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October 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

October 2012 - Posts

  • Running Update #18: Time Is Running Out Edition

     

    Photo courtesy of Jamcelsus

     

    Well. 

    Um.

    Well.

    It's looking a bit dire.

    I'm currently at 354 miles for the year, which means I still have 146 miles to go in November and December. 73 miles per month remaining.

    Yikes.

    I am determined to keep the crappy charity from getting my money. For one thing, I'd rather they didn't know where I lived, let alone the moral implications of my giving them cash.

    I feel as though there is a lesson in this somewhere. I started out the year needing to only run about 10 miles per week. If I had kept that up, I could have taken two weeks off within the year and been fine as frog's hair.

    Here I am faced with having to run 17 miles each week for every. single. week. left in the year with no exceptions, or else I am going to have to cough up some cash for a terrible cause.

    I'm feeling much like I did the night before a major project was due in school, wondering why my previous self hadn't done more to keep me from this terrible fate.

    So, I'm going to look on the bright side. This is a tough challenge I've foisted on myself, but it's doable. I actually love the rhythm of my day when it includes a morning run. I drop LO off at school and head over to the Y. I run for 45 minutes or an hour, and then I'm pleased to polish my exercise halo for the rest of the day. Not to mention how much more satisfying it is to shower after a workout than it is otherwise. You actually feel like you're accomplishing something.

    No matter what happens (and I guarantee that the charity will NOT get my money!) I feel good about the habits I'm instilling in myself.

    I just wish I'd gotten into that better habit place a little earlier in the year.

    In any case, wish me luck as I sprint to the finish. (I'm joking. My speed is never faster than what an Olympic runner might charitably describe as a "lope.")

  • We're a Nielsen Family!

     

    Several weeks ago, J and I received a card in the mail from the Nielsen Company letting us know that we had been chosen to be a Nielsen rating household.

    Considering the fact that the rest of our mail that day consisted of bills and catalogs we did not request, I was pretty darn excited. (In actual fact, I would have been excited no matter what other mail we received. I have always thought it would be awesome to be a part of the Nielsen rating system. As a teenager pining for the cancelled My So-Called Life, I was certain that being a Nielsen family would have rectified all the inexplicable television decisions of my youth.)

    We then fielded a follow-up phone call from Nielsen about a week later, and it was determined that we would, indeed, exercise power over the viewing habits of all America! (Imagine an evil laugh here). No, actually I just told them we were interested and let them know they could send the package of information to us anytime. It arrived yesterday and appears in the photograph above.

    As excited as I am about this opportunity, there are several aspects of Nielsen rating that are not exactly as I expected:

    1. We do not get to be almighty arbiters of what America will watch for the rest of our natural lives. I had always assumed that Nielsen families got to do this gig forever. I mean, they always talk about "Nielsen families," which has a bit of a long-term connotation to it. I mean, family is not a flighty word. But despite my hopes, apparently the usual time frame for taking part in this is a week.

    2. The Nielsen rating system is decidedly low tech. Even back in the dark ages when using a remote control meant telling your little cousin to get up and change the station for you, I always thought that Nielsen had some sort of box attachment to see exactly what you kept your television tuned to. (It would be much more convenient for those families who are doing the Nielsen ratings for life, you see.) But apparently they rely on a paper TV watching diary and the honor system. (Because how much am I tempted to tell them I'm watching Masterpiece Theater when in fact Real Housewives is having a marathon?)

    3. We're getting paid for our trouble! When the Nielsen Company called us to discuss our willingness to do this, they mentioned that we would receive $30 for our participation. Never did it occur to me that they would send the 30 bucks in cash. (It also makes me wonder how many unopened Nielsen packages have been taken to recycling with their magical cash contents left untouched.) J and I are thinking about spending the cash on takeout, which we'll eat in front of the television, natch.

    Considering the fact that our television watching habits consist of PBS Kids in the morning (with no commercials) and The Daily Show and Top Gear from On Demand in the evening, I'm curious what they will conclude about our household. Perhaps that political ads and car commercials should be added to broadcasts of Curious George.

    If that happens, we sincerely apologize.

  • Taking Care of Your Possessions

    When I was young enough not to know any better, I took a job as an administrative assistant for an ice cream company. (One would think that this would be my dream job. One would be wrong. I'm neither cut out for office work/politics nor strong enough to handle the temptation of ice cream available at all hours at work.)

    One of my fellow office assistants was quite the clothes horse, which meant she was quite irritated at having to wear our office uniform of khaki pants with a polo shirt with the company's logo stitched over the breast pocket. She mentioned to me once that she still had socks and a couple of shirts from middle school, plus pretty much everything from high school. (She was in her late twenties at the time.) She detailed the work she went into to keep her duds looking new and fresh year after year.

    I felt both a pang of remorse and a sense of inadequacy while she talked. I certainly didn't make sure to wash everything in cold water and then air dry it all to make sure that it did not become threadbare. My clothes barely survived a couple of years under my care. I wondered for weeks if I should be taking better care of my clothes.

    One day, my co-worker gave me a ride home, and I saw that the interior of her car was littered with loose CDs. "Just shove those out of the way," she said, gesturing to the layer of un-jewel-cased music on the passenger side floor. As I "shoved," I noticed that each disc appeared to have at least one scratch.

    That was when I realized that each indivdual has differing priorities on which possessions to take care of. I was horrified to see how carelessly my co-worker was treating her CDs, just as she couldn't believe that I threw everything I owned into a hot washer and a dryer on laundry day.

    Seeing her cavalier attitude regarding her technology made me feel a little smug.

    Fashion styles will come and go:

    but your music files will last forever.

    (My co-worker was only a few years older than me, but I believe she was old enough to remember vinyl records and would have recognized the folly of that particular assumption of mine.)

    In any case, after that CD-scratching/eye-opening moment, I never looked back regarding my (lack of) clothing care. I was the type of person who took care of media, and clothes could go hang themselves. (See what I did there?)

    Now, unfortunately, I have a young man in the house who does not regard technology with quite the careful eye that I do. We're currently out three Pixar movies, and I'm wondering where I'll have to hide the replacements to keep them in pristine condition. (Considering the fact that LO often takes the disc out of the DVD player in order to practice putting it back in again, we're also going to have to find a safer place for the player.)

    What really worries me, however, is how gently LO brushes dirt and applesauce off his clothing. It's entirely possible that a tech-saver has given birth to a clothes-saver.

    Oh, the humanity!

  • Failing at Meal Planning

     

    Nearly every week, I sit down on the weekend with a pile of cookbooks, a calendar for the week, and a pad of paper for my grocery list. The result generally looks like this:

    Monday: Chicken Tortilla Soup from Fix It and Forget It Lightly

    Tuesday: Citrus Pan Fried Tilapia from Mediterranean Cookbook

    Wednesday: Eggplant and Bean Curry from Thai Cookbook

    Thursday: Spicy Broccoli Fritatta from 29 Minutes or Less Cookbook

    Friday: Spaghetti and Meatballs from my brain

    Unfortunately, that well-planned out list can be easily derailed. For example:

    Monday, at 4 pm I'll realize that I forgot to defrost the chicken for the tortilla soup, let alone put all the ingredients into the crock pot in enough time. I'll decide to make my default dinner of spaghetti and meatballs instead.

    On Tuesday, in the hopes of getting back into the swing of my list, I'll actually make the tortilla soup. It's delicious. So far, not so bad.

    On Wednesday, I'll realize that both the citrus pan-fried tilapia and the eggplant and bean curry sound hard to make (since they were both recipes I'd decided on the spur of the moment to try), and I'm not in the mood for the broccoli fritatta. I'll rummage through the cabinets and fridge until I realize I can put together a stir fry with things we've got lying around, as long as I don't mind cutting up the chicken while it is still frozen. A minor flesh wound ensues.  Nonetheless, I manage to put a dinner together using ingredients I had been saving for other meals.

    On Thursday, I'll spend 20 minutes wondering how I could make a broccoli fritatta without any broccoli (since I used it for the stir fry the night before) before I realize there's nothing to do but make a difficult recipe or call J to bring home some carryout. I call J.

    On Friday, I realize that I've already used my take-out dinner card for the week and despair at the lack of meals I have any interest in cooking. After double checking every storage area in the kitchen to see if anything I'd like to cook has magically appeared, I decide to try the eggplant and bean curry. J comes home while the meal is cooking to tell me that not only did he have Indian food for lunch and is therefore not really in the mood for more curry, but he also overdid it a little at the Indian buffet (because it really is good stuff) and is not even remotely hungry. I end up eating saltines with peanut butter along with LO, and package up the curry in the refrigerator, where it will remain until it has become a science experiment, at which point we will throw it out and consider also throwing out the tupperware it is stored in, thereby certainly putting us behind in the entire money saving aspect of meal planning.

    I tend to do better with dinner planning when I choose recipes that are either easy or part of my repertoire. And even though I know this about myself, I still find myself perusing the lesser-known recipes and the "interesting" cookbooks. Apparently, Emily doing the planning seems to think that Emily who will actually do the cooking likes a challenge, which is simply not the case. Clearly, this is another way that night guy can really make things difficult for morning guy.

    Next time you see me with my nose a cookbook of ethnic/special dietary foods that requires a specific set of kitchen tools which the average American does not have, do me a favor. Slap me silly. I'll thank you for it.

  • The Beige Carpet Effect

     

    Photo of a rather boring living room courtesy of Aimcotest

    One of my pet peeves in personal finance writing has to do with home improvement recommendations. For example, Bankrate recently posted a list of the 6 Worst Home Fixes for the Money. The slideshow starts off with the warning that taking out a home equity loan to pay for a home renovation will not necessarily pay off when it's time to resell the house. And that is most certainly good advice. If you are using equity that you can't afford to lose in order to do a little work on your house, then it's foolish to assume that you'll recoup that money when you're ready to sell.

    But my problem with this sort of advice is the level to which many writers then take it. (And to be fair, Bankrate's Dana Dratch does not do this. She also has the greatest alliterative name ever). So-called experts will tell people not to make changes to their home because it will affect the resale value. I once remember reading a letter to Dear Abby wherein a very short woman was asking if she should have her dream home built to her specifications and height challenges, considering how difficult it might be to sell later.

    That's just nuts!

    If you're planning on actually living in the house you're modifying, then what does the resale matter? The Dear Abby correspondent should suffer through never being able to reach the Grape Nuts for thirty years for fear of inconveniencing a taller hypothetical buyer who will be living there years in the future? That does not sound like the actions of a rational homeowner.

    J and I put a great deal of work into our old house in Columbus. We didn't keep a running tally of how much we spent, but I know that we certainly didn't get that money out of the house when we sold it as we were only able to get $6000 more than we paid for it. But neither of us feels a single pang about having done that work for "nothing." Because the work we did was for our own comfort and enjoyment for the five years that we lived in the lovely old house. We chose paint colors we liked and outfitted the bathroom in a style we liked and insulated the entire home, all because it pleased us and we happened to be the ones who were living there at the time.

    Acting like future are more important than we are leads to what J and I call the beige carpet effect. Beige carpet is inoffensive. No one has a problem with beige carpet--like they would with purple or green, for example--and it tends to be easier to clean and less likely to show dirt than white or other light colored carpet. But in addition to being inoffensive, beige carpet is boring as all get out. It's a safe choice, but it's no one's first choice. Making decisions about the house where you live based upon safe and inoffensive choices means you'll live in a place that feels like no one's home, because no one is that boring. So if you want a lavish home office that won't pay for itself when you're ready to sell, then who cares? It's your office!

    (This renovation advice annoyance is somewhat related to my annoyance at personal finance gurus stating that paying rent is simply throwing money away. It ignores the fact that paying rent allows you to have a place to live! That seems like an excellent use of money to my mind.)

    Basically, my feeling about home improvement is to make your decisions based upon your wishes and your budget. Let any future buyers deal with whatever you have done. They don't live there yet.

     

    By the way, we have a Blogoversary Winner! Aiti is the lucky chocolate winner. Make sure to tell her congratulations and then hang around for a few moments to see if she'll spontaneously offer you one. It works for me.

  • A Family History of Envelope Budgeting

     

    Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel

    I apparently come from a long line of envelope budgeters. When J and I started doing the envelope system several years ago, I mentioned to my father what we were doing. He teased me about it being a very progressive budgeting strategy--one that my great-grandma Mae (his grandmother) had done for her entire life.

    "Mae tried a checking account a couple of times," he said. "She got confused and overdrew it both times, and went right on back to her envelopes." I guess the idea of money not yet being gone from your account until after a check clears would be hard to wrap your head around--if you're used to question "Is there money available?" having either a yes or no answer. An envelope of cash is not known for its subtlety.

    On the other side of the family was my great-grandmother Fannie.  She was a wealthy and very canny woman. My mother and grandmother have always told me that Fannie would have gone into finance if that had been something women were allowed to do back in the day.

    While Fannie had checking and savings accounts, she apparently also used envelopes. Well, actually, she used purses as her envelopes. She used each purse she owned as a specific savings account for things she'd prefer to spend cash on. She had one purse for Hannukah presents and a purse for each member of the family's birthday, and a purse for dining out, and so on. Everyone in the family knew that she liked to keep cash that way, but it wasn't until she passed away that they realized just how much she saved in her purses: my mom and grandmother and aunts found over $3000 in Fannie's various purses. Since none of the purses were labeled, they didn't know exactly what she was saving for in each one.

    Upon hearing these stories, it helped me to understand where my squirrel tendencies come from. Even before I got on board with the Dave Ramsey envelope system, I have socked money away in unusual places. I used to keep a jar of dollar bills on my desk to encourage me to write. I paid myself a dollar into it every day that I worked on my manuscript. This was back when I had a little trouble making ends meet, and yet I never touched the money in that jar. It was my writing money.

    I have also always subscribed to my grandmother's money-hiding wisdom. She always told me to put the money in the bottom of a new box of, ahem, feminine hygiene products. Her theory was that a burglar was more likely to be male and therefore unlikely (and in fact, probably too squeamish) to look in such a spot.

    And then, of course, there are my books. I have never been one to keep money in purses (other than the one I'm carrying) because I'm not the sort of woman to own that many pocketbooks. But what I do have a lot of are book books. From the time I was a kid, I kept my allowance, babysitting, and found money in various books. (On a similar money security theory that a burglar was unlikely to go through each and every one of the hundreds of titles I own, I figured putting cash in books was relatively safe.) And I could always assign a different savings category to each book. Ulysses for a trip to Ireland. High Fidelity for mp3s and stereo equipment. The Secret Garden for landscaping. House of Leaves for home improvement and ghost-busting needs. (I've never done this, mind you, but the possibilities are endless.)

    This tendency to hide and save has apparently come down from several savvy women in my family. It's good to be part of a tradition.

     

    It's not too late to enter my blogoversary giveaway!  I'm giving away a box of Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by noon on Thursday, October 25.

  • Any Suggestions for Money Books for Kids?

     

    LO and I make a weekly pilgrimage to our local library. I pick up some mysteries and paperbacks and the occasional financial book, and LO makes a beeline for the kids' computers/the giant staircase/anything he could break which would result in our not being invited back to the library. It's a fun and relaxing time for all.

    On a recent visit, I saw this title in the children's section. Since it was a kid's book that dealt with how money works and how to manage it, I decided to take it home for perusal. (LO's ability to be halfway up the stairs, apparently on his way to the non-fiction section, within 1.2 seconds of my taking my eyes off of him, means that I basically have to judge books by covers and save actual examination of said books for home.) After looking through this book (which I am not specifically naming here--although you can find out if you like by clicking the link--because I'm sure that the author and illustrator worked their fannies off on it), I decided that it wasn't exactly the clearest or most interesting explanation of how money works, and I already understand(ish) the subject and find it fascinating. Woe to the child who tries to slog through this.

    It got me wondering about money books for children. I have a memory or two of books about money from my own childhood. Mostly they stick there because the books were so completely awful. (For example, our school gave out some sort of comic book about an island where the people decided to start using money. One guy was trying to figure out what to call a paper IOU and saying to himself "I'll check with John, check with Stephanie, check with...That's it! I'll call it a check!" Even as a 9-year-old, I recognized that this was not only a stupid explanation of the etymology of something that actually existed and therefore had a real etymology that was probably more interesting, but I also seriously doubted that a group of individuals would come up with a checking account system on a deserted island! If anyone else remembers this "educational" comic book, I'd love to reminisce with you.)

    In any case, I don't really remember learning anything about money from my reading, and I read a lot as a kid (and a teenager, and a young adult, and a college student, and...)

    So, I thought I'd ask the Dollar Stretcher community if you had any recommendations for books about money that kids will actually be interested in reading and can learn something from. I know money is a dry subject, but I figure if Stephenie Meyer can make vampires boring, then someone should be able to make money interesting. (Ducking as Twilight fans are pitching glittery tomatoes in my direction.)

    If you know of any good money books for kids (or any terrible ones you recall with miserable fondness), please leave me a comment. I'd love to work on creating a library of those sorts of book. Or, if they don't exist, maybe start thinking about writing one myself. (SHHHHHH! Don't tell anyone I said that. That's the sort of comment that leads to work on my part).

     

    Speaking of comments, have you commented on my Blogoversary Giveaway post? I'm giving away a box of Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by noon on Thursday, October 25.

     

  • A Halloween Costume Update

     

    Photo courtesy of Luke Aikins

    You'll be relieved to hear that J and I have finally agreed on LO's Halloween costume. Our little man will be trick-or-treating as Felix Baumgartner, the most (currently) famous daredevil.

    In order to create this costume, I decided to get a white hooded sweatshirt, since the child will not willingly wear any kind of headgear or other cranial accessories. We'll decorate the hood to look like a helmet (basically by adding a cardboard visor), and if it just hangs down from his shoulders all night, it will just make him look like Felix in this particular photo of the skydiver who will never have to buy his own drinks again.

    However, no one seems to sell white hoodies for toddlers, because white is a stupid color to put a toddler in. So, I got a gray one and am working on bleaching all the color out of it.

    From there, J and I will be making an iron-on Red Bull symbol for the sleeve, a parachute to hang behind the young man, and will be placing a glow stick necklace around the young man's neck in order to simulate the opening in Felix's suit where it attached to the helmet.

    I had wanted to make a costume myself, since it would surely be less expensive than buying one. Let's just examine that fallacy, shall we?

    For comparison's sake, let's take my 6-month-old niece's costume (a peapod), which was purchased from Target for $16 and can be placed on the child with the same ease as any other onesie.

    For LO, I have so far purchased:

    Gray hooded sweatshirt from Good Will: $2.99

    RIT Color remover from JoAnn's: $2.29

    Fabric Stiffener (for making the young man's parachute rigid so it will not be mistaken for a cape), also from JoAnn's: $5.99

    Printable Iron-On Transfer Paper (for Red Bull Logo), also from JoAnn's: $6.99

    Glow stick necklaces from Party City: $3.98

    Grand total: $22.24.

    And let's not forget that I still have to bleach the hoodie, print out and iron on the iron-ons, make, stiffen, and attach the parachute, and make the cardboard visor for the helmet.

    All of this for a costume that will have neighbors asking "Is he supposed to be an astronaut? Or what?"

    What is it about holidays that make me lose my mind?


    Don't forget to enter my blogoversary giveaway!  I'm giving away a box of Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by noon on Thursday, October 25.

  • Taking the Hair-Selling Plunge

     

    Longtime readers might remember my cockamamie scheme to sell my hair for a nice big chunk of change. Through the course of my financial blogging, I found this (rather creepy) website. (Motto: The #1 Global Human Hair Marketplace. You can't make this stuff up.) Apparently, there are wigmakers (one hopes) out there who are willing to pay a pretty penny for long, healthy hair. A $600 to $900 pretty penny.

    I have been thinking about doing this for quite some time. But in June or so, J pulled at my ponytail one day and said, "I really like your hair as it is. Of course it's up to you, but I'd prefer if you didn't sell it. It looks so pretty." Much smooching ensued.

    Fast forward several months, and my hair is actually too long to wear in a pony tail after a shower without having a lovely drippy water stain down my back. Even tied back, it gets in my way while running. I wear it in a high bun every day, and still I find strands in the hummus. I've gone from beautiful long hair to is she a member of some sort of cult? It is more than time for me to cut my hair.

    So, last weekend I had J take a photograph of my hair. We measured and discovered I had 16 inches of hair to offer. I duly posted the information on the creepy website--only to find that I had to pay $14.50 for the privilege.

    No matter. It's possible my hair will be worth more than my Mazda 626, which is also on the auction block.

    In the past week, I've received exactly two emails from prospective buyers. No follow up communication from either one.

    I had hoped that selling my hair would be a romantic/literary proposition. Instead, it just feels really slightly creepy.

    So, I'm going to give the website another few days to generate interest in my 16 inches of dark brown hair. Then, if I've found no takers, I'll head to the salon and have my ridiculously long hair chopped off for Locks of Love. As wonderful as it would be to earn $900 for something I grew myself, I'm really just ready to not be quite so Rapunzel-esque anymore. And it would be a mitzvah to have my hair go to a deserving kid.

    No matter what, I'm looking forward to once again enjoying meals sans additional "fiber."

     

    Don't forget to enter my blogoversary giveaway!  I'm giving away a box of Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by noon on Thursday, October 25.

  • 529 Fears

    Photo courtesy of Austin Godber

     

    My parents got divorced when I was 3 years old, and my big sister was 6. The standard boilerplate for a divorce in Maryland specified that parents would provide for their children to get an education through the University of Maryland system. My father requested that the lawyers change that wording. He wanted it to be clear that if his daughters wanted to go to Harvard, then he would get on his hands and knees and scrub floors to make sure that happened.

    While neither of us went to Harvard, we both did decide on private liberal arts colleges: Oberlin for Tracie, and Kenyon for me. The tuition for Kenyon when I started in 1997 was somewhere in the range of $24,000 per year. My four years there cost over $100,000, considering the tuition was hovering near $30,000 by my senior year. While neither of my parents had to scrub floors to send me there, it was definitely more expensive than a University of Maryland education would have been.

    And I could not be more grateful.

    Attending Kenyon has affected my life in so many ways, from my education to my philosophy of life to my relationships--to the fact that its proximity to Columbus is part of why I moved there as a 22-year-old graduate, meaning I was in the right city at the right time two years later to meet a certain mechanical engineer. Heck, there's a reason why J and I decided to get married at Kenyon.

    I sometimes have fantasies about LO attending my alma mater, although I try very hard to squelch those. I want him to have the wonderful collegiate experience I did, which he can't do if I try to have him live up to my expectations. 

    Unfortunately, I'm not certain that I will be able to afford to send him to Kenyon in 16 years, even if he wanted to go there.

    A Bankrate video I recently watched (which I unfortunately have not been able to embed), points out the difference between starting to save at birth and waiting until your little scholar is 12. If you start by putting away $200 at birth, then, through the magical power of compound interest, you will have about $77,000 stashed by the time he reaches age 18. This will cover about 21% of the cost of a private university in 2028 and about 49% of a public school's tuition.

    J and I have been good little savers. We started putting money aside for LO's college fund before he was born. And I really believe in the power of compound interest. But even with all of those things, unless something changes, we're looking at only saving a quarter to a half of the money LO will need for college.

    Back in the 80s, when I was a munchkin, the prospect of paying for college was something a normal middle income family could plan for, even if it required hands-and-knees scrubbing. These days, I worry about my ability to give LO the incredible college experience I had. I have no qualms about allowing LO to take on student loans--that was part of how my family paid for my college education and I was proud to be able to do my financial part in paying for my spendy liberal arts degree. But asking my child to take on the level of debt that would be necessary to pay for $400,000 worth of private undergraduate education is not something I'm willing to do.

    So, I'm faced with the prospect of either trying to find ways to save more, or knowing that my child cannot have the kind of experience I did. (Or, there's always the alternative of encouraging him to start on a sport NOW.)

    Ultimately, I know that it will all work out in the end. We are certainly not the only family in this predicament, and something will have to give in terms of higher education costs. And LO is going to have an interesting, educational, and fun path, filled with incredible relationships and moments of self discovery, whether or not he has an opportunity to get an expensive liberal arts education. 

    I just wish I felt more confident that I could give him his pick of great choices in 16 years.

     

    And on that bummer of a note, let's have some chocolate! Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by Thursday, October 25.

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