Budgeting Grump

The last few years have been hell for financial planning at the Geek household. Mrs. Geek left her job when Baby G. was born, and since then we’ve been bleeding money. What with all the project work I did for Company O. in my last job and the up and down ride of the first two years of your first child’s life, there wasn’t much time for worrying a lot about the money part. Given how much money I was making, the cost of our mortgage, and the general cost of living where we live, I knew our monthly financials would more often be in the red than in the black. Sure, a bonus or a tax refund might occasionally help to straighten out the books, but our personal finances were generally a losing proposition. So, other than keeping a general eye on various balances, it seemed that the best course was to close my eyes and hope for the best.

That proposition has changed in the last few months thanks to the new job with Company A. The change in jobs resulted in a change in monthly salary that is to our benefit. The change is enough to make me hope that a lot of the month-to-month financial bloodletting can stop. Living under the “new regime” for a couple of months now, I can see that yes, things are better… but not better enough that our finances can simply be ignored.

So Mrs. Geek and I must tighten our belts a little bit, and we must communicate about money… which is where friction occurs in many relationships. I feel like I need to be the bad cop; the one who says “did we really need to spend this?” It turns me into a grump… and who likes being a grump?

A Challenging Daddy Morning

Here’s how Saturday played out Baby G. and myself:

6:30AM – Everybody gets up. Mrs. Geek has a sorority sister coming to town, so she has plans for the morning. Baby G. and I also have plans: we’re getting haircuts.

10:00AM – Baby G. and I arrive for our haircuts. The hair salon is nearly empty, and Baby G. has nearly free run of the front of the place while Dad goes in the chair to get his hair cut. Baby G. is generally good, only “re-organizing” some of the hair products on the shelves in the waiting area.

10:20AM – It is Baby G.’s turn in the chair, or rather, in my lap in the chair. Immediately upon hoisting him into my lap, my nose tells me that he needs a diaper change. Lovely. He fusses a little in the chair, but we get out a milk bottle and he is generally a good boy.

10:40AM – Haircut is finished. Baby G. and I head out to the car, but forget the milk bottle. No matter, a diaper needs to be changed. First, find a diaper. I look in the diaper bag, but the diapers there are size 5 (we recently jumped to 6) and damp for some reason. No matter, there is an emergency package of diapers in the car. I find them, but they are also size 5. The diaper is changed and bagged. We head back to the salon and retrieve the bottle.

10:55AM – I have a dilemma. The car needs gas and the car ride is long enough that I’m worried that Baby G. will fall asleep in the car. He’s had a bottle but no lunch. If he falls asleep, the chance of a good nap this afternoon drops significantly. So do I risk that, or do we go out to lunch now and then drive home? I opt for the latter.

11:10AM – After parking the car and walking with him in my arms for two blocks, we arrive at a burger place. I get a bowl of chili for myself. Baby G. gets a bowl of mac’n’cheese.

11:20AM – The food arrives. Baby G. melts down. He doesn’t like the mac. He’s upset that he keeps picking up fries and that they break apart when he tugs on them. He’s upset that he can’t dip the fries in my chili. He doesn’t want milk.

11:23AM – The waitress brings by the check even though neither of us has eaten much. She also offers to bring by some boxes if we need to leave. I say that no, we’ll try to sort it out. Still, she’s going to get a good tip for staying on top of the situation.

11:27AM – Baby G. finally calms down after I pick him up out of his high chair and feed him some goldfish crackers. With improved blood sugar levels comes calmer behavior.

11:35AM – Lunch is finished. It’s $16 lunch bill. The waitress gets a $5 tip. We go to gas up the car at a local Costco.

11:45AM – We head home.

11:50AM – Baby G. begins to nod off.

12:35PM – A sudden bunch up of highway traffic requires some squealing brakes and a sudden, unplanned lane change. This gets my adrenaline pumping, but thankfully no cars rub bumpers (or any of their other parts.) Unfortunately, it also gets up Baby G. He’s not crying, but not particularly happy either.

12:40PM – We arrive home. I check on his diaper. The size 5 diaper has failed and his clothes are soaked. Diaper is changed to a size 6.

1:20PM – Baby G. is still not asleep. I decide to check on him. Again, I immediately smell the need for a diaper change. Diaper is changed again.

1:55PM – I also need a nap. Baby G. is still not asleep. Will we have to go the whole afternoon with only 40 minutes of sleep instead of the usual 2.5 hours? I also begin to wonder when Mrs. Geek will be getting home. I could use an extra set of hands.

2:10PM – Mrs. Geek finally gets home. I can consider moving to other chores (some house trim needs painting) and a fresh set of hands can try to deal with Baby G.

Was this the worst day that any parent has ever had? Good Lord, no. It was just one of those days when nothing came particularly easy… except possibly the hair cuts. Those were fine.

Kids grow… and sleeplessness follows.

In addition to the other recent craziness with Baby G.’s WubbaNub, Baby G. is growing like a weed… with occasionally messy consequences.

The latest of those consequences is at least one diaper failure a night for the last few nights. His kidneys and bladder can just produce more than the diapers we use are able to hold. Knowing that this is a problem that will not go away, we’re taking steps. First, we tried getting the next larger size of the earth friendly, compost-able diapers that our diaper service provides/accepts. Next morning, change the pajamas and sheets. Since those hippie-friendly, somewhat alternative diapers are not as efficient as the white man’s diapers from Da Man at Big Diapers, Inc., we next tried going back to the non-compost-able, throw-in-the-garbage nighttime white man’s diapers we abandoned a few weeks ago to help save the landfill, landfill be damned. Next morning, change the pajamas and sheets. Now, I purchased the largest size of disposable nighttime diapers possible from Big Diapers, Inc. on my way into work this morning and we’ll see what happens tonight.

Let’s hope that the new diapers do the trick. Baby G. has been waking up at various hours of the night (1am one night, 3am another, 4am this morning) and waking up quite upset. I think it’s because he’s wetting himself and REALLY not liking it. I happened to be the one to check on him this morning, and I thought I didn’t feel any leaks from his diaper… but lo and behold! There was a small wet spot on his crib sheet and around the waist of his pajamas when I got him up and changed him two hours later.

We’re also continuing to try to wean Baby G. off his WubbaNub. He generally goes to sleep and wake up fine without it, but a pacifier of some sort is about the only thing that calms him down in the middle of the night. So it was wake up at 4am this morning, see the kid fussing, unsuccessfully figure out why, get out the pacifier (sans stuffed frog), and kid rolls over and calms himself. Great for Baby G., but not good for making sure that weaning is successful.

(It also wasn’t so good for Dad. Dad stayed awake almost until the alarm goes off at six… because it’s the middle of the night, all the irrational worries come calling, and there could soon be a Republican in the White House who doesn’t seem to give a damn about much of what I care about. Dad needs more sleep.)

The Death of “We”

A sense of “We”: did the United States ever have it?

I was born in December of 1968, three and a half months after the Democratic Convention, a month after the election of Richard Nixon, weeks before Apollo 8 circled the moon bringing the world a reading of the book of Genesis from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, seven months before the late Neil Armstrong took one small step for a man on the lunar surface and the Age of Aquarius went to seed far too early outside Bethel, NY, less than 100 miles from where I was born.

I think I was born into a world, a country where still was a sense of shared experience, shared sacrifice… and it was dying. Perhaps that common identity was born in the prosperity of the 1920’s, the hardship of the Great Depression, and the sacrifice of World War II. The seeds of its destruction were sown in a sense of generational divide, a hippie liberal lawlessness in Chicago that every asshole Republican (not EVERY Republican) would run against for a generation, and a take-no-prisoners cynical approach to government exemplified in Watergate that those same Republicans would use to govern ever since.

The Presidential debate this past week was one more example of the rupture that has created two Americas. For each side, it was a pantomime of differing ambitions, assumptions, and systems of fact.

How do you govern a country that fractured? How do you agree with anyone about anything? How do you repair the divide in an age of the death of “We”?

Recipe for a relaxing evening.

After one of the most psychically draining weeks I can think of, where nothing particularly horrible happened, but there were just far too many “disturbances in the Force” and some of the muscles of my neck and left shoulder decided to lock up, this was the recipe for an oh so pleasant evening:

  • the film “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen”
  • a See’s Dark Chocolate Butter Egg left in the fridge since last Easter (and still quite delicious)
  • some R.L. Buller & Sons Victoria Tawny dessert wine
  • pajamas

I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but for now I am content.


One of Baby G.’s favorite toys for the last two years has been a Green Frog WubbaNub that Mrs. Geek and I call “Froggy”. Along with a certain bear blankie we call “Bear”, Froggy was Baby G.’s bedtime companion almost since he was born. His need for Froggy grew less over time; he went from wanting to use the pacifier through the night to using it for just a few minutes as he fell asleep and a few more while he awoke. He sometimes wanted Froggy and Bear for comfort during the day too, but we tried to discourage that… or at least limit it. Froggy and Bear were “crib friends” and Baby G. had to be either in his crib (mostly) or in his room (sometimes) to play with them.

That need was persistent. About six months ago, the silicone pacifier came loose from the frog plush toy while Baby G. was tugging on it. The crying could break your heart. It was also a Wednesday or Thursday night, and we both needed to be up early the next morning. So, Daddy had to make an emergency trip to a nearby Babies-R-Us at 8:45pm, just before they closed, to make sure that Froggy was made better.

All that ended Friday night. Baby G. took to treating the pacifier like a chew toy in the last couple weeks and bit the end mostly off. Not wanting the end to come loose in the middle of the night, I cut it off. It wasn’t the same. We got out the original Froggy that was in two pieces. That wasn’t the same either. So Baby G. went to bed since Friday only with Bear.

He was fairly brave for the first 36 hours. There was some anxiety at nap time on Saturday, but he went to bed without much complaint on Saturday night. The wheels kind of fell of on Sunday. Baby G. started to realize that Froggy was gone and not coming back, I think. There was an hour of fussing before nap time, and over 90 minutes of fussing at bed time. He tries to reach across the room and cries and cries… as if he wants something, but he isn’t quite sure what it is… or can’t find the words.

This is one of those decisions that I know is correct for me as a parent. Like other decisions (going from breast to bottle, from bottle to sippie cup), Mrs. Geek and I knew it was coming and let events play out. Yet, it’s hard to see him go through this. I hope he gets over it soon.