pumpkins and painting

I totally killed work-life balance today, though life for sure gets +1. Bonus points because I barely went outside, except for playing basketball and blowing bubbles in the morning and eating lunch on the patio in the late afternoon.

This morning, CASS’s strategic planning committee came over to strategically plan. I got some work done throughout the day, especially when Max napped, and then I took the rest of the day off to paint and play and make pumpkin things.

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We never got around to carving our pumpkin in time for Halloween, so we tried to paint handprint turkeys in honor of Thanksgiving instead. My handprint came out a lot better than Max’s tbh, but he rubbed paint in it before I could draw any turkey eyes or…beard (beard?).

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We got paint everywhere.

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Even a little on the sheets.

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…because a certain monkey decided he wanted to jump on the bed.

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I roasted pumpkin seeds – it’s super easy, you just wash ’em, season ’em, and bake ’em. And eat ’em.

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I also made pumpkin bread and pumpkin smoothies (not pictured because Max spilled both – possibly on purpose).

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He thinks it’s very funny.

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Finding independence

From the second he was born, Max has been engulfed in the principles of attachment parenting. After his natural Birth Center birth, he was placed on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact with his momma, and within minutes I breastfed him for the first time. He had the whole kit and caboodle — babywearing, breastfeeding, bedsharing, even a nightly infant massage with grapeseed oil. I’d pick him up the second I heard him whimper, and I’d rock him for hours on end if it kept him happy. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that he was happiest when he was being held.

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max just living his life, getting his infant massage on

We have grown very close. I’m not only his mother; I’m his caregiver and his friend.

Many people praised me, and some people criticized me — for extended breastfeeding, for allowing him to sleep in my bed, for never letting him just cry.

People suggested that he’d be spoiled, he’d never learn to be independent, and he’d never outgrow breastfeeding. But I’ve trusted my gut and the very many parenting books that I’ve read and the doctors and child care providers that I’ve consulted, and I’ve parented according to his needs and not the advice of people who don’t know him as well.

It’s hard, sometimes, to go with your gut. Especially when you’re a young woman of color. You’re constantly challenged and questioned by backseat drivers who want to tell you how it’s done. There was one time that Max’s daycare closed because there was a petroleum in the water scare, and since we were having a holiday party that day anyway, I decided to bring him to work. The first half of the day was a four-hour staff meeting, which Max (then ten months old) endured pretty patiently (and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom and think he’s perfect!). There was a point that he was ready for his milk, so I took him back to my desk and breastfed him. I had brought some toys and random items to keep him occupied through the day, but in general, Max was (and still often is) very patient and happy as long as he’s being held. I brought him back to the conference room after the meeting, and he started to groan and whimper — not quite a cry but an expression of discomfort. I wasn’t surprised; it was naptime. I knew that he was going to fall asleep any minute, but he was grumbling because he was still at an age at which he didn’t quite understand the feeling that was overtaking him. Imagine that – being so tired and not knowing what’s happening to you. It’s probably uncomfortable. What did surprise me was the reaction of another mother in the room — a lovely woman who has a daughter just about the same age as Max. She asked me if she could get Max a toy, and I thanked her but declined. He’s just tired, I let her know. It was a kind gesture, and I appreciated it, but then she started to try to amuse him to make him stop crying. He grew increasingly frustrated, and I knew why: In trying to console him and make him laugh when he just wanted to fall asleep, she was telling him, “I don’t understand why you’re crying, so I’m going to try to distract you from what’s upsetting you.” This was upsetting to me because she ignored what I had told her and dismissed the idea that I could know what was wrong with my baby – the child that I was still nursing and closer to than anyone else. She is a white woman, and from my perspective, she was parenting through privilege.

Young mothers of color are constantly questioned and dismissed and challenged; it’s assumed that we do not know what’s best for our babies, how to hold our babies, how to console our babies, how to care for our babies. When a white woman sees another white woman doing something that she doesn’t necessarily agree with, it’s accepted as a different style of parenting; but when a white woman sees a woman of color doing something that she doesn’t necessarily agree with, it’s viewed as being wrong. She feels comfortable intervening and correcting her. It is a microaggression.

But I didn’t come here to talk about racism. I came here to say: My attachment parenting critics were wrong — not because attachment parenting is right for everyone, but because it was right for Max.

Max is more independent than I could’ve ever hoped. He can walk, run, climb, and play independently for long stretches of time. He doesn’t love to hold my hand when we walk down the street, but once we reach the end of the block, he reaches his hand out because he knows that he can’t cross the street on his own. He likes to try to climb off the curb along the way, and sometimes he gets upset when I stop him or guide him back into the direction that we’re going. When I try to hold his hand on the sidewalk, he sometimes throws himself on the ground dramatically. He wants to be independent; he wants to be free. He’s growing up so quickly, and I’m so proud of his growth.

There have been power struggles — the biggest one being that he hates holding my hand when we’re walking, and that makes it really hard to get him to stay the course when we’re on our way to daycare in the mornings. I’ve tried to cheer him on and praise him when he walks in the right direction. I’ve pulled him away from the stairs when he tried to climb them and go back home, and I redirect him. I’ve called him, over and over, in English and Spanish, to come and follow me. I’ve gotten frustrated and said, “Come on, Max, we’re going to be late.” I’ve given up and carried him the whole way.

But now, as I’m continuing to read Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, I’m learning new ways to encourage him to be independent and still do the things that he has to do, like walk to school in the morning without getting too distracted by dandelions.

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ok sometimes you do have to stop and smell the dandelions

I appreciate having spaces like our back patio where he can roam freely, and I don’t have to pull him away from an electronic device or something dangerous every three minutes. And when it comes to walking to school and walking back home, I’m finding ways to make it less of a chore for him. When he doesn’t want to hold my hand, I take both of his hands and turn our walk into a dance while I sing “Pop Goes the Weasel” (swinging him at the “popping” part), and it makes him forget that he’s holding my hand because he’s enjoying the dance. This evening, on the way home, I managed to get him to run in the right direction for a whole block by chasing after him saying “Momma’s gonna get you” and “I’m going to catch up with Max!” and then grabbing him and picking up a few times along the way to make him laugh (and confirm that I could indeed catch up).

The most important lesson I’ve learned from books on positive discipline is that discipline is teaching, not punishment. Even time outs should be used in a positive way that lets both child and parent cool off — it should be future-oriented, not past-dwelling. Power struggles, to me, are a sign that I’m trying to take control in an area that Max is seeking independence, so I need to find better balance to allow him to be independent while setting simple (but fun) guidelines to keep him safe. There’s no point in getting frustrated.

I think the next thing I need to do is learn to apply these principles in other areas of my life.

Please don’t hit kids.

Today I found myself in a heated debate with reasonable, intelligent people over an issue that I previously did not find controversial, and I think that’s an important reason to start a discussion about it: I don’t think you should ever, ever hit kids. And every study that has ever been conducted on the subject agrees with me (with the exception of maybe your personal study of “turning out great”). In general, I think we should leave parents to provide personalized parenting to each child in their care, which means your parenting may look different from my parenting — and that’s okay.

But violence is not okay. Hitting, spanking, beating — it doesn’t work, and it’s wrong.

I don’t say this to criticize you or your parents. I say this because I realize that we may not always know when we’re doing something that’s wrong, and that’s why conversations are important. If I’m doing something that is wrong (and you have scientific evidence to prove it ;)) then I want us to have an open discussion about it so you challenge my views and I can change.

I don’t need to agree with you about everything that you do as a parent, and I don’t need you to agree with me. I realize that some of the things I do as a parent might be atypical (Max is 15 months old, he sleeps in my bed, and I still breastfeed!). But I don’t believe there should be a wide range of opinions on this issue.

I am imperfect. You are imperfect. Kids are imperfect. We make mistakes. If you have resorted to violence then I’m sorry that the communication between you and your child broke down the way it did, and I’m sorry if you felt like you had no other options. I don’t judge you for making this mistake. I am concerned about the people who don’t regard it as a mistake.

Discipline is not spanking or hitting or beating. Discipline is teaching. And there are books and resources that will help you learn to use discipline effectively:

I’m thankful that, as a culture, we’re reaching a point at which we can openly discuss and condemn intimate partner violence, with the intention of ending it. I’m glad that we’re making moves to become a culture in which it’s not ignored or accepted that a spouse hits their spouse. I hope that we can soon reach a point at which we can have an open, candid discussion about violence against children — and we can end it.

I realize that Max is only 15 months old, and maybe you’ll say “but when he’s older, you’ll see!” And maybe it’ll be easier for me to empathize with you then. But I will still know that violence is not the answer, and if I ever do succumb to violence then I’ll regard it as a mistake, and I’ll apologize to him.

Last, but not least: I am making it a point to steer clear of language like “my kids” vs. “your kids.” It doesn’t matter who gave birth to these kids. It doesn’t matter if these kids are in your care or not in your care. Not all kids have parents or designated caregivers. There are 397,122 kids in foster care in the US and up to 1.6 million unaccompanied homeless youth. Kids are all of our responsibility.

Because it may be your choice to parent in some certain way, but kids don’t have much of a choice but to endure it. It’s not easy for kids to leave abusive homes. I ran away, became homeless, and ended up living with a man who later sexually assaulted me. But the physical and sexual violence I experienced on the street could never compare to the hurt and betrayal that I felt in response to abuse at the hands of the person who was supposed to love and protect me.

In case you don’t want to just take my word for it, here are some studies confirming that hitting kids is not effective for improving behavior and rather has negative consequences (quoted directly from this Huffington Post article):

Physical punishment makes kids more aggressive.
Researchers from Tulane University found that children who are spanked frequently at age 3 are more likely to show aggressive behavior by the time they’re 5 than kids who are not.

Physical punishment doesn’t actually work (even if it appears to).
Yes, spanking may stop problematic behavior, says Sandra Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., a psychology professor and principal investigator for the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Michigan, but that’s because the child is afraid. In the long term, physical punishment will only make kids’ behavior worse.

Reporting on several studies on the topic for CNN, Sarah Kovac wrote, “The sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have. They learn how to be controlled by external forces (parents, teachers, bosses), but when the boss isn’t looking, then what?”

Physical punishment encourages kids to continue the cycle of abuse.
A 2011 study published in Child Abuse and Neglect confirmed that physical punishment is cyclical — children who are hit are more likely to use the action to solve problems with their peers and siblings.

Later on, they’re at a higher risk for delinquency and criminal behavior, according to a 2013 article, “Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children,” also by Gershoff.

The negative effects of physical punishment are colossal, well into adulthood.
A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that “harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders.”

A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that same year analyzed 20 years of data and came to similar conclusions regarding those risks — and also found that spanking yields no positive outcome.

Spanking actually alters kids’ brains.
A 2009 study concluded that children who were frequently spanked (defined as at least once a month for more than three years) “had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders.”

According to CNN, another study — also looking at how corporal punishment affects the brain — found that children who receive it have a decrease in cognitive ability, compared with other kids.

The bottom line:
Stacy Drury, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Tulane University, told the New Republic, “The goal of discipline, which actually comes from the Latin root meaning ‘to teach,’ is to change behavior. And physical discipline across many, many, many studies is ineffective at changing behavior and itโ€™s ineffective for many reasons … corporal punishment actually teaches children is that aggression is an acceptable method of problem solving.”

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Meanwhile, I’m over here raising the real MVP.

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Maybe we’ll try out next season.

Bacon peanut butter chip pancakes

It’s been a while since I’ve come up with a recipe. Lately I’ve been obsessed with bacon. I made a delicious spinach mac ‘n cheese dish last week that substituted macaroni with cauliflower. And what made it especially delicious was the bacon I added on top.

IMG_8571You can find that one out on the interwebs somewhere, but that’s not what I’m making tonight. Tonight I’m going to attempt bacon pancakes. Maybe even bacon peanut butter chip pancakes. For dinner. Because YOLO.

Ingredients
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 and a half cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 egg
1 clean diaper
powdered sugar, as desired
a teensy bit of vanilla extract
peanut butter chips
bacon
butter
syrup (or a corner store)
beer (note: this doesn’t go in the pancakes)

Directions

  1. I started with the buttermilk. I didn’t have any buttermilk because who buys buttermilk? So I knew Google would have a solution for me. And she sure did.
  2. Does it still count as a recipe if I write it in blog form but with numbers?
  3. I poured a cup of milk into a measuring cup (that’s how I knew it was a cup…), and I added a teaspoon of lemon juice. As per these instructions.
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  4. I let my homemade buttermilk sit while I oiled a pan and slapped my bacon strips on it. I started preheating the oven to 400 degrees, and then I went to change a diaper.
  5. If you just changed a diaper, please wash your hands.
  6. I poured the milk into a bowl, added flour, a tablespoon of baking soda, and an egg. I mixed that up and then dropped in a bit of vanilla extract and maybe three teaspoons of powdered sugar.
  7. Mix.
  8. At this point, I googled “best fluffiest pancake recipe” to see if there was anything else I should add to make my pancakes better and fluffier, and the secret ingredient was melted butter.
  9. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter, and add it to your pancake mixture.
  10. This might be a good time to figure out if you even have any syrup.
  11. You don’t.
  12. Put your bacon in the oven, put pants on your toddler, and run to the corner store.
  13. You bought beer, didn’t you?
  14. I hope it was the good stuff, girl, you deserve it.
  15. Or guy, I’m not sexist.
  16. Or other gender nonconforming individual, I’m not ignorant.
  17. Pour in peanut butter chips.
  18. Your bacon still isn’t ready, so crack open a beer.
  19. Turn off the fire alarm. That thing is so sensitive.
  20. Take out your recyclables. You can’t move forward until the bacon is done.
  21. Turn off the fire alarm again. It’s the other room this time.
  22. Take a selfie.
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  23. Bacon is ready!
  24. Allow your lieutenant kitchen deputy to taste test the bacon.
  25. Surprise, surprise – bacon passes.
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  26. Break the bacon up into bits and throw it into your pancake mixture.
  27. Your pan should still be pretty drenched in butter. If not, proceed to drench.
  28. Your kid is so cute – he’s singing along to “Eye of the Tiger.”
  29. No wait, that’s my kid. Maybe your next one will be as adorable as mine.
  30. While you were here bragging, your kid got into the flour.
  31. You’re a mean mom because you took the flour away.
  32. Now he needs a hug.Photo on 4-21-15 at 7.54 PM #3
  33. Are you going to just die if you hear that fire alarm again? Just me?
  34. Beer, Jessica. Beer.
  35. Max and I have a “whoa whoa whoa” playlist now. He likes to sing along to songs that he can say “whoa whoa whoa” in. This is a surprising number of songs.
  36. Oh, you can start making your pancakes now.
  37. Voila!

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I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you just give me the cheesy spinach cauliflower recipe? I would never feed my kids pancakes for dinner!” And to that I say: at least we brushed our teeth afterwards?

(i have a hilarious video to include here, but it’s an unsupported file type so your loss)

Navigating DC’s perks for homebuyers

Today I attended an orientation session at the Latino Economic Development Center — a HUD-certified housing counseling agency that helps people navigate and access the programs available to them to buy a home in DC (and it’s conveniently located in Shaw!). See full list of HUD-certified housing counseling agencies here!

And today I’m apprehensive. I realized that I’ve been getting two different DC home purchase assistance programs confused. For example, I understood that the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) loan was forgiven after five years — 20% forgiven each year that you remain in the house. But now I realize that there’s a difference between HPAP and the DC Open Doors program. For HPAP, you actually do have to pay it back; the loan is just deferred for five years. Which is sort of odd because HPAP is supposed to help lower income households.

DC Open Doors targets young professionals. The income requirements are a bit higher — $123,050 for a single person (even if you’re married to someone who’s making more!). According to the site, “[t]here are no purchase limits on the home you’re looking to buy, but there is a $417,000 loan limit.” So if I’m reading everything correctly then a single, childless adult making $62,000 would be eligible for $20,000 in down payment assistance from HPAP (loan repayments starting after five years is up) AND a 3.5% loan towards the down payment through DC Open Doors — fully forgiven in five years.

There are three other programs and perks that DC’s prospective homebuyers should know about:

  1. FHA 203K Program: I mentioned in my last post that this program offers up to $35K to make repairs or improvements on a newly purchased home. Perty sweet.
  2. Tax Abatement Program: No property tax for five years as long as (a) the property cost less than $367,200 and (b) household income is under $56,100 for a single adult or under $64,080 for two. The catch? I learned at today’s orientation that your tax can change if your income changes! It’s not a huge catch, but it’s good to be aware.
  3. Homestead Exemption: I have no idea what this is or how it works, but I feel like you should know about it.

There may or may not also be a first-time homebuyer tax credit of $5,000 for single adults and $2,500 for couples, but it’s confusing because it went away and then it may have come back.

On top of all that, pizza is half price today!

While the programs are really attractive, I keep thinking to myself: I’m still going to be stuck with cray monthly payments that I won’t be able to afford until September 2017. Right now, I spend more than I pay in rent on childcare costs. When Max starts school at age three, those costs (literally like $20,000 per year!!!) disappear. I haven’t met with a housing counselor yet, so maybe there’s a way to keep monthly payments low for the first year and a half. I’m confident that I’ll have a lot more money in 2018.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of ways I can cut my spending and boost my savings efforts, regardless of whether these savings go toward a house, a graduate degree, paying off undergraduate student loans, saving for retirement or Max’s college tuition, or even a new Move to Hawaii fund (where I can also take advantage of first-time homebuyer benefits).

Today I opened an account with Mint.com — which I found is even better than Quizzle. The best thing about Mint.com is that it allows you to pay all of your bills in one single place. The main reason I’m late on payments to rando accounts like my Macy’s credit card or my Comcast bill (besides the fact that I’m usually arguing with Comcast for charging me for a TV every month when I DON’T HAVE A TV) is because I forget my passwords and it’s a huge hassle for me to reset 80 passwords every single month (I’d prefer to only reset two — my payroll account password and my Mint.com password). Mint will also help you see your credit score and offer tips to rebuild your credit.

The next step after my homebuying orientation today is a housing counseling session at LECD, but since I have access to my credit report and know what I want to do to rebuild it (e.g. consolidating my loans, decrease my spending), the counselor advised me to wait a month before I schedule it so we can see together where my credit is after my quick fixes have been implemented. That means that over the next month I’ll just be reading up on homebuying, stepping up my couponing skills, and spending another 45 minutes on the phone with Comcast during which I threaten to cancel my service and they promise to credit me for all those TV charges (again).

Saving for Project Home

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading Home Buying for Dummies and researching different options for accounts I can use for my Project Home fund.

Photo on 4-4-15 at 1.25 PM #3Some things I’ve learned:

  1. Contrary to what you’ll hear from many real estate agents and some current homeowners, buying a home isn’t always the best option for every person at every point in life. A few good reasons not to buy a home are: (a) not truly being able to afford it; (b) buying because it’s the adult thing to do; and (c) a chance that you’ll soon move or want to upgrade.
  2. Houses are a ton of work — lots of time and money go into maintenance, upkeep, and fixing things that are broken in a newly purchased house. Your grass needs to be watered in the spring, and your icy porch steps need to be salted in the winter. If the roof caves in, it’s your responsibility to fix it. So you have to make sure you’re prepared to invest time and money into home owning. The FHA 203K program will allow you to finance up to $35,000 in upgrades or repairs, so that’s a significant help when it comes to money, but time is another hugely important consideration.I’m someone who took nearly a year just to hang one picture frame up in my apartment, and that was long before I had any kids.

    The reason that matters is: I say that homemaking is something I care about and want to prioritize, but this has never been true. I’m not a great decorator, and I hate cleaning. I’m not handy at all. I didn’t even know the air filter in my apartment had to be changed every three months until Vince pointed it out to me (I hadn’t changed it in three years #oops). If you’re going to make the investment of money then you also have to make the investment of time. This time investment is a huge turnoff for me, as someone who prioritizes other aspects of my life more than cleaning and decorating.

  3. There are many different options for down payment savings funds: money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and regular savings accounts. I analyzed these options and found the best bang for my buck, which I’ll explain in this post.

Pretty much right off the bat, it was easy to quickly write off CDs. With low interest rates and not a lot of flexibility on withdrawals, this type of account wasn’t going to meet my needs. I was looking for something that would accrue the most interest over the shortest period of time. Most CDs I found had interest rates even lower than regular savings accounts (and in this case, low interest rates are a bad thing). I also didn’t want to lock my money up for any set amount of time because I don’t know if I’ll be ready to buy in three months, six months, a year, or never.

For many of the same reasons, I also didn’t spend a lot of time looking at money market accounts. The bank offering a money market account with the highest annual percentage yield (APY) I could find was Ally Bank with an APY of 0.85% — even lower than a savings account with the same bank (0.99% APY).

Surprisingly, I found the highest interest rates on regular savings accounts — which was great news since these also offer the greatest flexibility when it comes to withdrawals. Online savings accounts proved to have higher interest rates, likely because these companies are saving on the cost of maintaining a physical location.

Here are some of the best online savings accounts I found (ranked from highest to lowest APY):

  • Dollar Bank Federal Savings Bank: 1.6% APY
  • GE Capital Bank: 1.05% APY
  • MySavingsDirect: 1.05% APY
  • Barclays: 1% APY
  • IGOBanking.com: 1% APY
  • Ally Bank: 0.99% APY

Early in my search, I also considered SmartyPig, which touts “one of the most competitive interest rates in the country.” It looks like an awesome tool, and if you’re comparing it to savings accounts at banks with physical branches, 0.75% APY is incredibly competitive (I found that my current savings account at Bank of America only offers 0.01% APY — which is pretty shitty now that I’ve done my research).

Once I had my top choices, I looked more closely at the requirements of account-holding, the financial health of each institution, and customer reviews. I took Dollar Bank Federal Savings Bank off my list because, although there’s no minimum deposit or monthly fee, it would’ve required me to get a new checking account (and actually use it). This made the cost too high for me because I want a bank with a physical branch in my area (otherwise I might’ve just stuck with Chase when I moved to DC).

I looked at MySavingsDirect but couldn’t find many reviews and found that the bank had a financial health rating of C+. GE Capital Bank, however, offered the same APY and had a financial health rating of A+ — a stellar score. But there were some red flags with GE Capital Bank, too. Many reviewers complained about being declined despite great credit and high proposed deposit amounts. People also expressed HIGH dissatisfaction with the customer service, and some pointed out that the bank couldn’t meet their needs because it wasn’t a one-stop shop. For me, lack of additional services wasn’t a dealbreaker because I wasn’t looking to completely uproot. I just want a better place to store a chunk of money for a short period of time — like about six months.

IGOBanking.com and Barclays also both looked solid with 1% APYs and respective A and A+ ratings on their financial health. Two great options for high interest savings accounts with no fees and no minimums.

Because I’d also read a lot of great reviews about Ally Bank, I did additional research on this bank, even though the APY was slightly lower than my three other amazing options. I found that Ally also had an A+ rating on its financial health and stellar reviews.

Ultimately, I trusted the opinion of GOBankingRates.com in choosing GE Capital Bank for my online savings account. Most of the bad reviews complained about being declined for an account, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. And I was approved!

I stored a large chunk of cash in my new savings account and plan to make deposits on a monthly basis.

One last tidbit: I’m using Quizzle to help me get my financial house in order, to quote HBFD. It offers a free credit rating and analysis as well as tips to improve your credit score. I found that my credit score was in the high 600s, which isn’t bad but also isn’t perfect. I need to work on paying my bills on time (rather than waiting months and months and threats to cut off my service before I just give Verizon their money) and keeping my utilization under 30%, which I was probably better at pre-December 2014. Viewing a detailed credit report also motivated me to finally consolidate my loans from the Department of Education. Because I work in the nonprofit sector, I’ll be eligible for some loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program after 10 years of payments.

A decade used to feel like a really long time, but when I think about it in terms of my probable lifespan, it’s really not that long at all. Ten years from now, I’ll only be 35. I’ll still have my whole life ahead of me.

I’m really enjoying this process because, even if I decide in the end that I don’t want to buy a home in DC, I’m feeling more financially healthy than ever before in my life.

The most important lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Buying is not always the right decision.
  2. But saving is.

Babies are transportable.

When I look back at old posts, I sometimes think, “How many times am I going to come to the same conclusions?” Every time I think I’ve learned something about myself, it’s like I have to learn it again and again until it sticks. Every time I think I’ve come to love and accept myself for who I am, I find myself going out of my way to reaffirm it, explain it, justify it. I’ve gotten a bunch of hits on old posts lately, and whenever I see someone reading something I said two years ago, I can’t help but look back to see what I said two years ago. And what’s interesting is that it’s often exactly what I’m saying today. (Or, of course, knowing me, it’s sometimes the complete opposite.) In my first post from 2012, when I was still happy in my relationship, I had this unnerving feeling that I’d rather be single. In my most recent post, I went on and on about how I realized I wanted to be single all along. I knew it in June when I first recognized the feeling of true love, the fact that I’d never felt it before — and I also acknowledged that committed romantic relationships aren’t for everyone. But then I hop into a cab with a driver who lectures me that I shouldn’t buy a house because, *when* I get married, the man I marry will benefit, and I realize that not everyone lives in this modern world where women can define their lifestyles and have children without partners or even have same-sex partners or partners that they’ve chosen not to marry or any variety of family structures that doesn’t look like man + wife + babies. Or I get on an Amtrak train to New York, and a conductor asks me “Why are you traveling on your own?” — a question that would’ve never been posed to a man traveling alone with a child in the middle of the day on a Sunday, or probably at any time. Or I hang out with a guy who immediately assumes that “it must be hard to get out of the house, i’m sure you try” — and in trying to comfort me, you’re actually patronizing me. Because, actually, I do get out of the house quite. a. bit. As it turns out, babies are transportable, sir. And I know that no one means to be cruel or condescending; you’re speaking out of ignorance, or maybe out of some experience you’ve had with someone else, and you’re applying that mindset to every single mother you meet. Which, really, is still just ignorance. Here are the facts: Some people just want to be mothers, and some of us know deep down that we can do it best on our own. Would it be nice to have a second income around here? Sure! Would it be nice to win the lottery? IT SURE WOULD. But hey, for me, money isn’t a good enough reason to get married, and I can’t think of any others. I’m someone who has always forged my own path. I leap, and I go in my own direction. My past relationships have worked out best — or rather, most seamlessly — with people who have chosen to follow me. I know that’s not fair. I have credited myself with “improving” some of their lives — moving them in the direction of “better” careers, “better” educational opportunities. In other words, I imposed my values on them and made them “better” in my eyes. I pushed them to embrace things that made me happy, not giving worth to the things that they may have actually wanted. I know now that I was wrong. But I also know now that part of the problem was that I didn’t want a relationship that would force me to adjust my life in any way. I didn’t want anything that wasn’t incredibly convenient. To quote my drunk self breaking up with a college ex before falling asleep and telling him we’d talk about it in the morning, I just feel happier and more comfortable and more confident when I’m single. That still rings true for me. And that’s okay. What I will admit, though, is that there has been one point during which parenting has been particularly hard for me — and that’s while I’ve been dealing with seasonal depression. It usually starts around Thanksgiving and gets progressively worse until it peaks in February or March or whenever it’s really cold. It made it hard for me to follow through on all the things I wanted to do for Max’s birthday, and it made me disappointed in myself for failing to make the party as perfect as it should’ve been. It makes it hard for me to remember that I’ve ever been cheerful, that I’ve ever done anything right. It makes me question myself and question the people around me and push them away and pull them close and confuse them because I don’t know how I feel about them and I don’t even know how I feel about myself. It makes me self-conscious. It makes it hard to fall asleep at night and hard to wake up in the morning. It makes me less likely to go outside where I have to face people, and it makes me feel guilty for staying inside. It makes me eat more, and sometimes it makes me eat less. It makes me slack as a parent. I was so good about morning routines and bedtime routines and healthy dinners and reading together, and then I just fell off. I couldn’t keep up. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to be better. I felt guilty for not being better. It was an endless cycle of feelings of insufficiency and self-hatred. Literally all because it got cold. And the cold is relative. I know because I faced the same seasonal depression in LA. It would rain for days in January, and it’d be 40 degrees, and I remember being stuck in bed playing “Robot Unicorn Attack,” telling myself I’ll just give myself a break today and tomorrow I’ll go outside. Tomorrow I’ll get something accomplished. When the sun came back this year, everything changed. Sure, it was followed up by a small snowstorm during which my son got pink eye and I got a sinus infection, but then the sun came back again, and everything was fine.

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I spring cleaned.

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We went to the greatest show on earth!

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and Max got to see the elephants before we start to acknowledge animal cruelty

I wonder if I can really settle and stay in DC when I know that I’ll feel this way just about every winter. I wonder sometimes if it’s worth it to stay for the sense of community and the incredible career opportunities available here. I built a community in LA, I built a community in DC, I can build a community in Honolulu. Maybe I really do need to get out of this place. It’s lucky babies are transportable. UPDATE: Everyday Feminism has published a few amazing articles on this subject — not specifically regarding single mothers but singledom in general: