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Other stuff happened, too!

11 Dec

If my lack of posts somehow appears to imply we didn’t do anything in the past week or so, well then I say au contraire! You got it wrong! There is a hair in your soup, mon ami!

First, we went to see our financial planner, to get the preliminary results of our financial full cavity search self-audit. Turns out we are pretty much on track. Oh, except if anything happens to either of our jobs. Um. And if we want our kid to go to college at all. Er. And as long as we don’t buy a house, or have baby mama get disabled. Meh. It’s a painful reminder of our collectively long-term financial negligence helpful baseline for planning our financial future. It used to be 1) do what we love; 2) carefully save our pennies; 3) live the good live. Now it’s more like: 1) whatever; 2) hope; 3) Sugar Town! Fucking Americans.

Ah but I exaggerate. A change here or there, some painful choices, and a bit of luck, and we will hopefully be fine. We live the lives of privileged White people in America, with the insane good fortune to have been born into resource-rich families.

So we come home from our financial planning meeting, and who is awaiting us, but baby mama’s best friend from childhood, who has swooped down from Boston to help us get our home into baby-shape. Let’s call her Boston Helper Monkey. From the moment she arrived to the moment she left, BHM was a raging bundle of enthusiasm and love and energy and ideas for happy baby, happy mama, happy home.

Author's artistic rendering of Boston Helper Monkey

Aside from bringing da good baby stuff from Boston, BHM spent Saturday from about 11am to about 7pm organizing, moving stuff, hiding stuff, curbing stuff, storing stuff. The space under our bed is packed tighter than Conan O’Brien into a pair of jeggings. Non-stop energy, man. Awesome, in the classical sense (BHM, non Conan). I mean, come on, she staged our living room! Our place looks a million times better, we actually have some of the spaces for baby that we were worried about, and while the nursery still looks suspiciously like an office, I think with some careful revisiting we can make it work. I mean, not by the time the baby comes, oh no. But soon.

And finally, when BHM went home (not before driving us to our storage place, and to who knows where in Queens), we met our formerly closest friends in NYC – now just dear friends – for an afternoon of strategically organized real estate pushing playful exploration of their neighborhood. I’m not gonna say too much about this, but suffice it to say that we ‘happened’ to pass by a local real estate office, and just a couple open houses, while jaunting about Forest Hills. Which I ended up being a downer about (the words of the House of Peter: Haud Consentio , Haud Consensio – No Buy-In, No Harmony).

But this was made up for with delicious Italian food, a charming little boy, and a ride back home. Where we proceeded to collapse in heaps of exhaustion and gratitude.


Scary data points

4 Nov

1. Thirty-two weeks.

Man alive, that means some time in the next 6-8 weeks we’re going to have a baby.

We went to a childcare class on Tuesday night, 2 hours and 15 minutes from swaddle to toddle. Actually, the class was not nearly as anxiety-reducing as our first one. I think it’s quite possible that the preparation for having this baby (not having the baby, but you know, once the baby is had) are simply not in line with our current lifestyle. Sure, you’re saying to yourself, you guys are asshole DINKs, and your current lifestyle is selfishly playing video games and, you know, seeing movies and friends and stuff. But that’s not exactly what I mean.

For example: Baby teacher tells us that for the first weeks (and maybe months?) we should expect to be so completely frazzled. You see, says she, we really weren’t meant to have babies in apartment buildings and in places that are remote from our families. And in most of the world, and during most of history, we didn’t. So we’re not really totally equipped for asking for (and receiving) help.

Oh. Well, fuck you then lady. It’s like the fertility specialist who took every opportunity to casually remind me that women are really biologically meant to have kids when they are teenagers. I mean, maybe true. But how in the world does that information possibly help me in the slightest?

She goes on to say that we could organize a food schedule, for our friends, family, and neighbors to bring us food while the baby is a newborn. And better, they should drop off the food but not really visit (which would be a pain in the ass for new parents as well). Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Now, generally, this is a great idea, and I did this for friends when I lived in Chicago. But seriously, what fucking city is this woman living in? I’d feel like such a jerk to have friends from Queens or CT actually make food, come into the city, drop it off, then not stick around. As I say, our current lifestyle is not conducive to this kind of baby-having.

2. Episiotomy.

Somehow, perineal tearing has emerged as one of my partner’s biggest physical concerns of the pregnancy (Yes, somehow. Like if there was a chance of tearing of my urinary meatus, I somehow might be a little concerned. That’s right. Urinary meatus). The OB’s response was, unbelievably, ‘if it makes you feel less anxious, almost all women have perineal tearing or episiotomies during their first pregnancy.’

This sure made me less anxious. But it didn’t do much for my wife. Apparently having an epidural decreases your chances of tearing, since the birth can be more easily controlled. Or else you have to have naturally flexible tissue. Or else you have to be able to be going through delivery without drugs, and then somehow ease up on the pushing at the moment that the baby’s head is coming through your vagina. I mean, come on. They call it the ring of fire, for god’s sake!

So yeah, less anxious in the sense that there is less uncertainty. But not less fearful.

3. Baby shower.

Actually, there is a scary vortex of activity this weekend. Friends coming from out of town. Mother-in-law in town. People coming over to our apartment for a baby shower. Dear colleague/friend in town for a job talk. College roommate’s big birthday celebration. All between Friday and Sunday. Plus the house needs cleaning, and the mondel bread ain’t going to cook itself.

On the upside, I made a big-ass tray of cinnamon rolls today. These. One tin was cooked as a test case, the others are now in the freezer, awaiting their moment in the sun. The frosting didn’t totally come out, but I think I can fix that. Tomorrow, mondel bread and cleaning, Friday strata. And big fat pitcher(s) of Bloody Mary’s.

Am I forgetting anything? Yes. Our lives are currently spinning around change and uncertainty, with careers and family and baby, the gravity of it all is making us freaked out and jubilant and concerned and strong and willful and on the verge of tears. Cut us a little slack, and we’ll try to cut ourselves some too.

Under the table childcare…

17 Sep

A semi-web-disabled friend wrote to call Bullshit on the USDA Expenditure study, which notes that families w/over $98,000 income pay a lifetime 0-17 expenditure of $19-$23k on kids, which includes childcare and education.

Interestingly, there was a recent article on the declining number of families (fuck it, let’s just say women. I mean, it’s mostly women who do the hiring, firing, management of market-exported domestic work anyhow) are reporting this income. Basically, it’s because the IRS doesn’t find you if you don’t – unless you have modest income, then they find you and fuck you over – and because it’s complicated to file the Schedule H paperwork.

NPR actually picked up the story as well, and added the fact that nannies’ preferences are also part of the story:

The tax applies to anyone employing a worker in their household to whom they pay more than $1,700 a year. That goes for housekeepers, nannies, and healthcare workers. The tax calls for withholding 15.3% a year to cover Medicaid and Social Security payments.

The problem is, hardly anybody pays it.

Two years ago, about 219,000 households filed the required Schedule H that goes along with the payments. That’s down from about 500,000 in 1994, reports columnist and Syracuse University lecturer David Johnston. He used a thesis by U-Mass Amherst graduate student Catherine Haskins as a springboard into the issue.

So, are that many fewer people hiring household help?

No way. Johnston says the paperwork has become too complicated to fill out, and many people can’t afford to pay the taxes. The biggest evaders are those who make less than $31,000 a year, he says. He also says more nannies are setting themselves up as businesses, exempting themselves from the tax.

So maybe the reason why lifetime expenditures are relatively low is that a) most people don’t live in NYC and pay a wheelbarrow filled with money for education and/or childcare; and b) apparently most people low-ball their payments to nannies. This, along with the hows and wheres education, is the biggest source of unknown and anxiety on the horizon for me. Of course, when it’s me, I’m sure we’ll have some better justification than ‘oops’ or ‘yeah, the world sucks’. Or, maybe not.

Financial advice

16 Sep

This past week, we went to a financial advisor, and after giving her basically all the information she needs to completely steal our identities, empty our bank accounts, and raid our (rather small) savings pool, we now get to wait a few weeks before she comes back with the assessment. I am guessing that she’ll inform us that we’ll never be wealthy enough to get that pony I’ve had my eye on, much less the handcrafted, 10 bolts of awesome, Glaser Designs briefcase I’ve always wanted. The stables for my zorse is definitely out of the question. Plus, she’s likely to say that there’s no way we’re either mature enough or financially secure enough to have a kid, so we should definitely put that on hold for another 5-10 years (5 for the finances, 10 for the maturity).

Though this may not totally be true. A study by the USDA on Lifetime Expenditures on Children (careful there, that’s a .pdf I’m a pointin’ at) shows that even families with over $98,000 household income spend between $19,380 and $23,180 on their kids from birth to age 17. Now, that doesn’t include college. But it does include non-public education and child care. Of course, tuition for a year at Princeton is currently $48,580. Times 4 years, adjusting for 18 years’ worth of inflation, etc etc, we’re totally fucked.

Anyhow, it seems to me that my rustic knowledge of financial advising was captured here a couple years ago, and it hasn’t changed: reduce spending, passive index funds, diversified by broad “lazy funds” categories, don’t trust anyone whose job depends on their ability to hold on to your money. I would add that increasing the amount you automatically save every month is probably a smart thing to do.

Of course, we don’t do any of this. But you should!