Thursday, March 31, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink!

Well, Mike got all the parts and put them all together.

Because, he is that awesome.

The glue is setting, and we are going to give it an hour and see if it is hydra-proof.

I'm praying it is. 

Even though the water is turned off, water was still leaking out of the broken pipe, so it was really touch and go trying to get it dry enough to glue.

I am still pretty upset that there either isn't a turn off valve to the sprinklers, or it is broken.  That really could have made a big difference to the amount of water that was wasted this morning.

I am finding it a bit ironic that this was all caused by a child doing a chore, without being asked...  Maybe this is one of the downfalls of our allowance system :)

I am hoping that we will be able to turn the water back on soon, and return to a normal household.

Or, maybe I'll just go to the beach...


Liquid Gold

Crazy morning!

So I was getting dressed this morning when Kylee and Seth came running up the stairs and knocked on our bedroom door.

"Mom, Dad!!!" they panted, "We were dragging the garbage cans out to the front yard, and now there is water spurting everywhere!"

"What? Where is the water coming from?"

"The ground!"

Uh oh.

So, Mike and I ran down the stairs and out the front door.  And sure enough on the side of the house water was pouring out of one of the sprinkler turn off pipes sticking out of the ground.

I bent down to see where the water was coming out, and the pvc pipe was snapped right in two.

Not good.

We quickly called the landlord, hoping she would tell us where the turn off valve for the sprinkler is, but guess what?

There isn't one.

So we called the city and asked them to send someone out.

They called us back after about five minutes and told us to call another number.

Meanwhile, with water costing about a million dollars per drop here in California, water is flooding our front yard and running down the street :(

We called the other number and they said they would send someone.

I walked outside and started to hyperventilate a bit, as I watched my neighbors yard fill up with our water. 

Then I prayed.  I sat down on Mike's car and begged God to send out the water man as quickly as possible.

And then I got up and turned around and there was the water guy!!!

God is in control.

And Russel the water guy is my new best friend.

So he turned off the water for our entire house, that's fun with four kids, and told us he would come back after we got this thing fixed.

Before he left he told us the city will work with us on our bill, because it's going to be a big one.

I suppose that is a plus.

I am hopeful that my brilliant husband can fix this pipe, so that we don't have to pay to have someone come fix it.

AND that we can fix it quickly so that Russel can come out and turn our water back on.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Done For Real!

Okay, so one more post on allowance, and then I will move on.

I promise.

Another cool thing Mike and I have noticed about our kids and their allowance charts, is that they have all developed an amazing sense of care for their surroundings.

They seem to realize that taking care of our home is all of our responsibilities, no one is in it on their own, and we all like it better when things are kept up.

It doesn't always happen, but they are all getting better at noticing when something needs to be taken care of, and doing it without being asked. 

I think the reward aspect of the charts, is what got them to start looking for chore opportunities.  As a result of them looking for money making opportunities, they realized it feels good to have a clean house, to have things in order, and that is an added benefit that I didn't expect them to understand.

For example, we tend to do an overall cleaning every week on Thursdays.  And just about every Thursday, after we have completed the tasks at hand, at least one of the kids will come up to me and tell me how good it feels to have the house cleaned from top to bottom.  They feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, and they got paid for it! 

And when things get a little crazy around here, like over a weekend with a bunch of stuff going on, one of the kids will usually ask if we can work through some of the chores on the list, so that we can get things back in order.

This is not to say they are perfect!  The boys struggle with keeping their rooms clean, and I still have to keep on top of them.

And, we have had weeks where someone falls behind on their laundry, and they have no underwear :) 

It's a good life lesson.

So there you have it, not perfect kids, but at least they try, and that is all I ask.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Wrapping it Up!!

Okay, so I am about ready to wrap up this allowance discussion, and I think I want to talk about why I think this system works for our family.

First, I would like to say, I do not think we have all the answers, nor do I think that we do everything correctly, or that someone else's system will not work or teach monetary responsibility.

This is just the system we chose to use.

Here are some reasons I think it works for us- 

The first thing that comes to mind is consistency. When we decided on this allowance plan we started it and stuck to it. Yes, there have been modifications through time, but we didn't give up.

Have we been perfect?


But the thing is, since we have not given up and the kids know what to expect, it works.

No one likes surprises. They know if they do chores they make money, if they don't do them someone else will and make the money.  It is really pretty simple.  This leads to the second reason I think it works.

In thinking back to the beginning, I seem to remember a time when it was pretty difficult to get anyone interested in cleaning toilets and mopping floors.  But then one kid realized that she had an opportunity to make some money.

And she did.

And the first time we did pay out and she got 15 dollars of her very own money to keep and do with as she pleased (yes, you did the math correctly she earned 60 bucks all together!!  That was over a couple of months time) and the others made 1,3, and 5 dollars to keep for themselves, they realized that there was a huge imbalance here, and it had nothing to do with age, favor, or ability.  This really created a natural competition, that I don't think we could have created if we had set out to do it.
Another reason I think it is successful, is because our kids need money!! We provide for their basic needs but for extras, they are responsible. We would not, for example, go out and purchase a DS or an iPod for a child, even for a holiday. We also wouldn't ask a relative to make a purchase like that. We feel that by saving and purchasing a bigger item, they have more respect for what they have.

There has to be a need!!!  If you, as a parent or grandparent, are providing everything that child wants, then why would they work for it?  As they realize that the only way they are going to get the fun things they want is to get to work and earn the money, the sheet starts filling up and I'm a happy Momma!

Okay, I know I said this is the last post, but I think maybe one more, on what I see this system has created in our children.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family Tax

Now on to family tax.

This idea came from the Oprah guy.

The idea behind family tax is simple- we all have to pay taxes.

You can't escape them.

 It is inevitable.

Everyone pays taxes.

So, why not start now!

The quarter of their allowance that gets put into the family tax fund is used for family fun.

It's that simple.

The kids love it and look forward to spending our tax money on fun family activities.

The only real stipulation to the spending of family tax is that it must be used by all the family members, on an activity that is just fun.

It really is a great opportunity for us to get creative as parents, and reminds us to have fun!  Fun can be easily forgotten when life gets crazy, so it is a good reminder.

Family tax is something our kids always look forward to.  They have never minded contributing a portion of their allowance to the tax.  Although calling it a "tax" could potentially give it a negative connotation, it really is a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and give a positive spin on one of life's necessary requirements.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Giving Back to God

I know I said I would discuss the family tax next, but I think maybe I should talk about the order of the division of money, and how it has made a difference in our children's attitude about money.

The very first thing that the kids give to, out of their allowance, is giving back to God.  As I said earlier the kids tithe 25% of their allowance, which is more than God asks for us to give.  But really God doesn't ask for much does He?  When you think about it, He owns everything and asks ONLY for the first 10%, and He lets us keep the bigger portion for our own enjoyment!  That is a pretty generous God!

They have never questioned the amount we set up for them to give, and it has spilled over into the money they earn outside of allowance.

For example, when Faith started to make her own money, through babysitting, before she did anything else she took 25% of the money she had earned and placed it in the money for God.

And she continues to give 25% of her earnings, even after I told her that God only asks for 10%.

And when her sister got her first babysitting job, she brought her money to her sister and asked her to help her take out her money for God, first.  She said she wanted to make sure that she gave to God just like Faith does.

I love that they cheerfully give to the One who gives us EVERYTHING, that they don't feel like 25% is too much, and that they realize that it is the first thing we should think about when we get paid.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lettuce Wraps

We had a great time making food last night, together as a family.  It is a really fantastic part of home schooling and one of the things I love to do with the kids.

Since we had just finished a week reading about China in the mid 1900's we decided to take the kids for Chinese food on Friday.

As I got to thinking about it, I decided we would spend less money and have more fun if we just made it ourselves!

So we broke out our recipes for egg rolls, crab rangoon, and (a family favorite) lettuce wraps.  Mike and I showed the kids how to wrap the egg rolls and the won tons, they did a fabulous job!  Not one egg roll exploded, and if you have ever made them from scratch you will recognize that, that is a feat on its own!!

I have had a bunch of requests for the lettuce wraps recipe, so I thought I would post it here.  I did get this recipe somewhere, a long time ago, but I don't remember where, so I can't give credit, but I have seen other copy cat PF Chang lettuce wrap recipes that are the same as mine.

Special Sauce- combine all these ingredients, whisk and refrigerate.

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. ketchup
1 T. lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil

Before you serve add:

1 T. Chinese hot mustard
1-3 tsp garlic red chili paste

***This does spice it up a bit, if you don't like spicy be moderate!!!  We just give each kid their own little bowl of the sauce and let them add their own mustard and chili sauce***

Next, you need to make the stir fry sauce.  I usually double the sauce, but this is the single ingredients:

2 T. soy sauce
2 T. dark brown sugar
1/2 t. rice vinegar
3 T. veg. oil

Mix and set aside.

2 breast fillet cut in small pieces
1 cup water chestnuts
2/3 cup straw mushrooms
3T.chopped green onions
1 t. minced garlic

Use the 2 T. of oil to saute the chicken.  If you chicken isn't cut up, cut it after you cook it.  Mince chestnuts and mushrooms (I make them unrecognizable)

Add all chopped stuff and to Wok with chicken and stir fry sauce.  Cook until hot.

You can use ice berg or bib lettuce to serve.  I just wash it the lettuce and gently remove the leaves.  Then each person can scoop the filling and put the sauce on their own wrap.

I will post the recipes for the egg rolls and crab rangoon another time :)


Friday, March 18, 2011

Splitting the Pay Out

Now back to the topic of allowance.

As I mentioned earlier, we created a chart that lists a variety of "paid chores".  These chores have changed over time, as the kids have grown and based on the needs of the house we are living in.

We base the amount that each chore is worth on how frequently the chore could be done.  For example, picking up dog mess in the back yard could be done every day.  It is worth 50 cents every time they pick it up.  There is a serious opportunity to make good money here.  The catch is, it is worth the same amount of money, regardless of how often they do the chore.  Unfortunately, for them,  it usually only gets done once a week, so they are picking up the same amount of mess in one day for 50 cents that they could have gotten 3.50 for.   But other chores like thoroughly cleaning the bathroom is worth 1.00/per cleaning because it is generally done once a week.

So we created a chart with various chores on it.  The chores on the chart are chosen by need of the household, and things the kids think should be done.  For example, Seth really likes cleaning windows, I am not all that into windows :)  but we added it to the list.  It is a chore he can make money doing, but that I don't particularly care about.

The chart is created as an excel spread sheet and when the chore is completed they put their initial in a box next to the chore.

Once the chart, or an entire row is filled it is pay out time!!

The payout is another unique aspect of this system.  The original Oprah guy suggested splitting the payout into threes, but for our purposes we split it up evenly into four.  These four areas are: tithe, savings, personal money, and family tax.

So lets say that one of them earned 40 dollars, this could happen if you let the chart fill up. (It's really best NOT to let the chart fill up, but it does happen :)

That 40 dollars would be split up with 10 dollars going to God, 10 dollars going into their savings account, 10 dollars going to them to spend how ever they see fit, and 10 dollars in to family tax.

Tomorrow I will go into greater depth and explain the family tax, what it's used for, and the thinking behind it, as well as one of the reasons, I think, that my kids are motivated to do the chores on the list.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

James 3:18

Now for a break from allowance charts.  I will return tomorrow, but this afternoon, Kylee said the coolest thing. 

I was cleaning my bathroom when Kylee came in.  She said,"Mom, you know yesterday when I was angry and I had to go to my room to calm down?"

I said yes.

She said,"Well, while I was in there I thought I should look up some scriptures that talk about anger, so I did.  I found James 3:18.  And do you know what it says?"

I said no.

She said," It says 'Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness' so I was just thinking, that every time I get upset and feel angry I will just say that over and over.  I did it today and it has really helped me!"

Wise beyond her years.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This is Just the Beginning...

Alright, here we go! There is a lot to cover so I am just going to start writing and see how far I get today!

I really don't remember how much of our current plan was this Oprah-guy's idea and how much of it, we had morphed to fit our family. So I will just tell you what we came up with and how it works for us, but keep in mind, some of it is original and some of it isn't.

First, I would like to say, that we started this program with our kids when they were 5, 3 and 1. They are now 14 1/2, 12 1/2, 10 and 8 1/2. We decided, at that time, that the age of 5 was a good time to start a program like this. But as all the kids grew up knowing the system from a very young age, they have all entered in to the allowance program at different ages and stages. I think you need to know your kid.

I think that this system has worked for us for a couple of reasons:

a) We started it young! We had time to make mistakes and then changes based on what we found to work and not work. Little kids are a lot more understanding of this process than, say teenagers. I am not saying that you couldn't start this with a teenager, I just think you may have more work on your hands :)

b) As parents Mike and I are mean consistent. When we decided to take this on, just like many other challenges in parenting, we knew that we were going to have to stick to our guns, in the good and the bad. We aren't perfect in this, but we try really hard :)

Okay, so here is the basic premise of our system:

We have a chore chart. On it there are a variety of chores. They range from easier tasks (for the littler guys) to more difficult, time consuming, or just plain yucky tasks for the older kids. All the chores are assigned a monetary amount, so that once it is completed they know just how much they have earned. There are no limits or restrictions as to how many times a week a chore can be done or who can do it. That last statement isn't totally true, I do have quality control standards :) For example, if you aren't tall enough to vacuum and do it well, then you can't do that chore.

With this system, any child has the potential to make a good bit of money in any given week. I realize there is a potential for backfire here, but in our almost 10 years of using this system, we haven't experienced it yet :)

All of the chores on the chart are chores that we consider to be above their standard responsibilities. Now that they are older standard/non paying chores would include:

cleaning their room
feeding/washing their animals
washing/folding/and putting away their own laundry (yes, even the eight year old)

These responsibilities have to be kept up, for us to pay them for the paying chores that are on the list.

When they were little the only non paying job was cleaning their room. We felt that since it was their space, they should take personal responsibility for it and it didn't warrant payment. Kind of a good life lesson, no one pays you to clean your house/apartment/dorm room when you get older, it is a matter of personal pride and care.

Okay, this is long enough for one post :) I will write more about the charts and how the money is paid out and divided up tomorrow!


Moni, Moni, Money... Money!!

Today I thought I would write about a topic near and dear to all kid's hearts...allowance.

I don't know many parents that don't struggle with the how, what, when, and whys of this challenging topic.

And to be honest when our first child got to be of allowance age, we struggled too.

How much do you give a child?

At what age should you start?

Should it be based on performance or is it just our responsibility, as parentals, to provide an allowance?

How can we use it to teach them the importance of money?

All these questions and more were going through our heads when it came time to start considering allowance.

The first technique I heard about was to give them half their age in allowance each week. It could be dependent on simple chores, but didn't have to be.

That seemed simple enough. We had a five year old at the time. I thought we could handle 2.50 a week.

After several weeks of this we found that it didn't seem to be working out. There was no motivation behind earning the 2.50. She didn't really care about it and wouldn't do the chores we thought she should do to get it. We felt like we were just paying out with no lesson being learned. This felt like we were teaching monetary irresponsibility.

Then one day, I was watching Oprah, and she had a financial guy on her show. To be honest I can't remember who the guy was. I wish I could remember who he was, I would love to thank him. He gave us the allowance system that we use to this day. It has been effective in motivating our kids to do chores, use their money responsibly, tithe regularly (above and beyond what we are called to tithe), and has taught them how to use their money (outside allowance money) in an outstanding fashion.

What is this system? How does it work? Why does it work?

More tomorrow...


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Potato Leek Pizza

We love making home-made pizza in our house. I found the perfect dough recipe a few years ago, and have been using it as a base for my pizza ever since. It is very versatile and can be used to make a thick doughy crust or a thin crispy crust.

1 T. yeast
1/2 t. sugar
2 2/3 cups warm water
2 T. olive oil
1 T. coarse salt
7 1/2 cups flour

Mix together ingredients. I usually let the mixer mix it for about 5 minutes on a higher speed, then let it rest for about 10 minutes.

This recipe makes two crusts, If you want thinner crusts, you can stretch it to three crusts.

I made this crust yesterday and decided to try something new- potato leek pizza.

I got the recipe out of "The Pioneer Women Cooks", with some modifications (due to ingredients that I had in the house)

Three yukon gold potatoes, or red potatoes
1 leek (her recipe called for three leeks, that seemed like too much leek for me, but maybe that's just me :)
1/2 pound bacon
1 pound mozzarella
olive oil
goat cheese
Parmesan cheese

First, I sliced the potatoes very thin. I used a slicer to get them potato chip thin. Then I soaked them in cool water and set them aside.
Next, I sliced the leek super thin and set it aside.
Then, I chopped the bacon and fried it up, once cooked I removed it from the pan and set it aside.
I put the leeks into the pan with the bacon grease and sauteed them.

After the crust has been stretched out on the pan, I sprinkled olive oil, garlic and coarse salt all over the crust.

Once the crust was ready to go, I dried the potatoes and layered them on to the pizza, overlapping slightly.

After the potatoes were on the pizza, I spread the leek all over the potatoes, then I sprinkled the bacon over that and the mozzarella last.

I didn't have goat cheese, but this is the time that the goat cheese and the fresh Parmesan would go on.

Then bake. She said to bake at 500 for 8-11 minutes. I baked it at 450 for about 15 minutes. I watched it closely and once the crust and top looked brown I took it out. I was so scared the potatoes wouldn't be cooked all the way, but they were perfect!

It was delicious!!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Home Schooling Revealed!!

I ran across this blog post on another home school mom's blog today. It addresses some of the questions and misconceptions that public school parents might have about home school parents/children.

It is one I have been wanting to write for some time, but have never had the right words.

I think this mom did an excellent job of expressing everything I would want to say, so I am just going to link to it here and say enjoy!!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lemonade, Fresh Cold Lemonade!!

My kids have this strange entrepreneur gene, and I'm not sure where they got it.

Must be Mike, because it certainly isn't from me!

As a kid, I don't remember ever wanting to sell anything. It just wasn't my idea of a good time.

And as an adult, the mere thought of me having to have a garage sale breaks me out into a cold sweat with hives sure to follow.

But my kids, they LOVE to sell stuff, and are constantly looking for an opportunity to make a buck on the street.

Last week Seth came up with his brilliant scheme.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and Seth came running in from playing outside. "Mom! Mom!" he shouted in his sweet out of breath voice.

"Yes" I answered.

"I have the best idea! You know how the lady across the street is always having garage sales?"

"Um, yes." Gulp. Uh oh.

"Well, I was thinking with all that traffic, and these warm days, I bet I could sell a lot of lemonade if I opened a lemonade stand while she is having her garage sales! What do you think?" he said with a look of utter delight on his face.

"Hmmm, do you have any money for start up costs?" (please say no, please say no...)

"Nooo, but if you buy the first lemonade mix, I will pay you back out of my first profit!"

So I bought him his start up lemonade.

I have so many thoughts about this venture.

First of which is- why in the world a perfectly healthy little boy would want to spend his time selling lemonade on a beautiful sunny California day?

Also, I wonder if my entrepreneurial neighbor is going to want a cut on his profits?

And if we aren't careful our street could, just possibly, start looking a lot like a flea market :)


Monday, March 7, 2011

He's All In

I am blessed!

We just spent a great week with my dad, and I am overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have him in our lives.

It has been a tough year. When my mom passed away last May 3, I had no idea what our life would look like almost a year later. I knew we wanted to be closer to my dad but had no idea how that was going to happen.

Then God dropped us in California.

After being 2000 miles away from our family for 10 years we were finally going to be in driving distance.

Since we've been here, he has made the yucky 7 hour trek every couple of months, just to spend time with us. It isn't easy for him, but he does it because he knows how important this relationship is. We need him.

And because he pours over the kids, they respond to him in the most amazing way.

While he was here each kid expressed their desire to be near him in a different way, and it was so cool to watch.

Joshi is not a morning person, but my dad is. My dad is actually a too-early-in-the-morning-for-anyone-in-their-right-mind-person. He regularly gets up around 4 in the morning!


Every morning my dad was here, Joshi set his alarm for 6 o'clock, so that he could get up and spend a couple of hours with him alone.


And once Seth was up, he was attached to his Papa's side. If my dad went somewhere his little buddy was right by his side.

Faith and Kylee spent time making sure Papa was okay. Watching out for him. Especially at Disney. They were very concerned about how he was, if he needed anything, making sure we didn't lose him :) Also, my dad, who has perfect day time vision, is essentially blind in the dark. So they spent a lot of time making sure I didn't swing him into too many walls in the dark caverns of the rides at Disney!!

These kids yearn for this relationship. We spent a lot of years too far away from grandparents, and now that they have a chance to have it they are hungry for it!

I am so glad that he chooses to be here. That he chooses to spend his time, to make the sacrifice of his comfort and his desires, to be here with us. I know he could be in a lot of places, but he chooses to be with us. I love that when he is here he is all in for whatever they want to do. If they want to play Bananagrams for hours on end, he's in. If they want to go to the park and play football or bags, he's in. No complaining, he just smiles and goes with it.

The time he is spending here is something they will never forget and it blesses me!!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just Try and Make Plans

These last two weeks have been a bit overwhelming to me.

Last week was the high school visit, which I am not ready to discuss, so I won't.

And this week Mike has plans to go to an overnight conference from Wed-Fri. I thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my Dad, so I invited him to come and spend a couple of days with me and the kids. It was supposed to be a week of fun, maybe even a trip to Disney with Papa!

I was really looking forward to him being here, and then last night Joshi got sick... twice.

I couldn't afford to get my dad sick, so I called him at 5 o'clock this morning and told him he should not come today.

I am sooo sad about this.

I got up and bleached everything that isn't moving.

And since Joshi has been awake, he says he feels fine, has eaten- toast, applesauce, and two glasses of ginger ale. No fever.


Hoping he is fine, and no one else gets sick. Hoping I can talk my dad into coming tomorrow, so we can still have a fun week :)

Also Mike and I have tickets to go see Hillsong tonight! Think if everyone is good I will still be able to go.

Why is it that you can go for weeks with nothing going on and everyone is well, but make plans and someone gets sick???