The FYOOOTURE of this site and podcast

Maybe you noticed that I put some ads on this site. I want to know how that’s working out for you; and I want to know what you’d like to see and hear from my site and podcast in the future.

Why ads? This year, we’ll have two kids entering college and one going to kindergarten (which we pay for). These were foreseeable expenses, but then the family van suddenly succumbed a year ahead of my hopes. We haven’t visited or helped my parents, gone to Girl Scouts or other activities, or gone to our beloved new parish for many weeks, because we don’t trust the van to go — or, more importantly, to stop — when we want it to. We’re searching for a downsized replacement vehicle in our price range, and we’re hustling for more work; but it suddenly became clear that it was time to monetize the thing I already have established. So, ads!

Do I still need pledges? Oh, yes, please please. I’m immensely grateful for your support through Patreon, which made it possible to launch the site when I left Aleteia, and which has kept it going for six months now. (I haven’t forgotten that I owe many of you the promised perks for pledging. I have no excuse for dragging my feet on that, except that I have very large feet, and they are heavy.) Your pledges mean I can continue writing five days a week without worrying about being fired for, like, saying “balls.” I’m so grateful, and very much welcome your continued support.

Oh gosh, please, I don’t want to go back to cranking out SEO-optimized articles that aren’t designed to be read. The photo at the top, illustrating my creative process? I’m thrilled with that, as long the thing I’m writing with one hand isn’t twelve short essays about cigar wrappers.

Will the podcasts continue? In the words of Darth Vader: Nothing can stop that now. My husband and I have been producing weekly 25-minute podcasts which are available to patrons who pledge at any level, even $1 a month. They’re chatty, drinky, goofy, and non-political, and I read a poem at the end.

We’ve just upgraded our audio system, so we should sound less bottom-of-a-wellish starting this week. We’re also restructuring a bit. I’ll be returning to my original idea of doing interviews with guests once a month or so. I also want to have recurring features for me and Damien to cover. We have some ideas, but we nervously welcome suggestions. What would you like to hear?

Why this particular ad network? I chose Mediavine because they work to keep the site as uncluttered as possible, to load the ads sequentially so it’s not too slow, and to keep the content appropriate. So far, I’ve been happy with the results, and I hope you can read without disruptions, both on mobile and desktop. Please let me know if you are having any problems viewing the site, or if you see an ad that doesn’t belong.

Any other questions, suggestions, complaints, concerns, or offers for an all-inclusive package for a weekend at the beautiful, sun-drenched La Fiesta Americana Resort using the Hilton rewards I can’t seem to persuade you I don’t actually have? Hit me! Or just write me an email, sheesh.

Finally: Thank you. You guys are good friends.

Podcast #4! S.C. Naoum of Eye of the Tiber refuses to swear in Aramaic

 

… but only because he’s self-conscious about his accent. We’ll get him next time.

I just sent out a Soundcloud link to all my lovely patrons, so you can hear my fourth podcast, a half-hour conversation with the comic genius S. C. Naoum, who created Eye of the Tiber and who still writes 95% of it.  You can become a patron for as little as $1 a month, and I appreciate every single pledge.

I’m still experimenting with the best model to make this blog work. I would really love to keep posting five times a week, and to keep it free of ads. As you know, I also write for The Catholic Weekly, I freelance at various places, I do speaking engagements, and I’m about to re-launch my “Catholic Artist of the Month” feature at Aleteia; and I have another recurring project in the works for later this year.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-2-35-48-pm

Is that bringing in enough income? Nnnnnot yet!

This is the part where most bloggers will start calling you by affectionate nicknames, using lots of exclamation points, reminding you of how much super fun we’ve had over the years, and nodding and winking maniacally about how much super fun we will definitely continue to have, as long as you pledge at any point, such as now. FUN!

Maybe they will even laboriously put together “Top Ten Dank and Woke Reasons You Can’t and Won’t Even Bother to Consider Not Becoming a Patron of This Blog, As If!”

Instead, I’ll just share what really goes through my self-employed head:

11:40 on a Tuesday:

This is actually going really well. I am wise and prudent and enterprising, I know how to hustle, I have done my homework, and I really believe in this model of speaking to and working with my readers directly, eliminating irrelevant middlemen and fostering a true sense of community.

And as an added bonus which benefits everyone, never again will I have a perfectly good naughty pun neutered like a newt. Never again will I sit before my keyboard, locked into literary paralysis by the very real fear that, even though I said something good, true, and beautiful, it’s going to be misconstrued by someone who barely knows how to read but who is a giant donor to someone who is a medium-sized donor to someone who has influence over the person who signs my checks. Never again!

Yes, yes, I am seeing slow but steady growth, and I am striking a very good balance between gentle self-promotion and a liberating focus on my true vocation. Yes. This is my best year ever.

Five minutes later:

Fuckity fuckty fuck fuck fuck. This isn’t working, this isn’t working. Can I use my van to drive for Uber? [hurriedly Googles “sell kidney southern NH how much”] THIS ISN’T WORKING. The only thing I can do is ask for more money, and the more I do that, the more everyone hates me. I hate me. It’s only a matter of time before they kick me off the internet, and the only thing people will remember of me is that some lady named Cynthia got in a fight with Tito Edwards over a potato, and then everyone stopped believing in blogs. It’s over. It’s over. I’m done.

Three minutes later:

OH, somebody pledged a dollar! This is really, really working! I’M A GOLDEN GOD!

And so on.

So here’s my appeal to you:

I’m a pretty okay writer, right? I feel like I am. So, can you send me some money, please? I promise I’m using it mainly to pay very boring bills, and the occasional bottle of kangaroo wine. Did I mention that the van needs brakes, the washing machine is making a whole new squawking noise, and we have two kids starting college in the Fall?  And the rest of them keep eating and eating and eating?

If you pledge, not only will you stave off my nervous breakdown, but you will also get access to weekly podcasts, and I’m also offering various other perks as thank-yous: Pants Pass decals, Dignaroos, autographed books, and others. Please check it out and pass it on!

That’s all I got. Thank you.
P.S. You’re a golden god. You are.

Patreon! My podcast! And dignity. Always dignity.

My husband says that I have many skills, but self-promotion is not one of them.

He is correct.

Here are two things that I haven’t been able to bring myself to tell you about, even though I’m hoping they will, you know, succeed and make me money or whatever.

FIRST THING: I have a podcast. Damien and I have been doing 27-minute* podcasts which do not at all labor under that awful burden of too much polish. Nope, I will never ever say “Wypchać się sianem!” Nor will I overproduce, overthink, or over-prepare for one of these podcasts. Last time, for instance, we explained what not to do about ice dams on your roof, we accused each other of various misdeeds with soup, and I praised Mariah Carey’s beautiful tush.

HOW can you hear this amazing podcast? You can become a patron through Patreon. That’s SECOND THING.

As you can see, this blog does not have any ads on it. This provides a beautiful, uncluttered reading experience. It also keeps my bank account from becoming cluttered with money. In the interest of feng shui, I’d like to balance out the zero advertising dollars with dollars coming in from somewhere else, because of my wretched attachment to things like groceries and electricity.

This site will always be free to read. With Patreon, masochists readers can keep it going by, well, sending me money; and as a thank-you, I send various perks.

Here’s how that works:

If you sign up to pledge a dollar a month — A DOLLAR A MONTH! — you get access to my podcast. (I originally set the podcast pledge level at $5, but those four extra dollars have been haunting me, so $1 it is. If you pledged $5 to get the podcast and want to change your pledge to $1 now, I won’t be offended.) (See above: Not great at self-promotion.)

Here’s my Patreon pledge structure:

$1 monthly pledge makes you a Fisher of Pants (an actual phrase someone typed into Google and then ended up at my blog) and gives you access to the podcast. Every week, I’ll email you a private Soundcloud link so you can download it and listen at your leisure.

Any additional pledge earns you the podcast and also . . .

$5 monthly makes you a Little Two-Legs, and I’ll send you a Pants Pass decal.

$10 ??? Still looking for ideas. I’ve rearranged this perk structure so many times, I think I’m going to throw up, so I’m just going to leave it like this because I’m dying here.

$50 monthly makes you a Heretical Hosebeast, and gets you an autographed copy of my book, The Sinner’s Guide to NFP, OR an autographed copy of one of the other books to which I’ve contributed: Style, Sex, and Substance and Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love.

$75 makes you a Defender of Dignity and earns you a pair of Dignaroos, which I still think is funny, even if no one else does.

$100 patrons are Actual Patrons, and I will contribute an additional $100 yearly to our partnered family in India through our favorite charity, Save a Family Plan. Hooray, I’m useful!

And finally, for $500, you can call yourself a Mensch, and I’ll mail you a nice batch homemade rugelach. Your choice, cherry or apricot, with nuts or without.

Okay, phew.

To all the amazing folks who went ahead and pledged even before I got my act together enough to tell anyone about it, thank you so much. It was enormously encouraging to me as I made the leap to an independent site, and I appreciate it so much!

To everyone else, please consider making a pledge so I can keep churning out this nonsense. And whether you pledge or not, please share this post, especially with your rich friends.

Thank you. From the bottom of Mariah Carey’s beautiful tush, thank you.

*I don’t know why.

Is it easier for rich people to have big families?

Heart of money

David Mills is doing a little self-examination at Aleteia with A Marxist Lesson for Breeding Catholics: What is romance to the comfortable can be a burden to the poor and sick. Mills is a good and honest man, and has a knack for prodding our weak spots without excusing himself. I think he’s only half right in this essay, though.

His main thesis: Most of the Catholics writing about Catholic sexuality are resting comfortably in a place of privilege — and they should knock it off. For a Catholic middle class couple, says Mills, having another child

 may mean giving up a vacation if the family’s wealthy, or the Thursday family dinner out if the family’s middle class. Her arrival won’t mean giving up food, or rent or the parochial school that can make all the difference to his older siblings’ future.

It’s easy, he says, for a financially secure couple to let their marriages be fruitful, and to see Catholic sexual teaching as a lovely and liberating thing. But, says Mills, the poor do not have this luxury, and may face genuine hardships that a middle class couple never even considers.

Mills says,

 The affluent for whom the Catholic teaching is not a great burden can fall to the temptations of their class, one of which is to think of their children as lifestyle accessories … You can feel that God rewarded your obedience and sacrifice by giving you more “toys” than your friends have.

He concludes:

We the comfortable, who speak so romantically of being open to life—because for us, with our privileges, it is a romance—could find ways to make it a romance, and not a terror, for others too.

Overall, he has a very good point — and truly, the main reason my book about the struggles of NFP sold so well was because there was such a glut of “perky” public discourse on the topic. About a decade ago, just about anybody who talked about the Church’s sexual teaching talked about how lovely, how fulfilling, how empowering, how enlightening, how life-changingly, marriage-buildingly, blindingly awesome it all is. So the world was pretty ready for a book that said, “Yes, but it’s also really hard, and sometimes it stinks on ice. Here’s why it’s still a good idea.” (And if you’re interested in making my life a little more romantic, then for goodness’ sake, buy my book!)

It’s a bad idea to present Church teaching as a golden ticket to happiness. But more specifically, I have a quibble with the idea that material wealth usually makes it easier to be “open to life” (a phrase which Mills uses to mean “ready to have another baby,” which is really only a part of what that phrase means — but that’s a post for another day!). Depending on what crowd you’re in, you can get very different ideas about who’s struggling with what. I mean no disrespect, but Mills, a white-bearded male scholar, most likely reads about Catholic sexual teaching in books and journals, where one is unlikely to hear anything candid, raw, unpolished or, frankly, honest. For some more useful research on the topic, try hanging around in the back of the church with other women who can’t sleep because they’re not sure if they’re pregnant or not, and they can’t make up their minds how guilty to feel about the way they feel about it.

He does acknowledge that the poor aren’t just helpless saps, too anemic to grapple with the headiness of solid doctrine:

The poor are not merely victims but moral agents who can teach the comfortable, not least about the good life and the place of children therein. As Pope Francis said, “For most poor people, a child is a treasure. … Let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.”

I wish he had said more about this. In truth, it’s often wealthy couples who struggle more with the notion of having another baby.  Poor couples can be so accustomed to uncertainty, and so used to making the best out of whatever happens, that the notion of having yet another child is less terrifying to them than it would be to a wealthy, secure couple who feel like their material lives, at least, are under control. A couple with an empty checking account and a fridge full of government cheese can laugh hilariously when they read that it takes $245,000 to raise a child; but a couple who actually has $245,000 in the bank might gulp and think twice before taking that kind of plunge.

Poverty is (or at least can be) a great teacher, because we are (as Mills points out) allpoor in one way or another — if not materially, than maybe physically, or emotionally, or in our relationships. Being poor in any of these ways makes it obvious that we are not in control, but that we still need to work very hard to get more in control — which is an excellent model for how to approach parenthood, and marriage, and life in general. Try really hard all the time; realize, all the time, that a lot of what happens is not up to you.

Is it easy to trust God, with your sexual life and otherwise, when you’re poor? I’m not going to say yes! Poverty is no joke, and being poor and pregnant can be twelve different kinds of miserable. But I’m not going to say that money makes it easier to trust God. There’s a reason Jesus warned about getting bogged down with riches.

As for why it’s mainly the secure and happy who write about sex, there are two reasons. The first is legitimate, and it’s that people who struggle don’t want to reveal private things about their marriage to the world.  It may be comforting for Jack and Joanne to read that Alyssa and Aaron had a big fight about sex; but Aaron probably won’t appreciate it if Alyssa spills all to the Huffington Post.

The second reason is less defensible. We faithful can be loathe to speak publicly about our struggles because we’re afraid that we’ll scare away the undecided — that our suffering will be the final nudge that tips an on-the-fence couple the wrong way.  So we Happy Face it up, thinking we’re helping the Holy Spirit out with one of His less-successful PR campaigns.

Poverty comes in many forms, as Mills acknowledges; and so does faith in God. I am working on learning how to put more trust in the truth when I write about my faith. It’s not up to me to paste a happy ending on the word of God, and that is true no matter how much money I have in the bank.

Grace is free, but not all fees are simony

Abbé_pratiquant_la_simonie

The expense of obtaining a decree of nullity makes it difficult for some people to come into full communion with the Church. When annulments are expensive, there is also the risk that outsiders (or even Catholics) perceive that annulment is just “Catholic divorce,” for sale to parishioners with enough ready cash. But here’s the problem: it really does cost money to do it right.

Read the rest at the Register.

The boy has an aha moment.

PIC Aha band “Not this kind, fortunately. Never this kind.”

Says the boy: My tooth is almost out. Can I just have my tooth fairy money now so I can buy this thing?
Me: Nope. Sorry.
Boy: Okay. I guess I better haul some more rocks so I can earn the money, because I really want it.
Me: Good idea.
[Me on the inside: HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

Now to spread the word to everyone who owns a credit card . . .

 

Defund! Defund! Defund!

A Massachusetts antiabortion group has unveiled a bill that would let individual taxpayers opt out of paying for publicly funded abortions. Under the measure, a taxpayer could choose to have whatever portion of their state taxes pays for abortion coverage directed instead to the Baby Safe Haven Law. That law allows parents to leave unwanted newborns at fire stations and other designated locations.
I LOVE this idea.  Puts those Planned Parenthood ghouls in the position of saying,  “We don’t want desperate mothers to have a way to unburden themselves of a baby they don’t want or can’t care for.  Women should not have the choice to go to a safe location — they should be forced to do what their government and big corporations want them to do.”
Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the bill, one of several filed by the group for the new legislative session, would give residents who oppose abortion a way of exercising their conscience. The head of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Andrea Miller, said she had not seen the bill but argued that tax dollars routinely go toward many things that a given taxpayer might not agree with. (AP)
Let me translate for you:  “But that’s ourrrrrrrrrr money!  It’s not fai-i-i-i-ir that someone was clever and enterprising enough to push for laws that a majority of citizens want!  We are, and always have been, opposed to choice for Americans!”
This is the way to do it.  Prayer, huge, peaceful protest, the brilliant Lila Rose with her exposés, and defund, defund, defund.  Some abortionists are just plain evil, and some, I’m sure, sincerely believe they are helping women.  But most of them are in it for the money, pure and simple — and they are making plenty of it.  Time to cut them off.
Oh, and I love how the Globe and other media think it’s some kind of stinging insult to say “antiabortion” instead of “prolife.”    Call me “antiabortion” all day long, folks.  Abortion is the kind of thing that the prefix “anti” was invented for.
(cross-posted on Inside Catholic)

 

You can’t be any poorer than dead – UPDATED

Trick-or-treaters might be coming around with UNICEF donation boxes.  Don’t give ‘em a dime — UNICEF pushes for abortion and sterilization as part of its efforts to improve the lives of women and children.  Beyond the immediate irony of that idea, it’s not even good policy.  According to CatholicCulture.org (emphasis mine):

Pro-family UN watchers are concerned that [UNICEF’S] disproportionate focus on unsafe abortion, based upon questionable maternal mortality figures, detracts from addressing the major health risks to pregnant women in the developing world. Experts say these are severe bleeding, eclampsia, and obstructed labor. By UNFPA’s own admission in a 2004 report, the most important means of reducing maternal mortality is not access to contraceptives and legal abortion but the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to emergency obstetric care.

Imagine:  those backward, third-world women would rather survive childbirth than get help killing their children.  Savages.

 

Abortion proponents often link unsafe abortion and maternal mortality to push for legal, “safe” abortion. Critics of this argument are quick to point out that in Poland, when abortion was severely restricted in 1993, the country showed a sharp decline in the abortion rate and a decline in maternal deaths. In Ireland, where abortion remains illegal, the country reports one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. By contrast, while the United States has had abortion on demand since 1973, this year the US reported a rise in maternal deaths.

Oh, and look at this!  I was searching for an image for this post, and turned up this ad:

It’s an ad placed by the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation, and shows an axe hacking into the Star of David.   And looky!  There’s the UNICEF sponsorship logo, down at the bottom left.  (Image source and more information here.)

(Wait, let me save the very vocal minority here a little trouble:  Israel has committed atrocities!  They are the true criminals here!  Ms. Fisher’s blind, jingoistic support of Israel is what’s wrong with the Church and the world in general!  Aieeeeee, boogie boogie boogie, somebody said something about the Jooooooos!

Hokey doke.  Let’s just think about this for a second.  What is UNICEF for, again?  According to their website, it “works for children’s rights, their survival, development and protection.”

You know, with an axe.)

I’m not in favor of burdening young children with more bad news than they need to know.  If mini Buzz Lightyear shows up on your porch with a UNICEF donation box, just say, “No thanks, but here’s your fun size Snickers.”  But if your kid is being pressured by his school to use these collection boxes, you can tell him what I just said to my daughter:  UNICEF does some good things, but they also do a lot of bad things, and we don’t want to help them hurt people.  There are other charities that do a better job of helping poor people, so we give our money to them instead.

Here is our favorite charity, run by the Church with an incredibly low overhead:  Save a Family Plan.  Among other programs, you can choose a plan in which your family sponsors a desperate family in India, helping them to become educated and self-sufficient within a few years.    Boy, they get the job done.  And somehow they manage to do it without killing anyone.

UPDATE:

Sandy, an alert reader, sent the following links to clarify the connection between UNICEF and PYALRA, the organization that ran the ad above.  According to Israel National News,

“In a statement dated March 23, UNICEF president, Caryl M. Stern, denounced the “incorrect use of the UNICEF logo” and stated that “UNICEF was not consulted by PYALARA about the use of its logo in a poster announcing a youth broadcast and it condemns the use of its logo to imply endorsement of political opinions. Neither the poster nor the television program it advertises reflect UNICEF’s policies or its views.” Ms. Stern added that “UNICEF’s partnership agreement with PYALARA ended in January 2010” and that “UNICEF will be carefully reviewing any proposed future partnerships with PYALARA.”

Glad to hear it.  UNICEF still stinks, but at least this time, it turns out I was the one going “Aieee, the Joooos.”  Sorry about that!

Here are a few more links with more information about this story

http://thebulletin.us/articles/2010/03/31/news/world/doc4bafdbe416e47247495742.txt

From the Anti Defamation League: http://www.adl.org/Internet_Rumors/UNICEF.htm

7 Quick Takes: “Fair’s Fair” Edition

Don’t worry, it’s not another scholarly fisk of the cultural significance of Billy Jean.  I’m talking about the county fair!  The fair!  Who doesn’t love the fair?

If you’re taking your kids to the fair for the first time, you are going to hate it.
It will be, second only to the birth itself, the most miserable, sticky, disappointing, and ludicrously expensive day of your life as parents.  You will go home wondering why you just paid hundreds of dollars to make your kids this dirty and unhappy.
Also, you’re fairly sure you had eight children when you left the house, and now you only have six.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We kept trying and failing to have fun at the fair, and eventually we worked out some guidelines.  And this year, it finally happened:  we actually had a good time! All of us, even the wimp, the show-off,  the escape artist, the malcontent, the spoilsport, the worrier, and everyone.
Well, the baby actually hated it, but she kind of hates everything right now.
So here is how we managed:
–1–
MONEY
Start saving money last year.  I’m serious — this is an expensive day.  You have to just accept that it costs what it costs, and there is really no point in making the effort if you’re not going to go whole hog.  Be prepared to shell out for admission (and possibly parking), ride tickets or passes, food, souvenirs, and possibly for special rides or shows — plus emergency cash for something unexpected, like bug spray or a bail bond.
And do some research.  There are usually a few cheaper days and a few expensive days, so work out exactly how much it will cost to do everything you want to do.   I recommend going on an unlimited pass or bracelet day.  We tried individual tickets, and it was not only more expensive, but made us very anxious, because we had to pace ourselves and conserve tickets.
–2–
WEATHER
Check the weather report! A wonderful day can be ruined by  clothes that are too hot or too cold.  Once we went on a rainy day, and lost a whole hour off our unlimited ride time.  And once we went on such a hot day, everyone just wanted to sit on a bench and suck down lemonade.  Which we could have done at home for much cheaper, with slightly less of that nauseating barnyard smell.
Bring sunblock and lots and lots of drinks.  The screaming, walking around, and the general excitement will make your kids even thirstier than they normally would be after a day outdoors.  There will be drinks for sale, but they will be EXPENSIVE.   Have I mentioned this?  It’s not because I’m a cheapskate; it’s because I don’t want you to have to tell a weeping 7-year-old girl, “I know I said you could ride the pony, but Mama spent her last $6 on your fourth lemonade!”
–3–
GETTING LOST
Make sure your kids know what to do if they get lost.    We tell them to first yell and yell (in case the rest of the family is right around the corner) and then they can go to a policeman,  someone behind a counter, or someone who looks like a nice mother, and say, “I’m lost – can you help me find my parents?”
Make sure your kids know their parents’ actual names (a surprising number assume Daddy’s name is “Daddy”), and what their parents are wearing (my daughter once described me as “the one with the haircut”). Dress your kids in distinctive clothing and write down descriptions of everyone (“black sweatpants, a Jack Kemp T-shirt, and a homemade haircut”) in case you need other people to help you find them, and are too flustered to remember what they look like.
The earlier in the day you go, the smaller the crowds will be.  Know which kids are likely to bolt or wander away, and give them a special lecture beforehand.  (We didn’t need one of these until kid #7 could walk, and then we needed it desperately.)
–4–
PACING
Plan for variety, especially if you need to stretch your money.  Do something thrilling, then something where you sit down, then something where you wander around, then a snack, then something for the older kids, then something for the younger kids, etc.  Save something primo for last, so when it’s almost time to go, you can say, “Okay, the fair is over . . . but not before we do such-and-such!”  Makes your exit much happier.
Bring the roomiest stroller you have.  The fair is completely exhausting for little ones, so kids who’ve outgrown the stroller might need a ride.  Also, it’s helpful to have somewhere to stash all those drinks.
–5–
FOOD
In order to make the effort and expense worthwhile, you will want to be there for several hours  — which means you will be there during a meal time.  I recommend packing a picnic for the meal, and spending your money on snacks, instead.  Kids don’t appreciate an $8 steak sub, but they will always remember getting a cloud of cotton candy or a caramel apple with rainbow sprinkles.
What we do is arrive at lunch time, but then go on rides right away before eating.  The kids would have been too excited to eat at first, and would have just pecked at the meal, and then begged for snacks later.  After a few rides, they were happy to take a break for sandwiches and chips.
–6–
STICKINESS
Succumb to the stickiness.  Your kids will be just disgusting by the end of the day:  sweaty, sugary, dusty, and, yes, possibly throw-uppy (although that never happened to us, miraculously).  It’s a good idea to have them wear clothes you don’t care about. Be smart about timing:  they can ride the Neck Snapper, but not right after eating one of Doody’s Famous Fried Pickles.
Bring a change of clothes for the youngest kids, and plastic bags.  Trust me on this.  Sooner or later, you will be stuck holding something that desperately needs to be wrapped up in a plastic bag.
–7–
EXPECTATIONS
Discuss expectations ahead of time.   Before you even enter the grounds, let them know what they will be doing, and what they will not — and stick to it.  How many rides can they expect to go on?   Will you be playing games, buying a meal, buying snacks, buying balloons, buying toys, riding the pony, seeing a show, seeing the animals?   Especially if you have lots of kids with various desires, just winging it will lead to someone feeling disappointed.  (We skip the games of chance altogether, and just let them pick out a souvenir.  Not as exciting, but cheaper, and less heartache.)
My husband and I discuss our expectations, too:  we remind each other that our #1 goal is to give the kids a super fun day, and that we will both try our hardest to be patient and generous, and do our best to give the kids what they want (within reason). A day of fun is no time to teach lessons. It’s okay to be over-indulgent once in a while, as long as you’re doing a good job on most other days.
Also, this may sound silly, but unless you’re getting home late at night, it’s a good idea to have some mild treat waiting for them at home — lollipops or a special movie.  Kids are tricky, especially if they’ve been looking forward to something for weeks– and now it’s over.  You will expect them to be grateful and satisfied, but they will likely feel exhausted, let down, and cranky.
So go easy on them.  Tomorrow, you can go back to the old routine, but it’s nice to do whatever you need to do to keep things pleasant today.  And once the kiddies are in bed, you can have a nice little drink and put your feet up.
And for goodness’ sake, take better pictures than I did.  Never before have so many knees, ears, and backs of heads been captured for posterity.
Oh, before I forget:  check out the other 7 Quick Takes hosted by Jen at  Conversion Diary, and leave a link of your own!  Or, wait, it’s actually at Betty Beguiles this week, I forgot!

 

Simcha’s guide to financial empowerment

Does your library give out copious prizes just for checking out books in the summer?  Ours does:  ice cream and pizza coupons, tickets to sports events, T-shirts and toys, games, stickers, etc.

But the prize that thrilled my kids the most was something new this year:  ten dollars!  Their enthusiasm was only slightly dampened when we explained that no one was actually going to hand them a ten-dollar bill–they’d have to open an account at a local bank, which would credit them $10.

Daddy was glad to help.  He would bring the happy little misers to the bank, sign them up for accounts, go home, and then truck them right back to the bank again as soon as humanly possible to close out their accounts.  They would then zip on over to the Dollar Tree to blow their glorious cash on sticky hands, expanding dinosaurs, and expired Laffy Taffy.  You know, the American dream.

Not so fast.

Don’t ask me why I didn’t see this coming, but there was a catch.   Of course there was a catch!   Sure, they’ll deposit $10 in your Young Saver account.  They’ll even waive the $4 monthly fee, as long as you’re age 18 or under.  All you have to do, kids, is keep a minimum monthly balance of $250.

$250! Stupid jerks.  What kid has $250 seed money to start a Young Saver account?   No one.  Okay, maybe some enterprising Eagle Scout mowed enough lawns to save up $250, but I guarantee that all the other Young Savers got their minimum deposits straight from mom or dad’s wallet.  Bah.

When I was a kid, our local bank that gave out little cardboard boxes for collecting quarters to put in your junior savings account.  There were no minimums or monthly fees–it was all about teaching you that money doesn’t just materialize out of nowhere.  If you don’t spend it, you’ll still have it; if you keep spending it, eventually it will be gone.  But the most you could possibly save up was maybe $20 before the box fell apart.

I really don’t want my kids to have a meaningful financial portfolio.  That’s the idea of being a kid:  you learn the lessons, but you don’t get any of the actual benefits.  You don’t need benefits, because you parents are taking care of you.

When you get older, then you learn how money really works.  In a nutshell, adults have two choices.  You can turn over your finances to a ravening monolith that will (1) warn you by mail that, four days ago, they charged you a monthly fee for your overdraft protection plan, which will (2) hit you at a bad time and make your balance dip below zero, at which point the bank will (3) charge you an overdraft fee for letting your balance dip below zero, and then (4) charge you a second overdraft fee because you didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the first overdraft fee.

This is called “customer service.”

Your other choice is to keep a wad of cash in the freezer.  This is a bad strategy if you are an avid collector of half-empty cartons of old, drippy ice cream.  In that case, a workable counter-strategy  is to invest in the really high quality brands of  Ziplock baggies, which really keep your money dry.

Our financial adviser (who speaks directly into my ear at 4 a.m.  She has a querulous voice tinged with panic, and sounds just like me) has counseled us to diversify our portfolio.   So now we keep our Regular Money in the bank, and our Frivolous Whim/Horrible Emergency Money in the freezer.

For an even niftier fiscal maneuver, try letting your prudent, thrifty super-ego save money, while allowing your idiot, scatterbrained id to forget all about it.  Then, one day, your ego (who is in charge of cooking) will be gloomily surveying the dark landscape of Dinners Yet to Come, and in between the freezer-burned pork chops and the eleven chicken carcasses that never will be soup, you will see something.  Something . . .

Could it be?  Yes, yes, it’s a Ziplock bag!  And inside it is . . .

Aw, you thought I was going to say $250.  No, it’s only $42.  The label on the bag says $250, but you had to spend part of it on a new spinner thing for the washing machine, and part of it on the great Tooth Fairy Amnesty Pay-Off, in which each child aged 5 to 12 got $5 and was counseled to move on with their lives.

But that leaves $42!  Enough to settle either your bank fees or your library fines, with some left over to buy some brand new ice cream for the freezer.

Isn’t that a good system?  God bless America.