Saturday, August 28, 2010

Working for a living

I am a CPA, but as the cobbler's family has no shoes, I neglect our family's financial planning. That is starting to change, start being the operative word.

We have recently changed our primary bank, gaining some flexibility and better interest rates on car loans, but Ricky has had to do it dragging me along. The new structure involves personal checking and savings accounts, business checking and savings accounts, debit cards and new credit cards with different "reward" programs. It is more than my tiny mind can manage.

For twenty-five years we have run our family with one checking account. We don't have to consult the other before using it, either. And it has worked. All we've done over the years is raise the unspoken limit of how much one of us could spend without consulting the other. It started with $10, living as students, but of course has increased over the years. Long ago we reached the point at which one of us could buy a car without "checking in" first. That's kinda' where we've left least I think so.

We both hate "budgets." Instead, we have developed our own system. I usually make the deposits and keep the operating funds divided between checking and savings. Ricky pays all the bills. Our tasks are so divided, I have never used a debit card.

I assume he will spend everything we have and so I keep as much as possible tucked away. He pretends not to know whether we have enough and spends what he thinks he can justify (knowing that I input all our expenses into Quicken after the fact.) He only knows how much we "have" by checking the balance when he makes a cash withdrawal.

Our system has worked, probably because we're both competitive. Neither of us wants to disappoint the other. With new banking procedures, though, and some other changes Ricky has made in monitoring our long term savings and retirement accounts, we each need to be more involved with both the ins and outs of our finances.

I guess that means we get to be on the same team. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Tomorrow we - Ricky, Kelly, Brian, Wiley (when he can) and I - are starting Dave Ramsey's course on Financial Peace. Lindsay and Eddie are doing the class at a different location. I hope each of us will get some benefit.

I usually dislike structure, i.e. having a plan. But I have never turned down a shoe shopping trip, and that's all this is, right?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Call of Duty

Tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. Wiley the student has been in six-days-a-week, nine-hours-a-day marching band camp for the past three weeks. Ricky the teacher started back a week ago. Monday, an easy class day, will actually be a respite for both of them.

I usually dread the starting of school because of the exponential increase in laundry. Wiley shifts from wearing his pajamas all day, every day, to real clothes, while Ricky switches from shorts and a t-shirt to long pants and long sleeved shirts in addition to his shorts and t-shirt when he gets home.

But this year is an exception. With summer band, club soccer and rock work around the house, my boys have been sweating through two to three sets of clothes a day. Monday begins a respite for the washer and dryer, too.

Wiley also had to finish his summer reading and class assignments over the past few weeks. He has always done well in school, but high school steps it up a notch and I have been concerned how he would fit band, soccer, homework and sleep around his busy X-box schedule.

My prior efforts to minimize gaming time have been futile with both Wiley and his older brother. I have tried setting timers, keeping logs, or arranging rewards to get the boys to self-limit.

When that inevitably failed, I have unplugged or disconnected the TV or limited time spent in the den. But I have not had the stamina to follow through and enforce any of these schemes. Once my head is down working, the TV is on and a kid is in front of it. If I don't nag or yell, my silence (or grumble) is taken as implicit permission.

But with Wiley's understanding and agreement, I may have found the ultimate solution. At least it has worked for the past two weeks.

Brown paper and packing tape, that's the trick.

My goal is for us, Ricky and me included, to consciously choose when we watch shows or play games, rather than making the TV a companion to everything we do.

I have tried limiting the accessibility of the kitchen television as well, since that's where the most mindless TV watching occurs. I have been putting a pillowcase over the screen and hiding the remote control, but so inconsistently it hasn't mattered.

This parenting stuff wears me down. But that is what moms are called to - responsibility. And when we can't say "no" one more time, God answers prayer. The kitchen television died a natural death last night.

Now if He would help me out a little with the internet connections on our Ipods, computers and cell phones, my duty would be done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What would you do?

We have a guest bathroom just off the living room, next to my office. I've been spending a little more time in there since my colon surgery. The other day I happened to look up and notice the Christmas ornaments hanging from the light fixture!

I've always hung ornaments from light fixtures, starting with the Victorian chandeliers in the house we had when the kids were little. The tradition carried over to this house and evidently carried over to our kid(s.) I know I didn't hang these. I'm usually pretty good at taking down the decorations that I put up.

But you know, they do match the wallpaper. And it's only three more months until I get the rest of the Christmas decorations out, so might as well just leave them up......this time. Christmas in August, anyone?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reaching for Hope

Reaching back to the past.

I was young and oblivious at the time, coming of age in the Carter administration and having three of my four babies during Reagan's presidency. (Brian was born on George H.W. Bush's election day. Ricky cut in line to vote before taking me to the hospital.)

I do remember our first mortgage at 16.25%, the second, in 1985, at about 8%. I was confident enough to start my own business in 1989.

Once again people are speaking truth to power. You may disagree, but it's worth thinking about.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Winning the game

Last week was such a blur - coming and going and spinning in place.

It started with a computer hard drive failure Monday morning. And I had such high hopes for my efficiency that day, too, wanting to focus on jobs that had to be done as I roll into the second stage of busy season 2010. Instead, I spent five hours at the Apple store, backing up my computer and paying the hundred dollars for priority service so I could have the hard drive replaced the same day.

The rest of the week included, besides work, supervising eighteen year old boys breaking rock in the front yard, setting up an ipod with appropriate music for my dad's birthday gift, worrying about my son's marching band audition, dealing with dogs on drugs, last minute packing and a plane trip that included a three hour unscheduled stop in Richmond due to bad weather that made us miss both lunch and supper.

Finally, arriving in Charlottesville after dark, we had to find our daughter's particular University of Virginia dorm parking lot. That last task was complicated, as Ricky was driving while I queried Lindsay on her exact location. Since Lindsay did not know that Ricky and my parents were also in the car, I had to repeat her instructions out loud so that Ricky could hear......."Okay, I need to turn around and come back because I went too far. Okay, it's not this light, it's the next light. Then I need to turn right, okay, I think I've got it......"

I have to admit, though, that I managed a most successful surprise. For months I had known we were all coming to her graduation, while she thought it would only be me. I nearly slipped up earlier in the week, mentioning something about taking the dogs to my friend's house, quickly covering my gaffe by saying it was to give Ricky a chance to sleep late a couple of days. But all's well that ends well, and she was stunned and delighted.

The funny (not in a ha-ha, but in a sweet way) part was the anxiety the ruse created for her husband, who was aware of our plans. He stressed over the details and fretted about keeping it from her. If you've seen the TV series "Chuck," he was "Awesome" to her "Ellie." Next time, I'll save him the agony and surprise them both. (Those are they things you have to learn when an adult joins the family. Sorry, Eddie, I didn't mean to make your summer more difficult than it already was, separated from your wife for twelve weeks.)

But the week was great, punctuated on Saturday with Lindsay's excellent commencement speech and an uneventful flight home.

The name of the game? Survivor!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting the kids ready for camp

Bedding washed - check.

Food packed - check.

Medicine packed - check.

Toys gathered and packed - check.

Nails clipped - Winston, check.

Nais clipped - Krista, no way. The groomer and then the vet together were able to clip one nail. Krista did not want her nails clipped, thank you very much.

Crates cleaned and packed - check.

I've enjoyed the last few years of family trips when everyone could pack themselves. Getting the dogs ready for "Camp Tami" was a harsh reality check.

We left Thursday morning for a short trip to Charlottesville to watch our daughter graduate with her Master's degree. Before heading for the airport, we took the dogs to my friend's house where she will spoil them with attention. I only hope they will take us back on Sunday without too much resentment.

We left Krista with Tami last summer while we went to London. She was going to keep Krista again and Winston, too, this summer for ten days, but cancer surgery wiped out our Florida trip. (I'm still bitter.) So the pups have to settle for three days instead. It's a good thing. Packing up two dogs seems exponentially more consuming than packing up one dog, and if I'd had to pack stuff for ten days instead of three...... Now I know why so many people take their dogs with them when they travel!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Diva Doesn't Share

Wiley is a trumpet player. Our shibas sing along - every time. You might say they have a racket going.

Krista is an outstanding yodeler. (I've posted about her "singing" before.)

Winston is figuring it out, but so far he just barks. And for a puppy he barks LOUD. I have to put him outside now when Wiley is practicing. But it doesn't matter where the dogs are or where Wiley is, they accompany him.

Today Wiley had been practicing outside, working on his combination of marching and playing. You could hear the dogs, in the kitchen, all the way to the street.

Wiley came inside to give them an encore.

But by this time Krista has just about lost it, she is so mad at Winston for ruining the harmonies.

Listen if you like, but you may want to put on ear muffs.