Friday, September 21, 2007

The Unlucky Thirteen

It started innocently enough. Just one day I looked up on the ceiling and saw a little worm crawling alone, minding his own business. As I crushed him in a napkin, part of me felt bad, thinking that he had traveled so far from the outside only to meet his demise on some upside-down endlessly flat terrain.

He resembled an inch-worm without the ungainly but cute gait.

The next day, I saw another one, and after liquefying him in a napkin, my thoughts weren’t so much on how far he had trekked, but where he had trekked from. I check the windows and the sliding glass door in the kitchen for any signs of his brethren. When nothing turned up, I went about my day.

As the week rolled by, the little visitors became more frequent and in larger numbers. Soon, it seemed like a genocide as I would clear out four or five. And when one lost his grip and dropped down on my arm while I was watching TV, enough was enough. But then, over the course of the next couple of days, without any help from me, they disappeared.

Problem solved, I thought. But it was just the beginning.

Then, every time we opened the pantry, we were greeted by a flying moth of some kind, a narrow, slow moving, not especially agile little brown winged thing that flitted around the room until he was dispatched in a napkin or easily swatted out of the sky. They were harmless moths, just flying around, landing on stuff, not the kind that frantically attack light bulbs or dive bomb your eye sockets. However, after a couple of days of this, I decided that there must be something going on in the pantry that would require my attention, as the number of moths were increasing. I surmised, these weren’t just random moths getting stuck in the pantry. They were coming from the pantry and they needed to be stopped before we inadvertently begin to cook them into our dinners. Which is such a lovely thought.

One Friday afternoon, I got the motivation to completely clean out the pantry. Starting at the bottom, I took out everything, from those extra plastic forks that everyone has in the back of their shelves to the random can of beans you bought in the name of emergency preparedness. On the top shelf, I came across a Kashi-brand Go Lean Crunch cereal that had expired two years ago—we must have packed it at the old house and moved it here—and when I picked up the box, I could hear little flutterings against the plastic bag inside the box. I had found the source. Immediately, I took the box of cereal outside and, curiosity getting the better of me, I opened it and stood there gapping! The cereal box had turned into a bug condo, as every nook and cranny was occupied by one of those little moths.

Disgusted, I doused the box with bug spray and chucked it in the trash.

Back inside, with the shelves empty, I scrubbed them with cleaner and a brush, hopefully killing all traces of them. I threw away most everything that had been opened, from pancake batter to flour to corn starch, anything that look susceptible to the infestation. Then I took a trip to Target and bought a dozen or so air-tight canisters and transferred all the replacement foods—snack foods, sugar, flour, cereal—into them.

With a fine job done, I was happily content, thinking that I had ethnically cleansed my pantry of the little bugs.

Then about a week ago, we started noticing them again, and it was a couple of days after Kara came home from Henry’s, the health-food feel-good grocery store that she goes to from time to time to pick up a collection of seemingly good-for-you food that usually ends up tasting terrible. Why would I want potato chips made from baked cucumbers? Why? Anyways, that’s another story for another time. But, after she came back, she told me that she saw the moth-like bugs there… and that’s where I place the blame. After a quick check on the Internet (is there anything it can’t solve?) we discovered that they are Indian Meal Moths. Below is a description:

This is probably the most common pest of food found in the home. The Indian Meal Moth is often confused with the Webbing Clothes Moth, a fabric pest. Indian Meal Moths affect food product and not fabric. Clothes Moths affect fabric only.

This pest in introduced into a building by being brought in with a food product which is already infested. Although manufacturers attempt to deliver food that is virtually pest free, they do not always succeed.

Another way that this pest may enter food is from a store that has an infestation of this insect. The immature stages of this insect may crawl into other food packages thereby introducing Indian Meal Moth into a home or business.

Most insects are phototropic, they will fly toward light. Because Indian Meal Moths are most active at night, people often report finding them in rooms away from the source as they follow the lights that may be turned on in those rooms.

So, where’d they come from? Henry’s of course. Thanks a lot. We’ve gone from having none, to just one or two flying by and I killed 13 of them.

I’m thoroughly disgusted, but the site ( offered this advice:

As a moth, Indian Meal Moths goes through complete metamorphosis including egg, larvae (crawling stage), pupae (cocoon) and adult (flying moth). Therefore, if the infested food product is discovered and removed, and no other food source exists, the life cycle of the moth may be interrupted.

If an infestation exists, sanitation i.e. removal of all infested food product, is key to managing this pest. Thus, the first step in managing an Indian Meal Moth problem is inspecting for and then removing infested food product.

The list of products to check includes milled foods such as flour, pasta, cereals, cornmeal, spices and most commonly, dry pet foods including (especially) bird seed. Other sources to check include dried fruits, dried flowers, nuts, rodenticide baits, food brought in by mice, rats or squirrels and even decorative wall hangings containing food products such as beans or spices. Be sure to check areas other than the kitchen or pantry where these items may be stored. Think about the nuts that have been left out in the living room in case company comes or some food product that you may have left up in the attic and forgotten about. Also, be sure to move appliances away from the wall to see if any food is hidden behind or underneath.

A caller helped to point out how important it is to locate the source of the problem. She cleaned and searched and searched but could not locate the source and thus continued to have a problem. Finally, one day, in her continuing effort to find the answer, she searched through a storage area that had a bag containing other shopping bags that she recycled and there, located a significant number of insects. After remove this source, the problem subsided

So, I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend, complete kitchen tear down. We’re going to remove everything from all the shelves and spray the whole kitchen…

If you see one of these little guys nonchalantly flying around your kitchen, welcome to my world. You'd better take action, becuase they're not going anywhere until you make them leave.

Oh yeah, and don't shop at Henry's. They apparently sell bugs with their food.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Adventures of Pink Bear

While doing a load of laundry the other day, imagine my surprise when I pulled out from the washer one of Natalie’s sheets and out pops Pink Bear, one of Natalie’s early favorites. I didn't mean to wash him and I'm sure he didn't mean to be washed. He flopped on the floor of the laundry room and looked as though he was gasping for air, his brown eyes like pie plates, but his pink coat shined like never before.

Picture his adventure: Pink Bear, innocently wandering around Natalie’s room, perhaps conversing with other stuff animals, maybe shepherding dust bunnies under the bed, and suddenly, he is scooped up with some random sheets and blankets and stuffed into a dark hole.

“Hello?” he called out. “I’m still down here. The water is rising rapidly. Any help would be appreciated. Hello?”

Wash, rinse, spin… much to my surprise, he survived them all, tumbling through the blackness like an astronaut in the far reaches of outer space.

I had always considered Pink Bear to be rather on the fragile side. If you squeeze him, you’ll see that there’s not much inside and he is somewhat floppy. Natalie loved him, and she probably still does, just not in the same way she used to when she was a baby. For a while there, Pink Bear was an integral part of her routine, and Natalie never went anywhere without him. For as long as I remember, he’s always had a spot of dirt on his forehead, just about the size of Natalie’s fingers, but who knows where it came from. It's just always been there.

When I picked him up off the floor, he was a little damp, kind of soggy in some places, but the spot was gone and his fur was fluffy and spongy again, just like he was when he was new. I didn’t have the heart to throw him in the dryer, so I set him on top to air out before being tossed back into the teddy bear circulation.

I’m sure he has quite an adventure to share with the other stuff animals, as I don’t think that many of them have gone from one end of the wash cycle to the other and lived to tell the tale.

Keep on truckin, Pink Bear. When Natalie grows up and forgets about you, you’ll always have a special place in my heart, right next to Bubby, Little Buffalo and Surprise Bear.

Later on today.

I showed Natalie how clean Pink Bear was and she seemed pleased but mildly interested. She picked up the big purple Hippopotamus nearby (it was the closest animal to her) and told me that she thinks it smells funny and needs to be washed.

“No, I don’t want to smell it.”

I think one animal inadvertently in the wash is enough for one day, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Felix Unger

When I get frustrated or lost or bored, I clean. I don’t know why, but there’s a sudden urge to make things clean again, so I’ll scurry around the house like June Cleaver tidying, straightening, organizing and redistributing all of the stuff that gets scattered around this house back to its proper places. Here is a picture of my nicely cleaned garage, half of it at least. But then that’s not good enough, so I’ll start tearing stuff apart in order to clean it further. For example, the laundry room. Who cleans the laundry room? It's it always clean? Surprisingly, with four fully-clothed people living here is the least used room in the house, but this morning I took everything out besides the washer and dryer and gave the whole room a scrub down, starting with the dust-clogged fan on the ceiling down to the kick panels on the bottom of the dryer. Where did sand come from? We haven’t been to the beach in months. Why is there Play-Dough on the wall? And what is this sticky build-up underneath the soap containers? What, that’s soap? How does soap get dirty?

I don’t know what these housewives are complaining about or have been complaining about all throughout time. I’ve got this Mr. Mom thing licked, especially with the new school schedule we have. Natalie goes to pre-school now; yesterday was her third day, and she absolutely loves it, runs ahead of me to her class in the morning and is always bright and cheery when I pick her up, exclaiming how much fun she has. She goes three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8:30 to noon, which isn’t a whole lot of time, but it makes it nice for me those days because essentially, I’ve only got one child to worry about. Matthew and I run some errands and play a few games when we get home from dropping Natalie off. He misses her for a while, and that's just about the time to go pick her up again. We eat lunch together, deciding that we’ll go out once a week, and then Matthew’s off for his nap, leaving Natalie and I up to our own devices until Kara comes home.

On Wednesdays, its just Natalie and I after noon, because Matthew’s at the soul-sucking, money-grubbing daycare where he can learn how to grab for things he wants, cry when he doesn’t get them, not play well with others, leap from tall objects, throw toys in indiscriminate directions and otherwise be a little on the animal side, like in a zoo, KinderZoo. So I don't know what we're going to do without selves on those days. I picture trips to Disneyland once it quiets down for Autumn and all of the people stay home. That will be fun, I'm sure.

However, at times being Mr. Mom is relaxing, especially when everything goes smoothly.

But I haven’t figured out just yet what to do with Tuesdays and Thursdays, the two days I’ve got them both all day. I was thinking of making one day to go out and do things like Disneyland or the beach or hiking, something different maybe, but the other day is reserved for cleaning. And unfortunately that other day is today.

Because we’re apparent slobs.

Because this house needs a complete overhaul, top to bottom.

Because I refuse to pay for a maid.

Because it is a never ending job of cleaning and organizing and I'm the one always stuck doing it.

I think that a lot of men are like me in this world today, those that spend some of their days at home with their kids and are sucked into some partial form of domestic servitude, whether we like it or not.

I’m not complaining, mind you, because I find it satisfying to clean something and I’m enjoying the time I have with the kids, but my big problem is that it never stays clean. Not one day after I struggled with three laundry baskets full of toys and children’s debris back upstairs where they belong, the clutter and the scattered messes start to filter down the stairs again, and soon enough, it was time to drag up another basket full of stuff. The funny thing is that I don’t ever see anyone taking anything down stairs and leaving it there. It just ends up downstairs. It’s as if there’s a hole in the floor and toys silently slip through.

The one place I have a 90 percent control over is the garage, because nobody uses it on a regular basis but me, which means that the oodles of junk that plague the house can never migrate there… which is nice. On the downside, that other 10 percent, it’s a dumping ground for all of the toys, clothes and baby paraphernalia the kids have grown out of, and it is becoming quite an impressive pile. Anyone interested?

In the meantime, I’m in charge of making the house clean, as always, which is one of the most thankless jobs I’ve ever had by all stretches of the definition (and I’ve had jobs whose titles ended in “boy”). When the house is clean, nobody notices it because they just assume that it is always kept that way and they don’t see it when it isn’t or they assume that Kara did it. Kara does some of it; for example, I don’t do toilets, and then again, I don’t cook either so it evens out in the long run, somewhat. Also, I have a difficult time knowing that someone is coming over for a visit to a dirty house. Who wants to see that? “Sorry about the laundry mountain. Here, just grab this rope and we’ll get over it in no time. Watch out for diaper canyon.”

Of course, I go as long as I can without complaining about it, like it is my personal strike just to see if anyone notices the trash spilling over the sides of the can or the fact that the living room looks like a centipede took off his shoes and piled them up in the middle of the room. The dining room table, though only used a handful of times a year, is a horizontal filing cabinet the other 360 days, and I utilize a lot of restraint not to belly up a trash can and start sweeping with my arms.

Usually everyone just steps over the mess, and in the middle of the night, fear that I will die by toe-stubbing or strangle myself in a tangle of dirty socks is strong when I walk around without the lights on. In the end, my compulsiveness for neatness and order usually prevail (and I think Kara takes advantage of my weaknesses, knowing she can outlast me), and since there’s the rule: whomever complains about the mess gets to clean the mess, I usually get the job. (For a hilarious example of this rule, Click Here).

Maybe one day they’ll find a cure for my mental neatness disorder (interesting irony in that I think I have a disorder because I enjoy order) and I can wallow in filth with the best of them.

Until then, I might need a sign: “This House Was Clean Last Week. Sorry You Missed It. Better Luck Next Time.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Empty Hole

Kara’s blanket term for what sometimes troubles me from time to time is laziness. When I sit on the couch lacking motivation, it’s being lazy, or when I crawl back into bed for another couple of hours of sleep after my early morning shift with the kids, I’m being nonproductive (which is a sugar-coated word for being lazy), which is probably a little true, but it isn’t entirely accurate. Sometimes, I stare at the ceiling wishing I was still asleep so I wouldn’t have to face the day, or if I am up, my priorities get so altered that I find myself in the garage sorting washers by diameter rather than writing an article that was due a couple of days earlier or getting ahead on my various projects. At the end of the day I’m right back where I started, just a little older with nothing to show for it. And on days like today, I'm okay with that and it kills me to be that way.

The lawns need mowing again, and thanks to leaving the damnable pool out on the grass for the triple-digit solar smackdown that we endured over Labor Day Weekend, I’ve got a ring of sickly grass, which to me is like seeing a ring on an Ethan Allen coffee table. Granted my lawn isn’t akin to Ethan Allen furniture, but I still cringe. I stood in the middle of it in shorts and a t-shirt yesterday morning, despondent, cursing the sun to blackness and wishing there were lawn coasters. Of course, it couldn’t of killed the dandelions; no, it had to cut a crop-circle dead center on the lawn, and I not only cursed the sun, but my own compulsive perfectionism that everything be centered at right angles to each other. At least the ring is in the middle. Sigh.

I spent most of last week looking for something I couldn’t find, and I didn’t even know what I was looking for so I don’t think I found it. At least it doesn’t feel that way. Hence the empty hole. Sometimes I see little point to my daily routine, as I feel as though I’ve hit a stride of complacency on the scope of a giant hamster wheel, something I’m not use to and I don’t know how to deal with, as I do the same work, turn off the same lights, walk the same path on the floor, clean up the same toys, fret about the same problems, and daydream about the same dreams, wash the same dishes, pick the same weeds and type the same words over and over again, ad nausea. Normally, I strive to excel, always looking for a better way, a step up, a new horizon or a fresh goal, but lately I’ve wondered what the point would be. At the end of the day I'd be back where I started, and tomorrow seems to never come.

But then I look at the children, and it is really hard to stay depressed when they’re around. Matthew tackles Natalie to the ground for no reason, except to satisfy that mischievous little glint in his eye, and Natalie savors a big hug long after he’s “all done” and tries to push away. While he slept, Natalie watched a movie cuddled next to me on the couch with her pillow; she was wiggly during the good parts of the movie and I fell asleep for a while. It was a moment of hard-to-find happiness. I always secretly admire Matthew’s spirit of independence, because he’s started to test the envelope of my discipline, standing there with an impish grin, waiting until I just count to “three” before he jumps into action with an wicked chortle. And I say "secretly" because I don't want to outwardly encourage any disobedience to me, but I always find myself applauding his effort to want to go his own way. On the naughty spot, out come the puppy dog eyes and the curled lip, which has zero affect on me. Friday afternoon, they both sat on the floor next to each other and watched a TV show together, and I wondered what it is I was looking for when the empty hole I need to fill—for whatever it is that I might think is missing—is right there on the floor all along. If you can get over the “babies” and the “so money” parts of the movie, which certainly dates it, the moral of “Swingers” is that you should count the things you have and not those things you don’t, and it’s cliché, sure, but still a good axiom to consider.

Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still unhappy about the course in which I'm presently headed, and we even went to Disneyland yesterday, a place where the Mouse demands full emotional allegiance around every corner. It was a rough morning for me, alone but surrounded by people, smiles fizzled and joy depleted. Plus, it took me all day to get over the raging desire to kill everyone I saw who so much as existed in a fashion I didn’t approve of, which is most everyone at Disneyland on a Saturday afternoon. I pictured pushing this guy over the railing into The Rivers of America because he was smoking a cigarette outside the designated area, and I wanted to hold a guy’s head under the water on the Pirates of the Caribbean until the bubbles stopped because he was singing a song too loudly (sure, it was a pirate song, but not the right pirate song; get with spirit of the ride). And Heaven help me if I have to hear one more person mispronounce Autopia… for Christ’s sake, it’s not Auto-topia; it’s a portmanteau, morons. Automobile + Utopia = Autopia. Get it? Please, get it so I no longer have to hate you from a distance.

But what is really wrong I don’t know. I never do when I feel this way; All I know is that I’m off a bit, and my only solution is to slog through it, wait for it to pass, or do the manly thing and “walk it off,” change the subject, get over it. There are lawns to be mowed and cheery happy articles to be written, trash to be taken out, diapers to be changed and dogs to be fed (well, one). There’s no time for to share ones feelings, especially since psychotherapy is a fruitless endeavor designed to release emotions that were padlocked tight for a reason.

I guess that’s why there’s the big empty hole, in which nothing will fit probably because there was nothing there to begin with. How do you fill something like that?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Car Crazy

Most people are happy with their cars; at least the people that I know are happy with their cars. I don’t know. Maybe they haven’t said anything about it and I’m assuming here, but my point is that the people around me are content with their driving situation, and I’ll preface that with the “as far as I know” caveat. I wouldn’t want to presume out of line.

Again, most people are happy with their one car. It drives fine. It gets them where they’re going, and rarely do I see people on my street with the hoods up cussing at some greasy part.

So, why am I the only one? Why is it me? You'd think, with the number of vehicles I have registered and insured with the State of California (five, thank you, and sixth one the DMV doesn’t need to know about quite yet) that at least one of them would drive perfectly, without fault or flaw. But it just isn’t so.

For starters, Kara’s car needs tires. I’m trying to hold out as long as they can, but there is going to be a phone call from her on the side of the freeway somewhere telling me that she has a flat. I know I could pre-empt it by simply replacing the tires, like the tire guy told me when I got new front ones… but I always think that they’re just pushing rubber, like I’m some rube. “Hey guys, watch this. The guy out there…no, the dumb lookin’ one… He’s got 20,000 miles left on his tires. Watch me sell him five new ones.” So, I nodded to him, “Yeah, okay, that’s a good idea. I’ll bring it back in a couple of days to do that.”


I got the same thing when I take my truck into get its oil changed. I must just look stupid, or naive, or someone that can be taken advantage of. I think what it is is that I look relatively young, like I don't know what the hell is going on most of the time (which is a partial truth) and that I can be taken for a ride. I’m usually sitting in the little air conditioned room, reading a magazine, and they come in and tell me that I need this or that. “Sir, your air filter is no longer filtering air, just dirt…you should have it replaced,” and they usually have the offending filter with them and it’s a little dusty, maybe some would call it dirty, but when I get home, I slap it on the driveway a few times, blow some compressed air over it like my father taught me how to do many years ago, and it is good as new. My favorite. This happened last time I was there. Somebody must have screwed up an order and they got stuck with an excessive amount of the expensive transfer case oil, because the guy comes into the little room and we have this little conversation:

“Sir, we checked your transfer case oil and we found some metal shavings on the bottom.”

“Metal shavings, huh?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s bad, right? I mean, I don’t want metal shavings in my transfer case… or do I?”

“No, sir you don't. I recommend you flush it out and replace the fluids. It’s around $50 for the service.”

“Oh, yes, of course, right away…” And as he turns around with little dollar signs in his eyes, I add, “But wait, one thing: How were you able to check for shavings at the bottom of my transfer case without draining it first?” I gave him the look a teacher would give when everyone in class knows the answer to the question but you and we all think you’re faking it.

He stammers, caught. “There’s a plug we use to fill the case.”

“Yes, I know, and that’s where the shavings supposedly are, right? So how did you keep all the oil in the case while looking for these shavings?"

He didn't answer quick enough to sound convincing. "Never mind," I told him. "I’ll take care of it, thanks.”

So, there’s another place I’ll never go. Perhaps I do have metal shavings in my transfer case, who knows? I know that guy doesn’t because I looked at my transfer case drain plug and it hadn’t been touched.

But that was the least of my worries with the truck… at least it started, ran and stopped when I wanted it to, and it is reliable, consistently. My Volkswagens are all in some kind of untrustworthy condition, and I find it to be a continual source of frustration for me, as I am constantly thinking about them... fretting more like, I mean, more than any one person should. Every time I go into the garage, I sigh, and give them a frustrated look of despondency, like a disappointed father seeing his daughter come home after curfew. What I am going to do with you?

And I've been wracking my brains to find a solution to their various problems that won't end in me opening my wallet.

The Single Cab won’t start again. It seems to want to do this about every six months or so; it just gets tired of starting and refuses to do it as much as I fiddle with its various parts. The battery’s full and the starter is only two years old, but it rolls over itself like it has a dead battery...or there's a loose connection somewhere that I can't see. I’m flustered, and frankly, I’m too old to be kick starting a car. Well, not old in an annual sense, but old as in too mature, too grown up. Every time I take it anywhere, I wonder if it is going to start when I return to the parking lot and I find myself parking on hills. I did that when I was 16 and it was just a way of life (actually, my gas gauge broke so running out of gas was my usual thing, about once every two months I’d have to call dad or Jason to come get me), but now that I’m more than twice that age, I don’t want to be seen kick staring a beat up partially white, partially blue 1958 Single Cab. People probably think I live in it.

The 1967 runs great as long as it is running, but it’s got some kind of funky starting problem too. Some times, when I turn the key, it does nothing. What the hell!?! It started perfectly fine five miles ago and now, when I want to pull it into the garage, it just clicks at me. I'm this close to selling it.

The 1971 is most frustrating of all. I think I have an experimental carburetor that VW put together and they’re snickering at me. “We have secretly replaced the carburetor that Ryan normally uses with this intermittent one…. Let’s watch!” It starts great, even after sitting for months, but as soon as the engine idles down to normal operating speed, it flits to a stop. I had it fixed once before too, so now it is on the list.

Last year, you may remember I celebrated a new look for my truck, what with the big tires, lift and all, but for precisely a year, it drove like a Sherman tank, barreling over the bumps, and most every time I put on the brakes, the front end shimmied and pulled to the left. Out of alignment, you say. No, says the shop when I took it to them. Straight as an arrow. The wheels aren’t balanced, you say. No, says the two shops I took it to. Finally, sitting there on the freeway for the longest time, complaining and moaning about the difficulties I was having with its drivability, it dawned on me.

Now, let’s remember that I’m in no way an engineer, mechanical, electrical, train or otherwise. I just write about cars sometimes, and frankly, my enjoyment in working on them is limited to non-technical things. Sand down this part to bare metal, clean it up, make it look nice and add a new coat of paint. Sure, I can do that, but ask me to upgrade drum brakes to discs and I’m completely lost. Granted, I’m not an idiot; I could probably figure it out, but it would take me four times as long and twice as much money (because I’d invariably break something expensive or important in the process and have to replace it) and I’d rather pay someone else to do it and not worry about it.

Well, with my truck, I did pay someone else to do it and all I do now is worry about it. Every time I stepped on the brakes, for a whole freakin’ year, I felt the front end shimmy and my teeth grind in frustration. I pictured scrubbing the tread right off the tires. But, there was a sudden shaft of light beaming down from some divine entity, perhaps Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, and it hit me.

Under the suspension lift kit on the front of my truck are two sideways-mounted stabilizer shocks, attached to the steering arms on one end and the frame on the other. They are there to absorb some of the road shock, the bumps, that stiff-suspensioned trucks are susceptible to, and I don’t think they ever did their jobs properly because you feel everything. For about a month, it became a theory that the left shock wasn’t working well and every time I applied the brakes, the weight of the truck shifted forward on the wheels, changing the camber of the tire, which was resisted by the shocks (the left more than the right) and each tire was forced to go its own way. The result was a conflict in direction. One tire wanted to go one way and the other the other, but since they’re forever connected, they vibrated instead.

So, yesterday, I had a sudden rush of ambition, like when a cat just suddenly jumps up and races out of the room for whatever reason nobody knows but the cat. Yeah, that was me. One moment, I was sitting on the couch watching an endless parade of children’s shows on TV (Natalie's really been into watchin Kids Sprout, an offshoot, excuse the expression, of PBS, Channel 295 if you use DirecTV) and the next think I know, I’m out on the driveway, shimmying under my truck with a wrench.

After yanking off the two shocks, the truck drives perfectly. No shaking, no vibrations, no pulling to the left! If only I had done it last summer, 2007 would have been a better year for me. So, at least one thing checked off of my list of worries.

I guess it is time to call my trusty VW mechanic and get the others in line.

Oh yeah, and tires for Kara… maybe for Christmas. She’d like that.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ding-Dong, Daycare’s Gone

Eh, it was the only thing I could think of that rhymed, and I so dearly wanted to rhyme something, but you get the point. Last Wednesday, Natalie finally said good bye to KinderCare, the boarding house for small children that charged an arm and a leg for the privilege of storing them for the day, while all of us parents worked. Natalie has been going there for approximately three years, and now no more!

Good riddens, I say.

I am as excited as she is that she left and is heading to her preschool, but I’m sure for a much different reason. She’s matriculating up to a “big girl” school, whereas I am saving a hat full of money and finally gaining some value for the money I will be spending.

Every week for the past three years, in one form or another, I’ve been writing a check for $268.90… every week, not to mention the $90 check three times a year to hold the kids’ spots while Kara kept them out of daycare while on her breaks, and not to mention the $40 check I wrote each month for Natalie’s gymnastics classes she took there each week (though that’s only been for the last year or so). Frankly, it is a lot of money for her to stay there, and the irony of it all is that she goes to daycare because I have to work and I have to work partly because she goes to daycare.

But, just because we’ve finally dug ourselves out of the tunnel and I’m starting to again breath easier, let’s add it up to see how much it has cost us over the years. Natalie went there full time when I worked full time, from roughly June 2004 until April 2005, then she was scaled back to three days a week until Matthew was born in December 2005. Then they both went two days a week until now. However, for whatever reason (I suspect shenanigans), the weekly bill was always roughly the same, making the total cost of the kids’ daycare up until this point $35,494.80.

That’s a giant load of money just to store the children for the day. Imagine what I could have bought with that kind of money, roughly $1000.00 a month (and sometimes more depending if there were five weeks or four in that month)!

Breathing a financial sigh of relief, I’m just glad it is over, at least partly over. Matthew is still going to go there one day a week now (at $80 a day!), but we’re going to see how that works out. I say it’s a waste of money, total waste of money. The only reason he’ll go, besides the socialization aspects of being there, is because I usually have meetings on Wednesday… but I have meetings on Monday and Thursday mornings too now, so I don’t see the benefit. Plus, it’s not like I’m going to get anything extra done, because Natalie has to be picked up at noon, which gives me only about three hours to take care of business… and roughly half of that is taken up by my Wednesday meeting. So what’s the point?

On top of which, I didn’t go to daycare to socialize and my social skills aren’t entirely flawed, so we may just pull him out altogether and save just that much more money; frankly, I don’t see the point of him even being there. It’s a warehouse for kids. Parents slow down in the driveway, open the door and shove their burdens out as they speed off to work, and sometimes, I’ve dropped off the kids and picked them up, seeing the same poor wretches languishing there, waiting to be rescued. Last week, I was speaking quite candidly to Natalie’s teacher—what did I care, Natalie was leaving and so was the teacher, so we both were speaking our minds about KinderPrison—and she was telling me that some kids are there for nearly 12 hours a day, every day, all week. What kind of upbringing is that? They’d do better waiting in the car while their parents worked than being at KinderCare. At that point, what is stopping you from hiring a nanny? It’d surely be cheaper and you’d have better care, but I think the majority of people leave their kids at KinderCare for those obscene lengths of time lack a certain parental responsibility.

KinderCare is a day-long playground, with very little structure, discipline or direction, which leads me nicely to the second reason I’m glad Natalie’s leaving it: There’s no main direction for the kids. You get families from all walks of life and all kinds of morals with the on common denominator is that they can all seemingly afford to send their kids there. However, I’m glad she’s moving up to a private preschool run through a church because it says one very important thing: The majority of the families share some kind of religious standards, and that standard is the same for each. I’m not saying that I’m one step away from the ministry, as I haven’t been to church since Easter (and I stayed outside because Matthew felt the sting of not being baptized and couldn’t settle), but I have a certain level of religion instilled in me. I know right from wrong and I have… well, what my point is is that I’m hypothesizing that all of the kids that will be going to Natalie’s new school will be from a healthy, upright family environment.

However, sharing space with other kids from healthy, upright family environments doesn’t come exactly free, but it is a whole heck of a lot less expensive than blood-sucking KinderCare, about half the cost. But for me, it seems that she’ll be getting more value out of my money, more instruction, more direction, more practice at going down the road to becoming a good student.

Of course, there’s light at the end of the tunnel there too, because it is only another year before she starts Kindergarten. And that, folks, is free.*

*I know I pay taxes that goes to public schools so that doesn’t mean it’s free, but I pay taxes now and I don’t get to send them to public school. So, at least the tax money I pay now will theoretically stop going to pay for illegal alien anchor babies’ education and start paying for my own. But that, friends, is another post for a later date.

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