Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Way Car Buying Should(n't) be*

I am in the lobby of Carmax selling my first grown up car.

I bought it in 2007 when I was converted to full time at my first biotech job. The summer before I went to work at my current job. When I finally decided to jump into the world of dating- didn't start well. Just before I joined team in training - which was such a fun experience and a huge boost to my mental health and the reason why I started this blog.

Because it was so entwined in the fun and excitement of my early 20's you'd think I would be sad to see it go but I am not. It was such a poor financial decision and I felt almost coerced into or like I had gotten myself tied up into buying it. I was so ashamed of the financial pickle I'd gotten myself into. No, it is actually a longer story.

In college I paid my way with grants, loans and work study. Every September I'd meet with the financial aid department and we'd go through how I was going to put together the cost of classes and room and board for the year. Work study was an integral part of that and I started the lab tech job that I'd have for the next four years on my first day of class freshman year. I always quip that seeing my loan amount each year was the biggest driver for doing well and staying on track to graduate in a timely manner. I'd divide my costs out to determine how much each lecture was costing me and that price made it so the only classes I ever missed were when I was interviewing for grad school (if my college roomie still reads this then yes I still count when I'd drag myself to 8am physics halfway through). But I also realize how I missed the fact that if my job was contributing to the total cost per quarter then I couldn't have any extra expenses or I should've gotten another job for those.  In the early 00's they still sent credit cards in the mail and before I knew it I had a couple. And I didn't understand them. Fast forward to moving to CT for graduate school. More money on my credit cards to get there and get settled.

But then I was living the life. I had a stipend every month and quite frankly I felt really lucky and basically rich but FREAKED out over the credit card debt I'd gotten into. I genuinely didn't know what to do. No one that I was close to had enough money to be any good at it and I didn't ask the ones who may have. So I called a debt consolidation company I found online and started making payments. I didn't use credit cards. I was so proud of myself.

Now back to that car dealership in 2007. Still debt free, still not using cards and finally employed in a real job. I was mortified and ashamed when the financing came back on the first car I test drove. I was so embarrassed that they saw the debt consolidation on my history. By this time I'd started reading Suze Orman and realizing what a silly thing it had been to do the DC on (what I now know was) such a small amount. But again instead of acting in my best financial interest I took the impossibly bad rate on that first car I tested. It makes me sad for 25 year old me. I was too embarrassed to keep looking for better financing or to have to go through a credit check at another dealer. I was also probably too lazy to figure out what I was going to do for a car while I saved for one and I was just ready to have the car question answered (so as not to be embarrassed). I bought it, the first car I test drove. And when people would ask if I loved my car they'd get a hesitant or forced smile.

As I continued to have a real job and to extinguish the tiny flicker of shame I always had when I saw my car I worked to pay it down quickly and our relationship improved when I owned the title outright. But I am not sad to see it go (though, I was a bit sad no one we offered it to wanted the old girl). I guess it'd be redemptive to see it as a symbol of growth but it wasn't. For me it sort of symbolized how often I would do dumb stuff so that I don't have to feel momentary shame- even when that shame is unfounded. I would tell my 25 year old self to go easier and that she shouldn't be ashamed about something that she was really working hard on.  And I am sorry that past me had to feel that way so often and that current me still does occasionally.     

* the car max motto is "the way car buying should be" and totally inspired this post

PS. These heads are the BEST financial decision I've ever made and they still haven't ceased to be funny.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This kid!

I LOVE two. It is so adorable and hilarious (and exasperating). And this kid is absolutely all of those things some or most of the time.


It is amazing how much we are shedding the baby part of our lives. Everyone orders a meal at restaurants, we get four opinions on what we are doing/eating, the diaper bag has morphed into a temporary emergency haz-mat kit now that she is in undies. At her first dentist appointment this week she sat in the dentist chair like a big kid- with Andrew and my assurance. She is deep in the independent stage and can pretty successfully dress herself and buckle the top portion of her car seat depending on how much time you give her. And, the most amazing of all, we can say to the kids “let’s go guys” and more often than not they both ambulate themselves in the general direction of the command (MMV).

It is pretty cool.

It is also interesting how this kid likes to throw us curveballs we never experienced with Andrew. Like when Michael went into her room on Sunday morning to her standing there as a free bird. She is such a nut…will we have to free range her already!?!?!?!

 When we decided to try for another kid the idea of siblinghood wasn’t a very clear picture nor was it a huge goal of mine. But, wow! It is pretty damn precious. Even at this stage it is pretty fun to see how they know each other’s buttons- the things that make the other crazy and the things that make the other happy. They play together, they help each other, they clobber each other. You can definitely see the influence of her big bro in her for better and for worse—she says “na,na,na boo boo” a delightful phrase Andrew picked up on the streets.

This kid is a joy and a delight and hard work and wonderful.  


Friday, January 19, 2018

You're Late: Epilogue

Welp. Hopefully this was the right choice.

The email to the old preschool. Names have been redacted for privacy.

Based on our meeting last month we’ve had a great deal of discussion and have decided that Andrew needs to move to an environment which more closely tracks with his school path. He will start at a new preschool on January 16th and Friday, the 12th will be his last day at REDACTED.
It has been a very fun experience for Andrew and his joy and comfort in the pool makes us really happy for him. But we were really disappointed with what feels like his being dismissed as having more time, rather than being helped to get where he needs to be. I hope that our discussion will change the way the “younger” kids are viewed and handled. To us, responding to their immaturity with passivity encourages immaturity where helping them see and work toward bigger expectations will help to mature. We also think that the very loose cutoff date of January 31st for the 3-5/pre-k doesn’t make sense and the number of kids who don’t adhere to that date and enter the pre-k class skews the distribution in the 3-5 too much. And if asked I would discourage families from sending their children to the “5-day 3-5” class. It wasn’t clear to us initially that this really only consists of M/W/F and T/Th together. This breaks up his peer groups and teachers and doesn’t feel like a consistent environment.
We are giving this feedback because it is such a unique preschool experience and we want all kids in it to be successful…even if they are a bit wild and born in August. We hope that it will be taken in that spirit. Let us know what we need to do to end enrollment and billing.
Thank you,...
The above is 100% the type and tone of interaction my mom had MANY times throughout my childhood. I was child number two and benefited from many teachers and administrators who'd already been Vicky'd and knew not to mess with her. I LOVED it so much. Knowing that my mom had my back. I also feared it, because sometimes it meant doing something uncomfortable (changing teachers, not taking the bus to field trips, not doing detention that the whole class was given, being moved into advanced dance even though my Jr High school self desperately didn't want to wear electric blue dance trunks during assemblies).
I'm sad that Andrew had to do something uncomfortable because of it. I am not as bad-ass as my mom was and was totally cringing about how to face the staff there for another week.

But I really did want to give them my honest feedback. 
This latest stage in parenting is constant feeling like I keep having big mideterms and completely missed every lecture(*). It may just be universe payback. Because I never suffered much parenting angst over my babies/toddlers. I kind of thought I was doing a pretty good job and felt relatively secure in parenting decisions I made. Fast forward to recently. I AM FEELING LIKE A DISASTER.
Every decision around school feels so big and consistently like I am wrong. I think this comes from one of my deepest parental desires for my children. I want them to like and be comfortable at school. They don’t need to be geniuses or class president but I want them to feel good about going there in the morning on most mornings. Because they will be in school for so many, many mornings. It breaks my heart to think of the kids who felt like school was torture- whether for academic or social reasons. Kids have so little power to change their own situations and they are also pretty bad at getting adults involved when there is some situation that needs changing. So even the most interested parents may never know all the ways that school is painful for their child. THAT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
Well, we are one week into our new situation- preschool at the elementary school where he'll go in the fall. I'm pretty proud of how Andrew did this week and it is kind of exciting being at the elementary school everyday and seeing all the big kids doing their thing. Hopefully I will be able to get into a better rhythm for trusting myself and my kids throughout all of these school decisions.

*I am writing this entirely in my own voice because that is where most of the crazy happens. In real life I have a partner who is working through these decisions with me and is able to have slightly more perspective  



Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mark it Down!

Andrew and I  just finished our first chapter book.

The Chocolate Touch
It was slow going. He'd lose interest and we'd step away for weeks at a time. The way he poured over the minimal chapter head art was cute and funny. But he understood the story and it has been fun arguing whether someone could ever get sick of eating chocolate. Plus he was riveted with horror when (SPOILER) the mom gets turned into chocolate- so that made me feel good.

Monday, December 11, 2017

If you’re 29 Days early then you’re late

It is happening. I’m losing my mind. This has been slowly and insidiously working on me since the moment my precious son was born. In August.

Apparently, being born in August as a boy, especially one of smaller stature, is an unimaginable tragedy when it comes to school.

Ever since he was a tiny pup I always got strange flip comments about how “you can keep him home an extra year” when the topic of school would come up.  I always found this an annoyance and pretty ridiculous. By my math with the school entrance cut off as August 31st that put him well within the cutoff and, barring any developmental issues, it made no sense to plan on such a move before the child even had the chance to grow and learn anything.

Well, he’s grown and learned. And he is pretty great. He is sharp, a critical thinker and incredibly imaginative. His speech is clear and he has a diverse vocabulary. He has shown with his dinosaur phase that he can have focus but doesn’t get too intense. He makes friends, he is rude sometimes to some of them. He reveres his teachers and sometimes doesn’t give them the time of day. In other words…he seems right on target to me. He certainly has things to work on before September but that’s kind of the point of preschool, not to mention, the kid has parents who care. Oh and he continues to be quite small for age.

In September he started stand-alone preschool. Inexplicably, the school is divided into a 3-5 year old class and a “pre-k” with end of January as the cut-off for the division between 3-5 and pre-k. Andrew is in the 3-5 and we have noticed that his class skews more to the three year olds. This seemed to be setting expectations closer to the 3’s and the bigger issue to me was that his future elementary classmates were all in the other class. We called a meeting to discuss moving him into pre-k.
You can all imagine my face when the teacher (PT) starts the conversation by saying that they really think he should do an extra year of pre-k. When I asked her to elaborate her main points were that he is young and small and everyone else is doing it. After I recovered from my annoyance stroke I think I did a good job of not only debunking her but also of giving myself the reassurance that, despite the hesitation to initiate yet another childcare change, it needs to happen.
But as with everything parenting there is a ton of doubt so I will lay out for you/myself why red-shirting is a major issue and why I shouldn’t fall into it with my kid.
1.       It further widens the age and ability range for kindergarten which requires teachers to further expand their already strained focus. People are sending their kids to kindergarten at nearly 6.5 (this was a point that PT used to argue for red-shirting.) other people are sending their freshly turned 5 year olds to school as indicated by the cutoff. And if we all keep doing that doesn’t it just push the date up further and further? Until a kid born in July, then June and so on, are bullied into red-shirting? Someone has to be the youngest in school, it just is. If I got to pick the cut off would be June 1st, that way it gives people a few months to wrestle with the idea of their 5 year olds starting school and parental emotion can be taken out of the equation a bit.
2.       It is an option disproportionately unavailable to poor and working parents. Red shirting requires an extra year of child care and in a climate where that is unaffordable I think it is wrong to incentivize it. If anything we should get all kids into school sooner and let curriculum reflect that.   
3.       It is gaming the system. The talk used to be more about size….let your kid get bigger and better at things like sports. Now the conversation avoids that and pretends to focus on “maturity” because size makes it sound more explicitly like what it is, a way to game the system. But for public schools to thrive we need less of this than more. For my kid he will likely always be the smallest, treating that like it is a disability is not ok. If he was having motor skills issues and an OT thought a year would be helpful that’s one thing. A year for him to grow taller? Maybe we can just help our kids not be assholes to short kids? And I have a sinking suspicion that it starts with us parents (this mom at preschool drop-off, who I’d never spoken a single work to said, “He’s starting K next year? HE’S SO TINY” in front of the whole class.)
4.       That spread in ages? It perpetuates through school until you have high schoolers ranging from 13-19 years old.
5.       He is a normal, developing and thriving kid. Why would we make this kind of decision without there being a true developmental reason? He absolutely has things to work on to be ready and I guess this is where I get a bug in my shorts. That’s what I want from preschool. I want them to have the expectation of him that in the next 6-9 months he is making progress in the areas he needs to for school. I feel like these kids considered “young” are being written off. This idea that they have this luxury of an additional year so there’s no need to help them progress now. It is wrong and it is unfair. I want my kid to be asked to rise to the occasion and then evaluate where he struggles to do that.
The points that are bringing me down:
1.       Everyone is doing it. When PT said this to me my response was, “you have to be what you want to see.” But if we have a de facto cutoff date based on everyone red-shirting (except the poor and blissfully clueless) then isn’t that just the new cutoff date?
2.       I am finding as the start of real school is on the horizon that I am desperately wishing to pump the brakes. That parental emotion I spoke of above…turns out I’m swimming in it. I am so excited for him to continue to learn and grow but what about the parks we haven’t gotten to yet? Or the library trips or vacations or anything that being in real school conflicts with. It is a lot for me. BUT THAT IS ME NOT HIM. My mom is good at gently reminding me of this and I have to continue reminding myself.
3.       What if he really does need more time to get ready for school? Well, no brainer, if he genuinely needs that then we would make that decision. But to me he deserves the chance to get there before deciding he won’t get there in time.
One thing in all of this is that my confidence in Andrew in particular has never wavered. I don’t think I have blinders on to his flaws and weaknesses. But now to go find a preschool environment who shares our commitment to helping him grow. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Puffy heart

I’m having a head over heels for my kid kinda day.

Andrew is just growing up and it is cool and crazy.

We went on a preschool field trip together. It was to a “farm” (emphasis on the quotes) and I decided that M would go to daycare and it would be the two of us.

Well, this morning I set off the smoke detectors while trying to make us popcorn to take as a snack. They both did amazing and then I noticed that he put away the broom and pole I had to use to turn it off when the noise and chaos was over.

Then we had a great time at the field trip. I loved watching him with his little friends and it made me so happy that he is still little enough to enjoy me being a part of his posse.

We then went to lunch with my mom and he sat and colored while she and I chatted about boring stuff.

Then he and I attempted to go shopping for out adopt a family for USVI relief. And he sorta got it. He suggested getting them pumice stones but....

After dinner we went to the elementary school and he scaled the big play structure like it was nothing.

Finally while I was getting M into bed he colored. But I loved watching him trying to copy the colors to match the sheet to a sticker he had.

He’s cool. He’s big. He has his moments- even today we didn’t get to make the crafts he wanted because he got himself into trouble. But man, I was having a day of such deep appreciation for the kid he is.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, October 13, 2017

Things I've learned this year

It's my birthday on Monday.
Here's what I've learned this year:
1) I am a stupid idiot.
This time last year I was so hopeful and excited. Like a big stupid idiot. The events of the past year have shown me how idiotically blind I've been to the depth and depravity of the ills of this country and the world. I am humbled and cowed by my idiocy.

2) How to fry a dippy egg.

So, I guess this year has been a mixed bag.

Pictures of a few of the people who've been the highlights of my year.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone