SoundWorks that the old owners put in) but I am interested in the Sonos ones for when these bite the dust.

    SM – there is a different device in every room hooked up to that room’s speaker. Then when you look at the menu, you can cast to kitchen, kitchen & dining, playroom, office, etc.

  33. We are low tech. We have the usual programmable thermostats. I am not sure that being able to change the temperature remotely would have enough benefit to be worth the cost of figuring it out and I’m not sure you can set up the control on multiple people’s phones. I could easily see a replica of the find my iphone debacle where everyone knew how to reset the password but were not clear that it was important to communicate the new password to everyone else who might be using it.

    We need the find my remote app to go on the tv remote which like to hide all.the.time.

    Since I am the only one capable of turning off all the light when we go to bed, there doesn’t seem to be much need to for night lights. We do have some motion detectors, but the dogs, cats, and g*d knows what else set them off regularly.

  34. Psuedonym, what’s the pressure for a truck now? If it’s just one day of hauling, you could probably rent one for a day at Home Depot for less than the extra price you pay for getting it now instead of in a few weeks. Or just consider that price bump the cost of convenience.

    “security system with the motion-sensitive cameras that store the pics in the cloud”
    Last time you mentioned that here, I believe the cameras were ultra low tech, as you were relying on the sight of them being enough to deter break-ins.

    Staying active by doing stuff for yourself sounds like a good way to put off dementia to me! But for any of this stuff to be helpful when you can’t do things yourself, I think you need to learn it well ahead of time.

  35. S&M
    Basically, we increased the size of our operation, hired another employee, had barely enough vehicles for everyone, and then one vehicle died. In retrospect, I should have purchased one earlier this year, but I hate spending money on vehicles, and DH hates it worse. We were both preoccupied with other stuff, combined with wishful thinking regarding the age of the vehicle that died, means that I am rather hurried in my purchasing decisions.

    Oh, who am I kidding, I never buy a vehicle until I’m exhausted every reason not to.

  36. Pseudo – today may actually be the best day to buy a car! Call the dealer(s) who have responded and ask them what their price is if you take delivery today.
    1) often, car manufacturer to dealer incentives carry over to the first Monday of the month (today)
    2) also, manufacturer to customer incentives follow the same pattern.
    3) Internal dealership incentives will follow the same pattern

    Specifics:
    – Before you call, check the dealer website and find a specific vehicle you are willing to buy. Have the dealer stock # and the last 4 digits of the VIN with you.
    – When you call, ask for the internet manager. If they are not available, ask for any new car sales manager.
    – Tell them you are interested in e.g. the Ford F-150 you saw on their website, stock # XYZ123. Is it still available?
    – if so, tell them you will buy a new truck TODAY with those same features from the dealer that gives you the lowest price; you’re calling around and whoever gives you the best price will win the business.

    Do for all the dealers you would be willing to drive to by closing time today.

    Please report back. Good Luck.

  37. Austin –
    I’m not sure what your “Thoughts?” question exactly refers to: whether to get the FWD or AWD Pilot – or – whether to sell your minivan and get something else – or – whether to get a Pilot at all.

    I don’t have an opinion on the FWD/AWD question; all our vehicles in the land of 100″+ of snow per year are AWD. But your situation is clearly different.

  38. We have Echoes everywhere so we spend a lot of time arguing with Amazon (ours go by Amazon rather than Alexa). I have a special playlist entirely of bird sounds that we’ll often leave playing on my younger son’s bedroom Echo for his parakeet (she seems to really enjoy it). Sometimes she really misunderstands you. It’s like having Amelia Bedelia in a can.

  39. I assume NMSF as used in the post title means something to do with smart houses and not the usual Totebag usage.

  40. Pseudo – yep, as I suspected there are incentives on Ford F150, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra that expire today. I didn’t check others.

  41. Fred,

    Thanks. I’ve narrowed it down to Toyota Tundra. We’ve already had two of them and they hold up better than Ford or Chevy.

  42. Pseudonym, have you checked the Costco price for the Toyota Tundra to make sure whatever you buy at least beats that? It’s a good baseline.

  43. Pseudo – also check cargurus.com You can see on there how long a specific vehicle has been on the dealer’s lot. A slow mover might be just perfect for you and there will be extra negotiating room.

  44. HM, nope. I figured that even though no house will ever be a scholar of any merit, that abbreviation is sort of short hand around here for “smart, hard-working” so it would be understood.

  45. I like my low tech house, and I will keep it that way. Like others, I have watched too many “smart-house hacked” movies. However, I like the door bell camera thingy, so I might get that. We too have a piece of paper stuck to our laptop webcam. I would like to do the same thing with my phone, including microphone. I am more than happy to turn the lights on by myself. I like Atlanta’s idea of turning off the wifi each night.

  46. We have a medium-smart home. We do have an echo, which I love for the ability to tell it things to add to the shopping list, and my entire family does too. We also have a home security system that controls a variety of things through the app – lock/unlock front door, upstairs and downstairs thermostats, live feed from a video camera, lights (we only have one lamp connected). I love being able to see that the garage door is closed when I’m second guessing myself, and also love being able to see when the doors opened and closed to track if/when the kids got home and I’m not. Most important in this last feature is never letting them know I check the activity log for such knowledge.

  47. The discussion on the OP reminds me of the new Domino’s commercial that spoofs Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Makes me giggle, but I will never be *that* connected.

    We have smart phones, that’s about as smart as we get. No appliances talk to each other, we still lose the remote in the couch cushions (or purposely hide it there from DS1, but he’s onto that now…), and my programmable thermostats are the bees knees compared to our old mercury ones.

    The only person who talks to Siri in the house is DS1. If he gets our phones, he sometimes holds the home button on too long and she pops up. She understands “hey” but then is completely lost after that. What good is Siri to me if she can’t translate toddler??? Good for nothing.

  48. Beyond smart houses, I feel anneed right now to vent about a “smart” phone system. The one at my bank is so “advanced” that it forces you to talk incomplete sentences. You can’t just say “checking” at the beginning; you have to describe what you want to do. If you already know that what you need can’t be handled by the phone system, the “easiest” way to get a person still requires you to go through a couple menus. UGH

  49. HM – LMAO!!! And this is why I will NEVER have on of those with small children. The cops would be at my house before we’d know what’s going on.

  50. I have a love/hate relationship with Alexa. Echo has replaced my old-timey radio but it requires me to tell Alexa the radio station call letters/numbers faster than I normally speak. If I’m too slow Alexa will interrupt and recommend another station that is of no interest to me. A few other bugs bother me, including when I want to turn Echo off and Alexa won’t listen to me so I have to reboot it by unplugging. When my Echo is hacked there will be ugly transcripts revealed.

    I like our Nest smoke alarms and would be interested in the thermostat.

    Did not notice if this was posted:

    Why You Should Buy the Dumbest Appliances You Can Find

    I already owned an overpriced gadget, my Fitbit, that encourages me to get off my butt by vibrating whenever I’ve been sitting for too long. And I now also own an overpriced gadget that encourages me to stay on my butt by allowing me to turn on my coffeemaker without getting out of bed. They can’t both be right.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a26270/against-smart-appliances/

  51. Does anyone have the wifi doorbell? I think that might be something I would like….

  52. If I’m too slow Alexa will interrupt and recommend another station that is of no interest to me.

    I hate it when she does that! I have often told her that her suggestions are universally terrible, and then she gets all huffy. But she doesn’t stop making terrible suggestions!

  53. There are two Acura dealers in Westchester. Our MDX is three years old, and the dealer where we made the purchase keeps calling us to trade it in. The dealer where we get our service also wants the car, and has been emailing us. They tried to get us to trade it in last month instead of buying some new parts. We received two letters last week from Acura dealers in Brooklyn and Queens. I’m not sure what is going on, but we had just decided in March to stick with this car. We own it, and we want to try to maintain it since we will now be leasing a new car every three years. The most interesting thing was that the dealer that is on the other side of Westchester offered me a 25% discount on all service appointments, free loaners and some other free stuff if I would service it there instead of the place that is closer to me. I didn’t realize this was an option, so I told the place where I get my service and I made them match that deal.

  54. Ada, we have a wireless doorbell, but it’s just connected to its little plug-in base, not our wifi.

  55. Oh, I just played Jeopardy with Alexa and I can see this as a new fun habit. Thanks, HM!

  56. Does a Roomba count as a smart device? Is it still considered a smart device if I follow it around and redirect it or grab a broom and sweep things into its path?

  57. S&M – sorry I couldn’t find the part of the article where it had examples. Was it in the WSJ article? I wasn’t able to access it!

  58. SSK, Im not sure what you’re referring to. Do you mean “There will come spring rains”?

  59. Ugh, trying again.

    S&M on May 1, 2017 at 6:21 pm
    Rather, “soft rains” as in this Asimov classic https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LzhlU8rXg

    For a little while, I was getting letters from the dealer that sold me the Nissan offering to buy it back. At the time, I assumed that was less than I could buy a similar one for Now I’m wondering if I should’ve gone for it and tried to find a similar car from a couple model years later. But I didn’t.

  60. The wifi doorbell rings to your phone and has a camera. So, even if you are not home, you can see who is on your porch. Can’t decide if that would be creepy and annoying, or useful. (We currently have no doorbell after the big remodel and have been too lazy to deal with. Nearly miss service people all the time.)

  61. Question – for those whose teens didn’t do a school sport, did they join a gym or do any other sort of exercise regimen ?
    I think Houston had mentioned something to this effect.

  62. I think I’d like a wifi doorbell. It may be overkill though because it’s not like we have lots of visitors to our front door. Mainly it’s UPS and they leave packages outside after ringing the doorbell.

    Our high school requires some kind of PE class up through senior year, either a team sport or a regular class that offers activities similar to a gym membership. In addition to a few larger gyms I’ve noticed there are many smaller gyms and/or personal trainers that have set up shop near me. Maybe they’ll be taking over all the retail shops that continue to close down!

  63. “Last time you mentioned that here, I believe the cameras were ultra low tech, as you were relying on the sight of them being enough to deter break-ins.”

    Oh, we are definitely relying on the obvious presence of the cameras to scare away people. But they do back up to the cloud. DH wanted to post a sign that said, “congratulations, if you are seeing this, your picture has already been taken.”

    @Louise: we are struggling with this too. DD is very sedentary and has put on a lot of weight; I want to find her things to do that she’d enjoy so that she can get healthier “naturally” (vs. my dad’s approach of “looks like you’re putting on some weight there”), but she is very much a “team” kid, and all the teams at this point are competitive, so all of those “sign your kid up for rec this-or-that” opportunities have gone away. Right now she at least has softball, but next year that will be gone, too. Of course, going from her foot surgery last fall (last time the weather was good) to DS’s broken foot (once the weather finally got nice again) hasn’t helped any of us on the activity front! So I am interested in hearing ideas from others (beyond the “family walk/bike ride” thing that I am already planning to implement).

  64. Laura, why is she going to stop playing softball next year?

    DS decided not to play baseball this year (which I’m sure he’s going to regret). He is taking weight training and fitness for one of his electives so I’m not worried about him not getting enough activity. His school only requires 1 year of PE but we told the kids they need to take 4 years.

    DD is going to be a freshman and isn’t sure if she wants to go out for the softball team but needs to decide fairly soon (it’s a fall sport here). She emailed the softball coach over the weekend and they had a nice exchange. I don’t think they cut anyone because DS said they kept advertising that they needed players during the first month of school this year. She’s taking regular OR, although we would have liked her to do one of the specialty classes, because I don’t think regular gym is always a lot of exercise.

  65. @DD: I think she got a realistic sense of her abilities this year and realizes she isn’t going to make varsity. The area started a softball program, with a travel team and all, a few years behind her (she probably could have tried out — I don’t think she was too old — but she wasn’t that into it, and we didn’t push). So this year’s 9th grade class is the first year with a big chunk of kids (10?) who have been playing travel ball since they were basically babies, and BOY are they good — pretty sure some of them would be playing varsity on some other teams. DD has the physical potential, but she has never had the mental attitude/desire to put in the work to develop it, so she is now pretty clearly outclassed. Plus she whines and hates the coach and is convinced the coach hates her (I think he’s one of those gruff old-school guys), so she rides the pine a lot and isn’t doing anything to make the coach want to play her, so she’s in the bad-attitude spiral.

  66. LfB – I am thinking about the “fun” excercise part too. Maybe I should drop that and say “you have to go to a gym 3 days a week”.
    For us the hardest months are Jan, Feb, Mar when it is cold/rainy and not pleasant outside. Other months of the year, three days a week one can definitely be outside. Rec soccer continues till age 18 here, but it fall and spring season with no outdoor soccer in the winter. Perhaps indoor soccer and a gym would be necessary in the winter.

  67. but she is very much a “team” kid, and all the teams at this point are competitive,

    What about spin or barre? it’s a group so that’s a plus.

  68. @Rhett — I honestly wish I could get her into Crossfit, because I get so much support from the other people there (who don’t know me from Adam) that it’s sort of ridiculous (and she has DH’s frame, which is built for lifting weights). But the thought of her pushing that hard, at this point in her life, makes me burst into uncontrollable laughter.

    Spin class is a good idea, wonder if she’d like it.

  69. LfB, that’s too bad.

    For the summer, since we’re stuck in the same bind as last year with not having anything for the kids to do, we’ve hired a couple of personal trainers for them (one for the first half, one for the second half since neither could do the whole summer). They are going to come over for an hour a day and work the kids out. Then we’re okay with them sitting around the rest of the day.

  70. LfB – at that age, I felt (looking back) that I needed some structure. I knew I had to lose weight but how ? Unless I joined a gym, swam laps or really broke a sweat, I would not lose weight. I couldn’t really help myself and since my parents never had weight issues so young, they couldn’t help me either.
    In my early twenties, I could help myself better.

  71. We have Ring doorbell at both houses. It’s helpful to be able to answer the door and talk to people when you’re not there. I’m usually just telling solicitors to go away, even when I’m right inside the house.

  72. costofcollege – I sent in a post. Please let me know if you didn’t get it.

  73. It is just such a shame (she said for the millionth time) that sports got so ridiculously competitive that kids have to drop by 8th grade.

    In high school I walked a few miles every day and swam laps a few times a week, but that’s because I’m sort of OCD about exercise. It’s funny that I kind of hated group classes (though I took recreational dance classes and, in college, weight lifting and aikido), but now I have a hard time exercising without them. Mercifully my yoga studio and gym are nearby.

  74. DSS was pretty damn sedentary in high school, and I used to worry about him. Then in college he picked up rock climbing and joined a climbing gym, and developed muscles and everything. He still climbs and hikes and always looks for a climbing gym wherever he lives. So even if they don’t exercise in high school, all is not lost.

  75. My only exercise in HS was dancing in the shows that I was in. I picked up exercise more in college – I had friends that went to the gym there and showed me stuff.

    OT, does anyone have a home security system (not Simplisafe)? Our home insurance company now requires L’Abbey to have a security system for the “high value” policy. We have an old system but it doesn’t work with the Vonage phone and so we would either need to get a cell connection ($300) or a whole new system (blechhhhhhhhh). The insurance company won’t accept Simplisafe because they need it to be a “centrally monitored fire and burglary”. Or should we just try to get a different home insurance policy?

  76. L – we have ADT. Our ins requires that it be a monitored service and has required that we send in proof 2x!

  77. One of the local spin studios near my town just announced a special for teens and college students. Pay $99 per month with a student ID and you can take as many classes as you want in July and August. It isn’t one of the big chains, but I wonder if some places near you will have similar deals.

  78. DD loves team sports. However, she also joined a gym with some friends and does that as well. She and her friends meet up at the gym and socialize and workout. If you’re a student, it’s only $10 a month.

    Funny story – a couple months ago, DD asked me what an “outstanding balance” was. I asked why she was asking and she said her gym had been emailing her about an outstanding balance. She’d been ignoring the emails because she thought “outstanding” meant “really good.” It took everything I had not to burst out laughing. Turned out the bank had issued DD a new debit card but she hadn’t thought to update her billing account at the gym.

    DS does not love sports but I’ve told him he has to do something. In the past it was martial arts. This year he’s switched to cross country and track both of which he enjoys. He usually comes in last or nearly last – but we all appreciate the progress he’s made.

  79. It is just such a shame (she said for the millionth time) that sports got so ridiculously competitive that kids have to drop by 8th grade.

    Tell me about it, says the mom whose kid has 2700 other kids at his school. He asked to return to basketball at the Y, and I’m glad he did. Even better–he stuck with it through conflict with his coach and acknowledges that his game-winning basket last weekend would not have happened if he hadn’t followed this coach’s game plan.

    Laura, of course you don’t want to crush the girl’s self-image, but there are plenty of other benefits of regular exercise besides getting skinny (as you are seeing with your Cross Fit). I don’t think sneaking in physical movement works well with teen-agers, other than maybe requiring yard work or having her walk to school. What happened to the swim team idea? Get a short list of exercises she might like to do (talk to her in a neutral moment). Then when she’s having such a hard time concentrating, tell her when the next yoga class that afternoon is, or when she’s angry at someone, suggest she go to that kick-boxing class or bang a tennis ball against the garage door, or whatever is on her list.

    Even if she doesn’t want to do Cross Fit with you, you can use it to “incentivize” her. Set up a contest with you where whoever has less workouts in a month has to do x for the other. Or help her set goals other than weight and circumference. I want to be able to bench-press my body weight by my birthday this year, and want to get my % body mass that is muscle so high that my BMI will once again say “obese”, but because of having low body fat, not because of being fat. You could build exercise routines into the homework star chart you have going for her already.

    On the image-crushing thing: If she mentions a concern with her appearance, I think it’s possible (but not easy!) to talk about it in objective, non-soul-crushing ways. When I recently said that Serena Williams looks better at 4 mos pregnant than I do normally, my kid immediately pointed out that she’s a world-class athlete and I’m 50 years old. That realism is more helpful, imo, than ignoring reality and saying “you look great” with a fake happy face. I’ve taught him this. He was worried about me calling myself “fat” last fall until I pointed out to him that it was objectively true–BMI classed me as obese. Part of my lowered interest in weight loss is due to the fact that I’m currently not even “overweight” according to that scale, and the doctor says I should focus on building strength, not losing weight. If you think she’ll be a chubby adult, getting practice in how to think about it realistically, in terms of health, and without dying inside could be really helpful to her down the road, as would learning how to set up a healthy program.

  80. SSM, that’s story must be the new version of “I can’t be overdrawn. I still have some checks left”

  81. LfB,

    Have you thought about rugby? No really, hear me out….My son and then my daughter started playing about two years ago. The league is very concerned about concussion and other injuries and proactive about training to prevent injuries. It is a really fun game to play and to watch. And, best of all, it seems to attract refugees from other team sports. The league in our area is focused on being inclusive, every kid plays, and the goal is that every kid touches the ball every game. The parents all seem well aware that playing is for fun. The game is respected, the refs are respected, and the other team is respected. Because, without the opponents, you can’t play. We found that sportsmanship was highly valued, the kids were expected to play hard on the field. When the game was over, the teams recognized the best player on the opposing team, and shared a snack. It was just very nice.

    DD liked it well enough to continue in college, half a continent away, and the same ethos prevailed.

  82. Our home security system is Vivint. So it’s monitored and all, and came with a bunch of the nifty smart home tools I mentioned above. I don’t know if it’s the best thing out there, but for what we pay a month ($50-60), we were happy with the added functionality. And happy not to have to do any of it ourselves.

  83. Louise and LFB (and anyone else who is asking) – do your daughters like to dance? Zumba is fun, and now our Y has classes with different types of music. There may be some teen version, but I would imagine they would be less embarrassed dancing around with middle aged ladies rather than girls their age.

    Maybe to dorky?

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