Update Wednesday

by Houston

Let’s invite everyone to share their updates on topics raised earlier this year. I raised the idea of re-doing certain areas in the house that needed focus. I was at a loss on how people budgeted for home improvements, and several people had great suggestions. Shout-out to Lark, who gave a specific example with a budget attached to her planned improvements. That was really helpful.

I budgeted $12,000 and improvements we have made include: new furniture for DS2’s room (transition from elementary school furniture to more grown up furniture), fixing door and window trim that had experienced rot from moisture seepage, some landscaping, and fixing the AC and roof.

I look forward to hearing about everyone else’s updates.

by Finn

Over the years, many of us have asked our fellow totebaggers for advice via thread hijacks and on open thread days for many subjects ranging from car selection to college selection to dealing with club politics.
 
Please share what advice you decided to take, and how that worked out.  Based on your experience, what would you recommend to other totebaggers in a similar situation? 

 

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99 thoughts on “Update Wednesday

  1. Because of information I learned here (specifically dollar cost averaging), I am moving a large chunk of money out of checking account (some bonus and house sale proceeds) into Betterment at a rate of 2% per week. As the market slides, it makes me feel pretty good about it.

  2. I’d love to hear an update of how things went for LfB’s DD and the robotics club.

  3. a large chunk of money out of checking account

    Just an update. I moved my cash from Capital One to Marcus. Every time interest rates increase I get an e-mail saying we’ve increased your rate. It’s now at 1.95%. I just checked Capital One and it’s still 1%.

  4. I was inspired by Houston’s comments on home projects and I’ve gotten as far as making a list and a budget. But I have a mental block about hiring anyone to do work on my house. PTSD from past experiences. My idea is to ask my neighbor, go to Home Advisor and maybe the other services, and maybe to check against recent neighborhood social media for recommendations. (I know. It seems like a lot of work for a what should be a simple selection process.)

    Houston and others, how did you select providers for your home maintenance/repairs/upgrades?

  5. Houston and others, how did you select providers for your home maintenance/repairs/upgrades?

    For the last couple of things we’ve done (not real big – some painting, a shower installation, etc) I’ve used people recommended on Nextdoor.

  6. July, I, too, find home improvements exhausting. I do not like having other people working in my house. I work from home, and find that I can get little work done when I have people working in my house. On top of that, there is dust, paint fumes, etc. That’s why I put it off for so long.

  7. Flooring update – we now have new flooring everywhere but in our bathrooms, but those had been replaced previously. I love my wood-look tile floors and my new hardwood stairs with wrought iron balusters.

    Next project – the kitchen. At first we thought we’d just replace the cabinet doors, then that moved to cabinets, and now, I am thinking that it will be more of a remodel. There are several “issues” and we can fix all of them at once. Other than some minor mods to our master bath to allow for better accessibility, unless there is some sort of damage, we should not need any major work for 10-15 years, which is likely as long as we will be in this house.

    Contractors – Inside work – we did a 3 bid process when we redid our master – first big project. We really liked the guy who did the work, so we have just kept using him. Upstairs bath and all the flooring. Plan to use him for the kitchen as well. He is not super fast, but he is a perfectionist and it looks great when he is done. Outside work – the group we had do the windows and siding – the siding is fine, the windows I wish we’d done differently, but its not BAD.

    Handyman type projects – These are a nightmare. People who do this seem to be very transient. We had a recommendation – the guy was great – next time we needed him, couldn’t be found. Used Angie’s List and recommendations for another set of small projects – project 1 – great job, project 2 – just above acceptable. We need a couple more of these and I am dreading trying to get them done.

  8. I have had good luck finding people to do small home jobs on Thumbtack. One thing I like about Thumbtack is that the people who bid on your job actually want to do your job — so no time wasted leaving messages for people who never call back. I try to hire people who have several good reviews posted on the site.

  9. @SSM: The short version is that I should have taken Meme’s advice from day 1 and encouraged DD to let it go. After the blow-up with the friend and the advisor’s decision to change to a single-president structure, DD decided to run for president herself (a decision that I was proud of her for making, but that ended up being wrong). Then right before the voting, the advisor changed who was allowed to vote, and Girl A won (by something like one vote). I then met with the advisor and a counselor, and we had a pretty direct discussion where the advisor learned a bit about Queen Bee behavior and bullying-through-silence and all that. He was very upset to realize how upset DD was and clearly had not connected the dots to see how much it looked like he kept changing the rules to benefit A.

    Since then, things seem to have calmed down a bit, but of course they’re just in the planning stages and not actually doing anything yet. A has now made up with B, the friend who was originally the one who was so angry with her, and is still giving DD the silent treatment — I think DD is finally learning the hard way that when you try to “fix” other people who don’t want to be fixed, you become the target. But DD is moving on with her life and working with her friends on her project, so she doesn’t seem stressed or unhappy or overtly targeted at this point, so I am just watching her and keeping an eye on the situation from afar. Luckily, A has already committed to a particular college, so DD just crossed that college off her list (it was a safety anyway) and is moving on with her life.

  10. One thing our neighbors did was to move out of their home while it was being redone. They basically gutted the interior and did their renovations all in one go vs. living in the house and trying to do things piecemeal. All our other neighbors have lived with the home improvement upheaval for months.

  11. We are in the final stretches of our remodel. I’ve discovered that our obscure shower window isn’t as obscure as I would like. I’m thinking I need to put window film over it. Anyone else have a window in the shower?

    As for the project…moving out of the house was the key to our happiness. I’m very pleased with the company we went with and it is running on schedule and on budget. No huge expensive surprises found, which is surprising when remodeling a 70 year old house.

  12. Oh, I will try Thumbtack. I have had the experience of leaving messages with several contractors but having none or only one respond. And I agree that handyman types tend to be very transient. I have my home projects in priority order with the idea of only doing A projects, but if I found a good contractor I would do A, B, and C.

  13. I work from home, and find that I can get little work done when I have people working in my house. On top of that, there is dust, paint fumes, etc.

    https://www.corporatehousing.com/tx/houston

    And for me the best part was moving into a place that was not only perfectly clean but also totally free of clutter. It was pure heaven.

  14. And speaking of DD, a conversation last night that I never would have predicted. Ever.

    DD: [coming downstairs as I walk through the door] I just threw up.
    Me: [some version of OMG]
    DD: And I’m really dizzy — I fell on the way to my car after school and scraped my leg.
    Me: [Repeated OMG and sympathy] Well, sounds like you’re not going to school tomorrow.
    DD: But I HAVE to go! We’re learning XYZ in English, and I need to know how to do that; we’re actually learning stuff in math; we have a debate in Econ; and we are doing a lab in science. And I have to go to speech & debate tonight, we need to prepare for the tournament.
    Me: Sorry. 24-hour rule. You’re not going to school and getting everyone else sick.
    [significant back-and-forth here; I refuse to budge]
    DD: Well, I guess that will give me more time to work on my college applications.

    She then spent the rest of the evening on the couch typing up the points she was going to make in the debate so she could email them to her teacher. !!! Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?

  15. Our school has a elective where they work as counselors at the outdoor school with the younger kids. It’s three overnight trips a semester, so they miss 6 days of school. DS is doing it. DD went to the info session and decided not to because she doesn’t want to miss that much class.

  16. Lemon Tree – My friend just bought a house and didn’t realize the window in house across the street from her kitchen window as the shower. A man lives there and the sill just covers his private bits and while he is a bit blurry, my friend can still tell when he brings his beer bottle into the shower. The “view” is much clearer at night when it is dark outside and the light is on in the bathroom. Based on this experience, I would suggest that you check out the view from outside both during the day and at night!

  17. On kids not talking on the phone anymore: DS was on the phone when he got home from work Friday night and stayed on for an hour and a half talking to a girl. Then he was on the phone with her for over two hours on Sunday afternoon. And then he got home from work last night and sat in his car talking to her for 15 minutes.

    But the really odd thing to me was that on Friday, he had her on speakerphone and was in an area of the house where we could easily overhear both sides of the conversation.

    DW asked him a bunch of questions about her, which he said was “making it weird.” According to DD, the girl is a freshman and told DD she would go out with him if he asks. As far as we know, he hasn’t asked yet.

  18. I don’t think I have any updates. But for those with kiddos in college, I’m always curious to know how their transition is going, if not their first year how the summer back at home was.

    L, I enjoyed your London report.

  19. I can’t read the article, does it mention anything about how many students are taking the test compared to previous years? The obvious thought is that if there are more people taking it, then scores will drop because the increase would be at the low end.

  20. All public school juniors take the ACT here, college bound or not, for what that’s worth.

  21. We are now trying to hire someone to do drainage work outside the foundation (french drain etc.). We got a quote from our regular landscaper and it is (1) very expensive and (2) he wants to take up a bunch of hedges, which DH is not excited about. So now I have to find a bunch more quotes :-P which is a PITA. Our nanny is now helping us with some of these home admin tasks, which is great, but she has to be reminded to do things and needs specific instructions.

    In more exciting news, L’Abbey is going to be used in a Netflix show! They are filming next week – I’ll give you a report when it is done. ;)

  22. L, that’s really cool! Years ago, a then-regular reported that her house had an agent (who would book the house for catalog shoots and the like). Maybe L’Abbey should get an agent, too!

  23. NoB – our nanny is doing it! They are paying her, too! (They pay you for the use of the house and then they are paying for a hotel for us!)

  24. We are now trying to hire someone to do drainage work outside the foundation (french drain etc.).

    Is the moat leaking into the dungeon again? It’s such a pain when that happens.

  25. Is the moat leaking into the dungeon again? It’s such a pain when that happens.

    Or worse, the wine cellar.

  26. LfB – thanks for the update. And I think there are things you can only learn the hard way unfortunately. Even though it kills me when my kids decide to go that route.

  27. L, be prepared for some possible dislike from your neighbors. There was a house in my parents neighborhood that was used in a movie shoot. Yes the homeowners got paid and some direct neighbors as well. However, the entire neighborhood was affected by needing passes and to show ID, taking different routes additional traffic noise, lights etc. This was a shoot that lasted several weeks with some major stars involved. Residents in the area dislike those neighbors now and hope that it never happens again

  28. “In the house where I grew up, the window in the shower was kind of wavy and translucent, not transparent.”

    I believe it’s called obscure glass, or privacy glass.

  29. My new basic model top loader (mostly dials, not big electronic panel) without agitator has been wonderful. The clothes get clean, they have so little water after the spin that the dryer works great again and does not need replacing (I lucked out in that Lowe’s was unable to deliver the one I ordered and got my money back), and I can wash twice as many items in one load, and I can toss the gentles into a laundry bag (not the mesh kind, but the woven kind) with the other stuff and pull out the items that can’t be dried. The key in the choice was not the lack of electronics, but a tub that is not so deep that this vertically challenged grandma can’t reach the bottom.

    I need to replace all the windows some year or another, and also to have new carpet laid in the upper half of the house. The windows are just a matter of getting around to it and setting aside the funds. There is no hurry. The carpet requires hiring some young folks to move all the furniture down stairs or to the attic and then move it all back. I am sort of waiting for DD to get her own place so that we can repurpose her area and use the strong backs hired by the hour to clear out the attic of junk and move around a lot of furniture permanently, or at least until we change our minds again. With the cats who are only going to get older, there is no point in laying a good floor and putting room sized rugs over it. And it might be time to get one of those split adjustable beds and put the queen sized family bed in the guest area.

  30. “Anyone else have a window in the shower?”

    All the houses I’ve lived in that had showers had windows in the rooms with the showers. The windows are typically high enough that privacy isn’t a concern, and the height also makes them effective for venting steam.

    We have one bathroom in which the shower isn’t next to an exterior wall, so we have a more normal height and size window near it, and privacy is an issue if we open that window (it has obscure glass).

  31. “I can wash twice as many items in one load”

    With the large capacity as well as the lack of an agitator, can you wash things like comforters and sleeping bags?

    That’s one of the things we like about our front loader. We couldn’t wash stuff like that in our old top loader with agitator.

  32. We have windows in our showers, but they are glass brick. Lets in light but you can’t see anything. (Yes, it is somewhat ugly, but it is really common on buildings around here.) I would rather have the glass bricks than no natural light, which is the other option given the configuration.

    In one apartment that I lived in years ago, the bathroom had a window that faced the L tracks at eye level. It was quite weird. This was also a place with horribly uncontrollable radiator heat & no A/C, so we did have the window open frequently.

  33. Yes, Finn. The lack of agitator and an extra gentle cycle also means I can wash a pieced quilt. It is not as big as the giant top loader without agitator or a front loader, but big enough for our needs.

  34. We don’t have windows in our bathrooms (and can’t cut them because it is a condo complex), but all three of them have exhaust vents that go on with the light switch, and in the two with showers they stay on awhile after the light is turned off.

  35. OT, I recently asked for refrigerator advice because our icemaker had stopped working.

    A week or so after that, the icemaker started working again. I have no idea what happened, but we stopped looking at refrigerators, at least for the time being.

  36. “Houston and others, how did you select providers for your home maintenance/repairs/upgrades?”

    The difficulty of this process is one reason I prefer to do a lot of that stuff myself.

    For some stuff, we’ve gone through the Home Depot. E.g., when we redid our bathrooms, we got the counters through HD, and thus used the countertop contractor that HD had selected. We figured if there was a problem, we could go to HD for resolution, and our experience with HD suggests they would take action we’d find satisfactory.

  37. The travel talk reminded me that I never finished the report of our travels last summer. So I posted another installment to the travel page, and will copy it here. I’d better not wait so long before the next one or I’ll never finish!

    Three months later, finally continuing the trip report — still in France:

    From Vezelay we headed south through Burgundy toward the Alps and Lake Annecy. We stopped in Beaune — pretty town, the famous hostel was nice, I wish we’d had more time and fewer kids so we could have hit up some of the many wine tasting rooms — and then continued on to Doussard, a village on the south side of Lake Annecy. We were in a rental there, a big old traditional house that was pleasant to hang out in. It’s a big vacation area for French and other European families, so even being a little early in the season there were all kinds of things to do, rental bicycles, a little beach and boat rentals, the ferry that goes around the lake so you can explore Annecy the city or the other little villages, and for the adventurous parachuting off the cliffs, canyoning, and so on. The mountains surrounding the town also have stuff like an alpine coaster or waterfall and canyon hiking. Since we had only one full day in the village we obviously weren’t able to do all of that — some of us biked in the morning and then rain closed in that afternoon foiling the plans of those who had wanted to bike but assumed there’d be a later opportunity. We also had raclette at a chalet up on the cliffs overlooking the lake, which is pretty much what you picture doing in the Alps.

    Leaving there we headed first for Chamonix, with the intention of taking either the little train up to the glacier and ice cave, or the cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi, but we found that Chamonix was closed in with fog so things didn’t appear to be running. That ended up kinda frustrating because after a long drive on twisty mountain roads the town itself was confusing to drive in — lots of one ways and very little in the way of parking or even places to pull over briefly — so we also were running later than planned. So we ended up just heading toward CERN, stopping at a cool mountain fort (Fort L’Ecluse) to have a picnic lunch on the way. It was basically on a cliffside overlooking the Rhone far below and appeared extremely defensible.

    The CERN tour and exhibit was fun but we weren’t wild about what we saw of Geneva (which was the outskirts and the airport). There seemed to be a lot of focus on making sure you get your wallet out at every turn. However we did have a nice dinner at the little “chalet” in the airport — more melted cheese and meat and potatoes! We were flying from Geneva to Bristol on one of those European budget airlines, EasyJet, which worked out to about $60 each with the addition of a pre-paid checked bag for each of us. That was far and away the best way to get us between those two areas, but the downside was that there was one flight a day and it didn’t get us to Bristol till after 10 UK time. Which left us feeling pressed for time to get to our hotel in case we ran into any hiccups — to be continued!

  38. Just lined up a few more projects with my handyman. Need to increase my home improvement budget! All of these things have been piling up for years.

    Lark, something you mentioned really made an impact on me–you said you were glad about how your family kept up your house and how your neighbors had let their houses age by not doing regular repairs.

  39. Lark, something you mentioned really made an impact on me–you said you were glad about how your family kept up your house and how your neighbors had let their houses age by not doing regular repairs.

    It’s hard though! Both $$-wise and as July notes, finding the right help. We found our contractor through word of month. We did a small bathroom project with him first and he did an outstanding job, so now we use him for everything without even bidding it out. He does big projects for us, and he’ll do smaller, more handy-man style projects. I am very, very appreciative that we found him.

    We are currently updating the 2nd bathroom at the beach – master bath was done in the spring. That contractor we found via Nextdoor, and he’s been great as well. We are very lucky.

    Next project is replacing our back patio. Right now it’s just a slab with tons of cracks, loose bricks, and not large enough for a grill and patio furniture. It’s a mess. We are going to replace it with a larger deck, half screened in.

  40. @ Rhett – I am glad you said that about your bank. I keep all of our savings accounts at Capital One right now, and am super annoyed with the low interest rates. I will look into switching.

    (Although with all my house projects and travel planning, there’s about $2.00 in those accounts at the moment. Still.)

  41. Lark,

    So far I have nothing but good things to say.

    https://www.marcus.com/us/en

    I got my friend to switch and he had to call them for some reason. He got a kick out of them reminding him several times on the call that you can only put a maximum of $1 million in the account.

  42. Lark asked about lie flat seats to Spain. In the end, considering the length of the flight, cost in points and the deal we got, the best option was to book Iberia’s new premium economy for cash and bid to upgrade.

  43. Houston, what was the nature and extent of your roof repair?

    When I first read your post, I was a bit surprised, thinking back on how re-roofing our house cost well over $12k, but then I realized the scope of your repair may well have been much less than a total re-roof.

  44. Houston, has it been difficult finding available contractors and handypersons in the wake of Harvey?

  45. Finn: Just patching for the roof. We also replace 2 rows of shingles that had warped. We were lucky. We just found out that we need to replace an AC unit for ~$10K. Not so lucky. I have decided that the AC unit falls outside my home improvement budget. Just because.

    Yes, we knew better than to start a project right after Harvey. We are now a year after Harvey and it’s not difficult to find contractors/handy persons.

  46. So I sent a somewhat harsh email to the principal about the lack of communication about the PSAT registration. He apologized for not notifying parents at all. Then he explained that since they have to order the tests in May, they only order 45 “in an attempt to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars”, and in previous years have often had difficulty getting those spots filled, to the point where they contacted other schools to see if they had any students who wanted to take it. However, the last couple of years they have had an increase in interest in it, and this year the spots were taken in the first 2 or 3 days after opening registration. He also provided a list of schools that are giving it next week, there are five. (Interestingly two Catholic schools, two Jewish schools, and a charter school.) He also downplayed the scholarship aspect of the test, saying the each of the last three years they only had one student qualify for a NM scholarship, and that most students are taking it just for the practice.

  47. @ Rhett – so if you don’t get seats for the whole family, who gets the lie-flat one?

    All the upgrades on a reservation have to clear at the same time. So we are together no matter what.

  48. Does anyone really think that if they could only get one upgrade that Rhett wouldn’t take it for himself?

  49. “He also downplayed the scholarship aspect of the test,”
    The actual NMS is $2500 over 4 years, and then individual schools decide if they give recipients more. Clemson doesn’t supplement; USC gives $40,000 over 4 years. So a very big difference depending on where a student decides to go. I didn’t really understand this until it played out, in spite of the world class NMS tutorial I’ve had here. Fortunately it didn’t matter for us. DS loves college and we’re happy he’s happy.

    On the update/advice taken subject, when we did the haiku thread, I mentioned downsizing, and Fred’s responding haiku was to the effect of you still want your sons to come home and you need somewhere to put them. That made sense to me, and when DH resisted downsizing, I let it go. We’re planning to build in civilization, convenient to the interstate (instead of an hour from, hence my handle), and not much smaller than we have now. Oh, and I’d never heard of Boden but after a clothing discussion 6 months ago, I bought a dress for DS’s rehearsal dinner from the website. Thanks, Totebag!

  50. UTL, thanks. We have told the neighbors (we only have then on one side) and it is only one day of shooting, luckily. The town has been good about having the film crew here for the past month or so – it has never happened before but there is a new filming studio 2 towns over so they have ‘discovered’ the picturesque locations here!

  51. “I can’t read the article, does it mention anything about how many students are taking the test compared to previous years? The obvious thought is that if there are more people taking it, then scores will drop because the increase would be at the low end.”

    Fewer students took the ACT test than last year, but the overall trend of percentage of test takers has been rising.

    “ He also downplayed the scholarship aspect of the test, saying the each of the last three years they only had one student qualify for a NM scholarship, and that most students are taking it just for the practice.”

    Well he does have a point as since only 1% or so of test takers qualifies for NMSF. Still, he should not be discouraging participation and you were right to call him out on poor communication. Many educators downplay these tests and prefer to measure student achievement in more holistic terms.

  52. Harvard unfairly prefers the wealthy and well-connected…“Once again you have done wonders. I am simply thrilled about the folks you were able to admit,” Ellwood wrote in the email. “[Redacted] and [redacted] are all big wins. [Redacted] has already committed to a building.”.

    How is that unfair? One of the main reasons to go is to make connections and learn from the rich and powerful.

    https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/10/18/day-three-harvard-admissions-trial/

  53. Does anyone really think that if they could only get one upgrade that Rhett wouldn’t take it for himself?

    I would totally expect Rhett to give it to his wife! But that’s interesting that it’s all or nothing.

  54. HFN – I’m glad I could help. I hate to admit I don’t remember the haiku which is too bad because it obviously was some of my best writing ever!

  55. @ HFN – I have a question about Clemson honors program. Is it like a school within a school, where class sizes are smaller?

  56. But that’s interesting that it’s all or nothing.

    That’s how regular upgrades work as well. If I’m traveling back home and I’m third on the upgrade list as a Platinum Pro and a guy who is Executive Platinum is traveling with his wife and there is only one seat open in first class, I’ll get the seat because his upgrade won’t clear unless there are seats for both.

  57. “He also downplayed the scholarship aspect of the test, saying the each of the last three years they only had one student qualify for a NM scholarship”

    The tyranny of low expectations, eh? What a disservice to those kids who actually have a chance at that — it’s not just the scholarship itself, it’s the amount of other money that status can bring with it. E.g., IMD(tm) Williams did not give NMS, but they absolutely matched the scholarships and grants offered by my ultimate alma mater. And that was long before so many public universities started offering overt scholarships and honors programs to target those kids.

  58. Well he does have a point as since only 1% or so of test takers qualifies for NMSF.

    The tyranny of low expectations, eh?

    I think he was just trying to downplay the importance of the test and indirectly say it’s not a big deal that DS didn’t get to take it. I’m sure he didn’t want to say it directly because I was very clear about how important I think it is.

  59. We flew “premium select” on Delta to Iceland, because they don’t offer a true business class seat on that flight. I hated it, primarily because of no leg rests (although Delta’s website shows pictures of a leg rest – it doesn’t actually exist). The seats were bigger, like a domestic first class, but for an overnight flight it was incredibly uncomfortable. If this leg rest had actually existed, it would have been much better.

  60. How is that unfair? One of the main reasons to go is to make connections and learn from the rich and powerful.

    If you are going to claim that admissions are merit-based, then admitting “well-connected” applicants over more qualified ones is clearly unfair. But I really don’t know how much Harvard tries to claim that their admissions are merit-based.

  61. Lark, that’s right. DS’s honors classes have fewer than 20 students in each and they have really helped him connect. Actually, for both USC’s honors college and clemson’s, we found them to be pretty much as advertised.

  62. Our school switched the PSAT date from the traditional Wednesday in school to the alternate Saturday. That caused a huge problem for my kid since he had a course country meet and there is a pretty strict policy about not missing meets. I have heard that virtually all schools in Westchester use the Wednesday date – we may be the only district to have switched to Saturday. They are doing it to lessen the chance of losing vacation days to snow, but I am pissed because I also heard it really depressed the numbers of kids taking the test. As we found out, the test can bring in lots of money. It isn’t just the NMF status – there is a lower, Commended status that also gets reported to the colleges and can also help kids pick up merit aid. Last year, we had 6 Commended, but no NMSFs.
    I also want to whine a little. At the end of year awards ceremony, the school trots out every senior who ever got $100 in scholarship money from any external organization whatsoever – but they do not mention the NMF kids. Last year, the two NMF seniors were kids (including mine) who tended to not get a lot of awards in those ceremonies, so a little recognition along with all the kids who got $500 from the Association of Romanian-American Bagpipers would have been nice.
    Sorry, being entitled there. Since we ended up paying nothing for college this year, we really were the lucky ones.

  63. we are flying delta premium select to Hawaii. The seat in the pic is the one from the long haul planes. It s a daytime flight out, with a night in the hotel and a travel night on tge ship to catch up before the first port tour, so no need for beds, and an overnight back, but i did not decide to spring for the business class beds on the way home since we can just collapse for a couple of days. Sitting up on Boston direct to western europe is no big deal for me after all those years of Asia runs. All i care about is no middle seat between us.

  64. Mooshi, this is a safe place to whine about the lack of recognition of your NMF son. Maybe you should mention this to the school district as an oversight they will want to correct in future years.

  65. Happy 2018, everyone! I guess an update post is a good spot to try and jump back in. The last time I was on here, I was probably either contemplating quitting or had just quit my job – honestly, I’m not even sure what I wrote. Anyway, I have been officially unemployed for a little over a year now. As you’d expect, lots of factors went into that decision. I am loving it, and I still think it was the best choice, but I do miss the income. Looking into temp job options, for which I will be way overqualified, but maybe I can sneak in somewhere. I hope everyone has been doing well, and I will try to check in more frequently!

  66. Also, on the update front – I got a lot of excellent advice on this board while my oldest was in the college search. I used quite a bit of it – when to take the SATs, how to choose early action schools, etc – and it paid off.

  67. My oldest is really liking his college experience so far. He is in the orchestra and has joined the art club. Best of all, they have a huge computer science club – so huge that it is broken down into subgroups that concentrate on particular areas of interest. They also go to lots of hackathons. He is pretty involved in that already. He seems to have done well on his first round of midterms. He aced the physics midterm, which was evidently hard because he said a lot of kids failed. This is the second semester of calculus-based physics. He jokes that he is learning more calculus in this course than he ever did in calculus.
    Just hope he can keep getting his weekly assignments and papers handed in. It is that stuff that tends to be his doom

  68. I’m glad to hear about MM son!

    “At the end of year awards ceremony, the school trots out every senior who ever got $100 in scholarship money from any external organization whatsoever – but they do not mention the NMF kids. “

    They still do that? Plus they used to bring up any kid on any sports team to honor them. Yay for them. But nary a peep about NMF kids. I’m not surprised because the principal told us that a “few hours taking a test on a Saturday morning” is mostly meaningless compared to everything else that students do. Oh, since I’m ranting I will also mention that I raise an eyebrow at all those “effort” awards that they call up to the stage. It’s as if they wanted to make sure everyone gets an award, except for NMFs of course.

  69. MM, that is a worthy whine. Our school district parades those NMF kids right in front of the school board and public at BOE meetings so that all who attend can see the student and hear about their fantastic achievement. Along with that comes the write up in the BOE meeting notes that are emailed to every parent in the school system.

    But I do not think they got recognition at awards night. I will mention that to the principal.

  70. MM/Swim – I agree with you.

    It’s just like driving into pretty much any small town and seeing a sign proclaiming:

    Welcome to Anytown, Home of the HS State Champs!
    Football: 1967, 1978, 1991, 2005
    Basketball: 2012
    Baseball: 1994, 1995
    Cheer: 2017

    (But never anything like)
    Producers of 23 National Merit Scholarship Finalists!

  71. Mooshi, our district is PSAT on Saturdays. They only tried a Wednesday for one year.

    The NMSF and Finalists are announced in an email from the district. It is published every Friday and it’s for recognizing success in any school.

    The NMSF names are read at Senior Award night in June. You should ask the Principal or guidance counselor if this can be added to your award night program

  72. “(But never anything like)
    Producers of 23 National Merit Scholarship Finalists!”

    I guess that’s one thing our school does well that I never thought of: every year, the sign outside the school lists the names of the NMS recipients (or says “congrats to our XX National Merit finalists” or whatever if there isn’t enough room for the names).

    Then again, our sports teams usually aren’t much to brag about, so maybe there just isn’t that much competition. ;-)

  73. Kids school had NMSF featured prominently. There was a write up about what NMS means and a biography of the recipients. The Commended students names were also mentioned.
    Of course I knew all this from the Totebag !
    I would have not known the significance or as HFN mentions the recognition some colleges give to the award.

  74. “The actual NMS is $2500 over 4 years, and then individual schools decide if they give recipients more. Clemson doesn’t supplement; USC gives $40,000 over 4 years.”

    Keep in mind, there is more than one USC that gives out generous merit aid to NMF. I’m guessing HFN was thinking of the Gamecocks (and Lady Gamecocks), not the Trojans. USC.edu gets you to USC of the Trojans; the Gamecocks are at sc.edu.

    The USC of the Trojans is apparently even more generous; their standard award for NMF is half tuition, which at current rates would be well over $100k over 4 years. Per my kids’ college counselor, it is the highest academically ranked school that gives noncompetitive aid to NMF (although NMF status does not guarantee admission).

    More generally, apparently the $2500 NMS award goes to kids who don’t get other NMS. E.g., the kids who go to USC get their NMS from USC, but don’t get the $2500 from NMSC. At least that’s what I’ve seen locally.

  75. My kids’ school has its sophomores and juniors take the PSAT on Saturdays whenever that’s possible (IIRC, DS had to take it on a school day one year because the College Board didn’t have a Saturday test date that year). I remember taking it on a Saturday also.

    The school symphony had a concert the night before the test, so they held it half an hour earlier than usual because of that.

  76. “I think he was just trying to downplay the importance of the test and indirectly say it’s not a big deal that DS didn’t get to take it.”

    Does he know your DS well? It sounds like he’s saying your kid doesn’t have a shot at NMSF.

  77. When my son won that statewide game design compeition a couple of years ago they put the plaque up in the glass case near the office with all the sports championships — he was pretty pleased about that since normally his strengths are not the sort that got recognition.

  78. My kids’ school puts a picture of the NMSF on its website, but I can’t recall them ever recognizing the commended students. FTM, I don’t recall them ever recognizing the US Presidential Scholar nominees, which is a more select group than NMSF.

    BTW, I learned about the US Presidential Scholar program here.

  79. My colleague’s daughter received a National Hispanic Scholars award. I told him about taking the PSAT when she was a sophomore so she’d be ready as a junior to take the test “for real”. I hadn’t asked how she did, assuming it’s none of my business, but he told me today that she received the award. (She’s a senior this fall.)

  80. Keep in mind, there is more than one USC that gives out generous merit aid to NMF. I’m guessing HFN was thinking of the Gamecocks (and Lady Gamecocks), not the Trojans. USC.edu gets you to USC of the Trojans; the Gamecocks are at sc.edu.

    I’ve never heard South Carolina referred to as USC. USC is always the Trojans (watch anything having to do with college football and you’ll see), so I assumed that’s who HFN was talking about. Obviously I don’t live in the area so that makes a difference. Just like when I hear UNC, I think of Northern Colorado, not North Carolina.

  81. “Just like when I hear UNC, I think of Northern Colorado, not North Carolina.”

    And when I heard a totebagger’s kid was going to UH, I offered myself as a resource to that kid.

    “watch anything having to do with college football and you’ll see”

    The college football media, and sports media in general, often refer to colleges in ways that locals, and the colleges’ own students and staff, don’t. E.g., locals here, including students and staff, usually refer to flagship U as UH; I can’t recall ever hearing national sports media doing that.

    So I can totally see HFN referring to USC (Gamecocks/Lady Gamecocks) as USC even if you never hear that on college football broadcasts.

    But the big hint that she wasn’t referring to Troy was the NMS award amount.

  82. So I can totally see HFN referring to USC (Gamecocks/Lady Gamecocks) as USC even if you never hear that on college football broadcasts.

    As I said, I can too, once it was brought to my attention.

    The abbreviation that drives me crazy is NW for Northwestern. It’s one word. The correct abbreviation is NU. It’s like abbreviating Michigan at MG.

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