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.



wild rose

squirrel friend

This morning I read a blog post where the author complained that she is “so over” summer and is “ready to move on,” and I’m just like… it has been summer for one week, why are you wishing your life away? This same blogger keeps posting about how she CAN’T BELIEVE her kid is five years old already, and where does the time go and like… it passes while you are wishing it would pass faster! Stop rushing through every moment trying to get to the next season and maybe just take one minute to enjoy your life before it’s over, yikes.

After a truly terrible time last week I am finally starting to feel a little better. I really wish I could navigate this pregnancy without having to take medication that makes me sleepy all the time as it exacerbates my exhaustion. I have a lot of guilt right now about not being able to do things with Gwen and how much housework slack Taylor is having to pick up, but some days I honestly can’t do anything I’m so tired. The physical exhaustion is the worst; recently I was trying to fold some laundry, a whole load of little wash cloths, and I could only fold three before I had to go sit down. Hopefully my feeling better this week nausea-wise means I’ll start to feel better staying awake and also vertical-wise, too.

Last week was also difficult because Taylor was working this weird half-day,, half-night schedule where he’d wake up at like 3 or 4 in the morning and work from home for a few hours before going into the office for meetings. It was a nightmare! We saw way less of him and he was sleeping for a lot of the time that we usually spend together, which was a bummer. He also had less time to help around the house and with me being extra sick there was no one to pick up the slack, except for Symphony. I think she got very tired of me asking her every five minutes “can you help me with this one little thing…?” Not a great start to her summer vacation, haha.


A quick note about my shop: there’s a high probability of a Canada Post strike starting this upcoming weekend so I’ve decided to put my shop on vacation mode for now. Customers outside of Canada can still order items designed by me from my society6 since they ship from the US.

good ideas

Gwennie 1

Gwennie 2

Gwennie 3

Gwennie 4

Gwennie 5

I have a surprise day off today, the little girl I look after is sick so she is staying home with her mom. I really wasn’t looking forward to going back to work today after the long weekend so it’s quite serendipitous. Honestly, ALL weekends should be five-day weekends. I figured I’d use a little of my unexpected free time to update my poor, neglected blog. Honestly I have started half a dozen posts in the past week but ended up deleting them all. Maybe I’m over it? Who can say. But I wouldn’t want to disappoint my three fans so here I am.

(Aside: as I was sitting here I heard the sound of someone knocking on one of the interior doors. Gwen often shuts herself in one of the bedrooms and requires rescuing, but this time I found her in the bathroom. She’d stripped off her footy pajamas and had a little bottle of nail polish in one hand and asked me to “Paint toes?” Maybe later, kiddo.)

Last week I had my detailed ultrasound. It was on Friday morning and I was hoping to find out the sex of the baby but wouldn’t you know it, they still have that rule that the technician can’t tell you and you have to wait for your doctor to get the results. I actually had an appointment with my obstetrician right after the ultrasound (I had to RUN from the hospital to her office and I was still late) and she gave me the impression that some techs are a little more lenient about that rule now, but not the guy we had. He was a real stickler and didn’t even show us that area!

I have had been having a lot of anxiety about this pregnancy. With Sym and Gwen I started feeling definitely movement at around 15-16 weeks and this time I didn’t really feel much consistently until 19 1/2 weeks. As you age your chance of having a baby with chromosomal anomalies that are incompatible with life increases dramatically and I’m like, OLD so this lack of discernible movement combined with the fact that I don’t feel like my bump is very big had me freaked out. After seeing the new little Laramie on the sonogram screen I feel a lot better, and my doctor said she would call me with the results “by Wednesday” and hey, that’s tomorrow.

I have actually been thinking recently that I’m not going to announce the sex when/if we are able to find out. It seems like people can’t help but start gendering babies right away, pre-birth even, and I really don’t like it? I have a few different ideas for different kinds of cake reveals we can do to get this point across:

#1. The cake is covered in Swiss meringue and when we cut it open instead of being pink or blue inside it’s nothing, just a hollow shell of meringue because gender is a construct.

#2. Instead of a gender reveal party it’s a “Righteousness Revelation Celebration” (©2016 Taylor Laramie) with angel food cake for a good baby or devil’s food cake for an evil baby.

#3. The cake is actually a green Jell-O mold because it’s an alien baby.

#4. Red Velvet cake for a blood sacrifice?

Idk, these are all pretty good ideas I think. Anyway, let’s wrap this up with a little Tragically Hip (unrelated to post content).

Advice My Mama Gave Me

Way back when my etsy shop was starting to get more popular, my mom gave me this sterling piece of advice, based on her own experience as an artist and craftsperson: Only do it as long as it’s fun. And for a long time it was fun, even when I was thirty-nine weeks pregnant and my shop blew up overnight and I spent the first month of Gwen’s life making banners all day every day and well into the night. It was fun bringing people’s ideas to life, and it was fun coming up with my own ideas and seeing them become popular. It was fun collaborating with other artists and let’s be real here, it was fun earning extra money doing something I enjoyed.

However recently it’s become a lot less enjoyable, and more frustrating. It wasn’t fun making the same three or four banners over and over again, seeing copycats* become more successful than me, and spending every spare minute working on banner orders and having no time to work on anything else. I slowed way down after my carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis, and again when I started offering my most popular banners as ready-to-ship. When I got pregnant in January and was SO sick and SO tired I slowed down even more and removed custom orders from my shop entirely. Of course when that happened my sales went way down but in all honesty, it was worth the reduction in income to have my time to myself again.

Over the past little while I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to bring back my popular ready-to-ship banners or put all the custom listing and made-to-order items back in the shop. I have been making a few custom banners here and there for friends and friends-of-friends but they have been taking me f o r e v e r to finish, and I’ve come to the realization that I just really, really, really don’t wanna do it anymore. Part of it is because I have super limited energy right now; I tend to fall asleep on the couch during nap/quiet time ie the only time during the day I can get any work done, and most evenings I fall into bed as soon as I’m finished at my day job. Like really, probably half the time I’m in bed before dinner and some days I can barely make it until Gwen’s bedtime before I’m asleep. She goes to bed at 7:30 btw. Another reason is that I hate disappointing people, and while I haven’t sent out any items I feel are below my standards I am a little ashamed of how long it’s taken me to get these orders shipped. I actually just sent a message to a friend telling them I wouldn’t be able to make something for them (not even a physical item, just a design!) because I don’t have the energy to do it in any sort of reasonable time frame and I feel like shit about it. And that’s not fun either.

I’m not going to shut my shop down completely; I still have ready-to-ship banners and other cool things (at least I think they are cool) available for purchase, and maybe one day I will get around to adding some of the things I’ve made in the past few months but not listed. Things like my “Not Only Will This Kill You” mini banner and the awesome leather & suede skull patches I made. These are things just sitting around waiting for me to photograph and list them, and I haven’t had the energy or inclination to do even that! But yeah, after I finish any open orders I will no longer be offering custom orders for banners, patches, baby boots or any other items. Ready-to-ship items are still available for purchase in my etsy shop, and you can also find all kinds of really great and not at all terrible things designed by me on my society6 page.

I also want to thank everyone who has supported my work over the years; it was truly great and I have appreciated every order, tumblr reblog, blog feature and instagram like. You are the best, I love you all, and remember:

fart butt small

*I know I was not the only person making banners but when someone follows me on instagram for a year, liking and commenting on pics of my work, then unfollows me, changes their username to something banner-related and opens a shop selling glitter banners it’s kiiiiiiiind of obvious.

baby blue

One thing I really wanted to get done over the winter break was to clear out some space in my storage locker. We usually have to do this about once a year, as we start to run out of room. It was a kind of desperate situation as there was no room left to put the Christmas tree away, which also needs to get done. I figured the best way to free up some room was to do something that we (mostly Taylor) have been putting off for a long time: going through all of Gwen’s baby stuff and getting rid of most of it. We aren’t going having any more babies so most, if not all, of these things aren’t getting used again, and meanwhile they are taking up A LOT of room.

Really we should have been doing this all along; each season as she outgrew things we should have put aside a few precious items and then given away or sold or donated the rest. That’s what I did with Symphony’s things, but someone IE TAYLOR couldn’t bear to part with any of Gwen’s tiny baby items so they just piled up and piled up and piled up until we had nowhere else to put them.

Here’s the thing: even though Taylor didn’t want to get rid of anything, he also didn’t want to have another baby. And me, I’m the one who is CONSTANTLY getting rid of stuff and I did and still do want to have another baby. But we don’t have the money, we don’t have the room, we don’t have the time, so no more babies.

Even though No More Babies had basically been decided, every time I brought up getting rid of Gwen’s baby clothes Taylor would get all emotional about the thought of her teeny-tiny newborn things and accuse me of trying to manipulate him into having another baby. Finally this weekend I was like NO, you are the one who is trying to manipulate me. Holding onto all these little sleep sacks and tiny onesies and minuscule socks was keeping a small secret hope alive in my heart that yes I would get to have another baby, that there was still a chance. But there isn’t, so it’s time.

Taylor went out to the storage room and brought in all the boxes and bins of Gwen’s old clothes and we started going through them, and that’s when I discovered the truth: for all my rational talk of “we don’t need these things” and “it’s time to get rid of them,” well, I don’t want to. I think yesterday we only made it halfway through the first bin of all the smallest clothes before I quit to go cry in bed.

It was the footed pants that set me off; baby Gwen had multiple pairs of these little pants with built-in feet that she used to wear all the time. I had completely forgotten about them, but seeing them again and trying to decide if I should keep one pair in the “precious memories” pile was too much. They weren’t even anything special, just little pants from H&M in white, a couple of shades of brown and a brown & white stripe. Neutrals that went with everything. They came as part of a set, there would be a sleeper, a onesie, a hat and a pair of these little footed pants. They were really no big deal but suddenly for me, those little pants were the biggest deal of all.

When I was younger (like… 30) I never thought about a time in the future when I would have to decide to not have any more babies. I never thought it would be this hard, or this sad. After Sym was born I didn’t even consider having more kids (for a lot of reasons that I don’t care to get into) and I never felt sad about it then, so I couldn’t have predicted I would feel so sad about it now. And like… it’s one thing to intellectually and logically make the decision because you know it’s for the best, but it’s quite another when the emotional side of the equation confronts you in the form of tiny trousers.

In the end I sorted through almost everything. I saved the things that were the most precious, things worn by both my girls, things made by my mom, things that brought up memories of special occasions. Her baby bear suit, the tiny hockey jersey I used to tell Taylor I was pregnant, all the shoes I made for her went in the “keep” pile. The plain white onesies and old every day sleepers went back in the bins so I can decide how to best get rid of them, although tbh I don’t know that I even can.

Gwen is growing up; she’s three now, she helps with the laundry and makes our coffees for us. She’s finally talking, she’s quitting binkies, and I swear one day she’ll master the potty. She’s not a baby anymore, but I’m just not ready to say goodbye to the baby years of my life yet. So one thing is for certain: the footed pants aren’t going anywhere.


take me to the mountains

01 trees & sky

02 foliage

03 mossy brick

04 fave tree

05 gwen path

06 crows

07 oak leaves

08 leafy boots

09 stump

10 creek

11 passionflower vine

The other day I posted a picture I took of a skyscraper- blue glass against a blue sky- in a blog post and I joked (“joked”) to Taylor how off-brand it was for me. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about the image I present here on this blog, and on instagram. I definitely carefully frame and compose all my pics to avoid including a lot of tall buildings, cars, and other urban things. Most of my pictures come from the park, the beach or the Seawall. Pictures of trees and moss and the ocean and sky. Usually I’ll only include pictures of the city from afar, like I don’t live in it, but really my house is right in the middle of downtown.

I love Vancouver and I think it’s beautiful, but I love nature more. I think trees are just about my favourite thing to look at. I don’t think I could to give up the convenience of living in the city, but sometimes I just like REALLY want to get away and go live in a cabin in the wilderness, in the forest, on the side of a mountain. Probably because I don’t want to deal with all my problems, haha. I’m feeling pretty sad this week, about a lot of things but also about nothing. I think I get sad every October. I start working (part time) next week and this morning when I was out with Gwen I was thinking about how much I DON’T ever want my life to be about work again (not that it ever really was, except for those 6 months in 2010 when I was at max capacity for daycare kids and hated my life and cried every day). I just want to create things and have that be enough.

living with chronic neutral face

Living with Chronic Bitch Face by Kris Atomic

Something I have really started to notice recently is whenever post a candid picture of Gwen with a neutral expression on her face, someone always has to make a comment about her mood based on her appearance. “She’s so grumpy!” “She must be tired/need a nap/have just woken up.” “Why is she so serious?” But like…. THAT’S JUST HER REGULAR FACE. THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. She’s not mad or sleepy or cranky (if she was you’d know because she’d probably be yelling), she’s just existing in the world as a girl.


I say “girl” specifically because something I HAVEN’T noticed are these kind of comments directed at little boys. Obviously I don’t post pics of any little boys because I’m not a mom to any, BUT I have been looking after little boys professionally for close to a decade. I literally can’t ever remember anyone saying something about their mood in the same way (unless they are actively throwing a fit) and I get the same remarks about Gwen’s emotional state from acquaintances and strangers in public as I do on pictures. I’ve also seen similar comments on photos of other children with neutral expressions, saying they look “sad” or “miserable,” and it’s ALWAYS little girls. Who knows, maybe this DOES happen with little boys, but the fact that people go around telling women to smile but not men kind of makes me think it doesn’t, or at least it isn’t as common.

Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

So I’m curious: the people making these remarks: do you go around in your daily life with a maniacal grin plastered on your face 24 hours a day? Do you always look super cheerful no matter what you are doing: walking down the street, reading or watching tv, concentrating on a task, sitting quietly doing nothing? Do you never just allow your face to relax? If you do (of course you do; everyone does) does it bother you when people tell you to “smile” or “cheer up”? Can you live? Can Gwen? Why is it that little girls are supposed to look happy all the time? Is it because our society values women & girls only for their appearance, as decoration, as objects? Can we not start putting these expectations on children before they are even out of diapers? Can we stop telling girls to smile?