Monday, March 27, 2006

All Growed Up

It amazes me sometimes just how quickly we all can get from our humble beginnings. First we are merely infants, grasping and smiling at a bizzarro but so very beautiful world--then BOOM we are full grown adults, with jobs and hangovers and people to be responsible for.

This observation is eloquently illustrated when Spring arrives in these parts, as I met my love nearly seven years ago, and we finally declared our craziness for each other in April. In the beginning, things were strange. We spent too much money on things that broke quickly. We had bad landlords. We ate fast food all the time, and our time not working or doing moderate household chores (being only responsible for a single three year old child) was spent playing video games and watching Sci-Fi.

You know it had to end someday, that we would be Grown Ups and all.

First, we got a more expensive rental house, one that had a backyard bigger than Texas. We had to mow that bloody huge thing sometimes over two days time, since we were so busy we could barely keep up with our second child, much less manicure the greenery.

Then we got in deeper.....we got into our first car loan. It was an under-the-table deal at a local dealer, and it went badly every step of the way. We lost money left and right in repairs, and still had to pay a huge inflated sum in the end to own a van that promptly died in an exciting explosion of its oil lines as zoomed along the highway at 65 MPH on our way to the Columbus Zoo.

Not nearly Grown Up enough yet, we sought to acquire more such situations, adding life insurance, economy packages of toilet paper, and a land contract into the mix. We began paying more for a house than we ever have, a ghastly amount we are only vaguely sure we can afford. Still not Grown Up yet!

But now I worry. Now we gone and become the proud owners of an actual suburbo-minivan. What's next? Tupperware parties?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

We Got The Van!

It is Sunday around here in the Flerbian household, and I have been a bit slower today. I adamantly refused to school lessons. I half-heartedly did some laundry. I even more half-heartedly washed load twelve of the diapers that I have spent most of the past few days washing--no, I don't know why. They never seem to take this long! I think we just have so many now that I can let them go for a few days longer than normal, but when I do so they overflow all the pails and into makeshift bags. Funny thing is (and what encourages me to be so lazy in the first place) we still have clean diapers on the shelf! I am flabbergasted. Lazy, but flabbergasted.

If you have been following the recent events, perhaps you are on the edge of your seat wondering if we have vehicle or not anymore. Conversely, you might not give a damn either--but here is the verdict: WE GOT THE LOAN!!! We are now the proud (quite) partial owners of the 2004 Ford Freestar van I spoke of last.

The dealers, in their desperation to sell their overstock, spent days going to different banks in the area, trying to secure a substantial loan for a couple of jaded parents who have equally substantial student loan debt and only one income. I called and growled at every person I could get my hands on at the dealership, wondering what the hell was taking so long, causing them to wish they were getting calls from my husband instead, who might have actually said something nice like "how are you today" or "nice weather we are having" before tearing into them for being so bloody slow.

I nearly lost my shit when it was nearing the day we had to give back the rental, and we now had squandered all our time on this vehicle. Fate smiled upon us on this one, for in the end, they had to give us a shorter term loan, which bumped the payment quote up above the agreed upon deal. The dealers reduced the price of the vehicle slightly to compensate, saving us over a thousand dollars and reducing our monthly payments, even with the extended warranty. I am sure I am now famous as The Bitch You Want To Just Go Away While We Schmooze The Husband as well. (I could hear them sigh in relief when I walked out the door)

Enough of that, however......we have a vehicle, in our possession, that can seat all of us! I am a tad disappointed in the interior space of the van compared to our Eurovan we used to have, but who cares? It is such a relief to drive something that isn't falling apart at the seams, that can go on the highway without my nerves twitching, that has less than 100,000 miles on it!

We may be even more in debt than I really wanted to be right now, but by golly.....but if we can manage to raise a family of seven on a single salary of less than 21,000$ a year, and still live well, always trying to pay off more and more debt (our credit cards were all paid off this year with tax $$) what will it be like when we have two incomes? Or even one income over 30,000$? I like how we live for many reasons--we don't spend tons of money on crap we don't need, and we always able to "make it," so to speak. I really fail to understand how people who make over 50,000$ a year (or more!!!) cannot seem to make ends meet, complaining about having to scrimp and save so they can blow tons of cash on clothing made in sweatshops just so they can buy it new. I used to think there was something wrong with us, that we were just so far out of consumerism that we had forgot how to spend money.

The more I think about it, there is really something wrong with the rest of the world. Food is left behind on plates in expensive restaurants while children starve in shanty towns. Clothes are replaced to suit the fashion of each season, while others cannot afford to clothe their entire families. It is just madness! What do people do when they win lotteries..become philanthropists? Most people just buy more crap.

If I ever become like that, I hope someone has the good sense to tell me so. I don't ever want to be a consumer, heading off to the dumb ole shopping malls and overpriced eaterys.

Right now, I am just so very grateful that we secured the loan. Having a working van that we can all go places as a family in means more right now than I can say without getting quite verklemt.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Best Husband Ever

I am such an ass sometimes. In my attempts to explain to Gids that he should have haggled more with the auto dealer for our (possibly) new van, I get the distinct impression I made him feel horrible, when he was walking on air just before when he called me to tell me he had found such a great van.

We got into this whole Needing a New Car predicament as a result of a wayward grocery shopper who was turning out of a parking lot. This driver failed to notice my husband clipping along in the normal moving traffic, and ended up sidswiping our good ole 88' Volvo sedan when he tried to turn out into the traffic flow. Not a big deal, the driver side door was a bit less than perfect, but we were hopeful for simple repairs to make it all okay.


We were told two days ago the car was officially "totaled," that is, they refuse to spend such an ostentatious amount to fix the beater, and it is cheaper to give us blue book $$ and send us on our way.

Problem: It was our only car.
Problem: We only have their paid-for rental until Wednesday.
Problem: We have a really terrible debt-to-income ratio since we have one income, even though our credit isn't too terrible.


So that brings us to today....after two days of feverish hunting, Gids noticed a sale at a local dealer. He goes in, they get to chatting, and we end up applying for financing on a 2004 Ford Freestar. Not as hip, well-engineered, or functional as a Toyota, VW, or a Honda...but nice, if even in a sort of soccer-mom-ish sort of way. We rented a Windstar a couple of years ago for a trip, and it was not a bad drive, so I am okay with what we ended up with.

BUT (and you know there always is one), we could have saved a few thousand dollars if my husband wasn't one of the nicest people in the world (next to say, the Dali Lama and Mother Theresa). He is such a nice guy, he doesn't see big-ticket capitalist transactions as aggressive battles waged between consumer and salesperson. He just sees it as something very benign, very human, like brushing your teeth or buying lettuce.

Ultimately, the humanity of it all woos him into letting them win, since he really knows that all working class people are in the same boat. Deep down, he knows this guy is trying to do the same thing he does every night at the high-end hotel restaurant he waits tables at....protect his bottom line. A very human bottom line. He wants this guy to succed, to be able to support himself as much as the tips on sales of martinis and surplus bottles of wine help to support our family.

Ah, well. We get screwed all the time by these companies. I am proud to be married to such a big-hearted human being, even if it means we could have saved a couple of thousand dollars. I am sure we make up for it every year by doing all the things that being married to each other allows us to cloth diapering, breastfeeding, eating vegan, shopping at thrift stores, etc. He shares the big and small loads of life with me so we don't have a lot of expenses we normally would have---we don't eat out a lot, he doesn't buy endless gadgets we don't need, and we have zero childcare costs since he is willing to work nights while I go to WSU.

He is egalitarian, cooking and cleaning too, so I don't feel bogged down and require babysitting for all five kids just to go out and get over feeling trapped and SAHM-burned out. He shares homeschool duties with me so I don't truly lose it and take valium to make it through the day. Our relationship doesn't suffer from power-plays and guilt trips that cause him or I to run out and buy over-priced comensationary gifts or crap for holidays and anniversaries because we can't feel good about ourselves the rest of the year.

Best of all, he consistently has been my best friend for all these long years, keeping me delighted and always able to reach my potential as a mother, student, and citizen of earth. He has made living the way I want to live completely possible.

So what if he can't haggle? It makes me love him all the more.


We find out Monday if the car dealer can get us a loan from a local credit union. Until then, the shiny new van sits in front of our house, tempting us to fall in love with it until we get our green light to keep it.

Crossing fingers, crossing toes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Eyeglasses for me

I took my husband's advice and bought some reading glasses today. He had seen me squint my eyes one too many times at the computer screen to see the words when they were printed in minute fonts, I guess. Academia has stolen my sight little by little, what with all the research and writing, staring at endless printed and electronic materials.

I ignored this advice for a long time, fearing the onset of old age that would certainly commence once I slipped the frames onto the bridge of my nose....(more) gray hair, loss of memory (heh), and wrinkles galore. I was afraid my dear husband, who IS older than me, would have the impetus to get back at me for all of those times I made fun of him for his age.

But, since I was sick of squinting, I decided to go ahead and get the bloody glasses. It wasn't so bad. I went to Target and chose the appropriate strength lenses (weak, thank Bob) in sorta-hip frames. It was relatively painless.

The best part? Muse thinks I look "pretty in glasses, just like her," and my husband gave me a leering eyeball when I modeled them, leading me to believe that he is just turned on by the geeky punk girl look, hence why he suggested I get them in the first place. Or he might just be a bit horny. Either way.....

I have glasses. For reading. And I am okay with that.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reason To Homeschool Number 321.....Watching strangers squirm.

Sometimes people react a bit odd when I tell them that we homeschool. This generally occurs when we are out in public somewhere during "school hours" after a hyper-interested bystander approaches me and whatever portion of the Flerbian brood I have with me. After many sidelong glances, they eventually get up the nerve to approach us.

"Is it, um, a holiday today?" They are embarassed, as if they have broken some unwritten social rule, but their curiosity can't be contained.

Having been ready for their approach for over ten minutes, I smile to myself, thanking Bob that Gids isn't there to spoil my anthropological glee by sternly looking over his glasses at me when I glean some fun out of the nosiness of strangers.

"Oh, I am sure it is a holiday somewhere. Why we could even make up our own holidays! Just imagine......"
The kids, if they are old enough to care, start to exchange glances and get a bit nervous. Mom the activist/anthropologist is at it again. Can't she leave well enough alone?

(person stammering) "I, I, mean....why AREN'T your kids in school?"
(me smiling, a bit devilishly) "Ohhhhhhh....well, you see, we homeschool. We use a virtual academy for our lessons and state testing, but the most important lessons I believe we can learn are from all the different people we meet when we are out shopping. Don't you agree?"
Gids, as a result of being my soul-mate, is squirming uncomfortably wherever he is, but unable to figure out why.

Eventually I explain it all to them, about the lesson plans, having coffee at my desk in my pajamas as I administer spelling tests, and the glee of sleeping past 6 AM EVERY DAY! They get a bit glassy-eyed with thinking about their own days being spent that way, and they are just about to slip into a dream about their own school days going so well, when the other shoe drops. "But what about socialization?"

"Oh that?" I reply. "Lets just say that I think school is a place for education, and play-time with friends is for socialization. In fact, did you know....."
The kids usually drag me away at this point, lest I do further damage.

I love moments like that. Makes the synapses fire at a faster rate.

At this point, my phone will ring, and it will be my weirded out husband, certain I am bringing shame upon the good name of the House of Flerbian by running my mouth in public. Of course, he is exactly right.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Biggest Fan

I was placidly folding laundry and minding my own business, when Gideon came up to me holding Miss O who was fitfully gnashing her mouth on his bicep.

"Look, Honey" he says. "She's rooting for you.....RA RA, GIVE ME SOME BA!"

When Muse was a vocabulary-hungry toddler, we read some blip in a parenting magazine about teaching a nursing toddler a word to use when asking to nurse, assumedly so they won't just say "whip it out, Mom," or something similar.

It suggested the use of the Japanese word for mammary glands: "ompai," which we interpreted as "OOM-PIE" in our vague understanding of Japanese phonetics. Muse was pleased with her new word, but she seemed unable to produce the whole set of sounds...imstead she said "ba."

As such, breastfeeding has been called that ever since in our house.

Mama and O

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Goodbye Babyhood

Okay. Okay. OKAY!

I wish I could just update by hyperlinking my brain. It would save me the anguish of watching so many bloggable moments just zip by, unlaughed at, unenjoyed by YOU, the readers (all three of you)!

Here is the latest from the party of eight (yes, I included Suki the Invisible Housecat in my headcount, it is the least I can do since we never see her):

Dream woke us up with a bashful look and a sizeable chunk missing from her thick brown hair in the front. Upon interrogation, I discovered she had indeed cut it herself, on account of wanting short hair like her friends at ballet. Did I mention she had never, not once, had a haircut? That her soft and wispy baby hair was on tippy tip tips of that mane?

So, I was all like "Lets go throw a bunch of money at some local stylist already" and she got a green lollipop while she sat gleefully in the chair-of-hair-death, and I restrained myself from vomiting as well over TEN INCHES were sheared from my middle daughter's head

The horror went something like this:

And as if it were never going to end, Muse decided that short hair was the next big thing, and immediately demanded she receive a hair-chopping as well.

I am behind the camera so you cant see me cringing/smiling in the background. Good thing too.

All in all, it turned out okay. Muse and Dream have beautiful haircuts they can brush themselves now. No more pulling, tugging, praying, whining, or putting up in the requisite buns for ballet classes. They even got to donate their hair to Locks of Love.

I am still having nightmares about it. I suppose I will grow up eventually.

But aren't they cute, regardless?

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!