Kids and Cash

Got any money?

Got any money?

I do not want to raise spoiled brats.  I want my kids to understand the value of a buck.

But in the area in which we live, this is tricky.  Rampant consumerism is the norm.  My daughter’s best friend has a flat screen tv in his bedroom, a laptop, and is on his 3rd cell phone.  And he’s 12.  We have friends who vacation in Hawaii every summer, have annual passes to Disney,  and eat out 5 nights a week.  Moms bring their kids carmel macchiatos from Starbucks at lunchtime to the grade school.  7th graders get regular mani/pedis and $200 salon dye jobs.   And the competitive party throwing (each kid’s birthday party must be bigger, cooler, more interesting, and BETTER than the last) starts in preschool.

No matter what type of store we go into, my kids want something.  It could be the hardware store, the drugstore, or Kinkos/Fedex- it doesn’t matter.  If there’s something to buy, they want it.

My kids each have a bank account where they deposit Christmas and birthday money and any other money they get throughout the year from pet sitting, extra chores, etc.  They also get a monthly allowance that they deposit on the first of each month.  It isn’t much, but I want them to learn how to manage money, plus I get tired of being their personal ATM.

The problem comes when they want to spend money.  It’s always, “Buy this for me now and I will pay you back.”  I’ve stopped doing this because they forget, or I forget, or they think they’ve paid me back when they haven’t.

My daughter has been wanting this thing called a Zhu Zhu Pet.  It’s basically a battery-operated hamster.  Unfortunately they are sold out of it in our area.  You can get them online at a MUCH higher price, plus shipping.  My darling daughter wants me to whip out a credit card and pay the inflated price.  She will pay me back.  She thinks it’s perfectly ok to pay $23.98 for a toy that normally sells for about $3. at Walmart.  “It’s not that much, Mom, and I HAVE MY OWN MONEY.”  Why can’t she wait until the store gets another shipment?

We don’t have any set rules about how much money they can spend, how much money they can take out of the bank,  or what their allowance is actually for.  This is the problem, and I’m struggling to come up with the right solution.

I’ve read it’s not wise to tie a child’s allowance to chores, but I have heard myself say in moments of frustration, “If you don’t make your bed, I’m docking your allowance!” Shouldn’t the lesson be- “When you do a job, you get paid”?  Or should chores just be something you do because you’re a part of a family?  But if you don’t tie allowance into chores, the child can be a lazy piglet and do nothing around the house and still get his allowance, right?  Maybe another consequence is better, but I know that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.  It seems like a natural consequence.

I want to instill fiscal responsibility.  I want my kids to be generous but also thrifty.  I want them to understand they should work for things, have patience, save up, pay their debts.  I want them to think before plunking down cash for things they don’t really need.  I want them to understand that Mom and Dad are not made of money.  In short, I need help.

So I have some questions for all the parents out there.

  1. Do you give your kids an allowance?  If so, how much? At what age did you start giving allowance?
  2. If you give an allowance, what do you expect in return?  Chores?  General respectfulness?
  3. Do you take away a portion of their allowance as a consequence for misbehavior?  For anything?
  4. What is your child’s allowance intended to cover?  Is it just ‘mad money’?  Can they spend it freely, without consulting you?
  5. Do you separate allowance money from other savings your child might have?

Thanks to any wise parents out there willing to help me think this through!

Advertisements

A Kid’s Review: Slob by Ellen Potter

31ddxnovrxl_sl500_aa240_Slob by Ellen Potter

Product Description from Amazon.com:

Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he’s also a genius who invents cool contraptions— like a TV that shows the past. Something happened two years ago that he needs to see. But genius or not, there is much Owen can’t outthink. Like his gym coach, who’s on a mission to humiliate him. Or the way his Oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. He’s sure that if he can only get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation for Owen, not science, to see the answer’s not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn’t have to feel small on the inside.With her trademark humor, Ellen Potter has created a larger-than-life character and story whose weight is immense when measured in heart.

I received this ARC from Penguin and before I could even look it over, my 11 year old daughter snapped it up.  Maybe it was the Oreo cookie on the cover, or maybe it was the title, but she devoured the book in less than 2 days.   It’s a YA novel meant for kids 9-12 years old.  Rather than review it, my daughter wanted me to ask her questions about it, so here we go!

What is Slob about?  Who is the main character?

Slob is about a fat genius named Owen who tries to figure out a mystery about his parents.  Owen is 12 years old and goes to middle school. 

What challenges does Owen face?  

Owen is overweight, which presents a lot of problems for him, especially in gym class, where his coach is out to get him and embarrass him.  Someone suggests he get a ‘fat exemption’ from the doctor but he decides to tough it out.  Owen wants to solve the mystery about his parents so he builds Nemesis, a radio/television that can see the past and expand on what was caught on the security footage of a camera across the street from their deli.  It’s complicated.

How would you describe the book?  What was your favorite part?

I would describe it as suspenseful.  It has both serious and funny parts.  It’s mostly a mystery. The cover is really cool.  On the cookie, where it would say “Oreo”, it says “A Novel”.  The part I liked best were the parts at school, because he helps his arch-enemy recover from a seizure, and then they become friends.  

Were the characters believable?

I thought they were.  I liked Owen but the character I found most interesting was Mason Ragg.  He has one brown eye and one milky-blue eye and half his face is always sneering due to a medical condition.  It was rumored that Mason carried a switchblade in his sock, but it turned out it was just a key carrier.  There was another rumor that he was kicked out of his old school for being a handful.  It shows that people often make assumptions based on incorrect information. Mason knew about his reputation but didn’t let it bother him.

Did you like the ending?  Is there anything you’d change?

I did.  Owen learned a lot about himself by the end of the book.  He never did solve the mystery about his parents, but maybe some things are better left unsolved.

Who would you recommend this book to?  

I’d recommend this book to middle school kids, kids who’ve been bullied, kids who are friends with a bully, kids who are different, and kids who love to read.  It’s an easy read, and not too long (208 pages).  I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  

 

Slob by Ellen Potter will be released on May 14th, 2009.  

Review and Giveaway: Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

cover1“Love may not be enough to wake a child in the morning, dress him, and get him to school, then to feed him at night, bathe him, and put him to bed.  Still, can any of us imagine a childhood without it?”  from Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge is a memoir of a childhood spent in foster care.  There are approximately half a million young people in foster care in the United States.  They are removed from their homes when the court decides that they’ve been abused or neglected by their parents, or when poverty, death, illness or other circumstances beyond their control make it impossible for their biological parents to properly care for them.  Such was the case with Hope’s boy, Andy.  

When the book opens, 5 year old Andy is living in Chicago with his grandma Kate, who is struggling financially but doing the best she can.  One day her daughter Hope calls from California, insisting Kate put Andy on a plane and send him out to her.  Andy barely remembers his mom, but Kate, feeling she has no choice, says goodbye to Andy and sends him to Los Angeles.

Life with Hope is unpredictable and chaotic.  She means well and loves her boy but isn’t prepared to take care of a child.  In their two years together Andy witnesses his mother’s rape at knifepoint, is woken up at 2am to burglarize a house with his mom and her friend, and eats from dumpsters.  Hope, plagued by voices in her head that tell her they are coming to take Andy, becomes paranoid and protective, insisting Andy not go to school for fear they will ‘get him’.  They are evicted from their apartment for nonpayment of rent, but Hope refuses to leave, smashing the front window so they can enter after the locks have been changed.  They briefly live with a pastor’s family who try to help, but eventually they wear out their welcome and move to a motel.  Finally, in a heart-wrenching scene, Andy is pulled away from his mother by a social worker as police shove Hope to the ground.  

Life with Hope is hard, but life without Hope is hell.  Hope’s Boy shines a light on the harsh realities of a broken system.   Taken to MacLaren Hall, more like a prison than a juvenile facility, nothing is explained to this frightened little boy.  After several months in that horrible place he is placed with a family that offers stability and food but lacks any semblance of nurturing, encouragement, or love.  He stays with the Leonards for the remainder of his childhood, hanging onto the scraps he has from his mother (“You are my boy”) and finding solace in school.   There is no effort to reunite his family, and the abuse and neglect in his foster home goes on unchecked.  He sees Hope only a handful of times, in one hour increments under the watchful eye of his foster mother.  But then the visits stop completely for nearly a decade, leaving Andy to worry and wonder.  Andy remains ever hopeful that she will somehow come back for him.  Like a child lost in a big department store, Andy believes that if he stays put, she will find him.

bridgeAgainst staggering odds, Andy goes on to college, later graduating from Harvard Law School and becoming a Fulbright scholar, without any assistance from family of from the foster care system.  This is miraculous as the majority of foster children never graduate from high school, let alone college.  In fact, 30-50% of children aging out of foster care are homeless within 2 years.  They crowd our shelters and prisons. Without the memory of his mother’s love to hang onto, who knows what might have become of Andrew Bridge.

In an impassioned plea for reform, Bridge wonders:  

“Did Hope’s visits to the Leonards’ house have to be so hostile?  Did she have to be limited to one visit a month for an hour?  Could someone have asked her what she needed to assume more of motherhood’s responsibilities, to assure her son that she was there for him, to ease her son’s unyielding loneliness?  Was it necessary to leave her boy to think that she had just disappeared?”  from Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge, page 295

You can check out the author’s website for more information about the book and the foster care system.

Thanks to Molly at Hyperion for sending me this emotional memoir and for offering a copy to one of my readers.  If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Hope’s Boy, please leave a comment here by Monday, March 23rd. 

Wordless Wednesday: Hippie Hair

img_2118

Before & After

img_2119

img_2120

Calling All Moms of Bratty Children- HELP!

buc_145I love my children.  I’m sure you love your children too.  But I don’t always like them.  Lately I’ve been wondering at what age you can tell your kid to shut the hell up?  Seriously, the mouth on my kid.  Ugh.  

Over the weekend L. got herself a dish of ice cream and went in the family room to watch a movie.  She got mad at her sister K. because she dared to sit in “her” spot to watch tv.  I don’t know about your house, but we don’t have assigned seating.  She asked K. to move, to which she responded, “No.”  Next she yelled, “That’s my seat!  You know I always sit there!” To which K. responded, “Too bad.”  So then she sat on her.  K. pushed her off.  L. started screaming, saying “You hurt me!  You’re so mean!  GET OUT OF MY SEAT!”  Which is when I stepped in. 

I took her dish of ice cream and sent L. to her room.  She refused to go.  I told her if she didn’t go, she’d lose tv and computer for the whole next day.  She screamed, “I DON’T CARE.”  I then had to bodily remove her from the room (not that difficult really since she only weighs 64 lbs.)  She stormed up the stairs with me right behind, then slammed her bedroom door in my face.  I made a mental note to have her dad remove her door from the hinges when he got home. 

I gave her a couple minutes to cool off before going in to talk to her.  I guess I didn’t wait long enough because she yelled, “GET OUT!”  Hmmm.  I asked her why she was so upset- what’s the difference if you sit on the love seat or the couch to watch tv?  She said, “You don’t understand, and you always take K.’s side.  You love her more.   You’ve never loved me!”  I said, “What are you talking about?”  And she insisted that I always play favorites, that K. always gets her way, it’s not fair.  Okaaaaaay.  I calmly said, “You know that’s not true” and she screamed, “YES IT IS, Mrs. M—!  You don’t love me like a real mother!  You’ve been faking it since the day I was born!  I can see in your eyes that you don’t love me!”  I said something like, “Call me mom.  Don’t call me Mrs. M–.  That hurts my feelings.”  And she said, “How do you like it, Mrs. M–?  You hurt my feelings when you take K.’s side about EVERYTHING!”  I said, “Stop calling me Mrs. M—“ and she said, “Mrs. M–, Mrs. M–, Mrs. M—“ in a sing songy voice.  She might as well have flipped me off.

I had to leave the room- for her own protection, because I wanted to wring her skinny little neck.  Ugh, she pisses me off!  She’s so stinkin’ defiant! 

I just keep thinking, what am I doing wrong?  Where did my sweet little girl go?  This kind of stuff goes on way too frequently in my house.  Sometimes my children make me feel like such a loser parent. 

Needless to say, she’s on restriction.  She lost her bedroom door indefinitely, tv-computer-phone-iPod for a week.  I insisted on a written apology, which was actually pretty good.  I might even frame it. 

Please tell me I’m not the only mother with a mouthy preteen.   It’s so hard not to get emotional.  Does anyone else have this problem and if so, how do you handle it?  Shipping her off to military school is not an option.   

Review and Author Interview: Shrink Rap by Robin A. Altman, MD

207947560Robin Altman is a patient woman.  Of course she has to be in her line of work.  But she’s also been really patient with me.  She sent me her book Shrink Rap: An Irreverant Take on Child Psychiatry, which I agreed to read and review, months ago.  I started it in early August, and here it is November and I’m just getting around to reviewing it.  So my apologies to Robin for the long delay. 

Here’s what happened.  I misplaced the book.  I knew it would likely turn up but just had no idea where I’d put it.  I found it in a basket in my living room this week as I was pulling out magazines to use for a project for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I must have done a quick “stash and dash” clean up of my family room 5 minutes before company arrived (in August) and shoved it in there.  

So I quickly dusted it off and finished it up.  What can I tell you about this book and about Robin Altman?  First off, she’s funny- really, really funny.  And sensible.  And down to earth.  She admits that she doesn’t know everything- imagine a doctor doing that!  She’s a mom and a child psychiatrist who uses humor in both her parenting and her practice.  She shares anecdotes about her patients, but she’s not above sharing about her two boys, Kevin and Alex, garden-variety, annoying adolescents.  

The book is laid out in short chapters titled Discipline or Lack Thereof and Childcare i.e. Leaving Your Child With Nutjobs and Adolescents- Should They Be Killed?  Other chapters are titled Psychosis or ADHD or Bipolar Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (doesn’t this sound like a fun book?  NO?  Well, it actually is!).  At the end of each chapter, Robin gives information about the disorder she’s discussing so that you can decide if your child is, in fact, psychotic or just plain irritating.  Or both. 

This book isn’t meant to be taken too seriously.  It’s not a parenting book or a self help book; it’s just lighthearted fun.  Moms with kids who have “issues” will appreciate her ability to make them laugh and feel less alone.  With it’s short, easy chapters, it would be a great addition to any doctor’s waiting room.  It’s the kind of book you can carry around in your purse or in the car for those times when you just have a few minutes to read and can use a good laugh.  I’d highly recommend Shrink Rap to any parent.

pa-robinsmallThe picture at left is Robin on her way into a comedy club gig.  Yes, she’s also a comedian! Isn’t she cute?  She says the picture makes her laugh because she looks like a goober!  

Robin was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  

Welcome, Robin Altman!

BOTB:  It can’t be easy to be funny about serious things like childhood psychosis and anorexia.. or is it?  Do you find humor in everything?

ROBIN:  Yes.  Unfortunately I find humor in anything if I think about it for awhile.  I think it’s my brain’s particular coping mechanism, because I see some pretty awful stuff.  If I’m with a child and family going through something terrible, I feel bad with them.  There’s nothing funny about that.  (Drat!)  But if I think of a concept, I can always dredge up something funny.  I don’t usually have to dredge much.  Something funny happens every day.

BOTB:  As a parent I sometimes wonder what is “wrong” with my kids.  Is it easy to diagnose certain things, like ADHD for instance?  Is there a huge obvious difference between a kid who is merely challenging and a kid with ADHD?  Is it like the difference between a headache and a brain tumor?

RA:  I guess it’s a little like the headache/brain tumor analogy, but I hesitate to say that, given that I want everyone to mellow out about psychiatric illness.  It’s more like everything is on a continuum, and there’s a bell shaped curve for normality.  For example, everyone has a touch of obsessive compulsive qualities in them.  If you’re vacuuming your house twice a day, it’s no big deal unless it bothers you, or gets in the way of your quality of life.  If you can’t leave the house because you’re picking up specks of dirt for 5 hours each day, then it’s probably OCD, and it’s your choice as to whether it needs to be treated.  (I would seek treatment if I picked up any dirt whatsoever — ever.)

BOTB:  Because of your profession, do the parents of your kids’ friends assume you have all the answers?  Do they expect you to be a Super Parent?

RA:  Not once they meet my kids!  (Ha? Ha?)  I usually make it clear to all that I’m not a Super Parent, nor do I want to be considered one.  I even tell patients’ parents, “Look.  I’m not saying that I could do this, but…”

BOTB:  There’s a line in Freaky Friday (the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis movie) where Lindsay’s character says to her child psychiatrist mom, “Stop shrinking me!”  Do your kids ever feel like you’re “shrinking” them?

RA:  I love this question!  No, they never complain about that!  When I leave the office, I leave my “psychiatrist” self there, and I’m a total goofball at home.  Sometimes, like if I’m yelling at my kids, I’m so awful that I’m glad there are no hidden cameras in my house.  The AACAP would send a S.W.A.T. Team to the house to remove my license.

BOTB:  I’m the type who sees myself (or my children) any time I read about a disease.  For instance, if I’m reading about Lyme disease, and the symptoms are fatigue, headache, flu-like symptoms- I can totally talk myself into believing I have it.  Now that I’ve read your book, I’m pretty sure I have an anorexic, oppositional defiant, bipolar adolescent.  Or two.  Do you take new patients??

RA:  Oh no!  Remember the bell shaped curve!  I’m sure your kids are fine! 🙂  I always welcome new patients, especially those whose parents have a sense of humor.

BOTB:  Your book was great, and your blog is really funny too.  Will you be writing more books?  Are you working on anything now that you could tell us about?

RA:  There has been a deafening clamoring for Shrink Rap 2, and who am I to deny my fans?  Seriously, I love to write, so I’m writing Shrink Rap 2.  I’m also working on a chick lit type funny mystery novel starring – ta da! – a child psychiatrist detective.  We child psychiatrists really get around.

Thanks so much for taking the time to review my book, Lisa!  You rock!  -Robin

Visit Robin Altman’s website HERE and her really funny blog HERE.

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday!  I have so much catching up to do, it’s ridiculous.  First, before another second goes by, let me announce the winners of two contests that were over long ago!  Valerie M. is the winner of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot DVD collection contest!  AND Shana from Literarily is the winner of Sweetsmoke by David Fuller!  Congrats to the winners!

My husband came home from China this week.  His business trip was extended an extra day due to a typhoon, but fortunately he got out ok and made it home without incident.  The kids divebombed him the second he walked through the door- “Daddy, daddy, we missed you, what’d ya bring me???”  He had all kinds of junk ancient Chinese artifacts.  My oldest was especially excited because her 6th grade class is studying ancient China right now.  She freaked out when she discovered he’d seen the Terra Cotta Warriors– he had no idea she was studying that in school and couldn’t believe how much she knew about it. Her class had a field trip Friday to the Bowers Museum to see the amazing Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, the largest display of Emperor Qin’s army of 7,000 soldiers outside of China, where she proudly boasted that her daddy had been there just last week.  

My younger daughter (of I Hate You, Mom fame) was just happy to get a red shirt and red pajamas from China (red being her favorite color) along with lots of other cheap souvenirs I have no place to put lovely keepsakes.

I’ve been without a camera since March, when my old NIkon went in the shop and never came out. Apparently a 5 year old digital camera is an antique that is nearly impossible to get parts for.  I finally gave up hope of ever getting it back and bought myself a sweeeet new camera- a Canon EOS Rebel Digital SLR. It arrived this week from Best Buy Online (free shipping!) and all I want to do is play with it!  I LOVE IT and have been so busy reading the manual and figuring out all the features that I haven’t done much other reading.  (The picture on top is the first pic I took with my new camera.)  I’m still working on Peony in Love by Lisa See for my book club and it’s wonderful.  I plan to devote a couple of hours to it today.  Or maybe I’ll just take pictures.  We’ll see.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that we have two new TLC Book Tours starting this week:  Lesley Dormen, author of The Best Place to Be (tour schedule HERE), and Kim Powers, author of Capote in Kansas (tour schedule HERE), will be making the rounds.  

What have you been up to this week?