Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh Yes She Did

Twenty-five years ago I dressed my younger brother up like a girl. Hair bows, make-up, pink skirt, the whole nine yards. It was one of my favorite pastimes. I find comfort in the fact that he now is a manly man, a devoted husband and father who loves sports and flatulence. Thankfully, his cross-dressing was simply out of submission to his older sister's bossy and manipulative ways.

Recently I found solace in my brother's normality because Blondie did this to Cupcake.

The girl dressed the boy up like a girl, complete with smeary lipstick and purple eye-shadow.

Who loves the camera?

I don't think I've ever told Blondie that I used to dress Uncle Aaron up as a girl. Clearly she inherited the makeover gene. As I've said before, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opportunity Cost

My economist husband enjoys using terms like "sunk cost" and "economies of scale" in our regular conversations. Such language is usually met with a rolling of the eyes. Supply and demand curves don't thrill me, much to his chagrin.

But sometimes his economics jargon comes in handy. Every now and then one of his classroom concepts hits so close to home that I want to stand up and applaud.

In this case, the credit goes to John Start Mill, the classical economist who came up with the theory of opportunity cost. I'll explain in a minute. {Believe me it's all related.}

I haven't blogged in two or three weeks. My unintended bloggattical is merely a symptom of this season.

Between homeschooling and making sure Cupcake doesn't burn down the house while I teach, I am spent by 1:00. Too many people and too many tasks seem to require me for completion.

On any given day I want to pretend run away. When I leave for the store my husband says, "Call me when you get to Mexico." We laugh as I pull out of the driveway but we both know he's half-way serious.

I'm not alone of course. I'm simply one among the multitude giving voice to the struggle of the everyday.

Lately the simmer of trying to balance it all has cranked up to a rapid boil. I am often paralyzed by too much needing my attention all at once. The immediate takes precedence and anything that can wait does exactly that.

I want to paint the hutch, so desperately needed for inside storage, that sits in my garage. I want to put away summer clothes, clean out, give away, restore order, write a little, and help others. The chocolate drool stains on my furniture glare at me every time I walk past. I would flip the cushion but I already have.

The non-urgent simply has to wait.

I feel justified in my desires for order and peace. But when I survey the land with brutal honesty, I am left with one painful conclusion:

I want to own my time. I want to make time sit down and obey...but it won't listen, much like my 2-year-old. There is a time for everything but time itself is not mine to subdue.

And this brings us back to our economics lesson.

Opportunity cost: the value of the next best alternative forgone as the result of making a decision. (Webster's)

My example: The opportunity cost of homeschooling is that laundry doesn't always get done in a timely manner or at all. The opportunity cost of having young children at home is a less than orderly household. The opportunity cost of making ends meet means that economist husband teaches extra classes and is gone much of the week.

{And I am thankful. For employment in uncertain times, for the time with my children at home, for a million blessings I could list right now.}

We make decisions that we hope will benefit our family both now and in the long run but the opportunity costs are time and resources for other things that might bring about "visual peace," more room, time for ourselves, and time for others.

I used to work full-time outside the home. The opportunity cost of a fulfilling career and extra income was eventually {for me} too much stress and missing my kids. Now that I'm home full-time, the opportunity cost of being here is missing certain elements of my career and having far fewer dollars.

I doubt that John Stuart Mill ever considered opportunity cost for modern-day moms, both those in and out of the home. But I consider it every day.

There is a season, an opportunity for most everything. Seasons don't last though. A new one arrives and we celebrate. It persists for a time and we endure. It changes, finally, and we welcome another. Sometimes we're glad it's gone. Sometimes we grieve, forever, that it will never return.

Lately I've been less than celebratory over this particular season. I want endless opportunities and no cost. I begrudgingly endure, complaining my way through the laundry and the mess and the tantrums. I'm tired of my own whining.

My soul longs to trudge through with grace and gratitude.

Recently, I pondered a passage that I've heard a hundred times, ancient words considered anew as a welcome salve for this season's irritations.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

a time to change diapers and a time to get a shower ,
a time to teach pronouns and a time to eat chocolate. {SAHM translation}

Words to live by. Apparently John Stuart Mill wasn't the first to articulate opportunity cost...

Class dismissed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Today I decided that I am in the business of crumbs.

There are the obvious crumbs of course. Bits of toast, Cheerio's, and Cheez-It's swept up several times a day. There are also odd, misplaced crumbs such as the rogue piece of popcorn I found in my bedroom yesterday or the half-eaten granola bar beside the toilet left by someone who decided to snack while they sat.

There are crumbs that have nothing to do with food at all. Toy crumbs, for example, like microscopic Legos or a Polly Pocket stiletto, the arm of a plastic T-Rex or the vinyl whiskers that fell off a miniscule cat.

While doing laundry today I discovered yet another classification of crumbs: laundry crumbs. Laundry crumbs add insult to injury for a laundry-phobe like myself. They are the little articles in the basket that sift to the bottom amid the larger items like t-shirts and jeans...tiny bits of my family's wardrobe that live to torment me. Sport socks for toddler feet, kid underpants, and tiny t-shirts. Much like a bag of potato chips, laundry crumbs sink to the bottom of the bin so that I am forced to reckon with the lot of them all at once.

Today was one of those days where I actually saw the bottom of the laundry bin. As I unloaded the dryer, I marveled that 52,174 items of clothing managed to sneak into just one load. One toddler sock is harmless enough but when they ban together, it's like some sort of evil laundry monolith sent from the devil.

As I stripped duvets and unrolled pillowcases from the kids' beds, more crumbs hit the floor. Plastic palm trees, a rock, a Barbie shoe. It's as if my children expect the Apocalypse and want to have some secret junk stashed away while the rest of the world goes up in flames.

The crumbs never end. But as I began to ponder their significance, I realized that crumbs tell us a lot. What do archaeologists do? They study crumbs. They dig up the scraps and fragments of former civilizations. Everything we know about history, we owe to crumbs.

So what would our crumbs say about us? I wondered. {Besides the fact that we have too many socks.}

From the laundry crumbs, one can assume that tiny people live here. From the table crumbs, one can gather that we like cookies. A lot. From the Lego appendages and the crayon shards under the sofa, one might guess that the tiny people are creative. From the paper crumbs, the tucked-away letters and journals, one would even learn that we have loved and sinned and suffered and been restored. That we still struggle...but we are not without hope.

In our crumbs, I see provision.

And so today, I celebrate the crumbs in whatever form they take. To sweep up tiny morsels and be grateful for cookies, to put socks in drawers and bless the tiny feet that fit inside them, to place Lego's in plastic bins and delight in the imaginative play that happens here, to reflect on our story and give thanks for redemption.

Here's to crumbs.
Linked to "Tuesdays Unwrapped" {Chatting at the Sky}


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