Archives for category: money

It’s raining.

Anyone living anywhere near Colorado knows how precious that is right now. There have been fires all over the state, all over the region, for the last month, and no rain. 350 homes gone right outside of Colorado Springs, in a canyon I had planned to hike soon. Homes lost in Fort Collins, near a hike Chad and I did four years ago. Smoke and haze obscuring the mountains from our view, a non-sight that is utterly disturbing to any Coloradan, since the mountains are … right … there.

But it’s coming down, and it’s not just an afternoon shower, either. Streaks of water, barely any angle to their trajectory, just down, down, down, into the ground and along the gutters. I swear lightning almost struck my house just minutes ago, and the sound was terrifying and ohso welcome. Even better that E miraculously slept through it.

There were moments where I thought about dancing for the rain, and I definitely prayed for it. And it came, in its own darn time, but I am so thankful.

Life is kind of awash right now, as well. My high school psychology teacher was training to be a Jungian analyst, and I will never forget her lecturing us about dreams having to do with water. Emotion — water is emotion. I feel like I’ve been soldiering on, that Chad has been soldiering on, through the heat and through the desert, looking for something that we need, though neither of us knows just what that is. We’re both a little numb from the work and from the uncertainty of it all, I think. When will rain come?

Personally, I’m lost in the decision about whether or not to go back to work. I’ve been meaning to resign but I can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself cruising the job postings late at night. And my desperation to find little ways to contribute to the household budget — baby-sitting Blaise, contracting myself as a teacher for MDPL, writing little articles for medical websites …. All of it feels so inadequate.

Working, though, especially as a full-time teacher — that’s more than adequate. That’s almost martyrdom. And E! Where would she be all day? With whom, doing what? I want to be with her. But I want to contribute to the larger world, as well. But will I really be contributing anything at all if we’re all just tons more stressed out while I work? My mom says that if she could do it all over again, she would have found a way to stay home with us, whatever it took. Erg.

While it’s raining, while E is still sleeping, I’ll just sit in the emotions of it all, letting it wash over me, through me, before me.

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So much has been happening lately, I can’t keep up with it. This is a rambling post. I’ll try to put some pictures in to break it up. Did I mention that Elinor is full-on walking? Yep. It’s awesome and exhausting.

Iza, my dear kitty, has diabetes. It’s totally treatable and we caught it early (when they start peeing like crazy, something’s bad. Thank goodness she’s so particular about her litter box), but it’s a significant expense. We changed her diet and are monitoring her ketones, but haven’t yet started insulin. It’s like we’re holding our breath to see if things will work themselves out, which sometimes happens, but is rare ….

Elinor and I took a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, with my mom’s family. My grandma turns 80 this year and it’s her and my grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted one big family hurrah. I’m impressed, because we did get the entire family down there — except for Chad. This first year of work at the firm precluded any week-long vacations for him. So El and I walked into the Gulf of Mexico, and El loved it even more than I did. She’s a beach baby, loving the water and the waves. And she had such an amazing time with her cousins, both Peyton and Harper (babies everywhere!) but also Spencer’s awesome step-children, Tyler and Maddie. It was a good week, though I missed Chad like crazy and have vowed never to take another vacation without him. Pictures to come — we forgot our camera (!) and are relying on grandparents and aunts. They’ll supply soon.

And then Chad’s big bad firm did some computer upgrades, shutting down their whole system for Memorial Day weekend, which meant he COULD take a short vacation. To Kenyon it was, then, for my 10th-year reunion. I had debated going due to the timing and expense, but Monica and Rhoda and Marc were going to be there, and I so wanted to see them …. Brittany and Joe, Chad’s sister and basically brother-in-law, drove up from Oxford, Ohio, and joined us for a day and a half, and Jeff drove up from Pittsburgh with Sarah and little Emmett, and we spent a nice afternoon with Juan DePascuale, whom Chad worked with one summer at St. Olaf, and then we drove to cute, perfect Hudson, Ohio, to spend one night with Matt and Monte and their little ones, Finn and Willa, two good friends of Chad’s from his college days. It was a packed vacation, but a good one. Oh yeah — and Kenyon!

El and Em love the dog on Middle path ….

Monica and Rhoda look normal — parenthood makes for goofy posing. Ah, kids.

All of this to say that it’s been an expensive spring. We’re doing OK, but we have a fair amount of debt and it bothers Chad. He’s vowed to work at the firm five years or so just so that we can manage that debt down and have some more freedom, but that’s still a hefty goal. We constantly debate the weight of that goal’s importance, especially compared to Chad’s health and El’s time with Chad. And my time with Chad!

And my first day in Florida, my school district called to say that they were denying my request for one more year of unpaid maternity leave since they were closing my school and had reduced my position. It’s a little weird, and they sure could have told me much earlier, but that means that I either need to resign or find a job in the district by August. This was not in the plan — but that means more money?

MDPL is swinging along, too, with paid opportunities to run some contract work, and I miss teaching a whole bunch.

A friend from college offered me some contract work writing for online sources ….

Let’s take a break on those uncomfortable but imposing chairs in Nu Pi Kappa. And yes, there was a current Kenyon student napping while El ravaged the room.

My head is aswirl with options for our lives. I’ve begun babysitting Blaise, Erin’s awesome 2-year-old, once a week, and I’ve dedicated all of those earnings to paying for our two mega-vacations. But I could go back to work. I could contract with MDPL. I could write for some online sources. We could make some more money, meet those debt goals earlier, and maybe have some freedom sooner, together. But in the meantime, that means finding and paying for childcare for El, which is a whole ‘nother headache.

Who am I, and how important are these cash flows compared to being here for Elinor and making sure that Chad’s quality of life meets some basic standards?

Going back to Kenyon didn’t help clarify any of this. Education came up everywhere, and I do feel so committed to those causes and to that mission. The Amanda from Kenyon days is different from the Amanda now, too, and living with both of them was strange. I feel so much more ME now than I did then, but my life is strangely larger and more sprawling now, too, way less focused and way less constrained.

El was ready for long conversations in Peirce as she waited for high-quality local foodstuffs.

I don’t know what to do. My crunchy Mama podcast that I love (Mama Natural Show 43) just reported on study that found that stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) have significantly higher levels of depression than other moms, most likely due to isolation, aimlessness, and a lack of feeling any accomplishments. I don’t think isolation is a big issue for me (thank God for my family and some good friends), but I suffer from aimlessness like you wouldn’t believe (she’s sleeping?! What to do first? clean? yoga? eat? sleep? make stuff? MDPL? aieee!), and that lack of accomplishing anything (another load of laundry left, another load of dishes, and El’s crying yet again …. rinse, repeat) drives me mad.

But I love being with El.

All of this just to get some of the things in me head, outta there and somewhere else. I will figure it out. We will figure it out.

Since Elinor’s birth, I’ve been reading like a maniac, which I love. I read while I nurse, mostly, which is often. When Elinor is finicky and doesn’t want to nurse, I sometimes miss my reading time. But that’s OK.

BUT I just finished a book and it has me all riled up: _Born to Love_ by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. My Goodreads.com review:

“I have a bias toward things that deal with empathy — it’s a very Christian (and generally religious) concept, and I stand by it. This book was great b/c it approaches empathy from a scientific perspective, using biological, sociological, economic, medical, and psychological studies to state that 1) empathy is biologically rooted in our bodies through our stress response (or the mediation of that response) and 2) that empathy must be triggered by our social relationships, most often in early childhood. There is much more to this book, but it is a quick, easy read and it kept making me harangue Chad about all of the interesting, great, and terrifying facts and theories that it brought up. Especially useful for a young parent like myself, but also for anyone who gives a damn. I would compare this to _Outliers_ by Malcolm Gladwell, though it was much more research- and experience-based (Perry is a renowned child psychologist). Highly recommended and it makes me want to work to change the world for better. Huzzah!”

Anyway, I was indeed haranguing Chad about the book, and three things really got to me. I will go in order from least important to me at this time, to most important.

1) Part of the reason I love our neighborhood is because it really is in a zone where a bunch of different classes could interact. We are solidly middle class, but down the block are some skeezy apartments and down the other way are some bona fide mansions. [NB – skeezy is a made-up word for my lower-income neighbors, while bona fide is a fancy foreign word — ohhh, language!] _Born for Love_ advocates more social interaction in our lives, period, as that triggers and allows for empathy. But the authors also stress more social interactions with people not “like” us, be that due to race, economics, political leanings, etc. They advocate this because, though we do biologically benefit from our tendency towards being empathic, we also rely upon our dear old “us versus them” tendency, as well. The more we interact with others who seem to be “them,” the less they will seem like “them” and the more they will seem like “us.” I’ve seen the need for this in the kids I teach, and I see it in my own life. I wish that there were more options for the folks in our neighborhood to interact more.

1b) The polarization of our political scene stems from this, as well. I hang out with more Republicans than most of my fellow Liberal friends, just because of my family ties, but the more we did associate with people from the other party, the less we might be at each other’s throats, which seems to be very important for this country right now …..

Which leads me to:

2) I went to grad school for teaching because of the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) schools, which are charter schools (run by small groups for a purpose, run with public funds, accountable to their own charter, but not to much else). All through grad school I advocated for Choice in schools, which would mean that students have the ability to choose from more schools based upon specific ideas, like ELOB, or Math & Science, or the Arts, instead of just attending their neighborhood school. I thought this was a good idea since people seem to benefit from choice in their lives and control.

But then I taught in a public school, which also happened to be one of the worst public schools in our state. And now Choice to me is scary. Not only does it allow us to self-select into our own safe little groups, but it takes away chances for us to interact with those unlike us. This could easily lead to less empathy, according to Bruce and Szalavitz. And I agree with them. My school’s neighborhood was being gentrified and is probably at least 40% white, but our school, the local neighborhood school, is 95% minority. All of the white families have “choiced” their kids out of the local neighborhood school, which is the modern-day, politically correct equivalent of white flight, in my mind. Have it both ways — live in the city, but benefit from upper-middle-class education since you have the time, resources, and know-how to work the system and get your kid out of there, while the parents who lack the know-how, the transportation to get their kids to other schools, or the ability to even care about their kids’ education, send them to our school, which becomes, quite thoroughly, segregated by class, which so often correlates to race. Choice is segregating our schools by necessity and correlation. No wonder kids are lacking empathy.

I could (and should) say much more about this. Someday. It is complicated greatly in my own life by our own neighborhood, because Choice is an option here and our local elementary school is, truly, the worst elementary school in our district b/c parents like me choice their kids out of it. And Chad’s former boss was eloquent: “I don’t vote with my kids.” I do want to ensure Elinor has a great education. But I also want her to be empathic and exposed to different lives, and I worry about losing that if I choice her outta here. I am torn. And she is only five months old!

Which leads me to:

3) Chad began work at the high-falutin’ law firm this past week, and I was torn apart about it. He’s already working his ass off for me and Elinor, which allows me to stay home with her. I have been incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and staying home with Elinor is not all creamcakes and lollipops — it IS work. But it is work that I am privileged to enjoy. But, needless to say, I was feeling guilty about being able to stay home with her. Most of my friends cannot afford to do so, and I worry whether it make me less committed to my career and the rest of the world to do so. Since I worry so rarely about anything …..

This book actually made me more comfortable with the choice to stay home with Elinor, especially this first year. Empathy is triggered, according to the authors and their impressively noted studies, by consistent attachment to a primary caregiver, be that person a mom, dad, grandparent, or daycare provider, especially during the first year of life. But all babies benefit from as much individual attention as they can get, as their stress responses will be appropriately managed and empathy developed with that consistency and reassurance. I really, really wish I lived in Iceland, where all parents receive NINE MONTHS of parental leave, at 80% of their salaries, to be split however they wish between parents. (Chad: “You really are becoming a little socialist, aren’t you?” And YES — care for new mothers and babies in our capitalist society SUCKS. My school would not be in its current straits if we provided for those kids from the start.) But I live here, where the reality is that either Chad works so I can stay home with her, or we search for day care and spend most of my salary on it. I am really, really glad that I get to stay home with her, and hopefully I don’t stress her out too much.

Whew. I highly recommend this book. I love it when books get me all riled up, staying up late into the night typing up rants on my blog.

A month or so ago my uncle turned to me and asked, “Well, are you ready to be a law widow?”

Yes, Chad starts at the big, bad law firm in a month. He’s got a few more weeks of clerking for his justice, and then a week and a half off, and then our lives change significantly.

Speaking of that justice, Chad is camping at the base of the Angel of Shavano tonight with his co-clerk and their interns, while his justice and Chad’s female co-clerk are crashing in a hotel in Buena Vista. Tomorrow all six of them are going to attempt to summit Mount Shavano and, if the going’s good, Tabeguache.

Beyond my jealousy concerning this outing (I have climbed neither Shavano nor Tabeguache, and I WANT TO), Chad is gone for the night. This is the first night I will be alone, a single mommy. So far it hasn’t been too bad — my dad came over and we watched _The Princess Bride_ while I downed some Santiago’s burritos — but I am still awake at 11:05 and Elinor was kind enough to finally fall asleep around 8:45. Ah yes, Chad is a stabilizing influence on this night owl.

I’ve been dreading law widowhood, even though I am very grateful for it. There is no way we’d be able to afford my year at home without Chad’s job there. But Chad has warned me about 80-hour work weeks for years now, and both of us are nervous about how this will affect each of us, our relationship, and little Elinor. On one hand, I’m glad he has the job because the money will be great, and he’s SO bored with clerking at this point (though we both think it’s been an amazing experience). Chad’s itching to begin some real lawyering, even though he knows he’ll be low lawyer on the totem pole. On the other hand, I am so sad. If I didn’t want to stay home with Elinor, maybe he could find a slightly less high-paying job and be around more. I am going to miss him like crazy, and I think Elinor will, too. Then again, at least one of us is able to stay with Elinor this way ….

We will see. I am very careful about telling people that my year off is just that — a year off. Chad and I will see how this law thing goes. If he loves it, then we’ll see how I feel about continuing to stay home. If he hates it, then we will re-assess and I will look for jobs and daycare.

In the meantime, I miss him already, and he’s only gone tonight. I am such a sucker. But I am way more productive when he’s not around, which is both good and bad. 🙂

Ugggh. I am cursed by my researching gene. This happened with strollers and with baby seats and it usually means one thing for us: more money. Grrr.

Elinor is almost four months old. At six months, we will start her on solid foods — which means we probably need some sort of high chair. So I began researching which high chair would work the best. And, of course, I want one that is exorbitantly expensive, and that is primarily because I researched and actually learned about the stupid thing. BUT it meets all of my criteria — quality construction, easy to clean, she can eat at the table, and it can transform into a toddler chair and then into a normal chair (no need to buy a booster seat in between!). I’ve heard about some people using them until they go to college. I LOVE the idea of a high chair that could perform for years and years and years, instead of some schlocky plastic thing that will serve no purpose in five years or less.

It’s this:

That is the same chair, by the way. 🙂

Blah, blah, blah. I cannot justify spending the money, even if the damn chair will last until she’s 20 (or longer — some reviews said that grandparents used the same chair for their kids and grandkids. HOW COOL!).

So I’ve been cruising craigslist and have signed up for all of these baby consignment lollapaloozas in town.

To complicate things even more, the sweet baby set (sold separately, of course) that allows infants to use the chair only works with models made after June 2008. So I email the craigslist people and ask when the chair was made, and by the time I’ve explained why I care and attached screenshots from the manual to explain further, someone else has bought the stupid chair.

And so … more work for me.

From _when Harry Met Sally_:

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don’t see that.
Harry Burns: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.