Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Teaching kids the value of money in a world without money.

Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch
"If I had a money card like you, I'd have a lot of money!"  Coming from an innocent 7 year old, it almost sounds cute.  In actuality, "cute" isn't even close to how it sounds.  To me, it sounds like dried out Expos on a whiteboard.  It makes me cringe.  How the heck am I going to reverse his thinking?  How do I teach kids about money when I myself don't even use "real" money?   Credit, debit, paypal, bitcoin, etc... are all strides the monetary world is making towards less and less cash.  Today's cashless society, although extremely convenient for me, spells disaster for a kid's financial future.

How do we combat this dreary fiscal outlook?  How much money do they need?  What will they be responsible for?  How is punishment handled?  After about a week of deliberation, we came up with the following plan.  Let's call it our "Future Fiscal Disaster Prevention Act." 

$30 Payday - Each kid will receive $30 every two weeks.  We started with $30, figured we could adjust if needed.  So far, it's worked out.  Not too much, not too little.  With this money, they are responsible for all extra purchases, including, but not limited to: toys, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, electronic purchases, special food/drinks, etc...  Want some popcorn at the movies?  Pony up.  This also means they need to carry their cash on them.  They make it a point to have shorts with pockets.  I did my part and shared Austin Power's trick for never leaving without the proper gear.  Sign of the cross, saying "spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch." 

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees - The most important fact; money is earned.  Chores, cleaning, cooking, etc...  We direct.  They do.  And guess what?  They don't mind.  The lure of the prize inspires them.  I watch them scrubbing the sink, mouthing thoughts to themselves, infatuated with their new fortune.  Ask any one of my kids and they will tell you (to the dollar) how much money they have.  But, please don't ask them.  They brag about it freely and regularly.

FBIC - Funds Buried In Closet
Death and Taxes - The second most important fact; everyone pays taxes.  We have a 20% tax rate, due immediately on payday.  Nobody gets paid what they make.  The government always takes a chunk.  They might as well learn that now.  We even make them count it out.  (Mean, right?) 

Speeding Tickets - Break the rules, gotta pay.  Punishments now hit the pocket book.  No more timeouts, just fines.  Don't do what we say?  Dollar fine.  Forget a chore?  Dollar fine.  Complaint uttered at chore time?  Dollar fine.  Dad's broke?  Dollar fine.  (Okay, maybe not the last one.) 

Save for a Rainy Day - Wolf Savings & Trust.  This actually came after we started the program.  The kids were walking around with loads of cash, creating nervous parents.  So, we bought a lock box, set some rules/interest rates, and voilĂ , we have a savings account.  Deposits can be made in $20 increments.  Each $20 earns interest of 25c per month.  15% return, you say?  You're right, that's fairly generous.  The key here is creating the habit and a big shiny quarter per month did the trick.

There it is.  Our plan in a nutshell.  The kids have taken to it like gangbusters.  Too well, in fact.  I rarely rack up "fine" money anymore.  But, the kid's just might have a glowing financial future. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Perks of being a Parent

Outside of the obvious joys of bringing life into the world, there are a few additional perks that come with being a parent.  For example:

  • You can use your kids as an excuse to get out of almost anything.
    • Late night work session?  I can't, sorry, kids.  
  • You can live vicariously through your kids.
    • Watching kids sing, dance, or play soccer, I think to myself...  "If I would have sung, danced, or played soccer, I would have been amazing!"
  • Our schedules are intertwined with our kid's schedules.  
    • Snow days are back!
  • Kids think parents are amazing specimens of human achievement.
    • Apparently, one kid thinks I'm 14 feet tall and strong as a bull.  That's a pretty healthy ego boost.

I promise, I won't put this on the internet
One of the perks I find extremely enjoyable is a kid's undying trust in their parents.  Parents know the answer to every question.  Kids will jump through the air with full faith that their parents will catch them.  Parents can heal boo-boos with a kiss.  Parents are the end all be all for kids.  It is a very powerful position we parents are put in.

Some parents do everything to ensure this trust is maintained.  I, on the other hand, often find myself using this trust for personal pleasure.  I want the kids to think of me as an enigma.  Jump, I say.  Don't worry, I'll catch you.  They hold fast and stare at me with uncertainty.  Am I telling the truth?  Do they dare trust me?  Will I catch them?  Who knows.  Jump and find out.

For now, they still jump.  And, I still catch them... literally.  Figuratively, however, this is not always the case.  I pull one over on them whenever I have the chance.  For instance, last year, a golden opportunity falls in my lap.  We're at the farm.  It's late in the evening.  We've spent the day hunting birds and rabbits with BB guns.  As the day is winding down, a brilliant idea rims off in my head.  It's such a devious thought, I just stand there doing a Mr. Burns impression.  Snipe hunting.  They've never been and I'm going to teach them.  Below is the account of the kid's first snipe hunting expedition.

The hunting process was explained like this:  Snipe only come out at night.  A party of hunters (the kids), arm themselves with BB guns and a flashlight, then form a wall in the dark.  Another party of herders (the parents), approach the wall from a distance and slowly scare the snipe toward the wall by whispering "snipe, snipe, snipe...."  The snipe instinctively run away from the call, towards the hunter's wall.  When the snipe get close enough, the hunter party shines a flashlight on the snipe, freezing them in their tracks.  The statuesque snipe are blasted to oblivion by spring loaded BB guns.  Finally, we spend 10 minutes reviewing the proper grip one uses, when simultaneously manning a flashlight and BB gun.  They're ready.

The trap is set.  The kids are in position.  They can't wait to catch some snipe.  They hold fast with their much rehearsed grips.  They stand silently... in the dark.  Grandpa and I grin at each other.  We walk out of sight, whisper out a few simple words (snipe, snipe, snipe...), then head toward the house.  Once inside, we mix some drinks and pat ourselves on the back.  Well done.

We'll eat for weeks on the snipe these kids catch.

Five minutes later, the mothers in the room are freaking out.  They're worried about their babies outside, in the dark, alone.  Another ten minutes go by without a peep.  Finally, the confused (and previously scared) kids start filing into the house.  What's amazing is that they are still not hip to the prank just played on them.  The house is filled with confusion.  Why did you guys go inside?  How come you didn't say "snipe, snipe, snipe...?"  We were waiting for the snipe to come, but we didn't see any...

I'm torn.  Do I tell them?  Okay, fine.  I let them in on it.  Strangely, the boys still don't know what to believe.  You see, I'm an enigma.  They don't know if I'm telling the truth now, or if I was earlier.  Lissy makes the decision in no time.  She's figured it out.  She's all over me.  "You're a liar!", she repeats.  Jack and Ashton stay on the fence.  I break out the internet and try to put this to rest.

The boys still want to believe so bad.  I'm telling them it's a prank, but they don't want to hear it.  They have their little hearts set on gunning down some snipe.  I decide to change my tune a bit.  The prank is back on.  Round two.  It turns out the internet starts providing valuable intel on snipe hunting (Use a bag to catch them, they flock towards bodies of water, etc...)   Lissy's even getting in on it.  These boys are so confused.  Check out the video below, where Lissy and I try to setup tomorrow's snipe hunt.

See what I mean?  How can anything be better than your child's trust?  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Rain Provides...

"I'm invigorated, Mr. Anderson."
Spidey and M.J. shared their first kiss in the rain.  Neo and Agent Smith held their final showdown in the rain.  Andy Dufresne tasted the sweetness of freedom in the rain drops pelting his face.  Gene Kelly loved to sing AND dance in the rain.  Countless movies heighten the excitement of a scene with hard, drenching rain.  Hollywood tells us it's invigorating, the thought of being outside in the rain.

In reality, actually being outside in the rain is a wet mess.  It leads to wet clothes, a messy floor, a dirty car, and sometimes the common cold.  Our kid's sports activities are frequently cancelled because nobody wants to be outside in the rain.  Ultimately, millions of people check the weather every day in order to plan events around the chance of rain.  It's not invigorating, the thought of being outside in the rain.

The thought of running in the rain is also not invigorating.  Even though countless posters tell you how amazing and powerful running soaked is, I avoid it if I have to.  If it is unavoidable, I have to re-arrange my wardrobe, find an older pair of shoes, and calculate a route with the best drainage.  Once you're out there running in the rain, you have to deal with heavy shoes, wet clothes, rain in your face, and more.  Not invigorating, this thought.

"Invigoration, er, freedom!"
When JJ and I signed up for the Amy Thompson 5K, it represented a rare opportunity for us.  You see, we don't get many chances to actually run a 5K hard, as we're always in marathon training, recovery, or taper.  We each have 5K goals that we plan to knock out of the park at this particularl race.  The timing is perfect.  We're not in the middle of a training program and we're in great running shape.  However...

On Memorial Day, JJ and I wake up to prepare for the Amy Thompson 5K.  Sadly, our goals are out of view.  We spent the last three days playing golf (drinking), cheering on the Royals (drinking), and hanging out (drinking).  Oh, and there's a 90% chance of rain.  Heavy rain.  We have little expectations for ourselves.  The plan is to show up, give it our best, get home, and rest.

We park about a half mile away, jog to the starting area, and head for the nearest bathroom.  All is well until we step out of the bathroom into a chilling downpour.  A cold, windy, fat rain drop, bunch of rain.  We take shelter in the nearby pavilion, like many others.  Our usual warm-up is out of the question.  Two minutes before the race start, we dash out of our shelter into the rain and head for the start line.  We step into the corral, wait 20 seconds, then GO!

One mile into the 5K, the already heavy rain picks up even more.  These colossal rain drops are big enough to fill all Chuck Noland's coconuts in minutes.  Our expectations drop lower and lower.  Still, we fight on, as if the invigorating awakening is right around the corner.  I keep reaching towards the sky like Dufresne, but nothing.  Eventually, I cross the finish line, grab a soggy bagel, (skip the water) and wait for JJ to finish.

JJ crosses the finish line, grabs herself a soggy bagel, (skips the water) and we start jogging toward the car.    This event comes and goes in a wet mess.  We're both disappointed and soaked. This rare opportunity is foiled by bad timing and Mother Nature.  We head home, wondering when another rare opportunity will come along.

Afterwards, at breakfast with my Mother and Dean, I decide to check the results online.  First place in my age group with a PR 19:24.  I swing over to JJ's age group.  Second place with her second fastest time of 24:28.  Immediately, we check the website to see if they provide placement medals.  They do!  Our first earned medals in a public race!  It seems Mother Nature weeds down the competition enough for us to squeeze into the winner's circle.

After all the disappointment and Mother Nature's best shot, we exceed our expectations.  We might have to rethink our thoughts about running in the rain.  Although, I'm not going as far as 'invigorating.'

Fun Facts:
  • Searching for "Running in the Rain" on iTunes will return 41 different songs, including remixes.
  • In .32 seconds, Google will kick out 825 million results when searching for "weather forecast".

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bite your tongue...

As an official grown-up in the Wolf family, it's my job to question bold statements made by younger Wolf's.  When Jack Busy Wolf tells me, prehistoric Rhino's are real, I scour the web for images.  When Ashton Honorary Wolf says, you can't setup a Minecraft server on XBOX, I fire up Google.  Why?  I don't know.  Do those little punks think they know better than me?  No way!  How can they know more about X, Y, or Z when I have so many more years of life under my belt?  I know, I know...  be the grown-up, nourish their intellect, blah, blah, blah...  It's instinct and I have no control over it.  The urge to question them is always present.

Grandpa, me, and Caleb walk to an ant hill
Case in point...  During a regular visit to Pawnee Rock, Caleb Idolized Wolf, my younger brother of 10 years, explains a fairly bold truth.  I would even go so far as to say it's beyond bold.  It's neighboring ludicrousness.  Possibly plaid.  He says to us, "ants won't bite if you're biting your tongue."  I Mature Wolf just smirk.  Did he just say that?  Even now I remember thinking, Caleb's 22, not 8 like Rhino boy.  How can he throw such a slow lob  statement over the home plate that is my questioning maturity?  Anywho, I don't hesitate.  Ha!  Impossible!  That makes no sense.  I even fire up my phone's Chrome browser to prove this falsity doesn't exist on the vast collection of bits and bytes across the globe.  All the while, he's going on and on about how true it is.  Low and behold, Google has never heard of this ant bite prevention method.  I victoriously deliver the sad news to Caleb.  He only responds with, "I'll prove it."

Grandpa and I waiting to laugh

I'm excited.  I can't wait to watch him get bit.  We walk out into the pasture, where Caleb Brave Wolf proceeds to stick his hand in an ant hill.  He wiggles his hand to aggravate the ants and they immediately begin to populate on his hand.  All the while, he's biting his tongue.  Strangely enough, they're not biting him.  50 plus ants camp out on his hand for what seems like 15 seconds.  Finally, he shakes them off, releases his tongue from tooth grip, and smiles.  No bites.  I Confused Wolf don't know what to say.  I don't believe it.  I mean, I literally don't believe it because I still won't go through the act of letting ants crawl all over me, whilst biting my tongue.  This defies all that I know.

Grandpa becomes a believer

My father Grandpa Wolf is starting to believe.  He has seen some semblance of proof.  For him, there's only one test left.  He has to try it himself.  Biting his tongue, he sticks his hand in the ant hill.  He lets them crawl on him for over 20 seconds.  He finally shakes the ants from his hand and releases his tongue.  Grandpa is bite free.  No red marks.  No swelling.  Nothing.  It was as if by biting his tongue, he became one with the ants.  As they crawl on his flesh, they somehow feel the incisor connection that only a tongue can provide.  They know not to bite.

At this point, my smile is straying from laughter's doorstep and is headed for anxious town.  It's two to one.  I'm losing this battle.  I Nervous Wolf am left with only one option.  I have to bite my tongue.  JJ Future Wolf is there to record it.

After all is said and done, through physically biting my tongue, I Mature Wolf might be one step closer to actually biting my tongue.