Give and Thou Shall Receive

How The Rich Get Rich

When we were poor graduate students, Steve and I would walk through the West Village on the way back from visiting a friend who tended bar at a popular dive. At night, the brownstones would be all lit up and you could peep inside these million dollar homes. “Who lives here?”, we wondered. “Who can afford a million dollar apartment?” Then we swiped our metrocard and took the long subway ride to the affordable apartments in Northern Manhattan.

Actually, it wasn’t just the brownstones of the West Village that were unthinkable. It was pretty much most of Manhattan. The boxy, modern apartment buildings in Manhattan and the grand, turn of the century buildings by Columbia. The whole island with hundred of thousands of apartments was out of our range and continued to be untouchable, even after we found gainful employment.

Who lives in all those apartments? Who are the super-rich? Doctors and lawyers we can understand. Hedgefund managers, sure. We even know one guy who is living off a trust fund set up by an ancestor who made a fortune in the railroads in 1880′s. But where else does wealth come from?

The Style Section of the New York Times is my little glimpse into the world of the super-rich. Today’s Home Section features a couple who bought the $4 million Brooklyn brownstone from Jenna Lyons. Lyons is the creative director for J. Crew. This brownstone was already featured in tons of magazine articles. The article refers to a personal chef and decorators.

Who can afford a $4m apartment? I skimmed the article looking for clues.  The wife set up Mortuary Museum. OK, that’s the not source of their wealth. She wrote some YA novels. Well, maybe. Then finally at the end, they tell us. The husband was a founding member of Depeche Mode.

The Verdict on Prince George

article-2600284-1CF47D3B00000578-422_964x1117 The verdict on Prince George? Adorbs. Except for the black socks with shorts. But other than the black socks, he’s totally cute. I love those chubby legs.

From Memoir to Science

Last month, Ron Suskind had a gripping article in the New York Times Magazine about how he used his autistic son’s love of Disney movie to reach his boy. The article was an except from his new memoir about raising his son.

Today, the Times discusses how Suskind’s memoir is helping to spur new research and to create a new approach towards educated kids, primarily those with more severe needs.

It’s pretty cool how a parenting memoir can shift the scientific and educational research. Each family is its own laboratory, after all.

Data on Stay-at-Home Moms

The WSJ reports on a new study that found that the number of women who identify as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) has gone up from 23% in 1999 to 29% in 2012. Most of the SAHMs were married. Many were immigrants. And most of the newer SAHM were home, because of the economy. They didn’t have great work opportunities. The number of college-educated SAHMs has stayed constant at 20-21%.

I have problems with studies that look at the work habits of parents. The duality between working parent and SAHM is silly. Lots of parents fall somewhere in the grey area between those two categories.

I suppose I’m one of those 20% of college educated SAHMs. Though looking at my schedule today, I don’t feel like I fit the mold. I have a packed schedule until 8 tonight, which includes freelance writing and the usual special ed nonsense. Gotta figure out the summer camp situation.

My advice to women, who are mostly at home or have a flexible schedule, is to make a morning schedule with goals. Otherwise the day flies by. Your article is unfinished, your laundry is stinking in the corner, you spent an hour reading online gossip websites, and your bathroom is half painted. Not that my life is like that at all. Nope.

Meanwhile, Thinking Progress takes this research to another level. They concentrate on the poverty of SAHMs without a college degree.

The growing numbers of single stay-at-home mothers struggle even more. More than 70 percent live below the poverty level, or less than $20,000 for a family of three, compared to just a quarter of single working mothers. One in five receives welfare, compared to 4 percent of single working mothers. And less than half of these mothers say that they are home to take care of their families, while 14 percent can’t find work, more than a quarter are disabled, and 13 percent are in school. This represents a significant change from 1970, when more than three-quarters said they were at home to care for their families.


Home Renovations

Yes, I’m a hopeless home renovation addict. My latest project is fixing up the master bedroom and bath. I’m a little embarrassed to show pictures. For one, it’s a rather big bedroom. I think it’s larger than my old studio apartment in Manhattan. It’s smaller than any of the bedrooms on those house-hunting shows on HGTV, but big enough that I feel spoiled.

I also haven’t taken pictures, because the place is a disaster. Whoever did the addition back in the early 80′s cut a lot of corners. The moldings weren’t even properly nailed to the wall.  Instead of moving a window in the bathroom, he created a hallway. Who has a hallway in their bathroom? I do. He slapped on some incredibly tacky 80′s wallpaper on the drywall. Then built bookshelves on top of the wallpaper (try getting that off!) using unsanded wood (classy!). The ceiling is two different heights. Insane lighting system.

Everything is exactly the same as the day that we unpacked our boxes two years ago. No pictures on the wall. No new furniture. It’s a mess.

Sometime in the vague future, we’ll pay to have the bathroom and the bedroom make sense. In the meantime, I’m dealing with a doable project. Wallpaper removal and painting.

I’m off to IKEA to shop for a new medicine cabinet. Maybe there will be pictures and a reveal on Friday.

Clubs and Activities for Kids with High Functioning Autism

I’m tossing out a quick article this morning. Top Ten Ways to Include Autistic Kids into Public Schools or something like that. One idea is to have open up the computer lab for Minecraft, during school dances. Other ideas?

Misadventures with Homebirths

I have two home-birthing-gone-wrong stories this morning. Amy P sent me a story of a midwife who asked her Facebook friends for help DURING a birth. And a terrible story of a mother’s regret about homebirthing.

I had a horrific birthing story with my oldest. And it was in a hospital. If I was homebirthing him, we would both be dead.

I had no clue that I was going to face those difficulties. I come from hardy immigrant stock. The type who squatted in the field, popped out their fifteenth kid, and carried on with the day’s business. I didn’t even read the C-Section chapters of the birthing books. Be careful, people. Birthing is dangerous business.

Homebirthing is regulated in a number of states. In many states, midwives have to work within a couple of miles of a hospital. Hmmm. Maybe I should do a public policy piece on midwifery. My aunt is the former president of the American Midwife Association.


I guess about half of the people I follow on twitter are writers and editors for Vox, because my Twitter stream exploded last night as Ezra Klein’s new website launched.

Learning from Nate Silver’s hubris filled launch of 538, Klein tried to moderate expectations and explained that the website was ” a work in progress.”

I’m still studying the website, but my first impressions are moderately positive. They have some interesting article topics, like the challenges that low income students face in higher ed and the low crime rate in Colorado despite the availability of weed.

(It must have a lot of traffic this morning, because it’s moving incredibly slowly.)

One of the selling points for Vox is that they offer “explainers” on key political and public policy issues, like ObamaCare and the Ukraine. These explainers have some nice graphics going on, but they were a little low level for me. If I don’t know much about a topic, I usually read one or two New York Times articles and I’m good. But I might not be the demographic. Maybe younger people who find traditional media intimidating might like it.

If I teach Intro to Public Policy again, I could see using some of their info. I used to make my own PowerPoint slides that were very similar, so this would save me a step.

New York Magazine has a review. 

W.’s Art

The first images of the day were Miley Cyrus’s butt and W.’s portrait of Putin. THE HORROR.


Read Alexandra Petri’s analysis of W.’s art. 

I Need a Weed Print Outfit!


What is Miley wearing? Oh, it’s a weed print thingie! What does one call that outfit? A shirt? A butt-less jumpsuit?


Where Does the Money Go?

The Atlantic has a couple of interesting posts on spending habits of the top and bottom 1%. The huge jump in rent payments for the poor was surprising. The rich are spending tons on their children’s private schools.

Spreadin’ Love 591

It would be so much for to renovate an old department store.

It’s hard to be FLOTUS.

Is Siri screwing up our kids?

Should childless people pay more taxes than people with kids?

25 basics to wear this spring.

Ivy League Backlash

My reading habits are distressingly random these days. I’m not happy with feedly. Too many friends and favorite reads don’t have proper RSS feeds. I use twitter a lot for reading suggestions, but nine times out ten, the links lead to some stupid Buzzfeed article. My usual online magazines have been publishing crap lately. Ugh, what’s a compulsive online reader to do?

As a blogger, I like to skim through titles and look for common topics. What’s everybody bitching about today? What can I add to the dialogue? That’s a lot harder to do these day. I need to clean up my blogroll or something. Maybe later.

One common topic over the past couple of weeks has been some griping about Ivy League graduates. Frank Bruni and David Brooks were talking about that this week.

I came across a similar discussion in the education blogs this week.

Wendy Kopp of Teach for America and Diane Ravitch have been slowly and subtly fighting for months. Teach for America’s basic premise is that an untrained teacher with an Ivy League school is better than a trained teacher with a BA in education from a mediocre college. In other words, brains wins over education training.

Ravitch has been slowly simmering over this message. She is putting her eggs in the training basket and is making snide comments about Teach for America here and there.

I would love to see a drag out fight on this topic, but so far the comments have happened in a passive-aggressive, non-confrontational manner. I want a big debate about the merits of undergraduate education degrees. I also want a big debate about the merits of elite, private schools. Do they really produce better workers?

Spring Cleaning

Winter sucked this year. For about four or five months, our world has been a moonscape of ice. There are still mounds of dirty snow in the edges of the supermarket parking lot. Nasty, evil dirty snow. We hates it.

This was then.


This is now. Rose bush trimming…


And all sorts of chores. Because spring makes me happy, and when I’m happy, I put my husband to work steaming off wallpaper in the bathroom. Yay!


I’m covered in a fine powder of spackle at the moment. I’m getting quotes on a new roof and a small retaining wall, so there’s much business around here. Good business.