Teaching our kids to not spend more money than they have

Not all children get an allowance but one of the reasons we began giving Jase and Lexie one is to teach them about money. They need to learn about saving and not spending more than you have/make. Each week, they get a small amount put on their FamZoo debt card.

While they do not get paid for general chores such as keeping their room clean, putting away laundry, or emptying the dishwasher, we do offer them other opportunities to earn additional money such as mowing the grass or working at my husband’s law firm.

Jase is good about knowing how much he has in his account and carefully considering a purchase beforehand. He likes keeping a larger amount of money on hand and often is willing to do extra work for more money.

Lexie on the other hand is the “I have money, I should spend it” type person. Almost as soon as she gets her allowance on Saturday, she wants to spend it. We had to set a requirement that she keep at least $5 in her account or I am sure it would often be at zero. Especially with her, I want her to learn at a young age to live within her means and to always keep some savings on hand.

This past summer, I sat the kids down and we went over household expenses and why you need to have money in savings. Lexie is a dog-lover so pointing out that she might need money to pay for an emergency with her favorite pooch did have an impact. But, at the age of 10, it is hard to imagine those type of worries when all she wants to do is buy something to make her happy now.

And that impulse is where she went wrong in February. The good thing about the debt card is that once they buy something at the store or on Xbox, the money is immediately withdrawn. They cannot spend more than they have in their account. It will simply decline the purchase.

But when purchasing on iTunes, we have Family Sharing set up so that if one of us purchases an app, we all can download it and not have to buy it again. That worked well when the kids bought games they both wanted to play. The problem is to do have the Family Share, we can only list one credit card on the account. So, when Lexie purchases something, it doesn’t automatically get withdrawn from her account. She must tell me about the purchase, and I take the money out of her account. So, the accuracy of her FamZoo account is reliant on her telling me about her purchases in a timely manner.

One day in February, Lexie had $21 in her account. In a buying spree of purchasing in-app items, she ended up spending $26. Problem one is that she spent more than she had. Problem two was she didn’t tell me about the purchases. Two days later, she went on another spending spree and bought $30 worth of stuff.

Now, she did tell us about the last purchase – sort of. She came in saying she bought two thing that were each $4.99 and then casually mentioned that earlier she had bought a few other things. She made it sound like she spent about $20 worth of stuff. When I looked up her purchases, I realized she had spent WAY over what she had. Even if she had checked her account before she made her purchases (which she didn’t, she had been going off her memory of what was in her account), in both instances she shouldn’t have spent the amounts she did.

I immediately suspended her FamZoo debt card. But that only would stop her from making a purchase on Xbox or at a store. It wouldn’t stop her from buying stuff from the iTunes store when she was on her iPad, so I took away her App store. She could no longer even download free apps.

So, after many discussions about spending and her doing extra work – even going into my husband’s work for a full Sunday afternoon – she paid back what she had spent. And after two weeks or so, I unlocked her account which had about $13 in it.

Now can I say that she learned her lesson? I don’t know. We will have to see if she makes that mistake again. We have warned her that there will be stiffer penalties if she does that again. But I can say that she has not changed her spending ways. Within a few days, she had her account down to the $5 minimum required balance. But at least this time, she came to me BEFORE she made any of her purchases to make sure it was okay to do so.

Hopefully, over time this lesson will sink in before it is something more important like rent or food that she needs to buy that she can’t because she has spent all of her money on other things.

Requiring my kids stick with a club or sport but not that they do one

The other day, Lexie called me from the school before her robotics club met. She announced she wanted to quit. This was two weeks before their competition in which she is one of 10 students chosen to compete. I told her no and sent her on to her meeting.

Our rule has always been that once our kids start a sport or activity, they are required to finish out that session, season or semester. In this case, I knew Lexie’s desire to quit might be due to a disagreement she had with her teammates, though on a few other occasions she had mentioned not liking Robotics.

Part of the reason she was in the club was I had encouraged – okay she would say insisted – that she join an activity this school year. I don’t typically require my kids do a sport or activity, but as this is her last year of elementary school, I wanted her involved in some group. The previous year she had been in choir but didn’t like it enough to do it this year.

So, I guess the question is should you require your kids to do a sport or activity? Jase recently was filling out an application for the National Junior Honors Society. They don’t just look for good grades but also consider how much volunteering and extracurricular activities you have done, And while in the past I have encouraged Jase to join a school group if he found one that interested him, he hadn’t done much in middle school and felt a little inadequate about his lack of involvement in activities, even though he was able to list orchestra and karate.

So back to the question at hand. There are always stories of successful people that praise their parents for making them stick with an activity whether it be drum lessons or Girl Scouts. Sometimes parents do know best and can see the benefits that a child, who would rather stay home and play video games, cannot see.

With sports, there is the added benefit of the physical activity. I know my own kids probably don’t get enough exercise. A sport would be an easy way to ensure that. Lexie has done gymnastics and Jase has done karate and soccer.

Team sports offer many benefits. It can build confidence, teach social skills and establish longer term healthy lifestyle habits. Studies have shown that kids who play sports are less likely to be overweight, abuse drugs or alcohol in later years or to perform badly in school.

But my kids are not that interested in playing sports. I’ve let them try different ones – always with the caveat that they finish out the season. Some parents push their kids into sports because they did them in their youth or because they feel that is what the child should be doing or perhaps because their kid is naturally good at it.

And while there is nothing wrong with encouraging a kid to get involved in something that might scare them a bit or takes them away from playing video games, parents shouldn’t force kids to do a sport that they truly do not like. If you want to require a sport or some physical activity, be flexible enough to allow your child to explore what might interest them. If they don’t like team sports, they might be interested in swimming, golf, tennis or martial arts. There are plenty of sports that can help develop great skills and keep children active without the pressure of a team environment.

But some kids just don’t excel at sports. And while I want my kids to be active, I have not required they do a sport. To ensure that all their time isn’t spent playing video games, I encourage them to look at camps in the summer and the activities offered through school. If they show an interest in something not offered at the school, we look into activities or classes outside of school. And when they do pick something, I do require them to follow through with that activity through the season, set of lessons/classes or semester. So for now, Lexie is sticking with Robotics, at least through the competition which is this weekend. As for next year, I don’t think she will want to return to Robotics, but she will be at the middle school and have a whole new group of clubs and organizations to consider joining.

My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. Thinking of how much she has changed in the past eleven years has me also pondering the changes in her brother who will turn fourteen in May.

When Jase was younger, many people commented that he was my husband’s mini me (a miniature version on my husband.) It was even more noticeable if you compared photos of the two at the same age. Here are photos of them at four-years-old.

Jase’s Dad



It is uncanny how alike they look. But beyond the physical attributes, they are very different. My husband and I often comment how Jase looks like my husband but has many of my behaviors. Jase and I are both shy, reserved, punctual, and in general think the same way.

Now Lexie is similar to me in looks, but I don’t think she is a perfect little version of me now or when I was a child. There are similarities, and I do think people who see us together make the connection that we are mother-daughter. But we differ in eye and hair color. And her behavior is definitely not a mini me version. She is my husband. She is outspoken, temperamental, and an artist. She gets her drawing ability from her dad, but I think I can take some credit for her enjoyment of reading and imagination.

Me at age 11

Lexie – three days before her 11th birthday

The truth of it is that neither kid is a copy of either one of us. And would we really want them to be? Heck no. Instead, I like to think our kids are a blending of us and other family members. I can see traits of my mom, brother, mother-in-law and more in them.

And I want them to be their own person – as much as they annoy me sometimes when their behaviors differ from what I would like it to be. I do have to remind myself that they see things differently.

Some parents discourage people referring to their children as mini versions of themselves as the child may take offense to it, be confused that they are not their own person or something along those lines. But I will say my kids have always liked hearing that they look like us or have a trait we or their Uncle David or Nana have. I think it makes them feel connected to the family.

And in the case of Jase and being short, it helps to know that his daddy didn’t hit his grown spurt until he was almost 14. It gives Jase hope that this summer, he will finally hit that growth spurt and be taller than his sister.

Going to a magnet school…or not

Image result for magnet schoolAs fifth graders end their time in elementary school, the majority of them will move on to the local middle school. But for those with an aptitude for math, science or technology can apply to go to one of the school district’s three magnet school.

(A magnet school offers special instruction and programs designed to attract a more diverse student body throughout the school district.)

When Jase was in fifth grade, he had no desire to even look into these schools. Not so with Lexie. She was immediately interested in one of them – Design and Technology Academy (DATA). They had computer animation classes which interested her.

We went to a presentation by the magnet schools. Two of them are done on a lottery system and one is done based on merit though all of them do have minimum grade average and a requirement that you have passed the most recent state testing.

Image result for data san antonio schoolLexie was still interested so we filled out an application for DATA and signed up for a tour. She was positive that this would be a better fit for her than going to the middle school her brother attends. And then about a week before the magnet schools would announce who got in, Lexie’s fifth grade class toured Jase’s middle school. Lexie came home excited about going there.

Suddenly, she didn’t want to go to DATA. I told her that is she got in, she would need to weigh the pros and cons of each school before she made her decision. As it turns out, we didn’t have to do that. Lexie didn’t get in and was placed on the waiting list. At any time between now and when school starts in August, they could call us to tell us they have a spot for her.

And just last Thursday, we got the call that a space had opened up for her. I didn’t know if I should decline as Lexie had already accepted that she was going to the local middle school or if she might change her mind knowing DATA was still an option.

It was lunchtime so I went up to her school and told her the news. DATA needed to know that day her decision. Lexie thought it about for the rest of the day. She was torn between the two but in the end, she stuck to her decision to go to the local middle school. She had already picked out her classes for next year and had plans to walk with her brother and his friend to school. Plus her friends would be going there too.

While I respect her decision and believe she can do well at the local middle school, I am a little sad that she didn’t go to DATA. It would have been a challenging, interesting experience. But it is probably all for the best. Now, I won’t have to split my time between two schools. And I won’t have to pry her out of bed for the bus (which comes way too early for my late sleeper.)

And I am sure she will get a good education at the local middle school which is one of the best in our school district.

Should good deeds and volunteering be recognized?

Should good deeds, donating or volunteering be rewarded? This is a conversation I had recently with a fellow parent. She believes that when we are collecting used books, box tops or having our kids volunteer their time that they should do so out of the goodness of their heart and not because any reward is attached.

To increase participation, our school has held class competitions with the winning class getting some time of reward. Sometimes the competition is for individual students. And our fifth graders have the option to record their volunteer hours and receive a recognition award at the end of the school year.

My friend feels these are all unnecessary as we live in a giving community. She says she can see implementing these in a less well-to-do area where the students or parents might need encouragement to participate. And while I agree with her that we should do things just for the inner joy of doing something you know is right or helpful, rewards are not a bad thing.

Rewarding good deeds can reinforce the good feelings. And there is nothing wrong with volunteers feeling appreciated for their hard work. All these good feelings can encourage people to continue their generosity.

Of course, there are some people who go out of their way to do good deeds just for the attention or the reward. And I can’t say that this is a bad thing but really you shouldn’t expect a reward or recognition for helping others.

I know I certainly don’t. I would keep donating and volunteering whether there is recognition at a volunteer’s breakfast or an award like the presidential volunteer service award, school district’s top volunteer or a Life Member award. And in the past three months I have received all these awards and know the school will be hosting a breakfast for the volunteers at the end of the school year.

No, I don’t do any of this for the awards, but it sure does feel nice to know others see all my hard work and appreciate it. I love when teachers, staff or even other parents tell me they appreciate everything I do for the students and school. It makes putting up with the rough parts bearable. Actually, just knowing that the kids enjoy the efforts of the hard work is enough, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for all they do?

I say, keep the rewards. We need to appreciate everyone’s good deeds and volunteering. There is nothing wrong with making people feel good, worthwhile and appreciated. Especially in this world where stories of animosity and hatefulness seem to dominate we can use some good feelings and to celebrate the good that others do.

A bad month for suits

A bad month for suits

Some men only own one suit that is pulled out for funerals or special occasions. Some men have never owned or worn a suit. And then there are those that because of their job they wear a suit daily. My husband falls somewhere between the one suit guy and the one who wears a suit every day.

He is an attorney, but because he isn’t in court daily or having clients come to his office, he mostly dresses casually – think jeans and t-shirts. It isn’t unusual to see his staff walking around in slippers. He does own four suits for those occasions when he goes to court or gives a speech.

January, however, was not a good month for his suits. It began when he went to a seminar held here in San Antonio. On the first day of the seminar, even though he wasn’t speaking, he chose to wear a suit as he had a city council meeting that evening. He doesn’t like suits, so he left the tie and suit jacket in his car while he was in the seminar.

And when he came out later…his car had been broken into and the suit jacket and tie were stolen along with a leather pouch. (No broken window so he is thinking he might not have locked the car.)

He didn’t have time to run home before the city council meeting, so he went with half a suit and no tie.  But at least he had a good story.

So now he was down by one suit. Two of the others needed altering as he had either gained or lost weight since he last wore them. He took them in to be altered. And when he went to pick them up…he ended up with 1 ½ suits instead of 2. The jacket on the second suit wasn’t his. Somewhere along the way when the suit was sent from the store to the alteration place, the pieces must have separated. The jacket that came back was definitely not his.

Now, we have always bought his suits at Men’s Warehouse. They have decent prices and when he first started wearing suits, he was super skinny, and they were one of the only places to carry suits in his size. They were very apologetic about the suit mix up, and to make it up to him, they provided him with a new suit.

And they didn’t steer him to the sale rack or push a cheap suit on him. They picked out some nice suits, and the one he went with was easily double the cost of the suit that he had brought in for altering.

At the beginning of January, he had 4 suits. He ended the month down to 2. And now, with the new suit, we are back to 3 but probably need to go ahead and replace the one that was stolen. Then he just needs to keep all these suits safe.

My son rocks the school district orchestra competition

Recently, I’ve written about Lexie’s accomplishments. She competed in the school spelling bee, and the following weekend her robotics team rocked their competition, earning third place in Core Values and advancing to the finals in March.

Jase is not as competitive as Lexie. Last year, his orchestra teacher encouraged all students to compete in the district solo and ensemble competition. Doing so would give them an automatic 100 on their next test. Jase opted not to do it.

Afterwards, I encouraged him to consider doing it the next year. Well, guess what. Next year is now and the competition was the first weekend of February. And not only did Jase sign up for a solo, he also signed up with a friend for the ensemble competition.

His instructor suggested pieces for both competitions. For the ensemble, Jase planned to play the suggested piece. But for the solo, he asked his tutor for a suggestion. His tutor recommended he do the piece they were currently working on – Musette by Bach.

So, for weeks he practiced both pieces at school and at home and worked on his solo with his tutor. When it came time to register for the competition, his friend’s parents didn’t pay the fee so Jase was reassigned to another group for the ensemble. He was now part of a quartet.

As the competition approached, Jase began to get nervous. They were to show up thirty minutes before competition time, but his ensemble chose to arrive even earlier to get in more practice – and perhaps calm their nerves.

There were nine judging rooms with solos or ensembles going in every five minutes – all day long. Jase’s ensemble was supposed to compete at 10:45 a.m. with his solo at 11:05 a.m., but the judge was running early so he was done with both by 10:50 a.m.

We left the school with him feeling pretty confident that he would get an outstanding on at least his solo. The scores are a 1 for superior, 2 for outstanding and a 3 for good. A superior means you get a gold medal and an outstanding gets a silver medal. Jase wanted those medals.

After lunch we went back to see if they had posted the scores. And he got a superior rank on both his solo and his ensemble! We were all thrilled.

And the competition has given him some additional confidence. He now has a new goal which is to get in Honor Orchestra for next school year. Honor Orchestra is the highest orchestra they have at his school. Tryouts are this spring so guess he had better start practicing.