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My son just harvested his first head of cabbage.

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So we made baked egg rolls.

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My coupons made the carrots and lean meat cheap and the soy sauce free.  The cabbage came from the garden.  The fresh ginger was from a discount grocery store.

Who says that a family must choose eating cheaply or healthfully?  :)

When people say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” with a self-assured expression, they must not realize that the world of education sees them as people who lack the ability to communicate effectively.  With the poor economy, an elementary school administrator was inundated with résumés, mostly from people who lost their other jobs.  So, if the “doing” doesn’t work out, teaching is the default career?  Education isn’t interested in the crummy leftovers of the “doers.”  Education looks for good communicators.

“Those who are capable at best, do.  Those who have a vast understanding and are exceptionally articulate teach.”  There.  That’s my version of a revised quote.

“Courtney, you have a master’s degree.  Wouldn’t it be better for your family if you got a full-time job?”  No, not really.  I am more valuable (monetarily and otherwise) to my family when my primary job is homemaker.

Arithmetic (and a tiny bit of algebra) to follow…

Daycare Rates:

Infant for a week: $155

Toddler for a week: $145

After school for a kindergartner:  $62

Formula for that infant would be about $40 a week.  Human milk is free, so formula for anyone else to be her care provider would create an additional cost.

$402/wk so far.  Then, using this daycare 48 weeks out of the year would cost $19,296 for the year.  That would come from net earnings.  Daycare would cost me $23,136.69 in gross earnings.

I probably wouldn’t work as a part time employee either (as an adjunct or as a lab instructor).  That’s approximately $11,500 that I wouldn’t make. (Frankly, I call being an adjunct math professor a time consuming hobby instead of a job.  My kindergartener can’t derive the quadratic formula yet.  So, I spend six hours a week with people to whom it is academically relevant.)

With my obsession with coupons, I can buy groceries for about $60/wk (by groceries, I’m including personal care like shampoo, diapers for 2 babies, etc.).  I’ve been getting approximately 75% off overall.  That other 75% is $180 that I’m saving each week.  $180 for 52 weeks is $9360/yr.  This is $11,223.02 from gross earnings.

So, the way I see it, I make the equivalent of almost $46,000/yr because I don’t have a full-time job.  However this way, I can pack my husband lunches that I either got for free or made from scratch.  My son’s kindergarten teachers have master’s degrees.

I’m not saying that I would never take a full-time job.  I’d have to become significantly less necessary at home and it would have to have an awesome base pay to be worth my time!

I have become a little obsessed with couponing.  My husband appreciates this obsession.  Not only does he have his hard earned dollars stretched to the max, but the extreme nature entertains him.  He found this to be highly entertaining.  Spent $.55, saved $30.17.  I win!Publix receipt Feb10_4

This is after I got these wipes for only $4.75 earlier in the week…

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…and this two-year supply of detergent for $29 last week…

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…to mingle with the ridiculous stockpile of detergent that I was paid $4.11 to take over the summer.

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My stockpile space is full.

I’m weird.  This is not new information.  There are times when I recognize why social norms are what they are and I ought to change my way of thinking.  However, this is not one of those times.

When one family is the company of an other, why do all the women of both families file into kitchen and clean it?  I understand when all parties involved clear the table.  That has to do with the removal of clutter.  Washing dishes, however, has to do with the removal of germs and should not be a task given to guests.  When I invite guests over to entertain them, I do not expect them to wash dishes any more than I would expect them to scrub my toilets.

A common rebuttal is, “But women are so helpful.”  When I hear this with the buzzing of ladies busily working in the background, I envision another emerging from my laundry room saying, “I noticed that your dryer had completed it’s cycle, so I took out your husband’s skivvies.  Let me fold these and put these away for you.”

Furthermore, if you put away leftovers, you might notice that I didn’t clean out the fridge yet.  You see, I was getting ready for company.  I cooked dinner and cleaned my bathrooms and kept my children from messing it up.  I was busy.

“Well, it’s just polite.”  Why?  I asked my mother why this is a social norm.  She said, “When I was a child, whenever we went to my grandmother’s house, all the women cleaned up after dinner.  That’s just what we did.  That’s what we were supposed to do.”  Her grandmother didn’t have a dishwasher.  I do.  Her grandmother spent all day every day cooking everything from scratch for her family and six farm hands.  If anyone intended to see her grandmother, they ought to go to the kitchen.  I have not spent my day in a kitchen.  I am either in a classroom or I do my normal house cleaning during the day.  If I am going to have a lot of company over, I start cooking at 3 if company’s coming at 6.  After dinner is over, I have hostess things to attend to.  I don’t want to be in a kitchen instructing my guests.  I want to be in the living room entertaining them.

I protest that the social norm is an antiquated ritual.

I feel about kitchen duty the way that Jesus spoke of fasting.  The Pharisees asked him why His disciples did not fast. 34And Jesus said to them, ”Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5)  I will clean my kitchen when I’m not in party mode.

This works both ways too.  To pick one story (I have fistful of them), one Thanksgiving, my husband and I arrived at extended family’s house long after the meal was over.  We integrated into the collection of cousins and began telling stories and making merry.  After a few minutes, my husband’s mother leaned over between a cousin and me and informed us that we were so rude not to do the dishes.  She and I, assuming that the comment was directed at us because we were the closest, obliged politely. It was when the five male cousins were invited to watch football that re realized that we were selected because of the absence of Y chromosomes.  By the way, we were not going aid a slew of kitchen workers.  The rest of the slew was eating a second dessert and playing games.

In conclusion, if I invite you to my house, feel free to pile dishes in the sink if you must, but I’d rather serve you coffee and share stories than have you clean my kitchen. If I come to your house and you want me to wash dishes, invite me into your kitchen for such a purpose.  I probably won’t think to do it on my own. Maybe afterwards, you can have me clean your air conditioner ducts.  I did breathe your air, of course.

Over Christmas vacation, we went to a popular vacation spot in the Smoky Mountains. One night, we were pursuing the town on foot when I told my husband that I wished that we had more money to take the kids to some of the attractions. During the walk, several vendors were sitting outside in the freezing temperatures trying to call us over to sign up for a presentation (sales pitch). The compensation for listening to the presentation was cash and tickets to the attractions. We told two of them that we were not interested. The third one (different companies) offered us $75 and attraction tickets for listening. Okay. We’re their target audience (married with children and an income that meets their requirements).

At the beginning of the presentation, the salesman asked us questions. Where did we meet? Church. What a coincidence! The salesperson was not only religious, but he was even the same denomination for a short time! What was our first date? Water skiing. Really? He LOVES skiing. Surely, another coincidence! We then told him that we had no intention of buying anything because we knew that it wouldn’t fit into our budget. Let’s just be clear.

He began a lecture on ethics. Apparently, we were so unethical for accepting the offer that we were hounded to take because we didn’t want to buy what he was selling. We could be costing a salesperson (not him, of course) a job because we aren’t willing to buy. We went though the whole presentation. During the tour, I asked him how much a unit cost. No direct answer.

One more quick mini-lecture about how unethical we were. They see a hundred families a day. The gift incentives are about $200 per family. So, they are spending $20,000 per day on getting people in the door. How unethical of us to cost them that money. My husband asked, “What percentage of people buy?” 30% of people are apparently much too wealthy or dumb enough to take part in this program.

Finally, we see the price sheet. $60,000 per unit!!!!! (Cartoon sound effect: ah-OOO-ga!) That’s for ONE week per YEAR! That doesn’t include the maintenance fees or the fees to use the thing! But wait, there’s more! They offer financing…at 18% interest (how thoughtful!) spreading the payments out for 10 years making the payments…$250 less than my mortgage (but I get to live in my house the whole year)! Their company gets $34,000 of the profits directly.

Time for a little arithmetic. Thirty of the 100 families they see daily buy into it and provide them with a profit of $34,000 a pop. They get $1,020,000 per day! Subtract the $20,000 that they spend in getting people in the door and they are still profiting a million dollars a day (that’s in the slow economy too). Furthermore, if they sell them for $60000 for one of the fifty-two weeks a year, they’re selling them for $3,120,000 PER UNIT!!! They’re doing this by preying on the families who don’t really have the money in their budget.

Yet, I’m unethical for saying yes to the third person who offered me free tickets to let my kids do fun stuff. “Hello, kettle? This is the pot. You’re black.”

I therefore amend the adage.

As Chief Nurturer of this household, I have taken on the task of baking many of our bread products.  I must say that the time it takes is not worth the time spent on a loaf by loaf basis.  However, the savings have appeared in a different fashion.

When I started dating my husband (drawing nigh on a decade ago), I was surprised at the frequency that his family ate out.  They didn’t discuss what was for dinner, but where dinner was.  When we married, we disagreed.  He said that eating out was a necessary fellowshipping part of building a relationship.  I told him that I would fellowship with him at home over a plant and protein based meal that I made and then walk with him for free.  This was not acceptable.  He assured me that it was not the food that was unacceptable, but the lack of the event of going “out.”   He longed for a time when our finances would allow us to spend money on eating out.  I was still not baking.  I didn’t care to eat much bread.  I don’t even like pizza…one of his favorites.

Eight years into this marriage, I decided to start baking fresh bread.  I found a good pizza dough recipe.  He loved it.  No more longing for ordering a pizza (talk about a markup over price of production!).  That was a start.

I made dinner rolls at Thanksgiving.  He loved them.  Really?  That’s all it took?  So, I made another batch with larger rolls to use for sandwiches.  Rave reviews.

My great vindication came last night.  Our son asked if we could get fast food on our way home (I don’t know why he bothers to ask.).  My husband would usually  recite, “No.  Eating out is too expensive.”  Instead, he said, “No, your mom made bread so I’d rather go home and have a sandwich.”

“Rather.”  Let’s be clear that he said “rather.”  Yes, my friends.  I have an announcement.  My bread trumps the event of going out!

Tonight was the kind of night I want to remember on my death bed. My children were all sweet and giggly. The ones with motor skills took steps to be helpful. My sweet husband apologized for eating too much of the “delicious dinner” I had left in the crock pot (vegetable and venison soup). We all piled on the couch (John and I were the only ones who stayed on the couch) for an hour. I’m so thrilled to be able to spend one whole hour with my husband! The children were taking turns sitting and our laps. They were vying for our attention and each one grinned whenever they caught our glimpses.

When I am old, I want to remember tonight. I don’t want to remember the sea of diapers I swim out of in order to get to my classes. I don’t want to remember the nap-worthy tears shed every afternoon. I don’t want to remember the race to clean a peanut butter laden hand before it finds its way to the walls. I don’t want to remember that my son announces his presence so loudly that he wakes the baby. I don’t want to remember my husband falling asleep with a red pen in his hand because he is exhausted.

Tonight, I sat with my husband and my children laughed.

On my home from work, I thought about my students, the need to go to the grocery store—again, my dishes that I meant to do earlier today while I was chasing my kids and writing a practice test, and the third load of laundry (the one that I didn’t finish). I didn’t go to the store and I didn’t wash dishes or dry clothes. That usually bothers me, but tonight is the night that I sat with my husband while my children laughed. While I am usually bothered when my chores are not complete, I have decided that I’ll just have to be pleased with clean laundry and dishes and a stocked fridge another day.

I was thinking about the logic of tax breaks for businesses. I’m for them. Educators don’t traditionally encourage tax breaks, but I think that being an educator has helped me see the beauty of them.
As a math teacher, I take exception to the student mantra “I’m not going to need that.” The follow up statement is significant. “I’m going to hire someone to do it for me.” They intend to create a symbiotic relationship. We would all like to create these symbiotic relationships. I would hire a lawn service in the summers when the grass needs to be cut twice a week. I merely do not have the resources to do so.
It is in everyone’s best interest to keep the “fat cats” fat. People with resources spend their money giving it to other people. In fact, when my husband and I were in the Tampa area last week, we saw an ad for a company that cleans pet fecal matter out of yards. The seven digits of their phone number spelled “DOG-POOP.” After a short discussion about how one could be meticulous enough to accomplish a task and then how one could have the gall to explain such a career choice to his or her family, I concluded, “and who pays for that?” Obviously, people with more money than desire to clean their own yards. Anyone who is not wealthy can capitalize on those who are. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he can pay his mortgage by selling fish to people who don’t want to touch worms.
Keep the wealthy people wealthy. Then we all stay employed (and according to my students, they will be hiring a lot of people who pay attention in math class).

As we dip our feet into the holiday season (and I refuse to put up a Christmas tree until after paying homage to the turkey), I recall last year’s season figure discussion.

My son asked me to tell him more about Santa Claus.  I was an odd, cynical child and chose never to believe in Santa Claus.  It seemed so illogical.  Even as a two year old, I remember a conversation with my mother where I was trying to convince her that she didn’t need to believe because it just didn’t make sense.  She tried very hard to convince me otherwise because she didn’t want angry parents from church calling her to tell her that I had been trying to convince their children.

Since my son is very much like me, I decided that it was futile to convince him of the traditional folklore of Santa.  I took a different approach and told him about the real man about whom the folklore is based.  I told him that “Nicholas” was an orphan of wealthy parents who chose to live a humble life as a priest.  I told him that the young priest began his mornings very early in prayer and godly service.  I told him that Nicholas snuck into the home of a poor family and left enough gold coins for a daughter’s dowry, but he intended that no one would see him leaving an expensive gift in the middle of the night because he wanted the community to respect him for his humility and service to God instead of his wealth.  In his old age, Nicholas made a point to give gifts to children.

My son asked, “Does he still do that?”  Trying to avoid the question, I said.  “Honey, that was a long time ago.”  He persisted, “But how long ago?  Can he STILL do that?”  I said, “What do you think?”  “I don’t think he can.  But I want you to tell me.”  Okay, so he is like me.  He’s asking me to spell it out…because I’m the voice of reason.  “He’s not alive to do that any more.  But his memory still lives because he was such a good role model.  He spent his life loving God and being kind to people.  So, it’s still fun to say that he still does those things.  If another kid says, ‘Santa’s coming to my house for Christmas’ then smile and say, ‘Yes, he is.’  You wouldn’t want to make another kid sad by ruining the fun?” He shook his head.

Two weeks later, my nephew was telling my son about all the things that Santa was going to bring him for Christmas.  My son said, “Santa’s dead.”  I had to run and catch them before the fistfight.