blk: (david)
This month, the US Dept of Agriculture released its annual Expenditures on Children by Families report, causing news sites all over the web to explode in glee with terror-causing headlines such as "It Costs A Quarter Million Dollars to Raise A Child in the United States" accompanied by worried-looking baby graphics posing with an iconic sack o'cash.

My first reaction to seeing these pop up on my newsfeeds was, "Yeah right, that's ridiculous. That assumes you buy everything new and way more than you need." My second reaction, after I'd had some ginger beer to settle down that gut reaction was, "huh, I wonder what data is actually behind that number, and how my choices compare?"

First I needed to locate and read the actual report. It's here (PDF, 1MB), and it's only 39 pages.

Some interesting observations:
- These numbers represent _average_ spending, not _required_ spending. It all reflects choices that people make. People with more money have more choice, and the data just shows that most of them choose to spend more for higher quality return.
- They actually released 5 different sets of numbers, for various types of family makeup and income levels: Three income brackets for couple-headed households (<$61.5k, $61.5k-$106.5k, >$106.5k) and two for single-parent households (<$61.5k, >$61.5k). Amusingly, I have, at various different points in my parenting life, fallen under 4 of the 5 brackets. Even now, I think about child expenses in multiple different ways, depending on whether it's a cost I'm sharing with my co-parent, my current household, or just myself1. Additionally, the two-parent data was broken up further into geographical groups.
- Two children are not twice the burden. Percentage of total household expenditures attributed to children (averaged over several studies) for the first child is 26%, while the second child costs half that (total rises to 39%), and the third child costs half again (up to 46%).
- The costs counter only included direct spending by the custodial parents up through age 17, not including college. Spending by non-custodial parents, other family members or government assistance were not counted, and neither was indirect spending, such as time spent being a homemaker or cost of loss of job or education opportunities.

"The direct and indirect costs of raising children are considerable, absorbing a major share of the household budget. On the other hand, these costs may be outweighed by the benefits of children." Haha. Thanks for the attempt at heartwarming, researchers.


Now for the actual numbers. Fortunately, my somewhat over-enthusiastic appreciation for data and numbers (only partially prompted by the agreed-upon division of child support via the divorce) means I actually have several years of records that I can review to really see how I compare. While I didn't spend the time to add up exact numbers, I was able to pretty easily guesstimate averages.

The big $245k number in question is according to estimated annual expenditures on a child by middle-income husband-wife families in the overall United States. (Before-tax income: $61,530 to $106,540 (Average = $82,790)) Since that was the number bandied around everywhere, I'll base with that.

number specifics )

Overall conclusion: OK, they're right. It really does cost a quarter-million dollars to raise a kid. Phooey.

1 Interestingly (although perhaps unsurprisingly), my spending correlates directly with how I am sharing the cost. For categories I mostly split with my current household (food, housing), my spending matches the national middle-income average pretty closely. For categories I split with my co-parent (health care and education), our spending isn't far from average for higher-income families. For categories I mostly pay for myself (clothing, partially misc, food and transportation), my spending is closer to the lower-income single-parent family.
blk: (adult)
In just 3 more days, the Boy moves out of this house and into his dorm at Pitt. His mother is up here this weekend working on a massive bedroom cleanout project with him, which I am incredibly thankful for, because omg does it need it.

To help give a little sympathetic motivation, and also because this is the last weekend before school starts that all the kids are here, I also declared it bedroom cleaning day for my boys. "Day" only because this is the culmination of telling/warning them all summer that they were expected to do a full room cleaning like last summer, and they had all week to do as much cleaning independently as they wanted, but that today at noon I would actively get involved. I am very adamant that _I_ am not cleaning their rooms, but I do go in, sit down, and direct them as much as needed. This often involves detailed, step-by-step instructions such as "Pick up everything on your desk, one item at a time, and decide if you are keeping it or getting rid of it" and "If you are keeping it, where should it go?" and "OK now do the same for your shelves. Let's start at the bottom." It also included a dresser cleanout to get rid of unsuitable clothes, whether too small or unwanted1, and a good dusting and vacuuming.

This year's cleaning went MUCH easier than last year's cleaning, which was really nice. I think very much because 1) the rooms had been cleaned well only a year ago (and roughly cleaned occasionally in the middle), so there wasn't a huge backload of cruft, and 2) the boys knew a lot better what to expect from the process, and handled it better emotionally. All that cleaning was still pretty exhausting, even with a treat out to a nearby seafood buffet in the middle of things for a mid-afternoon break (mmmm, ayce salmon sashimi). I have a fantasy that this is also teaching them how to do their own housecleaning when I'm not around, but I'm not actually sure this will affect that at all.

This evening I contributed to the cleanout effort and rewarded myself at the same time by making up a fresh batch of blueberry lemonade (using up the last of the lemons and blueberries), and also finishing off two bottles of vodka2 so now all my liquor fits on one shelf again.

Mentally, I spent a while Friday and Saturday wrestling with myself, because since it's summer and nice weather and weekend, there are of course a zillion events happening that I skipped in order to clean house, several of which I was considering attending up until this morning. But in the end I accepted that if I didn't do this cleaning today it probably wouldn't happen this year, and it was something that I really feel better about having made happen. Between a lot of things happening lately (internal and external), I've been feeling like there's way more of a mess in the house lately than usual, and it's been stressing me out a lot. I'm hoping that this is the start of some improvements. And tomorrow I go back to making plans for myself again.

1 Current giveaways include a large bag full of size 12ish boys stuff, and a year 2000 Robobuggy tie-dyed T-shirt, size adult small. That shirt got a lot of use, and is still in reasonably good condition. I kind of hate to just ditch it, but I don't know who might want it.

2 That sounds more impressive than it was. There was a total of less than 3 oz in them.
blk: (summer)
I don't have any one thing to say; I have a lot of little things.

1. I lost my ability to enjoy spinning in circles about 5 years ago, and as since have given up on things like contra dancing, which [livejournal.com profile] xuth enjoys regularly, but which will make me headachey and nauseated for the rest of the night after about half a dance. Upon recommendation from a friend, I took some dimenhydrinate and went dancing last night to see how it worked. I made it through 4 dances (not all in a row), and while the dizziness still came on strongly, it didn't make me feel icky, and it gradually went away without ill side effects. Hurray for science! Now I just have to figure out if I like contra dancing enough to go back.

2. I spent almost all of this summer helping the [livejournal.com profile] jboys clean out their rooms. By "clean" I mean, I'd sit down in their room, say "ok, today you're going to clean off your [desk]," and for every single $thing that existed in that area, we'd decide keep, give away, or throw away. Repeat dozens of more times for each other piece of furniture and drawer and box and area in the room. We went through toys and school artwork and old shoes and found things and organized things and talked about things. It was an exhausting process, but ended up with a lot of trash and a few boxes of things that got sold at a yard sale last week (along with a bunch of my stuff, and clothing from two different households). End result is more space in the house, a lot of stuff happily re-homed, about a dozen bags of clothing donated, a small amount of money made, and much, much cleaner kid bedrooms.

3. As part of my housecleaning project, I acquired a larger sectional couch and got rid of the two cushy green couches I've had for years. I moved two chairs into the place where the loveseat was, but now that they are there I've decided at least one won't work. Not sure yet if I'm on the lookout for another cushy armchair or another small loveseat.

4. On top of the bedroom cleaning project was a project to switch bedrooms between the oldest boy (who had a small office for a bedroom) and the youngest boy (who had the largest bedroom). I told them that I would support and help as long as both rooms got super cleaned and STAYED mostly cleaned. The switch happened successfully last weekend, and I stayed up late helping the younger one pack and moving his furniture. So far they both claim to be happy with it. I am SO done with cleaning other people's stuff for the next long while.

5. Due to the magic of multiple overlapping vacations and custody schedules, I am going to have Three! Whole! Days! All! To! Myself! next week. Nobody to clean up after or remind to do chores. Nobody to tell my schedule to or arrange things around. Nobody's food preferences to cook around. A totally quiet house to read in and wake up to. I am giddy with anticipation. I also have no idea what to do with myself. Got any suggestions?

6. My gardens have tomato, basil, and garlic growing in them (among other things). That, combined with our propensity towards rosemary bread, means I've had a lot of bruschetta lately. Deeelicious.

7. My compost pile, once again, has baby avocado trees growing in it. Four of them, this year. Anybody want them before they die in a few months? Also, apple season is about to start.

8. The last week of social and activity has involved several days of informal meals, eating leftovers and going out to be active in the evening, and has resulted in my dinners for several days being not much more than light snacks interspersed throughout the evening. Probably relatedly, my weight is slightly down and my body has felt particularly good and less-in-pain in the mornings than usual. This is somewhat unfortunate, as it's really difficult to just skip dinner when we have sit-down family dinners (which is most of the time). Also because I really like eating.

And your last tidbit for the day:

9. Observation I had lately: as a casual transitive verb, to "mother" someone is to care for, protect, and provide for. To "father" someone is to, well, simply take part in their procreation. Neither word has the connotation I particularly care for when talking about how to raise a child ("mother" is closer, but i feel as sometimes it gets too close to "smother"), although Marshall Jones (slam poet) has a nice take on it. I prefer to use "parent."
blk: (computer)
The boys need USB drives occasionally for school. The drives are not used that often, not used for large files, do not need to be secure/protected, and are at high risk of being damaged or lost. I would like to get a few cheap flash drives that I can keep around for when they need/lose one in the next few years. About the cheapest I've been able to find is this 2 GB drive on Amazon for $5.99.

I am looking for help finding either a) another source I can buy inexpensive flash drives (online preferable), or b) friends who might have some old, small capacity drives lying around (maybe tech fair samples?) that are not getting used and could be donated to a good cause (preferably not the kind that autolaunch anything that can't be removed easily). I would like to acquire somewhere between 1 and 5 of them.

Thanks in advance for any help.

[Before people get too far into geek answer syndrome, since I know you're thinking it: yes, there actually are reasons why I specifically want flash drives, and am not looking for alternate file-sharing suggestions.]
blk: (house)
[livejournal.com profile] aroraborealis posted a provoking excerpt regarding division of housework from an article about casual sexism. There are a great many conversations that could be had starting from either of those sources, but my thoughts went to household cleaning in general, where I got it from, and what I do now.

my background )

my house )

the hard stuff )
blk: (snowball)

a man and his sewing machine
This morning was warm and sunny with a clear schedule, and the boys had been begging [livejournal.com profile] xuth for followthrough on his comment to them that making one's own boffer sword was much better than buying one. So he vanished them shopping for a couple hours to get materials (while I enjoyed a nice run and a quiet house for a bit), made a pattern, and proceeded to help them construct their boffers.

The boys all picked their own cloth covering, and cut the desired pattern out of it. Then they each got sewing machine lessons.

Ingredients:
pool noodle (cut to size)
pvc tubing, of a diameter to fit in the noodle (cut to size)
duct tape (because every project needs duct tape)
cloth for cover, cut to pattern and sewn into tube
paracord to cinch the end of the cover

The end result? Way too much fun for inside.

grass below you, sky above )
blk: (faceinhands)
Lately, I've been feeling like I'm the only woman I know who a) is under 40, b) has had children, and c) definitely does not want more children.
blk: (justin)
My second big accomplishment for this past weekend:

After the huge success of the previous Portal party I did, Justin wanted one as well. Except this time I got to make it harder. So with some help from [livejournal.com profile] qiika, I threw together a puzzle hunt with the goal of keeping four 10-ish year olds entertained for two hours. The puzzles can be found here (if you want to test your wit against theirs).

Due to running out of time and printer paper, I didn't do as good as job as I had been hoping; a couple of my clues were unclear (or wrong), and I didn't get to space out the puzzles to fit inside the nice pretty portal pictures, but they did a good job anyways. They were allowed any reference except the internet (which meant my bookshelf and my phone were in use), and they got almost all of the puzzles solved on their own (they needed a couple hints here and there, and the answers for a couple of the Tolkien ones; Gandalf's initial introduction only lists 11). They skipped over puzzle 5 entirely because the lead-in text was too obvious, and I still managed to keep them busy for 1 hour and 10 minutes before they found the cupcakes (topped with cinnamon candy to look like the Portal cake).

The party was then followed by a small exodus to see HP6. Good movie.

It was a lot of fun. But boy am I glad it's over.
blk: (david)
Mostly random bit from the weekend.

I went to the Pgh Renfest on Monday with [livejournal.com profile] qiika and kids, taking advantage of the "kids get in free" weekend special. At the gate, I walked up to the ticket window to pay for my ticket.

"One adult and two kids?" she looked out the window to confirm, rested her eyes on the boys, then looked back at me, with an incredulous look on her face. "Are they really yours?" she asked, sounding -very- surprised.

Now, I'm used to people telling me that I look young for my age, but usually they don't drop their jaw quite so much when they do so. It was a little surreal.

I recovered, decided to just take it as a compliment, mumbled "Yes, they are," thanked her, took my tickets, and went in.
blk: (me_baby)
One of the central traits of human personality is that of Introversion and Extroversion. This trait covers a general preference for being in the external world or the internal world. A good workable definition is that an extrovert gains energy from interacting with people, while an introvert gains energy from being alone. Like most other personality traits, it runs on a sliding scale, not in binary.

There are many unfair or incorrect assumptions and generalizations made about this trait. A couple that come to my mind are:
  • extroverts have good social skills | introverts have poor social skills.
  • extroverts always enjoy being social | introverts don't enjoy socializing.
lingering on this topic )
blk: (me_baby)
One evening over Carnival weekend, after several of us had just left my house, a friend (who can identify himself if he wants) admitted that, for reasons that were not personal to me or my family, he was uncomfortable with my children playfully crawling over him. I encouraged him, for any future occurrence, to state said preferences directly to my children, insisting that the perceived rationality of his discomfort didn't particularly matter, only that that was there. We followed up with an interesting (to me, at least) discussion of ways to relate to children when it comes to expressing personal boundaries.

Learning how to relate to people and developing good boundaries has been one of the themes of my own brain in the recent while, and the specifics of applying this to children becomes more relevant as my kids make more friends and I interact with more children who are not related to me. I've also observed that many of my friends, particularly ones who don't have children of their own, aren't always sure how to relate to my kids. As I have awesome kids, and I care about their social development, I'd always like to see more of my friends interacting with and being comfortable with being around them. So here are some of my armchair psychology thoughts on the matter.

lengthy ramblings on children and boundaries blah blah IMO blah blah )

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