reflections on a cake pan

When you are trying not to think about something the only option is to think very, very hard about something else. Like you can’t NOT think of a thing, you have to replace it with another thing. I’m trying to not think about something so every other thing I think about takes on a bizarre, almost reverent significance. For example: I got a new bundt pan this week.

I don’t really make that many bundt cakes (SO MUCH WORK) and I already had a bundt pan but I just… didn’t like it. It wasn’t cute. I bought it at a grocery store a few years back because I had a desperate need one day to bake a bundt cake, something I’d never done before, and since I was working that day I didn’t have time to go all over town looking for the perfect pan. So it’s plain and boring and flat on the base so the cakes that come out of it are flat on the top and LOOK that’s just not what I want in a bundt! Around Christmastime last year I was at my favourite store HomeSense with Symphony and she found a fancy gingerbread village bundt pan and was like “WE SHOULD GET THIS” but it was FIFTY DOLLARS and I’m sorry but I’m not paying $50 for a cake pan at HomeSense.

Since then though, I’ve found my thoughts being consumed by a desire for a new, fancy, cute bundt pan. As we headed into the colder months my mind drifted to them more and more often, and I would browse online trying to find the best price for the fanciest pan. When I ordered new rain boots the other week I almost tossed a sale-priced Christmas-themed pan into my cart as well but at the last minute I changed my mind, the sale price just wasn’t good enough. I still couldn’t stop browsing them though.

On Wednesday I had a pretty rough day of work, and so after the kids were in bed that night I asked Taylor to go for a walk with me, where else but my favourite store HomeSense (fyi I do always call it that, especially when speaking aloud). I just wanted to browse all the things and unwind from my day with no one screaming at me. I wasn’t actually planning on buying anything but as we rounded the corner into the bakeware aisle I thought to myself “I should check if they have any cute bundt pans!” and before I even finished the thought I spotted it: a Nordic Ware Fall Harvest Bundt Pan. What a frilly, fancy lil bitch it was too. A wreath in heavy cast aluminum, decorated all over with leaves and acorns, this was a pan to be proud of! I’d looked at the same and others like it on various websites in the past weeks and it was priced at less than half what I’d seen it at. SOLD.

The next day I was ready to bake. You have to wash a new cake pan before you can use it, and since washing dishes in an inherently mindless activity, as I filled the sink I could feel my thoughts veering towards the thing I don’t want to think about. I needed to focus in on something, and so I focussed in on washing the pan. I used the hottest water and some Mrs Meyers basil-scented dish detergent on a soft sponge, and after washing and rinsing the pan I held it cradled in my arms, still warm, as I gently dried it with a clean white cloth, carefully getting into all the nooks and crannies of the leaves and acorns.

I took the same care buttery and flouring the pan when it came time to add the batter; a variation on a brown sugar bourbon cake recipe I’d picked that morning. I’d wanted something worthy of the pan. Something autumnal but not pumpkin-y, something simple that would let the shape of the cake itself be the star, something fairly easy so I’d have enough time to get the batter mixed and the cake baked during the kids’ nap time. I’d picked up the butter & eggs I’d needed already, but I didn’t have enough brown sugar so I used 2 cups brown and 1 cup white, and instead of plain ol’ regular bourbon I used Kentucky Swamp Water, which is what I call a bottle in which I have mixed together all my least-favourite bourbons, including some maple-flavoured Knob Creek, so MY cake was MAPLE brown sugar bourbon. I also left off the glaze, as the directions cautioned that boiling bourbon might burst into flames, and I wasn’t keen to start a kitchen fire with a house full of toddlers.

The recipe called for a baking time of 70-75 minutes, but it was for a 12-cup pan and mine is 10-cups. I didn’t want to waste the excess batter so I quickly buttered & floured my 4-inch springform pan to make a mini cake as well, and since I was making one slightly-smaller and one much much smaller cake, I set a timer for twenty minutes and started checking from there. The last three things I’ve baked have all been over- or under-baked so I was also looking for a bit of kitchen redemption, and was bound and determined not to fuck up this time. In the end both cakes were ready after 38 minutes, which was weird because I thought the smaller one would bake faster? I’m actually baffled by it. While the cakes were baking the sweet smell of sugar, spices, and maple filled the house. All the kids were sleeping and the house was (mostly) clean so I had a minute to just sit, and as I sat there, smelling the delicious fragrance in peace and quiet I thought to myself: this.

a minute

As in, it’s been one. May was such a trash fire of a month, it seemed to drag on FOR EV ER (seriously, why was it so long????) with more and more shitty things happening. After the stroller was stolen we all got sick and missed work, two of my current clients gave notice, and then near the end of the month Georgie was viciously attacked by a big dog in the park; she’s fine now but she definitely could have been more seriously injured, and as it is I had to spend over $1200 in vet bills after a huge section of the skin on her back where she was bitten went necrotic and had to be cut away and Frankensteined back together. She honestly could have died and I myself am so traumatized I had to go to the doctor for anxiety medication.

Now that we’re in June (DEEP June) I’m over dwelling on all these negatives (which might just be the meds talking but OH WELL).

School is almost over for the summer and I have two whole months of no drop-offs and pick-ups to worry about, and in addition to my single and double strollers my neighbor leant me a triple she had in her storage room (a gesture I very much appreciate but at the same time WHERE WERE YOU IN SEPTEMBER). Once school starts up again Gwen will be in the first grade and I’ll be dropping her off and picking her up outside the building- no more dragging three toddlers up and down endless flights of stairs every day!

I already had a meeting with a potential new client to fill the space left by the people who are leaving that went really well.

I’ve been doing some cleaning and sorting around my & Sym’s room and found some treasures, like the rest of my collection of Lvnea perfumes, some Fool’s gold and a grow-your-own cat grass kit, which I’m sure Mark Fluffalo will appreciate.

Georgie’s back was shaved by the vet and she looks a mess so this week I have an appointment for her to get her first haircut at the groomers in her whole life (ten years!) so watch this space for an all-new Georgie coming soon. I definitely prefer the look of a fully-fluffed Pomeranian but again, I’m trying to be positive about it.

Gwen lost her first tooth and has a second loose one.

The little kids have become OB SESSED with My Neighbor Totoro and watch it twice a day (no shame in my mommy game), and it’s honestly such a sweet and gentle way to begin and end our days.

I’m hoping the rest of this month will continue to be calm, cute & drama-free <3

this week

This week. THIS WEEK MAN.

You know the saying that like… comedy is tragedy plus time? So many things have gone awry this week that it’s ALREADY funny, and the week isn’t even over. No need to wait for the tragedy to become comedy when your life’s disasters are on a 24-hour news cycle! Fair warning: a lot of the things that went awry involve a great variety of bodily fluids. The amount of time I spent this week cleaning up pee and poo and puke…!

But we’ll start with me. Last week I bought myself some new baking sheets. I wanted to make cookies for the Thursday Treat (it’s A Thing now) this week, but all my old, crudded up baking sheets were different sizes and thicknesses, so it was almost impossible to figure out cooking times. I just wanted baking sheets that were the same size and the same thickness that would conduct heat in the same way. I’ve finally figured out my oven’s quirks (after only 11 years in this apartment): it runs a little hot, especially on the right side. So I have to rotate whatever I’m cooking laterally halfway through in order to achieve a consistent bake, or roast, or whatever. ANYWAY. I got these new baking sheets so I threw the old ones away. However when I was carrying them to the door, I dropped one. On my foot. No big deal, right? Except the way I was carrying it, it hit my foot on one corner. If it had landed flat, or one the edge I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so painful or dramatic, but all the weight of the thing concentrated on that one corner was just beyond! I’m sure there are mathematical calculations you could do with the weight of the sheet and the height from which it fell to figure out the psi or whatever, but all I need to know was that it HURT. I hobble-ran around the house yelling the kind of nonsense non-swears you yell when you are around little kids: “FRIBBIN FRABBIN JACKALOPIN FLUFFERNUTTER!!!!” The top of my foot swelled up like a gross ballon and started to bruise almost right away. It’s been a few days and the swelling still hasn’t gone down completely and the bruise is spectacular and encompasses the entire dorsal area (yes I googled that so I wouldn’t have to say “top of my foot” again). It goes from arch to arch, toe to ankle, purple and green and yellow. It’s quite a treat.

It’s worth mentioning that this is the same foot that developed plantar faciitis last summer, but I don’t have pain from that anymore because acupuncture cured it? I’m a believer now.

Ok. So. The other thing? I swear to god it’s been one kid or another, one animal or another with the bodily fluids ALL WEEK. It’s mostly blurred together into a haze of scrubbing and wiping and rinsing and sanitizing and washing. Nicky’s hair still smells pukey (after MULTIPLE washes!) and I have never been so goddamn happy to have in-suite laundry in my entire life. It’s also really brought to the forefront my & Taylor’s different parenting styles: when a toddler is barfing and screaming and barfing my go-to plan is to just hold them in place where they are (be that in a high chair, in front of the fridge or next to the front door) until they finish barfing so you only have to do crime scene cleanup in one spot, while Taylor’s natural instinct is to grab them and run? where? the bathroom? I’m not really sure, and I don’t know that he does either.

It’s also worth mentioning that I have an old baby wipes box of latex gloves to wear when I’m changing the daycare kids’ diapers (as per health authority regulations) and WOW have they come in handy this week.

Thankfully out of our family only Nicky has gotten sick (so far…). I think it’s actually been a few years since we’ve had a vomitty disease that’s stricken multiple members of the family, which is kind of incredible considering. Just in case anyone else gets hit we’ve all cancelled all of our weekend plans to have sleepovers, go snowboarding, and do Korean foot-peeling masks with our sisters. Ballet class is still on for now; we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, if no one gets sick I guess I can spend this weekend working on my endless closet-rearranging scheme. So far I’ve emptied my craft closet, sorted out a bunch of old paint cans from the kitchen closet, and put some crackers where the paint cans used to be. Soooo it needs a bit more work.

The acorn is actually a candle jar; the netting over the bottle was from a package of garlic? I think? Or maybe shallots. Either way it’s repurposed. Also I just realized now that the diamond pattern of the net matches the diamond pattern of the acorn top matches the diamond pattern on the wooden coaster, and yet I had them grouped together? The subconscious mind is WILD.

When we went snow tubing I sunburned my lips and for WEEKS nothing helped to heal the dry, peelly, chapped and PAINFUL mess. Last weekend in desperation I went to Sephora and spent TWENTY-TWO DOLLARS on this Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm. I said that if it didn’t completely heal my fried lips in ONE DAY I was returning it, and guess what? IT TOTALLY WORKED. I started using it on Saturday afternoon and woke up Sunday morning completely restored, goddammit. So if your lips are dried, fried or generally a wreck I recommend this. You’ll love it, and I’m sorry.

This week’s Thursday Treat: brown butter & toffee chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to try a new recipe so I googled “best chocolate chip cookie bon appetit” (I’ve had really good luck with recipes from them) and this was the result. Ironically (?) this recipe ACTUALLY comes from a baking blogger from Nanaimo, BC, which is 12 minutes from my hometown of Nanoose Bay. WHAT R THE ODDS. My grocery store didn’t have any Skor bars but it did have bags of Skor toffee bits so I used 80 grams of those, and 50% cacao chocolate chips instead of dark chocolate wafers (i… dk what those are). These came out delicious, and I got to use my new baking sheets! I also used an ice cream scoop to measure the batter for the first time and why? have I not always been doing this? You should do it too; my scoop is from Crate & Barrel and it works great.

Nicky is no longer drinking formula at all, so this week I washed and cleaned our beloved baby bottle machine so we can sell it, and with the counter space freed up by its absence I spent a glorious afternoon rearranging the kitchen. The toaster and bread box are with the coffee maker in a breakfast-slash-sandwich zone. The coffee maker is next to the sink so you can refilled its water reservoir easily. The stand mixer is closer to the stove which makes sense because most things you mix, you also need to cook. The space makes so much more sense now and is so much more ~visually open~ (sorry). I need to get a second or bigger utensil holder and I want a different breadbox; there’s nothing wrong with our current one but the steel doesn’t go with my current ~aesthetic (again, sorry) and it has a big dent on the top where someone (me…) dropped a jar of salsa on it the first week we had it. I would love one that was wood or white, but I also want a drop-front and a flat top so I can store stuff on top of it. The same one we have now comes in white, which would be perfect EXCEPT it’s not really available here? You can get it on UK sites for £31, but here in Canada I can only find it from sketchy resellers for $160, or $100 + $60 shipping. So the search continues.

OH! As part of the kitchen & pantry project I made labels for all my salts this week! Except this isn’t all of them, I need to get more of these jars (from the dollar store) for the rest of them. I have the labels all ready when I do though

You would never guess this guy has barfed over one hundred thousand times this week.

contentedness

the busiest body

I’ve been taking medication for my degenerative disc disease for a week now and it’s honestly amazing how much of a difference it’s made already. It’s such a relief to get up in the morning and be able to just… get up. Easily, and with (almost) no pain. It’s incredible! I have an appointment to see the pain management specialist on Saturday afternoon for an information session, after which I can get a steroid injection into the ol’spine right away if I choose (I probably will choose).

On Monday Gwen was off school, and I serendipitously had a surprise day off work. I absolutely relish these opportunities to spend a weekday just me & the kids; it’s no secret that my dream would be to trade my work-at-home-mom life for a stay-at-home-mom one, so any chance to pretend that’s the case is a treat. We didn’t do anything special, just ran a few errands before lunch and then had a lazy afternoon at home. Nicky napped, I made fresh pasta, and Gwen took a long-overdue bath. It was exactly the day I wanted.

Days like that used to make me feel sort of desperate and sad, like it doesn’t happen often so I would always know it was just a one off, but somehow it doesn’t feel like that anymore. I’m feeling satisfied and at peace with work, something that pretty much corresponds exactly with how many kids I’m looking after who scream all day (which right now is zero). So while I still dream of being able to quit my job and focus solely on my own kids, working feels a little less like work lately, and a lot more like fun ❤️

back in action/back inaction

Last fall (on Gwen’s birthday actually) I got up bright and early and went over to the hospital to have an MRI to try and discover the cause of my chronic and persistent back pain. This was right around the time when our family doctor was moving to a new office, and I guess in the confusion the staff at the old clinic missed calling me about the results. I finally saw my doctor yesterday morning and it turns out I have degenerative disc disease.

This is actually a really common ailment that a lot of people have, especially older people, but it’s something I’ve actually been dealing with since I injured my back at 18, over two decades ago. Since then I’m been living with pain that has continued to worsen, and is now at the point where it’s negatively affecting almost every aspect of my life (for example, I can’t lean forward far enough over the sink to properly brush my teeth so I had TWO cavities at my last dentist appointment!). At the time when I originally hurt my back the doctor I saw was INCREDIBLY dismissive of me and since then I’ve been anxious about seeking help and reluctant to do so. Like I’ve tried things to get some relief, but I never knew the cause or the name of what was hurting me.

Now that I have a diagnosis and a treatment plan I actually feel really positively about it, and hopeful that I can finally a start living more normally & comfortably in my own body. It’s a relief just knowing, you know? Although it is becoming a little frustrating having all these unrelated health problems that each on their own would be manageable, but combined tend to ruin my life. Anyway, I’ve started medication for the pain and my doctor is referring me to both the spine clinic and a pain management specialist, so things are already looking up.

hello spring!

We took the kids to the playground yesterday and I think it was the first genuinely nice (ie NOT WET AND/OR FREEZING) day so far this year. Last year all the plum & cherry & apple trees in my neighborhood were flowering in February and this year I feel like they’ve just started to bud. It’s so nice to say goodbye to winter, it seems like it was so long this year, but I guess that just because I’m used to the more typical global warming winters. Were winters this long when I was a kid? This winter was snowy in Vancouver but I certainly remember there being much more snow back in the 80s.

Anyway. I have slacked on a bunch of the home projects I wanted to have done by this point (mostly painting related) but I’ve tackled a few other big projects, namely a massive craft closet declutter. I’m still not 100% finished with it but once it’s done I have big plans for decluttering the kitchen cupboards and the little kids’ room (THERE’S SO MANY TOYS), as well as possibly switching some of the living areas around. Plus all that painting I still need to do! It’s going to be a busy season.

worry & guilt

I’ve been struggling a lot with the worst mom feelings recently, worry and guilt. I worry about how Sym is doing in school and her social life. I feel guilty every time Gwen asks me to take her to the park and I can’t because of work or the baby, and I worry about her speech and whether or not she’ll be ready for school this fall. I feel guilty that my house is always such noisy chaos (also because of work) and not the peaceful, calm environment I want for Nicky’s first year. I worry that my kids are missing out on activities because I can’t easily fit them into my work schedule. You might be sensing a theme here, and it’s no secret that my dream is to “just” be a stay-at-home-mom to my own kids, rather than a work-at-home-mom with responsibilities to other people & their kids. I’ve been so stressed and anxious about what kind of parent I am that I actually started crying about it one night, like full-blown sobbing. I was crying so hard I couldn’t even say what I was so upset about and had to text Taylor, who was sitting right next to me. Not exactly my finest moment! I just…. I want to be a good mom, I want my kids to be happy and successful in life in whatever way they choose. I want to do everything for them but at the moment I feel like after working fifty hours a week looking after other people’s kids I just don’t have enough of myself left to give to my OWN kids. It’s hard, and I’m not sure what the solution is right now.

I initially drafted this post a couple of weeks ago and since then I’ve registered Sym for a summer animation program at the art school, met with her math teacher to discuss her grades, and encouraged her to invite friends over for our weekly “Riverdale Club” viewing parties on Friday nights. I’ve been making more of an effort to accommodate Gwen’s wishes to “go outside” all the time during the week (which becomes easier as the weather improves), have taken her on more “adventures” on the weekends, and after a successful drop-in visit I enrolled her in a gymnastics class starting next month. For Nicky, well, I’ve just been loving him extra (although I did also start an RESP for him, and Gwen as well (finally!).

Put Up or Shut Up

little-gwen

When you are pregnant people ask you a lot of questions about your baby plans. Some of these questions are pretty innocuous (“when are you due? is the baby a boy or a girl? do you have any names picked out?”) and some are way too intrusive (“are you planning on breastfeeding?” FROM TOTAL STRANGERS, like no I don’t care to discuss my boobs with you), but no question has come to inspire more dread in me than “when are you stopping working?”

In Canada we have 50 weeks of paid maternity leave. I assume many people take it, at least some of it. I took it with Sym and I took it with Gwen, and everyone expects I will be taking it with this baby. But the thing is, I’m not. I’m using my vacation days to take the first two weeks of October off work and basically keeping my fingers crossed (and my legs uncrossed?) and hoping this baby is born during that time because I really don’t want to stop working at 9 months pregnant and start working at 9 1/2 months pregnant. Based on my previous births (Sym 4 days early and Gwen right on her due date) and the fact that this baby just FEELS like they are gonna be ready on time, I’m pretty confident that I have nothing to worry about. I have to be, because what else can I do?

But when I tell people about my plan, the look they give me is just like… SHOCK and HORROR and DREAD, like I’ve said I’m planning on idk, having my baby in a public bathroom and leaving it in the trash? Like not taking maternity leave is literally the most appalling thing people can think of. They always shriek “WHAT???? HOW IS THAT EVEN GOING TO WORK?????” like people have never had a baby and then gone back to work soon after. Newsflash: people do it all the time! And there are lots of different reasons why they might do it. Maybe they really love their career. Maybe their partner is going to stay home with the baby while they work. Maybe they don’t have a choice. Maybe life costs money and they can’t afford to stop working for a year, or even a month.

Something people might not know about Canada’s 50 weeks paid maternity leave is that the government doesn’t just give you your whole annual salary in a shower of loonies and toonies. The benefit is 55% of your regular income. So like… cut your paycheque basically in half, and add diapers (and in my case, formula) to your monthly expenses. You still have to pay all your bills, your rent or mortgage, loan or credit card payments, car payments, whatever. Everything you were paying before, but do it with half the money. Or depending on your income, less than half, because there is actually a maximum amount the government pays, and it’s $537 a week. When I took my maternity leave with Gwen I was getting nowhere near the maximum amount, and were I to take it this time I’d be getting even less, and here’s why:

I’m self-employed. As a self-employed person I am eligible to take paid maternity leave, because I’ve opted into it. But since I don’t have a paycheque from an outside employer to base my payments off of, instead they calculate it based on my net income from my previous year’s tax return. Gwen was born in late 2012 so they calculated my maternity leave benefit off my 2011 tax return. In 2011 I was working a lot and earned a pretty ok amount of money, but for this baby my benefits would be calculated using my 2015 return and let’s just say… it would not be a lot. It basically wouldn’t be anything. So while TECHNICALLY I can take the time off, I can’t afford to take the time off, and unless people are keen to give me many, many, many tens of thousands of dollars to live off of for the next year I would appreciate it if they would shut up. Actually not even the next year, the next year plus however long it would take me to once again rebuild my business from nothing. Because if I take a year (or even a few months) off work, I will lose all my clients and when I start working again I will have to find brand new ones. So let me reiterate: unless you want to give me all your money, I don’t want to hear your opinion on my not taking time off of work. Tbh I probably don’t want to hear your opinion anyway so maybe just keep your mouth shut while your hand over that cheque/click that paypal link, mkay?

The other thing people like to bring up when I say I’m not taking leave (and I think this one is very stupid) is HOW am I going to keep working at my job when I’m up all night with a newborn baby?!?!?! I will never get any sleep! It will be so hard! Obviously as an almost-40-year-old-woman having her third child I have no idea what I’m doing! I’m dumb, so fucking dumb! Well. Here’s how I’m going to work at my job when I’m up all night with a newborn: I’m not. After the baby is born Taylor is going to work from home for a few months, and since he works nights he will be awake and available to tend to baby needs while I’m sleeping. How do I know this? BECAUSE IT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE DID AFTER GWEN WAS BORN. When we had her Taylor took a week? two weeks? off work entirely, and then worked from home until January. I got 8-9 hours of sleep every night and there was actually only one time when he had to wake me up to look after Gwen , and that happened at like 6am anyway. It worked for us before, and it’ll work for us again, and even if I do sometimes have to get up during the night and then work the next day like… ok? Like millions people before me, parents and non-parents alike, I will suck it up and do my job while I’m tired, wow, what a novel concept.

Do I sound bitter about this? I’m sure I sound bitter, and the reason why is yet another reason I wish people would stop judging me for not taking time off after having this baby: because I’m already judging myself enough, thanks. I feel super guilty about it all the time. I’ve cried about it. Hell, I cried about going back to work when Gwen was one because I didn’t go back to work until Sym was three and I felt guilty that I couldn’t take that much time off for Gwen as well. So how do you think I feel, knowing that I can’t really take ANY time off with this baby? I feel like a piece of shit, and the only way I can make it through most days is to try to stay positive and confident and believe that my plan, our plan, the plan my husband and I came up with because ours are the only opinions and concerns that matter, will work and I’m not going to ruin my baby’s life. So when I have people act all horrified and disapproving that in their opinion I’m making the wrong choice it is pretty much devastating because I am already devastated. So like congrats on making a pregnant woman cry? Nice work.

And like… obviously I can’t KNOW that everything will work out. There are a lot of unknowns when you have a baby. Sure, I don’t know the baby’s sex or the exact day they will be born, but I also don’t know if they will have a serious health problem that hasn’t been detected, or if they will have special needs. I don’t know if they will be a very colicky baby who cries all the time and no one will get any sleep. Like you can plan for things but life doesn’t always agree with those plans. I don’t know that I won’t go into labour right now. I don’t know that everything is gonna be okay and the truth is NO ONE DOES. We just have to believe things will work out and they probably will, maybe not exactly according to plan but we all just do our best with what we have (and if what you have is lots of money please feel free to send it my way).

assumptions

I assume certain things about people.

People in my life, people I meet, just any people. I base these assumptions on things I know about myself and on my beliefs. I’m not perfect, but I try to be a good person, and wanna think other people are good too. So I assume they believe the same things that I believe. I think my beliefs are good and I’m surprised when I learn people DON’T feel the same way as me about certain issues. You probably feel the same way about your beliefs, that they are right, because otherwise why would you believe them? (And look, I’m making that assumption about you RIGHT NOW.)

You know who else thinks their beliefs are good? Racist. Ass. Racists.

Here is a truth for you: I’m white, and I can tell you that when you’re white, racists assume you are a racist too. You know how shitty it feels when you say something dumb or thoughtless that you didn’t realize was racist and you get called out for it? And you’re like “but I’m not a racist!” Racists think you are, they think that all the time. I cannot even tell you how many times a total stranger has come up to me on the street and started talking to me about my dog or whatever before abruptly going off on some bullshit racist rant. And I’m like totally surprised because I assumed they weren’t a racist, while all the while THEY were assuming I was. So I have to tell them “No, I disagree with that statement, and I’m ending this conversation now,” or like… a less polite version of that. And I’m not telling this story to be like “oh poor little white me, people assume I’m a racist, that hurts my feelings!” but to illustrate my point, and my point is this: If you are white you have to let racists know that you are not on their side, because they assume that you are. They assume every white person feels the way they do about black people, and that they are right, and their beliefs are good. And as long as you remain silent, they will keep believing it.

BLM

college funds & the future

kindergarten Sym
Kindergarten Symphony, circa 2006

Symphony picked up her final report card yesterday and is officially done with the ninth grade. She’ll be a high school sophomore in September and will be graduating in just three more years, which seems bonkers to me. Her grades were ok, tbh I’m still not 100% clear on how the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program grading system works, but I think she did… alright? Mostly 4s and 5s, plus a 6 in yearbook and a 7 in Art (with another 8 in “Thinking Creatively”)(8 is the highest possible grade btw). Right now her plan for the future is to become a teacher and to get into university I think she needs higher marks, so I told her next year I wanna see more 5s and 6s. For her junior and senior years they have regular, comprehensible grades THANK GOODNESS.

Thinking about Sym’s future university plans sent me into a total tailspin wondering if I have saved enough for her post-secondary education. I am such a perpetual broke-ass that it might surprise you to learn that I have saved anything but I actually started an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for her when she was just a few months old, and every month since I have dutifully (or rather, automatically) put $95 into it. There have been months where my contribution bounced and I had to pay double the next month, and there have been times when I was so broke that I wished I could just have that $95 myself BUT looking back I am SO glad I did it. When the RESP matures in 2019 my contributions, the interest, government education grants and the interest on those will total about $32,000. It won’t pay for a full four years at university but it’ll certainly help!

This summer my big goal is to start an RESP for Gwen (I have been even more of a broke-ass than usual since she’s been born, like last year my net income was $2,200 and no, that is not a typo/missing any zeroes) and then one for the baby once they are born this fall. I’m actually really excited about it, and brought up the topic in my parenting discussion group on facebook. Who was saving? How much do you contribute? How much do you hope to have saved by the time your child/ren are grown? I’m basically obsessed with the topic now and have annoyed the hell out of everyone by constantly bringing it up, but I’m like… proud? Really proud! Of what a good start I’ve made for Symphony’s future (…and a little ashamed I haven’t done the same for Gwen yet, but I’m going to!) and I want to share my experience with other parents who may feel overwhelmed about the whole thing.

PLEASE take this all with a grain of salt; I’m not a financial advisor, and my experience is not your experience. We may live in different countries with different regulations and I’m sure we are in different financial positions (although I’m probably not the only broke-ass out there). But I think some of these feelings may be pretty universal, and if I can help people feel better about it I will.

1. Don’t stress about what you CAN’T save, focus on what you CAN save. It’s daunting to look at what the projected costs of a college education will be when your little ones get big. For Sym, if she lives away from home it’s over $100,000. A friend in the US with a daughter Gwen’s age looked into it yesterday and she and her husband would need to start saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month to fully fund their daughter’s education- and they have two kids! In daycare! Which they are spending all their money on! IT’S A LOT. Not everyone is in a position financially to pay for their children’s whole schooling. But just think of it this way: any money you can contribute is money they won’t have to borrow. Imagine if your own student loan amounts were even just $10,000 less. How much less interest would you have to pay, how many fewer payments would you have to make, how much sooner could you free yourself from that burden? And it doesn’t take a lot to save $10,000, just $50 a month for 17 years, and that’s without even factoring in any interest your savings will earn or grants for which they are eligible!

2. Plan for multiple eventualities. What if Sym changes her mind in the next three years (she is only 14) and decides she doesn’t want to go to a traditional four-year university? What if she wants to go to art school (remember, she got an 8 in thinking creatively), or learn a trade? What happens to the money if it’s not all used up, like it’s in a special education specific account! Well, with her RESP I actually have multiple options for how to use the money if it doesn’t all go towards Symphony’s education:

• I can transfer it into an RESP for another child, ie Gwen or Baby #3
• I can transfer it into an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) for myself or Taylor after Symphony turns 21
• I can just like… spend it? myself on whatever I want haha

With the last two options any funds from government education grants would be returned to the government, and with the third one I would have to pay tax on the interest (but NOT the principal). In the event that Sym doesn’t use the money for school I would be most likely to transfer it to my other kids but it’s nice to have other options. And speaking of those…

3. Consider all your savings options. It’s not just about how much money you save, but how you save it. There are so many different ways you can save for your kids! For me an education-specific account with regular, automatic monthly withdrawals was the best because it’s kind of a no-brainer and I’m such a broke-ass all the time (HAVE I MENTIONED I’M A BROKE-ASS YET???) it would have been too easy for me to just spend all my money and save nothing. But maybe this isn’t the best for you. Maybe you can trust yourself to regularly or even sporadically put money in. I know a few people who put any monetary gifts from family (for birthdays, holidays, etc) into their kid’s accounts, and that works for them. Maybe an RESP or 529 (the US version) isn’t practical for you for whatever reason, like you anticipate the contributions may exceed the limit (for RESPs while there is no annual limit for contributions, there is a lifetime contribution limit for any one student), or maybe you want something with a little more flexibility, like a tax-free savings account or a mutual fund that doesn’t have any education-specific restrictions on it. Symphony (aka the luckiest girl tbh) actually has a mutual fund as well, set up by a relative, which could be used to fund any education cost shortfalls left by the RESP, or it could be used for ???anything??? Travel, buying a home, a fancy wedding, saving forever like a Scrooge? THE SKY IS THE LIMIT. Symphony herself is very Scrooge-ly, often “forgetting” to bring her own money when we go shopping to try to trick me into buying her stuff, and has said she’s never having children who will require college funds. Instead she’s going to start saving for her own retirement the moment she can. Such practicality, I’m really not sure where she gets it from!

So just like… know that while the idea of saving for your children’s future education might seem overwhelming, it’s actually not. A little contribution can go a long way, no contribution is too small, and it’s never to late OR to early to start.