Monday, July 30, 2012

Cost of a Child

I've had conversations recently with friends who are reasonably wealthy. They are making mortgage payments, own pets, and eat out regularly, so I assume they aren't scraping by. (I suppose they could just be lousy at managing their money, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.) They're also well-educated, having at least a bachelor's degree. So why do they buy into the myth that children are prohibitively expensive?

For these friends, and others who may want children but feel unable to afford them, let me set the record straight. In general, if you can afford a dog, you can afford a child.

Start-Up Costs
Depending on your health insurance, the biggest investment will be hospital bills. Once you cross that hurdle, though, the rest seems easy.
Cloth diapers ($500) That's a high estimate, but about how much we spent. You can easily spend a lot less by getting less fancy diapers and/or shopping Craigslist and consignment sales. Of course, $500 is a lot of money, but with cloth, that investment will cover your little one all the way through toilet training. And many times you can sell your diapers to get some of that money back!
Pack-n-play ($50-100) Your baby doesn't need a crib. Peter slept in our room in a travel-size pack-n-play for his first year quite happily. He then graduated to a crib mattress on the floor in his room (add another $50).
Car seat ($60) A convertible car seat will likely last your child through preschool years.

Ongoing Costs
Clothes ($10/mo) We shop almost exclusively at thrift and consignment stores for Peter. He hasn't seemed to mind. :-)
Food ($20/mo) For the first six months, the only increase in our food budget was keeping me fed. Peter was exclusively breast-fed. I know not everyone is medically able to breastfeed, but most women are with enough support. Saves a LOT of money on formula! And "baby food" is a scam. We've never bought baby food. Peter just eats what we eat, cut into little pieces.
Toys ($10/mo) Really, this is optional, but we like to give stuff to our kids. Just be reasonable about it. Go to the library for books. Again, look for used items. If you have any friends or relatives, be ready for birthdays and Christmas!

"Hidden" Costs
Health insurance This is entirely dependent on your coverage. In some places, there are only two levels (individual and family), so having a child won't impact your payments at all. From conversation with friends and family, I can confidently say we're on a lousy plan; still, Peter 'only' costs us about $1K/year. The next child won't significantly change that amount.
Utilities Our electric jumped about 1 kwh/mo, which is pretty negligible. With the extra laundry for cloth diapers, our water bill doubled... but we live in the northeast, so that was about $10 extra per month.

Lost Wages or Child Care?
It's impossible for me to set a ballpark of what this would mean for your family. To do what we've done (breastfeeding, cloth diapers) is possible while both parents work full-time, but difficult. To us, it was very important that one parent stay home and practicality dictated that person be me. (My husband just never got very good at breastfeeding...) I love being a stay-at-home mom, but not every woman would. My lost wages were negligible, since I was making less than $14/hr, but for other families this would be a bigger adjustment. Do the math to figure out how big of an impact this would really have on your finances.

The Future
What we spend on food and clothing will continue to increase as Peter grows, but I don't anticipate either of these breaking the bank. (I may regret these words when he hits a growth spurt in puberty...) He'll survive without a car of his own in high school. We would love to be able to pay his college tuition, but worst case, many students work themselves through college with scholarships and grants and live to tell the tale.

There may be many good reasons not to have children. If money is one of them, though, I hope this gave you an idea of what you need to spend versus what Babies'R'Us wants you to spend.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Belated - (Vol. 4)

Summer camp was wonderful! The weather was good, no serious injuries, lots of kids learning about God and healthy competition. My craft and nature lessons were well-received, overall. Peter was once again the darling of camp, gathering admirers wherever he went. The little girls were a bit over-enthusiastic in their admiration, but Peter knew he could sit in my lap or ask for his playpen if things got to be too much. It was an exhausting and fantastic two weeks.

Napping in the gym

Toilet training got both better and worse during camp. Better, because he was using the toilet regularly and occasionally asking ahead of time when he needed it. Worse, because he was drinking constantly to stay hydrated, so I think he's back to not minding a wet diaper. Oh well. He's got time. :-)

Peter is two! Although if you ask him, he'll say three, nine, or ten. He can now count: 1-12, 16, 18, 19, 20, 30. Close enough. :-)

He has gotten much more emphatic about saying no. At home, this isn't usually an issue. We don't ask a question unless no is an acceptable answer and only require compliance in issues of safety or respect (i.e. no feet on the table). It's frustrating, though, when we're in public and he refuses to be polite. Someone will say hi and he'll shout no. At home, we just tell him we don't want to play with/help him if he is going to be rude, but in public there are no reasonable consequences. Ideas?

We had a family portrait taken for our church directory. We get a free 8x10 for participating, then the studio tries to sell us additional prints. JCPenney's sells any 8x10 sheet (2 5x7s, etc.) for $4, so I had figured if it was around $10, I would get a couple just for convenience of not taking Peter out again for his 2 year old pictures. Turns out they were asking $25. Ha, no.

What I learned today: Fast can also be an adverb. I always used quickly as an adverb and fast (when describing speed) as an adjective. But they can both modify verbs! Fun fact!

We finally got RAIN! This is great for our plants, although I think it is too little too late for our garden. I should have been watering every day, but... well, I'm pregnant... and was volunteering at camp... and really am just too lazy to be entrusted with growing things.

Using his wheelbarrow while my husband did yard work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

None of the Above

Another guest post by my husband.

I hate presidental election years. They depress me. I always tell myself I'll avoid the coverage until October, and then just read the summaries of what happened and make my decision. Yet, despite not really watching TV (actually, the last thing Catholic Mommy and I watched over the air at home was the final Obama-McCain debate), I still find myself rubbernecking at the car crash that is modern American politics.

For the Democrats, we have President Obama, who I voted for in 2008 but has lost my support over breaking several key campaign promises, including support for oil pipelines and extending the Bush tax cuts. Both of those situations are framed by the administration as victories, but in reality, they're bad compromises, much like the worst-of-both-worlds health care plan that got passed. It hasn't been all bad; looking at the numbers rather than the rhetoric, he has made great and measurable improvements in the economy, even if the bounceback hasn't been as resounding as we'd all hoped. However, I don't believe any more that I can trust him to do anything he says he's going to do.

Do you really want to vote for this guy?

I've voted for a number of Republicans in my life, but never for President. This might have been the year, but, as a friend put it, "they didn't exactly bring their A-team". As a nominee, we have Mitt Romney, who has a big honesty problem himself, as well as just being a really weird dude. According to one focus group, the policies he's campaigning on are literally unbelievable, and if you look at his political record, he's basically Obama (e.g., known for passing universal health care and making compromises across party lines). 

Or this guy?

So what's a jaded voter to do?

This situation reminds me of the 2010 gubernotorial election in New York. The Democrats ran popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against Buffalo businessman and Republican Tea Party favorite Carl Paladino. Cuomo won in a landslide (probably aided by some racist, sexist and homophobic e-mails from Paladino), and while they differed on many key points, their education proposals were very similar, including capping property taxes while reducing state aid to schools. They also both supported a new constitutional convention for New York, which would (among other things) potentially allow them to change the pension plan for existing teachers, rather than just cutting benefits for new hires.

Cuomo enjoys a very high approval rate now overall, and has largely kept his campaign promises (though we haven't had a constitutional convention yet). This makes him a reviled figure by many in education, and I've seen some of the ill effects already: my alma mater has sharply reduced its foreign language options (and they only offered Spanish and French when I was there), and the school at which my mom teaches has had to make significant job cuts. New York State United Teachers, a 600,000 member union, declined to endorse a candidate during the election, and at least one state employee I know has declared that he doesn't plan to ever vote again.

So what did I do in that election? I voted for Howie Hawkins.

Hawkins is a blue-collar worker and long time political activist, primarily focusing on the environment and peace. He ran on the Green Party line. I'd voted for him once before, for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2006. He's been published in The Guardian (a major UK newspaper and excellent source of goofy US politician pictures) and other major publications, and is articulate enough that a staunch libertarian friend of mine was completely won over after hearing him speak several years ago, despite holding a widely different political ideology. 

How about this guy instead? (Source: Green Party of the United States)

I voted for Hawkins in large part because he was one of only two candidates on the ballot who opposed the constitutional convention, the other being Republican Warren Redlich, who ran on the Libertarian line after losing the Republican primary to Paladino. Each got about 1% of the vote.

For some reason, most people I know seem both completely disgusted with the major parties and unwilling to consider voting for third party candidates. I suspect people view them as being buffoons and/or spoilers. To a degree, this is an understandable conclusion. The only third party candidate who got any significant media exposure during the 2010 New York election was Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is 2 Damn High party, and much of that came from being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. And, of course, much has been made of the assumption that George H.W. Bush and Al Gore would've won their respective elections if not for Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

But it doesn't have to be this way; indeed, having such a homogenous group leading the country is unusual in a democracy. As of this writing, Democrats and Republicans hold every seat in the House of Representatives and all but 2 in the Senate (both of whom are independents with strong ties to the Democratic party). By contrast, Canada has 3 parties represented in their Senate and 6 in the House of Commons (not counting independents), the UK has 12 parties represented in each of their houses (and 18 non-affiliated in the House of Lords), and even Iraq has 8 parties in their Council of Representatives (again, not counting independents). Even in the United States, we've had third party presidents, though not recently.

I haven't decided who I'll vote for this year for President. Right now, I'm leaning toward Jill Stein, who was nominated this week as the Green Party candidate. From what little I know about her so far, it seems that her campaign is centered on creating jobs without sacrificing the environment or relying on the military, which sounds about like what I want a president to do next year.

Our next president? (Source: Green Party of the United States)

The main reason I voted for Obama over a third party candidate (probably Nader) last time was that I was afraid of the spoiler effect and didn't want to risk doing anything that might possibly result in Sarah Palin being President. I'm no longer concerned about that sort of thing. At least one exit poll from 1992 indicated that as many as a third of all voters who didn't vote for Perot would've done so if they thought he could win. If NYSUT had endorsed Hawkins or Redlich for governor and even 10% of their members voted that way, it would've doubled the vote total for that candidate, and their totals were already among the highest seen for third party candidates in New York in recent years.

If I can be part of convincing people a third party candidate can be viable, I want to do so. And that starts with all of you Americans reading this: if you don't like Obama or Romney, find someone you like more, and vote. "None of the above" is really a vote for the status quo. 

If all else fails, you can always write in this guy. (Source: Entertainment Weekly)

Jeremy is clearly not above selecting unflattering pictures of the opposition to try and sway readers. He's only going to write about politics while they're important, which means he should only have to write about them for the rest of his life. He also writes...well, not much lately, but at least manages to tweet every once in a while (@top10wolves).

Monday, July 16, 2012

My hubris!

I was so confident this wouldn't be a problem. Sure, Peter and I are spending the whole day at summer camp, but I'm only doing activities for 1.5 to 2 hours. I can totally handle that and not be exhausted at the end of the day.

Only, summer camp is not conducive to toddler or mommy naps. And it's hot, even when we can spend much of the day in the air conditioned office. And it's stressful for a little boy to be at camp all day instead of home.

Which is a long way of saying that I am too fried to be able to produce quality posts. I'll put some pictures up as I am able over this week and next, perhaps have some guest posts (any volunteers?), but until I can come home at the end of the day wanting to do anything other than melt onto the floor, I'll spare you my ramblings. :-)

PS: I'm going to blame being pregnant rather than being old.

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 3)

A friend of ours is staying with us for a couple of nights. Last night, he had some errands to run in the area, so he left after dinner. Around 10:30, we were getting concerned. Most stores aren't open that late. Was he OK? Did he get lost? Turns out he just got caught up in conversation with friends. I'm not sure how we're going to handle allowing our kids out when they are old enough. :-)

Summer camp starts next week! I've had fun this past week ironing out details of my craft and nature lessons and helping develop age-appropriate activities for the different sports we teach. The hardest one was football. It's so complicated! All you folks out there who coach youth football, kudos.

We went out to breakfast with my Dad and one of my brothers today. The waitress remembered Peter's name, even though we haven't been there in over a month and probably no more than 5 times in the last year. Is it because he is the cutest kid of all time? Because he behaves so impeccably in restaurants? Because he's just amazing? Probably all three.

Being all kinds of adorable at a fast food restaurant on our trip.

I've had a series of dreams recently in which I've been high school age.Same thing happened during my pregnancy with Peter. I think part of my brain is rebelling against the responsibility of another new person to raise. Anyone have fun alternate interpretations?

It's birthday week! Peter and my husband have birthdays only three days apart, so we're having a combined celebration on Sunday. I'm going to show off my excellent culinary skills and order pizza. (I actually do have decent culinary skills; my mom made sure I could feed myself and follow directions. I just really don't like to cook.)

Message we got from a friend earlier this week: "Dear friends, I have a dire first world problem: I am an adult male and I wish to go see "Brave" in theaters. There are significant cultural barriers to this goal. Possibly, I could rent your appropriately aged child? I am also open to further negotiations. Best Regards, -Mark"

The first time I heard anything about Magic Mike was through an online moms' group with which I am peripherally involved. I assumed it was some magician show for the kids. Then I read this. Oh. Oh, I see. (Disclaimer: This is the ONLY thing I have read about the movie. So I still know virtually nothing about it. But I'm glad I didn't sign up thinking it was a kids' event!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just the Guys

My brother took lots of great pictures of Peter during the vacation, but he is at my parents' tonight. As previously noted, their computers are... well... slow. Perhaps by next week! :-D

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The H-word

I know a few parents who do not allow the "H-word" in their homes. Their children might not like something, but they certainly don't hate it. These parents have explained to me that the world is too full of hatred. They want their children to use positive and accurate language. Isn't hate rather strong to describe one's feelings about peppers on pizza?

I agree that the way we use "hate" is hyperbole in most situations. I would argue, though, that the way we use "love" is usually hyperbolic, too. I love my husband, rainstorms, and playing soccer. So I think avoiding the word hate because it's inaccurate is probably not useful, unless you plan on striking all hyperbole and many figures of speech from your home.

What about positive language, though? Isn't it a good thing to ban words like hate and stupid? Not necessarily. There is a big difference between hating a person and hating a situation or characteristic. I think it is completely appropriate for a child to say, "I hate it when Suzie bullies other kids." That type of behavior is abhorrent. I think banning negative language makes it more difficult to teach morals. It seems that any behavior choice would either be good or not-as-good. If nothing should provoke hatred, then where is the line between right and wrong?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.
Romans 12:9

Clinging to what is good!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disaster Recovery

We got back from a wonderful trip to Iowa late on Monday night (early this morning?). That means today was disaster recovery day. Laundry, dishes, trying to get Peter back to some semblance of schedule. It was a minor success. He didn't get to sleep until after 10:30. The dishes are partly done. The laundry is at least in a basket rather than a suitcase.

And then of course I had emails to read, Facebook pictures to peruse, and far more blog posts to read than time to read them. So if you wrote something really good this past week, leave it as a comment and I'll make sure I get to it. :-)

Upshot is that although I have great bloggy ideas (when it's OK to hate, the cost of raising a child, and why people don't believe science, for example), I have no energy to give them what they deserve tonight. I don't need a vacation from vacation, just a maid.

Peter on the "playground" at an Ohio rest stop

Monday, July 2, 2012


With Independence Day on Wednesday and folks talking all kinds of vacation days, we have commitments with friends and/or family for the rest of the week. Because of this, I am taking a week's vacation from blogging. I plan to enjoy these moments to the fullest and not think about a clever way to post them here! Enjoy your holiday.