Occupational Testing

I was trying to make room in the filing cabinet, and I found a folder labeled School. In that folder were some test results I had no idea I’d kept. Back in college, I changed my major about six times the first year, and finally at the suggestion of my sixth advisor went to the Career Center to do some vocational testing. Here is the result of a test that is apparently called the Strong Interest Inventory of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. It is supposed to determine which of the six vocational types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) a person is interested in.


NONE strong interests! That seems about right.

There’s a second page that divides occupations into lists, sorting them by how similar I am to people in those occupations. I have no matches in the “very similar” category. In the “similar” category, I have six occupations: photographer, lawyer, librarian, broadcaster, public administrator, banker.

In the “moderately similar” category, I have eight occupations: advertising executive, reporter, elected public official, store manager, public relations director, social science teacher, Chamber of Commerce executive, and marketer.

In the “very dissimilar” category are ALL THE REST OF THE OCCUPATIONS. A lonnnnnnnng list. It includes all the medical professions, most of the teaching professions, all of the science and engineering professions, and also things such as forester, carpenter, mathematician, and police officer. Nopes all around.

While all of this is a little discouraging, not to mention not very helpful, there is a sense in which it is comforting to see that I have been the same all along: low interest in pretty much everything, no feeling of having various possible paths to contented employment. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t feel like I was wasting decades of career growth by having a lot of kids: I didn’t have anything I particularly wanted to do anyway.

But it makes it hard to figure out what to do as the kids get older. Surely I will not still be sitting in the house without a job after the last kid is gone? And yet, my job experiences so far are not giving me much hope. Well! Still many more occupations to attempt!

What Was Your Major, and What Job Did it Lead To?

On the How Did You Choose Your College? post, Missy asked if there could be another post where people say what their major was and what job(s) they got with that. She says: “Part of the reason I think it is so hard for kids to pick majors is ‘what kind of job would that be’?”

I agree. One of Rob’s potential majors is theoretical math. Not applied math: theoretical. And definitely my question there is what kind of JOB would that be?

Also, I think it’s so interesting to see how there can be a huge gap between major and job: sometimes they are (or seem) almost completely unconnected.

So let’s talk about that today, in whatever way applies to you. For example, maybe you can say, “This was my major, and here are some of the jobs associated with that major.” Or maybe you can say, “This was my major, but this is where I ended up, because etc.” Or maybe you can say, “This was my major, and there are NO JOBS, so I went back for schooling in this other thing.” Or maybe you will want to tell what happened with someone else. Just, whatever you think applies to this discussion.

Here is what I would rather not see, if we can avoid it: fighting about whether it’s better to go with a major that is attached to a definite employment path, or whether it’s better to follow one’s heart/interests regardless of future employment possibilities. It seems clear to me that the answer to that dilemma is “Sometimes one way is better, sometimes the other way is better, and it’s super-hard to figure out in advance which way is best for an individual person and their individual interests/life.” I’d rather stick, if possible, to stories about “This major —-> this job.”


Things are not good right now, are they. I think I’m going with links.

1. The ACLU has a good article on the right to peacefully protest, but the format is annoying because you have to keep clicking to get to the next item on the list. Still, it is a good list, if you are wondering about what is allowed and what is not, maybe because you are planning to participate in a protest, or maybe because people in your Facebook feed are acting as if it’s illegal to do so, or maybe because people in your Facebook feed are acting as if protesters don’t have to follow any rules at all. (Perhaps you are extra-lucky and you have BOTH kinds of people in your Facebook feed, fighting each other as you try not to let it make you want to start digging a hole for the bomb shelter.) Know Your Rights for Peaceful Protests. Here is a PDF version that doesn’t make you click to get to the next item: PDF Know Your Rights.

2. Sometimes it is hard to know where to send money to be HELPFUL: should the money go for legal support, or for education, or for the families of people affected? Should I send money to put out current fires, or would the money be better spent on preventing future fires? I can easily end up spinning my wheels and doing nothing. When I am overwhelmed by choices but want to do SOMETHING, I like to send a check to Plan International. They’re a non-religious charity that works on the very basics of making the world better: water, food, medical care, shelter, and not getting sold into slavery.

3. Or, here is a list of charities in the Human & Civil Rights category that Charity Navigator rates 4 stars (the highest rating). But I feel a little overwhelmed even with a pared-down list like that. Too many choices. On the other hand, I find it soothing to see how many people are working on making things better.

4. This Craig Ferguson quote:
“…Ask yourself the three questions you must always ask yourself before you say anything:
1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me now?”

How Did You Choose Your College?

I can’t adequately express how helpful and calming your comments on the financial aid post were. Even just hearing over and over again, “Yes, probably that income cut-off is a firm one, crazy as that sounds” was mind-settling/clarifying, but then there were so many other useful suggestions and comments and anecdotes. Paul is driving me crazy by referring to my information-gathering stage as “panicking,” and wants to ignore the topic altogether, so I am very glad to have other people to discuss it with.

I’ve been noticing that as we try to find a college for Rob, I am intensely interested in stories about how other people found their colleges. It’s like when I was at the end of my first pregnancy, and all I wanted to hear was stories about how people went into labor, how they knew it was Real Labor, and how the birth went. And so I wondered if you would indulge me by telling me such college-search stories. If you went to college, how did you narrow down the VAST number of possibilities? How did you know when you’d found the right one? Was there a CLICK, or was it more like “Yeah, good enough, this’ll do”? Or, if you have kids who have gone off to college, how did you/they find THEIRS? Please do not edit for length: I will read EVERY WORD, leaning closer to the screen and blinking insufficiently often.

Questions and Frettings about College Financial Aid

We have been touring some colleges with Rob; we’ve been bringing William along, which is one of the advantages of being born second to parents who tend to procrastinate about new things.

So far, Paul has done two of the tours and I have done one. So far, Paul is better at this than I am: he doesn’t panic about driving to new places, he doesn’t panic about what the parking situation will be, he doesn’t panic about maybe being late. But I did okay the one time I did it. Oh, what did ROB think? I have no idea. So far Rob has been driving me crazy by being shruggy about everything. One of the most famous colleges of all time and you would be lottery-winner-style lucky to get to go here? It’s okay, he guesses.

I am also thrown by this because in many ways Rob and I have similar temperaments, but on this topic we are OPPOSITES. By 8th grade I had chosen my college. It was a MISTAKE, I now believe, and I wish I hadn’t been under the impression at the time that all secular colleges were roiling pits of drugs and sex and alcohol and partying—but I was INVOLVED and INTERESTED, is I guess what I’m trying to communicate. I did college-search programs. I looked up the results in a book. I compared the merits of one to the merits of another. I made sure each one was the PROTESTANT kind of Christian and not, say, Catholic. …Okay, in retrospect there were some downsides to my searching methods, and perhaps being a little shruggy is not the worst thing someone can do for their educational prospects.

Anyway, I have some financial questions. We toured one college that said that tuition was free if the family made less than $XX,000 per year. Let’s say the family makes about $3,000/year more than that, and it’s because one of the parents recently acquired a part-time job. Should that parent quit her job? Or does the college then say, “Yesssssss, you do make under that amount, but one of you could be working so…”? Or is it like, it’s free if you make less than $XX,000, but it’s not generally a firm cut-off, and making $3,000/year more doesn’t mean they expect you to pay $56,000/year more in tuition, but instead would expect you to pay $3,000/year more in tuition? I know you’re not going to know the specifics of the specific college, especially if I am not telling you the specific college, but this is okay because I’m not actually asking about only this college and am wondering more about IN GENERAL what people have found about college financing situations such as this one.

Secondly, this same college said the free-tuition dealio was for families with “average assets.” This made me start thinking about our assets. I think we have more assets than some people: we are aware we have five children, and so we have been socking away for college. Also, I had a small amount of money of my own, and I invested it in Apple when Apple was $20/share. But…we’d like to divide those assets among the five children, not send the first one to college with almost no loans and have nothing left for the other four. Does a college understand that? Or are my fears correct that they expect you to drain the accounts before they’ll consider anything financial-aid-related? I mean, that would kind of be fair: what if none of our other kids even WENT to college? But it seems like poor planning.

Also, I would like to vent some general crabbiness. We are living in a small house, which we bought taking into account just one income. The kitchen is from 1960, and it wasn’t a good design then either; we have duct-taped some modifications into place, including using an old changing table as a countertop. We don’t have a garage. We have furniture with stuffing coming out of it. We only just replaced the mattresses the two older kids were sleeping on, which were my brother’s when he was a child. Each year we sent our tax refunds off to the mortgage. We don’t go on expensive vacations. We are doing all these things because we want to be better able to afford things like braces and college. I am feeling crabby because although I could be completely wrong about this, it seems to me that if we’d bought more house than we could afford, and had the kitchen remodeled, and added a garage, and bought new furniture every time the old stuff got shabby, and spent our tax refunds on vacations and a hot tub, and went out to dinner every week, we would qualify for a lot more financial aid. I’m feeling as if we’re going to get punished for all these years of me pining for my friends’ houses/kitchens/garages/meals/vacations, while they qualify for all the need-based scholarships.

I don’t see how it can be any other way (do I really want colleges to demand itemized spending records and a household inventory?), and I don’t want to live a way I consider unwise for our circumstances just to get need-based scholarships for the kids, but I am feeling theoretically cranky about the theoretical possibility of it. I guess I like to picture us as the cut-off: that any financial aid we don’t get would go to the people under us, who can’t afford the mortgage on a small house with a shabby kitchen, who have to spend their tax refund on their car insurance and medical expenses, etc. And not to the people I consider above us, with their island vacations and beautiful large houses and dinners out. It feels wrong to even think this way, because in theory I am an “everyone spends their own money in their own way” person—but when I picture the theoretical outcome in this case (someone else gets the vacation, the large house, the dinners out AND the financial aid, while we have none of those things AND no financial aid), I get theoretically upset.

Gift Ideas for an 11-Year-Old Boy

I did Elizabeth’s gift post, so now it’s time for Edward’s. Edward wanted mostly things from the category of “A Teenaged Boy on YouTube Said It Was Awesome.” We started with a Kaos Tie-Not water-balloon pump:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The big selling point is that it helps you tie the balloons so you do not have to ask your poor mother to keep doing it. Because he had gone back and forth between the portability of the pump system and the no-refilling-needed of the hose system, I also got him the hose-attached version, so he could compare. Plus a 500-balloon refill pack. (The balloons claim to be biodegradable, but I don’t know what kind of timeline they mean. Like…in a “just go ahead and leave those scraps in the grass” kind of way? Or more like in a “if the world’s history is a clock, mankind has only been here for 2 minutes of the last 12 hours” kind of way?)


Next cool item from a YouTube video: water beads.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

These are pretty cool, but it’s funny to me that they’re also vase fillers. Teenaged boys and vase fillers do not seem like a natural pairing. Anyway, you put a SMALL NUMBER of these tiny hard plastic beads into a large bowl of water (or a vase), and they expand considerably and become all soft and squooshy. You can theoretically then let them dry out and watch them shrink back to tiny beads.


Next, a video game teenaged boys recorded themselves playing, and then posted those recordings on YouTube where my children for some reason enjoy watching them:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

New Super Mario Bros for the Wii.


I do not understand Pokemon; when a child wants something Pokemon, I write down EXACTLY what they tell me and then I see if the price is a price I am willing to pay. Edward wanted something called an ies Aurorus-EX Box Pokemon Card Game:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


I bought this impulsively when it was on sale at Target:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

ThinkFun Code Master game. ThinkFun is a brand I trust; the box design is supposed to bring Minecraft to mind and Edward loves Minecraft; and it’s about programming/logic and Edward likes programming/logic.


The Lincoln Penny Portrait kit was one of the things he wanted most, and my parents got it for him:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

They also gave him the eighteen rolls of pennies he would need to complete the poster. I bought even more rolls to have on hand in case the rolls don’t have the right proportions of dark/shiny pennies in them.


He also wanted Trapdoor Checkers, but the price was too high at the time I was shopping, so I’m saving the idea for later:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


And also I found this game that is like a combination of his interest in checkers and his interest in coins:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

American Coin Treasures Lincoln Coin Checkers set. But $30 seemed too high for a gift that was a total guess, so I put it in my Amazon cart so I’d remember to ask him about it near Christmas time.

Fabric with Potential; Prizes for Everyone; Disorienting

This item makes me wish I were more of a think-outside-the-box person:


It is a piece of hemmed cotton fabric, with a button on one end and a buttonhole on the other. A non-zero amount of work went into this item, considering it was only used to wrap around a pile of four napkins I bought on clearance for $2.98 at Target. It seems as if it could be USED for something, rather than tossed in the trash after I harvest the button.

Elizabeth tried to use it as a cat collar, with comic results.

Speaking of Elizabeth, she went to a day camp this past week and had a great time. On the last day, there was a performance/show/demonstration-type thing for parents, and the camp director got a cool high school girl to be the judge of the competitive part. Elizabeth was PISSED that at the end of the judging, everyone got the same ribbon, with the judge declaring herself unable to pick among so many wonderful competitors.

I was explaining to Pissed Elizabeth on the way home that although I too dislike the “Everyone’s a winner!” kind of thing, in this case it would have been tough to do otherwise: some kids were in their sixth year at this camp, while others were in their first; some kids were going into 8th grade and others into 2nd; etc. We talked about it for awhile, Elizabeth mostly seeing it from the campers’ point of view and me mostly seeing it from the camp director’s point of view. We agreed on the idea of doing a variety of prizes that let everyone get a ribbon (which appeared to be the goal) while still letting kids feel as if the prizes were real. Things like “Best costume,” “Most poised,” “Funniest.” You wouldn’t even need to come up with the categories ahead of time: the judge could think about each child’s performance and pick what was the best part of it and make the ribbon for that. This would be hard with a really big group, but in this case there were only six kids.

This week it’s Edward and Henry’s turn for day camp. Normally this camp is hosted by our town’s elementary school, but this year our school couldn’t do it, so we had to join with the next town over. At drop-off, I was reminded how much I dislike new/unfamiliar things. At our elementary school, I know exactly how to get there, exactly where to park, exactly where else to park if the usual parking is full, and exactly which entrances are possibilities. I know my way around the inside of the school, and I recognize/know the teachers, and I recognize a lot of the teenaged counselors. But this morning, I had to wing it. It went fine, of course it went fine, but I was surprised at just how disorienting it is.

Book: The Rook

I was describing this book to Paul and Rob, and the three of us together came up with this: that it’s like The Bourne Identity (in which someone wakes up and has to figure out who he/she is, and also why he/she seems to be well-equipped with cash and skillz) + Men in Black (in which someone is recruited into a secret government organization that fights the weird/supernatural/alien) + X-Men (in which there is a world where certain people are born with interesting abilities). I felt so pleased with us for summing it up so clearly and evocatively. Then I was looking at reviews, and basically everyone was saying the same thing. So. Well, it means there’s CONSENSUS.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley.

I found the book extremely enjoyable, and kept wanting to go back to it. The writing was a little rough in places, and I have never liked the exposition-via-letters gimmick (NO ONE would EVER go into SO MUCH DETAIL in a letter, NO MATTER WHAT the situation was); but the former felt like first-book issues, and the latter was easy enough to go along with in this case where it seemed justified.

I love it when a character is put into a situation that would be hugely tense and upsetting for almost anyone—but then turns out to be able to handle it.

Update on the Baby-Wanting Situation

Last night I dreamed I was pregnant. SUPER vivid dream, including running my hand over my rounded tum and thinking about names. (I was thinking, “Funny how I think I am just DYING to choose a name, until I actually have to choose one.”) Seven or eight years ago, I would have woken up and cried that it wasn’t real, and maybe spent the day brooding and eating fudge. Today I woke up IMMENSELY RELIEVED that it was a dream. I mention this in case you are where I was seven or eight years ago, feeling as if you will never be able to live a happy life unless you have another baby, and wondering if that feeling will ever go away. I can offer only one anecdotal “yes, it will” data point, but here it is if it helps.

It is partly made up of sensible things: I am now older than I would like to be for a pregnancy, and the gap between my youngest and another baby would be MUCH larger than I’d like it to be, and at this point I don’t want to start again at the beginning. It is also partly because the other children have gotten older, and I’ve thought, “Ohhhhhhhhhh, wait: I wanted a lot of BABIES, but I do not necessarily want a lot of three-year-olds or a lot of fourteen-year-olds.”

But I think it is mostly that The Feeling went away. I think it is a mistake to underestimate the role biology plays in a passionate desire for children: some of it is because children are neat to have, but a lot of it is a species-benefiting biological set-up that isn’t necessarily in the individual’s best interests. I remember when I was crying about the situation to my OB/GYN (he asked during a check-up if we were planning more children, and I burst into tears), and I asked if the baby cravings ever went away, and he said, “I don’t know. I can only tell you this: that older women no longer talk to me about it.” That’s not entirely comforting: my guess is that older women stop talking about it because it’s an option that’s no longer available. But now that I am a bit older myself, I am revising that guess to include the idea that when the option is no longer available, for most of us it also stops being so appealing. Biology stands down and lets most of us stop pining.

Still, I do think we should have had a sixth child, back when Paul said no. At this point that child would be six or seven, and I think that would have been great. And also, I do think that Paul saying no to another child, when I wanted one so badly I felt I could not live a happy life without one, had a lasting, non-positive effect on our marriage. I’m not saying he could have said anything else, if he really felt that strongly about it; and maybe if he had given in to what I wanted, perhaps it would have had some detrimental effect in the other direction; and perhaps there was NO possible happy outcome from that deadlocked situation and there would have been a negative effect no matter what we’d decided. But regardless, I don’t think back to that time and think it went the way it should have, or that he was right. He has never been good at thinking ahead to the future, so I don’t feel he made a decision based on a good evaluation of the situation; and he made me feel that when it comes down to truly important decisions in our shared life, it’s his happiness over mine.

Gift Ideas for an 11-Year-Old Girl

The twins had their 11th birthdays recently, so I am going to do twin posts on their gifts. I’ll start with Elizabeth’s.

Probably her top favorite gift was from my parents: a snail aquarium set-up, which she’d wanted ever since she brought home a snail in a 2-liter-bottle-based terrarium from school:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The sharp-eyed among you will be observing that this is not a snail aquarium but is in fact a betta fish aquarium. This is what the Surprisingly Knowledgeable About Snails clerk at the pet store recommended to me when I did preliminary research on this idea, since there is not really any such thing as a snail aquarium, since there is an almost imperceptible demand for snails as pets. My parents also included a certificate saying she could choose a bag of aquarium pebbles, some decorative thingies, and two more snail friends for her snail.


Her second favorite gift was probably this pink bunny suit for her cat:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The cat is about 11 pounds so I ordered a large, but I think extra-large would have been even better. One funny thing is that after initially resisting (i.e., refusing to move, so that he looked and felt even more like a living stuffed animal), the cat turned out to LIKE the suit. He seems to find it comforting.

Edited to add: OKAY FINE, here are pictures of her cat in the suit!

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.16.08 AM
I realize he does not seem to be Radiating Joy in this photo, but cats almost always look crabby in photos, and this particular cat doesn’t really want anyone except Elizabeth to come within 10 feet.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.17.07 AM
Here he is having dinner in his bunny suit.


Elizabeth is crazy about Digibirds right now, and they are cute but annoying: they sing together, and they tilt their heads back and forth adorably, and they make sweet realistic chirping sounds—but they cue each other to sing by emitting an annoying series of electronic tones. Well, she loves them, so I bought her a set of two more birds and a cute perch:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


At her school they have optional activities they can sign up for at recess: playing guitar, doing watercolors, doing crossword puzzles, playing basketball, having a book club, etc. She signed up for sopranino recorder and really liked it, so we got her one of her own:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

It’s tiny and adorable: about as much smaller than the soprano recorder as the soprano is smaller than the alto.

Her last present is a little odd. Quite awhile ago, like last fall, I was looking on the West Elm website and we saw a WALRUS tray and a WALRUS pillow and she flipped for them. I ordered them both, and then neither of them arrived, and then eventually I saw a refund on my credit card for the pillow, and then the tray showed up, and then my credit card was re-charged for the pillow, and then a refund was again issued, and that happened FOUR TIMES until I finally contacted the company and they said “Oops, sorry, the pillow is no longer available and there was apparently a glitch”—and then literally MONTHS AND MONTHS LATER, like about SIX months later, the pillow showed up. It was bizarre. Meanwhile Christmas had come and gone and I hadn’t given her the tray because it suddenly seemed like a weird gift for a child, especially without its companion pillow.

ANYWAY. I gave her the tray AND the pillow for her birthday. Neither one is available any more, but here is a picture of the tray, and the pillow has the same picture on it:

(image from westelm.com)

(image from westelm.com)

I also bought a plate hanger (like this kind of thing) for the tray so she can hang it on her wall, since she is not yet at the age to serve canapes to friends.


Edited to add: It occurred to me that since this is a list of IDEAS rather than just a report of what a particular girl got for her particular birthday, I can extend this post to include things we considered getting her.

One thing she really wanted was a fancy manicure. She’s been watching videos on YouTube about nail art. But…she is 11, and her nail polish still gets chipped after five minutes. And I had no idea how much such a thing would cost, but “a lot more than she thinks it will” seemed likely, so we didn’t go with this.

We were planning instead to buy her a bunch of nail stuff: nail stencils, nail stickers, nail sponges, the nail goop that gets painted around the nail so that mistakes peel right off—but you’ll notice I’m not even linking to examples, because I got overwhelmed by options and couldn’t figure out what was right. I’d find a stencil set that looked pretty okay—and it would be A DOLLAR PER NAIL to use the stupid things. And all the stencils and stickers looked like they were for long grown-woman nails, not tiny little girl nails. Plus, about a week before her birthday, against parental advice (because it is a poor idea to buy things for oneself so close to one’s birthday), Elizabeth used her own money to buy a $5 Lisa Frank kit that seemed way more perfect than anything I’d been looking at:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

It has child-sized stickers, and a dotting tool that has proved hugely successful.


Another thing she wanted was a wooden xylophone. She has a metal one (this one—it’s more than a toy, but less than a million dollars) and uses it a lot. But I looked into it, and they were all either too expensive or they were basically toys. This is the only one that was a possibility:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

But it was nearly a hundred dollars (and, annoyingly, about $80 when I first looked at it and up to nearly $100 the very next day), so it would not fit in the gift budget unless I did one of the things I sometimes do, where for example I only charge the gift budget $13 for an $18 t-shirt since the child’s wardrobe is increasing by a t-shirt I would have bought for $5. Or, I mean, once Rob asked for an ALGEBRA WORKBOOK for his birthday, and that is the sort of thing I would ABSOLUTELY just buy for a child, so I didn’t count it toward his birthday budget at all.

I called in my musical brother to assist, and he evaluated the situation more thoroughly than I was willing to, and concluded that the trouble with wooden xylophones is that they were either inexpensive toys or HUGELY EXPENSIVE GLOCKENSPIELS. I decided that since Elizabeth is going to middle school next year, she can try out the school’s H.E.G. and see what she thinks.


Lastly, we considered glow-in-the-dark stars:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

We have a place in town where people can drop off stuff they don’t want and other people can take anything they want for free, and she’d recently obtained from there a small pack of glow-in-the-dark stars. She really, really liked them and wanted more—but I felt they were most likely a passing interest, and also she already had some, and also I am already dreading what they’ll do to the walls/ceiling when we peel them off.