Friday, October 31, 2008

A Happy Halloween

Yes, it was a Happy Halloween for us this year - the kids got to attend parties (one of which we threw and it was awesome!), a fall festival, and go trick -or-treating. They raked in the candy (off which mom and dad get to mooch , yum!) and had bales of fun (pun intended!). But this holiday was more important for a different reason: it is the first "official" holiday in our new home.

As many of you may know, just over a year and a half ago, my hubby experience an unintended job change, which left us having to move to California, but still have a house in the midwest. Between rent and that mortgage, our hopes for a house in CA fell by the wayside, and we were stuck in a less-than-spectacular apartment complex in a not-so-great part of town. Sadness ensued.

However, much to our joy, the housing market totally crashed at about the same time we found a renter for the house in the midwest. While may others lament the crash of the housing market, we danced all the way to the bank, got a great loan at a great rate, and bought a foreclosed house at half price. Time for the Happy Dance!

The house in the midwest was still HOME. But, after three months in the new house, some hardcore cleaning, and getting the kids back in scouts and the like, this new house started to feel more homey. Not quite home yet, but getting there.

It is now Halloween night, and the kids are dressed to the hilt. Seeing them run around the house, plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins in hand, surrounded by the incandescent glow of candles and orange Halloween lights, something happened. With all the excitement and the tradition behind it all, suddenly this strange house became HOME.

Whether you celebrate a particular holiday or not, holidays have something special attached to them: a sense of tradition older than yourself. And when we bring those traditions home to roost, share them with our children, and enjoy the trappings of that brief holiday time, our outsides reflect the joy and celebration of our insides. This house now has memories - ones that I will keep, that my children will keep, and one day, God willing, my grandchildren will keep as well.

Tonight, for the first time in almost 2 years, we are finally home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I've Had a BAD DAY!

This has been one of those days when it would have just been better to go back to bed. Can I get a do over?

First, the dentist: My dentist's office has a knack for writing the WRONG DAY on my reminder card. In September I missed my appt. becuase they wrote Sept 5 on my card, but they had Sept 3 in their system, and since we had just moved, I didn't get a call. No biggie. I rescheduled for the same day that my kids go in - Oct 21, a Tuesday. I checked it several times to be sure, confirmed it with her over a month ago, and wrote it in giant letters on my calendar while still on the phone, just to be sure.

Today I get the confirmation phone call for my dental appointment at 10 am on Wednesday. Wait a minute! Wednesday, the 22nd? No, I tell her, it is for tomorrow, the 21st. That is what you wrote on my reminder card. I have it RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME. The 21st. I can't make it on Wednesday, the 22nd, because we have another commitment that cannot be rescheduled. Bummer, because I really wanted to go to the dentist, you know?

So that set the tone of the day. Later that afternoon, we have to drive to Tae Kwon Do. My car was running fine, because we just refilled the coolant yesterday. We have to drive across town to drop off some paperwork, and when we get out, the kids notice the car is smoking (and not in the good way). What the hell?

So I look under the hood, don't see anything amiss, close it, drop off the paperwork, and we head home.

Half way home we need to pull over as my heat indicator gauge is almost on red. Now I am one step below freakin out, as it is dark. I know I have a coolant leak, but we just filled it yesterday! There is no way it can be empty already!

We let the car cool a bit, then get back in. About a mile from home, the gauge is again almost in the red. I pull over to a well lit parking lot near Sun City Bikes (go there if you ever need a bike!!!) and take another look. My loving son gets out to look, and as I show him the coolant parts, we go through our options. My cell is dead, I have no cash, and we don't get paid til Friday. I don't even have the money to use a pay phone, if I could even find one in this day and age. That is when I notice something amiss with my radiator cap (or whatever that metal cap is called). It is not sealed.

Evidently, when we checked the coolant levels this weekend, we put the cap on but did not screw it down all the way. Thus, while I cruised around town this evening, I was spewing coolant all under the hood. Now I have no coolant, an overheated engine, and no way to call my hubby for help. Can we say ready to cry?

However, sometimes God sends Angels. The owner of Sun City Bikes (buy a bike from him!!!) is closing for the night and sees we are in distress. In addition to knowing about bikes, he evidently knows quite a bit about cars as well. He strikes up friendly conversation, gets a bunch of water, takes care of the overheated engine for me, gives me advice to run the heater to get the hot out of the engine, makes sure the engine isn't damaged, and makes sure I am close enough to home so if anything happens I am not stuck with 3 kids on a dark road at night. NICEST FREAKIN GUY EVER (Go to Sun City Bikes!!). Needless to say, as I drove home the heat gauge on the car slowly moved to the left, indicating we were no longer a hot car. We pulled into the driveway, said a little prayer, turned off the car, and thankfully walked into the house. Nervous breakdown averted!

When we went to Church this week, we had to scrimp around for offering and the kids always have to use some of their own money for offering. One of the kids asked what the offering was for, and I explained it is a way of saying thank you to God and they Church for all they do for us, and that what ever we give comes back to you thousandfold. As I stood there with my overheated car and not even a quarter for a phone call, I looked up at the sky and joked with my son, "So much for that thousandfold, eh God?" But God got the best of me - after our Sun City Bikes Angel left and we were on our way home, my son, who I am beginning to believe is much smarter than I, says, "I guess God did pay you back, huh mom?"

We don't get to choose the form that thousandfold takes. At that moment in that parking lot, I didn't need a quarter or a nice cell phone. I just needed someone with all things, water. I needed a thousandfold of water, and that is what God sent.

It was worth every penny.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Then Just Quit Already!

I was trolling through some of my fave websites this morning - most are either education or homeschool related, but some are just fun, like facebook. However, one of the education websites I read provided some information that truly shocked me.

Let me preface this by a bit of history. My son was in full time day care for all of 9 months, and it was the longest 9 months of my life. It was also one of the costliest. We paid $150/week for full time care ten years ago. That would come to, on average, $600 a month, $750 for a 5 week month. OUCH. It was also one of the reasons we wanted to get me into a stay-at-home mom position, or at least, part-time working position. And once my hubby landed a job that paid as much as I made, and I found a part-time teaching position for a local college, we were able to do it.

Basically, we figured that I could make almost $800 a month LESS than what I was making full time, since we would no longer have day care costs. Since my take home pay was only $1600 a month, that was TOO easy. I taught 2 classes each semester and made more than that. We were set; I quit my full time job and we never looked back.

Let me also put out here that I am an advocate of the stay at home parent. If you manage to work part time and only have the kids with a sitter for a few hours a week, that is a different situation altogether. There is still one parent that is the primary caretaker. I firmly believe that if you have kids, YOU should raise them. Not some stranger that you found in the phone book. Not some distant relative who is "helping you out" to the tune of $200/week or more. YOU. YOU. YOU. That is your kid. Take care of him/her already!

I actually feel badly for those moms (and their kids) who say they can't (or just won't) stay home with the kidlets. They don't know what they are missing.

Fast forward to this Sunday morning, and my reading of Ed Report at eagleforum.org. They published an interesting article about the high costs of day care, specifically this line which almost knocked me out of my chair: "the average family with two children in Google day care would go, under the new plan, from paying $33,000 a year to paying over $57,000" (2008). WHO IN THE HELL WOULD PAY $33,000 A YEAR (let alone $57,000) TO SEND THEIR KIDS TO DAY CARE?!
Are you kidding me? Are you FREAKIN' kidding me?!

My take home when I worked full time was less than $28,000 a year. When the hubby started making the "big bucks," he made $32,000 a year. Essentially, if we had to send the kids to day care today, it would be cheaper for one us NOT to work instead! And if these are the costs of day care, then why in the name of all things Holy, does the second parent work? Unless that parent makes more than $40,000, they are PAYING to work. This does not include any other costs like lunches, clothes, car upkeep, gas, etc. That is the straight up babysitter fee.

Even if that same second parent made $50,000/year, then after taxes they are really only making about $6000/year after day care costs. 40 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for a measly $6000. Sell Avon instead. Have a bake sale. Either of these would net the same amount and you would be at home with your kids! No boss, no worrying about getting a sick day off, no missing the school play or that soccer game. No 95% of your pay going to a babysitter.

I guess I never really looked at the numbers. For those families who don't have the second parent, obviously this isn't an option. For those who have grandma watch the babies for super cheap or free, obviously this doesn't apply to you. But for those of you in two parent households, unless you make, and let's be realistic here, $70,000 or more, EACH, then one of you should quit. You will be richer in the long run.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Noble Intentions



Hours. I have them. I do. But most nights end like this one, and I wonder if I will ever have time of mine own.

The hubby and I typically stay up late - 12 am or so - him gaming, me catching up on work. Even if I don't have a class in session, I am catching up on our homeschool work, or on something for scouts, or cleaning the kitchen (one day I WILL invent a self cleaning kitchen, and I will then be the wealthiest and most beloved of women).

And what does this all come down to? I don't write. Not like I used to, not like I would like to. I have so many book ideas, article ideas, notes scattered around the house like so many autumn leaves blowing in the wind. What have I done with any of them lately? Nothing. Nothing but make said stacks larger as I take more notes, add more to the piles of info, come up with yet another article/book I want to write.

I am even jealous of a good friend who blogs nearly every other day - that is like a dream! I admire her for that commitment. For all the time I spend on this machine that has supplanted most of my life, I still cannot find adequate time to blog. It is all my fault, truly. And more to the fact, I use the "who's reading it anyway" excuse -- a horrible excuse. I should write for the joy of it, but by the end of the day, my fingers just want to fall off, as I have done little more than write or type all day and all night.

But realization comes like a splash of cold water, as my oldest has MAN hair on his legs and my oldest two need to use deodorant daily (nothing worse than prepubescent BO). The reality is that my time, this time with my kids is slowly, but too fast for me, coming to an end. I sat with my husband, lamenting this. In 9 years, I am done. The homeschooling is essentially complete, and with it, all those time-consuming trappings of childhood.

What do I do then? How will I fill those lonely hours that I used to grasp at so desperately, when I didn't have enough time to finish all I had to do? I am sad, so sad that I am starting to see the end of this great project granted to me by the grace of God. But I am also starting to see something else.

As I sat on the couch with my husband and discussed with him my fear of those lonely hours ahead, I knew what I was going to do to fill that time.

I shall write.