Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Visit from Family

Pardon my hiatus-- I was entertaining my sister and her family for a couple of days. It's funny that the last post was about small, cool apartments-- there's nothing like having two toddlers and their parents visit to make you think that there is nothing cool at all about having a small apartment!

Other interesting lessons from this visit:

The value of a $500 stroller is questionable, but it's especially useless for touring around Manhattan. The double-wide monstrosity my sister's in-laws gave them is almost as big as one of those Smart cars, and much harder to park. If you're going to be riding around on the subway, or want to actually enter any buildings, a cheap, lightweight folding stroller is a much better option.

And which would you think would be more expensive, a Polish coffee shop in Brooklyn Heights or a highly popular Italian restaurant in Times Square? Oddly, the bill was almost the same at both places, about $110-120 for 4 adults and 2 children, including tip. Carmine's in Times Square seems expensive when you first look at the menu, but the family-style servings are so huge, it becomes an very good value, especially if you take home the leftovers, which were enough for another dinner for two, plus a small lunch for one.

All in all, the visit was great fun. I loved seeing how my niece and nephew reacted to their first subway ride, their first skyscrapers, seeing the Statue of Liberty from a rooftop, and visiting my office (which they did with just me, while their parents waited on the sidewalk outside with the too-large stroller). Although I was glad to get my apartment back, I was sorry to see them leave.

But then, an hour after they departed for the next phase of their vacation (3 days in Washington, DC, where the kids thought they'd be sleeping at the White House and petting the Obamas' new dog), my mother called to see how things had gone. She then launched into a whole tirade about not understanding why they were spending money on this trip when they had so much debt. I suppose their justification was that the hotel in DC was "only $150 a night" and all the museums there were free.
My mother also dropped a bit of a bombshell: something may have been lost in translation, but apparently my sister told her she was unhappy that she couldn't get her kids into a particular school system (she's sort of on the line between two towns) and that they might have to move back to my parents' home town for the schools there, and that my mother shouldn't go too far with all the household projects she's trying to tackle, because they might want things done differently if they end up taking over that house!

I'm really trying to give my sister the benefit of the doubt here, as she and my mother can have very conflicting versions of their arguments. But I certainly hope she's not just waiting for my dad to die or be put into a nursing home so she can kick my mother out of the house and just take it over for herself! If that is her emergency fallback get-out-of-debt plan, it's... it's... I don't know, just F***D UP!!!

You can see why there are so many family dramas relating to inheritances, etc. It just brings out the worst in everyone involved!


Karen said...

Oh no-family drama! I sure hope your sister is on the up and up. I have seen relatives go crazy over a relative small amount of money and larage after someone passes away. I will never understand it.

I'm glad you had a family post. How is your dad doing?

Anonymous said...

i hope so, too. If she was at all hinting at that, it would've been in very poor taste, not to mention hurtful.

Unknown said...

Ummm... it's your mom's house, with her name on the deed. She could paint it mangenta with yellow polka dots if she wants to. I'd be careful, it sounds like your sister has at least taken possession of it in her own mind, which could be nasty later.

It's kind of a stupid retirement plan anyways. She'd only be able to live in the house as long as your mom was living, and with her permission. Once your parents die the house will likely be sold and the proceeds split between all siblings (sorry I don't know how many you have). So unless your sister has enough money to buy everyone out she won't be living their that long either. Seems like that plan will generate a lot of family hostility for a few years of cheap rent.

Margaret said...

Wow. That's pretty unbelievable. I hope that you are the executor of her estate because otherwise...well...that could be bad.

Anonymous said...

I hope that is not what your sister is planning, because it is very disturbing...but that is how a lot of people think.

I would try to be careful too. Money makes people crazy. My husband's grandfather was a rich man and when he passed there were fights and accusations and all sorts of drama...and grandma was still alive.

Luckily, most of it was left to grandma, so their children will have to be nice to her while she is alive if they hope to inherit anything. Sadly, the grandfather had to plan it that way.

My own father also had to plan things out that way in advance. The inheritance is very clear cut as far as who gets what. He made his wishes known right at the beginning..but that didn't stop other aunts and uncles from prying and trying to figure out if they get something. (they don't)

Ashie said...

I just wanted to give you my support about your family drama. I think you're fabulous, and you'll be able to handle it great whatever happens.
That said, even if your sister's awful plan is to move into the house, maybe she could save money, pay off debt and be nice to your parents? Much like the above poster's grandma controlling the purse-strings. I really hope it doesnt come to that.

1001 Petals said...

We call those big strollers "SUV" strollers. They are only good for big shopping trips or going out for a very long day, as they can carry a lot and are usually more versatile than regular strollers (can lay flat for a sleeping baby or toddler.)

I also have a small folding one (Silver Cross POP) for the subway and everyday errands. Not to mention a variety of carriers for when a stroller is completely inconvenient! Being a mom in the city can be complicated :)

Your sister sounds like she has a sense of entitlement. Maybe cause your parents have given her so much(?) It's interesting how one sibling can turn out like that and the other not at all. I am like you, except I have a small family of my own, and my sisters are like your sister (except they have no family of their own at all.)

frugal zeitgeist said...

Ick on your sister for making assumptions about her inheritance. Every time my mom launches into the "and there'll be plenty for you kids" speech, I tell her I hope she spends the whole thing on herself. It's her money, not mine.

mapgirl said...

I am surprised your sister has designs on your mother's home. My sibling and I have no interest in our parents' home as we both live out of state. Neither of us is inclined to move back home for any reason.

I'm not sure what's at stake her in terms of inheritance, but perhaps your sister needs to get a grip on the estate planning that happened and get on board with disposal of your parents assets in particular regard to your mother's residence? I mean if she wants that better school district, she'll have to buy out your eventual share of the house, yes?

Anonymous said...

Your mom should take out a reverse mortgage ;)

Isaac'swife said...

Looks like your sis doesn't want to face reality.

Sounds like she has thought about it briefly to a small extent so she can justify her current spending habits and not think about consequences....

truly it is a sad situation but one that many Americans are in.......even the Government. One day there will be no more credit and then times will really be tough.

Joy said...

Madame X did write "if" and she did point out that both her mother and her sister can be very unreliable narrators. Let's wait for the update before jumping all over her sister.

r&b said...

It's funny how once we all ''grow up'' our siblings are almost more of strangers than non-family members. Truth really comes out when inheritances are at stake.