We made it!: Homemade laundry detergent

A few years ago, one of my friends who was cloth-diapering part-time and concerned about the phosphates (not to mention the cost) of commercially-made laundry detergent, asked me how I made my own laundry detergent. I always said that I’d write it down for her, but kept forgetting to do so, and time went on even as my recipe was being tweaked. Of course, I certainly didn’t invent it, and merely modified other recipes that I’ve found on-line over the years. But now what I have is a lovely detergent that works well, and has a scent that I can custom make to our family’s liking.

Although many laundry detergents nowadays are phosphate-free, there are still great reasons for making your own detergent. First off, the savings (see below) are significant—2.5¢ per load compared to 10¢-30¢ per load (depending on the brand). Second, making your own detergent means that you can control the amount (if any at all) of scent that go into your clothes. That’s always been one of the things that bothers me about laundry detergent—the strong, cloying smell on your clothes (not to mention the fact that you smell like everyone else who uses that detergent). Experiment with a few different essential oils to get the natural scent that you’d like in your detergent. We prefer citrus scents. Third, believe it or not, it’s easy and fun. It really doesn’t take that much time and effort, and the kids and I love running our fingers through the gel-like texture.

I recently discovered this recipe for laundry detergent on David Suzuki’s site. If homemade laundry detergent is good enough for Dr. Suzuki, it should be good enough for the rest of us. Although his recipe differs slightly from my own, his page has an easy-to-understand how-to video.

Below are my recipes for both liquid and solid versions, along with an estimate on how much it costs per load. (I edited this to take out mentions of Oxi-Clean, since I’ve discovered that that stuff’s not so great for the environment, and is essentially just an expensive version of hydrogen peroxide + washing soda).

Your kids will love running their hands through this!

Homemade Laundry Detergent (liquid)

Step 1:
> 1 bar of soap (Ivory, or any soap that is free of added scents, moisturizers, oils, etc.)
> 2 litres of water

A) Boil water in a large stock pot. While water is boiling, grate soap. Tip: Soap is easier to grate if you’ve frozen it for a bit. You could try to grate soap in a food processor, but some soaps (like Linda’s Laundry Soap) grate well, while others (like Ivory) end up clumping and forming little balls that stick together.

B) Pour soap into boiling water and stir to melt.


Step 2:
> 250 mL (1 cup) of borax (found in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores now)
> 250 mL (1 cup) of washing soda (also found in the laundry aisle)

C) Combine these powdered ingredients into a large container (I use washed buckets that held kitty litter or snow-clearing salt).
D) Pour hot soap mixture into powdered ingredients, and stir to dissolve.


Step 3:
> approximately 14 litres of water

E) Pour 14 litres of water into the above mixture, and stir. Can be used immediately, or let cool and set into a gel (several hours).
Use 125 mL (1/2 cup) per load. I tend to use 250 mL (1 cup) for heavier loads.

Works perfectly in our HE washer.


Homemade Laundry Detergent (solid)

Measure the same amounts of soap, borax, and washing soda as in above recipe. Mix these ingredients together dry, without water.

Use 1 tablespoon per load.


Cost comparison (all prices in Canadian dollars, rounded)

Homemade laundry detergent
Ivory soap, 10-pack: $4.00
Borax, 2 kg: $5.00
Washing soda, 3 kg: $5.00
Water: nominal cost
Total cost: $14.00, yielding enough detergent for 56 loads
= 2.5¢ per load


Store detergent
Cheaper brand: $6.00 for 60 loads, or 10¢ per load
Expensive brand: $9.00 for 30 loads, or 30¢ per load


#885: New Year’s fortune

On Thursday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, we fêted with the children in simple ways. First, I gave the kids a brief explanation about some New Year’s superstitions that I remember having been told by my parents—make sure that the first person who walks through your door is someone beloved or who will bring good news; don’t sweep all day, or it sweeps out the prosperity and good fortune of the family; don’t get a haircut on this day (again, something to do with cutting and throwing away your good fortune); don’t cry today or you will be heralding the new year with tears and misfortune. Then we went into the city for some yummy foods, and a walk through some shops in Chinatown.

At the end of the day, I made sure that they received their li xi envelopes, which are red envelopes containing a token amount of money, given by elders (not just parents) to children. I remember what pleasure it was to receive that envelope as a child, whether it held a dollar bill or a twenty. I gave the kids each a toonie, which isn’t much, but it’s the symbolism of the money that will give them good fortune this year.

Now, the Boy has just been learning about the value of Canadian currency this week. It must have still been fresh on his mind, and with the mention of money all day, we then had this little exchange:

The Boy: Do parents get money on New Year’s?

Me: No. Only children.

The Boy: How come?

Me: I don’t know. It’s just the way it goes. Adults give to children.

The Boy: Oh. (Toddles off and returns a few seconds later.) Here, Mama. This is for you, for New Year’s. (Hands me three pennies, which presumably, are all that he has in his front-hall drawer.)

Me: Thank you, sweetie.  I haven’t got New Year’s money in a long time.

Fifteen minutes later:

The Boy: Can people give stuff to people in other places?

Me: What do you mean?

The Boy: I mean I can send money to [grandfather and grandmother] too. Put it in an envelope and send it to them by mail.

For all the superstitious rituals we do to welcome in the New Year and bring good fortune, the biggest fortune we have is a little kid with three pennies in his hand.

#939: Money issues, Part 2–It’s on me

The Girl has a Miga wallet. The Boy has a Spiderman wallet. Neither has too much money in their respective wallets, and neither expects to do much with their money. Or so I thought.

I mean, I know that they have some grandparent-money in there, and the Girl has cash from her hairclips business and allowance (although I keep forgetting to give it to her lately, and she’s too gentle and gracious to remind me). But they hardly ever bring their little bill-folds, and what for? Their parents pay for everything.

But oh, what a delightful surprise it was, on the day when that changed. I can’t even remember what the item was (although knowing me, it was probably for a candy bar or ice cream cone), but out of the blue that day, the Girl said, “I want to buy that for you, Mama.” And the Boy, hearing his sister, wanted to follow suit. I looked in their little Miga and Spiderman wallets, and they had about $25 and $20 in there, respectively. Veritable fortunes, by kids’ standards, and they wanted to buy something for me! Especially impressive was the boy’s generosity—remember, this is a kid who doesn’t share his cookie with just anyone.

Of course, we as parents want to teach our kids about generosity and kindness towards others. But it’s so much sweeter when they’re able to come to those conclusions all on their own.

#941: Money issues, Part 1–Hey big spender

Like most, our kids have a bit of their own money stashed away for a rainy day. While both kids have received the typical mini-windfalls from grandparents on birthdays and holidays, it is the Girl who has a nice little amount tucked away from a few assignments.

For the longest time, we (mostly I) would urge her to spend some of her money on herself on something fun. But there was always a sense of hesitation. She had a great seriousness about her when it came to money and savings, and I felt that a young kid should enjoy some of it casually, rather than put it all in a bank and worry about building it up. But as her reluctance to spend it grew, I learned to drop the subject.

Then one day shortly after her birthday, she announced that she wanted to go to the bank. She had placed a certain book on her “birthday list” of things that she’d wanted, and her grandmother hadn’t picked up on the hint. So our Girl announced, “Mama, I’d like to take out $30 to buy a book.”

On that occasion, I was proud of her for two reasons: First, that the book she had chosen was such a wonderful, interesting choice, that would bring hours of entertainment as well as education; I was glad that her first choice of something to be bought with her own money, was a smart one. Second, and what was more important, she finally understood that money needn’t be this thing placed high on a pedestal— untouchable—and that it could be spent on herself. Money couldn’t buy happiness, but it certainly could buy little things that made you happy.

#983: When it all adds up

Coming out unscathed from my very first (and, I hope, my last) tax audit today, I realised how significant it is that we understand numbers. Maybe it’s because I’m such a bookworm, but I think I’ve always emphasised to my kids the importance of developing early literacy skills over numeracy. When our kids are young, we get so much excitement out of hearing them recite the alphabet for the first time, or read their first word. But just as important and exciting should be seeing them understand fully what numbers are and what they can do.

For about the past year, we (all three older members of our household) have been trying to explain the simplest math concepts to the Boy, like basic addition to begin with. But all during last year, it seemed that he just didn’t want to, or had too short of an attention span to stick with it. Or maybe he just couldn’t–gasp!–grasp the concepts that his sister had already seemed to understand so easily at that age. For a while, for example, he would say that 6+6=66.

So I decided to put a hold on it for a while, and go on to some other field that had nothing to do with numbers. And of course, that’s when the best learning happens. Because somewhere along the way, on his own while we weren’t looking, he figured things out on his own. All of a sudden, he surprised us with simple addition and subtraction. And he was counting with his eyes, rather than with his fingers. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever known him to count with his fingers, even when I encouraged him to do so.) The world of numbers had, on its own without further help from us, opened itself to him, and he was liking it.

Now, of course, my Boy understands that 6+6 does not = 66, and it looks like he likes his math. I get tremendous joy in seeing him zip through his basic math exercises, seemingly without much effort, and I know that this type of knowledge will serve him well down the road . . . when he’s being audited.

101 Things I learned after a month in British Columbia

It’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to get away for a 30-day trip. And as much as I love my husband, it is nice to be separate sometimes, which we don’t often get a chance to be. So while he was home, holding down the fort and consoling himself with tv dinners, I was able to travel with the kids to visit my parents in BC.

In my 30 days “over there”, I learned, observed, reflected upon, and inferred a lot of things about BC life in general, and about people, work, and travel. Below is a list of my most important discoveries and musings. Not everyone will agree with me on everything, but I hope that it will provoke some thought, especially with BC—and specifically, Vancouver and the Olympics—in the spotlight right now. Here, then, are 101 Things I Learned After a Month in British Columbia.

On Travel and Transportation:

  1. No matter how carefully you pack, you’ll always forget something.
  2. If one of those things that you forgot is a laptop, it costs $45 to ship from Toronto to Vancouver, in a reasonable three business days.
  3. When you’re without your own computer, you realise just how much you rely on a machine to remember passwords and bookmarks.
  4. When you forget your cosmetics bag, you realise that you can survive on only four pieces of make-up: a mineral foundation, a lipstick, one eyeshadow that can double as eyeliner, and mascara.
  5. You can spot a bunch of Torontonians visiting Vancouver in the autumn: we’re the ones who brought along mittens, thinking that we’d need them.
  6. On that note, don’t pack a heavy coat for Vancouver in October. You’ll never use it.
  7. Carseats now count as check-in luggage. Hmm, never used to before (two years ago).
  8. When packing two kids for a month away from home, make sure that at least one of the suitcases (the regulation carry-on size) contains nothing but games, books, and entertainment items.
  9. Great things to pack to occupy an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old for a month away from home: a deck of cards; Uno; magnetic chess/checkers; one simple boardgame for the under-5 set, like Busytown; about three thick, unstarted novels; one MathSmart book; a good hidden-pictures book; a Nintendo DS with about five games; markers; crayons; and at least one blank notebook or chalkboard mat, for doodling.
  10. In-flight movies, music, and the novelty of a meal on a tray can only keep kids distracted for about three hours, before all that gets boring.
  11. For the rest of the flight, kids can amuse themselves with a simple drawing tablet or chalkboard mat. Who would have thought that old-school methods still work?
  12. On the plane, you can get away with watching only about three episodes of “30 Rock”, before the kids start demanding your undivided attention.
  13. WestJet employees out of the Vancouver airport don’t seem as friendly as remembered from WestJet experiences elsewhere.
  14. Employees—WestJet or otherwise—should refrain from discussing weekend adventures with their co-worker, when there is a client patiently waiting in front of them, ready to check in her baggage.
  15. WestJet’s in-flight entertainment is disappointing compared to Air Canada’s: the choices are fewer, and who wants to pull out their credit card to pay for more in-flight services?
  16. Compared to Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver’s morning rush-hour is actually not that bad, in terms of time spent behind the wheel.
  17. However, some Vancouver rush-hour drivers drive like they never left the slalom course behind on the weekend.
  18. As manageable as downtown Vancouver seems, it is possible to get lost for an hour, and literally drive in circles.
  19. Trying to get from Cordova St. to Richmond apparently does not involve going through Stanley Park and crossing over into North Vancouver.
  20. The Lion’s Gate Bridge is jinxed with accidents (so says a friend).
  21. Nobody should be looking down at paperwork while driving. I don’t care if you are only driving at 20 km/h. You’ll rear-end somebody in her rental car, dammit!
  22. When rear-ended at 20 km/h, there is no damage at all, certainly nothing that is noticeable and needs to be mentioned to the car rental agency.
  23. When rear-ended on the Lion’s Gate Bridge, do not stop in the middle of said bridge to take a look and settle the matter; you’ll only annoy the other drivers. Best to drive to the end and hope that your bumper is not dragging along.
  24. There’s nothing more liberating and adult-like than going through the process of renting a car by yourself, for the first time in your life.
  25. For $21/day, you really can’t beat a good economy car like the Nissan Versa hatchback or the Hyundai Accent hatchback. They get great gas mileage, and they’re not so cheaply made that they ding easily in a minor accident, like getting rear-ended on the Lion’s Gate Bridge
  26. Given the choice, opt for the Versa over the Accent. It’s roomier, and feels better built (less of that “cheap hollow plastic sound”).
  27. You can get from Richmond to downtown Vancouver, do a day of sightseeing, and come back, all on $4 of gas in a Nissan Versa.
  28. If you try really hard, you can indeed fit three humans, two bags of groceries, and six pieces of luggage all into an Accent.
  29. You can drive a—gasp—minivan and your world as you know it won’t end. And surprisingly, you won’t have a sudden urge to wear elastic-waist pants and become a soccer mom.
  30. Always spring for the $10/day rental of a GPS in the rental car. Yes, it seems proportionately steep, considering that the car itself is only twice that. But it’s worth it. And always book one far ahead, because they get reserved rather quickly.
  31. There is such a thing as overdependence on a machine. Take away the GPS, and you can feel, quite literally, lost.
  32. When you’re in trouble, a $5 map from a small gas station out in the middle of nowhere can save your life.
  33. Map: $5. Having an 8-year-old passenger who knows how to read one and navigate as you drive: priceless.
  34. Even if you’re across the street from the car-rental agency (and can actually see it!), it can still take 45 minutes to navigate one-way streets and confusing street signs to get there.
  35. Driving down the TransCanada Highway on Vancouver Island, with water on your left and soaring trees on your right, great music blaring on the radio, two happy kids babbling in the back seat, and knowing that you’re on your way to visit a high school friend whom you haven’t seen in about 15 years: life doesn’t get any better than that.
  36. Apparently, there is not yet a cell-phone ban in B.C.. Or if there is one, quite a lot of people are ignoring it.
  37. Some people can have really nice cars, but it doesn’t mean that they know how to drive them. (Yes, I know that this rule can apply pretty much anywhere, but I found it to be truer in the Richmond-Vancouver area than other major metropolitan areas that I’ve visited/lived in.)
  38. Metro Vancouver’s TransLink transit system is perhaps the most organised and efficient that you can find in Canada. (And this statement comes from someone who, until about a year ago, was a life-long user of public transit only.)
  39. TransLink’s web site has one of the best and most accurate trip-planning features you’ll find on any Canadian transit site.
  40. Vancouver’s transit system operates on a pay-by-zone system. Given the geographical size of the metropolitan Vancouver Area, this makes it slightly more expensive than Toronto’s much larger transit zone.
  41. The SkyTrain, especially the new Canada Line, is so wonderfully clean, spacious, and well-run. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts, once the Olympics crowd has left town.
  42. From a SkyTrain station, you can check in electronically for your airline. How cool is that, for time savings?
  43. What a great feeling, to know that you can easily take yourself and your bulky baggage on public transit to get to the airport, and the other passengers don’t mind.
  44. For the paltry amount of $45, a senior citizen on assisted income can get a public transit pass for an entire year. Very cool. (See point #70.)
  45. There’s not as much courtesy, or friendly interaction among passengers, on metropolitan Vancouver buses compared to the experience in Toronto and Halifax. Vancouver may tie with Montreal, in that regard.
  46. People don’t give up their seats on buses or the SkyTrain as much as you would like/expect them to. Again, a tie with Montreal.
  47. Asian seniors can be feisty on the bus, when they’re not offered a seat by some kid with his ears buried in an iPod.
  48. Bus drivers (in Richmond, at least) brake too abruptly to make the ride comfortable.
  49. There appears to be more friendly and engaging bus drivers in metro Toronto than in metro Vancouver.
  50. You may very well find more roundabouts on Vancouver Island than in all of Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia combined.
  51. The SkyTrain security personnel look cool and smart in their uniforms, but don’t seem willing to exercise their power. Sample exchange, upon exiting the SkyTrain:
    Security: “Excuse me, may I see your ticket or pass?”
    Teenaged boy: “Oh, um. I don’t have one. I was just about to get one on my way out.”
    Security: “Okay, but better do it now.” Then turns around and walks away.

    On B.C. Life, Play, and Surroundings:
  52. Almost anywhere you look, you can see mountains. What great surroundings in which to spend your life.
  53. The Vancouver skyline has dramatically improved from three years ago, when it was all very depressing in its pre-Olympics construction phase.
  54. The ferry ride from the mainland to Vancouver Island: indescribable in the sense of calm and quiet happiness that it can induce.
  55. The ferry ride from the Island back to the mainland can evoke in you a great sense of sadness in leaving something wonderful behind.
  56. Move to the Vancouver metropolitan area? Not at this point. But Vancouver Island? In a heartbeat.
  57. What is it about trees? You can stand under a massive West Coast specimen, close your eyes, breathe it all in, and all the troubles of the world simply . . . vanish.
  58. When walking in the woods on Vancouver Island, look out for giant slugs underfoot!
  59. This must surely be a boring job: Sitting in a booth, telling tourists on the Capilano Suspension Bridge: “Please do not shake or jump on the bridge.” Every ten minutes.
  60. Richmond and Vancouver are home to two of the most amazing playgrounds ever—Garden City and some playground in east Vancouver which we don’t believe has a name, but is the first one we’ve come across that has a mini-zipline! (And this assessment comes from a couple of playground experts who have travelled across Canada in search of them.)
  61. You can take young kids anywhere in the world, show them the greatest museums, galleries, landmarks, natural wonders . . . but when you ask them what was the best part of the trip, it almost always comes down to “The playground!”
  62. Richmond is full of wild rabbits on public property. Apparently, they come from too many people having bought them as pets, tiring of them quickly, and letting them out on the loose. Once free, they began breeding like . . .
  63. The city of Richmond is considering allowing citizens to keep any wild rabbits that they catch, as pets. And passing a by-law to ban the sale of rabbits in pet stores.
  64. The newer homes in Richmond are massive! And eerily, all pretty similar to each other.
  65. Kids like large, impressive-looking homes. You don’t have to tell them, but they instinctively know the concept of “rich” when they see it.
  66. Even in really nice neighbourhoods, petty theft occurs (and right from the front lawn in broad daylight!).
  67. People can possess the most expensive, impressive-looking electronic equipment, but that doesn’t mean that they know how to use it.
  68. On the first day of Sunday School, an 8-year-old learns the Ten Commandments. A 4-year-old learns that if you repeat what the lady says, you get candy.
  69. In 20 years, the church service has become thoroughly modernized: big screen projections and PowerPoint-like presentations. Jesus has never been hipper than now. ___________________
    On B.C. People: 
  70. The B.C. government loves its seniors (see #44). And seniors love B.C.
  71. It is estimated by the BC government that by the year 2031, 24% of the population will be over 65.
  72. It takes an 8-year-old less than a week to realise that a lot of people out here (especially in Richmond) carry the same types of handbags over and over again: “These women all have the same two logos!”
  73. “Hong Couver”—best city nickname I’ve heard in a long time.
  74. “Keeping up with the Joneses” (or in this case, the Wongs) is alive and well.
  75. There are many people who value living in an impressive, well-off neighbourhood above living where they’re more comfortable, and happier.
  76. People on Vancouver Island are more likely than mainlanders to want out of the rat race.
  77. Many Vancouverites love talking (complaining? bragging?) about the high price of their real estate, especially to strangers from outside the province.
  78. Asian people do not dine at the IHOP in Richmond.
  79. Asian people (especially in Richmond) push their way around a lot, in crowds. And I say this respectfully, as an Asian person.
  80. There are indeed quite a lot of Japanese tourists in BC. And they do indeed say “Ka-waiiii!” when they take pictures of cute kids.
  81. Coming from a truly multicultural place, you realise that there is less diversity of cultures out here than in Toronto or Montreal.
    On Work:
  82. No matter how well you plan for a tradeshow, plan on something going wrong.
  83. That two-day buffer that you put in, to offset any unforeseen circumstances, delays, and screw-ups? Make it ten.
  84. When people have bad news for you, they’ll always avoid telling you by phone, and opt instead for hiding it in an e-mail. At 6 in the morning. When they know that you’re probably already on the road, stuck in downtown rush hour.
  85. When someone says “I’ll do my best”, and they don’t, but never even call you back to tell you about it—that’s when they’ve lost your business for good.
  86. Always, always, always put everything in writing not just once, but three times. Then repeat. With three different people. In at least two different departments.
  87. Nothing makes a bad business experience more bearable than when you have the chance to tell 100 of your colleagues about it.
  88. You make a lot of friends quickly when they pity you.
  89. Standing at the Vancouver Convention Centre at 8 in the morning, looking out at the water and the skyline, can (almost) make all of your worries disappear.
  90. Vancouverites do not spend as impulsively as Torontonians.
  91. It would appear that many Toronto customers have a greater appreciation for unique artisan-made goods; many Vancouverites have an appreciation for well-known brands (see point #s 72 and 73).

    On Friendship and Family:

  92. The same friends can be so much more appreciated in your adulthood than in your teens.
  93. A friend’s laughter is something that you never forget—a sound that can take you back all those years.
  94. It’s always so great to meet up with someone else—especially a friend from high school—who’s looking for the same things in life as you: happiness, comfort, and gettting out of the rat race.
  95. No matter how hard you try, you can never convince your parents, 100%, that you’re an adult now.
  96. Pride is indeed a sin.
  97. Blood is not thicker than water.
  98. You shouldn’t have to be with people who make you miserable. Life’s too short for that.
  99. When working under the effects of anger, you can do a month’s worth of packing and cleaning in fewer than three hours.
  100. Don’t feel anxious about going to visit family. At the same time . . .
  101. Never feel guilty about leaving.
  1. There’s nothing more liberating and adult-like than going through the process of renting a car by yourself, for the first time in your life.

The scam that is “dance school”

I never thought that I’d do it. It was something that other, pushy, competive stage parents do. Enroll my daughter in dance class, that is. But her strong innate desire to move her body to music, and especially to do it with other kids, and especially in front of an audience, was just too great. And with the popularity of So You Think You Can Dance, it was inevitable. For years, we hesitated for several reasons (which you will see below). But this year, we took the plunge. No ballet, was our only strict rule (too hard on the body, and we just could never bring ourselves to encourage our daughter to prance around in a fluffy tutu). She wanted hip hop, so we thought, that’s at least not too bad. It’s fast, funky, and the costumes would involve no tulle. Of course, dance school turned out to be everything that we thought it would be.

Choosing a dance school was done not without research, I might add. For years, I’d heard from other parents (mostly moms, really, because dads seldom burden themselves with thoughts of classes, costumes, fees and the like) about the whole industry of dance schools and dance classes for kids. Be forewarned, they said; besides the damage that can be done to a girl’s body after years of dance (I have one friend, who, at the age of 30, said that her legs, hips, and back were never the same after five years of ballet, and she now requires chiropractic care almost every day), there are other pitfalls. Namely:

1) Girls are often dolled up in too much make-up and gawdy, skimpy costumes that would make many grandmas cringe.

2) Speaking of costumes, they’re expensive, and like ugly bridesmaid dresses, will never see the outside of the closet after their initial donning.

3) Speaking of expensive, one-use costumes, parents are not allowed to make their own. Even if you went to the Fashion Institute of Milan and can copy any costume they put in front of you, with one hand tied behind your sewing machine, you are still not allowed to sew it yourself. Period. You must pay a costume fee and purchase the costume prescribed by the school, from their dictated source. (You’ll see why below.)

4) Some dance schools may make you pay the whole fee up front, or a deposit, either of which may be non-refundable. This means that if your child decides after just one class that she doesn’t like the course, you lose your money. This is what happened to another friend of mine, who had signed her daughter up for ballet, but then changed her mind over the $700+ fee before classes had even started, and lost her non-refundable $400.

5) Finally, watch out for the other, hidden fees. Even if they’re not hidden, they’re onerous.

This last point is the one that is still particularly sore with me, even weeks after the fact, and the worst added fee of all was the dance recital ticket prices. I had heard that most dance schools, even after charging you fees for classes and costumes, will still charge you an admission fee to see the dance recital. That’s right. You’ve paid for your child to take dance classes, and if you’d like to see what she’s been doing all year, you’d best pay up again. There are very, very few dance classes that do not charge you to watch your children dance. Included among these were my 3-year-old son’s hip hop class, run through the presumably non-profit municipal recreational department, and performed in the same small gym where he practiced his kiddie moves every week; and a small, private dance class run by a teacher who did not own her own school, but rented a studio space to teach the art of dance, purely because she loved dance, and not for huge profit. (The latter dance class was so popular, and space so limited, that the mom who told me about it coyly declined to give me any contact information, despite some prodding, for fear that space in that class would be so limited that her own daughter might not get in again.)

But to get back to the point of recital tickets: I had asked friends and called around to see which dance school had the least gouging prices. Around our place, among the higher fees quoted were $17 per person (yes, even the little brother sitting on daddy’s lap pays) to the recital, plus a “stage rental fee”, plus a $100 costume fee. This place that we finally settled on quoted no stage rental cost, only a $50 costume fee, and what they said would be a reasonable ticket price to cover the cost of renting the school auditorium. The ticket price, as it turned out was still $12 per person. Not as much as other dance school ticket prices, but just enough to make our friends hesitate to pay $36 just to see our daughter dance for four minutes, and see some other people’s 3-year-olds freeze in introductory highland dance.

The only good news was that my daughter’s costume, being for a hip hop dance, is wearable again in everyday life. I do have to admit, though, that for our $50, we merely got a white tank top ($6), track shorts ($6), shrug cardigan ($12), white baseball cap ($5), and clip-on faux-hair extensions (dollar store). Yup, the school didn’t even bother to take off the price tags. I can only surmise that the difference between what we paid, and the actual cost, went towards “alterations”, or, as another mom told me, to subsidize the costumes and lessons of the competitive dance students—the real money-makers for dance schools.

So, we did it once in my life, to see what it was about, but won’t be doing it again. Our daughter still expresses a desire to dance, but I will be trying my darndest next year to find that elusive dance teacher who doesn’t charge the costume and recital ticket fees. Until then, our daughter seems pretty content to just watch videos on YouTube, choreograph herself, and dance for an audience of four.