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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« I know it’s a day early… | Main | The meme that started out promising, but then everything went wrong—just like life. »

Don’t read this.

Yesterday was one of the worst days Henry and I have ever had together. Truly, I have never seen him like that before. I’ve never seen me like that. We clashed on every topic (Are Dried Cranberries An Acceptable Dinner? Could He Watch TV For Just Another Minute? Why Couldn’t He Head Butt Me Repeatedly In the Groin While I Am Talking To the Mortgage Broker?) and each time Henry’s demands escalated into full-blown weepy hysteria; we went to our separate corners to enjoy our respective time-outs; we came back to each other to hug and declare our undying love; then it all started again. At one point I found myself yelling and clenching my fists and hopping up and down. Hopping. And I slammed doors. Twice. I am an excellent role model.

I could point to Henry and say IT’S HIS FAULT and say WHO STOLE MY CHILD AND REPLACED HIM WITH THIS MONSTROSITY? But the thing is, I know what’s going on. He’s reacting to me. I am distracted and frazzled and depressed and it’s making him anxious as hell.

We sold our place for more money than we thought we could, which is great. We’re thrilled. But our large margin of profit is not quite what we thought it was. Not quite enough for the house we want. Take the large amount and remove the $20,000 of closing fees and moving expenses, the huge tax bill we’ll have for 2005, the money we’ll need to put down for a car, the small amount of savings we’ll need in case any expenses come up with the house, and you have a much smaller number. Factor in the added expenses of owning a house—the insurance, the car, the heating bills, the inevitable repairs, the hefty real estate tax bill—and the number shrinks even further.

We could take more of a risk and put more down if, say, one of us had reliable employment. Without going into detail about my husband’s job, we don’t, not really. Not reliable in the benefits-and-vacation-time, check-every-two-weeks, severance-pay-guaranteed sense. It’s a great job for his industry, which is not known for its steadiness. We’ve been lucky for a while, but there’s always the spectre of the work drying up. If the work isn’t there, he doesn’t get money. So we have to be careful. We’ve been careful for years, we know the drill. But now we’re looking for a house, and being careful doesn’t jibe with finding a good and safe place for our family, and it feels like the air is being sucked out of the room.

We decided on this neighborhood in New Jersey; it’s close to the city, the trains are right there, the prices for the small homes with small lots (the kind we want, as we are city folk) are not unreasonable. We have friends nearby. But now it seems that if we want to be in the parts of town that have good schools, we have to extend ourselves past our comfort level. Last week we bid on a great house; we were right at the brink of what we could afford, and the taxes were astronomical, and we were stressed out and fighting about the expense. But the school there is wonderful, and I read the description of the school and I thought of Henry being at that school, and I wanted him to live there. I walked around that house and I thought, We will be happy here. We could just barely afford it, but we could afford it, so we bid. And then one other bidder came in at way over the asking price and swooped it up. This isn’t the first time this has happened; such is the market these days. Even if the numbers indicate we can afford it, we can’t really afford it.

We’ve looked at the less-fancy parts of town, that have relatively decent schools, at least we think, and taxes that aren’t so high. But every house we’ve seen in that area has low ceilings and dark musty kitchens and shag rugs and the neighbor’s windows so close you could pass cups of sugar back and forth, and I know this isn’t what we want. We’re not asking for a lot, but we’re asking for a little more than this.

So maybe I feel entitled. Maybe I’m a stuck-up bitch and I should get over myself and living in the cramped smelly house that after all we could fix up. That is probably a valid opinion.

But this is all symptomatic of the larger problem here. We don’t have enough money. We’re not making enough. Every optional expense has been cut out, and yet there’s still not enough. And it’s hurting us. It’s a constant source of tension; there’s no escaping it. Everywhere we look there’s a sign that we need more money. The dog is overdue for a vet appointment. We don’t have the money. Here’s the list of good preschools in Jersey. We don’t have the money. Let’s get food delivered because I’m exhausted and Henry didn’t let me even get near the kitchen all day, he’s been so clingy. We don’t have the money. Well, okay, maybe pizza. But let’s not go crazy with the toppings.

(We want another baby. We don’t have the money.)

Please don’t tell me I should write a book to make money. Or rather: tell me to write a book, and thank you for having faith in my abilities, really, but understand that such an undertaking takes years, years of nonpaid work, and also no one should write a book for the money. It just doesn’t work that way.

Do you want to know what I am wearing now, O Internet? (Especially those members of the Internet who send me hate mail because of my fabulous bloggy existence?) I am wearing jeans that have enormous holes in the crotch and across one knee. They are dirty, as I wear them every day. They are one of two pairs of jeans that I own; the others were pre-pregnancy and are now laughingly small on me. (Size 4! BLAHHAHAHAHA.) In addition to my crappy pilly too-small and too-old Gap sweater, I am also wearing ugly black leather shoes that I bought when I was pregnant, and thus are now one size too big. I trip in them every day. On most days I wear the too-big shoes and the ripped-up jeans. I could probably buy myself new jeans and new shoes, but the idea fills me with guilt. How can I buy something like clothing when we might not be able to pay for Henry’s preschool?

I know how whiny I sound here, I do. I know many many people have lives infinitely more difficult than this one. I know how lucky I am. Please don’t yell at me because I’m whining about my shoes. It’s just—I feel like I’m decaying, a little. I feel unattractive and like I don’t have the right to feel attractive. I feel like god there has to be more money somewhere, except there’s no time to get the money and no money (for childcare, that is) to get more money. I feel like my creative life is dying because all I do is worry and crunch numbers and do the little writing jobs that might bring in enough to pay the cable bill. (Yes, we still have cable. The indulgence! I know!) I feel like there has to be an answer somewhere and where’s the answer and aren’t I smart enough haven’t I been good don’t I have the education and the intelligence and resources to figure this out why can’t I figure this out?

I know, I know. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I should snap out of it, right? You can tell me.

(p.s. If anyone knows anything about the school system in the above-mentioned town—it’s linked to, right up there—please, please email me.)

Reader Comments (209)

I just got done reading All Your Worth and it kept me up all night. I was worried about money before, but when I read the book, they told me GO TO BED AND WORRY ABOUT MONEY ALL NIGHT, it was that dire.

I wish I had advice for you, but all I'm right there with you, and I feel for you.

All I can tell you is what I keep telling myself. When they are bigger, I can work, that this money situation is temporary (albeit a LONG temporary), and that I wouldn't trade my time home with them for the comfort of a paycheck any day.

Good luck with the house. We had to stop looking ourselves and stay where we are, but I bet you'll find your dream home.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBethany
You should come check out Houston, TX. You could probably get a 4,000 square foot home in a great neighborhood for what you are looking at now. The summers are pretty hot but all in all its a great place to live. Good luck!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNorma
Oh Alice,

Good luck! This is such a stressful time for you. Make your donation button bigger, set up a wishlist, and cafepress up some t-shirts! We love finslippy--there are enough of us to keep you in jeans & shoes at least (without taking away from Henry).

Other than donating (just did it), let us know what we can do to help out.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMeganann
It would be hysterical if you could do some advertising link for action figures, or even better, specifically Star Wars action figures. I am not kidding!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I'm right there with you...

I just left NYC for this reason...still single no kids...but even by myself, money was always an issue. Denver isn't the cheapest place in the world either, but I feel like I've been let out of jail...oh, the luxury of having my own washer/dryer in my apartment - and a fireplace(!).

I know that doesn't help, since your husband's job is tying the finslippy clan to NYC. And I really really really wish I could help!

A couple of (very modest) ideas, from someone so recently in the NYC boa constrictor money squeeze: a) If you're not absolutely wed to the idea of Bloomfield, you might think about a place even closer in. Stay with me here...if you were a bit closer to the city, say, Hoboken, you wouldn't need a car. Voila - no car payment/gas/insurance (which in NJ is INSANE). b) You might look at Zipcar instead of owning a car. I didn't have a car, but used the zipcar for those trips to Tar-jay, etc. about once per month. c) Clothes on ebay - I dropped three sizes after discovering the gym, but had no/zip/nada $$ for new clothes, especially since I covet cashmere and tweed. But there are a lot of name brand, new with tags clothes on Ebay from outlets. Especially great for wool winter coats. I also love the silver sage store (I'm sorry I sound like such a spoiled yuppie) but just can't pay $300 for a quilt - ebay to the rescue. d) ok, last idea and maybe a stretch here - but you are truly the wittiest person I know (well, read every day, anyway). Fantastic education - well spoken - clearly brilliant. Ever thought of teaching a test prep class? Not a long term gig, but great for bringing in some cash - and it would probably be in the evening after Pretty Rambo is home.

All of these are just ideas...just offered from someone who can relate and admires you so much. You're the kind of mom I want to be in a few years. I'm sorry for blathering on...but hang in there!!

February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCAL
Oh money. Oh the house and schools and moving and ooohhhhh. I see. I see why you were kneeling and hating in the other room. I so wish I could do something fabulous for you, where is my magic wand? I have no answers. We moved to freaking IDAHO so we could afford a nice house and a nice yard, and well? You have to be a special kind of crazy person to live in IDAHO.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVery Mom
So much good advice up there. (I buy a large percentage of my clothes on eBay. Especially great for clothes from stores at which you feel confident about your size)

It occurs to me, I'm looking at more than 100 comments. If we all "subscribed" to Finslippy right now, it might aggregate into a decent chunk of change. I know that, for me, I get much more joy, entertainment, and human connection reading Alice's posts than I do from all the of magazines I subscribe to. Let's get our dear blogging friend some new threads! (I know that's not what she intended by the post - all the more reason to subscribe, as far as I'm concerned.)
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVaguely Urban
Newish reader, but I have enjoyed you immensely since I've been stopping by. As to the money woes: Been there, am there, still doing it. I not only feel your pain, I have sympathetic tearducts that INSTANTLY tried to well up in response to your plight. Thanks for this entry - once again, a blog has given me some perspective and helped me to realize that I am not alone in my situation, as I thought I was the only broke-ass stress monster on the planet. Thanks! :)
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelanieinOrygun
I don't have much to say in terms of advice, because I don't even live in the US (I'm so much closer to you know that your're in Amsterdam!) and know nothing about real estate, or the job market. What I do know is that I love your writing and adore your son and the quirky things he says. And so, I did what I thought would be most helpful - donated.

Also, as some people said above, bring on the ads, clicking on them costs nothing, and I'm sure most of us wouldn't mind doing it.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
Alice. I am right there with you. My partner is in school. We have a 3-year old son. We are all trying to live off of my paycheck in ever-expensive California. I've cranked my taxes so high that the IRS is on the verge of good-god-who-knows-what. We all hear you. We are all here for you. And for all you who want to donate....this is the Finslippy URL on Amazon:
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdez
I so feel you on this one. We're slowly dribbling into a new house (because the old one has to be clean, you know, before the movers could even move around in it), and are paying two, count 'em, TWO mortgages until we get the other one sold. That emotional load gets heavier every day, and I will crack soon if hubby does not GET THAT FREAKIN' STUFF OUT OF THAT HOUSE! Oh, excuse me. I'm back. Anyway...I nominated and voted for you for best writing, and I'm clicking on all your advertisers, and if you had a finslippy shirt, I would totally buy one, because the only thing worse than being finslippy is, well, you know.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda
I'm there too. My partner and I want another kid (we have one), but have no idea how we would afford two day care/preschool tuitions. And we can't survive on only one income. Plus, the fact that we're a same-sex couple would make it difficult for us to live in a non-urban area that might be cheaper. Oy!
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermagicdrgn
Alice, We're very much in a similar boat, so I can relate. Can I buy you a coffee at the least, or perhaps some calming tea? We could meet at Ozzie's or the Tea Lounge. Hang in there! It will all somehow work out for you all!
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkb
Oh God, being poor, it just grinds you down and wears you out. It's rotten, sympathy.
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
aw, alice, I'm sorry. You have every right to be frustrated and complainy and anything else you feel like being, no criticism shall come your way at all.

let other people calm you? like people who want to buy you tea? or mail you pretty pretty shoes? or whatever people shall do? until you feel better, or at least a little light lands on you (and it will, i swear it).
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlis
No comment -- just cyberhugs.
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertracy Feld
Please listen to what your regulars are saying: t-shirts, magnets, mugs, and for crying out loud, get rid of that meek little "donate" link and put a BIG one up.

I hate to break it to you, Alice, but you already ARE a "real" writer, so getting paid for what you are putting out there is just common sense. It's not flattery from your readers or vanity on your part. It's a genuine appreciation from discerning people of a service you provide that is in short supply.
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
YES! to what Velma said. Why should you not be paid for this?
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDawn



Remember, "the meek shall inherit the holey old jeans."
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy
I love this post. I relate to it so much. It's one of the reasons we stay in our crappy little apartment in the lower east side with two kids (and rats galloping by our front door each night--no exaggeration). Yes, we own it, but it's cold comfort, because if we sold it, where the hell would we go? (My husband's a temp and a struggling musician, and no one would give us even a tiny mortgage now.) We'd have to move so far away from New York we'd end up back in Utah, where I moved here from.

My heart goes out to you!
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
try, if you haven't already done so.
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterliz
May I whorishly suggest you get some MORE ADS around here? Look at all the people that comment here! It's a fraction of the number that read you.Get something back, you! Then spoil yourself for a day.

Finslippy Readers: I ask you for ad clickage. Go forth and click profusely!
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS
I feel your pain, and I do know that when it's happening to you--it the biggest thing ever.

You will find a way, without donations from people.

February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
I haven't been reading for more than a month or two, but I've gone back and read the whole archive (ick - does that sound obsessive? It's just that I can relate to what you write!) Parts of my life are similar to yours, parts are different - I'm functioning as a single mom while my husband is in Iraq. My 7-year old son and I are figuring out how to make it on what the Army will pay my husband, while I finish school. Not how we planned it to be, but it's what we have. As someone else said, it will be hard, but it will pass. Anyway, I made a donation - it's small, but it's what I have. I made it because I'm grateful for you and your blog, not because anything sounded remotely "whiny!" We all deserve a pair of jeans that make our asses look great. Thank you for making me feel less crazy or alone when my little boy, whom I love deeply, makes me want to jump off of a bridge (bottle of wine in hand, of course!)
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter~t.~
My best friend is in NY and is planning on relocating to the Upper Midwest this summer because of how much more house her money can buy and the good public schools. She and her husband don't have any family ties in NY any longer, so it's a less emotional move for her and family. She's looking for a new quality of life and community where she can find an easier balance.

Good luck to you. Keep looking for solutions, you'll figure it out.
February 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterZifty

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