Thursday, September 29, 2011

Do you pay your kids?

My kids needs cash. Actually, only one of them does, but I have to somehow split the kitty accordingly between the two. But but before you start listing all the things that have worked for you, let me save you some time and tell you what I've already done so far.

We tried this years ago, when they were younger. The object, of course, was to help teach them how to save for something they wanted, budget their money, etc. We gave them a set amount a week, then, if they were saving for something special, they had to wait until the end of the month to get it. (This was to alleviate the "Mom! Can we go to Wal-Mart/Toys 'R Us/Target today? Huh? Huh? Today?") I don't know what happened, but the whole allowance thing didn't work. They didn't budget; they bought candy at the checkout because I made the mistake of telling them I wouldn't get that crap for them - it was up to them if they wanted to waste their money... thinking that eventually they'd realize they were wasting it on something that only brought a moment of pleasure versus saving for something tangible that would be around to provide satisfaction for awhile.

I think too much.

Cash for (Everyday) Chores
Anyway, then I considered paying them for chores. I'll tell you I considered it. Because I don't think you should get paid for chores - at least the normal ones that you should be doing to assist in keeping your living conditions liveable. Picking up your room, making your bed, putting your dishes in the sink, mowing the lawn... no, you don't get paid for that stuff. Sorry. I know some people pay their kids for mowing, but I do not. If you want to make money, I'll let you use MY mower and MY gas and go mow a neighbor's lawn and they can pay YOU. That's doable. And I encourage that.

"Extra" Chores for Cash
Let's face it, I need some serious help around the house. So, let's say I pay for things they normally wouldn't do, like folding and putting away the laundry ($3 per basket), emptying the dishwasher and doing the dinner dishes ($2 per occurrence), even meal planning (thanks for the idea, Steph), where they will come up with meals for the week (entree, veggie and fruit) and then cook at least one of them ($5 per occurrence). If they do those three things alone every week, there's their $10 - EARNED!

I guess up until now, my kids haven't really NEEDED any money. I'm not one to buy stuff for them "just because" - if they say they want an item, I tell them that they can raise the money for it by doing "extra" chores for me or by helping out someone else (i.e. mowing, watering plants, raking leaves, shoveling snow). But that's not really on a regular basis. Most of the time the things I buy for them are for birthday and Christmas - I also throw in Valentine's Day, the first day of school, the last day of school, and maybe a "I'm sorry you're sick" gift. (Yeah, I'm kind of a sucker, too.)

But now my teenager is starting to ask me for money. "Mom, I want to get a drink at school." "Mom, I need money to get into the football game." "Mom, I want to buy this t-shirt." Honestly, I'm not really sure what he's spending my money on, but I'm tired of giving it to him. But I'm not ready to hand him a weekly allowance that I suspect will be spent on bike rides to the gas station for candy. And it's not like he asks for money every single week, so I'm also not down with handing him a little $10 "gift" for doing nothing.

So as I see it, here are my options:

1) Give him a weekly allowance; no strings attached. Tell him that is to cover any snacks he wants to get at school as well as weekend activities such as football games, etc.
2) Give him a weekly allowance based on "chores completed". For instance, if you make your bed every morning, pick up your clothes and towel, put your dishes in the sink and keep the lawn mowed, you get your allowance. (I'm not a big fan of this one, because what if he only makes his bed 4 out of the 7 days? Do I dock his pay? Do I remind him? Ugh.)
3) Go the "Chores for Cash" route and put the power of the cash in THEIR hands - as long as I can maintain this extra little exercise and remember to pay up.

That last idea, though a bit anal-retentive, seems the most plausible to me. I can't stand giving them money just to give them money. I figure, I buy most of their stuff anyway, both needed and wanted, so now that they're getting into that more independent stage, it's time for Mom the Moneybank to step aside. And yes, I know I've been horribly negligent in teaching them how to manage their money, i.e. giving them a small allowance when they were young and making them give "x" amount to the church, "x" amount to savings and "x" amount for spending. I know I should have done that. Apparently I'm an unorganized, anal retentive parent.

So I guess what I'm looking for here are some ideas - things that have worked for you, things that haven't. Paths that I may have overlooked in this "Welcome to Having to Budget Your Money to Buy Stuff You Want" exercise. Suggestions as to how to assist my children in learning to budget without handing them money that they only sees as "stuff to buy candy with". And if at the end of the week my son is out of money for the football game, how do I stay strong enough not to cave and give it to him because I want so badly for him to have a social life? Finally, am I over thinking this to the point that my child is going to grow up with a completely twisted sense of money management because his mother is such an over-analyzing freak?

Don't answer that. Just give me some feedback. Thanks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Running - Just (Don't) Do It

I absolutely hate to run.

I want to love to run. I want to become as obsessed as those people you see running in the pouring rain, or the driving snow, or when it's 95 degrees, or below zero. I would love to experience that "runner's high" that you apparently get once you run a certain distance, subsequently feeling as if you could run forever. I would love to have the legs of a runner and be able to jog down a public street wearing one of those sports bra crop tops because my abs are so freakin' awesome.

Ain't gonna happen.

Every couple of years, I attempt to run. I make sure I have good shoes. I stretch. I start out slow, doing that whole "walk/run" thing. I have low expectations. I find a point that is my goal - and believe me, it's not a lofty one.

The minute my soles hit that pavement, I hate it. I feel like a lead weight - it's almost as if my feet have suddenly become so tiny that they can't support these calves/cows and speed skater thighs that live above them. After a few hundred yards, I start to try to get into a breathing rhythm, which is more of a desperate pant. But soon, it's drowned out by my knees creaking and screaming in pain. I think to myself, "This is the 'no pain, no gain' part. Work through it. You're a runner."

I'm not a runner. To me, running is like hitting yourself repeatedly on your thumb with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop.

But it didn't. After I got home, my left knee HURT. BAD. I mean, I'm almost 45, and my knees have never really been my strong point. But this wasn't good. Then it swelled. Then it felt hot to the touch. Really? I ran/walked two miles and THIS is what happens? Good Lord, a half-marathon would put me in my grave.

I applied ice to it and waited for the pain/swelling to subside. Finally, when the cold was too much to handle, I removed the ice pack only to find that my knee had broken out in hives. (Oh, did I mention I also have this thing called exercise-induced anaphylaxis?) I wasn't worried that it was going to spread, because if it was, it would have already. So I figured I didn't need the epi pen and waited for that to go away. I was more concerned with the fact that my fat knees were just one knee fatter.

The next day, it felt a little better, but playing volleyball that night didn't exactly help things. But I love volleyball. And I get to wear these cool pads that protect my knees and hide their fatness.

Tonight, my son wants to ride bikes to the park and throw the football. I love riding bikes. I love throwing the football, especially since my son taught me how to throw a spiral.

What is my problem? I'm active. Why do I feel as if I need to run? Is my envy of all of my friends who can run for miles and post pictures of themselves competing in half marathons and marathons and triathlons and cross-country tournaments making me feel less of an athlete?


I'm an athletic non-runner. I suck at running. To all of you who do run? Kudos to you. But honestly? It may be good for your heart, as I feel my own pumping nearly out of my chest. But there is no way it's good for your joints. Your knees. Your feet. And even if you can prove me wrong, it's not good for MY joints. MY fat knees. MY unsupportive feet.

I'm officially hanging up my running shoes. Next time I get the urge to run, I'm going to read this blog, put my volleyball pads over my fat, healthy knees, and walk to the nearest volleyball court. Or maybe just hit my thumb with a hammer.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Advice for Parents of Teens and Tweens - What's your take on this?

I'm interested in hearing reactions to the following article that appeared in my inbox several days ago - an excerpt from the book "The Rules of Parenting" by Richard Templar.

Being on the cusp of entering what I am bracing to be some tough parenting years with my teen (if the past few are any indication), I was intrigued by this writer's "advice". I'm not sure I agree with all of it, but I do think he brings up some valid points that may help me from completely alienating myself from my teen (and he from me) in the near future.

Advice for Parents of Teens and Tweens -

My thoughts:
1) I DON'T think I can talk to him like an adult (yet), but agree that I need to start letting him make more decisions and in turn face the consequences, good and bad.
2) I WILL look under the mattress.
3) I NEED to teach him how to do the laundry.
4) I MUST stop bitching about his music, which he proclaims is "his life".
5) I'm NOT ready for Page 5.

I encourage you to read the article link above and share your thoughts, either by name or anonymously. Help a mother out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In appreciation of friends

I was never the kind of person to have a bunch of friends.

Growing up in a small town, I had my childhood friends that I would hang out with on a regular basis - and their parents and my parents were friends as well. In high school, I had a few close girlfriends who were part of a "group", ironically comprised mostly of guys (who were all like brothers to me). I think that was my way around what I may have considered the "cliquiness" of girls - how there could always be two, but never three - three meant one was always on the outside, and of course I thought that "one" was me.

I apparently have a lot of self-esteem issues.

The college years, when most people were singing with sorority sisters and getting drunk with dorm-mates that would be their alumni compadres for life, I hopped from college to college, never really making those life-long memories and friends. (Shoutout here to the few I did make - Nadine and Carol, you know who you are.)

After college, the friends became a little jumbled. There were work friends - those who I spent eight or more hours a day with and would get together for an occasional happy hour; then there were the "couple friends" I made when I was in a relationship and married and doing all those fun, pre-kid things like volleyball, wine tastings and road trips. Then there were the post-baby friends - those who you clung to because they were in the same situation as you were and you held this incredible common bond and were sure that your babies were going to grow up and go to prom together.

As I got older, it seemed like the whole friend dynamic changed. We were all so busy; so transient. If we were the same ages we were somehow in different stages of our lives. Some were still single, which made it tougher to hang out with the married friends. Some were pregnant or had little kids at home and rarely got out of the house. Some went through divorces and sides would be picked. I felt as if I really should have appreciated having the friends I had when I was younger because we were all in the same place in our lives. Having friends in my 30s and 40s was hard work. And I think because of that, I kind of pushed them down my priority list - below kids, career, husband, housework, errands... you get the picture.

Stupid, stupid me.

The other night, I had four girlfriends over. Four. I think that's a record for me. One of them just had a baby not too long ago. Another is recovering from a double mastectomy and about to start chemo. Another has endured major medical issues with her children. And the fourth - she'll kill me for this but she's like the matriarch that seems to hold everyone together, simply because I believe that she knows the power of friendship and has made it a priority in her life.

I learned a lot from these women in just that one evening. I learned what I already knew - that everyone has their "shit", and that what you perceive to be someone's "awesome life" isn't always how it is. I admired these women before, but after hearing some of their life stories, I had a new-found respect for them, and it made me realize that their strength and their support of me and of each other was what was truly getting me through life.

I don't know what I would do without my friends. And the thing is, it's not like it was before. Yes, there are a few that have been around me the longest - we've been through some great ups and horrible downs together and they're the ones you let see that bad side of you and you know they'll still love you. But these people I used to think of as "peripheral" have now become an integral part of my life; a very appreciated and honored part of my life.

There's this message that I'm sure you've heard or gotten some chain email about that you have to "forward to 11 friends in the next seven minutes or everyone will leave you". Anyway, though I hate those things, it in itself is incredibly poignant and true:

"People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.

Then people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life."

No matter why my friends are in my life, whether they are old, new, rekindled or even cyberbuddies, I have a new respect and appreciation for them all. So I ask of you: cherish, nurture and cultivate your friendships, whether they are close or fair weather. Be there in some capacity when you see a friend in need, and know that when you are in the same position, you will realize who your friends truly are - and it may in fact surprise you. Never think that you aren't "close enough" to someone to reach out to them in friendship. Again, you may be surprised. And amazed. And grateful. And blessed.

As I am.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I need an adventure

You would think since I'm a writer that I read all the time.


I rarely read. I mean, I read articles on Yahoo. I read other people's blogs. I peruse marketing magazines to keep up to date on my profession. But rarely if ever do I sit down and get lost in a book like I used to. I should; it's just that every time I think about it, I bump it down my list of priorities that I'll get to "when I'm done with this, that and the other thing."

But I love books. When I was younger, I lived for books. I was a regular at the Decatur Bookmobile. I checked out the maximum number, read them all, and returned them promptly the next week. I was - a bookworm. And what I liked best about reading was that I was transported. I was able to have adventures in my mind. As a "level-headed", practical woman, I never took the time to actually make adventures. Those were for risk takers - for the spontaneous. The courageous. Not me.

My favorite book as a child was "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles". In this book, the Whangdoodle is a "fanciful creature of undefined nature," and also once the wisest, kindest, most fun-loving living thing in the world--until people stopped believing in it. When that lack of faith became widespread, the last of the really great Whangdoodles created a special land full of extraordinary creatures: furry Flukes, the sly High-Behind Splintercat, and the wonderful Whiffle Bird. But when an open-minded professor--the one adult who still believes in the Whangdoodle--joins forces with three children with active imaginations, they become an unstoppable team on a fantastic and sometimes terrifying journey to Whangdoodleland.

I remember my dismay when I realized that the adventures of these kids to Whangdoodleland were really all a product of their imagination. I was hoping it really existed - that it was a place somewhere on the map that I could mark with a thumbtack and vow to visit someday.

The other night, I read to my son one of our favorite books - Roxaboxen. This is a true story about a treasured place: a child's imaginary town named Roxaboxen. All the children created this "town" made of rocks, glass and desert plants. The rules of the town were simple: you make them up as you go along according to the whim of the day or the personality of the residents. In Roxaboxen, "Marian was mayor, of course; that was just the way she was. Nobody minded." Each child created their own "house", and the town was complete with a bakery, a cemetery (for the dead lizard), a police force and a jail (where you went if you were caught speeding). What a way to spend your summers.

Kind of reminds me of my old neighborhood, my kids' "Roxaboxen", and the adventures I had in the old farmhouse in Decatur where I grew up.

I'm wistful for adventure. I never went on Spring Break. I never took a trip to a foreign land with my high school. I never took any time off to backpack across Europe like my brother did. Probably the biggest adventure I've ever had was going to Mexico, where I zip lined, rappelled, captained a catamaran and snorkeled in some underground caves. I felt empowered, and amazed - like I was really living.

And I have a bucket list of adventures I'd love to have in my life. I wish I had more already in my back pocket, and not sitting at the bottom of a bucket waiting for me to have time to reach in. I still want to learn to rock climb, then venture out to the Rocky Mountains with a backpack and gear and see what I'm made of. I want to go to French-speaking Canada and see if my six years of French really ever paid off. I want to visit my niece in Denmark and get just a glimpse of the amazing sights and sounds and smells she has experienced since living there.

Then there are adventures closer to home. I'd like to become a part of a volunteer organization - to really somehow make a difference. I'd like to start riding my bike more and explore places around Illinois and see if I can do one of these 60-mile bikerides that some of my friends have done. It seems as if many of my friends have had their own adventures over the past few years. Running marathons. I'm envious of them, but this is not my bag. It's just not going to happen. Triathlons. I can swim forever, and I could probably muster the bike part, but again, running is NOT my thing. The most adventurous I've been of late is starting up a volleyball team.

I feel lame.

I know I've been busy. I raise my kids. I work to provide for them. Those are my priorities right now. But I need to make time to have some adventures of my own - even now at my busiest - and stop waiting until there is "time". Stop waiting until I can muster up the courage and JUST DO IT.

Maybe the first step is to start reading again. Read about those who have had adventures. Not like Everest or dogsledding or heliskiing. I'm not that extreme. Maybe I need to find a book about a mom just like me who got tired of waiting and decided to take some baby steps in her life just to make sure she was still breathing... still living.

Any recommendations? Let me know.