Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home Birth

I wonder if I can plan to give birth on my bed? It’s not that I look forward to a home birth (I look forward to drugs) or that I think it will be a more welcoming, loving environment to greet my last-born (he’d better get used to pain and bright lights if he’s going to earn my retirement as a football player). No, it’s just that I hate my mattress, and if I can schedule a time when a lot of nasty fluid sits and ferments, well, then a new mattress suddenly shoots to the top of the don’t-go-into-debt-for-it priority list.
My husband and I have exactly two debts: our home and his schooling. So, technically, he has 2 debts. I have one. We buck trends that way. I turn down Target credit cards, in spite of the discount offered at the time of sign-up. We have no Sears card, no Home Depot card, and I pay for everything I buy with the money in my checking account. I don’t earn points on a credit card, thinking that I’ll pay it off at the end of the month because I know I won’t. I know that slippery slope, and I’ll stay very much on the summit, thank you.
This isn’t to say I’m so great with money. I did, after all, keep that camera. But being out of debt means not buying things you really, really want or really, really think you have to have. Being out of debt means not eating at Sonic even if it is only $2.50. It means turning down events with friends, not just once or twice, but lots and lots of times.
Is it worth it?
Well, I saw my parents repeatedly declare bankruptcy (like clockwork). We had foreclosure notices on houses and my mom hid money in random places so she could feel more secure when the past-due bills started piling up. All this, not because my step-father couldn’t earn a decent income, but because he didn’t take care of the income he earned. He’d buy my mom a diamond necklace and then we’d go on church relief in order to eat. He’d shuffle off to Wendover, Nevada for the weekend and come back experience-rich and pocket-poor.
My brother and some of my sisters will see that as a condemnation of their father. Whatever. It’s a life-experience that taught me the very-real stress of growing up in a house that refuses to control finances.
So, about the mattress. You see my difficulty? It isn’t a priority. If I could get new siding by giving birth on top of the house, I’d consider that. We don’t have an HOA, so in terms of the neighbors, there’s not much they could do about it, although there may be some sort of public menace rule. And it’s not like my mattress is that bad. I don’t wake up in pain because of it or anything like that. I just don’t like it as much as I’ve liked other mattresses and I wouldn’t mind having a new one.
Hey, I know. Why don’t all you mattress companies out there send me free mattresses so I can let you know which ones I like best? We need a king size, please, since my husband is a dangerous man when he’s asleep. And I like pillow tops. And, if it comes with a handsome check, I might like it even better. I figure, if Oprah can sell herself, certainly I’m worth at least a mattress.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bringing Up Baby Modern Style

Single handedly, without any input from the Y chromosome in my house, but with helpful suggestions from the 4-year-old, I put together the Graco “convenience travel system”. For those of you who haven’t had a tot in your house for some years, this means a stroller/car seat/carrier combined. The purpose of these devices, I believe, is to see how much molded plastic you can pack into your house in one box. So far, Graco seems to win. We do have a molded plastic playhouse in the back yard, but it came box-free, so I think Little Tykes cheated on that one.
Graco has created a very convenient instruction booklet for this system. Two, actually. One for the carrier and one for putting together the stroller. I say it’s convenient because it has a minimum of words. It uses pictures instead to detail the steps for hooking the wheels, brakes, snack tray, etc. together to form a handy-dandy, tip-resistant, withstands-winds-up-to-55-MPH baby holder. Parents like me need pictures. We often cannot remember even the simplest of words (like our children’s names), so pictures might seem to be a good idea.
Except they’re not.
I think even the pictures were translations of the original Chinese.
And in case I get confused about what’s supposed to happen when I press a new piece onto the frame of the stroller, each picture has a large caption, in bold black. It says, and I quote:
Exactly like that.
With the exclamation mark.
I find exclamation marks particularly annoying in directions (I also find them annoying before 10:00 AM, but that’s a personal problem.)
In case you’re wondering, it took me a total of 30 minutes to put the 6 pieces onto the frame of the stroller. I couldn’t get the SNAP! right on the first piece. It mainly said, “Oomph.” And I mainly swore at it. Silently, of course, because the 4 year old was, you remember, offering me advice. Like she’s done this so many times that she’s the expert.
Anyway, my molded plastic travel system is put together, 6 SNAP!s and a hammer later, the base for the car seat/baby carrier is installed, with the latch system in place, in the minivan which is now full of kid seats, and I’m ready to join the throng of mall-walking mothers trying to work off the baby butt in the middle of winter.
And in case you think I get anything from Graco or Little Tykes for all the free advertising, I’ll remind you of my track record so far. Eggland’s Best got a free comment, but failed to send me even a coupon; Arbor Day Association told us all when Tree Day was, but they didn’t offer to install my now-thriving Asian Pear Tree; really-nice-but-too-organic man frequently shot us to his website (where are you, anyway?) but didn’t offer to pull my thistles for me… In short, if Graco or Little Tykes would like to comment, I’d love to hear it. And send me a coupon at least. I’ve got a boy to raise and I’m thinking the pink molded slide should be replaced before he invites his friends over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Photographer For Hire

I lost $40. I didn’t even have the fun of sticking it into a slot machine and pulling the handle. I got out of the car at Walgreens with the money tucked into a pocket, and by the time I got back to the car, the money had disappeared. I called Hal to confess. I called my sister. I would have called my ecclesiastical leader, but restrained myself. I felt sick. Still feel sick.
I have money issues. Even when I save for a purpose, I have a deuce of a time letting the money go. I have that nagging thought, “What if I need it for something else? What if the world ends and that money is the only thing keeping my kids from starving?”
Next part of the story: for the past 4 years, I’ve been studying cameras. I used to have a lovely Nikon, but it died (apparently, beaches have sand and sand gets into cameras where it clogs the inner workings and causes a slow, grinding death for the apparatus if the person who owns the camera is not very diligent about servicing the camera. Which I’m not because that costs money.) Anyway, jumping to the end, I saved and saved and shopped prices and plans and finally bought a Canon EOS 50D. Go ahead, envy me. I’m waiting for Best Buy to ship it to my nervous little hands—this camera may be more than I can handle. But more than my concern about having to figure out aperture and ISO speed again, I spent 24 hours thinking that I was, literally, going to throw up. I couldn’t focus, I broke several traffic laws, and I had to sit down suddenly numerous times. Because the camera, which is the bucking bronco of the semi-professional photography world, comes at the same price as a bucking bronco. But you can’t eat it if the world collapses. And I didn’t buy it for my children, although they certainly will be the center of my lens more than they want. I didn’t buy it to improve the comfort or beauty of my home, although I hope the prints turn out well enough for that. I bought it because I wanted it. Just for me. For my hobby because I’m a bored middle-class suburban soccer mom who doesn’t drink and who doesn’t get her nails done. And I’m still not convinced I should keep Pandora’s Box. I remind myself that Best Buy has a great return policy, that I can sell it on Ebay, that if the world ends, I can take pictures of the destruction and be the next Dorothea Lange or Arthur Rothstein.
I have the idea that maybe with a bit more investment (lights, a better lens, a few backdrops) I can recoup what I’ve spent. But spending more to make more is the side of capitalism that my puritan/pioneer/frugal-divorced-parent-who-refuses-aid heritage balks at. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. It’s hard to be simultaneously a greedy capitalist pig and a hard-core, string-saving woman of the brutal West.