on how much money uncle sam owes you
January 30, 2010, 4:11 pm
Filed under: advice, parenting | Tags: , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I know that you are a money wise person, one who may be able to help me with a tax question, plus I trust you implicitly. I am filing as an employee this year. TONS of money was with held from my checks for tax purposes, its kind of exciting at this point. Is there a way I can calculate my refund based on those numbers and how many I claimed this year? Also is there a web site or other references I can use for deducting my truck and computer. Basically I want to know if I can see, even if its just a ball park, what my return might look like without actually filing.


taxation without representation

dear taxation without representation,

to answer your question in a word, yes! there are ways to calculate your refund without actually filing. Any of the major online tax filing sites (like TurboTax, or H&R Block) usually have some kind of estimator on them for free, with no obligation. One that seems really user-friendly is available here. It includes a section, also, for unreimbursed business expenses (such as your computer and truck).

this should be a good way to get an idea of your refund, but when you go to file, I highly suggest at least talking to a tax pro (there are lots of low-cost or free tax helpers for lower-income folks, check out this link for some in your area), since your taxes are getting a wee bit complicated (what with business expenses but filing as an employee, for instance). They can also suggest some ways that you can maximize future tax benefits given your unique situation of being an employee who has business expenses.

happy happy filing (I love tax season)! and when you get that refund, check this out!

sweet tax dreams,



on traumatizing your tween
January 6, 2010, 9:14 pm
Filed under: advice, parenting | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I’m a mom of a 12 year old girl, and I want her to grow up feeling empowered and in control of her sexuality.  So I have been planning to buy her a vibrator so she doesn’t feel like she has to have risky (or pregnancy-inducing) behavior to feel sexual.  My question is: at what age do you think I should get her one?  And is there a way that I can give it to her without it being totally traumatizing?

Sign me,

Preteen Progenitor in Portland

dear progenitor,

I have a few things to suggest concerning this question but if you hear only one of them, let it be this.  do not give your daughter a vibrator.  do not do it now or then, do not do it here nor there.  do not do it in a house, do not do it in the shape of a mouse. do not give it in a box, do not give it like a fox.  you will absolutely traumatize her if you give her a sex toy no matter how old she is or how cool and hip you are or how close you are with her.

that being said, I think there are ways that you can help her feel comfortable, empowered, and in control of her sexuality.  the key here is that if you want her to feel empowered and in control, then she needs to be the one making the moves.  if she feels like you are acknowledging her budding sexuality, then all she is going to think about is that you have sexuality and that is just going to gross her out and make her withdraw.  if, however, she feels like she is discovering these things on her own in an environment where discovery and learning and growth are encouraged, then she will naturally feel empowered and in control.

here is what I suggest:  if you haven’t already, or even if you have, talk to her about sexuality.  I’d say try not to make it super formal because that will just make it look like you’re not comfortable with it either (as she certainly isn’t).  talk to her about sex and masturbation and maybe give her a book that has some information on exploring her new sexual feelings.  I would say don’t give her a book that is all “here’s how to have a lot of fun touching yourself” but more as a part of a whole “changing body” kind of thing.  I’d also keep having that conversation every time there is an opportunity.  when sex is on TV or movies, when her friends talk about it, that kind of thing.  she is at an age where she is still looking to you for what to do and how to act, so if you are empowered, comfortable, and in control of your sexuality, then she will be too.  just don’t tell her about how much play you’re getting or she’s going to puke.

the main thing is that right now, you’re probably more nervous about having this talk than she is.   she probably has a lot of questions and you’re who she knows as the best answer-giver.  if you give her a vibrator, though, she is going to think of you as a weirdo mom and talk to her friends big sister or something who is like 15 and is not going to give her the advice you would.

if you’re totally set on getting her a vibrator…I’d spend the next two years or so talking to her about sex and healthy sexuality and then maybe talk to her about if she is interested in exploring it any further in a non-partner-sex kind of way.  maybe she has a cool young aunt who can take her to Nomia.  Maybe you can just get her a $20 visa gift card and unlock the NetNanny for a weekend and tell her to “see what comes to her.”  perhaps you can drop hints that when you buy sex toys online they come in unmarked packages so no one would ever know what she bought.  you get the idea.

the key to empowering other people is to create a safe space where empowered people (i.e. you) are seen as cool and in control and like role models.  I suspect you’re already doing that.  keep it up, and good luck!