Thursday, March 14, 2013

Herding cats and Mia

I had a couple of days this week to herd the baby and I don't say "herd" lightly.
Mia is an adorable almost-2-year-old with white-blonde hair, big blue eyes and an engaging grin.
She's as sweet as can be but related to a tornado.
Her big sisters have always been full of fun and energy and Mia seems determined to outshine them on the enthusiasm scale.
Where she could walk, she runs.
Where she could sit, she spins.
Where she could pull, she yanks.
If it's not locked up and hidden deeply away, she can get it, whatever it is.
I've been amazed at how high she can climb, how fast she can move.
And I know 2-year-olds are busy. No surprise there. 
But this kid.
I tried to play ball with her the other day in the driveway.
It was her idea. I just went out to get in the car when Mia saw the basketballs and took off running for one.
She picked it up, dropped it and ran after it, falling to her knees several times on the garage floor. She kicked it like a soccer player and when it rolled into the road, she tried to get it.
No amount of persuasion would stop her from running into the road after it.
I grabbed her hand.
She pulled away.
I tried to pick her up.
She kicked and went limp so she'd slide out of my arms.
I finally had to haul her kicking and screaming back into the house.
Later we tried just taking a walk. (This was after she climbed out of the moving wagon when I tried to give her a ride.) I took the outside lane and tried to keep her safely in on the sidewalk.
She listed to the right to the road.
I grabbed her hand.
She pulled away.
I tried to pick her up.
She kicked and went limp so she'd slide out of my arms.
I finally hauled her kicking and whirling back into the house.
Later, when her mom came to pick her up, I was telling her my stories. (Kari was NOT surprised)
Mia was putting her sippy cup up on the edge of the sink.
That's when we both saw an odd sight, a full-length, sharp, serrated, kitchen knife moving along as though disembodied above the counter as the child ran behind.
Kari moved with motherly speed and caught the knife before Mia could cut herself or anyone else so all ended well.
But this morning I'm moving the knives up to where even I can't reach them. The attic maybe?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Phone it in

Having so much fun

Our phones were due for an upgrade.
Marc looks forward to this every 20 months or so.
I dread it.
For me it's an experience that has all of the "positive" elements of buying a car or shopping endlessly at a hardware store.
For Marc, it's a visit to Disneyland without the Small World ride.
He loves to look at the gadgets and talk in detail with the salesman about gigabytes and data plans and see how cool a new phone he can snag.
I just want to leave.
But Marc just earned a bonus at work and he so wanted the new Droid or iphone 20 or something similar so I went along without protest.
We stopped by Verizon Wireless at around 2 p.m.
TWO HOURS later we were winding up.
I couldn't believe how long it took and how hard it was to watch our rookie salesman try to get our plan and bill right.
He had to add and subtract and multiply (and get help) while I stood by frowning with my hands on my hips.
I had a budget line drawn in the sand and I wasn't crossing it.
And I didn't want a phone with doodads.
I wanted to be able to call out, take incoming calls and text. (Yes, we're finally joining the world of texting. Applaud here.)
I also wanted it to be a pretty color and to keep my Scrabble game if I could.
Marc wanted the Internet access, to keep his iTunes, his games, his GPS capability and be able to watch movies on the airline. He wanted his new phone to iron his shirts and walk the dog. (We don't have a dog.)
He was entranced with the new Droid DNA and told me if he bought anything less, it would be obsolete in a month. That would be sad.
Ultimately we got what we both wanted and now we're at home trying to learn to work our glossy new machines.
He's off in the world of high-tech and I'm trying to learn to spell wrong in text-ese.
Neither of us wants to go through the purchase experience ever again or in 20 months or so.
Can we maybe just phone it in?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

We're game, are you?

The spread
I probably wouldn't want to know what the game geeks were thinking when Marc and I doddered in on Game Night to the mall store, a pair of senior citizens wanting a piece of the action.
I think the only thing that saved us from total humiliation and complete ejection was that we came in packing a brand-new copy of "7 Wonders," the game that was already on their table, awaiting play.
They could hardly refuse us.
And our copy had been opened so it was evident that at least we'd done some homework.
See, we got this game from Marc's oldest daughter and her husband and we've tried to figure it out since Christmas.
We knew it had something to do with building wonders of the world, building up military strength and trading cards to the people on either side of you.
But beyond that, we were so lost we needed professional help.
The owner of the game store had told us we could come in and watch others play and be taught.
The cover
So when we had a moment coming back from a grandchild's concert in Spanish Fork, we took the opportunity.
We walked in, found the geeks at the back and parked ourselves down, feeling really out of place.
The table was filled with spicy pizza and a ragtag group of serious game-playing guys and one girl (who won every game, by the way).
To give them credit, they were nice.
They let us sit down. They didn't condescend.
They explained that the best way to learn was to just play a game through and off we went.
Cards were a'flying and Marc and I just tried to keep up.
We asked questions.
We tried to pay attention.
We for sure slowed down the game for them. I don't think they're often joined by 60-year-olds.
But we made it through.
Marc did pretty well.
I managed to lose bigger than anyone and I think I had cards in play that were illegal. (You're supposed to pay for goods from your neighbors. I don't remember paying for any of my stuff!)
We're counting it as a success. We now think we can manage on our own.
And we have the game geeks to thank for it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dollars and sense

We just did our 2012 taxes and I've been trying since to identify why it is I sweat and struggle throughout the process.
It's not like I don't prepare.
I keep lists and make little notes to myself all year long.
I dutifully file anything remotely related to a deduction in a folder that's clearly marked.
I'm an honest person so I don't think the nerves are related to worry about getting something found out.
But it's a totally awful exercise event though I trust the nice lady we have doing them for us.
I came home and told Marc about my reactions and he reminded me that taxes for us have been full of excruciating surprises since the first year we married. 
Foolish kids that we were, fresh from painful divorces, we married in the middle of the year unaware that would create a tax crash of sorts as I went from being in the single mom status to joint status with him.
We immediately owed about $3,000 that we hadn't planned on and didn't have.
The next year, we realized that neither of us had specified in our divorce decrees that we could claim ANY of the 12 kids involved.
We had all of them sometimes, buying them food, clothes and bikes and Marc paid hefty child support but none of that was deductible.
So on paper we looked like we made X when actually our disposable income was Y.
Then one year we were audited because one ex had told us we could claim a child or two and then filed keeping all six. That automatically bumped our returns and we met a very nice IRS man who went through our statements.
We trusted this guy and told him more than we should have so we were consequently dinged for the audit year AND the previous year.
Then we won a great, free trip to Florida...great until we realized the value of the trip would be added to our income total and ding! We lost more money.
One year Marc received a bonus when the weekly paper was sold. Ding!
Then came the year of severances and unemployment and Utah's change to a flat tax.
Most years, in an effort to try and cover costs, we worked hard and thus put ourselves into the 28-percent tax bracket by about $1,000. Ding!
I learned to claim the expenses of a home business.
Marc learned to count his mileage.
We both learned to fear Tax day.
Today, it's better simply because the kids have grown up, moved out and our income had caught up with our expenses so we reached a point where it evened out.
We sometimes came home with a tiny refund.
But, 24 years and many returns later, taxes are still stressful.
I can't relax until I know what's going to happen.
So I set the appointment up earlier each year so I can get it over with yet I always go in feeling apprehensive and leave feeling a little funny.
If we owe money, it makes me mad.
If we get any money back, I don't dare celebrate.
It's very vexing, financially and physically taxing.