Who made your lunch as a kid? (And who makes your kids’ lunches if applicable?)

When I was in second grade, my father made my lunch for me.  Because he was a European immigrant, I generally had a roll (my favorite were onion rolls), a hunk of cheese or sliced carrots and a piece of fruit, often an orange that he would score for me for easy peeling.  All in an old plastic bread-bag.  People made fun of me for not having a peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwich.  They made fun of the scores on the orange.  They especially made fun of the plastic bag.  In third and fourth grade, my father had bouts of employment that took him away from the family for months at a time and I ended up mostly eating hot lunches at school.

In fifth grade, the teasing about every aspect of my life got worse and nobody ate hot lunch (possibly because they were more expensive).  It was time for me to start making my own lunch because my mother simply did not have time on top of everything else.  So each week she’d get me whatever I wanted at the grocery store that I could throw together (within reason– we couldn’t afford lunchables).  A standard lunch for me would be one of those neon orange soft cheese and cracker packets (store-brand handi-snacks), a bag of doritos, a juice box, and maybe a piece of fruit all in a nice brown lunch bag that we’d buy by the pack.

Possibly in seventh grade I started making more wholesome lunches because my father was back and no way were we wasting money on junk food with him around.  I also started making my sister’s lunch at the same time I made mine– sandwiches with two slices of bread and standard things in the middle, a piece of fruit, and maybe a homemade cookie (as I had learned to bake).  When I left for high school, I’m not sure if she started making her own or just got hot lunch.

Today we make our toddler’s lunch (alternating dinner from the night before in a metal thermos with random healthy stuff in a bento-box) and DC1 makes hir own lunch (usually a nut-butter/cookie-butter and jelly sandwich) and a bag of gummies.  We hope that DC2’s wheat allergy is gone before ze starts demanding nut butter and jelly sandwiches like DC2 did in preschool.

#2 says, I remember my mom making lunches for me when I was little, because I remember the little notes she’d write on the napkin.  Stuff like “Have a great day, [my nickname [ed guess: Pookie-pie] [nope] ]! XOXO Mom”.

When it came time for me to make my own lunches, I do remember using stuff like Lunchables (which had just come out and were nowhere near as fancy and varied as they are now).  I also made sandwiches– I have a certain opinion about making PBJ so that the jelly doesn’t soak the bread (put peanut butter on it first [#1 notes:  this is correct]) and the correct peanut butter (crunchy [also correct]).  Also, I ate a lot of cold cuts in sandwiches that I mostly made myself.  Lots of granola bars.  We were not allowed to have doritos or any bagged chips/crisps in our house, and no cookies either.  I remember having an insulated lunch bag.  I have no idea what my sister had for lunch, she’s so much younger than me.

This was all in, say, 4th or 5th grade through 9th grade.  In 4th-6th grade there were also some times where I went home for lunch, mostly with my one friend to her house, and ate whatever stuff they had there.  By 6th grade we were trusted to walk to her house, unlock it, eat, and get back to school on time by ourselves, but we didn’t do it every day, because it was a little bit far to walk in the time we had.  I think the Lunchables in the school lunchroom were 7th and 8th grade.  I never got a hot lunch at school, except for very occasional treats that were pizza days.  [#1 notes:  whoa, I completely forgot that in 4th grade I lived close enough to the school to walk home for lunch, which I would do on a pretty regular basis.  That probably isn’t allowed anymore unless a parent actually shows up at school to do the escorting.]

Tell us about your school lunches, Grumpeteers.  It brings back surprisingly detailed memories, just like Anne Lamott predicted in her book Bird by Bird.

In which we pay an estimated tax penalty

So, last year, with DH’s unemployment and our various deductions, we ended up getting $500 back from the government at tax time, even though we hadn’t paid in estimated taxes.  So this year we figured we weren’t required to pay estimated taxes because Turbo Tax said we hadn’t last year.  We were wrong.  Why?

1.  One of my legacy stock funds (American Century Trust from back when my father took care of my investments) decided to sell parts of itself and cause a capital gain of 6K which it then reinvested in itself.  It did this last year but only for 2K and hadn’t done it for the previous 12+ years so I thought last year was an aberration.  I was wrong.  Now I want to sell the entire thing so I don’t get these surprises each year.  (On the plus side, when I investigated last year, this capital gains thing they do lowers the capital gains that will accrue when the stock is actually sold.  Still, unlike my father, I prefer my investments to be simple and predictable.)

2.  I was stupid and made major charitable donations Jan 2015 instead of Dec 2014 because I didn’t understand our state tax situation for next year because … yes I know I have a phd in economics don’t judge me.  (I suspect Brigitte Madrian thinks I’m stupid too.  This is one of my great sorrows in life.)

3.  The stupidest of the stupids… I ridiculously assumed that if we claimed 0 deductions on withholding that the government would take out about the right amount of tax for our income so I wouldn’t have to think about taxes on the wage part, just the non-wage income income.  That is apparently seriously untrue.  Yes I know we are how old and never realized this before… but we never had to stop paying estimated taxes for a year and then start up again (and we had bigger mortgage tax deductions…).  Gov’t withholding  on your wages is not enough once you hit a high enough income.  I don’t know why I assumed it would be… it’s not like they can take out larger percentages of your paycheck as your income goes up.  [Update:  The gov’t DOES take out the appropriate amount of income if you’re single (and work steadily).  And the way it does it is by taking a larger % out of larger paychecks (unlike Social Security which takes out the same % and then just stops when you hit the cap).  The gap between monthly payments as a single vs. as a married is substantial and at my income level seems to be assuming that the spouse is earning less.  Which, in this case, he really isn’t.]

4.  We’ve never actually made more than 150K/year before and hit the tax penalty.  So we thought we only had to pay 100% of last year’s tax, which we were sure we’d do because DH has been employed all year instead of unemployed half the year… turns out we actually needed to pay 110% of last year’s tax.  And somehow we paid something like 108% of last year’s tax, give or take.

Add to that are the things we knew were changing, like less housing interest, and it turns out we both owe the government a pretty hefty 4 figure check and have incurred a penalty of $31.  It’s a good thing we’ve been saving up.

By the time we figured this all out, I was basically like, $31?  Screw it.  (Should we figure out if we can pay estimated taxes for 2014 now to eliminate the penalty?  Whatever.  Screw it.  It’s $31.  Which feels like nothing when you’re already writing a check for over $6K.  Even though it really isn’t nothing, I’d pay $31 not to have to think about taxes anymore this year.)

Apparently if we pay our tax bill early, we can cut the penalty to $21.  At least according to TaxAct.

Now to figure out the estimated taxes for next year… because there’s nothing like following up a huge check with another huge check.  But hey, rich people problems.  If only I didn’t feel so dumb.

Updates

Because everybody cares about my life as much as I do.  (Not really!)

Daycare:

After one week at the new daycare, DC2 decided ze loved it.  Ze proudly proclaimed that ze had friends and named some.  Dropping off only took a little lingering.  After two weeks, ze stopped having nightmares.  Dropoffs became, “Yeah mom, bye, whatever” (though more in body language than words) and instead of clinging and crying ze complained about getting hugged if my coat was wet from rain.  Ze informed us that ze loves hir teachers.  Every day when we pick hir up ze says, “I had a good day.”  Since starting, hir eczema has also been entirely gone, which makes me suspect that they’re a lot better about making sure that ze doesn’t accidentally eat wheat.  Either that or there’s some topical allergen ze isn’t being exposed to in the new place (that just happened to not always be present at the old place).

High quality daycare is amazing and awesome.  What a difference!  I am a bit worried about next year though… I feel like we haven’t quite been fair with DC2 compared to DC1 who never had to experience a bad schooling experience.

Nice kitty who sometimes pees on cloth:

So far we’ve tried having 4 litterboxes for 2 kittens (6 litterboxes for 3 cats, but the other two are in the utility room instead of the master bathroom the kittens use as home base).  One covered litterbox (formerly 2 covered litterboxes), 3 uncovered.  3 with standard litter, 1 with special pine litter.  Different depths of litter.  Scooped every single night whether they need it or not.

They stay in the master bathroom (~100 sq feet, lots of windows, cupboards, scratching posts, a cat house, etc.) overnight until the late afternoon.  This keeps our older kitty from feeling overwhelmed and has allowed us to minimize pee damage.  They’re used to it and willingly go back to their home-base at night when it’s time to go.  If we let them out earlier they often just stay in the room.

We’ve tried not leaving cloth out, for example, putting our bedsheets away before letting the kittens out.

We’ve tried litter retraining (not letting the kittens out of the master bathroom while we’re out of town for a few days).

All of these have worked to decrease the amount of peeing on things, but none eliminated it.

The most recent thing that we still have our fingers crossed for was Prozac.  Nice kitty did not like being pilled at all, and while on Prozac she would hide from us and mostly stay under our bed or in the master bath during their family time.  The vet said to try it for two weeks.  During those two weeks she didn’t pee on anything (other than the litter, presumably), even though it seemed to make her more anxious rather than less anxious!

After the two weeks, we stopped the Prozac, because nice kitty really hated being pilled, and the vet said it was possible that even after stopping Prozac after the two weeks her peeing on cloth habit might also be gone.  So far so good.  But we keep waiting to find something peed on.

So those are my updates.  Fun times.

How to fix some random kid (and grown-up!) problems

We get a lot of comments, both good and bad, about how much stuff we make our oldest kid do.  Ze, for example, makes hir own lunch for school, has a list of household chores to do (mostly limited only by height restrictions), and is in charge of remembering things like homework and recurring special things like pizza money on pizza day or that Wednesday is special uniform day.

It’s expecting a lot of a 7 year old (and even more of a 6 or 5 year old, which DC1 once was!)  But it’s something we need to do to keep our household running in the absence of a full-time live-in housekeeper.  As full-time working adults with high-level jobs and a 2 year old we just don’t have that kind of mental load.  And DC1 is capable and it isn’t usually that big a deal when we all forget things.

Except occasionally DC1 forgets to wear the special uniform 3 weeks in a row and we get an email noting that if there’s a fourth time, then demerits will follow.  We’re not sure what demerits are going to do, but they sure sound scary.  Or DC1 will forget chores or homework and blissfully spend the evening playing board-games with DH, only remembering long after bedtime or the next morning that there’s an assignment due.

So here’s what we do that works.

Uniform, pizza money, and school holidays/fairs are all put on DC1’s wall calendar.  Each day at bedtime ze crosses off the day and sees what is listed for the next day.  If it’s the special uniform, ze takes it out of the closet and hangs it on hir dresser knob.  If it’s pizza money, ze demands it from DH and puts it in hir back pack.  If it’s a holiday, then we’re reminded.

For that long list of chores, during one of DH’s business trips I made DC1 make a full checklist of all the chores ze has to do each night.  Homework (or workbooks on weekends), piano practicing, making lunch for the next day (if applicable), putting away the clean silverware, loading the dishwasher, feeding the kittens, helping fold laundry (if applicable).  (See, we’re tyrants!  DC1 never gets to do anything fun.)  Once all of those chores are done, DC1 is free to spend hir time as ze wishes on weekends, and can do anything except video games on weekdays (since even the checklist couldn’t help DC1 remember hir chores if video games are an option).

Of course, it’s not enough to do the homework or make the lunch.  Those items also have to make it into the backpack.  So there’s a new rule that they have to go into the backpack as soon as they’re done.  They’re not allowed to sit out on desk or counter where they can be forgotten and then I have to turn back to get them on the way to school and everybody is late.  Because I hate that.

So… calendar, checklist, and automation.  That’s how we keep things together with DC1 during the week and that’s how we’re able to give DC1 so many responsibilities.

Related:  financial diffraction talks about using her calendar to keep track of money

How do you and yours get out the door in the morning every day of the week?  Any tips?

I don’t think I’d find reading about my life to be very interesting

But I do find reading about my thoughts to be interesting.  (I waste a lot of time rereading old posts of ours.  There’s some good stuff in there!)  And sometimes I crack myself up.  (What does that mean about my sense of humor?  Hm…)

On a day to day thing though, meh.  I work.  I spend time with my family.  I do laundry and groceries and occasionally shop at whole foods.  I’m not bored living my life, but reading about it would be pretty far down in list of things to do (somewhere above “things that are really painful” but below “things I don’t enjoy doing but have to get done anyway”).

This lack of interesting stuff going on in my life seems to have increased (widened?) with DH getting a new job and making money.  I just wouldn’t want to read about someone like me.  I was more interesting when we had to scrimp and save for stuff.

But interesting isn’t really what I’ve ever been aiming for.  One doesn’t really want to live in interesting times.  (Though one does.  Which is depressing.)

And I admit, the daycare saga may be interesting to some, but it’s just depressing to me!  My poor little DC2.  Similarly having an incontinent kitten.  I’m sure I will look back on nice kitty’s preference for piles of cloth and laugh some day.

Obviously the solution is to ask #2 to write more about her life.  Because what she’s been doing is tres interesting!  At least, I think it is.

Would you find your life interesting to read about, and is that a good or a bad thing in your opinion?  Do you prefer reading about people like you or people who are different or both or neither?

I used to like people more

I have become quite the misanthrope.  (#2 has always been one and welcomes #1 to the club.)

That’s not to say I actively *dislike* people, just that I’m not seeking people out.  I’m not trying to get to know people better unless we hit it off right away.  I’m no longer curious about what makes most folks tick.

I didn’t used to be this way.  For the longest time as long as a person wasn’t a bully I would like them.  I liked crazy people who were always getting themselves into trouble.*  I liked people other folks would find annoying.  I liked anybody who would put up with me.

I think I figured out why I no longer like so many people.  Part of it, of course, is family life and work demands that lead me to not have as much time for other people’s craziness.**

But the main part, I think, and the part that came as a revelation, is that I used to have a growth mindset about people.  If they did something I found annoying, like constantly making the same stupid decisions that hurt themselves, well, that was something that could be fixed.  That was something *I* could fix.

But I no longer try to fix people, other than my students whose math anxiety I carefully remove as part of my job.  (That’s a healthy level of fixing people, I think, and they’re receptive and it’s necessary.)

And since I no longer try to fix people, that means any annoyingness, any self-destruction… that’s permanent, and not temporary.  It isn’t interesting because I’ve seen it before and there’s no reason to explore the insanity any further because there’s nothing I can do except be silent witness.  And I’d rather not do that.  Not when there’s work to do and family to hang out with.

Part of being older is realizing that I don’t like as many people as I used to… and more importantly, that I don’t really care that much.  (Though I do feel bad that I don’t care, to paraphrase Brittney in The Misery Chick episode.  Daria says that makes me a good person, even though I suspect I’m really not.)

*Disclaimer:  #2 was crazy when I met her, but I liked her because we shared hobbies and world-views and she was smart and funny and definitely not because I found her craziness interesting, because I didn’t find her craziness particularly interesting because it was too self-destructive and was definitely beyond my ability to even to try to change, though I did get her a book.  She helped herself with the help of professionals.

**Of course, we always like you, gentle readers.  Our readers are AWESOME.  Or at least our commenters are awesome.  We assume our silent readers are as well.  They at least have great taste in blogs, which is a good sign.

Have your views on or desire to hang out with random members of the human race changed over time?

RBOC

  • The internet thinks I have one of three things:  1. LPR or silent reflux, 2. a twisted colon, or 3.  an appendix that is planning to burst in a few days.  Fortunately the symptoms are supposed to get a lot worse before my appendix actually bursts.  If we fail to post one of these days it’s probably because #2 is en route to her new home and it hurts for me to sit up.  (See, it’s not GERD because the symptoms go away completely when I lie down instead of getting worse.  My symptoms most match LPR.  LPR is difficult to diagnose and most of the treatments are ineffective, so…)
  • Mint tea seems pretty effective.  Tums not so much.  Baking soda somewhat.  Mylanta, surprisingly not so helpful.  I’m not sure what to make of that.
  • And…. after three days of awful heartburn only soothed by lying down or constantly drinking mint tea… I’m back to normal.  Maybe it’s some kind of virus to go along with the cold.  The body is a mysterious thing.
  • And four days after that, my normally 5+ week cycle (or non-existent cycle, depending) has shortened to 2 weeks.  Peri-menopause?  Thyroid?  Cysts?  Weird reaction to weird illness?  Night weaning?  Who knows.  I guess I’ll wait another 2 weeks to see what happens.  I much prefer non-existent to every 2 weeks.
  • We made the mistake of buying bed-wetting sheets at the grocery store (either for DC2 or for the kitten who pees, or maybe both, we don’t remember), so now every time we’re at the grocery store we get coupons for adult disposable underwear.  Boy have they got our demographic wrong.
  • One of my friends has been trying IVF but the first cycled failed.  It’s very sad.  :(
  • It’s a busy week!  Hopefully we will be more entertaining in the future!
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