Saturday, February 23, 2013

When daughter's "Daddy" has a certain ring

“I love you, Daddy,” my five year old daughter said for no apparent reason. I smiled. It was nice to hear – genuine, heartfelt, and with no other intention than a spontaneous burst of love. But I knew from experience it wouldn’t be that way for long.

When my now 18 year old daughter was 14, she and I were sitting on the couch watching a sitcom where a man and a woman were whispering sweet innuendos to each other throughout the entire show. I sat there nervously hoping my daughter wasn’t getting half of it while fearing the other half she was.

In my peripheral vision, I could see her fiddling with her left hand. “What’s wrong with your hand,” I asked.
She held up her left hand. Her third finger was red and the swelling was overtaking a ring. “It’s stuck, Daddy,” she whined. Her use of the loaded word “Daddy” immediately disarmed me – a perfected signature move on her part – turning my readied reprimand into sympathetic understanding. No such buzzword works on my wife, however, who, from practically the other side of the house knew there was a problem.

“What did you do to your finger,” my wife yelled as she walked into the living room. “Why would you even try to put that thing on? It’s clearly too small for you.”

My daughter then regaled us with a tale of a ring given to her by a best friend in elementary school. She had always loved this ring, she continued. In fact, according to my daughter, this ring could be considered one of the greatest rings in the world.

“But it went on so easily,” she insisted.

My first instinct was to just forcefully yank the bugger off, but tears began to flow and that was that.
Now there are many homeopathic methods to get a stuck ring off of a finger: hold hand up high above heart; apply ice or soak in ice water; apply generous amounts of lubricants including, but certainly not limited to soap, hand lotion, petroleum jelly, olive oil. I’ve heard of people spraying the finger with window cleaner, wrapping the finger in masking tape, or even using hemorrhoid cream.

When the raised hand and ice did not work, we decided to move on to soaps and salves. So my daughter, her mother, and I made our way up to the bathroom where the light was better and where it is more fitting to deal with issues of health, wellness, and stuck things.

Unfortunately, no amount of unguents helped the ring give way. I began to rummage through the medicine cabinet hoping for an idea when I came across a pair of fingernail clippers. Sure, we could cut it off. I began snipping away at the metal. This would work, but it was going to take a long time.

“Wait here,” I said and jetted down the stairs to my little space underneath the basement steps where I keep my tools.

The first thing I reached for was my hacksaw. But I wasn’t sure exactly how I would be able to maneuver it without some collateral damage. I thought of carrying up my power circular saw, just as a joke of course, but I figured she was already experiencing enough stress, why add to it. I finally decided on a couple of pliers and a pair of sheet metal cutting shears.

As I was coming up the steps, I could hear my daughter begging my wife to hurry with the fingernail clippers before “Daddy gets back.” Now the word “Daddy” rang like a profanity.

By the time I made it back to the bathroom, my wife had clipped her way about three quarters of the way through the ring. “Just let Mommy finish,” my daughter pleaded. Oh, now it’s “Mommy,” is it?

I pulled out the sheet metal shears, took her trembling hand in mine, and quickly snipped thought the rest of the ring. I tossed my wife a pair of pliers and together with a second pair I had, we pried open the ring and it was off.

“Thank you, Daddy,” she said in the tone I had now become accustomed to hear mostly before the phrase, “can I have…”

I looked at my five year old daughter, appreciating the moment all the more because I know just how fleeting it will be. I then gave her a great big hug. “Daddy loves you, too.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

A frugal husband makes for a fun dad on Valentine’s Day

As a parent of five children and an owner of one aging house, Valentine’s is that mid-winter rainy day for which I find myself soaking wet because my fiduciary reality has always been less meteorological and more astronomical.

I suppose I should be thankful that things seem to breakdown whenever I get a little ahead. Take for example last year’s tax refund – TV, washer, and refrigerator – all kaput within days of each other.
It seems any budget surplus I’ve ever experienced has been liquidated faster than a barfly on St. Patrick’s Day.

To keep our head above the flood waters, we focus on the unavoidable capital outlays throughout the fiscal year: insurance, utilities, taxes, mortgage, and the most demanding of them all: kids.
Then there are those other “unavoidables” where return must be weighed heavily against investment.

Valentine’s Day is one of those debits in the spreadsheet of life.

So, in these times of recession, I proclaimed to my adoring wife, we all must make sacrifices. Frivolous expenditures need to be, if not cut entirely, certainly timed back or deferred. But frivolous may have not been the right word, I said in response to the charming glare I received as she left the room.

Although I consider myself quite a romantic guy, I realize our current economy forces a working guy to consider his investment options very carefully when it comes to the lovers holiday.

Current economic conditions inhibit the acquisition of gifts that are consumable. These include going out to dinner and surprising her with the predictable heart of chocolate. Yes, these things contain lofty direct profits, but they are short term and what we’re looking for here is durable assets.
The flower du jour for this “holiday” is the expensive rose. I ask why not milkweed or dandelion. And what’s worse, roses are sold by the dozen. Sure, I could be one long-stem rose. That was fine when I was just out of college struggling to make ends meet. Now that I’m in my 40’s struggling to make ends meet, a single rose is just pathetic.

Diamonds are the raison d’ĂȘtre, the big kahuna of Valentine’s Day gifts and they offer significant returns. However, it is a hefty out-of-pocket venture with one big caveat emptor: size matters.
There are the lesser stones, your sapphires, emeralds, satin gypsums, but they are more like generic cereal at the breakfast table of jewelry. Just see what happens when you slam a box of Capt. Munch in front of your brand savvy kids.

Gold is generally a safe commodity. Its immediate value is quite high with a rapid return of investment, but that value can fade into the oblivion of the jewelry box as fashion dictates that next best gift. Then the initial venture depreciates into sentimental value which may spike periodically when cleaning out the jewelry box. It’s true that gold will always have its market value, but even the suggestion of liquidating unworn jewelry will surely cause a melt-down of another sort all together.

While there are many other choices to take stock in for us romantic but thrifty types – coffee mugs, gift baskets, books of poetry, bath salts, beer-of-the-month club – investor beware: A bear in the bull market of Valentine’s Day must advance cautiously in hopes his acquisition compounds a great deal of interest for his beneficiary lest your tear sheets bring about sheets of tears.

So to ease the undue pressures of Valentine’s Day, my wife and I have decided that it is all about the kids. We’ll run to the dollar store for some decorations and candy hearts with little sayings. We’ll make some pancakes in the shape of hearts, and maybe even a cake with pink icing and red and white sprinkles.
And there will be a little surprise for my wife, too, because I am not a complete idiot.