Friday, September 30, 2011

Teenage Financial Plan...

I had a part time job all through high school. Sometimes, I had more than one job. Some summers I worked full time to meet expenses for fun experiences like school pep club or our madrigals singing group. Working and earning were part of the very fabric of my upbringing. I feel, now that I'm raised, that the lessons I learned through work are some of the most vital lessons I've been blessed with in my life.

John parents handled things differently. John had responsibilities at home. He also was VERY accountable for his grades. As long as the grades were top notch he was given cash to enjoy time spent with friends eating out or going to a show. His clothes were purchased for him; not extravagant, but sufficient. He was taught hard work through academics. He earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Utah in the most challenging department at the University (materials science/Engineering).

Different approaches. Both a success. John is one of the most hard working people I know, and a life long learner to boot. I too can be hard working, but I can't admit to being academically minded - that discipline just didn't get 'set' with me.

So, now we have this teenager. And there are expenses that come along with having one of those; every kind of expense from car insurance to High School fees to clothes to deodorant to scouts; you name it. Having your kids grow up is EXPENSIVE...

and we want Mason (and those who follow him) to learn fiscal responsibility and hard work too.

So, we've tried to take the best of how we were raised, and mesh it into one financial plan for raising financially mature individuals.

The family will allow Mason to manage a portion of our budget in order for him to meet expenses that are part of being a teenager in school. We will put money into an account that he will manage. And in return for that trust he will take on 'family jobs' that need doing on a regular basis-like a part time job (only a little more flexible). He will have to save this money, meet expenses when they come up, and report back on how he is managing the funds. Part of this trust includes getting good grades-so Mason knows that his grades are directly linked to his financial independence.

In addition, we've provided opportunities for Mason to do work around our home for which he'll be paid so he can 'play' just a little. Because we want him to have a chance to pay tithing and manage his savings account (which he will use for mission and college expenses) we have given him 'mad money jobs' which are optional, but because they fund the fun they are quite desirable to him. It is amazing how much he gets paid per hour compared to the minimum wage earnings I made as a teen, but what good is the process of teaching if the kids has no incentive to learn? Mowing the lawn each week (plus trimming, plus edging etc.) brings a whopping $20, but after tithing (10%) and savings (20%) its just enough to take a girl out for a burger :) And because the 'family responsibility' jobs have to be done each week, we know the 'mad money jobs' won't get done quite as consistently (especially if he has a date or an outing with his friends to attend to ).

How do you do money with teens? Its been a really difficult process for us to come up with this system, and its just in its infancy, not sure how it will go. I was surprised at how starkly different my approach was to money with teens compared to John-and its been a process for the two of us to come to an understanding and appreciation of the good things in the other person's viewpoint. In the end the goal is the same; raise kids who have become personally responsible educationally, physically and fiscally. We hope this arrangement when properly followed and practiced will bring the result we desire!

Have a great weekend. See you here next week for :
Living with Junie B. Jones
Conference in Review
This year's family theme
If you are ever in Salt Lake City...

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Favorite Blogs for Monday...

When I sit down at the computer there are a few places I 'go' before I do my own tasks. I thought it would be fun to just share the places I like to visit on the web; and I chose them simply by how often I go there vs. how often I go to other blogs or sites.

I don't have tons of time in front of this screen, so I don't do a ton of surfing-mostly I stick to those places that I know will uplift or inform, invite me to be better or let me laugh, or those places that connect me to people I love. I tried google reader once, but like most tech-savvy things I let John set it up for me and I didn't get notified in my own email inbox and I didn't learn how to add or take away from my 'follower' status so I dropped it and never pay attention to it. Instead I punch in the url to each of these sites daily and check and see if there's anything new that I really want to read about.

I always check John's blog. He is sporadic about posting-and I began to be sporadic about checking-but in recent weeks and months I go there every day. Especially right now, as he is SO busy in other aspects of his life, I like to see what he is thinking about when he is not thinking about selling glasses on the internet (go here, to see what John's job day is all about!)

I check on Tricia nearly every day as well. She is a mentor and a friend, someone I truly admire and learn from. Her philosophies on education, spirituality, home decorating (she actually works hard at decorating her home...) and homesteading are so dead on with me. She is doing her life purposefully and i learn from her with every reading. Thanks for being my friend Tricia!

I also check on this gal frequently. Her blog is so artful and again, so purposeful. I've actually enjoyed meeting this wonderful girl in person (my sister is her friend!). Carin is a photographer and mother, a thinker and a 'beautifier' of the world we live in. I appreciate, when I read from her, her visual and spiritual perspective. I have often taken John's camera and just tried to photograph everyday things to make them beautiful like Carin can. I'd love to be more skilled (though Carin is not skilled, she is artfully talented).

I also check on Sharon a lot. Because Sharon makes me happy. She is smart and articulate and also not too sappy-she accomplishes much and her intelligence about everything is so completely real. Sharon is a good friend from Texas days, and when I read her words I wish I could pop over to her house and gab with her in her kitchen. Her phone calls to me are bright spots in my life and her blog posts are reminders of the wonder that she is.

And recently I began visiting this site. I like that Shawni is a mom of about my 'stage' in life. Teenagers and youngsters, and she is successful in her mothering and her other pursuits. I have also posted several times about 'family propaganda' and Shawni has the same philosophy as I do when I comes to this idea. Dead on. We do it different ways, but we are making the same effort; and I like that. A lot. I will admit that I get that 'envy' sometimes that she has it all together and I don't-but mostly I appreciate learning and listening to her thoughts and philosophies and seeing if they jive with me.

And finally, my younger sister (whose blog I used to visit every day until she stopped posting; oh, all my sisters stopped posting it seems!) connected my to Stephanie a very long time ago. It was when I didn't know people went 'public' with blogs. I had been keeping mine up for family to see, but Jess showed me that others actually advertised on their blogs and wrote every day and that there was an entire culture practically around blog reading, blog checking and blog creating. Who knew? Steph, as you know I'm sure, was in a plane crash some years ago, and now she is like the most popular blog on the internet. But I like to think I was with her from the beginning-and since I've had the pleasure of meeting her and working with her (pre and post accident) I enjoy reading what she has to say....and I wish her success because she has shared some very good vibes with me.

have you visited these or other blogs? I like others as well, but these are most frequented, so these are what I share on this Monday. Check them out and tell me what you think! Happy reading!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


My friend Andrea and I spent time together yesterday, running errands and 'grabbing lunch' (Haggerman's Bakery; definitely going into the "If you are ever in Salt Lake" archives very soon, watch for it!).

Andrea took me by Cy's Market. A small family run produce market that is running a great produce co-op.

I opted in.

I came home with a box of organic, well picked produce. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, red bell pepper, green leaf lettuce and Kale. Green onion, some radishes, snow peas, beautiful green beans, brocoli and some juicy white peaches. A few pears, a couple of apples, a bag of grapes and loads of bananas. Then Cy threw in a couple bunches of fresh basil, picked from his own gardens the day before. And 2 bunches of 'bread bananas' which were going brown and ready for bread (this is a tradition for the co op boxes. Some ripe bananas, and some real ripe bananas).

I added to my stash some interesting cucumbers and a local cantaloupe.

We've had two smoothies,and a delicious salad and green beans for dinner.

I'm happy we opted in.

Its good to look at a box (or garden full) of produce and center your meals around whats given you that is local and fresh. I like that I"m supporting a local farmer, and that I have a connection to my community in some small way. And I'm glad that every other week me and Andrea and Lara will take turns driving out to pick up our produce filled boxes. I drive every 6 weeks; I get a box every 2. Something so 'green' about pick up sharing don't you think?

tonight we'll have pasta in red bell pepper sauce. And lots of brocoli to compliment. Tomorrow for lunch, chinese noodles with fresh green onion to garnish, and cucmbers with dip for snack time. I'll try my hand at a peach pie this weekend (if John will teach me the art of the crust) and on Sunday, I'll whip up some yummy banana bread to share with a neighbor or two.

Its great to co-op-erate :)

A conversation on the way home from Football

*Note: when my first son-who is also my first child-was about 6 years old, he became enamored of Pokemon cards. We were living abroad at the time, and all I knew from him was that these were cards you traded, centered around an imaginary world where people caught creatures and exploited them for their own gain. Not wanting to teach my child that this form of self gratification was part of our family make-up, I banned the game. Oh, how parents learn as they become seasoned by raising a family...which battles to pick, which causes to take up, and which child like games to let run their course over the span of 3rd and 4rth grade...

Porter and our next door neighbor, Josh, were riding home from football practice in the back of our car last night. Their conversation did not center around tackling and blocking and throwing-oh no. They were talking intensely, incecently, about Pokemon.

Porter: I was so glad I traded my charmander, cause I was getting so sick of that one. I was trying to evolve him but I 'sucked' at I wanted him to evolve but he just wouldn't and it took so long...

Josh: Dude, you gotta be patient when you want them to evolve. Patient.

Porter: I had to get rid of him and find a guy who could fight right away

Josh: patient Porter. That's how it is with evolving those guys...

Porter: I stunk so bad at it. I tried to evolve another guy and I sucked at that guy too

-sorry for the language-they'd just been with their swearing coaches so I was glad these were not expletives coming from their angel mouths...

Porter: I can't wait to trade a guy again, so I can get a strong one who is ready to go.

Josh: PORTER. You are not hearing me. I SAID, you GOTTA BE PATIENT. DUDE. PATIENT

There was some kind of cosmic wisdom in a child telling another child to give patience to an endeavor of any kind. Especially to Porter. That concept of setting aside what you want in the moment (a guy who can fight, in this case) for what you really want most (and evolved guy in this case) is something Porter has been learning a lot about lately in his nine year old life.

And there was some other kind of wisdom in the whole conversation. As I drove along, listening, I could almost hear myself discussing child rearing with the sage parent of the universe

me: but I want them to evolve. To become. I'm not good at all this waiting. And all the steps you have to go through for them to be what you see they can be; powerful, intelligent, amazing. Maybe its easier if I just make them happy right now. I kind of 'suck' at the evolution of them.

Sage Parent of the Universe: Patience. Darling. Patience. Its all about patience. Do you hear what I am saying? You gotta be patient when it comes to evolution...

'morphing' from someone self centered into someone who is selfless. Evolving from the 'what's in it for me' to the 'what's best for everyone else.' I wonder how much of it really is, as our little neighbor so wisely taught over pokemon cards on the ride home, all about the patience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New System...

binders stay on a shelf in our message center, right by the door where the kids leave for school

our awesome tokens can add up quick for the kids; they can earn 7 per week just by doing their daily tasks; and more if they put in a little extra effort!

Even Lucy is excited to do her 'morning tasks'. She earned her first token this morning, and was thrilled to put it into the ziploc duct taped on to the back of her binder

We have used our "clipboard" system for several years now, and it has been losing effectiveness pretty fast-kids weren't getting their checklists finished often enough during the week to earn their allowance at the end of the month. I was losing my temper more and more because they were so apathetic about their responsibilities.

It got especially bad when school began.

I really thought hard about how to shift our focus from the kids being 'slave driven' to the kids becoming independent and productive...a hard paradigm shift for kids to make.

I felt it would take an incentive that was concrete enough to help the kids have a desire to 'buy in' now and then as their good habits form and they become more natural at keeping themselves in order (both physically, spiritually and mentally) then the fruits of being independent become the rewards themselves.

So I 'lifted' my friend Sharon's concept for her kids' summer work, and have made it a part of our every day routine.

Just a couple of SHOUT OUTS. First, THANKS MALIA! For the 'tokens' - Malia is John's administrative assistant and she really double times as our 'family assistant'. She was in charge of the company Summer party, which was "Harry Potter" Themed complete with 'galleons' we used during the amazing event. Malia was so kind and helped us by donating the expired galleons and they have become our family tokens!

another THANKS to SHARON! Your description of the family binders you put together last summer was the seed from which this idea grew for me. I appreciate you as a mom and thanks for showing me what could work for my family by sharing what was working for yours :)

So, Here's how we do it.

1. The kids are expected to take care of some simple tasks each morning before school. these include dressing, eating, making their lunch (even Molly makes her lunch with my supervision), cleaning up their room and making their bed, having a 'quiet minute' to have personal prayer and hopefully personal reading of scripture/spiritual thought, helping straighten up one of our home's common areas (this 'weekly job rotates; kids help with the library, music room, dining room, den and family room) and practice the piano.

I know that seems like a lot each morning; but our kids get up early. we gather the kids at 6:40 a.m. to read scriptures as a family and have prayer before John leaves for work and Mason leaves for school. These early mornings have been our family pattern for over 5 years; and it works for us though I know it seems over the top for many other families...

2. When the kids complete their list of tasks before they leave for school they get a token. Tokens are saved in each child's binder in a ziploc bag.

3. Extra tokens can be earned by giving an extra music practice session, practicing a foreign language, practicing math concepts through Kahn Academy and other various things. Kids also earn a token when they participate in their dinner night without complaining and follow through with those duties from start to finish...and they earn 2 tokens on a Saturday if they complete their jobs "Saturday style" which includes dusting and vacuuming as well as helping with laundry a bit and doing a "Saturday job"...

LOTS of chances to earn tokens.

4. Kids turn in their tokens for various things; namely they turn in the bulk of their tokens in order to claim their monthly allowance. Kids don't have to have earned 100% of their tokens in order to claim allowance, but they do have to earn 85% or better...nobody's perfect but you've got to try, hard.

5. Other 'token love' includes staying up a few extra minutes on a school night, or turn in a few for a treat from 'the stash' (more on how we are handling candy and sugar in our home these days to come). They can let their tokens pile up and even turn in 20 for a late night with their friends...lots of different kinds of incentives/prizes and prizes worth just a couple of tokens to prized/privileges which are worth up to 20.

a couple of 'asides': the Jr. high kid gets a little break on the time; she has until 4 p.m. to complete her task list because she leaves for school only 30 minutes after scriptures and she has piano and guitar to practice. And, we've changed our High Schooler's routine completely-more on that tomorrow!

How do you run your family 'routines'? How do you motivate your kids to work? How do you help them contribute to the family without incentive-ising them into entitlement? I'd love to hear more about what you do in your homes...your ideas and 'systems' could be helpful to others-me included!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How were you asked to your Homecoming?

The only dance I remember being asked to was Homecoming of my Freshman year...a huge bunch of helium balloons in our school colors were left on my front porch with instructions for me to pop the balloons and find a 'hidden message' revealing my date.

I was too young to go.

It was a difficult thing you see, because he was a senior and a Student body officer. And he had a steady girlfriend whose parents had suggested the couple find other dates for this dance. So it was a 'safe date' if you know what I mean.

But I answered back with a 'no'. I did it in a clever way. But I still said no.

Our family rule growing up was just like it is for my own kids today:

"do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Date those who have high standards. When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. Plan activities which help you remain close to the spirit of the Lord." (taken from 'for the strength of youth')

Last night Mason asked a cute nice girl to the homecoming dance.
Brynley, Madi and I orchestrated the 'asking'. We came up with the clever idea, packaged it all up and sent him out the door so the girl he'd hoped to go with wouldn't get asked by someone else.

They are both 16.
They'll go in a (fun) group.
They'll plan a very fun (wholesome) evening full of activities.
It will be a great evening.

How have you been asked or answered to dances in your past?
Did kids at your school pull these crazy stunts to invite to dances?
What fun, wholesome activities do you remember as part of your high school dating experiences? One of my favorites was sailing paper boats down the river in Millcreek canyon - super fun night during my high school career!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Perspectives on Parenting

making his name bright again, Porter scrubs the grime away

Once upon a time there was a darling little boy who loved his mom so much he wants her to sleep with him at night and hugs her tight (!) on his way out the door to school each morning.

This little boy was really clever, and decided to use his brilliance to avoid doing school work. He convinced his teacher each afternoon that his classwork was in the appropriate basket, earning himself a teacher's signature on his daily planner. Once the signature was seen by his adoring mother it was said that no homework was required of the sneaky clever boy; as evidenced by the teacher's approving John Hancock.

One Friday afternoon the boy's loving mother figured out the deception. Boy and mother walked down the road back to school to concur with the teacher that indeed work had gone undone and was legitemately missing and required at the boy's hand.

The boy began to have a stomach ache.
The boy began to cry.
The mother, completely realizing she had been lied to for many days, wanted to cry too.

It hurts to be lied to by your boy, ya know?

Reality was placed before the boy. Consequences too. While friends played outside (or on their video games) all Friday afternoon the boy sat at the library table and did assignment after assignment. By Saturday morning, with the work still not fully completed, the boy begged to be aloud to play in his football game. Mom stood her ground. 5 minutes before game time the work had been complete.

The boy played in his game.
(And did a darn good job)

Once home, he was put to work, with the understanding that his task was a metaphor for the choice he had made to dirty the family name through deception and lying.

He scrubbed the smoker. He wiped out the grease pail. he swept up the charred ashes and cleaned out the dripper pan.

It was a dirty job.
the dirt was all over him. Just like a lie. Just like deceit. That yuck is hard to wipe clean.

After the boy was bathed and showered he was given a short but sweet lecture, on how our lies can be truly washed clean, and told of the joy that when we choose wrong, but decide to turn back to right ways, there are open arms waiting to receive us.

This morning, that boy, with a letter of apology in his cute little hand, was escorted to school again by his mother. She watched as this child whom she adores so much handed his confession to his teacher.

The boy's mother wanted to cry again. But held back tears as her son cried instead. An embarrassment she hopes he will never forget.

And while these events are so much about this wonderful, devious, good at heart boy they are also about his mother. Who sometimes cries when its hard to parent. And who worries that she teach about the values of honesty and integrity in a way in which her children will adopt them and make them their values. And who hopes beyond hope that the day of hiding papers and lying to teachers is behind her (and her boy) for good.

Friday, September 09, 2011

No title, just ramblings

no picture either. I sent our new camera to Sweden with our men. the battery is dead. I haven't had the time to find the charger and plug it in the wall. I usually have a camera in my purse. I've been using my iPhone lately, but my pictures ALWAYS come out blurry.

This week we had another basement flood. Not as bad/catastrophic as the first one. But still, large fans blowing on wet carpet and walls, and large bills to pay for repairs(the major disappointment of this isn't actually the flood, its the fact that the dollars which will pay for its clean up were going to be allocated to new paint for my very boring kitchen walls. Darn! Foiled again!). Large feelings of discouragement about owning an old house and filling it up with young kids are haunting me. This flood was preventable, if the toilet had been flushed right and the leaky valve given proper attention I would not have had gallons of (at least it was clean!) water sucked off the floors....sigh sigh sigh and sigh---

Because of the flood John and I gave up our bed to our kids, and took to sleeping in 'fun' places like out on the trampoline and downstairs on the big leather couch. I'm not sure if I have mosquito bites from the trampoline or spider bites from the basement, but either way I'm looking forward to making my kids sleep with those fans blazing outside their closed doors so I can lay on my side of my bed with my pillow and have a decent night's sleep tonight.

I went to a 'beyond the barre' class today at the gym. This is a toning/strengthening class 'trend' in lots of gyms around the country. Ballet words are used like 'rele-ve' and 'tondu' which are graceful terms for squats and lunges. But it is fun to actually pretend you are graceful for an hour while sweat is dripping off your face. And, since as a child I was told not to come back to ballet class because I had no 'natural grace', it is kind of fun to hold my arms like a ballerina, look in a mirror and try really hard to believe for just an hour a week that I can 'walk lightly' and with poise and femininity if I stick to this class instead of thundering through life as I do, walking like a football player entering the stadium (foot pounds and heavy legs; that's my natural gate).

Finally, you might be interested in seeing the delicious dinner John made for our anniversary. I had a conversation with some very dear friends this week about my insecurities surrounding John's incredible culinary abilities and affinity. Is it true love to provide opportunity for the person you love most to spend time doing something he loves, even if that something in the end benefits me? And is it true love if this gifting of time comes with the stipulation that in the end more time will be taken to right the wrong of kitchen disaster that takes place when any great chef is in the flow of creating delicious masterpieces? Or is that 'conditional love'? A conundrum I ponder when John takes to the kitchen...

Just a few random things on a Friday. I'm sure Monday, when my flood -ridden house is put back together again and my camera battery is charged and I've had my own turn in the kitchen to bake and cook I'll have fun things to show you and even funner things to talk about. Until then, Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Anniversary Weekend and Blueberry Pie

Because he loves me, he cooks for me...

It was our anniversary Sunday, so we farmed the kids out to cousins and friends and spent the night together in our very own home. While I attended to church responsibilities John cooked a magnificent meal; tomato tower with basil and vinegar, squash soup with homemade stock, beet ravioli in beet sauce, salmon in cardamom broth and blueberry pie with homemade lemon sorbet for dessert.

John loves to cook. He loves the chemistry of it. He loves the preciseness of it. He loves the presentation of it. He loves it as a gesture. He cooks for people he loves; a coconut pie for my mom's birthday, Thanksgiving feasts each year for his own mom, and tomato soup or blueberry pie or crab cakes for me. It is an outward expression for him of an inward desire to care for another. Think of those scenes in Spanglish or No Reservations where the chef expresses passion and love through the divine tastings in his/her kitchen...

It is a beautiful thing.

I have had to come to terms with it though; with the process, the mess, the time that it all takes. It has evolved over the course of our marriage to the point where I can receive all that he is giving when he is giving me a nice meal.

Sometimes I wish I was the one cooking. But I know the end result would just not be the same. The love that he feels for cooking can be tasted in each and every bite. Its part of the reason the meals are amazing. And I cannot equal that.

The rest of our weekend consisted of a long walk in the dark. A late morning in bed. A lingering stroll through the cooking store. Then back to our kids and our life with them. It was short but so sweet to spend time remembering that our life together started with only two of us, and that we are glad that life has grown to include an entire bunch.

Happy anniversary John. I loved our weekend together. Thank you for the blueberry pie. I ate the last piece for breakfast. With each bite I thought of you and all you do to show me you are glad you chose me all that time ago. I'm so glad I chose you too! I'm the luckiest girl in the world to be by your side forever!

Friday, September 02, 2011

When Adults Act Like Children...

Sometimes its a good thing when adults act like children. Take this summer for instance. At Porter's birthday party, when the boys (many of whom are my cub scouts) drenched me with their water guns, I gunned them right back. Instead of getting all stodgy about being a grown up getting wet, I got wet with them. This is a good time for a grown up to act like a child.

When Brynley pulls out her camera, John and I do our best to look silly in her pictures. Unless she wants us to look less silly (which is hard for us to pull off). This is how our teenager wants us to have fun with her; so this is a good time for an adult to act like a kid

And when our new nephew comes for a visit, John and I make baby sounds and stick our tongues out at this little bundle of YUM. We look like infants ourselves, but its o.k.-because this too is a good time for an adult to act like a child...

and the week before school started, when we had night games in the driveway and our next door neighbor came over and played 'red light green light' with her kids (and mine) now that was a wicked perfect time for an adult to act like a kid!
(I literally had forgotten that I was allowed to play, thanks so much Megan, for reminding me that I can have fun with my kids too)

But, yesterday, when the immature parent at our elementary school butted in line to talk to the new principal, and didn't really talk but 'yelled' at her because he wasn't getting his way, and bullied her and tried to use his adult-ness to childishly manipulate her into doing what he wanted, this was NOT the right time (or way) for an adult to act like a child...

I was embarrassed for this whining adult as he ranted in public to another adult while children and even more adults cringed in their observation of his performance. He was throwing down words like "constituency" and "influence in the community" but the only influence he had was the lesson that if you are a childish adult in the wrong way at the wrong time you can look like a giant much of this kind of behavior has gone on in our public politics, both in the town where I live and in our country at large. We shouldn't be too surprised when the children who observe this turn out to be childish adults-its the pattern we are setting for them in the very worst sense.

Here's to being child like when it comes to being with a child. Here's to playing with our kids and teaching them through play that we value them and the world of play that they live in and learn from daily.

And here's to being an adult when its important to be one. To communicating disagreements in respectful conversation. For finding common ground and working hard to understand another adult's point of view. And to showing that even though you might be absolutely right; manipulating or bullying another is not the mature way to 'get your way'. Let's show our kids that its great to be a kid, and lets show our kids how to be good adults, so some day they will know how, and someday be able to be one.