The other day, I had to borrow three bucks from my fourth grader. “I’ll pay you right back,” I promised, fishing desperately through the coin tray for quarters and only finding two.

He looked at me with a combination of amusement and pity.

“I know you’re saving up for that Lego City Fire Boat set,” I continued, “but we also really need eggs, and they only take cash at the barn.”

Without a word, he reached into his backpack, pulled out his bulging little wallet with the soccer ball insignia, selected three ones in a distinctly bankerly manner, and handed them up to the front seat.

“Thanks, bud. I owe you.”

That same son, in a chatty mood a few nights later, wanted to talk about the following:

1 | Why do kids lose a bunch of teeth when they’re six or seven, then don’t lose any for a while, and then lose a bunch more around 11 or 12?

2 | When can we finish building the tree house? Will it have outlets? How about furniture?

3 | How come we can’t get one of those huge TVs that covers the wall? Because you need one of those for the PlayStation we also don’t have.

4 | When can we go to Jamaica again? I really liked Jamaica.

5 | Here are the pets I would like, please, in this order, from most favorite to least favorite: a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy that I would call Bernie (Feel the Bern!), a turtle named Todd, a chameleon or gecko or some lizard sort of thing, and lastly, chickens, plus the coop they’d live in, “because then we’d have eggs, Mom, and you wouldn’t need to borrow my money.”

This all made me chuckle acerbically since every one of these conversation topics required sums I don’t have, and won’t for the foreseeable future given that expendable income is nonexistent these days.

Even for tooth-loss.

Because everyone knows lost teeth require quarters from the Tooth Fairy, and I just spent my last two on eggs. (Why didn’t we just start with a few shiny pennies? He wouldn’t have known the difference! Plus, it would have allowed for inflation.)

My son is nine, thankfully, so we’ve got a couple years to rebuild the Tooth Fairy stash, and we better, because his younger brother is going on six and will start looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame before you can whistle “she sells seashells by the seashore” five times fast between your tooth gaps.

This all comes after shifting little brother out of Preschool into Kindergarten (cash savings!), which was promptly usurped by an “Escrow Shortage Remittance Form,” indicating that our monthly mortgage payment has been euphemistically “adjusted” due to a property reassessment in our town (audible swearing followed by nail-biting and consecutive nights of sleep loss).

Then comes the super enriching and also expensive suite of afterschool activities. I mean, our children’s minds and bodies are being molded as we sit here and breathe so we’d better get them horseback riding and playing piano and joining the Chess Club and studying Shaolin Kung Fu before they’re past the point of absorbing new information. In fact, it might already be too late!!

This’ll all work out, though, because I’m a night owl who loves burning it at both ends, and the hubs has landed some good gigs just in time for the cold months when the higher utility bills and fire wood expenditures and projected snow removal costs kick in. (“Winter is coming.”)

I will scrimp and save like a Spartan this stick season, because that’s the kind of behavior a shriveling landscape inspires – an old Puritan habit that gets swiftly nullified by an egregious show of Roman opulence over the holidays because I’m an American and I’ll be damned if I fail to keep the magic alive for my children!

In the spring, we’ll hire ourselves to finish off pressing house projects (so resourceful and handy!), but the money we save will be lost in the time taken away from the work we do to get paid. Which makes me wonder about full-on homesteading and whether I could begin to enjoy the ever-present smell of animal dung.

Also, after two decades of reporting to someone else’s offices, I have taken a flying leap into doing what I love for a living. Even though that elusive book deal is a slippery fish, and I’m starting to feel a little less like a writer and more like a used car salesman what with all the pitching and slinging, but at least I am whole and my soul is not dead.

And today, after depositing a few checks (feelin’ flush!) then spending $200 of it at the grocery store without even trying (oof), I will now transport my darlings 30 minutes out of the way to get their hair cut at an adult salon just in time for picture day because it’s the only establishment I can find in this state that doesn’t leave them looking like the psychiatrically dubious love children of Justin Bieber and Sid Vicious.

If I diagrammed the fiscal see-saw affect described here, you’d feel nauseous just looking at it. Best to assume we’re back to square…zero. It’s a familiar and strangely reliable state of affairs, actually – for its indisputability if nothing else.

So, boys, do your old mom a solid and brush extra well tonight and every night hereafter. We’re going to need those teeth to stay in your head for as long as possible, because this Tooth Fairy needs a loan.