Archive for the ‘Family and Friends’ Category

Entryway Closet

HPIM6823We purchased our home as a short sale and it was in need of some TLC. One of the things that needed to be worked on was our entryway coat and shoe closet. It was just an empty space with bi-fold doors and when we moved in we had filled is with boxes. Problem is where do you put your shoes and coats when you come in if the closet is full of boxes? Anywhere in the house! This of course was not helpful in keeping clean carpets or having the kids shoes in the same spot every time, which resulted in missing the bus occasionally.

HPIM6931So with getting the carpets cleaned professionally by Michael’s Professional Carpet Cleaning (which did an outstanding job, even removed the blackberry and printer ink stains) we wanted to keep these carpets clean from dirt, mud and food. So I departed to Home Depot for some basic supplies, 1×4 pine boards, 3/4” red oak plywood (cut in 3 equal pieces), oak edge veneer, closet rod, shelving clips, shelving standards and stain. So I took the boards over to my dad so we could dado the pine boards to receive the plywood and dado the plywood to receive the standards so that they were flush.

With the boards dado’ed, it was time to stain them. I used two different stains, classic oak for the plywood and jacobean for the pine as they accepted the stains differently and these two colors actually complemented each other quite well. I also added a coat of polyurethane as there will be wet coats and shoes potentially in contact with the wood and I didn’t want the wood to get ruined. Entryway ClosetOnce it was stained I glued the plywood to the pine and added a few pin nails to hold it while the glue bonded. Then it was the simple task of finding the studs and screwing the pine back boards to the studs.

Now we have a place for all those coats and shoes along with games, BOBs (Bug Out Bags) musical instruments, biking gear, shoes, coats and even playdough! The carpets are thanking me already!


What if… Emergency Preparedness

With the recent disaster in Japan and others including the BP oil disaster, middle east revolutions and more each day more and more people bring up disaster preparedness. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, preparedness has been talked about for years especially centered around have a year’s worth of food storage. However, the best way to be prepared is to actually practice disaster drills. Think about fire drills at work and school. They can be very disruptive but if a fire broke out there do you know what to do? Can you do it in near automation mode? If the answer is yes then you know why drills are important.

There are many good preparedness blogs though one of the best for the average person I believe is from one that survived Katrina and posted about the experience with worksheets on his blog, “Listening to Katrina.” He gives a great outline on getting prepared in your own region

The important part of preparedness though is to practice. Have a drill every 6 months on getting out of the house in 30 seconds or packing the car for evacuation in an hour. Turn off the power and see if you can hook up the generator if you have one or just see how you would manage without power or water. These practices can be as short or as long as your family wants to tolerate. One way to make sure you always practice is whenever the fire alarm goes off practice the fire drill. If you are like me the occasional burning of the food will provide you with at least a drill every 6 months. Smile

Bag of Devouring

A group of friends and our spouses get together as often as we can (once or twice a month) and gather around the table to play Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, the game is extremely fun, but it really is the social aspect of getting together and having time to talk and catch up one with another that keeps us coming back for more. Anyway as we were playing our party happened upon a bag of devouring (though at the time we thought it was a bag of holding) whose only indication that it was not a bag of holding was that everything placed in it disappeared. Knowing about bags of holding I suggested turning the bag inside out. Thanks to the quick thinking of our DM (Dungeon Master) we found out that if you placed anything near the seam of the bag it would be consumed. Our rouge was overjoyed and now he has a new touch attack to play with. So for those DM wanting to know the attack of an inverted bag of devouring here it is:

(For a Level 4 character wielding a Bag of Devouring)

Touch Attack
Attack +3
Damage: 2d3
Critical: 18-20 x2
Weight: 25 lbs

Note: If you put it in a portable hole it acts the same as if you placed a bag of holding in a portable hole. (IE both items are destroyed) Placing a portable hole in a bag of devouring will kill off the creature and cause the bag of devouring to become a bag of holding.

Flaws in applying “Cost of a Child”

Ok whenever I see these headlines that state along the lines of “Raising Children Costs Between $286,050 and $476,000” I have to wonder what goes into their calculations. So after a little digging I found out that they are just using the USDA’s calculator which takes averages from across the nation on expenses to determine this number. You can try it for yourself with the USDA child cost calculator. The problem when deciding whether to have children or not based a dollar value is that every family has a different situation which could increase or greatly decrease the cost to raise a child to the age of 17.

Let us look at each category that goes into their calculation to see what could be adjusted.


These expenses lump together furnishings, mortgage, taxes, home maintenance, utilities and any other costs that go into housing. If you think long enough about this you realize that these are mostly expenses you are already paying. It is true that having children may influence the purchase of a larger home and thus potentially a larger mortgage but the only difference caused by children is from a home (or apartment) that you would normally be living in without children. Here is an example of what I am trying to say. All the families live in Seattle, WA with one spouse staying home. Family 1 is a childless couple living in an apartment (800 sq. ft.), Family 2 has one child in a 3/2 home (1410 sq. ft.)  and Family 3 has 3 children in a 4/2 (2170 sq. ft.) home.

Note: In housing the first number is the number of bedrooms and the second is the number of bathrooms).

Note: I used Zillow to get the mortgage/rent numbers and tried to pick prices that seemed average. I used Microsoft Hohm to get the average utility cost. For furnishings I used a bed (one per bedroom), dresser (one per bedroom), fridge, TV, Xbox 360 S with a Kinect, dining table, and a computer and took the total and averaged it over 6 years (wasteful but I believe it is the average replacement rate). Used Bing Shopping to get the prices of these items.

Monthly Expense Family 1 Family 2 Family 3
Mortgage/Rent $1200 $1600 $1750
Utilities $190 $210 $240
Furnishings $75 $82 $100


As you can see the difference between no children and one child is about $5124 per year, a little less than the $5,838 that the USDA was putting in their calculation. But the really important part to note is that having 3 children changes the cost to $7500 difference which is $2500 per child, half the cost per child. So the more children makes housing cheaper per child. Of course if you were going to get a house anyway then the cost difference in housing between one child and no children is about $84 a year for the extra furnishings.


Food is most likely what people think of when they think what would cost more from being childless to having that bundle of joy. The thing is that for the first year your food budget most likely will not change. Having a three year old and having tracked my expenses for the past 6 years I see that hasn’t been much of a change in my yearly food expenses. Similar to the situation when you get married where the amount does increase but not by a factor of two. Now as they grow older this of course will change, but in my case just enlarge the garden to help keep these costs down and keep them healthier too.


If the average couple did not have a car I could understand why they include car payments, but since most people already have a car why does this include the payment for a single child? If they had more than two kids they might have the car payment for the van as an additional expense, but since you most likely already had a car along with insurance, maintenance, etc. I think that this number is way too high. Of course extra amounts for the extra fuel you need to move the child around could be counted, but I hope you aren’t spending an extra $1925 a year to get to those appointments.


Ok I don’t spend $988 a year for clothing on myself, much less for my children. Especially when they are very young there are very few reasons to actually buy new clothes as they will be outgrown in short order. Thrift stores, Freecycle, friends and family all are great ways to get great clothes for a very low cost. Even as they grow older and want to express themselves in their clothing tastes if they earn/save the cash to buy it for themselves then hopefully they will appreciate it more and as a benefit it won’t cost you. They do include the diapers though so for the first few years you might spend around $400 a year if you use disposables.

Health Care

Now this one is extremely variable, my health insurance covers all preventative care for free but I am sure there are others that do spend more than $925 annually on each of their children. What I found interesting was that this number also happens to be the smallest number of all the factors that they are taking in account..

Child Care

In a two-income home I can see having such a large expense for child care, most likely even larger. So this would increase the cost of a child for a two-income home more than a single income home since in the single income home we have a stay at home parent taking care of the children and most  child care expenses are for the babysitter on date night. In either case this expense will diminish over time allowing more for the second part: Education.


Along with that first day of school comes fees, supplies, activities, and more; or does it really come with so much? A backpack you say? I remember one girl back in elementary school that used a rolling carry-on luggage to carry around supplies. Not only was it stronger and more durable then the standard backpack but it kept heavy loads from off her back. Pens, pencils and paper? Normally people have these lying around the house anyway along with a 3 ring binder. Overall a lot of the supplies they require we already have around the house. Unfortunately school fees are hard to get around though some have suggested that the child cover part of the fee. That might actually help those junior high and high school age children appreciate the class more and improve their performance. Personally I think if it was implemented correctly it will motivate them to save for and pay for their college education.


A nice catch all category for everything else, though most of the suggested items are items that differ a lot between families so make sure you put in the number for your family as no one is average.

There now you can create a number that is specific for your family and see exactly how much that bundle of joy really will cost, and it might surprise you how affordable parenthood really is.