Questions to get a conversation going

by July

7 Questions Interesting People Always Ask in Conversations
Replace those typical (and boring, I may add) questions like ‘What do you do for a living?’ with these refreshing questions that lead to great conversations.

I’m not crazy about some of these questions, particularly the first one.  Do you like these questions?  Do you typically use them in conversations?  What are some other good questions?

For fun, let’s get to know each other better and answer these questions in the comments.  If you’re up for this, answer all seven or pick a few.

1. What’s your story?
2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
4. What book has influenced you the most?
5. What was your dream job growing up?
6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
7. Why did you choose your profession?


141 thoughts on “Questions to get a conversation going

  1. What book has influenced you the most?

    Probably The Drifters by James Michener. I read it just before my junior year abroad. Just reinforced my choice.

  2. The book that has influenced me the most…

    Probably Peyton Place. No one in my house knew what books I was reading, so I didn’t know of what a stir it caused till I moved to the U.S. Also, The Swimmer by John Cheever.

  3. Let me clean that up:

    1. What’s your story?

    It’s a long one with a (to date knock on wood) happy ending.

    2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?


    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?

    I’d say first day of freshman orientation. Up until then life had been pretty bad but within hours it became 100x better and has been getting better every since.

    4. What book has influenced you the most?

    “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is tied with “Theory of the Leisure Class” in that both go a long way toward explaining how the world works.

    5. What was your dream job growing up?

    You all already know the answer: Be a businessman who travels around!

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?


    7. Why did you choose your profession?

    It lets me travel around, pays well. and I fit in well with the culture.

  4. I ask people what series or movies they are watching. I find it to be a good ice breaker plus I get suggestions on what to watch.

  5. I think the best initial questions are those that are related to the event you are at or why you are there. When I first go to a kid’s school event and I meet someone I don’t know, I often ask what grades are your children in? From there, it seems to take a natural path. Asking about your profession in a group that likely contains a lot of SAHP, might not be putting your best foot forward.

  6. My response to most of these questions in my mind would be “Who’s asking?” or “FFS!” or something similar. I don’t liked forced conversation-starters. ;)

  7. If asked “What’s your story?” I’d respond, “Morning Glory! What’s the tale, Nightingale!” So I’m not sure what people would learn about me, except maybe that I can be evasive and I like Bye Bye Birdie

  8. Rhett – your answer to #3 brings a smile to my face. I just imagine that at a cocktail party you must give off great positivity.

    As for myself, I think one of my most defining moments was the day I got my daughter’s diagnosis. I was so grateful to finally get an answer, but yet it was bittersweet. From that moment I had to change what my “normal” parenting was. It also give me a non-profit organization to become involved in, with more meaning and purpose, and I can see the difference I’m making in lives.

  9. 4. What book has influenced you the most?

    Over on Facebook I was having a discussion with people about “What book or movie or TV show did you see when you were way too young?” One of mine was The Drifters, which isn’t a great book for an 11-year-old. Sorry Fred. Also, the movie Deliverance which was assigned in 11th grade film study! I’m still not over it. And Billy Jack at age 13 was a really bad idea. Mary McCarthy’s The Group had a lot of, uh, useful information in it for a naive 15 year old.

  10. “What’s your story?” sounds so off-putting and maybe creepy. Even the answer ideas from the article sound a bit yucky.

    1. What’s your story?
    This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story–a journey to a foreign country, living out of a van while touring in a rock band, getting funded for the startup of your dreams, a special God-given talent used for improving lives, etc.

    I like the ways you all have answered it so far!

  11. I just imagine that at a cocktail party you must give off great positivity.

    The key to a happy life? Low expectations.

  12. Fred, what do mean by “Just reinforced my choice.”?

    I’m going to delete Rhett’s first comment if that’s all right. And from his answers I’m inspired to take a stab at answering all 7!

  13. What brought you to this area? I ask this question a lot here.
    I like the one about tv shows. The answers are sometimes surprising — who knew that a quiet SAHM is addicted to The Wire or that a college guy loves “Foyle’s War?” Just have to be careful about spoilers

  14. Speaking of tv shows, I just watched the first episode of the new season of Broadchurch. Now I need to find time to binge watch Season 1 and Season 2.

  15. Wait, you want us to answer those, not critique them and come up with our own suggestions?

    Scarlett, who, besides “quiet SAHM”s and their husbands watches The Wire?

  16. I may have just figured out who “July” is, based on their ability to delete a comment.

  17. First, I would like to thank you for sharing such a helpful post. I have been finding it difficult lately to connect my depth with others in everyday conversation, stumbling upon this post has brought me much excitement!

    To answer question four, The Tibetan Book of The Living and Dying shattered my world view that was already close to crumbling. It showed me how much light I have inside me, how important compassion and empathy are, and most importantly it made me rethink the purpose of death and life itself.

  18. S&M, do both. Milo, yes, inquiring minds want to know. :)

    1. What’s your story?
    I’m not a good story teller so I won’t even try.

    2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
    Hmm.  For today maybe the peanut butter, honey, and bacon sandwich I had for lunch.

    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
    So many of them . . .

    4. What book has influenced you the most?
    Hard to say, but the girl books like Nancy Drew and Little Women helped me dream as a child.

    5. What was your dream job growing up?
    Either grocery checker or teacher.

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
    Why are you asking me all these questions?

    7. Why did you choose your profession?
    I was introduced to it by some good college friends who were very passionate about the field.

  19. Over on Facebook I was having a discussion with people about “What book or movie or TV show did you see when you were way too young?”

    Back Bay was maybe not the most appropriate book for a 7 year old. And when I was 6 my mother found me reading what she describes as “some trashy book about doctor’s wives.” She took a picture instead of taking it away. This tells you a lot about the theory of parenting in my family. Anyway, I don’t remember the doctor’s wives one at all, but Back Bay stuck with me.

  20. Yeah, so that list sounds like the kind of list a helpful introvert would come up with, because they are socially just-a-little-too-prying for when you first meet someone. :-) OTOH, they would be cool for people you already know and are friendly with but haven’t really gotten to know that deeply.

    Books: Pride & Prejudice (a real “there are books like this???” for a 14-yr-old). Emma (the most perfect novel ever written). The Divine Comedy in college (really reshaped my views on God).

    Defining moments: Meeting DH — first guy I dated who liked me *because* I was smart, not *in spite of* it. The miscarriages — an object lesson that making the “right” choices does not guarantee the desired result, and that the universe can be a real bitch when it wants to; left me with the “Sword of Damocles/waiting for the other shoe to drop” feeling for probably a decade. My stepdad dying — life is too short to spend it focused on ego and advancement; most shit doesn’t really matter. Realizing I’m not actually poor any more. :-)

    “6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?



  21. “The Drifters, which isn’t a great book for an 11-year-old. Sorry Fred.”

    Rocky, why an apology? It’s an inappropriate book (movie) for an 11yo. But for a 20yo heading out on a somewhat ill defined adventure for 10 months, it was great.

  22. When I was about 9 I checked out a book from the bookmobile with a title something like “Around the Mulberry Bush”. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was full of descriptions of various sex escapades. I read the whole thing. Looking back, I think it was misfiled by the librarian based solely on the title.

  23. I just looked that book up and it wasn’t published yet when I was seven, so clearly I’m confused about something. Probably I read it later. That would explain why I remember it better!

  24. “Fred, what do mean by “Just reinforced my choice.”?”

    I was going to Spain, so all the great things the young people were doing, even if it was just fiction, made me want to go more.

  25. I like to ask people this question:

    If you were stuck and needed rescuing, would the main characters of the last movie you watched be able to do it?

    Currently, my answer is yes. I watched the A-Team last night, so I’m all good.

  26. “What brought you to this area?” I ask that question a lot for the people who are not native to this area.

  27. “I like to ask people this question:

    If you were stuck and needed rescuing, would the main characters of the last movie you watched be able to do it?”

    Oh, I’m totally set — Wonder Woman to the rescue! :-)

  28. Milo on June 30, 2017 at 12:02 pm said:
    Oh, God , as if you could possibly need or want to know anything else about me!


  29. HM,

    Was Back Bay and good? I assume you’re referring to the one by William Martin?

  30. My answers:
    1. What’s your story?
    An only child raised in a very dysfunctional family. I spent the better part of my childhood trying to understand things children shouldn’t need to understand. I’m awkward, too smart for my own good, and an introvert who plays an extrovert. I spend more time listening and observing than interacting because I fear being made fun of and being in the spotlight.

    2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
    Today – spending about 10 minutes watching my youngest try to roll over this morning. His smiles make my day brighter.
    The week – I’m down to the last chapter of this giant report we’re writing at work.

    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
    -The day I stood up to my father. The choice to leave brought me here.
    -This is more a series of moments – a 3am fight with DH, and my PhD advisor’s sudden passing. While these events were ~3 years apart, they made me realize that my grad student life, my degrees, and my career meant nothing without family and friends. I’m no longer tied to my career in the same way.

    4. What book has influenced you the most?
    The Alchemist, From the Corner of His Eye,

    5. What was your dream job growing up?
    Race car driver.

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
    I don’t think I would be prepared for the absolute and total truth about anything.

    7. Why did you choose your profession?
    I’m fascinated by estuaries and the ocean. I love being outdoors. And I’m intrigued by how people interact with their environment.

  31. I often ask people how long they’ve lived in ____ and follow up with why/how they got there or what they think of it. Big, clearly schemed questions like the OP read like questions for an interview or the cast of The Bachelorette. I’d much rather come up with something related to where we are/what’s happening, even tho I’m not always successful.

    The children’s book Squares Are Not Bad may have influenced me.

  32. The best part of my day is coming soon–it’s been thundering for a while. Soon the sky may get dark, and then the rain will start. The drop in air pressure will end the headache that builds up every summer day here.

  33. “5. What was your dream job growing up?”

    If you want to go back to when I was really little I wanted to an airline pilot and if that didn’t work out a stock broker.

  34. The “What’s your story?” question reminds me of a feature that used to be on the CBS Sunday morning News or one of those shows. The reporter would throw a dart at a map of the US, then get the phone book for the town it landed in and pick a random person. Then he’d go interview the person about their life. The title of the segment was “everybody has a story.” It was actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.

  35. DD – that sounds like a fantastic feature. People are fascinating – their choices, their dreams. To meet everyday people like that would be fun.

  36. 2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
    Home with diverticulitis & angry ovary – got the ok to go off liquid diet and back to food yesterday. Best banana and English muffin I’ve ever had, dee-lish!

    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
    My dad passed when I was 14. Initially I rebelled and my high school grades reflected my partying and bad attitude, but by the time I got to college my mantra was, “don’t waste the money he left you for this, don’t be a disappointment.”

    4. What book has influenced you the most?
    How to Win Friends and Influence People. Trying to get 13yo DD to read it.

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
    Is there an afterlife?

  37. My problem with these questions is that most of them are tough to come up with answers on the spot.

    1. What’s your story?

    I have no idea how to answer that question.

    2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?

    We had our softball end of season party on Tuesday. It was very emotional because DD and and a few other girls are moving on to HS softball this fall and leaving the team. After three years of DD playing on the team and me helping coach, it was tough to say goodbye. DD actually broke down crying after we got home – she said she feels sadder about this than she did saying goodbye to her friends at the end of school (none of them are going to her HS).

    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?

    Moving to Denver. I just decided to move out her in 1998 so I found a job, then packed up and moved.

    4. What book has influenced you the most?

    I don’t think I’ve read a book that really influenced me much.

    5. What was your dream job growing up?

    Major League baseball player.

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?

    I can’t answer that without getting political.

    7. Why did you choose your profession?

    I wanted to work with people and still be able to use my analytical skills.

  38. “Is there an afterlife?”

    Questions like that are why I don’t want to know. It’s up there with “are ghosts real? and is there a god?” I don’t think I could handle the answers to questions that would shake my very foundation. I’d rather keep my head in the sand and believe in something that may not be real than be fully aware. Somehow I feel that if I knew the answer, and no one else did, I’d feel even more alone. At least in my ignorance, I have company.

    Which is why if I think about the Matrix too hard, it’s terrifying. I love the movie, it’s awesome. But I’d be a better pod person than a Neo.

  39. I like to ask about people’s hobbies or interests. Very interesting and fun hearing about those.

  40. “2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?”

    1. Trip to Granny’s and my dad’s — lots of top-down driving, and a happy DS, and no tickets. :-) Exception: VA between Roanoke and I-66, with the (many) trucks trying to pass each other going uphill, and the (even more) cars lined up in the left lane waiting.

    2. Sad as it is, yesterday’s crossfit: 21-15-9 reps of burpees, kettlebell swings, and box jumps, and I did the whole thing at the prescribed weight/box heights, in the allotted time (this was only my second time actually managing the full box height). And didn’t die.

  41. 1. What’s my story?

    Hard to answer and varies by day

    2. Highlight of day/week? Ugh….DD made it through knee surgery and has potential for full recovery

    3. Most defining moment?

    Called up DH after first date and made arrangements to see him again.

    4. What book influenced you the most.

    Centennial by James Michener. Whoever controls the water controls the land. Incidentally also an influential book for DH.

    5. Dream job growing up?

    Owning and operating a cattle ranch.

    6. Knowing absolute and complete truth?

    I’m not sure I want to know. I prefer hope, faith and the freedom to choose to believe.

    7. Why did I choose my profession?

    I have always wanted to work in Ag. I was fortunate to find the path and partner to get here.

  42. But I’d be a better pod person than a Neo.

    Yeh, it would be kinda hard to get get back to the grind after being told everything. One minute of rapture and then you’re thinking, “If I let a fart sneak out will He notice? Is farting in the presence of a deity acceptable?”

  43. Best part of my week – I’m off today and reading news, retirement planning and cooking and other things I never have time for.

    Most influential book: The Second Sex. Read it in my freshman philosophy class, as a girl who had always pretended to be less smart than I was. I wrote about her take on it, and my professor wrote in the margin “do you know anyone like this?” It was the start of a slow evolution for me.

    At parties where he knows no one, I have heard DH ask “so what do you do when you’re not working?” When we were in DC recently, my cousins were joking that we were obviously not from around there because neither me or DD had asked any of them what they do. Like others have mentioned, I usually ask something somewhat related to the event I’m at. For work-ish things, I find asking if they’ve done any traveling lately generates conversation.

    I agree that some of the other questions would be too invasive from someone I’ve just met, and that you all know more than enough about me. I did like the “what are you watching?”

  44. The Drifters
    Centennial (as per Austin). I still love the description/”recipe” for scrapple
    The Covenant
    South Pacific
    et al
    I love Michener’s books.

  45. Rhode, I’m thoroughly convinced that the answers to those questions don’t matter. Being a good person is something we already understand.

    Swim, wishing you a full recuperation, with as little discomfort on the way as possible! If you did all that partying in high school, how did you even get into college?

    Rhett, what does a little kid know about stock brokers/what attracted you?

    Something about me you all may have noticed is an increasing interest in design, whether for buildings or clothing. I can’t decide if that’s part of my ongoing collapse into an uninteresting person or if it represents recovery from a childhood spent not wanting to be a girl because girls had to behave more, keep their clothes clean and not really play in some of them, grow up to do the housework while husband went off to do interesting things in the world…. I also thought of myself as loud, fat, clumsy and socially stupid. I’ve been peeling away those layers in the last few years. I don’t think I’ll ever be the woman with the mani/pedi, dyed & permed hair, Botox, foundation, and Spanx. That would make me feel like a drag queen. But I am more interested in looking pulled together.

    On the other other hand, I recall a conversation in grad school where some of the other women were talking about clothing and power clothes (in the era of the power tie). I commented that I didn’t know anything about fashion or power clothes, and one of them (who’d I’d always felt pushed me aside in a high school kind of way) replied rather forcefully that what I had on was a power outfit, really projected power strongly. I was stunned. I was wearing something like shirt and jeans or cutoffs. She insisted that it showed that I was there to be engaged intellectually (true, it was a PhD program) and didn’t have time for any of the other games or ways of accruing power. I think she didn’t understand that i didn’t eschew those other routes intentionally, i just had no clue about them. So yeah, I’m mulling over what my new level of interest & knowledge might mean.

  46. Daily Highlight – kayak in the ocean above the Arctic Circle.
    Defining moment – death of my second child
    Book – 1984
    Big question – as of today, am I going to hell
    Profession – paid well I liked it most people don’t

  47. Highlight of the day – Two major projects with due dates of today are DONE and my four day weekend begins now!

  48. Rhett, what does a little kid know about stock brokers/what attracted you?

    To my 5 year old mind it was the job that paid the most.

  49. Rhett — I found it fascinating when I read it. I don’t know how I’d like it today, but I see that it has good reviews from actual grown-ups on Amazon and Goodreads, so if it sounds like something you might be interested in you could certainly give it a try.

  50. I filled out Dr. Seuss’s “MY Book About ME” as a child so I can tell you that my career goal at one point was ballerina astronaut.

  51. HM<

    Are we talking about the same book? The one on Amazon looks like it was published in 2013.

  52. Best moment this week was a quiet evening on the lake last night with the five of us. Not very humid, sun going down, dinner, swimming.

    There were two contenders for that question ; that’s the G-rated answer.

  53. @SM: I totally get your point about re-thinking stuff. I had that when DD was in the “princess” phase, and I had a horribly negative reaction, until I realized that for her, it meant something completely different than it did to me — her princesses weren’t trapped in a tower waiting for rescue, they were escaping the tower and having adventures. In short, to her, “princess” meant “power,” whereas to me it meant “lack of power.”

    In the same way, growing up, when society sort of demanded a certain kind of look and a certain kind of behavior as “feminine,” I pretty much thumbed my nose at that and went the other way, with sort of an in-your-face “I am NOT going to dye my hair/wear makeup/wear pantyhose and spanx/etc., I dare you to prove that you like the real me and not because I am pretending in order to be socially acceptable.” But as I have gotten older — and, ironically, more secure in myself — I am realizing that, geez, everything doesn’t have to be so Important, that it’s ok to wear attractive clothes and feel good about how I look, and that doing so doesn’t mean I’m kowtowing to some stereotype (honestly, at this age, the idea that someone would see me as kowtowing is just freaking laughable). It’s like I don’t have to bristle so much, don’t have to prove everything or walk through life on the defensive, don’t have to reject all “pretty” stuff just because some of it was part of a negative stereotype — because working so damn hard to reject the stereotype is still giving the stereotype all of the power, isn’t it? Because when you define yourself as “not that,” well, “that” is still the core, central concept that you are defining yourself in relation to. Real power comes in picking and choosing based on what YOU like, period, without regard to what anyone else might think of that.

  54. Actually, I’m starting to think I read some of the John Jakes books set in Boston at a younger age ( ) and then read Back Bay a few years later and am conflating the books.

    I was a big reader and never had enough books on hand, so I would read everything my mom got from the library. And the 70s and 80s were a golden age of sweeping multi-generational sagas with lots of passion and turmoil.

  55. Defining event: our first kid stillborn.

    It really woke me up to seeing things from the other person’s perspective, giving people the benefit of the doubt. It only took ~35 years despite my mother’s best efforts. I can still be cranky about customer service, but even then I’m more of the ‘this too shall pass’ attitude than I would have been.

  56. My story: Child of immigrants from a very different time and a very different culture. Have spent much of my life trying to navigate two very different worlds — that of my parents, and the one outside their ethnic bubble.

    Highlight of my day: Going to the bank and picking up some British Pounds and Euros that I ordered. A tangible reminder that our trip to Europe is coming up soon!

    One of my defining moments: The man to whom I was engaged in my mid-20s leaving me.

    Books that influenced me the most: I have to say it was the travel catalogs that my father used to regularly pick up from travel agencies (which were very common when I was growing up). I spent countless hours looking through them, and thinking about all the places I wanted to go. They inspired me to pursue a career that would allow me to live overseas (which I did before I went to law school).

    Dream job growing up: Airline cabin crew for international flights. Seriously. I was so taken with the idea of international air travel that I just wanted to spend my working life on airplanes, with layovers at nice hotels in foreign cities.

    What question would I ask? None. Because “if you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question.” I’m not sure I want the answers to The Big Questions.

    Why did I choose my profession? I feel like I sort of fell into it more than I chose it. After my then-fiance left me (see “defining moment,” above) I needed a major change in my life. So I left my then-profession and went to law school. I took a couple of classes that got me interested in my practice area, and when I started working in my area after I got my degree, I realized I liked the day-to-day work (and not just the theoretical stuff that I learned in law school). So, almost two decades later, here I am.

  57. Lauren, if you are around, what are best birthday gifts for 11yo girls? Is this the gift card age or do they still like actual things?

    Sorry for many posts!

  58. L – did you see my question over in the work uniform thread? Deep shopping dilemma.

  59. “I watched the A-Team last night”

    The original, with Mr. T?

    I pity the fool.

  60. I find the responses very interesting so thank you for sharing. Some of us have mentioned how low expectations can affect our general satisfaction and happiness, and I had to smile to see someone’s career goal was Supreme Court justice and I said grocery checker. :)

  61. 1. What’s your story? I’m interested in Risley’s answer to this.

    2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)? Getting together with other kids going to same school as DS, and their parents.

    3. What is one of your most defining moments in life? When my gramdma passed.

    4. What book has influenced you the most? “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Schumacher.

    5. What was your dream job growing up? POTUS. This was when I was very young and naïve.

    6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask? What is the inequality relationship between i and ni for any integer n?

    7. Why did you choose your profession? My major led me to it.

  62. Ada – I replied on the other thread. You might do better buying something big and having it taken in or belting – most stuff is so oversized right now that it is hard to find more fitted shapes.

  63. “South Pacific”

    IIRC, the musical was based on one of the stories in a Michener book of short stories (Tales of the South Pacific), not a novel.

    It’s one of my favorite musicals, and one that holds up well.

  64. Around here, the standard question is, “Where you grad?”, which translates from pidgin to, “From which HS did you graduate?”

  65. Defining moment – it was the 3rd of July some twenty plus years ago when I got my U.S. visa. I was overjoyed, my life took a different path.
    My to be arranged marriage had fallen through because the guy said no and the rejection really hit me. I felt worthless but was determined to be the mistress of my own future. I wished the visa officer a Happy Independence Day.
    To all Totebaggers, A Happy 4th of July !

  66. Hijack: Do you all have a preference among Airbnb, VRBO, or Trip Advisor for vacation rentals?

  67. AirBnB has been dogged by discrimination by renters, but has recently announced new requirements seeking to end that.

  68. DD recently posted about a negative experience with rental arranged through VRBO.

  69. New high point of week (yes, my standards are low). DH just got home from camp pickup with kiddos; I have my head down trying to plow through a memo before a 6 PM client call. DH interrupts me to ask about dinner, I chat with him for a few minutes (basically, “whatever you want, I’m busy”), and then not even 30 seconds later, DD comes in and asks THE SAME DAMN QUESTION. Grrrr. I get out my “slightly annoyed” voice, don’t even turn around from the computer, and say that’s what dad and I were just talking about, I just told him that we can go out or get takeout or whatever, but I am busy and can’t do anything until after my 6:00 call.

    At which point, the conversation goes:

    DD: “6:00? Who the hell sets up a call for 6:00?”

    Me: “Clients on the west coast.”

    DD: “Well, tell them they can wait until after you have dinner with your family! Don’t you know that I’m going to start doing drugs if we don’t have valuable family dinner time together? Haven’t you watched the commercials?”

    I burst out laughing. Had to turn around and give her a high five and a hug. God I love my smartass kid.

  70. Smartass kids are the best.
    Even when they spend the entire evening trying to convince e you that all of their problems would vanish if they could just.have.a.Surface.

  71. 11 year olds like gift cards, but they still like stuff. At that age, they still like Bath and Body works. A really popular item right now is a pillow that allows you too move the sequins back and forth with your hand. I’ve seen them for kids on Emoji pillows and for tweens in different color squares at 5 Below or Bed Bath. Some kids that age might really like a Swell water bottle.

  72. I’ve used VRBO for years and this was the first time I’ve ever had a problem. I’ve only used AIrbnb in Iceland and had not problems. I’ve never used tripadvisor. I like Airbnb’s website better than VRBO.

  73. I was amused by this:

    Our Barbies had some pretty twisted adventures as well.

  74. OKAY. I need a reality check, because DSS is 29 and maybe my memory is bad. If you took your kids, ages 4 and 8, to a friend’s house, would you let your 8-year-old tear throughout the entire house yanking open all the window blinds in every single room while you sipped coffee and chatted? Would you let her push all the buttons on the kitchen appliances? Would you let her and the 4-year-old barge into every room, including the master bedroom while the occupants are sleeping and later dressing? Am I just old and bitchy? Well yeah, I am old and bitchy, but I really think that I would have stopped an 8-year-old from tearing up someone’s house.

  75. And when I saw what the deal was, I offered to take the kids to a great nearby playground and let them run around, but “Oh no, that’s fine.”

  76. RMS – no way. But I am not a free range parent and according to some people hover. My 4 and 6 yo wouldn’t do that any way. My 2 yo might. Which is why she has a leash.

  77. RMS….no way that would be ok for the four year old. Certainly not for the eight year old. If those kids don’t get taught some manners, no one will let their kids invite them to the their house.

  78. RMS – that is not acceptable behavior at all. The parents need to step up but if they are so oblivious they’ll probably get upset if you say anything. I’m super annoyed for you.

  79. RMS, if you are old and bitchy, I am old and bitchy too. One of the challenges that has improved my “soft skills” is explaining to my sons, “Our family has different rules than their family. People in our family may not do X.”

  80. RMS – not acceptable behavior at all. The kids definitely need to be able to go play outside or play inside in a designated kid space. Even that has to be tidied up with the toys put away after they are done.

  81. “My 2 yo might. Which is why she has a leash.”

    Ha! funny and true.

    “Our family has different rules than their family. People in our family may not do X.”

    We use this all. the. time.

  82. Completely off topic. Do any of you compost? I am thinking of starting. We have a farmer’s market near us where you can drop off compost each week. I was thinking a small bin but don’t know if I need the bin plus compostable bags or if I could just use the bags. Any suggestions, particularly if you are an apartment dweller.

  83. RMS, I have always been annoyed by that kind of behavior and I would not stand for it with my kids. I realize other parents allow more rowdiness but it’s inconsiderate to allow it in others’ homes. I’m sure the parents think I’m too uptight but sometimes I would get up and physically block or otherwise prevent the child from doing that type of stuff in my house. The worst is when you’re having a party and it’s impossible to police the kids creating havoc in your house. Hmm, maybe I’ll be a horrible grandma because I won’t let the grandkids play in my house.

  84. I agree that the 8 year old has terrible behavior. The 4 year old sounds like my naughty 4 year old – which means s/he needs very close supervision. Which I am sometimes terrible about. However, I would be mortified if he was damaging stuff in someone else’s house. Which is why we won’t be going on a plane trip for a friend’s milestone birthday – I would need to take the youngest and most poorly supervised snowflake, and their house is too nice for that.

    Related anecdote (may have shared here before). Last summer, work summer party hosted by a middle age nurse (who lives with his sister and his parents in gigantic McMansion). I was encouraged to leave the kids downstairs where there was a pinball machine and a load of stuffed animals, as well as mountains of knickknacks. I checked every 15 minutes on him.

    Later in the afternoon, I found him covered in chocolate. He had found a foil wrapped football (ON THE COFFEE TABLE!) and decided to tear into it. He apologized, I apologized. Sister freaked out. Turns out – it belonged to the sister’s ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend who also used to live in this air-hockey basement paradise. It had been an Valentine’s gift 4 YEARS AGO from the ex-boyfriend. Just like his toothbrush that was waiting on the bathroom sink, it was waiting for his return. FOR FOUR YEARS. I did feel awful, and no amount of money could replace it. But I was repentant at least.

  85. Oh Rocky, I’m so sorry! You’ve planned for their comfort and were putting yourself out for someone else’s relationship. This isn’t right. But at least the kitty wasn’t freaked out alone.

    Speaking up for free range parenting; that’s how I think of myself, but no way would my kid have done that. Being who he is, he likely would have stayed close to me in someone else’s house. If he felt very comfortable, he probably would have found a little corner he liked and spent a couple hours there, reading or playing with something. If it wasn’t ours, I would’ve made sure it was OK for him to use.
    An important part of free range parenting is experiential learning/dealing with consequences. By four, I’d expect a kid to have learned one way or another what areas of someone else’s home and are not off limits.

    When the parents said “it’s ok”, I hope you told them “no, it isn’t”.

  86. July, everybody knows the rules are different at Grandma’s. Part of that might be relaxed bedtimes, but more restrictions on “touching” are par for the course. Besides, based on the photos you’ve posted here, your house is so organized and calming, the kids’ nervous energy will just sigh and be gone.

  87. Thanks for weighing in, everyone. I wish they had let me take the girls to the park — it’s a great park with dangerous/fun equipment. I was a big believer in running kids ragged and then setting them down with a book or a game or a puzzle or something. The parents in this case didn’t bring anything to keep the kids entertained, which I can’t understand. We have tons of kids books waiting for my grandchildren, but most of the games and stuff have gone to Goodwill over the years. It’s really the 8-year-old who’s the hellion; the 4-year-old just seems like a 4-year-old.

    It’s only for one more night. They’re gone tomorrow.

    Ada, that story is just crazy. I think it’s the toothbrush that’s the perfect little detail.

  88. @Rocky: ok, I am much more of a free-range parent, and I did have a little hellion, and there is no f***ing way that happens on my watch. Rule No. 1 of parenting is making your kids feel safe and loved with you; but close behind that is Rule #2: you may not annoy the hell out of other people. A/k/a your right to swing your fist ends where it contacts someone else’s nose. A/k/a little heathens must be civilized.

    What you have here is just lazy parenting. Sucks for you, and unfortunately sucks for the kids, too, long-term.

  89. RMS, that is nuts. At around 8-9, my niece would go into all the bedrooms in the house and rummage through the resident’s personal things. She would pull out all my DD’s jewelry, try on all her shoes, etc. I’ve been visiting somewhere else and you could hear her in the room directly above where all the adults were sitting, so it was clear to everyone that she was in the hosts’ bedroom, but her parents did not even react to it. It’s really awkward to feel like you need to discipline someone else’s child.

  90. RMS, perhaps door locks would help.

    Way ahead of you. DH dug up the one key that works on all the indoor doors and showed me where he is stashing it so we can close off a lot of the house.

  91. “I like Airbnb’s website better than VRBO.”

    I noticed VRBO does not include cancellation refund policies on its listing while Aribnb does. I’d like to have that information without having to contact the homeowner.

  92. Kerri, I’ve been composting for years, but am not very well versed in the apartment version. I will warn you that “any suggestions on composting?” is a question similar to “any suggestions on how to raise a child?” There are lots of strongly held opinions in the composting community. The attachment parenting style of composting involves a lot of temperature taking, calculating ratios of “brown” to “green”, and a regular turning schedule. I’m more of a free range composter myself, unconcerned with giving it too much attention and letting my compost self actualize as the forest floors have done for millennia. My philosophy is if the raccoons and possums didn’t get into the bin overnight, it is a success. My only hard and fast rule is no meat, dairy, or oil, although there are those who would argue with me on that. I remember running into a web site devoted to worm composting in an apartment, which your boys might just love.

  93. Highlight of my week (we are visiting my in laws in RI on “vacation”) – coming home from the hospital yesterday after my oldest had to have an emergency appendectomy on Thursday night. It can only get better from here I keep telling myself.:)

  94. Kerri, that vermiculture idea from HFN is great. I have several friends who do it, and having pet worms would be great for little boys.

  95. My understanding was that K. was considering dropping off compost at a collection site, with the added benefit of making sure she gets to the farmer’s market weekly. In that case, the bags, and possibly something slightly less unsightly to keep them in during the week, are really all that is necessary. But if you’re looking to do the whole thing right there in your flat, all the way to potting soil, then the classic Worms Eat My Garbage might be worth looking into. It describes how you can build your own place for them to live under the sink, but they are also available to buy, made of plastic and ready to stash in your kitchen (or where ever you choose)

  96. Atlanta, thank goodness it was discovered and removed on time! Best wishes to you all.

  97. HFN – Thanks, I had no idea! S&M is closer to the mark. I won’t have a large bin and use the compost myself. I have whatever is the opposite of a green thumb. I just thought someone else could use my coffee grounds, eggs and banana peels.

    My kids’ school has a gardening program and I think they did the work composting thing. I’ll reach out to friends who are more involved in that before going whole hog and agree to have worms in my apartment (or terrace).

  98. Atlanta – Hope your eldest is recovering well. That will definitely be a trip to remember!

  99. Atlanta — How’s your kid doing today? IIRC someone else here (maybe a few others) had an emergency appendectomy recently. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

  100. Atlanta, speedy recovery and hopefully you got some rest.

    Speaking of strong women, DD loved Wonder Woman and of course has found her next Halloween Costume.
    I thought of Mooshi’s DD and her love of weaponry when I saw the movie.

  101. Atlanta — I hope your DD recovers quickly! (And that you do, too — I imagine it has been a very stressful few days for you!) I’m actually a little paranoid that one of our kids could get appendicitis while we’re traveling overseas in a couple of weeks. It’s a disease that I never thought about at all until I got it last year; now I worry about it A LOT.

  102. Louse — Is Wonder Woman appropriate for a 10-year-old? I’m wondering if I should take my DD.

  103. NoB – I think so. There are a few grown up moments but they cut away quickly, and keep it suitable for younger audiences.

  104. Omg Atlanta so sorry!

    @NoB: my 11-yr-old loved it. There’s really nothing graphic or vulgar, although it is set in WWI, so there are war scenes.

  105. Thanks all, she’s recovering well and complaining she’s bored already. Just thankful I happened to call my pediatrician’s office when her stomach was still hurting the next day after a long day of vomiting. We went to the ER and the dr. thought it could be appendicitis but they only do ultrasounds between 9 and 5 so sent us home with some Zofran. She was feeling better the next day but her tummy still hurt and so I insisted we go back. So glad that I followed my gut on that one. Alls well that ends well and we are headed to the Cape later this a.m.

  106. I’m glad she’s feeling better. That ultrasound policy is so dumb! I understand why smaller hospitals have no techs, but medicine should be 24/7 in the ER. Two girls in our middle school had appendicitis this year.

    We saw a great movie called The Big Sick. It’s funny, but it’s a well written story.

    If you’re looking for a good book, Amazon Kindle first has a new novel for July. Mrs.Saint and the Defectives. Some of you may have read two other great books by the same author.

  107. “great books by the same author”

    I guess we can guess her answer to OP question #1.

  108. Tangentially related to appendicitis on vacation, the thing that impressed me recently when I read reviews of REI’s family trips in Thailand was the number of people commenting that their children had required medical attention during the trip. They all reported that the issue had been handled well, but still, it just seemed like an unlikely high proportion of kids had somehow been ill/injured.

    Finn, that golf cart chop shop is funny (to me). There are a few families around here who use them.

  109. “that golf cart chop shop is funny (to me). There are a few families around here who use them.”

    They use chop shops?

  110. Oh no Atlanta! Glad all is well.

    @ NoB, we loved Wonder Woman and I think it’s fine for a 10 year old.

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