If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!
So, we hosted the dreaded boys’ sleepover this past weekend and it was one for the record books. We’d hosted one last year where they were probably in bed by 1 AM. Evidently, at another house, the parents let the kids stay up until 4Am, so a new benchmark was set. This time around, the kids all had in their mind that they had to exceed this prior record for sleepovers amongst their peers. I was unaware of this until about 2AM when they were wired and jumping around with no intention of going to sleep. Here’s what our night consisted of:
- Arrive 8PM
- Play with toys, Legos, Wii and talk until 9:30PM
- Watched Avengers (with them) on the big screen projector in the basement until midnight
- Snacks along the way
- Some more Wii until 12:30 AM, into bed
- 1:00 AM – lights off
- 1:30 AM – warnings to go to sleep
- 2:00 AM – pleading with them to go to sleep
- 2:30 AM – yelling at them to go to sleep
- 3:00 AM -final threat that I’m separating them all and they’re not coming back
- 3:30 AM – finally fell asleep
- 7:30 AM – our youngest daughter up. GREAT!
Needless to say, it wasn’t a very productive Sunday. I still got a job in somehow. But I’m wondering if this is now par for the course that kids think they’re always going to stay up until all hours when there’s a sleepover. It pretty much wrecks them for the next day, as well as the parents. I don’t recall staying up that late when I was a kid. But now I sound like an old fart myself.
What’s Been Your Experience?
Boys Ranged in Ages from 7-9.
After a few years off from weddings once all our highschool and college friends were married, we hit a new spate of weddings this past year with second marriages and our neighbors’ kids getting married. So, as a dad who will inevitably be attending my own kids’ weddings in the future, I had some random musings on the one we just attended and weddings in general:
- Who Pays? This is a point of stress for us, even while our kids are still in elementary school! We weren’t aware of any financial issues for this particular wedding, but the one before it on my inlaws’ side had some issues. Evidently, the groom’s parents had initially agreed to kick in some money for the wedding and then when time came to settle up, they had a change of heart. This is such a sensitive and confusing topic. On one hand, tradition used to hold that the bride’s parents paid for the wedding. That seems a bit outdated and one-sided these days, so it isn’t always the case any more. In the case of my wife and I, we paid for the wedding completely ourselves, but each set of parents gave a nice gift (ON the wedding day) which helped offset our costs. But we didn’t get into any pre-wedding bickering over finances and who pays. We now wonder, with 2 sons and 1 daughter, will our sons end up marrying into a family where they expect equal funding from bride and groom, and then when our daughter gets married, it’s expected that by tradition we pay? We could kind of get the bill on al 3 in a worse case scenario. Ideally, we’d have our kids handle it the same way we did – kids pay, parents give a generous gift. But kind of like college, first cars, first home and so many other things these days, kids don’t seem capable of affording things that prior generations did. Inflation, lack of high paying jobs at graduation, etc. So, who knows; I’d like to think money will be the furthest thing from everyone’s mind on the special day.
- Religious Ceremony? Everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs; I just happen to have a rather minority opinion on creationism, religious beliefs, etc. Let’s just say I’m a scientist and a very objective person. So, much of what I hear from the pulpit just sounds so implausible, sexist and 17th century to me that it’s tough to take seriously. So, at this weekend’s wedding, the religious leader of some sort (not sure what he was exactly) was talking (literally, not figuratively) about how woman was borne of Adam’s rib bone and all that good stuff (the original Adam and Eve story) and he closed with her giving him children and helping him be “the man the Lord meant him to be”. There was no mention of, well, her becoming the woman she could be and to me, it seemed a bit premature to start pushing kids on someone on their wedding day. Heck, give them some breathing room to enjoy a few years together first! Anyway, it made me think back to how a Catholic priest said some pretty rude and outrageous stuff on our wedding day and how we then gave me a dirty look when I “only” tipped him $50 because I was pissed. Personally, I think some of the real preachy and overly religious ceremonies only detract from a wedding celebration and don’t enhance it. I’ve personally enjoyed the speeches that are more fun and inspirational in nature as opposed to pushing a religious agenda. What my kids decide will be up to them, but I certainly won’t push for a religious opening of any sort.
- Open Bar – I have to say, the DJ, the food and the drinks make or break a wedding. In the case of my wife and I, since we were paying and we were young (the first of all our friends and family of our generation to get married), we ended up having open beer/wine, but people had to buy their own mixed drinks. We had heard all these horror stories from our parents about open bars costing the bride and groom thousands and thousands of dollars at the end of the night. We thought having alcohol supplied in some manner was a suitable compromise. I drank beer this whole past wedding (since my wife was sick and agreed to drive – score!) so it made no difference to me; but I did notice most other people were slamming down the mixed drinks. So, I wonder what sort of impact having free mixed drinks has on the “fun” to be had at a wedding.
What Are Your Thoughts on Weddings, Finances and Ceremonies as a Parent or Parent-to-be?
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk in the presidential election cycle about 47% of Americans that don’t pay federal taxes. Most recently, Republican candidate Romney was secretly recorded where he highlighted this number of Americans that don’t pay federal taxes and that they are likely to vote Democratic and rely on the government. Without getting into politics directly here, I thought I’d just share some objective facts about what he is referring to, the different taxes people pay in the US and how it might influence your opinion in future tax policy decisions and voting.
- The 47% – It is true that in recent years, an increasing number of Americans do not have a federal tax liability at the end of the year. While they may have been paying taxes out of their paycheck throughout the year, come refund time, the deductions and credits afforded to them through the tax code are high enough that they offset any taxes paid and get a full refund. 47% is about half the country; in prior years the number was lower, but the trend is increasing. There are various reasons for this ranging from higher unemployment to an aging population to recently enacted tax provisions allowing deductions and credits. The mix of these various factors seems to push the number up each year. One oft-cited argument against why this is a bit misleading is that Americans pay all sorts of other taxes. This is true, and for people that don’t have a high income, the share of their income going to these taxes is quite high! For instance, if you’re making $30,000/yr but paying $10,000 a year in all the other types of taxes below, that’s a full third of your income, whereas a millionaire might only be paying a much smaller portion of their income, even if they spend $50,000 on taxes.
- Payroll Taxes – This is a fixed tax that comes out of your paycheck and is paid by both the employer and employee. The payroll tax goes to fund Social Security payments, so in theory, you’re just paying into a system that will pay you back in retirement. It’s tough to argue that these taxes benefit someone else since it’s supposed to be net neutral and you should get out what you put in based on a calculation on how much you made during your career.
- State and Local Taxes – Most people end up paying state taxes based on their income and don’t get the same credits and deductions that the federal income system allows. So, people that make less money end up spending a higher portion of their payroll on state and local taxes. These taxes pay for everything from local roads to schools.
- Sales Taxes – State sales taxes are based on your consumption, so again, since people that don’t make as much money still need to buy gas, pay cable bills and other expenses that have a sales tax, they end up spending a higher portion of their income than rich people on taxes.
In all, the main reason fewer people are paying the federal income tax is not necessarily their fault; it’s just the way the tax system is structured and reflects the greater number of people without high paying jobs. If the jobs situation were to improve and the government peeled back some deductions and credits, that number of Americans paying the federal income tax would increase.
We’ve been paying for piano lessons for our oldest son for 2 years now. We’ll probably continue to do so at least through middle school. By the time he reaches high school, he’ll probably be inundated with sports, hobbies, girls or perhaps take up a new instrument like guitar. Many people don’t bother with music for their children, and focus solely on sports or scholastics, but there’s plenty of evidence out there that starting to learn music at an early age develops certain regions of the brain that are helpful later in life for spatial recognition and other science/math-related studies.
Aside from potential early development, you also learn about math and most importantly, discipline. Each week, the piano teacher expects him to have practiced a certain number of pages and master a piece to a certain level, which is akin to homework, writing papers and doing projects that he’ll have to contend with later in his academic career. I’ve also personally enjoyed doing the lessons with him. I used to play guitar as a teenager so I have a pretty good grasp of music and was able to pick piano up pretty quickly myself with a couple basic lessons alongside my son when he first started. Now, somewhat comically, for his recitals, the teacher insists I do a duet with him up on the stage each year. While I feel kind of goofy, my son really enjoys it and it’s something we do together.
As far as pricing, we end up paying $20 per lesson which is pretty cheap considering my parents used to pay $25 a lesson 20 years ago when I was playing guitar. I drive him to the teacher and she’s a retired school teacher so I presume she’s doing it cash under the table. Anyway, not everyone has the same outlet, so for instance, if you’re in the market for chicago piano lessons, there are plenty of options to choose from, but given that it’s a large city, expect to pay a bit more; we’re in a lower cost suburb in PA. Regardless, in the grand scheme of things, from both a scholastic and discipline standpoint, I think piano lessons are well worth it. Check out pianolessonsinchicago.com for more details.