February 20, 2017

Our childcare and costs: Winter 2017 update

2017 winter update: the costs of childcare Childcare was a scary thing for us well before having JuggerBaby. Culturally, I should have been able to “expect” my parents to be our live-in babysitters. Multigenerational living is what we’ve always done. But much like  the rest of my life, when the time came, our reality was totally different from what I was told to expect. Mom was long buried, and Dad was utterly disinterested. While I regret what JuggerBaby loses as a result, a richer life with interesting and strange grandparents, there was no use dwelling on what “should” have been. It’s a good thing I’d gotten used to adversity by now!

We went through a long and fruitless search for a good nanny, and finally had to take advantage of my flexible work schedule to be a work from home mom.

I kind of miss my #BabyCoworker, but before age 1, ze was just too social and active for our old arrangements to work for us anymore. The daycares in this area range from the at-home care situations to very commercial operations, and the wait lists were miles long. Naturally, by this time last year, I was pretty stressed about what we were doing with JuggerBaby. We had a huge flash of luck when one of the daycares on our approved list had a few unexpected openings earlier than our requested start date, and we went for it.

It’s expensive, but they’re certified, they’re a big enough operation to really pay attention to all the rules and regulations and gives me confidence that they’re not as likely to have problems with abuse as smaller operations that perhaps have less oversight or employ family members. On the one hand, I love a family operation. On the other hand, if a family member of the daycare provider abuses a child, I simply have no faith that the welfare of the child is going to be put above the provider’s livelihood and natural urge to protect their family.

We expected a tough start but JuggerBaby was PSYCHED. Ze has exactly zero compunctions about diving into the new environment and immediately adored zir adoring caretakers. We only started part-time because of my worries, to ease into it, but that worry was allayed immediately. We continued part-time to save money.

Almost a year after that, we settled into a full time routine at daycare. Verdict: mostly good. The germs streaming home from that place had me more sick in 6 months than I’ve been in ten years, but ze has been largely unfazed. Which has been, as you might imagine, nothing but good for me.

Ze has been through three classrooms and we really miss the first one. There were 5 caretakers in the classroom, they were all loving and attentive and calm personalities, and they were very good at redirecting JuggerBaby when frustration with communication reared. The biting started there but it was only at times of great frustration. Ze was remarkably tolerant of all the small babies using zir as a jungle gym as they learned to stand and walk.

When ze was moved to the next classroom (they’re moved around by age group) the transition was downright horrible. It had me doubting our choice, constantly.

JuggerBaby was crying every day, saying “no-no no-no” and trying to go (RUN) back to zir old classroom. The main thing, and it was SUCH an easy fix, was that 2 of those 5 teachers were standoffish and not at all involved in the children’s care. The other 3 teachers were great but they couldn’t completely negate the negativity from the two bad teachers. We had been told so many times that transitions are always hard and that the kids are always upset that we gave it more time than we should have.  I should have listened to my gut.

After observing the class one morning, we gave the teachers feedback – say hello to JuggerBaby when ze comes in! All they had to do was say good morning to zir, and acknowledge that ze was coming in. Ze just wanted to know that ze was wanted, and every cold morning drop-off was more frigid by the morning teachers who sucked. Lo and behold, within 36 hours of asking for this specific change, ze was happy again.

I know my child – ze is temperamentally inclined to getting on with people but ze is also very attuned to being unwelcomed, by adults at least. And zir unhappiness was wholly unnecessary.

We reported this experience to the directors of the daycare, who were mortified and also grateful that we’d brought it to their attention, and assured us that steps would be taken to ensure this didn’t happen again, and that this was not at all the daycare’s policy to be standoffish when transitioning children to new classrooms.

I later discovered that other parents had the same experience, and had also reported it. It’s a great reminder that we have to be our children’s first advocates, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us, or how we might doubt ourselves.

Ze had a second transition recently, and that one was much more smooth. Unfortunately, we don’t love the classroom set-up because they drop the caretaker to student ratio by 2 caretakers for this age group. Now there are only 3 caretakers for 12 rambunctious toddlers and there’s quite a lot more chaos. Mostly controlled chaos, or directed chaos, but I think it’s also difficult because toddlers are loving and jerks at the same time. It’s not that they’re jerk-jerks, they can’t communicate well with each other using words yet so they still revert to slapping, hitting, and biting. I know it’s developmentally normal but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

We’ll be in this class until the end of the year barring any problems, so this is who we have: JerkFace is back. He was in zir first classroom and left us with a bad impression that he’s just renewed. He bullied JB, hitting zir with his jackets, kicking zir, standing over zir so ze couldn’t get up to defend zirself. Any time you walk in, he’s hitting kids, climbing on things he’s been told repeatedly are dangerous, and generally just getting his kicks out of causing harm or dismay. So he sucks.

Zir bestie is there, now, and the two of them are bounding with joy together.

The money part

Year 0

Partway through 2014, I realized the smart thing to do was to start saving for daycare, so we started salting away $2000 a month.

Year 0-1

We spent $1500 on childcare as we tried nannies, sitters, quit for several months, then finally part-time daycare. We continued to save $2000 a month. Between gifts and saving, zir saving account reached a whopping $49,000.

Year 1-2

We stopped saving the full $2000 a month because we couldn’t save that in addition to our 25% savings rate and cash flow the full monthly daycare bill. We spent $19,977 on part-time, then full-time, daycare. Zir savings remain untouched, moderately augmented, even: $66,000.

It’s really scary seeing those numbers. Really scary. At the same time, it helps to see that our savings haven’t been materially diminished, we haven’t lost anything significant in our lifestyle or any true stressors on our marriage, and we’ve been able to truly appreciate the immense joy that JuggerBaby adds to our lives. Even if it does cost many pretty pennies.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*

February 16, 2017

Just a little (link) love: Puppy and owl friends edition

LinkLove

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

Femme Frugality and other ladies in personal finance are doing a Charity: Money campaign. Give if you can!

Please weigh in! I’m currently categorized under “Family” at the new Rockstar Finance directory but I’m not positive that’s me.

It looks like I can be primarily categorized as Budgeting, Debt, Early Retirement, Family, Frugality, General Finance, Investing, Lifestyle, Making Money, Millennial, Minimalism, Real Estate, Traditional Retirement

What do you think is the best description of this blog? Let me know in the comments!

Mad Fientist traveled around the world for just under $1000 (travel costs, not all in, I don’t think!)

I’m glad Ms Montana decided to hit publish on this flash point post.

HAPPY THINGS

This is entertaining: West Australian dolphins may be using blowfish – or ‘blowies’ – to get high, scientists have found.

Ten year olds at St Johns are better humans than many adults: they won’t abandon their teammates

THINKING THINGS

The collection of refugee stories I wish I’d written.

How to keep up with what’s happening, daily.

The state of Idaho was so focused on not looking like they were cooperating with Obamacare that they’ve let their constituents die of completely treatable diseases.

The foster dad for terminal kids. This is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The idea that Border Patrol had so many agents willing to uphold an Executive Order in flagrant disregard of their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, not the President, and causing obvious harm and distress to others in the doing, should be very worrying.

Oy, a flight departing SFO for Lihue spends 4 hours flying in circles because it has a mechanical issue and needs to land, but can’t land with all that fuel. And they can’t dump the fuel either! What a pain.

Puppy and owl friends

February 15, 2017

Figuring out family and asking for support

When helping family turns into a thorny mess The story of my money and my family goes back to the very start of this blog. I wanted to be independent for my own sake, but also wanted to take care of them as they had me. I wanted to support them until they got back on their feet.

More than ten long years of striving later, the truth of today is hard to swallow. My dad isn’t who he once was. He’s not the person I dedicated half my life to helping. He’s become, maybe as a result of my taking on so much responsibility, someone who lies to me, and takes from me. Because he’s not working with me, for his own benefit, but rather working against me, I have to step away from this relationship even more. He’s not just undermining my efforts, he’s damaging my ability to trust people, all over again.

This truth has lain heavy on my heart for months, for years. It hasn’t set me free, I didn’t know what I could do with this revelation.

In all these years, I’ve kept this a secret from the rest of the family. I didn’t share my challenges, or discuss Dad’s actions, I just took care of business. It was my other way of protecting them – I didn’t want them to look bad in front of their siblings. It wasn’t something they asked me to do but it felt, much like writing anonymously, it was just the right thing to do. Take care of your business and don’t share that with people outside the family. Heck, I barely learned to let PiC in on the secret, in no small part, due to the scars it left.

Walking Seamus in the dusk, ground wet from the (drought-breaking?) rain last week, I finally felt overwhelmed. After all the struggle, when confronted with a need to move, I find that honoring my responsibilities has left us with the choice of no choice at all. To change living situations, we have to make financial commitments that eliminate even the possibility of asking whether I want more kids. We can’t afford to have that answer be yes. We can’t afford to take on foster kids, we can’t adopt more dogs, we can’t afford to add to our family in any way.

With that frustrating realization, something in me dissolved. That last bit of pride fell right out of me and I called my aunt.

Not my rich aunt, I don’t have one of those. My poor aunt, the one who still knows what it’s like to struggle because she still works every day plus weekends to provide for her family, putting off retirement for another couple of years so she can be sure her kids make it through their internship years.

I asked her if she had a minute. I asked if she might talk to my dad about his housing situation, and convince him to apply for housing assistance. He should be eligible. For more than five years, he’d been telling me that he always intended to move out now that Mom’s gone but he’s done nothing. We think that he doesn’t want to move to a more affordable place because he’s tied to Mom’s memories there. It’s the only way I can see us squeezing any more money out of our budget – we’re currently footing the bill for his rent and utilities, all of which add up to well over a thousand dollars a month but I can’t very well push him again without coming off like a total jerk.

What she had to say shocked me.

Not only did she already know what I’ve been doing all this time, she’s talked to (at) Dad in the past already. She and the other aunts have always helped a bit as they can – bringing by food, or clothes when they spot a great bargain, but they can’t tackle his living expenses. This I knew.

What I didn’t know was that while doing so, she’s told him that grieving Mom is one thing, and his right, but he has to attend to the living as well. If he loves me, as he should, he shouldn’t let his grief for someone who is gone override his love for the person who’s still here working her tuchus off. He should be looking for ways to ease the burden on me. She and her family love me, unconditionally, and it’s clear to them that he needs to be making better choices, my support notwithstanding. He’s not, she says, “realistic.” That’s a very accurate assessment. He’s never had to learn to live with our poverty, not really. He’s always had me to cushion the financial hits, to pinch the pennies, and Mom did it before me. It’s past time that he starts making better choices, and nothing I’ve said has ever made a difference. She’s agreed to try to talk to him about it.

I don’t expect results immediately, maybe not at all, but the confession, and hearing someone in the family agree with me and offer to support me, was unexpectedly hard. You’d think it’d be harder to go solo – but I’m used to that. I’m NOT used to being vulnerable enough for someone to offer help.

Choked up, I confessed, I’m not sure that he loves me, judging by his choices. It’s a hard thing to say out loud and I thought it didn’t matter, but it does. The knowledge makes it much harder to continue to give and sacrifice freely, even if money wasn’t an issue.

While I can’t (won’t) put him out on the street, I must pull back on some of the bills we pay. With someone, another elder, willing to push him to live more prudently, and make changes, I can take steps to minimize the financial harm. He’s more likely to give into that pressure.

Whether it’s because of the shaming fact of my going to his sibling, or that he’s more willing to listen to her, it appears that he already has given in.

For 5 years, he’s said my sibling refused to apply for disability assistance which would include housing support to pay for the rent that I’ve been footing. I don’t disbelieve that, but I don’t necessarily believe he’d done all he could, either. Mere days after my aunt said she would step in, they started the application and approval process. I can’t know if the magic was my aunt stepping in, for certain, but the timing is certainly telling.

We need to save every bit that we can now, and he needs to make ends meet on his own eventually, with or without sibling. It’ll take months for the process to be completed. Then we’ll see if I see a penny of that housing assistance without becoming a bill collector but this is the first step toward that goal.

Wish me luck?

:: Have you ever had to make a tough love decision? Tell me about it?

February 13, 2017

When you can’t throw money at the problem(s)

Dogcare and when I can't throw money at our problems I hate change (that I didn’t initiate) so much. This is turning out to be the season of many changes, many more than we had originally planned.

We have that awful neighbor / house thing happening right now, which means we have to pare our things down to the bare minimum, and then put a great deal of furniture in storage. That also requires renting a truck to move said furniture to and from storage. And of course that’s the smaller portion of the greater problem: we have to show and sell our place, while finding a place for ourselves to buy. And then move.

That’s been stressing me out but I’ve just about been able to handle it, even with dealing with the logistics for a big trip we have to take later this year.

It’s almost like I was taunting my old friend Murphy who came swooping in with a new problem and dropped it on my head.

I’ve been trying to book our favorite, and most trusted, and let’s be honest, our only trusted petsitters well ahead of time. We always try to give them as much notice as possible. This isn’t just our favorite sitter, this is The Perfect Sitter. They made themselves available when JuggerBaby was born, picking him up, dropping him off, bathing him, keeping him an extra day when we had to stay in the hospital another night. They take him for hikes, their dogs cuddle with him, they sleep together on his bed. They text with pictures and updates regularly, they spot even the slightest new thing wrong with him and alert me immediately.

But – you knew that was coming, right? – they are unexpectedly unavailable for several months this year. We would normally need to leave Seamus with them a few times, and now we have to find a new sitter entirely.

This has happened before.

A few weeks before we went to Italy, 20 days before we were set to leave, our sitter had serious issues that prevented her from watching Doggle. Given the short timeframe we had to find another sitter, I wanted to skip the trip and stay home with Doggle and Seamus who had just come to live with us. That feeling seemed irrational at the time. There are competent, caring people who can care for a dog, and some of them live right here! We finally chose to trust a friend – I’ve regretted it ever since. The worst possible thing happened: we lost Doggle.

Can you imagine how little I want to go on any trip, much less an international trip in these uncertain times, and leave Seamus in the hands of someone who hasn’t proven to be a completely reliable, intelligent, resourceful sitter with great communication?

This is one of those times where I would normally just say damn the cost, and find a way to fly out a trusted friend for a vacation for the price of hanging out with and caring for Seamus.

This is one of those times that totally sucks because I can’t afford to throw that kind of money at the problem. Our housing situation is going to suck up every bit of cash we have and then some.

I have more than just 3 weeks to find someone suitable, this time, but I can’t shake that horrible feeling that this is going to turn out terribly again and I don’t know how I’d forgive myself if that came to be true.

:: Tell me that it’s possible to find a second great dogsitter in a few weeks? Tell me good stories of your pets (or kids if that’s your thing) being taken care of by other people?

Swagbucks: Chocolate Dipped Team Challenge

Here’s a delicious Swagbucks activity for Valentine’s Day – the Chocolate Dipped Team Challenge!

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team. You can pre-register now. If you haven’t joined yet, you can sign up on this page as well.

2. Starting February 13th at 8am PT, in addition to earning SB, you’ll contribute points to your team’s total as you complete activities.

All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card.

If you earn 300 SB before March 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus if you joined the team using my link.

The 1st place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 25 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be available on Friday, February 17th and expires on Tuesday, February 28th 11:59p m PT.

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