Homework Hell, part 2

A new day, a new approach.

3:30 pm Tuesday

Me: Ok, better get started on your homework. I don’t want a repeat of last night.

L.: I’m starving. Can I have a snack first? And maybe watch some tv while I eat it?

Me: Snack, yes. TV, no. And if your homework’s not done by 8 pm, you’re not going to the Halloween Dance on Thursday.

L.: WHY? Why do you always have to take stuff away? That’s not fair!

Me: Would you prefer I give you something as a reward rather than take something away as a consequence?

L.: YES! Yes, I would!

Me: Fine. If you finish your homework by 8 pm, your reward is that you will be allowed to go to the Halloween Dance.

L.: But that’s the same thing! Have you been reading those parenting books again???

Me: Maybe! Now go do your homework!

L.: FINE! (storms off)

Homework Hell

The Scene:  Monday night, 9:30 pm, after nearly 4 hours of reminding, suggesting, encouraging, pleading, yelling, and demanding that my 7th grader finish her homework.

Me (yelling up the stairs):  L., are you finished with your homework yet?

L.:  WHAT????

Me:  Your homework.. is it done?

L.:  (garbled)  (something something something) done.

Me:  What?

L.:  I SAID (something something something) done.

Me:  WHAT?  I can’t hear you.  I’m coming up.

L.:  YOU DON’T HAVE TO COME UP!

I go up.  L. is on her bed, painting her nails.

Me:  Honey, it’s time for bed.

L.:  But I still have to do my math.

Me:  What??  I thought you said your homework was done.

L.:  No, I said I only have one more thing and then it’s done.

Me:  Well it sounded like you said it was done.  So if it’s not done, why are you painting your nails?

L.: Because I want them to match my neon green jeans I’m wearing tomorrow.

Me (steam coming out of my ears but trying to be patient):  Ok, but you should have done your homework first.

L.:  Mom, chill.  I’m just taking a break.  I only have math left.  Everything else is done.

Me:  Everything?  How many math problems do you have?  And did you study for your science test?

L.:  1 thru 33, but they’re easy.  And I don’t have to study.  I know everything.

Me.:  Everything, huh?

L.:  You know what I mean!

Me: Ok, your math.  Even if each problem takes only two minutes, we’re talking over an hour.  Get started!  You have to go to bed!

L.:  But I can’t get started!

Me:  Why not?

L.:  My nails are wet!

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Waiting my turn for Catching Fire

scollins-330-Catching_fire_cI read The Hunger Games in August.  LOVED it.  I was totally engrossed and could not put it down.  My 11 year old read it after me.  Also loved it.  So we were thrilled to see that they had the sequel at the Scholastic Book Fair that I chaired at the junior high a couple weeks ago.

Catching Fire was literally flying off the shelves, even in hardback, even at $17.99.  I had to place a restock order twice during the one week fair.  Teachers were buying it, kids were begging their parents for it, and the librarian got 6 copies.  Scholastic also sent 25 copies of The Hunger Games in paperback at $8.99 and I sold out of them within two hours on the first day of the fair.  I ordered 50 more and sold them all.

My daughter’s eyes lit up when she saw all those copies of Catching Fire, that beautiful stack of crimson books.  “Please, Mom, can we get it?”  What she didn’t know was that I was way ahead of her.. I had already purchased it!!

I planned to read it first, but she got to it before I did.  She was reading it at dinner last night when she actually gasped, covered her mouth and looked at me with these huge eyes.  “Don’t tell me!  Seriously, do NOT tell me!” I said sternly.  “I have to, Mom!!  You are not going to believe it!  Katniss..” she began, but I stuck my fingers in my ears and said, “la la la la la” until she finally backed down and said, “OK! OK!  I’ll keep it to myself!  But PROMISE ME you’ll read this as soon as I’m done!”

She won’t have to twist my arm.

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!

Sunday Salon

Well would you look at that..  it’s been a whole week since I’ve posted anything!  So sorry.

Reading:

Goldengrove-PB-199x300I was about halfway through A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents when I accidentally left it in my husband’s car, leaving me without an ‘in progress’ book.  Thankfully Goldengrove arrived that day.

Actually, Goldengrove TRIED to arrive twice before but the UPS man wouldn’t leave it without a signature.  That just burns my shorts.  Who can be home all day, waiting for books to arrive??  I wrote a note asking UPS to please leave it on the porch, or with a neighbor, so they finally did that on the 3rd day. My neighbor ran it over to me as I was leaving to pick up the kids at school, so I started it in the school parking lot and haven’t put it down since.  The writing is achingly beautiful, and I’m blown away by the author’s ability to paint such vivid mental images with her words.  I’ve inhabited the Goldengrove world entirely and I’m going to finish the book before going back to A Field Guide.. because I just can’t bear to put it aside.

The UPS man had another surprise for me this week.  Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving is a chunkster at 576 pages.  On the back cover it says, “In 1954..in Northern New Hampshire, an anxious 12 year old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear.  Both the 12 year old and his father become fugitives…”  An unsolicited book of that size might have ended up on the bottom of my TBR pile, but I’m intrigued.. plus, well.. it’s John Irving.

imageDB-3.cgiMy book club meets today to discuss Lottery by Patricia Wood.  Lottery is about a mentally challenged young man who wins 12 million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.  Ms. Wood is working toward her doctorate in a disability and diversity program, and she is also the daughter of a lottery winner, making her uniquely qualified to tell this story!  She lives with her husband on a boat in Hawaii but will take time out of her busy ‘aloha’ schedule to chat with us this afternoon.

My kids have been reading quite a bit.  My youngest, the reluctant reader, found a book she likes.  Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell has captured her imagination.  It’s subtitle is “The Secret Diary of Nikki Maxwell” and it’s set up as the diary of a middle school girl.  It’s kind of the female version of the Wimpy ugliesKid books.  My daughter has to read 20 minutes per day and this book has her reading a little longer, even after the timer goes off.

My oldest is a reading machine.  Her latest obsession is the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.  She plowed through Uglies in a day and a half and begged me to get in the car and drive to the book store for Pretties, the next in the series.  There are four books in the Uglies trilogy (isn’t a trilogy, by definition, 3 things?  Did he get to three and just decide to keep going??)  She’ll probably have them all finished by the end of the week.  Any suggestions on what to feed the raging reading inferno that is my 11 year old?

Kids and Home:

1st day of 5th grade!

1st day of 5th grade!

My 5th grader went back to school on Tuesday.  On Wednesday she tried out for basketball, and on Thursday she found out she made the team!  Which is great, but also adds another layer of chaos to our already hectic lives.  She’ll practice twice a week and have games through mid November.  It’s a travel team with games as far as 30 miles away, mid-week.  I’ll have to use my magical powers to be in two places at once, or rely on other parents at times to drive one of my kids around.

My 7th grader, who has played the trumpet for the last two years, announced this week that she was switching instruments.  She wants to play the baritone.  Having never been in band, I wasn’t even sure what that is.. but I know now that it’s sort of a small tuba.

Her band director thinks that’s great and is totally encouraging the switch, but I’m a little unhappy about it.  Maybe because I’m the one who has been renting the stupid trumpet for two years and paying for lessons all summer!  On the plus side, the fingering is the same on both instruments, so she should pick up the baritone very quickly.  Plus, she can use a school-owned instrument in junior high and high school (if she sticks with it) because not that many kids go out for baritone, and bands need them, so the schools have plenty to lend out.  That means no more instrument rental fees for me.  I should be happy, right?

Football season has started so the hub has checked out of family interaction on weekends in favor of a perpetual tv trance.  He’ll be “watching” the kids today during book club.  Hopefully they won’t burn the house down.

I signed on to chair the Scholastic Book Fair at the junior high, which starts this Friday and runs for a week.  There are a ba-zillion details to attend to in advance of the fair, so if anyone wondered why I haven’t been around the blog-o-sphere much lately, that is why.  It’s a big job, but I love being a book pusher.

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain!  Leave me a comment and let me know what’s new with you.  What are you reading this week?

The Sunday Salon – Books and Brats

Ahhhh, the end of a very long week.  Happy Sunday!  Today I’ve broken my post up into two sections, for those who would just like to read about books rather than all the nonsense that goes on with my kids.  So the first section is books, and the second section is brats.

Reading:

imageDB-5.cgiI finished Her Fearful Symmetry yesterday, which is set at Highgate Cemetery in London (adding to the creep factor of the book).  My thoughts as I turned the last page were, “What?!  That’s IT?”  I know there has been much gushing from bloggers over this book, but I haven’t read the posts (only skimmed).  I haven’t decided what I think of the book yet.  Until the very end I was expecting and waiting for a confrontation between two of the characters that never took place.  And I was disappointed by that.

After the moody gloomy feel of HFS I wanted something distinctly different, so last night I read the first few chapters of A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer (which, so far, has nothing to do with cemeteries).  So far I like it.  It kind of reminds me of another book I read and enjoyed recently, The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum.  The main character has n309236similar issues (youngish, social life revolves around work, lost her mother at an early age, distant relationship with family, health issues in immediate family bring everyone together, etc.) but I’ve only read maybe 35 pages so who knows where it all will go.  It’s set in Southern California, where I live, so that part is really fun for me.

Coming up this month from the TBR pile are Who By Fire (because the guilt is getting to me), Goldengrove (for an upcoming tour), In a Perfect World (also for a tour), Olive Kitteridge (book club pick for Oct) and The Angel’s Game (for the RIP IV Challenge).

This afternoon, Sheri and I are going out for a drink together while our collective kids attend a pool party/ BBQ for their youth group.  I include this in the “Reading” section because we always talk about books and blogs when we get together!  She’s been working hard on several BBAW panels, but the panel work is complete (the voting begins next week) and she desperately needs to wind down after all that blog reading!

What are you reading this week?

Home and Kids:

This week was interesting.  My oldest started junior high and her emotions have been all over the map!  The first day she was all YAY! and I LOVE SCHOOL!  The second day she was grumpy, SO tired, and even simple questions like, “What’s wrong?” were met with major attitude, i.e.  “Nothing!  WHY DO YOU ASK?!”  We gave her a wide berth.  Days 3-5 brought everything from tears to elation.  I never know what to expect after school.  Hopefully this transition phase will be brief and she will settle into a routine soon.

Already she has homework and already we’ve argued about it.  She has to draw an island to scale on graph paper with 10 different physical features (bay, isthmus, peninsula, etc.), name all the different features with creative names and then color it all in with colored pencils.  She was given until Thursday to complete it and wanted to wait until next week to start it (probably Wednesday night).  She is the Princess of Procrastination (I’m the Queen!)

I wanted her to work on it over the weekend because she’ll have other homework next week, plus when you’re given a week to complete an assignment, the teacher’s expectations are likely pretty high (and this is an honors class).  You can’t just slap something together the night before.   She also has to label a map with all 144 countries of the world, then color that in.  Thankfully she started that on Tuesday and only has a dozen more countries to identify before she can start coloring.  But she wanted to relax and play Club Penguin all morning.  I took away computer until she did a minimum of 30 minutes on the project.  “That’s not fair, Mom!”   The school year fun begins.

What should I wear?

What should I wear?

My younger daughter starts 5th grade at a new school on Tuesday.  She is super excited and doesn’t seem to have any anxiety over being the new girl at school.  She has 2 friends at the school so I’m hoping it will all be very easy for her.  She put on a fashion show for us last night to try to figure out what to wear on the first day.  I think she has settled on black shorts, black Vans with white polka-dots, and a purple peace sign shirt that has a little scarf that goes with it.  With the weather in the 90s, she definitely doesn’t need the scarf, but it “totally makes the outfit” which, of course, is much more important than being comfortable.  At least I talked her out of the skinny jeans and the pink fleece hoodie-that would have been a sweaty combo!

Tonite, dad comes home from a 4 day business trip to Kansas City.  The kids will be at an end of summer party for their youth group, and Sheri and I are going out.  Tomorrow will be a relaxing day of swimming and BBQ’ing at my parent’s house, but it will be an early evening because IT’S A SCHOOL NIGHT.  YEAH!

Happy Back to School Week!

Fresh Meat for the Wolves

IMG_4105

Some of you may know that my daughter has been sick in the last week and I wasn’t sure if she’d start school today.  She’s going to junior high now, which of course is a VERY BIG DEAL.  I just wanted you to know that she has improved tremendously and was able to start 7th grade this morning with the rest of her classmates.

She was nervous and excited.  So was I, but for different reasons.  It felt a little bit like throwing her to the wolves- some of those junior high boys have actual facial hair!  And the makeup on the girls, whew!  Heavy eyeliner, boobs, hair, ugh!!  These kids are 11-13 years old (going on 16, apparently!).  My little girl looked very, very little.  I had to fight the impulse to just scoop her up and take her right back home.

She’ll be fine, right??

Sunday Salon

Weird weekend.  The Hub and my youngest are in Vegas at the Excalibur Hotel for my friend’s 40th birthday party.  My youngest called Friday night..  “Mom!  Mommy!  It’s 100 degrees, at night!  Mom, it was 110 in Baker!  Mom, Mom, I can see the pyramid from my room!  We are in a castle tower.  I’m like a princess, Mom!”  She has never been away from me like this, alone with her dad.  I thought she might miss me, ha ha.  She’s too excited to think about it.  I had to remind The Hub to make sure she wears sunscreen and to not forget that she gets hungry at regular intervals (he is the type of man who would go all day without eating unless someone was there, handing him a sandwich). 

My girls in Yosemite

My girls in Yosemite

My oldest has a serious virus so she and I are home.  The doctor isn’t sure what she has but suspects mono or West Nile Virus.  She could have picked up mono at camp in July.  She could have been bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito on our recent trip to Pennsylvania or Yosemite.   It can’t be something normal like a cold, oh no.  That would be too easy, and nothing is easy with this kid.  Not that it’s her fault, but sheesh.  

Through sheer force of will I am going to MAKE her well so that she can attend her first day of junior high on Monday.  She had such high hopes for her first day as a 7th grader- starting off on the right foot, making new friends, finding her way

Did a mosquito get her??

Did a mosquito get her??

around.  If she has mono she could miss a lot of the first two weeks of school and will have to sit out of PE for a couple of months.  There are worse fates in life than missing school and sitting out of PE, but she’s a kid and she’s worried the other kids will think she’s different (of course, we won’t tell them that she actually IS different.. that is our little secret.  Shhhh.)  Junior high is hard enough without being singled out socially. 

The doctor said if she has no fever, is eating, and feels better by Sunday, she could go to school Monday.  Her fever came down yesterday but I’ll have to see how she is today. She’s still sleeping and I am crossing my fingers.  She’s been sick since Tuesday and has eaten nothing more than one or two bites of food at a time all week- which is scary because she’s 11 years old and now weighs 69 pounds (5 lbs lost since Tuesday).  Her body fat is close to zero-she can’t lose any more weight.  Yesterday, even without the fever, she was shaky, pale, and weak.  But maybe after 10 hours of sleep we’ll see a big improvement. 

imagesSo last night, as my daughter sipped Gatorade and I sipped Chardonnay, we watched 17 Again with Zac Ephron and Matthew Perry.  That Zac, he is quite pretty.  A little gay looking, perhaps, but awfully cute.  The movie was ok- I think my girl liked it more than I did.  Even though this wasn’t the way we planned to spend the last weekend of summer, snuggling up and watching a movie together wasn’t too terrible.

Reading update- I am reading when I am not playing nursemaid and wiping things down with Clorox bleach wipes.  I’m about halfway through Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, and so far, so good!  After that I’ll be cracking open either Who By Fire by Diana Spechler or A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer.  And I have a big backlog of reviews to write.  I’ll list them here.. leave a comment to let me know which review you’d like to see first and I’ll try to get to it tonight. 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Thank you all so much for stopping by my blog.  It means a lot to me that you come by and read my silly thoughts.  Oh, OH!  And (excited!!!!!!!!!) I want to thank whoever was kind enough to nominate me for BBAW!  Books on the Brain got nominated in 4 categories and I’m super grateful and excited to be included!  THANK YOU! 

Have a great week!  And please think healthy thoughts for my incoming 7th grader!

Why the Mean Mom loves Skeleton Creek

IMG_3315I’m such a mean mom, making my kids read during the summer.  At least that’s what my 10 year old says.  “It’s not fair!,” she says.  “We’re on vacaaaaaaaaaaaation!”    I tell her I’d love to have nothing better to do but read all day.  I’d love to have a self cleaning house, self-raising children, magic genies that do the laundry and put stuff away, personal shoppers, personal trainers, no work, a chef, a chauffeur, bills that pay themselves with an unlimited supply of money that just appears in my bank account with no effort.  She just rolls her eyes at me. “I’m a kid, Mom.”  Oh, yeah.  I forgot.

So I set the timer for 20 minutes and tell her she can go back to watching tv and farting around after she does her reading.  The book I forced her to read today is Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. Her sister read (and watched) it in one day, but she’s my voracious reader.  No need to beg big sis to read.  The funny thing is that little sis continued to read after the timer went off.  She was totally into it!

This book is really cool.  The story is told by two kids; Ryan tells the story in journal entries, Sarah’s part is in video.  So you read a chapter, then log onto the website and watch a chapter (think Blair Witch- the camera is shaky, like a handheld video camera), then go back and read another chapter, and so on.  And (bonus!) it’s a dark and scary ghost story.  My kids love all things scary.

If you’re a mean mom like me with a reluctant reader this summer, you might want to take a look at Skeleton Creek.  Book 2 called Ghost in the Machine is coming out in October (the kids can’t wait!) and there’s a freaky fansite called Skeleton Creek is Real with lots of videos.  My daughter is convinced it’s real…

Blog Neglect and Reviews

"Watch me, Mom!"

"Watch me, Mom!"

Due to the lure of summer and the demands of work and children, I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I’m down from 3-5 posts per week to 1-2.  It’s not that I have less to say, only that I have less time to say it.  

But I have been reading!  I read during the kids’ pre-lifeguard classes at the high school. I read while watching their back handsprings and round-offs during tumbling.  I read on the front steps of the library as the girls return their books and look for new ones.  I read at the roller rink while they skate.  I read in the food court at the mall as they and their friends spend an hour at Claire’s poring over $2 earrings and purple and green nail polish, or visiting the puppies at the pet store.  I read while sitting at the pool as they perfect their dives and their butterfly stroke.  “Watch me, Mom!”  “Time me, Mom!”  “On a scale of 1-10, how good was my dive?”  My To-Be-Reviewed stack is piling up.

Speaking of reviews.. I have a few questions for my fellow bloggers.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a review?

Do you read other reviews before or after you write yours?

Do you write your review immediately upon finishing a book, or do you wait a while and let it sink in a bit?

Do you pick up a new book to start the minute you finish one?

Inquiring minds want to know!!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!  Thanks to all of you who still come by and comment even though there’s not much going on around here lately!