Tag Archives: Priorities

And That’s Why We Will Always Live in an Apartment

We were in Michigan visiting family this past weekend and talking about all the little expenses that come up throughout the school year. I mentioned school pictures being $62 for two kids for just the CD with the digital image and the class picture, paused, and said, “…and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.”

It became a running joke through the afternoon. I talked about sending them to an additional camp next summer but worried the price is so much more than the regular camp they attend during the summer now….and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.

The expenses of having children are going to increase at a rate that feels like it will outpace Mr. Brickie’s earning potential during those same years. If it were a graph you’d look at it, nod your head, and say, “…and that’s why they’ll always live in an apartment.”

If we were to consider getting a house we would have to save up a down payment. We would have to pay earnest money and (possible) closing costs. We would have to decorate the place or at the very least paint the bedroom and kitchen. All of that costs money and if that money is going toward a house it’s certainly not going toward our kids. Plus, we would have to save for things like a broken water heater or replacement lawn mower. Even if we used the emergency fund you still have to pay yourself back for the next emergency.

These are the years. The important ones where the tweens start to make real decisions that have a lasting effect. I want to make these years the ones that matter in terms of extracurricular activities. They should be exposed to a whole bunch of amazing people doing really cool stuff. Summer camps where they learn to code mobile apps and take courses in electrical engineering. Where they learn that tech and science are fun and full of wonder and imagination. I want to send them to art camps and writing camps, too, so they can harness their fears and feelings into stories and colors.

The only priority I have outside of the kids is paying off credit cards and having a six-month emergency fund. I can pay off the student loans after they’re out of college if I have to. If I can swing it sooner, great, but I’m not feeling any pressure because I’m fine having them as a pet until my hair is gray and stairs become a challenge as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my parenting.

Oh, there is one other priority that is kid-adjacent.  We are going to save up so for the experience that will be my brother’s Disneyland wedding in November of 2017. We want to stay for longer than just the wedding so the kids can have some fun. I want to do the VIP tour guide thing so I don’t have to wait in lines or figure anything out. Of course it’s crazy expensive but I figure it will be our one and only Disney trip so might as well make it an affair to remember.

….and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.

Unexpected Windfall (Tiny but Mighty!)

Yesterday I practically jumped out of my chair when I heard the creak of metal the mailbox makes when the postman comes round. I’m waiting on that one. last. W2 and yesterday was the first day you can file taxes and let me tell you I am on pins and needles. PINS AND NEEDLES – GAAAAH!

The sooner I file the sooner we get the refund and the sooner I can pay off the car and have that albatross off my neck. I can have that mistake in my rearview. I can have that money to put toward debt and finally kick this whole being poor thing in the ass. (Not being poor won’t happen overnight but this is it, my friends, this is the tipping point where it’s going to get so much EASIER and It’s going to feel like the things we do MATTER and it will finally stop feeling like peeing in the ocean! I mean, not that I’ve ever peed in the ocean. Who does that? Weird, right.

Moving on.

There was not a W2 in the mail, but there was a check for $92 from our former dentist. We went there right about six months ago (I’m a fanatic about getting my kids into the dentist twice a year like clockwork) and since we’ve moved it’s a 34 mile drive that costs $12 in tolls to get to the dentist but I kept going because the whole setup was cool and kid-friendly and my kids love the dentist and that’s worth a lot of time and effort in my book. But the last time we went they charged me for fluoride on all three kids and it came out to $92. They knew it was only covered by insurance once a year and we’ve been going there YEARS and this is the first time they did it and when I told the woman behind the desk she was so mean and was all, “Oh, well, you have to pay.” I was all, “You do this and we won’t be back.” She was all, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” (Said in that way that is clear she is saying don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you, not in a really sorry way at all.) So I left and searched high and low and found a local dentist who has the same kid-friendly philosophy and wrote them off mentally. I got a reminder phone call and explained why I wouldn’t be coming back and like mana from heaven I got a refund check for the fluoride.

Part of me wishes they just hadn’t charged me in the first place. Scratch that. I really wish they had asked me about the fluoride so I could refuse the treatment since it was in my file what the coverages were for my kids and it hasn’t changed. I really wasn’t trying to get anything for free. It’s not even the money, really, it was that awful woman’s attitude toward me when it was HER mistake she was covering up.

Oh well. Now I don’t have to spend four hours getting three kids’ teeth cleaned and find parking downtown in Chicago for the privilege.

I’m not sure why I felt guilty when I opened the mail and the check was there. I wanted to pick up the phone and say I was sorry but for the life of me I don’t know why. I didn’t yell or cuss at anyone during this whole process on any of the phone calls. Why would I feel bad or guilty or icky because they made things right?

It doesn’t make sense.

I deposited the check and for now it’s in my “Buffer” category in my budget because I don’t know exactly what I should do with it. I could pay off the Target credit card (I bought the three girls comforters on sale because the ones they had before literally fell apart during the move and our afghans weren’t enough when it turned really, really cold. I had them in bed with me until the comforters came in the mail and we were all just bundled all up under there and I was getting kicked in the face like you wouldn’t believe.

Man, I need my space when I sleep.

So I could just pay that off and have a little less that the refund needs to go to.

I could also get the reduced-price YMCA membership which is $87 for six months. We live a block away from a lake and I really want them to take swim lessons and that would give me a way to do that.

Maybe it’s all just stupid to worry about because once the taxes are in I could do any of these things. I don’t know. There’s not going to be a lot left after the rent gets paid and the car gets paid off so maybe it is worth worrying about.

My brain is a mess.

I’m still sick but less sick than I was. Now I just feel like crap first thing in the morning (until my sudafed and ibuprofin kick in) then I’m good until about 7:30pm when I crash and feel the hot pressure in my ears again. It is, however, a little better every day so I’m on the right road to recovery.

I just don’t know what to do with the windfall. Keeping it in the buffer makes YNAB (not an affiliate link) show $0.00 in my Available to Budget … that way I’m not tempted to spend it somewhere I shouldn’t. Oh who am I kidding? I’m tempted as all get out but I’m still not going to spend it on crap.

How to Identify Your Priority Police

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In this lovely time I’ve been spending in the land of the poor (sometimes I think of it as a vacation because then I’m having fun) I have learned a few things. Sometimes, those things are universal.

Today is one of those days. WooHoo!

One of the most surprising is that everyone thinks they know what my priorities should be. 

Sell your iPhones, cancel your Internet, get a job outside the house, move someplace with a lower unemployment rate, sell your computer. There is no end to advice I get for leaving the land of the poor and most of these are delivered with such a tone!

If you get SNAP you get the refrain, “Don’t buy junk food, don’t buy soda, don’t buy anything that’s not fresh but you better not buy organic because that’s too good for the likes of you.”

They assume you have SNAP money raining from the sky to buy liquor and smokes and junk food with enough left over to feed your family!

I wish as much as those people that my SNAP card could buy me champagne and lobster every night for dinner. But beyond everyone getting tired of having the same thing night after night for dinner – no matter what it is – you could probably afford to buy lobster once depending on your family size. (a single mom with one kid isn’t gettin much more than  hundred a month, if that) and you can’t use it on liquor. Those signs in the windows of gas stations and liquor stores advertising SNAP/EBT mean the chips, the candy, but more importantly the $5 milk and the $4 white bread about to go bad in a minute or the one lone canned good on the shelf. If you take a good look in your local grocery store there is food. Most of it is from 1980 but it’s there and if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time they want you to know you can buy some Cheetos or a dusty old can of Spaghettios (no meatballs, of course)

Back to the Priority Police!

These people in your life come out of nowhere.

Most of the time these people, whoever they are in your life, sound like they’re trying to be helpful. It’s easier for a poor person because our priority police come with a “tone” that is usually reserved for how you would hear the super-rich in your head. “Dear *little rich people sniff* you must know *hmmmm noise* if you just worked more hours *self-righteous nod* you would make more money.”

As if they had come in during the last ten minutes of CSI and revealed the killer single-handed. They honestly think they have all your shiz figured out in the five seconds they took to assess your whole life.

The first secret is to always remember: I AM ALLOWED TO PICK MY PRIORITIES.
The second secret is just as important: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO PICK YOUR PRIORITIES TOO.

There is always someone who thinks they can take a five-minute mental stroll of your life and come up with the perfect solution.

For me, it’s, “You can both work. Then you won’t be poor.”

If I had a second car or was able to get a second job I could get to by train and that job paid more than daycare for my three children plus a clothing allowance and train fare and of course a new wardrobe because you can’t go to a job outside your house wearing Old Navy $6 t-shirts and old yoga pants from 2005 and then and only then would I get to the part where I tell you it is important to me to raise my children myself as many hours of the day as possible.

When you are poor all the suggestions sound the same, but I bet if you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a dad, a fisherman, or an underwater basket weaver there is someone trying to tell you how you should re-prioritize your life to magically solve all your problems.

Take a few moments and see if you can think of anyone who does this to you. That person who over-simplifies your life and tells you how easy things would be if you did just that one thing they came prepared to share.

In case you’re having trouble coming up with one I have one more way to determine if you are dealing with the Priority Police. When they give you their advice like fairy dust from above, it will always take ten times longer to explain why it won’t work than it did for them to give the advice. If you try to explain because you’re being polite or some other crazy thing, they will act like you are making excuses or looking for reasons not to do what they have decided will save you.

Finally, and this is the worst and most insidious kind of Priority Police…it might be the voices in your own head. The one that tells you that you should have gotten that diploma, finished that degree, majored in something different, had a different number of children, had different partners in life, made better friends, tried harder when you were young.

You can see all those missed opportunities that may or may not have existed at the time clear as crystal. No one can “easy solve” your problems like you can if you take a trip to the past.

But don’t start from your past. Start from today. You can’t fix 13-year-old you (trust me, I’ve tried) but you can show TODAY you all the love you have to give. It might not put more money in your pocket but money comes and money goes. You might as well deal with your bank account without hating yourself on top of it.

Because even if you aren’t poor…people hate you without knowing you. Whether it’s because of your skin color, zip code, religious beliefs, political beliefs, parenting technique, sexual orientation, or a million other little things. So it’s not like people telling me what to do with my life is going to magically stop someday. It won’t.

Because it’s human nature.

Who are YOUR priority police? How do you deal with them?

bird-end-fin

The Balancing Act We All Act

The most difficult part of my whole marriage is when both my husband and I are working. The schedule balance is filled with potential emotional landmines of “who has the more important project” and feeling stifled because we can’t do exactly what we want when we want.

Add to this already potentially bad power-struggle the belief my husband has – that I can somehow get copious, high-quality amounts of work done when the kids are home. He has every right to think so because for most of my working-from-a-home-office career, I have been doing just that. Most of you know the story about having a crawling baby grabbing my leg while feeding the other baby in one arm and typing with one hand on the computer keyboard to get a project done. (and crying, because that was the worst day of my career)

I’m a little bit older now, and I just don’t have that kind of energy anymore. You just cannot tune out kids the way you tune out babies when they babble. But basically, I do a lot more strategy now and it requires my train of thought not be interrupted by random kiddie catfights.

The thing is, my husband has never been able to concentrate with the girls in the house. It’s one of the main reasons we have a brick and mortar location. It allows him to work in peace and silence.

So, the fact that he thinks I don’t rate the same peace and silence just because I’ve done it the other way in the past is entirely unacceptable to me. But it’s tough to show that I need the peace and silence to concentrate when he has seen me, for years, accomplish so much with the kids under my feet. It almost sounds, to him, like I’m just being a spoil-sport and wanting what he has just because he has it.

It’s not about deserving an office or deserving peace and quiet. It’s about efficiency and good parenting. I would like to be a parent to my children when I’m home, and working on work when I’m not. I would like a more “normal” working environment because I could get things done twice as fast and maybe, just maybe, leave work at work once in a while instead of having to think about it 24/7 because the office is right there waiting for me to be productive and impressive and amazing.

So it’s a little rough right now trying to get schedules in place. Especially this time, because my husband has been doing his thing and I’ve been a stay-at-home-and-hating-it mommy for almost a year now. Maybe a little over a year. It’s kind of a blur because of the total dislike I have for the whole thing. I have the utmost respect for SAHMs who love it, but man, this is just SO not my bag. My sense of self is tied up heavily in my own accomplishments, and as much as I love my kids and spend time with them and talk to them and teach them, it just does not trip my trigger the way having a Fortune 500 company on my resume does.

I don’t know why.

I do know if I devoted myself entirely to my kids and not my own growth that I feel I would be a stagnant mother and would run out of stories and interests pretty quickly. I do think I’m showing my children that life is about learning no matter how old you are and life is about having personal freedom as well as choosing your responsibilities and excelling at what you choose to do. I do not want to raise daughters who think their sole purpose in life is to be mothers. I don’t have a problem with anyone else choosing that life path, it’s just not my choice of life path.

So I have to figure out how this all balances and then present my husband with a solution that will work for both of us. I’m not sure why this can’t happen as a conversation and why we can’t schedule a meeting and set things up in a way that will be a process, followed by both of us. Maybe it can be done that way and I just haven’t found the correct way to broach the subject.

We shall see.

I swear, if nothing else my life is always interesting. Thank goodness I dig interesting.

Any suggestions? We already use Google Calendar to keep our meetings, etc. separate as well as having the calendar for the kids’ activities and school stuff. (Oh, that reminds me, I have to put all the days off for the school year into the Google Calendar. Kill me now. It would be a kindness.) So it’s all in there, I just need to figure out how we can play fair when someone adds something to the calendar and the other person doesn’t see it right away and then schedules something verbally and a disagreement ensues.

Because if I don’t see the entries and ask a question, I assume he remembers his calendar enough that he can tell me. Maybe it’s me who needs to be more cognizant of the calendar rather than verbal communication when it comes to the schedule.

Huh.