Allowing Allowance

BFA-Child-Financial-Planning

Our girls are now nine and seven, and lately our eldest has been asking for an allowance. All three parents grew up with allowance once we reached a certain age, so we weren’t opposed to this concept, but we definitely wanted to have some shared goals in rolling this out to the kids.

 

 

  1. We didn’t want to tie doing basic helping tasks to a monetary reward. We all help take care of our home because we love our home and each other. We don’t want anyone to feel like they are getting paid to do the tasks that we’d like to nurture some pride in.
  2. We didn’t want the girls to get competitive over allowance. Rather than tie monetary value to chores, we agreed on a set amount per week that was the same for both girls. These two monkeys will compete over who can get the most air. Homeschooling them is going to be a real trip.
  3. We wanted to teach the children smart money management, social responsibility, and some value around money.

Here’s what we did:

Using the Melissa and Doug Responsibility Charts that we bought for the girls a while back, we create a list of suitable household responsibilities that were the same for both girls.

On a Sunday night after dinner we let them know that now that they are seven and nine years old, we felt like they were at the right age to take on some added responsibility in our home. We directed them to have a look at their charts and had a chat about what their responsibilities were, and how we expected them to take pride in caring for our home together.

We let them know that another part about growing older and more responsible was being given the responsibility of a weekly allowance (here there was much cheering and celebration) and that every Sunday they would each receive five dollars.

Then we explained that an allowance was a great responsibility because it helped them learn how to be respectful of money. We let them know that they could spend or keep two dollars of their allowance, and that they would save two dollars of their allowance, and give one dollar of their allowance to our family charity of choice – the Aga Khan Foundation .

To keep their allowances straight, I got them colour-coded glass jars from Dollarama, with one for each portion of their earnings. We’re also keeping track of our wages in a spread sheet, and (probably after the move) we’ll open a bank account for each girl.

Generally, it’s going very well, with the exception of the time we were over a week late with paying out, and my mother suggested we add a dollar of interest. The kids definitely thought that was a good plan!

How have you handled allowance with your kids? How are you teaching them to be responsible with money?

School of Mom

Things my children have taught me:

  • The importance of play, even for grown-ups
  • How to inject new life and meaning into household tasks/chores
  • A whole new pleasure in cooking for (and with!) my family
  • How to view everything like it’s fresh and new
  • How to slow down
  • How to lower my expectations of perfection (from myself)
  • How to be okay with not being on time sometimes
  • How to be creative and make art every single day
  • To enjoy sewing!
  • To be thrifty and frugal
  • Patience that I never thought I’d have
  • How to laugh at myself
  • To turn inward and really work on my own struggles
  • To respect money and resources
  • That I want to be a writer, who writes books for them to enjoy
  • To be reverent and terrified of the passage of time
  • That there are one million outlets for my imagination
  • That their opinion of me is the only one that matters (after my own)
  • How to melt away my hard exterior
  • To (always try to) speak with love and respect even when I’m feeling frustrated or tired
  • That their ideas, insights, theories and notions are often more touching, profound, brilliant and pithy than those of most adults I know
  • That I am a good mother and dedicated parent
  • How to (strive to) make them feel how loved and cherished they are all of the time
  • That I belong somewhere, to someone
  • That my family, in all of it’s quirky, evolving, unusual glory is the most important thing in the world to me
  • That their amazing, delightful, beautiful selves are proof positive that I am good and doing something good for the world

City Mouse No More

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

It’s our so-called spring here in Southern Ontario, and new beginnings are the theme around here in Schnooville. After finally sharing the news with all of the most important people in my life (namely, my children) I can now leave an update here. I’m leaving city life behind, at least for a little while.

Our family business has left us wanting more, and so while we contemplate the future and hatch our next great plan, we will be heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the house in the country that we love so well. We call it ‘The Lincoln House’, and that’s how I’ll refer to it here. With 30 acres of secluded play space, our children will hopefully thrive in a way that just isn’t possible in the city.

We’ve built up a nest of memories here in our Toronto home – equal parts good and bad. It’s sad to leave because I love this house, I love our neighbourhood, I love the school our children go to, and I love having the energy of the city at my fingertips in those rare moments when I want to venture out. I haven’t lived in the country in about a decade, when I did a brief newlywed stint on a very isolated one-hundred-and-fifty-acre nature preserve in upstate New York. That was another lifetime ago, and an experience that still feels bittersweet.

There is no Waldorf school to speak of in the area, and another round of private school tuition just doesn’t make sense right now, so I am undertaking the wonderful challenge and adventure of homeschooling the girls (and I guess little Noodle) with Waldorf curriculum created for homeschooling families. At first I thought this idea was insane, (I mean, I never imagined myself as the marm of the polyamorous family who lives in the country and homeschools) but now I’m really, deeply inspired, and feeling so passionate about this opportunity. I already feel closer to my children. We’ll do this for a year and see how it goes, and see where we’re at. The ideal end goal is to set up home in a slightly more urban area with a Waldorf school nearby, but who really can tell what will happen next?

All of the adults in our home feel the need to simplify, and so we’re going to extensively pare down our material goods, selling everything and keeping only the very basic things we need. I’m overbrimming with glorious information gleaned from the countless, inspiring blogs I’ve found from homesteader types who have dedicated their life to family and simplicity. I can’t wait to purge, pare down, cut out, and free ourselves from so much STUFF! Stay tuned for the yard sale to end all yard sales.

We’re leaving the city at the end of June, when the school year is through. Before the move, we are planting an extensive vegetable garden at the Lincoln house as both a teaching tool, and a way to nourish our family with vegetables that we know are organic and safe to eat. I’ve never undertaken anything quite so extensive, and to say it’s an experiment will be a bit of an understatement.

The girls took the news so much better than we expected. They were excited, and very accepting, with lots of questions, and the predictable concern over friends and keeping in touch. We’re hoping some of the families we’ve gotten close to will be up for weekend play dates, but we’ll be sure to find some extracurricular activities that allow for creating a new social circle.

I’ll still continue with Les Coquettes, because I love performing with them, and I love creating shows. I do wonder what we’ll have in store after this year? So many of us are having families, and/or our priorities are shifting, and I personally find that writing satisfies my creative energy in a way that nothing else can compare to. Perhaps my Showgirl Madame days are coming to an end?

My new life will afford so much more time for writing. I want to share each step of this experience, and all of the little nuggets of wisdom we can pick up along the way. I used to think maintaining a certain glamorous, artsy, sexy persona was the key to my happiness, but with each passing day I realize that my happiest moments are with my children, and they are the greatest legacy I can leave behind. They afford so much opportunity for creativity and connectedness, and I have never experienced anything as inspiring as them. I feel like they are the catalyst that has led me to step into the next pair of shoes I was meant to wear – the pretty, yet comfortable ones that feel much better than the platform stilettos of old.

There is a giant field of question marks that I stare out into every day. This field is daunting, some parts of it scary, but  the breeze that rustles through it whispers of excitement. Change is a wondrous thing, isn’t it? By taking charge of our life, and making some big decisions, I feel like we’re empowering ourselves to be bigger and better.

What’s the biggest, scariest decision you’ve ever had to make?

Spring Break

I have nothing to do until September.

Of course, that’s not entirely true. I have no Coquettes shows to work on until September, but I have plenty to keep busy with. Namely, parenting, which is my favorite full time job in my work history. I love my kids, and with our two weeks of March Break now concluded my days are so much less full; I wasn’t really sure how to start this week.

The Noodle is eating solids now, and sitting up mostly unassisted. He’s so long that his five-month-old body is wearing nine-month-old clothes, and his only intelligible word is “Mama”. Every day I love him a little bit more.

Hannu spent most of the break with her dad and I while Mama S whisked Aylu away to Texas to visit Auntie Crystal who just had her third little boy. Hannu and I got to bond over crafts, books, and baby. It was such a delight to have some real one-on-one time with her. She’s an angel, and that’s no exaggeration. We spent a leisurely weekend at the Niagara house working on building a Gnome Home for Ayla’s seventh birthday, and even Daddy got in on the fun. I also took Hannah to Smock – this fabulous craft café on Roncesvalles. She had a blast, and we need to go back there soon. It’s such a peaceful space, and I felt inspired just being there. 2013-03-19 13.40.24

Ayla came back from her trip mid-week during the last week of the break. She was a fire ball, and I had to get used to her amazing energy all over again. What an incredible girl. I harnessed her power in a very fun game of “Let’s Do Spring Cleaning”. She took such pleasure in cleaning our home together, and I was seriously impressed at her attention to detail. We cleaned and cooked and had a big celebration for the Equinox and Navroz, which is the Muslim New Year.  Our menu included sautéed asparagus with butter and lemon pepper, this amazing soufflé recipe from Alton Brown and this yummy strawberry rhubarb crumble for dessert which I found on Epicurious. I would make the crumble the day before next time, because it was so much better for dessert. Ha!

2013-03-21 17.46.45I’ve always wanted a ‘Spring Tree’ to decorate, so Nekky hacked some low-sprouting branches from the maple tree in the back yard and we potted them. I then spent all day on Thursday creating ornaments with the girls, and then we decorated our tree. When Hannah and I were out on our Roncesvalles adventure we picked up some pale pink tulips and pussy willows to adorn our home. It’s really quite festive in here. I think it’s really important to honour the changing seasons in our home because I think it helps to keep these city kids connected to nature. It’s also really meditative for me; I find myself really noticing the subtle changes that are starting to occur in our neighbourhood gardens while I’m out strolling with Noodle, and I’m really appreciating each increased degree in temperature.

Spring is all about new beginnings, and this is a huge theme in our household. Our home business is getting tired, and we are craving change, and greater prosperity and adventure. What happens when it looks like the end of the road is in sight for one era, and a new road is opening up before you? The three of us grown ups are united in our dreams of travel with our children, and a lifestyle that affords us such opportunity, and we all want to be pro-active in creating our own dream life. I want the very best life for my children, and that life consists of huge horizons, adventure, family and friends, opportunities to do good for the world, and a thirst for knowledge and experience. 2013-03-21 12.15.30

We are talking about exciting possibilities, we are making plans together and dreaming together, and working together to make great things happen for our family, and the very best part is that we are doing this together.

Weathering the Shitstorm

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Calorie counting, which I am mostly diligent about, but have taken a break from because my father-in-love is in town and he equals FOOD, has helped me shed about fifteen pounds since I last wrote here. I’ve limited myself to 1600 calories each day because I’m breastfeeding, and I’m generally staying away from complex carbs and refined sugar. Right now I’m about ten pounds away from my target, and I’m now seriously contemplating exercise each day. Note that I haven’t said I’m going to start exercising each day. That’s more commitment than I can handle, and the careful food choices seem to be working well. Score one for me.

I’m back to work (part time, I guess), and back on stage with the Coquettes, and about to head to Alberta with them for our first out-of-province shows. My experience with becoming a mother, birthing a baby, and watching my body turn inside out and upside down has created this insane confidence on stage. More than ever, I feel like I’m there to have fun, help the audience have fun and I really don’t give a shit about what might come out of my mouth in the process. This has made for some great shows as far as I’m concerned. That edit button is gone it seems, and hilarity ensues. Score two for me, I guess.

Noah is thriving, and smiling like a maniac nearly all of the time. The little monster is only four months old but fitting comfortably into nine month clothing, all while exclusively breastfeeding! He’s so long, I think he may end up a giant like my 6’7 brother. His sisters are wonderful too. I just had the absolute pleasure of two glowing parent/ teacher interviews where both teachers sang the praises of our wonderful children and our wonderful family. Score three?

I’m giving myself this cyber pep-talk because in therapy I’m experiencing what you might call the eye of the storm. The work I’m doing there feels like complete and utter shit. It feels like teenage days all over again. I sort of hated high school, so on Sunday nights I would feel absolutely sick with dread knowing that I had to return there on Monday. This is the same feeling I get now on my pre-therapy days. What’s going on there? Well, the simple answer is when I’m faced with difficulty, criticism and my own short comings, guess what I do? I go stony, I detach, I shut down. I do this because I  feel like I’m a terrible person and everyone around me is better off without me. I want to crawl in a hole and run away. That’s what happens inside. Outside I look like a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t care about anything.

When there is a problem in your relationship, you want your partner there with you. You want them emotionally present to help work through difficulty. I can’t do this, or at least I haven’t been able to do this. I hate this about myself  and now I’m taking a very critical and thorough look at where this comes from and how I can stop it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it hurts like hell.

So, how does a Schnoo deal with such a difficult emotional place?

1. Binge eating. Yes, I allow myself to completely and totally pig out, but only for one day. I know I can get back on track quickly, so I just go for it. Emotional eating is never a great idea, but sometimes only chocolate and popcorn can make the pain go away.

2. Maid mode. Today, after gorging myself last night, I have been a cleaning maniac. Cleaning through stress is the best thing. It’s a physical opportunity to scrub away all of the ugly, and it feels so good to take care of it while my partners are hard at work earning our bread. This morning marked the best on-my-hands-and-knees-in-front-of-the-toilet catharsis yet.

3. Makeup. If I feel like shit on the inside, I can’t stand to look like shit on the outside. I try to take extra time to focus on the things I can control, like glowing skin and bright eyes. I love makeup, I love the art of makeup application, and I love how this simple act picks me up.

4. Writing. It’s like puking the contents of my head onto paper, and I swear it’s the greatest gift I was born with. No other physical act makes me feel better.

5. Fresh air. I need to leave my physical space when I feel like crap. I used to take my iPad to the cafe near by, but with the little Noodle as my constant companion, I can’t indulge in out-of-the-house writing excursions these days. Instead he and I are going to drag daddy out to the new diner around the corner for lunch where I will sport my fresh and dewy face, indulge in a milkshake, and try to not feel like such an asshole.

If I have these wonderful people in my life who say they love me, and who are trying to build a world with me in it I can’t be so horrible, right? Is it shame that I feel in the face of making them hurt or feel frustrated and disappointed in me? Why can’t I let myself make mistakes and be a ‘work in progress’? Why can’t I just say “Yeah, that IS shitty, let’s fix it” instead of wanting to run away and hide?

I used to question the logic of  my friends who would start therapy and then quit, but now that we’ve scraped well beyond the surface and am digging into the meat of my psyche I can totally understand the impulse to stop the process. I won’t though. Somewhere beyond all of this crap-ass feeling is the realization that I (and all of those I love) will be better for it. Somewhere my mind knows that crying like a maniac is actually better for me than going all stony and hard so I don’t have to feel things. Therapy is best approached like a very sticky bandaid – get in there, rip it off, and deal with the pain rather than gingerly peel it back, or see if it will eventually fall off in the shower. That last one always ends up a dirty, stinky mess, doesn’t it?

Spring time goal: getting rid of the hard candy shell to enjoy the gooey centre.

Happy Schnoo Year!

Noah Challenge

Noah says “You can do it!”. Be your best in 2013!

Happy New Year beautiful readers!

I am completely, totally, head-over-heals in love. The object of my affection has, in a most clichéd fashion, completed me. I am a calmer, more patient, more compassionate woman, and I am living in the moment in a way I had assumed was lost to me. Of course I’m talking about the love I have for my wee son Noah. What a beautiful blessing to cruise into a new year with!

I am happy to report that I’m back to normal, in all ways post-partum, and breastfeeding is a piece of cake. In fact, I love it. We do it anywhere and everywhere, and sometimes even in our sleep. My body rhythms fell into place just in time for me to return to work with Les Coquettes and get back on stage to host our New Year’s Eve show in Brantford. It was a blast. The matinee performance to a crowd of nearly 300 people with an average age of 75 was an experience I won’t soon forget.

As the holidays approached, something big happened for me. The horrific shooting in Connecticut rocked me to my core. I think it impacted me just as much as that September 11th horror from years ago. I think about those beautiful little munchkins and their families every single day. The headlines may have moved on to other subjects, but that particular event really cemented how precious life is. CNN may not be thinking about that city anymore, but I sure am. I feel like I owe it to those families and that community to really truly relish this beautiful life that I have been given. I wonder if I would have been affected the same way if I wasn’t a mom?

Last year at this time, I was resolving to take great care of my health so that I would hopefully be able to get pregnant. Then, at the end of January Noah was conceived. I love this time of the calendar because I fully subscribe to the “fresh start” mentality and I have always thought that the beginning of a new year is the very best time to enjoy the feeling of a clean slate. This year, I’m resolving to be the very best Schnoo I can be from top to bottom, to be a great mom to all three of my children. Here are some of the steps I’m taking thus far:

I’m working with my amazingly talented brother Kyle to get into hella shape this year. Both of my partners and I are on board to streamline our lifestyle in order to promote optimum health.  We’re eating low carb, low sugar, and starting to make sure we get daily exercise.

I’m organizing my home from top to bottom, and taking on household management and mothering as my new full-time job. I’m crafting and creating, and looking for fun new ways to enjoy my children, and hopefully get more involved at their school.

I invested in a session with a financial advisor as a Christmas gift to my partners, so we can make the most of our resources and work towards realizing more of our dreams of travel.

In 2013, I’m going to take the biggest bite out of life yet, and I want to share it all with you here. I’ll give you the inside scoop on my fitness routine, my dietary changes, my creative exercises, and my experiences in personal growth. What are you resolving to do this year?

The Other Side of Pregnant

414485_10151108980017583_1202952274_oWe’re at the Niagara house as I write this, and I love this place. It’s gray and misty today and the back forty looks like a painting with the tall grasses a rich palette of umber and golden. I’m watching my family pass around little Noah who is snoozing peacefully in their arms, and my girls are curled up on the sofa with Faerie Tale Theatre playing on the television. My life feels very rich.

In my vast amount of pregnancy reading, there seemed to be lots written about how the bonding process isn’t always instant. I had no worries about bonding with my baby. I knew when he came out into the world I would feel very connected to him, and feel very natural about my role as mother. What I didn’t count on was how much love I would feel for him. I love this little creature with every ounce of my being and I feel that he is completely a part of me, which I guess is true – I grew him with my body, and with my body he continues to grow. Deep in my heart, I know he knows that I am where he came from, and that we are connected by blood.

With parenthood comes the knowledge of the very deepest kind of fear. Never before have I been so aware of my own mortality, or of the finite amount of time we have in this life. One of the easiest triggers for my postpartum tears was contemplating how soon my little babe would grow out of his tiny clothes, how fast the passage of time would fly, and how one day he’d be in the world without me. I cannot imagine a time when I can’t just reach out and touch my son, and yet that is exactly how the natural course of things unfolds. We create lives, we nurture them, and then we set them free to find their own way. I want this little man of mine to experience all of the richness and love that his own life has to offer.

This love I feel is so profound that now I understand why people unflinchingly say they would do absolutely anything for their children. This love is the deepest ache I’ve ever felt, and that ache is compounded whenever I think of my own mother, and any of the moments when I was unkind to her. I cannot imagine that anyone has ever felt for me what I feel for little Noah, and the realization of that love is the most humbling thing I’ve ever felt. I hope my children can look at the scope of their parents’ love one day and feel like they are worthy. For me, it is only through having children who are so beautiful and inspiring that I feel like I’ve done anything to deserve a love as deep as a mother’s love.

My heart is on my sleeve now. If I feel like compassion is hard to reach, I merely think of my baby and then think of how each person (hopefully) has a mother who loves them as I love my little boy. I think of how they were once perfect and unmarred by life’s heartbreaks, and how they received such deep and simple comfort in their mother’s arms. With my stepdaughters I feel a true sense of sadness, realizing that I missed so much in not knowing them when they were babies, and I understand so clearly now the bond they share with my partners. I know how despite loving them with all of my heart, and knowing I want their lives to be filled with love and happiness, there is something unique about shepherding a tiny life from conception on.  I understand the huge risk my partners took in deciding to let me be a part of the girls’ lives.

Have you had friends who’ve had children, only to vanish from your life, forsaking you for the company of their new parent friends? I now realize that this choice isn’t personal. The experiences of childbirth, postpartum hormones, insane new sleep schedules, and early breastfeeding woes are not unlike having survived a traumatic event. You are left raw, and changed forever by what you have felt and seen. You need the company of other survivors who know what it’s like to glance up from the dinner table when your baby coos, only to burst into tears as you realize you’ve created this magnificent little life and he totally depends on you. We probably don’t give our child-free friends enough credit, but I think we’re afraid to speak candidly about these feelings and experiences in case we frighten them, or worse, have them judge us.

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to make a baby. Now, on the other side of baby-making I have few regrets. Each step I’ve taken has led me to the path of motherhood, and I feel confidant in my abilities and so very blessed to be able to give life. My child has three amazing parents, two unbelievably brilliant and beautiful sisters, three adoring grandmothers, three proud grandfathers and some truly golden aunties and uncles. We have the means to provide for our children, we have a wonderful network of friends, an incredible school family, we live in a beautiful house in the heart of a beautiful city, and we are healthy enough to enjoy the life we are living. Without the mistakes of my past, I would not know the success of my present, and this present really does feel like a gift.