Friday, March 25, 2011

Gazillion Dollars. Per Kid.

I've heard estimates about how much money it takes to raise a kid these days.  Without taking the time to look it up, it seems like the number is somewhere in the gazillion dollar range.  Enough to make you think twice before having, say, five kids.

Before I became a mom, I naturally assumed that most of that money was spent on big ticket items like hospital expenses accrued as a result of actually bearing your children.  Or doctor expenses when the ear of one of your kids gets halfway ripped off by another one of your kids ("It was an accident, Mom!  I swear!").  Or mortgage payments. Or college expenses. Or backyard playsets, which turns out cost almost as much as college.  Or food, since if you're any kind of a parent at all you'll probably want to feed your kids. Nutritious well-balanced meals would be nice, but food in any case.

I was clearly daft before I became a mom.

The big ticket items, it seems, are little ticket items.  But they add up to at least half of the allotted gazillion dollars per kid.  They sneak into your house by the hundreds in children's backpacks, are handed to you at school events, practices and rehearsals, arrive via email and snail mail.  Colorful and cute and artistically rendered, it takes time before you realize that every last one of those slips of paper asks you to write a check.

Field trips.  Book orders.  School lunch accounts.  Parent Instruction Manuals for Drivers Permits (heaven help us all).  Test fees.  High School Sports Banquets.  Meals for off-campus games.  Uniforms and registration fees and equipment. Music lessons.  Recitals and costumes.

Day after day after day after day.




Give me an extra mortgage payment every month.  At least I'd know exactly what's coming.

I pay the bills, but Jeff likes to review finances, make helpful budgeting suggestions and the like, and since he's the breadwinner I figure it's ok for him to put in his two cents.  On occasion.

On one such occasion, he made a teeny-tiny error in judgment.  After a long day wherein I had written at least five kid-related checks, Jeff looked over our finances and actually asked me (yes, out loud), "Where does all the money go?"

I handed him the checkbook and left the room, deciding to leave the rest of that evening's budget reconciliation to him.

Here's what's crazy.  If you were to ask Jeff, he swears that the checkbook actually whizzed past his ear right before the door slammed behind me.

Semantics, I guess.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Practically Perfect

After extensive research but without actually talking to anyone who has ever been there, Jeff suggested we drive for 12 hours to Navarre Beach, Florida (between Destin & Pensacola) for Spring Break.  I asked him very politely if he was nuts.  He reminded me that when we lived in Utah we were more than willing to drive for 12 hours to San Diego.  I argued that the weather wouldn't likely cooperate & that it would be expensive.  He told me about an inexpensive condo complex on the beach with a heated pool.  And all of the area attractions that could be visited should the weather not be beach-perfect.  I explained how much work it would be.  He pinky promised that he would help. A lot.

Sighing, I agreed to go.

Had I not, here are a few things (it was hard to decide which of the 200 pics to post) we would have missed.

Sunrise walks along the beach
Kite Flying
Shell collecting

Teenage siblings getting along, smiling at each other even
Visiting the National Aviation Museum, home of the Blue Angels
Quality, nag-free time with kids
Quality, nag-free time with hubby
Brother time
Catching the waves
Seeing dozens of real live alligators at Fudpuckers in Destin, Florida
Riding the Sea Blaster in the Destin Harbor (my sister Jenn & nephew Josh were with us)
Dozens of dolphins
Teenage kids playing with younger kids without rolling their eyes
Jeff kept his pinky promise. He helped.  A lot.

The vacation was practically perfect in every way.

Except for the part when one of my children threw up all over me (and his or herself) right before we were climbing into the van for the return trip home.  And the other part when, on Highway 10 in Louisiana, the lid to our car top carrier came unhinged thereby releasing personal belongings such as sand toys, a sleeping bag, and a pillow onto the road.  Angels from heaven in the form of highway clean up crew members driving trucks with blinking lights and wearing bright orange vests were on the scene in seconds and had us on our way in no time.  We said a few prayers of thankful relief that no one had been hurt.  Our sleeping bag has seen better days, & the pillow had thick steel wires protruding out of it.  I threw it away.

Like I said, practically perfect.  Absolutely perfect would be boring.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's all about speed

Note: You might want to click HERE to read about last year’s Pinewood Derby before reading this post. Just so you’ll know where I’m coming from. Or, I’ll sum it up for you in three words: Just shoot me.

Seth declared that he didn’t care if his car was fast this year. He just wanted it to look different, cool, to stand out from the crowd. And so he had settled on a school bus design. I had to admit that a school bus would most definitely stand out from the sleek, aerodynamic crowd.

My husband Jeff decided to help Seth craft a school bus that also had a chance at being a super fast medal contender. It was a lofty goal. So he studied online models and tips and worked hard at designing and cutting and sanding and such. Seth hung around his dad most of the time, fetched the tools, brought the drinks and snacks, even got to sand the bus and do some painting. I think.

Jeff came home from the weigh-in worried that the underside of the bus was too low and might not clear the track. Even though the Scoutmaster had assured him otherwise. I felt it necessary to remind Jeff that Seth was going for different and cool, not fast. Jeff nodded as if in agreement, but went on to describe about how much time he (and presumably Seth) had invested in sanding and polishing the axles.

I was secretly glad to learn that Jeff would be out of town for the Derby, preferring he not be in the state in case things went south. Which they did.

The Bus placed four out of four in race after race after race. I watched Seth’s face become increasingly upset and embarrassed with each race and wanted to remind him that he had been going for different and cool, not fast. But it was painfully clear to me that deep deep down, Seth wanted the Bus to be fast.

Despite all the rhetoric, it was all about speed. His dad had understood.

About the time I was fighting back tears and willing the Bus to place at least third at least once and hoping Seth could hold it together until we got in the car, Jeff called for an update. I took issue with his timing.

My hopes soared when the Bus raced against the Cupcake Car. The cute younger sister of a fellow Cub Scout had built a darling car and topped it with three frosted sprinkled cupcakes. Literally. When the Cupcake Car came in third and the Bus fourth, I felt slightly torn. I wanted to be happy for the delighted girl who had just placed third instead of fourth for the first and only time that evening. But my emotional loyalty remained with my ten-year-old son, whose Bus had just lost to three frosted cupcakes.

I thought it best to take Seth home before the awards ceremony, but he was busy eating cupcakes - not the ones off of the girl’s car although I wouldn’t have blamed him - and wanted to finish. We knew he hadn’t won, and by that point I figured an extra cupcake or two could mean fewer tears once we got in the car. Maybe.

Four awards were given that night: 1st, 2nd, 3rd place Winners for Speed, and Best in Show.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Seth’s Bus received the Best in Show award. Regrettably, it had been the slowest.  But by golly it looked different, cool, and had most definitely stood out from the crowd - at least one of the things he had been going for.  It took a couple of shocked seconds for Seth to find his smile. But find it he did.

When I called Jeff with the recap, he was genuinely happy for Seth’s Best in Show award. But then he said, “The bottom of the bus had to have been scraping the track. I have never polished axles as much as I polished those. When I spun them, those wheels spun forever.”

Despite all the rhetoric, it was all about speed.

There’s always next year, honey.