Monday, October 8, 2012

Reliving my childhood

There were a lot of great things about growing up in Montana.

I'm sure you're imagining hiking, camping, boating, lakes, mountains and all the amazing outdoor brilliance that Big Sky Country has to offer.


Maybe you're in the camp where Montana brings to mind teepees, indians, prairies, gold miners and one room school houses. You're outdated by a good 60 years or more but... sure, we had some of those things too.


Are you one of "those" people who thinks of moutain lions, bears, rattlesnakes, avalanches, fires and floods? We had those things too but c'mon! That's why they teach survival skills in Montana public schools.

(p.s. that public school education has made me rock at this game: )

Well, it's none of the above.

Having a store within walking distance of my house is what made me relive my childhood today. I have been eagerly anticipating the opening of this store for well over a year:

Today was the grand opening and blessing ceremony (FYI we bless all our new buildings in Hawaii) The Kona winds were a blowin' (this means hot sticky voggy valley of sun filled death IMO) but my sister and I braved the weather and took my 3 boys for their first walk to the neighborhood store.

Pretty walking path right? :)

In 20 short minutes we made it to the jam packed madhouse that was our local Longs Drug Store. We had free ice cream, free chocolate covered macadamia nuts and each bought a drink to have on the walk back. Sound magical?

It might not sound amazing, but it was. I relived the first place I remember living. A big two story house in uptown Kalispell, MT. I was only about 3 or 4 at the time but our family would walk to the local mini mart and get gigantic sodas, red nuts, boston baked beans candy and 5 cent gummy worms. The butcher shop called "Meat Supply" was another favorite place to walk. They had a candy corner and the prices ranged from 1 cent to 50 cents. I felt so rich going there to spend my money and never regretted a single Now and Later pack that I purchased.

When I started preschool we moved to Evergreen, MT and lived on my grandparents property in a yellow and brown trailer. This is the home where I grew up. I lived there until I left home at 18 to go to college. There was a gas station a short 15 minute walk from my house. It was across the 4 lane highway from the Jr. High School (this Jr. High was for 5th-8th graders). You knew you were trusted when mom & dad allowed you to go the gas station. Candy is about the only thing I ever purchased there, but it was awesome candy. They had the soda flavored gum with the liquid center, warheads that I would feed to my dog to see his reaction, 5 cent candies that tasted gross but were so cheap that you bought them anyways, Cows tails and most importantly Zotz. This was also my skittle supplier. I needed skittles as soon as my friend April taught me that if you fill your mouth with them you can spit the rainbow. This was often our ladylike activity as we wandered the neighborhood.

Growing up in Montana with my family was great. 

Most of my memories are not of candy and shopping but all the ones that are are happy memories that make me smile for days. I can't wait until I can trust my boys enough to let them walk to the store alone. I look forward to family walks together with a little treat of some kind from our neighborhood store. I envision using less gas and walking or biking to get those household sundries that run out at the most inopportune times. I have high hopes of awesomeness for our new store but no matter what I will hold today in my heart forever as an amazing memory and important moment where I relived a piece of my childhood with my boys.

These pics are unrelated to my sappy story but still should be shared. Have you ever seen an ice cream sundae section? Yeah, apparently we have that.

Also, the grand opening sales consisted of rice, soda, bottled water, vegetable oil and feminine pads. 
Weird opening sales right? 

But people were buying the stuff by the cart load and there was an entire aisle for each sale product. I had to snap a picture of the most rice and vegetable oil that I have ever seen! 

Crazy right?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Family Plan - Part 2

It's the beginning of October and we've been on the "family plan" for 2 months. I'm going to reuse my format from last month but really I should just take minutes from our monthly family meeting, it would be more amusing.

For any of you just tuning in, my family is taking a year to save money, learn new skills, solve some of our family problems and spend more time together. We now have monthly family meetings and parliamentary procedure (in its most rudimentary form) is alive and well in our house. Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you hear a six year old with a speech impediment make a motion and ask for yea's and nay's. It's veeeeeeery hard to vote against him!

September Focus - De-clutter our house/schedule
August Focus - Work together as a family

GOAL #1: Save Money.
There is supposed to be no spending money on anything not 100% necessary. I budget $100 a week for groceries and $200 for household expenses for the month and then there's all of our regular boring bills. Our boys are now responsible for earning their own money and purchasing anything they want. We only supply needs.
Update: We added in a monthly family meeting to discuss once a year expenses like birthdays, holidays, safety inspections etc... and to discuss how everything is going and what changes we should make. We also gave my husband a $100 a month lunch budget for October and added another $30 into the school lunch/breakfast budget (which was at $120) Finally, we got my entire side of the family on board for a no cost (except for shipping) christmas.

RESULTS: We're getting the hang of it.

The weekly food budget has become easy. One of the boys helps me meal plan over the weekend and we make a list and I grocery shop every Monday. I try to take a child and have them use the calculator (gotta utilize those real life math moments right?) if our schedule permits.

It's actually going so well that I come in under $100 often. But then I'm all excited that I came in under and I walk around the store looking for other snacks etc... to spend it on. I have some seriously messed up stuff going on in my head! This month I'm going to track every time I come in under and purposefully not spend it to try to break this habit. I mean seriously, who does that?!?!?

We've learned that our estimates are not very accurate for once a year activities. For instance, we budgeted $100 for Moe's 6th birthday. With food, presents etc... we spent closer to $200. We budgeted $200 for the county fair and we spent $160. We probably shoudl have treated it more like a budget and just stopped when we reached the alotted amount but that in itself has been a hard habit to re-learn.

We decided to try giving a budget for eating out. We made it $100 for the month. Then we started tennis 2x a week for the twins and our schedule went haywire. This meant that we sometimes ran out of time for my beautifully planned meals and had to eat out. We ended up spending $200 :( This made me sad, very sad.

Turns out my head is wonky in this area too. We may revisit the eating out budget and try the $ envelope system but for now we took a vote and we're back to zero meals out. I seem to only be able to handle all or nothing, give me a compromise and I will completely ignore it. This was an unfortunate thing to discover about myself.

The best part of this remains the boys purchasing things for themselves. Movies, toys, snacks etc... are all paid for from their earnings. They are learning hard, but valuable, lessons. They want to spend it the minute they get it and they are not fans of working to earn extra during the month. I feel the same way when I get my paycheck :) At our family meeting tonite we were discussing where the money would come from for added expenses like extra school lunches etc... My oldest son made the best comment, "Well I want school lunch but I love going on trips so this is a tough decision..." There is definitely some understanding regarding the value of money and saving. Two of the boys have now lost their wallets and the contents of the wallets (one had $19!!! A fortune to an 8 yr old) which also served as its own hard lesson.

We're not making our monthly savings goal yet but we're getting a lot closer and we are all becoming more aware of where the money goes so I am happy with this part of the experiment. Getting creative with handmade/re-gifted christmas presents is down right thrilling in my book. I love a good project! We had a family brainstorming session and everyone came up with great ideas. I wish I could share them but my family reads this blog so it would sort of ruin the surprise. My husband was not thrilled with the prospect of making presents for 8 people but even he has jumped on board and has spent the last three nights working furiously to get it over with (he has a wonderful grinchy quality, don't you think?)

GOAL #2: Chores.
Here's a picture of one of the chore charts.

These are definitely still a work in progress(and well used. Do you like the wrinkles?). They are all similar but not exactly the same (one son has more pet responsibilities, another has a lot of medications he needs to remember etc...)I know some might seem silly but the goal is for me to nag less and for them to be more aware of how they need to help to make our household work. Personal accountability and all that...

At the beginning of the month they each receive a mason jar with $30. If the chores are done they get to keep their dollar for the day. If not, they lose the dollar. They don't get the money until the end of the month. Here's a picture of the extra chores that can be done daily for immediate money.

Since our goal for September was to de-clutter we made a family clutter challenge. The idea was if we each focused on one room daily for the month we would be able to de-clutter it and to figure out who/what was causing the clutter to pile up. Here's a picture of that chart:

RESULTS: Hmmmm, needs tweeking.
We changed things up a bit. The immediate $ chore list was not being utilized so now we voice that a job needs to be done. If someone volunteers, they get paid. If no one volunteers, someone is assigned and there is no payment. We're trying to teach them to look for needs and offer to meet those needs.

I don't think it's working.

At our family meeting tonite I asked why they only made $11 out of their $30. The overwhelming response is that they need more reminders. I feel like I'm already giving a lot of those so we revamped the system...AGAIN...

I will now remind them to cross off their list in the morning and at night. Instead of policing rooms etc... to make sure chores are done I will check to see if the list is crossed off to determine if they get to keep their $1. This option lends itself to dishonesty so we had a discussion that crossing something off that you didn't do is a form of lying (we took a vote to decide if we all thought it was lying, only one kid voted no). It was then decided by everyone that if you got caught crossing off illegally you receive the lying punishment. (the lying punishment = grounded for 1 week, or 4 chores chosen by mommy/daddy to be completed immediately, your choice).

We also discussed the "accidental" cross off. You know, the one where you see the chore on the list and cross it off as you go to do it. Then you get distracted and never do the chore. WE NEVER CROSS OFF UNTIL WE HAVE COMPLETED A TASK. I'm not sure if I can stress this one enough.

I am psychic. I know the "accidental" cross off is going to happen.

The family clutter challenge did not go well (in case you couldn't tell from the picture). We all kind of gave up half way. Well, except Moe. He loved it and declared the stairs/entryway to be the easiest chore ever and that no one ever leaves stuff there. We all gave it a sort of effort but to do it everyday was impossible. My husband was gone on a trip at the beginning of the month and that whole tennis thing was starting so we didn't even start until 10 days in.

For this next month we all got new areas and we set aside 1 hour twice a week to work on the clutter. If you finish early you are supposed to find someone to help. The idea is to work together to conquer the clutter beast. If we succeed we each get to go shopping on amazon for one new item. I realize we're rewarding the clutter removal with new clutter but that's what we voted on. One small step at a time.

We also added a dedicated hour every Sunday to the weekend chores.

If these are accomplished it's an extra $1 in the jar each weekend. I am not loving this either but the weekend chore chart was being completely ignored so this is the first effort to get some focus back on it.

GOAL #3: Fitness
This one is simple. Eat better. Exercise more. Do more family fit activities.

RESULTS: On again/Off again

The eating better is definitely getting there. Eating at home and meal planning means a lot more fruits and vegetables. Going back to the eating out ban should further the healthy initiative.

I am making it to the gym 2x a week (thanks to my workout partner!!). My goal this month is 4x a month but the month started with fall break so we'll see if I can rebound or not. The boys and I played tennis together and only one kids cried so that was a win.

There's a convenience store opening close to our neighborhood so we took a family run to see just how close it was. By run, I mean drag the six year old while being dragged by our two dogs. We walked 3 quarters of it. Good news is its only a 10 minute trip each way. And only 100 people we know probably saw our ridiculous band of misfits. From now on it will be a trip for just myself and the dogs or just the twins and I. The 6 yr old is going to have to train at home and work up to the 10 minute jog.

I attempted to take Larry and our puppy Chewbacca on a bike ride. I wanted to teach Chewbacca how to run alongside a bike. This was an easy job with our other dog so I didn't even give it a second thought.

It probably deserved a third and fourth thought at least.

Chewbacca is easily 5 or 6 times the size of our dog Leia. That means that he can easily pull my bike and possibly dislocate my arm. I did not account for this and ended up going head first over the handlebars and having the bike flip in the air and land on top of me. If I had one of those helmet cams I would have totally won AFV. Does anyone still watch America's Funniest Videos?

But... I didnt let go of the dog and I was able to get up so we'll call this a win too. It was an interesting bike ride that I am not looking forward to repeating.

We mostly sucked at the family exercise stuff, I'm hoping to make it a focus in November or December.

CONCLUSION: It takes a lot more time than I thought to develop new habits. Right now I'm celebrating that we're becoming more aware of our bad habits. Its a sort of sad celebration. I am looking forward to a month where we completely kill one of our goals and make a solid change in our lives. That could happen right?

Stay tuned for The "family plan" - part 3 at the end of October.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


My friend and neighbor who has 6, yes 6, amazing children, often has outstanding Facebook posts. We don't hang out that often... really, its almost never now that our bunco group has disbanded. (you know how that goes, right?) But, I feel that false sense of closeness and familiarity that only a Facebook friendship can bring (j/k... sort of)
Her posts usually have a delightful glimpse into her children or her life. For instance, today she posted a picture of her oldest sons (I think he's 12) "to do" list from a few months ago. (I asked her if I could share it with you. Adorable right?!)

It got me thinking of a writing project for my boys (they all hate writing so I have to get sneaky with this stuff. Grocery lists, addressing envelopes, mandatory pen pals etc... I take what I can get.)

So tonite we began our discussion on goals. At first everything they thought of was something that could be accomplished this evening. So we decided to write some life goals, cause thats important when you're ages 6 and 8 right? Its actually part of the Kindergarten curriculum for Hawaii's public schools to teach goals and attempt to accomplish them. So, as you can see I am clearly doing this all for them and their education. Or it could be for the sheer unadulterated cuteness and ahhhhhhhh factor of it all. And maybe a chance to get crafty and pin a project on the wall, I love excuses to get crafty and pin stuff on the wall.

At first I asked each boy to write 10 goals. This promptly began the always pleasant negotiation process where they break me down until I'm a shadow of my former self, scared to ever open my mouth again. Then they go in for the kill and I meekly agree to whatever will make the negotiations stop. It's 3 against 1 and they are formidable opponents.

 Its started with -

"What about 2?"
"Will you take 1 and a half?"

That was just the warmup offers. They knew my defenses weren't lowered yet. Then began -
"Do we each have to write 10 or can it be 10 altogether?"
"What if we just tell you 10 and don't have to write anything?"
"Okay, what about we tell you 15 and only write our top 1?"

At this point my choice is to take the least offensive offer or suffer through the completely ridiculous and outlandish ones that are sure to come next.

We settled on a cumulative 10.

The brainstorming amazingness began and we jotted down what we could as the creative juices began to flow. Then things got silly and the goals became things like "sleep for 5 seconds and set the record for shortest sleep" and we collectively decided (I yelled "enough" and then said "we'll continue tomorrow" through gritted teeth) to continue the project tomorrow. (No, I did not overreact. They all were giggling incessantly which sounds cute and kills eardrums. Also, I only put the cute weird goal, the list of utterly ridiculous and annoying ones is just too long. Finally they were all shouting and timing each other to break the record for shortest sleep)

Don't worry, I'll pull out the stickers and glitter glue (or something equally artsy fartsy and outstandingly enthralling) and get them back on track first thing tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for some stellar garage playroom artwork to come out of this project.

**Drumroll Please**

Here's what they have so far:

1. Make an invention (Larry)

2. Own every kind of Lego ever made (Curly)

3. Build a monster city of paper and cardboard (Moe)

4. Write a song (Larry)

I can't wait to see what they add to the list tomorrow :)

What are your kids goals? Ask them and then make sure you tell me all of the adorable/inspiring details!!!!