Monday, February 25, 2013

On The Money: Where Do We Go From Here?

They trail in my wake, lingering in the toy aisle and launching their incessant requests.
This is why I shop alone. 
Then the eldest calmly asks, "When will I be able to spend my money for myself?"
I don't know. Maybe when you're eighteen and two weeks from leaving for college, when your father and I are in full-on freak out about all the things we haven't taught you yet?
Kidding. I didn't say that. I mumbled something about soon. Avoidance is my default strategy.
Even though we've had this interaction dozens of times, his question stayed with me. I've thought a lot lately about what it means to be mediocre as a parent. I regard mediocre with great disdain.
This is not an area where we want to fall short.
This is our responsibility. They aren't babies anymore. Much like everything else in childhood, the boys need ample opportunity to practice and make mistakes under the umbrella of our guidance and influence. Ron Blue, money management guru, states "more is caught than taught". But demonstrating good choices isn't enough. In this post, Ron says children need to understand three key concepts to successfully manage their money: limited resources, delayed gratification and the benefits of a strong work ethic.
I don't know about you, but everything in our little world rails against those concepts. We are bombarded with images telling us that we deserve to be happy. Now. And acquisition of more stuff equals happy.
So how do we begin training our boys to be good stewards?
Dave Ramsey is a strong advocate for giving kids a commission based on the work they complete. Simply put, if you don't work, you don't get paid. I believe this concept is Biblical and one we are willing to embrace in our family. I grew up in a family business and while I strongly resisted completing my short list of chores, I did learn the importance of doing a job well and earning a paycheck.
I feel like I can't talk about Dave Ramsey without mentioning his give, save, spend strategy of financial management. We want our children to give joyfully, as well as to understand the concept of saving for a significant purchase or a big adventure. At the same time, I have no idea how to go about implementing this in real life. The Mason jars are a popular method but I have some concerns about long-term effectiveness. I perused several virtual options, including three jars where the money management and task completion is tracked online. Once again, I'm overwhelmed by the daunting task of getting started.
How about you? Do you have effective strategies for teaching your children to manage their money wisely?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Big Fat Flakes and Classic Cars

We were at the gym early Saturday morning for Andy's basketball game, and when we came out, huge, fat flakes were falling from the sky. It was pandemonium as thirty kids realized what was happening. We hopped in the car and raced home to dig out our winter clothes and quickly get outside before it disappeared.
As the morning progressed, it became evident that we might actually have some time to enjoy this unexpected storm. Andy made snow angels over and over again. 

Steve helped the boys build a snowman, topped with an old Maple Valley t-ball hat
Most of our limited snow fall this winter has lasted a couple of minutes or not really been fit to play in.
The boys were positively giddy when they realized that was not the case this time. 
We went to play with our neighbors, who were in the early stages of a major snowball fight. Eli did not want to take part in the fighting, but he was all about the snowball. He licked it and said, "Nummy!"
Yesterday, Steve took Andy to the classic car show. This kid absolutely adores cars. Every month I think he's going to move on to a different phase, but he continues to draw, think, read and talk about cars.
Of course, an outing with Andy isn't complete unless refreshments are acquired. His preference this time was a bag of popcorn and a Sprite. A fun adventure for both father and son.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beloved

"On Fridays around these parts we like to write. Not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.
We love to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not. For five minutes flat."
-Lisa Jo Baker, aka the gypsy mama
Word of the day is beloved
Everyone is clamoring to get a word in, the detrius of Valentines day exploding across the countertops. He is home from a business trip, weary and hacking up a lung. Welcome to my world, I think. But we pause for a minute, shushing the small ones pinging around the kitchen on their sugar highs. We exchange cards and he offers me a gift, one he carefully selected just for this particular day. A box of luscious chocolate stares up at me, 16 bites of scrumptious delight nestled in their little paper beds. He speaks my love language. Then real life swoops back in and he proceeds to fill sippy cups and microwave chicken nuggets. We settle on comfort food for ourselves, Trader Joe's mac and cheese. There won't be any fancy wine or expensive dessert, but there will be us and our family, gathered around the table on Valentine's day. Blessed beyond measure. I am my beloved's and he is mine. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

And Then They Sucked the Fun Right Out

"People are getting just too carried away with their safety rules these days."-Luke, age 8 and 10 months.

This from my son while we sat in the car pool this morning and lamented the fact that the absence of treats on Valentine's day put a bit of a damper on the fun. Now families with food allergies, don't go getting your knickers in a bunch and zing me a nastygram. This post is not about you.
My complaints about public school are few. For now. We're still new to this party and not super involved, so I'm careful about airing my grievances publicly. But this. I can't let it go. Sure it's petty and silly and in the grand scheme of things, who really cares about celebrating Valentine's day at school, anyway?
However. I had to sign a release form for my kindergartener stating that IF we participated in the class celebration of valentines, my signature acknowledged that my son addressed all of the valentines himself and that he possessed a valentine for all twenty-three of his classmates. Oh, and don't include any treats because we aren't going to do that here. And there certainly won't be a party. We ain't got time for that.

A release form? For reals? Preventing what, exactly? And by the way, isn't the packet of fun dip and that stick that comes with the whole point of Valentine's day? (Raise your hand if you chucked the fun dip and only ate that sugary stick of candy goodness?)

So hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with me to rural Alaska, early 80's-ish, when we wrapped our shoe boxes in construction paper slapped on copious amounts of paper hearts, sliced a hole in the top and prayed that the cute boy dropped a valentine inside.  Because he wanted to. Sure the girl who smelled really bad and didn't have running water and was the unfortunate recipient of many a prank didn't get any valentines. And that was mean. I get that. Bullying is real and its awful and it was wrong then and it's still wrong now. Snotty little first graders we were.

But we also had real teeter-totters on the playground and monkey bars so high I still break out in a cold sweat just thinking about them. And get this. We were allowed to run at recess. And the boys shot at each other with imaginary weapons, flipped the swings over the bar purely for our own amusement and ice skated without helmets. Okay, so that last one was stupid and I had the concussion to prove it.

I'm digressing, but my point is this: when we create so many rules and restrictions about even the most trivial events in the school year, just what exactly are we trying to accomplish?

Since my boys had to be content with giving non-edible valentines (or no valentines at all, which is the choice my kindergartener made), I took my disgruntled self to the place where they still know how to do it up big:

That's right. Preschool. Where they feast on strawberries, juice boxes, sugar cookies with sprinkles and it isn't a party until somebody cries over the empty Pringles can. Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ferris Bueller And My One Thousand Gifts

In the words of the great Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." In an effort to express my gratitude for the many blessings God has given me, I've started writing down one thousand things I'm thankful for.
I'm embarrassed to admit, it's harder than I thought. Let's face it, I live a pretty good life. But somehow I've allowed a season of minor illnesses in our family and the mundane tasks of daily living and raising the littles to derail my progress. While my word for the year is 'forward', it seems God intended for me to spend a few minutes looking backward.
Last weekend, I spent a few minutes in a place that was once very familiar to me. As I stopped and marveled at all the ways the riverfront had changed, tears began to fall. Thirteen years ago, my life in this little southern city took an unexpected turn. Some might call it a curve ball. At the time I was devastated because things were not going to turn out like I planned. Sitting in my car, I didn't hear an audible voice, but I definitely sensed a quiet, confident reminder that God did, in fact, know what He was up to after all.

Later that evening, my sister in law and I were checking into a hotel and I saw a familiar face from this same season of life. We hugged and laughed, tried to quickly summarize over a decade of living in three short minutes before rushing off to the evening's events. She joked about how far the Lord had brought her in the many years since we'd been in Bible study together. I knew she was one of the women speaking at the conference and as expected, when she delivered her presentation, she blew us all out of our chairs. Again, the not so subtle reminder that He does work all things for good.

Finally, before we left the conference, we randomly chose a verse from a basket. I gasped when I read my selection: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." -Jeremiah 29:11.

Clearly I'm a slow learner with a short memory because God reminded me of His sovereignty in many instances throughout the weekend. My self-absorption gets in the way far too often. I think old Ferris might have a great point. If we don't stop and look around, we miss far too much.