Monday, December 5, 2011

A Letter From Everyman

Millie writes:

I received this letter from a new reader:

Dear Millie,

      You have been a mother of several children during times of economic duress, a spouse of a man who had at times difficulty finding employment because of factors beyond anyone's control, and, prior to that, a military spouse living off of a military salary, bearing and raising your firstborn on the meager pay of an enlisted man. Despite the troubles you must have encountered, you have always come across as calm and collected, for richer or poorer. What are some things you would recommend to a young family struggling to manage the costs of daily life?

         -Private Joe Everyman

Dear GI Joe,

First of all, thank you for this:  “. . . you have always come across as calm and collected, for richer or poorer.”  That is one of those parenting things for which you strive without knowing whether you succeeded until your children are old enough to ask – and by then it’s too late to change!

One obvious answer is that the breadwinner(s) – in your case, the military member – must strive for advancement to the utmost of his ability.  When you are mired in the day-to-day grind of enlisted life, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that things can (and in fact will) get better.  Babies are cheap, children are costly and teens are hella expensive.  Work your butt off now so that in ten years you’ll be ready for that.

In order to “manage the costs of daily life” now, make sure that you and your partner have the same goals.  It won’t work if your wife is baking her own bread while you take your platoon to lunch; likewise, if you are brown-bagging it with leftovers every day while she’s out buying Chanel No. 5, it will be difficult to get a handle on your finances.

These things are self-evident, however; there are many “Balance Your Budget” books that can help you with that.  What you are asking is how I managed to come out on the other side of a financially-challenged couple of decades with apparent serenity.  Here are my top 10 personal recommendations to a young couple starting out with big hopes and dreams but slim pocketbooks.

-Love, Millie

Never let ‘em see you sweat. I may have come across as calm and collected, but I wasn’t.  I was terrified.  However, I didn’t think I had the right to burden the children with our financial woes.  It’s a full-time job just worrying about being a kid, without having to worry about your parents’ utility bills.  We kept money discussions for “adults only” time – kinda like sex and Vin Diesel movies.

Hold your head up.  You have a loving wife and a darling starter-family, you’re doing an important job, and you’re young, strong and intelligent.  You’re broke, not second-class.  You are not poor.  If your children ever hear you say that you are, that is how they will define themselves.  Show them at all times that you’re proud of yourself and of the life you’re building.  Remember: three years of tight budgeting can feel like a blip on the radar to you, but to your child it may comprise the entire span of his conscious memory.  You don’t need a lot of money to give your children the priceless feeling of security.

Focus on what’s important.  I realized when my first child was born that we didn’t have a lot of money, but that there was no limit to the time and energy I was willing to spend.  I was determined that all six of my children would have the same advantages and opportunities that they’d have had if they’d been born into a rich family, and I’d pay for it in hard work and self-sacrifice. We couldn’t afford private schools, so I worked the system to get them transferred into good public schools and then volunteered thousands of hours in those schools.  I gave them introductory music lessons, found classes cheap or free at community centers so they could learn fencing or martial arts or dance, and invented city-wide scavenger hunts when we couldn’t afford the over-the-top birthday extravaganzas favored by their peers.  Decide what you would do for your child if you did have a lot of money, and then make those things happen using your own stubborn wits.

Know where your money goes.  Even the most sensible budget can be completely undone by something small.  Five bucks at Starbucks on the way to work every morning doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to $100 a month.  Buying small bags of treats for school lunches can break the bank over a year’s time.  Seeing first-run movies every week on Date Night – I don’t even want to think about that expense.  I’m not saying don’t drink coffee or pack raisins or go to the movies – but think about what part of the experience you value, and then figure out a way to make it happen wholesale.  If you love the Starbucks experience, limit yourself to Friday mornings and savor it; if it’s the coffee you crave, make it at home (you can buy the flavored syrups cheap at restaurant-supply stores) and tote it in a thermos.  Buy a big bag of raisins or chips and parcel them out into small bags or reusable containers.  Go to second-run theaters and utilize Redbox.  Don’t deprive yourselves – just re-think how to get what you most want.

Make it fun.  Nobody wants to be the Sad Sack Poor Kid, sitting alone on a bench wearing a flour sack dress and eating a lard sandwich.  Being frugal doesn't mean giving up fun.  In fact, you have to be so much more conscious of what is fun when you're being frugal that you very often end up having more fun than you would have if you'd been able to just say something like, "Ahh, I'm bored.  Let's go to the movies."  Use your imagination and make your own fun.  Put the kids in their PJ's, go sit in the car and watch movies on your laptop - bring popcorn to your "Drive In."  Watch the "Entertainment" section of your local news website to see when there are movies in the park, free museum days and concerts along the waterfront.  Bring a little "zing" into the everyday by having a surprise breakfast picnic or putting a riddle in a lunchbox.  One of those little truths that nobody ever tells you is that people usually will have a good time if you tell them they're having a good time.  Make a ceremony out of little things like watching meteor showers or reading a chapter a night.  You don't have to save all your Mary Poppins magic for Christmas - it works every day to help the medicine go down.

Never stop working on yourself.  You’re a parent and the responsibility is nearly overwhelming at times – and those are the times when it’s more important to remember that you are a person, too.  You may be a Daddy now and forevermore, but if that’s all you are you won’t be very good at your job.  Take classes and training at work, yes, but also do things just because they’ll make you a better person.  If you’re a stay-at-home parent, take one afternoon off a week (trade afternoons with another parent who’s in the same boat) to take a class, go to a museum, take in a movie or just sit and paint your fingernails.  If you’re the breadwinner, spend a little time doing something that’s not related to your job – read travel guides, go jogging, make model airplanes - whatever floats your own, personal, idiosyncratic boat.  If you don’t take this time for yourself, it becomes all too easy to resent spouse, kids, job, and everything else that keeps your nose to the grindstone 24/7.

Make your mate a priority.  Whether one of you is bringing home the bacon while the other one fries it up, or whether you’re both working both outside the home and in it – neither one of you really has the slightest conception of how hard the other one is working, and odds are good you’re both exhausted most of the time.  It is fatally easy to go from becoming best friends and lovers to co-parents and roommates with benefits.  No matter how much you love your children, you must remember that the bond with your spouse is your primary relationship and you must nurture that bond.  It’s easy to do this when things are going splendidly, but when you’re both working your heads off and worried about money all the time it requires a special, conscious effort.  Not only do your children need this foundation – your mate will still be with you when your children have grown.  Don’t neglect your sweetheart.  Have adults-only date night once a week, even if it’s just a movie from the library after the kids are in bed.  Leave love notes.  Send texts.  Pick flowers and knit socks.  Individually these things are small.  Collectively they add up to Big Love.

Scrounge.  “Living Cheap” can be kind of fun, once you get into the swing of it.  We have the advantage of living in the most prosperous country on the planet, even if the prosperity hasn’t quite trickled down to our level yet; people throw away the most astounding things.  Dumpster diving can be a fantastic way to supplement your stores of furniture and other household goods; I’ve found dressers, bedsteads, chairs and exercise equipment by the side of the road that I’ve taken home, refurbished and used with pride.  Haunt thrift stores, clothing closets, Craigslist and yard sales for deals in clothing, baby stuff, gift ideas and hobby items.  Learn what is available through your local charities and churches; you will find food boxes, warm coats, medical and dental care (through the county, city, state or school systems) and free introductory classes on every subject under the sun.  Talk to other young families in your area about what they’ve discovered, and set up a barter system within your group.  Trade washing-machine repair for babysitting, or buy a Costco-sized box of laundry detergent and swap half of it to your neighbor for half of their Costco toilet paper.  Set up a “lending library” of gently-worn maternity clothes so every pregnant woman in your group can get a break from the same three shirts and pairs of jeans.  Look around you with the mindset of, “How can I use/ reuse/ refurbish that?”  This approach also has the advantage of making your home’s d├ęcor uniquely “you!”

Take care of what you have.  Good stewardship is never more important than it is right now.  When you can’t afford to replace the little things – let alone the big-ticket items – your lives will be better if you keep what you do have clean and in good working order.  An added bonus is that you will be modeling behavior you want your child to emulate, and emulate it he will.  It may take a couple of decades, but how you run your household now is what will seem “right” when Junior has a household of his own.

Don’t do things that make you feel poor.  Sometimes there will be a great money-saving opportunity that will make you feel so penny-pinching and Poor Relation-y that you dread it.  In this case, consider not taking advantage of the opportunity, and I’ll tell you why – because it’s in direct violation of the Hold Your Head Up rule above.  In my case, it was WIC.  WIC (Women, Infants, Children) was a welfare program in my home state that provided free vouchers for milk, infant formula, and other healthy foods.  Great deal, right?  The only problem was, you had to bring your infants and small children with you to a monthly appointment, where minimum-wage case workers would weigh them, cross-examine you as to your family’s dietary habits, and draw blood from each of your children with clumsily-wielded finger sticks.  (They did this to test the child’s iron levels.)  I could only do that once before the humiliation of the whole thing – that my children, who a) didn’t know what was going on and b) were being taught not to let strangers touch them, had to be stabbed until they bled by uncaring clerks because I couldn’t afford to feed them.  I had no problem with using food stamps or going to free clinics when it was necessary, but this – I felt that this stripped me of my dignity at my children’s expense.  Nothing is completely free.  Don’t let lack of money push you into doing things that will cost you more than you are willing to pay. 

Sometimes, do the fiscally irresponsible thing.  Occasionally, the prom dress is more important than the cable bill.  Once in a while, the kid needs the “right” shoes more than meat for dinner.  There will be moments when a son will get such a thrill out of being accepted into the Select Choir that you will gladly forfeit the money for new tires to buy him the necessary tuxedo.  It doesn’t happen often, but in order to live well on a limited income there are times when you have to spend the money foolishly.  Sometimes you get the chance to fly a family of 8 to Washington, D.C. free, and it would be crazy not to skimp on groceries to pay for the hotel room.  There’s a lot more to life than making a living.

Living frugally yet fully is a lot like becoming a good cook.  You will develop your own shortcuts and workarounds, and you will discover great combinations that nobody else has tried before.  Just remember this:  It is your attitude that determines the attitude in your home.  Take good care of what you have, work hard for what you want and ignore the wolf at the door as much as you can.

Joe, if you were looking for concrete advice such as “cut your family’s hair yourself” or
“mix whole milk half-and-half with reconstituted powdered milk,” please write back, because God knows I have a million of ‘em.  However, as far as “calm and collected” goes, this is my best advice:

Be happy and loving.  Act happy and loving.  That is what your family needs more than anything, and it is precisely what money cannot buy.

Mollie writes:

First word of advice -

Love that baby!  The bonding you do in the early years is everything.  If you are wondering about how to talk to your 12-year old about something, you're already late.  Talk, Talk, Talk Talk Talk.  Listen Listen Listen Listen Listen.

If you already have their attention, the words will come easier.

With money, remember your kids need a safe sheltering home.  They need healthy food and adequate clothing.

The rest is a gift.  Remember that play-station you bought three years ago?  It's obsolete now.  But your kids' needs will  NEVER be obsolete.  

I'm wondering if my kids will come to me for advice about child rearing.  They didn't see us suffer financially, but they did see us cope with disease, etc.  There are so many variable when it comes to parenting.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Expanding My Horizons

Millie writes:

Yesterday was a banner occasion at our house – it was Jack’s 17th birthday.  We celebrated with fried chicken and cake, movies and card games, Mochi Balls and lots of laughter.

Privately, Lance and I took a more solemn moment to observe a fact of significance only to us: It was the last “child’s” birthday party we would host for one of our own.

I’ve been noticing that a lot of the recent milestones in my life – at least as they relate to the “parenting” aspect of my life – are “lasts” rather than “firsts.”  The fledglings are trying their wings and will be making longer and longer flights until they’ve left the nest for good.

I’ve spent 26 years amassing wisdom about diapering, colic, schooling, last-minute Halloween costumes and the PTA, and I’m not about to leave that part of me completely behind.  Once a Mama, always a Mama is my motto.

Old tradition speaks of a three-faced goddess who shares the aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone.  On one hand this division can be explained completely biologically: pre-menarche, fertile and post-menopausal; on the other it’s an emotional progression from girl to woman to – well, there is no other word for it but “crone!”

“Crone” has always been one of my least-favorite words.  Not only does it just sound ugly, it’s derived from the Old Northern French word “caroijne,” meaning “carrion.”  That’s right, gals!  Once we’re no longer in the Breeder category, we’re filed under “the decaying flesh of dead animals!”

Well, I’m taking “Crone” back. 

For one thing, now that someone who’s 50 can reasonably expect to live another 30 years, it’s ludicrous to consider the end of the child-rearing window the end of a woman’s vitality. 

For another, there are a lot of us out here.  I’m near the tag-end of the Baby Boomer generation and there are at least two generations of people before us who are nowhere near finished yet! 

There is no graduation ceremony for a Mom who’s done a good job – no gold watch, no processional, and no speeches.  As with so much else related to motherhood, the only thing people can tell you is that “you’ll know it when it happens.”  I’m not quite ready to join Mollie on the stand as a Mother Emeritus (I’ve got at least another year of hands-on work to do before Jack and Sassy graduate from high school), but I can tell that something’s happening.

I plan to document my journey into Cronehood.  The only thing I know for sure is that (like motherhood) it is not for the faint of heart – nor (me being me) will it be for the timid of ear.

Whether you’re a maiden, a mother or a sister-Crone, won’t you join me?

If we're going anyhow, we may as well have a few laughs along the way!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Millie writes:

Today is my last first day of school.

Oh, sure, there will be First Days during the college years, but those aren't the same somehow. For the last 22 years, each September there has been at least one child who has woken up early one morning soon after Labor Day, thinking, "It's the first day of school!" (with varying inflections depending upon the child).

22 years of new clothes from the skin out, carefully chosen weeks ago and laid out smooth the night before.

22 years of healthy breakfasts and First Day treats (a funky pen, silver pencils, puppy pocket calendars).

22 years of First Day photos, smiling faces rising higher each year against the panels of the door.

22 years of "It's time to go!"

22 years of "Travel as a set! See you after school! Have a great day!"

Half of those 22 years we've had one or more kids in high school; today our last two began their Senior Year. This morning was like 22 others, with oatmeal and holographic pencils, stiff new jeans and sharp new haircuts. In the photos, Jack's head was higher than the wreath on the door; Sassy actually smiled instead of sticking out her tongue.

Oh, sure, it's not over yet. There are 9 months still to enjoy - but (like being pregnant with your last child) this year's events carry the bittersweetness of The Last Time.

The last time we watch Grease with new high school seniors. (Hey, can't send a kid off to school without an earworm or two!) The last time I have to fill out pages and pages of take-home Back to School paperwork. The last time I'll be a member of a PTA. The last Prom, the last speech tournament, the last school concert. (Okay, I might not be too choked up about that final one.)

Oh, well. Sassy and Jack left the house this morning full of good cheer and hope, so I will do the same. I will enjoy my annual Switch the Summer Decor to Fall Decor sweep of the rooms, and make the last first after-school snack of the year. I'll air out the house and then close it up tight (it's supposed to reach nearly 100 degrees today). I'll try to remember just what it is I do with myself during the "normal" months.

I will do whatever it takes to get "Beauty School Dropout" out of my head.

Good luck, Class of 2012!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The REAL New Year

Millie writes:

To quote Jan Struther’s Mrs. Miniver, to my mind September “. . . is the real New Year. That laborious affair in January [is] nothing but a name.”

Going back to school is inextricably bound up with this month, even if we haven’t actually gone back to school for decades. September means a new start, another chance to get it right, to “do better.” September ushers in sweater weather, crisp mornings and trees robed in scarlets, oranges and golds to rival any fireworks display.

In September we’re ready to learn new things, and to see old things in new ways.

Take a moment, as this hectic month unfolds, to look at your family with fresh eyes. You are very familiar with the many ways in which you show your love to them – large or small, everything you do for your family is a mute testimonial to your affection.

How long has it been since you noticed the many unspoken ways in which they show their love for you?

“I love you” can be said in a lot of different ways:

The son who puts “your” cup in the front of the dishwasher when he loads it each night, so your groping hand can find it easily at 6 a.m.;

The daughter who sends you a quick text to let you know she’s arrived at her destination, even though you argued before she left;

The son who tucks you into bed when you’re feeling sickly, complete with a story and a song;

The daughter who gives you beautiful jewelry or art supplies on every occasion, because she recognizes a kindred spirit - even though all she’s ever seen you do is housework, errands and Mom-stuff;

The husband who, knowing you’re on a diet, arranges with a local McDonald’s to make an Atkins-friendly Quarter-Pounder with Cheese for you on Date Night.

A family is a group of people who live together in almost unremitting intimacy. Squabbles, hurt feelings and shouted orders are unavoidable in even the closest families. It’s a mistake to hold onto these hurt feelings; it’s a mistake to concentrate on the irritants rather than the delights. This month, try to notice the small, mute “I love yous” that come your way, and let the petty annoyances roll off your back.

If you can do this, September will not only be the start of a great New Year – it will be Thanksgiving!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Half a Dozen Odds and Ends

Maggie writes:
Here are just a few ways to "think outside the box." I hoped to think of more, but the baby is a Brain Vampire these days, and it is hard to be clever.

Pizza cutters are a more versatile than you may know! Don't tuck them away for the sole purpose of pizza duty. Break them out for halving just about any sort of sandwich, wraps or quesadillas! That's not all! Need to coin hot dogs or kielbasa sausages? Lay several down at once and zip on through the lot of 'em. It makes quick work of a potentially tedious task.

Get a small soap dispenser bottle, put white vinegar in it and set it by your kitchen sink. Use a squirt or two to get rid of onion and garlic smells as needed.

If you have a small child who loves small puzzles (no bigger than a pizza box), go to your local pizza place and ask for a few unused boxes. Keep all the puzzle pieces safe and sound with the work in progress.

Just got done finely grating an orange (or cheese, ginger, etc., etc...) and now you need to get everything out of the tiny holes of your grater? Take your handy dandy vegetable brush and go to town! Don't have one? Keep a spare (clean!) tooth brush handy to get into all those little nooks and crannies.

White boards aren't the only things you can use dry erase markers on! Go to your local dollar store and find posters that have been laminated (MUST be laminated!!). The ones I've seen are about the size of your standard freezer-on-top door. Stick it up there however you'd like it, and go to town with reminders, lists and doodles. My children adore the snot out of those markers, and if yours do, too, stock up at the dollar store while you're there.

Have you caught a cold and are hacking up a lung? A friend of mine told me about a whacky cure that really works! Slather Vapor Rub on the bottoms of your feet (or the sicko loved one's), put on a pair of socks and go to bed. It worked for my baby, and I've had relief from this method as well.

Well? What about you, loyal readers and fellow bloggers? Any crazy methods of Gettin' it Done that have worked for you? Do tell!

Millie chips in:

Oh, I might be able to think of a FEW:

If you use dryer sheets, use the spent sheet to clean the lint trap after each load. The fuzz will stick to the fibers and NOT to you.

Speaking of dryer sheets, use only a non-scented variety; use fragrance-free soap, as well. This serves two purposes: if someone with whom you regularly come in contact has asthma or allergies, you will not trigger an attack; and if not, the scent of your clothing will not clash with the scent of your chosen perfume.

Ditto deodorant. While we're on that subject, can we PLEASE agree that "Axe" smells like the smoky flatus of a thousand diseased yaks and somehow get that point across to the male population?

If you don't want to use harsh chemicals around kids and pets, try pouring boiling water directly onto dandelions and other weeds. That'll l'arn 'em.

Making cookies? Make twice as much and freeze half the dough for a day when you're not feeling quite as energetic.

If you can stand the look (some of us can't), let your child use a sleeping bag on top of the mattress rather than conventional linens. The kid will love it and this approach solves the "make your bed, dammit!" argument for good. Get one that's machine-washable; if your kid still wets the bed, just slide one of those big rubberized-flannel pads in under him and hope for the best.

It's too late to do it this year but next year, when you're planting those hanging baskets (we have such hope in our hearts when we're doing that, don't we?), slip a coffee filter into the bottom of the pot. This will not only keep the dirt from running out through the drain-holes, it will help hold the water in the pot just a teense longer - a big consideration considering how quickly pots and planters dry out when it's hot like it is now. I've even heard of people who slip half a sponge in the bottom of the plant, but I've never tried that one myself - have you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Payback’s a – Well, You Know.

Millie writes:

I found out last week that I’m going to become a grandmother in March. Of course news like this calls for a lot of heavy thinking, and one thing I’m thinking about is – revenge!

C’mon, you know we all do it – entertain ourselves with thoughts of how we’ll “get even” with the rugrats someday, when they are the ones with the mortgages and the migraines and we are the ones with some time on our hands. Nothing wrong with these fantasies – whatever keeps you going through the Parenting Doldrums is fair game as long as it doesn’t hurt the kids or scare the livestock!

Impending grandparenthood reminded me that one of my longest-cherished schemes was to wait until I had grandchildren and then send them musical instruments. That will be especially rewarding in the case of this particular procreating pair, because the Daddy-to-Be was the member of our in-house basement band with a 400-watt guitar amp and an effects pedal. Grandkid #1 is going to be getting one of those poppers with a handle before s/he can even walk.

Other silent-yet-vengeful plots include:

“When you are an adult, I am going to come over to your house and pee all over your toilet lid.”

“When you have a baby, I will find out what time said baby goes to sleep, and I will arrange to phone you every night at five minutes past that time and wake the baby up.”

“Someday, when you have your own house, I am going to visit you and bring dirty clothes with me to throw on your floor.”

“Some day you’ll invite me to dinner and spend hours cooking a meal to impress me with your culinary skills. I will take one bite of it and then demand a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.”

“I hope you have a kid someday who is JUST. LIKE. YOU.

. . . Actually, that last one would be pretty sweet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

To Censor or Not to Censor: That is the Question

Millie writes:
One of the best things about Facebook and other social media is that it allows us to chat about interesting and controversial topics with people all over the world. (This is also one of the WORST things about Facebook and other social media, but that’s a different entry altogether.)

Last week my friend Beth posted a YouTube link to a video entitled, “Letter From Ex-Witch Regarding Harry Potter.” (The link is below, if you’re interested; like Beth, I recommend you mute the sound and just read the scrolled text; there’s just someone reading the words and her voice is rushed and distracting.) She wanted to know what other people thought about it, because her 12-year-old son is interested in reading the books and – since Beth is a Christian mother – she’s trying to make up her mind whether a series that features witchcraft will undermine the values that she and her husband are instilling in their children.

As you can imagine, her friends had strong opinions. Here’s what I wrote:

I usually stay out of discussions like this because most people are just looking for ammo to bolster the opinion they've already formed. Since I've read the Harry Potter series to all my kids once (and most of them re-read it on their own) and the Narnia series several times, obviously I don't feel either one of them is harmful to children. Where I think the trouble comes in is when someone decides, "Well, I can certainly understand metaphor, simile, fantasy and the difference between fact and fiction, but then most people aren't as intelligent and socially conscious as I. Why, what if someone plays a game of Dungeons and Dragons, for example, and suddenly they can't distinguish between their friendly mail carrier and an Orc? I think I read about that happening somewhere, sometime! This menace must be stopped! Think of the children!"

I don't think it is ever necessary to let someone else do all of one's thinking for one - not even (or maybe especially) in the case of one's children. Parents naturally want to protect their children from harm, but I don't think ideas or concepts are harmful in themselves. I think that by segregating some themes or concepts into a great "We Do Not Discuss It" pile, we not only confer upon those subjects the irresistible cachet of "forbidden knowledge" - we deprive ourselves of a natural springboard to discussing our own ideals and beliefs. Of course, it is possible to live in a manner that excludes all fiction or entertainment as lies and frivolity, and some extremist religious or political sects do just that. I don't think this approach armors children to live in today's world, but then - they're not my children, it's not my business.

In short, I don't think reading Harry Potter - or The Necronomicon, or Spell Casting for Dummies - will turn someone into a witch or a Satanist, any more than reading Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography will turn someone into a body-builder. Ideas and beliefs are not mental land-mines, quiescent until they're stepped on by the unwary and explode with soul-destroying reverberations. If a child understands poetic license - and they all do, otherwise every sponge in the U.S. would be wearing pants - they will know fiction for what it is. I think the important thing is that the child knows what his parents believe, and how the world fits into that viewpoint. "Of course we know there's no such thing as The Easter Bunny/ black magic/ talking trees, but it's fun to think about" seems a lot less damaging to me than "OMIGOD YOU READ A CHILDREN'S BOOK AND NOW YOU'LL BURN IN HELL." So many people don't give their kids credit for any sense, when most children have a pretty good grasp of what's real and what isn't even if it's not something tangible. If a person grows up to become a mass-murderer, there was a lot more going wrong in his life than his choice of childhood reading material.

This is what we think, the decisions we've made for our children.

What do you think? I’m really askin’.