Turkey and a Toy

On the “Why It’s Kept” page, I noted that I had not purchased Thanksgiving airfare and had not decided on a new cell phone plan. Given the general uncertainty in our lives regarding a big move and related travel prior to said move, premature commitment to either would have been foolish.


We did purchase our tickets to fly north for Thanksgiving–as we’ll be in this country for a bit longer than we thought and have time to travel then and after to see family elsewhere. We are looking forward to it. I even purchased some special toys for the kids’ later-than-usual flight there, in an effort to keep them awake, enthusiastic and cheerful, so that I don’t have to carry one or both of them off the plane as they fitfully sleep. (My husband needs to fly up a few days after us.) Special toys shipped from the United Kingdom, for Pete’s sake–why doesn’t the United States sell Octonauts figures? Does this country not know how fabulous these characters are?

I got myself a toy, too. Me. A toy.

I, who did not own a cell phone until 2004, who did not own a smart phone until 2009, will, at some point in late October, receive a new iPhone. It’ll be nicer than my husband’s — which is three years old. I’m a lucky girl. I reviewed the costs, carefully. Our monthly bill won’t go up, and while I did commit to a two-year contract with a company, everything is negotiable in that regard–especially when relocating. I will have a data limit–but in reviewing my data usage over the past three years, I’ve never approached even two percent of that limit during any given month. (I don’t need to stream video on a phone. I’ve never done it and don’t see that this will change. I do love FaceTime though, with so many of my loved ones rarely in the same room as me.)

But I can’t escape the fact that this iPhone is a toy. And after I read this, it’s an especially ridiculous toy: Cellphones Are Eating the Family Budget.

Government data show people have spent more on phone bills over the past four years, even as they have dialed back on dining out, clothes and entertainment—cutbacks that have been keenly felt in the restaurant, apparel and film industries….

[One smart phone user] figures that she and her husband would need to scrape together more than $1,000 to pay full price for two new high-end phones or settle for one of Verizon’s tiered-data plans, which she fears would cost a lot more given her video habit….

Almost nine in 10 of all U.S. adults have a cellphone, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Middle-income consumers increased their telephone spending in 2011 by $59, almost as much as the $64 in additional telephone spending by the 20% of consumers with the highest incomes, according to the Labor Department data…

As wireless service gets more expensive, the trade-offs become more painful. That could threaten to further crimp consumer spending elsewhere—or slow the upward swing in consumer spending on wireless.

That trend is evident in the home of 40-year-old Scott Boedy, a neighborhood service representative for a cable company. Mr. Boedy said he and his wife now pay $200 a month for cellphone service, up by about $50 from early last year, even as they have managed to cut spending on groceries by shopping at discount chain Aldi and on “fun stuff” by going out to dinner and movies less often. Looking over the family budget on Sunday night, Mr. Boedy said, his wife marveled at how much of it was going to the phone company.

“It stinks,” Mr. Boedy said. “I guess it’s the cost of modern-day America now.”

Let me say something, at the risk of sounding like Suze Orman: It is NOT the cost of modern-day America.

It is the cost of playing. In fact, it is the cost of the desire to play + the actual playing. You know what that equals? Waste and Excess.

I spent more time thinking about the logic in buying our children $20 worth of Octonauts toys (am I spoiling them? do they really need something special just because they’ll be on a plane past their bedtime? why not just wake them up on the plane and let them be cranky normal children?) than I did about the inherent absurdity of getting myself an iPhone. I’m a spoiled fool.

But I’m a self-aware spoiled fool.

“I moved to 3.”

This afternoon, as the children ate their afternoon snacks and went on to play, I read two articles, so that you don’t have to. (No, I’m kidding, you should read both of these articles. But read this post, too.)

The first: “Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.” The article is remarkable for several reasons, but this quote struck me:

…Romney takes such a curiously unapologetic approach to his own flip-flopping. His infamous changes of stance are not little wispy ideological alterations of a few degrees here or there – they are perfect and absolute mathematical reversals, as in “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country” and “I am firmly pro-life.” Yet unlike other politicians, who at least recognize that saying completely contradictory things presents a political problem, Romney seems genuinely puzzled by the public’s insistence that he be consistent. “I’m not going to apologize for having changed my mind,” he likes to say.

He believes his inconsistency, his wobbly moral compass which points not to what he believes but to what the voter in front of him believes, is everybody else’s problem. He’s entitled to that belief, I guess.

As for the second article: Look At Yourself Objectively. I liked this quote, which simply points out the value of humility and in turn, self-awareness:

We hate hearing bad news about ourselves so much that we’d rather change our behavior than just admit we screwed up.

Messing up and owning up… it’s the only way anything gets better. As I took the children home today from school, our daughter said, “I had a horrible day. A bee chased me. And… Mommy? I moved to 3.”

“Moving to 3” in the second grade’s behavior rubric indicates that the student “had a good day, but needed a little help from others to remember to listen, follow directions, and stay on task.”

Our daughter, since the first day of school last Monday, has never moved down from 4, which indicates that she had “an excellent day staying on task and remembered to listen and follow directions.”

Truth be told (and bragging be done), our daughter has never, ever, moved down from 4, through Kindergarten and First Grade (in those grades, 4 = Green).

She hates making mistakes, disappointing another, “screwing up.”

I asked her in the car, “Oh. That’s okay. Did you get a chance to move back up to 4?”

“Yes. A bunch of us moved down because we were distracted while we wrote our weekly words. But then by the time I was done I was back on 4.”

“So, you were on 3 for a few minutes.”

“Yes. I was really sad.”

I told her that she was a good girl, and that I was proud of her for telling me that she moved down, and even more proud that she moved right back up again.

“Now you understand even better how hard it is to always be good for your teacher, like you always are. You have a new teacher, and now you understand even better what she needs. This is a good thing.”

I didn’t ask her about her behavior today (I never do, I just check her classroom agenda as the teacher instructs).

She didn’t have to tell me what happened. She just owned up, because it troubled her, and she holds herself accountable.

She’s a role model.