money, reading, shopping

Spending with Calypso

In his latest book Calypso, David Sedaris has a quote that stuck with me.

Disclaimer: David Sedaris is probably my favorite author. Top three if not number one. So much of Calypso made me laugh, and think, and compare to my own life. He is humorous, but he is also very thoughtful and reflective.

The quote that got me isn’t really funny, and it has probably been said by countless other people, but I had never heard it and it struck a chord with me.

“I’m not just a vehicle for my wallet!”

He says this in a short piece about how people, especially retail clerks, airline workers, hotel staff, etc, ask the same generic questions to everyone all day long, and don’t really listen to the answer.

Of course this is necessary – you want to seem friendly to your customers but you do it all day every day and can’t push yourself to get to know someone, nor do you have time to have more than a limited interaction. But Sedaris talks about the random questions he asks to start a conversation, and how they usually fall flat with these people.

He is quite quirky.

This quote made me think about buying things in person. You can still be upsold online, with ads like “Based on your viewing history, you might like:” or “People who bought what you just bought also bought:”. But it’s impersonal online anyway. In a store, especially drugstores, clerks try to sell you whatever little trinket they have next to the cash register, or ask you to donate to the charity of the week. (Not knocking charities, but I like to donate directly to them and don’t like being guilted about being stingy with my dollar at the drugstore.) Bigger stores ask you to sign up for their membership card or buy a warranty. Whether you do or not is your business, but the Sedaris quote made me think of all that differently. Honestly, I’m still thinking about it… I know spending your money is a way to “vote” so to speak, and that idea really tangles with this quote in my mind. I like it.

(All that being said, this was shortly after a piece where Sedaris describes buying countless ill-fitting, ugly, overpriced clothes just because he likes going shopping and buying things, so I guess we can take the quote with a grain of salt! I just like pulling it out to think over on its own.)

money, shopping

Boxy Girls

I saw a commercial on TV while visiting a friend, and it stuck with me. And disgusted me a bit.

Or a lot.

Have you heard of Boxy Girls? (It’s an awful name I know, but clicking that link is SFW.)

These are dolls that come with 4 boxes of accessories for you to “unbox” with them.

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I know unboxing is a huge YouTube thing, and I’ve seen kids watch videos of other kids (or adults, yikes!) unboxing toys and getting excited about adding a bunch of plastic to their collections.

I don’t mean to be all down on people’s hobbies, but the whole concept of unboxing seems so heavily focused on consumerism and having more More MORE! And it’s disgusting. Why do you have to buy so much? What satisfaction do you get from recording these unboxings? What satisfaction do people get from watching these unboxings? I’ve tried, and have to stop when we hit the 2 minute mark and all I’ve seen is the box from all possible angles. JUST OPEN IT!

I understand being excited to open something. Hell, I got excited to open my monthly Subscribe & Save boxes, and they were just things like dish soap or cleaning products. But I never felt the compulsion to record these and make it like some great reveal meant to inspire envy in others. Now there is a toy you can buy (and unbox! since it’s “As Seen on TV”) and then unbox her boxes! Wait – would you record your unboxing of the doll, then record HER recording HER unboxing of the accessories? So meta.

If you want to watch unboxings on YouTube, why don’t you give Dylan Marron some views and exercise your brain?

holidays, home life, money

Happy Birthday!

My son is old enough to understand birthdays and be excited, but young enough to not really care about having a big to-do. (Or maybe he’s growing up to be just as anti-social as Mommy!)

Every time he wants something, he says he wants it for his birthday: new train track pieces; a new Thomas “roller coaster” track for those strange, pointless, tiny little trains; a trampoline. He doesn’t want everything he sees, but when he wants something, he remembers it. He will get a few things for his birthday – usually one gift per person, and only close family comes to the party – but I’m sure he will remember to ask for a trampoline for his next birthday, until I remind him that Christmas will come around before his next birthday. Then he will start the Christmas list.

When he gets gifts, he is very thankful for them. He thanks the giver (usually with prompting) and plays with the toys for a long time. Most of the toys he has work together, like the wooden train pieces that build together, and wooden trains to drive on them. Or the pointless tiny Thomas trains that link together for a parade, or zoom around on tracks that take batteries. Or cars and trucks… so many different cars and trucks! They fill one of his toy bins, but he seriously plays with ALL of them, so… they stay.

The birthday party itself is never a huge deal. He has friends at school but we don’t really do playdates or anything yet. We invite grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins, and our parties usually top out at 12 people – mostly adults. It’s always in the afternoon, post-nap, with snacks and cupcakes for the guests. I hate stressing over hosting major dinners and parties, so I like keeping them minimal. Napkins for the snacks, candy, and cupcakes, cups for punch, and that’s about it. Two hours of togetherness is perfect for kids the ages we have (about-to-be-4, 5, and 8) and they can play outside if it’s not rainy.

His party is right around the corner, and now that’s he’s older I’m eager to see how he will open the gifts on his own (he still had trouble last year) and thank the givers without prompting.

home life, money, school, working

Montessori School

I have a lot of thoughts on the public school system, from my memories as a student (skewed, I know), to being a teacher, to being a prospective parent. I’ll try to not get too… opinionated here, because I know every school system is different and the more specific I get to my district, the less helpful my insights will be to others.

I worked in an elementary school in a middle class area; the school had high ratings and incredibly high enrollment – there were over 860 kids there when I was there. We were understaffed, even if no one would admit it or no one could fix it. Classrooms pushed 30 kids, and that was way too much. I worked as a librarian so I saw all of these kids on a rotating schedule, and I always dreaded the 30-kid classes. It’s too much.

My son went to an inclusive preschool three days a week, mostly for socialization. They learn a lot there, but the pace is different since there are so many kids with different abilities. He used to go to a different school 5 days a week, full days, when I worked full time. He fit in there and learned a lot, including Spanish. But it seemed like he was on the road to behavior problems, because he always acted out with one friend. Those behaviors disappeared once he was in a classroom with kids ranging from 3-6, and with drastically different abilities. I loved this preschool because he saw so many differently-abled kids and worked with them on their levels. He has told me about some of his friends and it makes me happy that he has this understanding and compassion from a young age.

Now he is going to a Montessori school. Well, right now it is the school’s summer camp. I got a dream job at the school so I am prepping my classroom this summer while he attends camp. I think Montessori is perfect for him because he loves to learn, and has specific interests, and wants to be able to learn at his pace and on his level. Again, he will be in a class with 3-5/6 year olds. I think this is great because he will see older kids as role models, and can strive to be a good role model for those younger than him.

I was so anxious about putting him in public school. I detest our system as it is, and while I know he would adapt and socialize and fit in, I didn’t want that. I don’t want him to become a cookie cutter kid when he is so smart and curious. I want him to move around and pick his tasks and learn practical life skills from school, instead of being pushed to read and write and do worksheets in kindergarten.

I really wanted to homeschool him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. When I was working from home, I was working 15 hours a week while he was in childcare. If needed, I worked some at night after he was asleep. And I loved working from home, and wanted to continue to do it for the flexible schedule. But now, I will be working in the same place as him. I will know what he’s learning and how. I’m still learning about the Montessori method, but I know some from a previous job at a learning center and really agree with the approach. I think this is the best compromise to homeschooling – being near enough him (no worries with drop off and pick up times at school coinciding with my work schedule!) and knowing he is learning in a method that will encourage his growth and individuality. Plus, as I said it’s a dream job for me, and teaching there means a discount on tuition. I was looking forward to public school being free, but if that’s the only perk to an education, it’s not a perk at all!

I’m eager to keep learning about Montessori as it applies to me as a teacher and parent, and I’m eager to see how he reacts to it. I’ll definitely be sharing more as I build my classroom and curriculum.

 

money

Getting Gas

Gassing up my car used to be a huge to-do. I worked just 12 miles from home, but when you add in traffic and dropping my son at his school, the journey took about 45 minutes. I got gas almost every week, but sometimes I pushed it to two weeks. Working from home means I get gas once a month, which is such an amazing perk! My son’s new school is only 3 miles away, and all of our errands are pretty local. Sometimes we drive out to the suburbs to visit friends and family, but that’s rare (wow, I sound like the biggest hermit…). A bonus is that we have two restaurants and a small grocery store within walking distance, and my parents also live close enough to walk, so we get exercise when we visit or pick up a few items from the store. And, of course, save on gas!

This isn’t a sponsored post, but it will sound like it. (Sponsor me!) Kroger fuel points have been a huge help in saving gas money. We buy all our groceries at Kroger, save the random items we pick up at the nearby store as needed. I spend about $300 on food at Kroger every month, and that comes to be 30 cents off a gallon of gas when I fill up!

Receipts often have a code at the bottom, and you can complete a short survey to get 50 extra fuel points. DO THIS! It is worth it. It’s short, mostly multiple choice, and pays off! You can do one survey every 7 days, so that helps me plan my grocery visits – I don’t want to go too often just because it adds up (and I hate grocery shopping…), so at least 7 days apart is a great goal for me.

During the summer, you get double fuel points at Kroger if you shop on the weekends. I’ve started going on Sunday mornings, when people are at church or sleeping in, and I can get in and out quickly with those double fuel points.

There are some gas stations that will give you a discount if you come inside and pay in cash. I am going to sound like the laziest person ever, but… I don’t do that. I treat gas stations like a drive thru – I stop at the pump and stay at the pump! That’s why I stick with Kroger gas – I know the discount is already on my card.

Other stations take Kroger cards too, so that’s worth checking in to – one of those might be closer to your home or work so it’s efficient to get to. My Kroger station is close enough, and I try to fill up after I get groceries, since I’m already there.

There are apps to scout great gas prices too, but my phone is basic and doesn’t have enough memory for stuff like that. There are also websites you can use online, and sometimes it’s worth a long drive to get cheap gas! If you use gas for your lawn mower, you can fill up your gas can at the same time and keep that discount going! My parents used to save up for a huge Kroger discount, then take both cars and fill one up after the other! So you can see I came by this “saving” mentality honestly!

home life, money

Living Without A/C: Part 2

I left off with everyone wondering: Did she turn on the air conditioning? Did she turn on the A/C?

I heard you.

And yes, I’ve turned it on by now. Remember I was suffering at 78 degrees on May 2nd, at 10pm? I thought nights were supposed to be cooler, but… that doesn’t happen so much around here. Keeping my bedroom window open worked for 2 nights, but I just couldn’t cool down.

One night in early May I was in bed, staring up at my ceiling, willing myself to cool down… and I spotted that switch on my ceiling fan. I remember learning that you could flip the switch to use fans in winter to keep the warm air circulating, but I didn’t remember doing it.

Google to the rescue! Ceiling fans should turn counter-clockwise to cool the room, and clockwise to keep it warm. I had to stop my bedroom fan and start it again to see which way the blades were spinning.

Clockwise!

I turned it off again, waited until it stopped spinning (crucial step), and flipped the switch. Once the dust started flying off the blades (shame my housekeeping skills!), I vaguely remembered switching it for winter – because dust flew off then, too.

I tiptoed into my sleeping son’s warm oven of a room, staring up at his ceiling fan. Counter-clockwise, but it was so warm I stopped it, flipped the switch, and gave it a shot. Not much difference, but I put it back the way it was. I’m pretty sure it was on the cool setting.

My two new ceiling fans were off since the house was hunkered down for sleep, but I started them up – one was going counter-clockwise, but the other had to be changed.

The fan in the back room is the heartiest I’ve ever seen – it keeps that room as cool as the inside of a refrigerator. I knew it was spinning correctly.

The house got a lot cooler after that. It was too warm to keep windows open, but the fans alone kept the house at 76 or 77 degrees every day. Sometimes, in the mornings, it was downright cool. Not too shabby.

On May 7th, my son and I visited my parents’ house. As we approached, I could tell the windows were shut tight. I knew what that meant – their A/C was on!

Sure enough, they had turned it on before the extra-warm weekend hit. I mistakenly thought their goal had always (since my childhood) been to make it until June 1st, but Mom told me it was May 1st, with the crazy heat we get. Both parents seemed impressed we hadn’t turned our air on yet.

As soon as we got home, I turned on the fans. It was pretty warm. I glanced at the thermostat. 78. Did I want to live like this? Nahhh. Besides, I had beat out my parents, and they acknowledged my sacrifice (shhh – let me have this!). So I turned on the air on the evening of May 7th. Quite far from my original (misguided) June 1st deadline, but the house sure is comfortable now.

My new heating and cooling system is efficient and cut down my utility bills. Plus the ceiling fans still help – they keep the house cool enough that I don’t need the A/C on very high. Right now it’s at 77 and I’m at my desk with a fan swirling above me, and the breeze is a little cool!

I haven’t looked into how much it costs to run a ceiling fan (or multiple ceiling fans), or how much it costs compared to running the A/C. So we’ll check out that utility bill at the end of the month and report back.

home life, money, natural living

Living Without Air Conditioning

I’m not.

Living without air conditioning, that is. So I guess this title is clickbait, sorry!

I tried to live without air conditioning. My yard gets nice sun and my windows let in a nice amount of natural light, but overall my house stays pretty cool. I had a new heating and cooling system put in about two years ago – a major investment, but worth it because there has been a noticeable drop in my utility bills, while my house still stays at an enjoyable temperature.

This spring I had two ceiling fans added into the house. The 2 bedrooms and back playroom already had fans with light fixtures. The living room didn’t have anything – we used two wall mounted lamps and a floor lamp in the corner for meager light. My “office” had a chandelier, because it was technically a dining room. Slight digression for the glorious Mitch Hedberg:

I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don’t you? “F*(% you, real estate lady! This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom’s over in that guy’s house! Sir, you have one of my bedrooms, are you aware? Don’t decorate it!”

I hated the chandelier, and wanted to get a cool light fixture to spruce up my office, but then I figured since I was switching out the fixture already, why not get a practical fan?

So I did. I bought the most basic white builder’s fan for my office, and a slightly more stylish white fan for the living room. The living room didn’t have anything on the ceiling other than that lovely popcorn finish, so I had to hire electricians. They went up in the attic and drilled and cut and wired and did their thing very quickly and efficiently, and switched out my office chandelier, and voila! I had a fan in every room but the kitchen.

Having ceiling fans everywhere, and a window in every room that could open, made me think I could live without air conditioning until June 1st. That was my goal. Think of the low, low utility bill! Think of how empowered I would feel, beating the system, living life au natural!

Cue getting ready for bed, slightly sweaty, looking at the thermostat – 78 degrees! Oh my god, I’m not going to last! What day is it? It was May 2nd. I kept thinking I wasn’t going to make it…