Friday, August 22, 2008

The Back to School Money Pit

School is back in session! Is there a sweeter sentence in the whole English language? How I’ve longed for this day as the hot summer weeks have slowly run their course.

The house no longer rings with the endless chant of, ‘I don’t have anything to do. He’s calling me names. She won’t stay out of my room.’ And the never ending pile of plates and glasses, that represent the infinite state of my children’s appetites, has shrunk to a mere trickle.

Yet, I will be honest enough to admit, that August isn’t all about getting the kids out of the house and back to the learning environment where they belong. There is a negative side as well. I call it ‘The Back to School Money Pit’, and any parent of school age children knows exactly what I’m talking about.

First there are clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. The underwear and socks that worked perfectly well three month’s earlier are no longer sufficient for the needs of a new school year. And speaking of underwear, I was shopping with my daughter last week and she desperately wanted a package of Hannah Montana briefs. Now I can understand Spiderman or Powerpuff girl underwear. Those are cartoon characters, but how can Miss Miley Cirus sleep at night knowing that her face is sprawled across hundreds of little rear ends through out the country.

Once everyone is outfitted with brand new clothes and sneakers that will be worn out and need to be replaced before Halloween, a parent’s next stop is the school supply section. This area of the store spans about four aisles and takes as much space as the Easter and Valentine Candy displays combined. I saw six different styles of pencil and pen holders. Six! They stick the thing in their desk and it doesn’t immerge until school lets out in May. How fancy does it need to be?

And paper. Simple paper. It comes with various sizes of lines, in multiple colors and every design imaginable including of course, Hannah Montana so that little girls can match their notebooks to their panties.

Then of course there are the fees. Locker fees, activity card fees, text book fees, parking fees. How much can it possibly cost to maintain a locker for pete sakes?

By the time the cost of school lunches and equipment for extra curricular activities are figured in, a parent is lucky if they can still pay their mortgage.

Then the child gets into school and in less than a week they are lugging home the mandatory fundraiser catalog. Come on teachers. After all the money we’ve just had to spend getting the little monsters safely back into your classrooms, we’re the ones who ought to be holding fundraisers!

Still, I find myself thinking of that clever credit card ad, ‘New Jeans, $22.00, Three Ring Binder in Trojan Blue $7.98, Middle School Registration Fee $126.00. Having the house back to yourself – Priceless”

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Technology to the Rescue

I hate housecleaning. There I’ve admitted it, right here on the world wide internet.

Like so many things that are good for you, I find washing dishes and mopping floors mind-numbing and tedious. I get no joy making stains disappear from my counter tops or removing greasy dust from my kitchen blinds. To me, scrubbing out a toilet is akin to walking forty minutes on a treadmill while staring blankly at the wall.

Still I’m honest enough to admit that cleaning is necessary. Especially at my house. My children would happily wear the same t-shirt for seven days in a row, never allowing the scent of week old sweat to bother them in the least.

Of course, these are the same kids who would literally die of thirst in front of the water dispenser if they couldn’t find a clean glass in the cupboard. Far be it from them to actually pull a used cup from the sink and wash it.

The option to quit housework is simply out of the question, and so I’ve searched for something to hold my minds attention while my hands complete their repetitious tasks.

First it was music. Upbeat dancing music to be exact and I’m not ashamed to admit that the mop made an excellent dance partner. Across the floor we’d slide my hips shaking seductively to the beat. (I’ve been told that other loose parts of my anatomy also shook in less flattering ways, but I didn’t care). That may have been the perfect solution had it not been for that darn, wet, soapy floor.

The twisted ankle did get me out of housecleaning for a good week and a half but my husband insisted I find something other than music to help me keep my home tidy.

I considered a small portable television propped up in easy view of the stove, but my family has had bad experiences with televisions and kitchen work.

When I was young and my brother just a toddler, my mother use to watch TV while she cooked dinner. The program, (I don’t know what it was, but I’ve always suspected a soap opera) was interrupted by the noisy yowling of the family cat who wanted to go out in the back yard.

Without missing a beat or taking her eyes from the screen, mom scooped up the noisy animal, opened the door, plopped it on the patio and returned to the sink. A few minutes later she was again disturbed by the sound of the cat meowing near her feet.

My mother looked down and sure enough, little Fluffy was curling around her ankles. If the cat was here then what had she put outside. Glancing at the door, she saw my little brother, his chubby hands pressed against the glass of the door, peering in at her with a look of confusion.

Television was out of the question. Then the answer came. It was perfectly simple, physically safe and not visually distracting.

Now as I clean the fridge or make the beds, I’m listening to Dean Kootz’s Odd Thomas or Sue Grafton’s T is for Trespassing on my mp3 player. Miss Marple and I solve crimes while vacuuming the stairs and if I’m feeling really intelligent, I will search for clues with Mr. Sherlock Holmes. There is no chore so icky that a little murder and mayhem won’t brighten it up.

Audio books have been my savior. I get so lost in the plot that I’ve been known to work for hours on end. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I actually find things to clean.

The only downside is that I’ve had to give up talking to my husband and children. I mean you can’t follow the story line and explain what you’re cooking for dinner all at the same time can you?

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