Suburban Snapshots

Still Cheaper Than a Baby

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When you spend five years waiting for your quality of life to improve the way you hoped it would when you left the city, and when it seems to take forever for that to happen despite your best efforts, and when you're tired of needing handouts from generous and loving relatives and then finally, FINALLY you catch a break, well, what do you do?

You impulsively spend thousands of dollars. Duh.

October marked the first time since we moved out of Boston that both Steve and I are simultaneously employed full-time by people other than ourselves. We immediately started noticing the perks: Sitting to pay the bills ALL AT ONCE, in full. Confidently dropping off Anna's daycare check every Friday. Running my car almost completely out of gas and then simply pulling up to the pump and filling it with the 93 octane it requires (gah, Germans!) Going to the grocery store multiple times per week and ordering the occasional pizza without checking to see what might bounce as a result. Life was sweet.

We weren't used to it. Despite alternating pay weeks, I kept waiting to find our checking account at sixty cents (I think our record was actually seven cents). I could see Steve's entire body  clench if I walked in the door with a bag from Target, wise to their eighty-dollar cover charge.

But soon we started enjoying ourselves a little more, finding ourselves daydreaming about luxuries like a savings account and 401(k) contributions; turning the heat up to sixty-FIVE.

In the lean times, Steve definitely sacrificed more than I did. He's not one to spend money on himself and would only reluctantly accept the jeans I'd buy him on clearance or the Manchego that wasn't on sale. I'd get by on an occasional five-dollar latte just to remember what disposable income felt like.

So when he started bookmarking vintage motorcycles he'd find on Craigslist and researching them online, I got a little excited. I wanted something fun and spontaneous and kind of stupid for both of us, but mostly I wanted Steve to treat himself to something totally impractical. When we went to the dealership to "just look," the owner made us such a great deal that I may have body-checked Steve into the office to see about financing. He was approved.

Right now the motorcycle is sitting in heated storage at my parents' house, waiting for the thaw. Every now and then Steve and I look at each other and wonder what the hell we were thinking (it's just like that one time I got pregnant).

We're on a new budget to ensure we build some savings, and it's actually been nice to tighten our belts voluntarily for a change. The bike might not be the smartest investment we could have made, but you have to live a little, right?

This One Will Make My Mom Cry

Friday, January 27, 2012

Growing up, I was not The Hot Sister. I wasn't The Fun One, or even The Popular One. At different stages in adolescence I was probably The Smart One, The Tall One, and then I think around senior year I was The Probably Gay One. But I have a hot sister who also happened to be fun and smart, triple-threat bitch that she is, and let me tell you how that went well into my — well, my right now, as it turns out.

Because we're 5 years apart, Shannon and I were never in the same schools at the same time. I went through middle and high school mostly unnoticed, did my average work ("Smart, but lazy.") cut my hair in weird, unflattering ways, had my small group of friends. In high school I had unrequited crushes on a string of gay friends, spent weekends trying to get rides to the diner where we'd sit and spend sixty-five cents on coffees and stink the place up with clove cigarettes while our waitress glared at us knowing her tip wouldn't come close to paying rent on the space we were taking up. I wasn't adventurous then and I'm not today. I had no idea that people in high school actually did drugs and had sex, despite their daily dry-humping sessions against hallway lockers.

It seemed to me that Shannon would blink in the direction of any number of crushes and fifteen minutes later they'd be sitting on our couch cuddling over Taco Supremes that you know she didn't pay for.

In my memory, my sisters were never home. Steph, who's a year or so older than Shannon, got a car and I don't think I've seen her since. Together they had an entourage — a huge collection of BMX guys who'd congregate wherever bikes could go and do all the things I didn't think people did until college. They both have the kinds of stories that parents never, ever, ever want to hear from their kids and I kind of envy that.

When I moved to Boston I brought a photo of the three of us and kept it on desks at all of my short-lived jobs. Inevitably, any twenty-something male that worked with me would look it over, point Shannon out, and in a way that says, "Things with my girlfriend are totally casual..." ask, "Who's that?" After three straight years of this I considered telling them that she came with the frame.

All three of us are in our thirties now, we all have kids, one or two husbands apiece, saggier boobs and live states apart. Shannon is still fun, Steph still never gets out of her car, and I'm still not especially spontaneous (though I've definitely improved my hairstyle and my husband isn't gay). When we get together our faces ache from laughing and someone might pee a little.

I still notice how men react to Shannon — that my nearly six foot frame becomes practically invisible in the presence of her five-foot-two vortex of adorable — but now that we've all grown into ourselves, it just makes me proud to be her sister.

Photo above is hella old, but I bet you can figure out who's who.

Sh*t Preschoolers Say

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'd like to tell you that this was my directorial debut, but somewhere in my parents' basement there are stacks of videos taken on a two-piece, eighty-pound VHS camera featuring movies I both choreographed and directed.

No child labor laws* were broken during the making of this film, though I'm totally cleaned out of Reese's Pieces and fear I have created a three-year-old diva. Enjoy Shit Preschoolers Say, inspired by Shit Girls Say and its hundreds of spin-offs.

*That I know of.

The Science of Toddlers

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If you've raised or are currently raising a toddler, it might seem they exist entirely in an alternate universe with no concept of things like time or gravity. This list might help you make sense of the small life form cohabiting with you.

1. An object in motion stays in motion, right up until it gets lodged, still beeping, just out of reach under the fridge.

2. An object at rest will almost immediately be covered in yogurt.

3. Nothing exists in a vacuum, except Cheerios, half your penny jar, and old raisins.

4. What goes up must come down, unless it’s edible, in which case it will stick to the ceiling indefinitely.

5. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction that most often results in a time out.

6. Diamond is the hardest substance found in nature, excluding whatever’s stuck in your kid’s hair.

7. Light travels faster than sound, except where toddlers wake before sunrise.

8. The oldest known fossil dates back 2.4 billion years. The second oldest is somewhere in your couch.

9. Glaciers move at approximately 4 miles per year, or twice the speed of a 3-year-old when you’re running late.

10. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be reduced to billion tiny shards pretty quickly, especially if it's sentimental.

I Found Jesus, He Was in
the Play Kitchen

Monday, January 02, 2012

During the months leading up to Christmas, Anna's class was busy practicing for their school's December pageant. Their song was Mariah Carey's version of Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child, and though Anna's actual part in the performance was a backup angel, at home she rehearsed the role of Mother Mary several times each day before school and repeatedly in the evening before bed. The pageant was over a week ago and she's still at it.

Yesterday as we packed away Christmas, she hid the manger and its cast of characters in her toy refrigerator and had a tantrum when I discovered and boxed them up.

Today as I browsed the interwebs for a kid-friendly manger and its inhabitants, it dawned on me that this whole religion thing is outside the realm of Parenting Topics in Which I'm Competent. I'm not even sure what my own beliefs are based on, and that class I took on The Old Testament with a charismatic, hippie professor hardly counts as religious education.

Ironically (or not), I'm more in favor of Anna having some kind of official religious education than Steve, who went through CCD and achieved all the rites my sisters and I missed — we're the ones still seated during Communion, and chances are we're only in church because someone decided to have a full-mass Catholic wedding, and it's probably not air conditioned and most likely it's August.

While it is nice to hear Anna using Jesus' name in contexts other than the expletive, I'm unsettled as to how we move forward. Not only do Steve and I need to get in sync, but I have to work out my own thoughts on the matter. It all feels pretty heavy. I have my ideas of God and Jesus, but what if I can't align them with official doctrine? And where do we start? And maybe Steve wants us to be Buddhists.

I'd love to hear how you all navigated this part of raising humans into good people, whether or not religion played a part of the plan, how you incorporated it, and if your own beliefs changed once a child was involved.

Or maybe there's a loophole where we pawn this all off on the godparents.