money

What is a mom worth?

What is a wife and stay at home mom worth? That’s the question that has been raised in a couple of venues I have been in recently. Now, I am not talking about the love aspect, because love is priceless. I can’t and won’t put a price on my love for my wife, that just IS.

My beautiful wife and I both worked when we were first wed a couple of months ago, but due to totally opposite and conflicting schedules, money that wasn’t worth the time, and just her physical well being, we decided it would be best for the family if she stayed at home. So now she is a stay at home mom and housewife and I absolutely love it. Money is tight, but the girls have their mom all day, which I believe is important. She isn’t taxing her body like she was before, which always worried the hell out of me. Also, she doesn’t have to stress and worry about her safety being a waitress working a graveyard shift.

To me, this is all priceless.

Lately she has shown some concern over money as things are tight, to which I have this to say: Babe, you are contributing more than you think. I don’t worry about things like I used to, we will get through the tight finances and debt and we will be okay. Don’t worry about not bringing home a paycheck. You do things that are just as important, if not more so, on a daily basis. I love you.

This article says these things in a much better way than I can, so I will share it for your reading pleasure: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/parenting-roles/value-of-stay-at-home-moms/the-value-of-stay-at-home-moms

Now, if some of you disagree with me and this article and think that this is all easy and stay at homes mom have it easy, I say try and do it without one. See how hard it can get. Better yet, hire out to other people. Get yourself people that do all the things a stay at home mom does and see how much it costs you. The average stay at home mom puts in 96.5 hours of work a week according to Salary.com and Forbes. Imagine paying a housekeeper, a cook, a launderer, a driver for errands, (etc.) for all of this and then having them on call for nights too. Yup, it would run you a huge bill.

In the end though, as I already said, it is all priceless. You can’t put a value on what a mom and a wife does, it will never come out right. Just love them and help them when they need it.

Categories: Family, Life, money, Work | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kindergarten graduation turns in to a rant

Today was kindergarten graduation day for my oldest daughter. She stood up there with the rest of her class, sang songs that they had learned throughout the year, obtained her Kindergarten Diploma, and looked all kinds of adorable in her little cap and gown. Behind her was a sign that read “Class of 2027.” I did the math, that will be 28 years after I graduated High School. I will be just turning 46. I will be 48 when the youngest graduates. Making me feel old already.

Other than that, It was a fun time.

Except…it was Kindergarten graduation. I asked my wife, “Did you ever have a Kindergarten graduation?” “I seem to remember a swift kick in the butt (in reality probably a hug) and the teacher telling me I was off to 1st grade.” She responded that she didn’t have a Kindergarten Graduation either, but she had a Elementary School Graduation, and 8th Grade Graduation, and of course High School.

I don’t remember a elementary school graduation, but I do remember 8th grade graduation and High School Graduation. It was cold and windy in June when I graduated High School in 1999, we wore jackets over our robes. Unusual for the Mojave desert. I digress.

I asked my wife, “Why a Kindergarten graduation?” She said that all the schools around here are doing them now and they are graduating from every grade. Evidently they hope that if they make a big deal about kids moving on to the new grade and make a celebration out of it, more kids will stay in school.

I don’t really follow that logic.

Whatever happened to celebrating true accomplishments? Why do we have to give a participation medal, ribbon, graduation to everyone? I can understand Kindergarten graduation actually, moving on from getting your feet wet in school to actually jumping in to the numbered grades. That makes sense to me. But a 1st grade graduation? How is that going to give a kid incentive to stay in school? Same with a 6th grade graduation? If you make school fun, but educational for these young kids then they will learn to love it. Teach to the individual student, not to the “common core” masses. Maybe then our High School grades will improve.

However, nothing will improve unless the parents of kids make an effort with their kids. I know this isn’t easy as most households are two income, everyone works to make ends meet, everyone is tired at the end of the day, and you don’t always have time to help little Susie, or 16 year old Johnny with his home work. The same is especially true of families that maybe only have one parent that works a shitty job, trying to pay the bills.

Life isn’t easy, unfortunately kids tend to take the brunt of that. As time goes on, this affects their outlook, grades, etc. I haven’t seen any studies (but then again I haven’t looked for them), but I bet when good paying jobs are plentiful and the economy is good, you have better grades, higher attendance, and less drop outs.

This post didn’t go where I thought it was going to go, I kind of meandered off my original topic and now I don’t know how to get back to that path. I’ll call it a day now.

Categories: Life, money, Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Me, my Challenger, and the “Mod Bug.”

A while back I was bitten by the “Mod bug” on my car, fairly soon after I drove it off the lot actually. The modifications started out small, cheap, and simple. A drop in K&N filter, dash mat, a Charger air tube to get rid of that stupid “intake silencer,” and durable floor mats. After a time I became irritated at the skip shift feature on my transmission, so I started looking for a way around that. I found a 20.00 resister and wire appropriately called a “Skip Shift Eliminator.” That was ordered and plugged in to my manual transmission right away.

Right now you are probably wondering “What the heck is skip shift?!” My challenger is a 6 speed manual transmission. As an “emissions feature” Dodge, Chevy and other car companies have developed the skip shift; from 19 and 21 MPH, under certain RPM load and I think sometimes certain temperatures, when you attempt to shift out of first and in to second, the computer automatically locks out 2nd and 3rd gear, forcing you to shift in to 4th. This is supposed to bring down emissions under heavy stop and go traffic. It’s annoying.

The skip shift was my last modification for a while; then I needed new tires. Of course that is a perfect time for new rims too! After that I was way too broke to buy anything else. This last year I had a little money saved, refinanced that car for a lower payment and lower interest, and my bumper to bumper warranty expired. A voice in my head cried out LET THE MODS COMMENCE!

The first mod last year was the intake with a Cervinis Ram Air Intake. I took out the existing air filter box, the insulation material under the hood, and the fake hood scoops. I installed a different air box with a conical filter, functional hood scoops, and a panel under the hood with ducting to rout the air from the hood scoops to the air box. When you close the hood, an opening in the panel where the ducting comes together seals to the top of the air box, at least in theory. It seems to work as advertised, but the fit and finish of the air box leave a lot to be desired. I have read of other people installing a Mopar CAI in the air boxes place because it perfectly seals with the Cervinis Ram Air panel. I don’t want to spend another 350.00 on the Mopar CAI though.

At the same time I modified the brakes. Early on I warped my front rotors, which I have since found out is a common problem on the 3.6 SE and 5.7 R/T Challengers. The 6.4 SRT Challengers have upgraded Brembo brakes and they don’t warp. I installed drilled and slotted R1 Performance Rotors all the way around the car and I paired them with HAWK HPS pads. The HAWK’s dust quite a bit and they are semi metallic, so they squeal under low speed braking. However, they stop a lot better than the OEM ones.

After that I put on a Catch Can. A Catch can is basically a canister filter that goes between the EGR valve and the intake manifold. It’s function is to filter out the oil that is the in the gasses that pass through the EGR valve and in to the manifold. These generation three Hemi engines lose a lot of oil in these gasses and it really gunks up the valves.

Just to make things look pretty I put stainless steel braided lines between the EGR valve, the Catch Can, and the manifold. It looks good, but now the engine cover doesn’t quite sit on right.

Next up was a Christmas present to myself; a Barton Industries Short Throw Shifter. I was going to go the traditional route and get a Hurst, but all the reviews were really bad. Evidently Hurst now farms their stuff out to China and the quality isn’t what it used to be. I received my Barton right before Christmas and of course I had to put it in that night. Same night I was supposed to meet my fiancée (then girlfriend) and the girls for dinner. No problem I thought, I read the instructions and watched the YouTube video, this shouldn’t take long.

Two hours later the sun was down, I couldn’t see, and my fiancée had to come over and hold a flashlight for me. She was of course freezing, miserable, cussing me, cussing my car, and not understanding why I was putting in this short throw shifter right now. My response: “because I want it in right now.” She was less than thrilled with me.

I had to re learn to shift my car. Strong centering spring want to bring the shifter back to the center of neutral as soon as you bring it out of a gear. I really had to concentrate to make sure I was staying in 1st and 2nd, not 3rd and 4th. Barton also claims that the shift throw is reduced 40%, I for one believe it.

As a nod to the old school shifters, I went with the classic white shift knob. It looks like an out of place cue ball in my black car, but I love its uniqueness.

The next modification came curtesy of my fiancée; as a gift she purchased a Diablo Trinity Tuner. She informed me that she was going to buy it, and I of course became excited. The tuner actually reprograms the car computer, giving you more performance, gas mileage, etc. A good human tuner can actually take the Diablo Trinity, put your car on a dyno, and give your car a personal tune. This would give you much more horse power and torque vs what the “canned tune” that is already on the Diablo will. Of course, the canned tune is a vast improvement over the stock tune.

My fiancée informed me that she was going to purchase this for me, so I of course jumped the gun and went to a website that specializes in these parts and ordered an A-pillar gauge pod mount and a Trinity adapter. The A-pillar gauge pod mount replaces the cover on your cars A-pillar with one that has a cavity built in to it to mount a gauge. My plan was to permanently mount the Trinity on the A-pillar as it has all kinds of cool gauges, a virtual drag tree, shift light, etc. When I was searching for the gauge pod I found a regular one, and a “Trinity optimized one.” Of course the optimized one was only available through one vendor, was a couple of bucks more than the regular one, and the shipping was 30.00. I went with another vendor on the regular gauge pod to pay a cheaper price and free shipping.

I received the gauge pod about and then the Trinity. I hooked the trinity up to my car, put in the canned 91 octane tune and immediately felt a difference in the throttle response and available power throughout the RPM range. I then customized the tune by making my throttle 20% more sensitive. As Challengers and Chargers have electronic throttles with no throttle linkage of any kind, you can do this. The whole car is basically drive-by-wire.

Once I was satisfied with the throttle sensitivity, I proceeded to put on the A-pillar gauge pod mount. I of course find that the gauge pod is so low on the pillar that it is impossible to correctly mount the trinity. I called up the vendor and they tell me I really should have gone with the Trinity optimized gauge pod from the other vendor. I can send their gauge pod back, but it is a 15% restocking fee, so I won’t get my full 230.00 back. I pull it out, send it back, and order the one I should have ordered. Instead of saving myself 35.00, I ended up costing myself about 50.00 more.

The new gauge pod is in, the trinity is mounted, and it looks good.

Next up was a ported throttle body. OEM throttle bodies are 80mm; I went with a throttle body ported out to 87mm. I went with what I was recommended by the company. I’m not sure if it is doing much of anything HP or Torque wise, but the throttle feels even more consistent now. Either that or it is my imagination trying to justify the purchase. I’m told it will really make a difference if I put on a better exhaust manifold, which I plan on doing some day.

At the moment, sitting in my garage are a set of new spark plugs, and a 180 degree thermostat. The new thermostat is so that I don’t burn my fan up with the new 91 octane tune as the tune changes the fan settings. The Hemi engines are prone to heat soak too, especially out here in the Mojave. A cooler thermostat definitely won’t hurt.

The spark plugs need to go in soon too as I am at 38,000 miles and they are supposed to be changed out at every 30,000 miles.

On order, and probably the last things I will buy for my car this year, are strut braces. They serve to stiffen the suspension on the car and help with body roll and flex. I bought one for the front that mounts in the engine compartment, and an arched one for the back, that mounts in the trunk. They have better ones for the rear, but they take up more trunk room than I want to give up.

What’s all this leading to and why are you doing this you may ask? Well, more modifications! Each mod builds on the next and improving performance. I plan on a whole suspension kit, stainless steel brake lines, shorty headers, better cat back exhaust, and someday a high performance cam and cylinder heads. I live in California so I can’t put high flow catalytic converters on, or I would.

During all of this, I do plan on driving some time trials, the Mojave Mile, autocross, etc. Although I have to say that this big beast of a car on an autocross, amongst Miata’s, Evos, BMW’s, (etc.) will be interesting.

Also…well… I just want to. What better reason should I have?

Categories: Cars, Life, money | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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