1Oct

The Six Month Question

Andrew and I snuck away for a little pre-anniversary getaway at the beach. Don’t worry, we left the kids plenty of food and water…

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(I kid. MeMe and Grampaw have the whole crew well in hand and I suspect none of them care one whit if we ever come back.)

We’ve had a wonderful time, of course, sitting on the beach with our books and a bag of trail mix between us. I spent one morning out in the sun thinking I was under some shade only I wasn’t so much and I’ve burned the heck out of my Motherboard. (I don’t have washboard abs, I have Motherboard Abs. Strong underneath a layer of stretch marks and elastic skin that I wear proudly.)  It’ll be all loose and flowy dresses for me until The Fire is off my belly.

Last night, we went to a fancy steakhouse for dinner, this being our official Fifteen Year Anniversary Thing even though that’s still a few weeks away. Over our meal, we talked about our marriage – what needed attention, our lives – what needed adjusting, and our future – what needed more vision or goals.

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Andrew began telling me about a podcast he listened to where a magazine editor asked himself, “What would you do if you knew you only had six months left to live?”

That guy’s answer had something to do with family and a cross country bicycle trip across America. Andrew looked at me and asked, “So what would you do if you only had six months to live?”

I stared across the table at the tiny candle that flickered and thought for a minute. Of course, my initial answers involved family. I would want to spend every last minute with my people. And then, as my brain pondered the idea of a trip or a pursuit that would Matter, I felt the wet prickles start to burn in my eyes.

I took a long slug of water and tried to fight it. Finally, I blubbered out, “I would take the kids with us to Uganda,” before the tears spilled over and I dove under my napkin for cover.

Such a thing hasn’t really officially been a dream of mine ever, although we’ve certainly discussed it before. But it suddenly struck me – Uganda was the perfect place to take them.

First, I’d like them to understand their sister, for Mira to see her home country again through my eyes, and for us to touch her history as a family. But second, I think the most important thing to leave my kids with is a sense of compassion for the world. I would want them to see life outside of our comfortable setting, to understand the hard things we face globally, and to be aware that the only One who can fix all of this is Jesus.

If I knew I was leaving six months from now, I’d want to be sure I’d done everything I could to give my kids a passion for the unreached, under privileged, and unprotected everywhere in this world. I’d want them to get to know another culture and grasp the depth of diversity of people in this great big world and how we all need Jesus.

I’d look them in the eye and say, “I didn’t raise you to be safe, no matter how much I tell you to wear a helmet. From the beginning, Daddy and I have been raising missionaries to carry the legacy of Christ and His work to others. No matter where you are in the world.”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to offer much explanation to Andrew. He instinctively understood as I viciously chewed a bite of steak and fought the flood of tears.

I took another deep swig of water and then pointed my fork at him, “You. Are. In. Big. Trouble. Mister.”

I hate to cry. And I really hate doing it in public places, like in a steakhouse by the beach. But there I sat, snuffling into my baked potato.

We had a good laugh (and I wiped my face) and then we talked further. That one question suddenly helped us begin to have a vision for goals we should set for the next five years. (After all, as far as we know, we’ve got more than six months.) It’s given me more to ponder on the beach in between reading fluffy novels and fighting Andrew for the M & Ms in our trail mix.

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And I thought it was a good question to ask you, sweet Eyeballs: What would YOU do if you knew you only had six months to live?

I’d love to hear your answer… 

 

*Please hear my heart on this, I’m in no way making light of the very real life situations where people are forced to answer this question. I simply think it’s a question we all should ask… often, given that none of us knows how long we have on this earth. Thanks for understanding.

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How We Do – Kids And Money

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*I do not by any stretch claim to have this all figured out. This is just what works for us at the moment.

Andrew and I spent a rather painful year getting our finances in order with LearnVest. (More about that another time.) One thing facing our budget head-on has taught us is that we need to start practicing good money habits with our kids now.

In addition, we were struggling to hold our kids accountable for their responsibilities around the home. Admittedly, we ask a lot of them. Also admittedly, they make a lot of the mess. To that end, I read a book this summer called: Cleaning House – A Mom’s 12-Month Experience to Rid Her Home Of Youth Entitlement.

It opened my eyes to a lot of the ways we enable our kids to stay childish and how we need to do a better job preparing them how to be functional adults in the world. Things I might have forgotten to teach them: how to pump gas, shop in a store, take the dry cleaning, or plan a meal suddenly got added to my list of things to study with the gang.

But the best part was an idea we pulled from the book: negative impact is more effective than positive. Basically, it means more to a kid to have a jar full of money and lose a dollar than it does to earn a jar full of dollars at the end of a month. Visually and mentally, kids respond better to the first.

So we decided to give it a try. Each child got a jar with their name on it. Every child already had a daily chore. So the first month, we gave them a jar full of dollars (or marshmallows for the younger kids) and told them that if they faithfully did their daily chore well and on time every day, they could have the contents of the jar at the end of the month.

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Two things:

1 - We expect a higher level of work from the kids. If we’re paying for it, I shouldn’t have to come behind you every day and point out all the things you “forgot.”

2 - We have to be faithful to check their work every day. Discipline for mommy and daddy, too!

As we expected, everybody lost a dollar or three the first week while we figured out expectations and levels of “doneness” to their chores. But by the end of the month, the quality of work, as well as the diligence, had gone up.

The following month, we added “tidy up your room” to the list of expectations to earn the dollar. This meant that on occasion, a child who did his daily chore lost a dollar for not making his bed or picking up the floor around his bed. My compassionate side felt bad for them, but these are reasonable daily habits we want our kids to just DO some day, so we decided to stay the course. By the end of the month, we saw a marked difference in the overall cleanliness of the upstairs.

GLORY BE.

Next month, we are adding a bathroom check. (If we find anything on the floor, the offender loses a dollar. If there’s a question, boys have jurisdiction over one bathroom, girls over another. That should help narrow it down.) We will stop adding chores after that, but those are the basic, daily habits we want our kids to have, just to be sanitary human beings in the future. So we feel it is important to tack it on.

Now about Pay-Day.

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Andrew sits each child down and counts out the contents of their jar. The first month, Ellen’s jar was half candy and half money, but she made a request to be included in the All Money category and we conceded. Mira and Willa technically only earned marshmallows, but at the end of the month, Andrew paid them a small “bonus” for work well done out of the dollars he collected from the siblings throughout the month.

Once they have a total, they divvy up the money into three envelopes: To Tithe, To Save, and To Spend. (10%, 20%, 70% respectively)

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They drop their tithe in the basket at church and we haul them all to the bank to deposit their savings in their accounts. We’ve declared this money “untouchable” unless they can make a good case for using it. Andrew and I are hoping this little nest egg will help with larger expenses as they age. *fingers crossed*

This also gives us a chance to restock everyone’s jars with one dollar bills.

A word about that: this is not a cheap proposition for our family, given the number of our kids. We felt a little iffy about doing it long-term at first. But now that Andrew and I are better able to plan for the expense, we’re seeing how well this experiment is working and how much the kids are learning, we feel like it’s worthwhile. We’re nipping and tucking elsewhere in order to make this a priority.

We also want to honor the level of work that we ask of the kids and continue to help them learn how to save and plan to spend.

So they don’t have to have their booties kicked by their financial advisor when they’re in their thirties.

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Finn insisted he wanted a “turn” with Daddy. Andrew carefully counted out ten chocolate chips, took 1 for “tithe” and 2 for “savings,” and gave him the rest in a baggie. Happy Finn!

Which brings me to the spending: they can blow that 70% how they choose. In a few years, we may begin asking them to contribute to the purchase of certain staples for themselves, but for now, it’s theirs to spend.

EXCEPT – if a library book checked out to them goes missing,or they break an item out of carelessness or willful recklessness.

In the past, if they weren’t taking care of their stuff, we didn’t really have any recourse. We could insist “You break it – you pay for it” but they only had their birthday money, so they would simply look at us and shrug. It was an empty threat and we all knew it.

Now? Not so empty. A library book has gone missing around here and BOY HOWDY we have put in some time hunting it down. Before, no one would have lifted an eyebrow. Now? It’s an important issue of responsibility. We wouldn’t want to cut into their Lego purchases, would we?

The kids have already learned the value of pooling their money to share a bigger purchase. That’s how they’re buying large Lego sets among them. We’re trying to encourage them to save up individually for a bigger item they covet, but so far, their need to Spend, Spend, Spend wins out. Which their daddy and I totally relate to.

*insert cough from our LearnVest advisor*

But that’s ok. I’m really happy to know that we’ve got a few years to figure this out with the kids. To let them practice. To let them make mistakes. And to help them build good habits before they really have to function in society.

Oh, and by the way, “Kids Jars” is now a line item in our own budget.

Right there under “Homeschool Expenses” and “Caffeination.”

 

*affiliate links included. Gotta pay for these jars somehow! ;-)

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