Sunday, February 21, 2010


Zane was supposed to get a few shots in the arm this week.

As Kindergarten registration begins in March (shudder), I decided to get his immunizations up to date and out of the way. Surprise, surprise, when I showed up for the appointment only to find that our former pediatrician's office had only sent Zane's medical records from his last visit back in January of 09. With no exhaustive immunization record on hand, they couldn't very well administer any shots.

Appointment rescheduled.

Unfortunately, I had already built up the trip to Castle Toys that would be occurring directly after the going under the needle.

Couldn't back out now.

Having just taken my second class at Financial Peace University the night before, I had no intention of simply buying Zane a toy in order to appease the pain he would be feeling in his arm after receiving his shots. Instead, I had him remove money from the Spend section of his bank - a bank which has three compartments: Give, Save, and Spend. If he wanted a toy, he would have to purchase it.

I was simply serving as his means of transportation.

He walked proudly into the store with his $10 and marched directly over to the Playmobile section where a red dragon was waiting just for him. He pulled it off the shelf and handed it to me.

"This is what I want."

It was $20.

To explain to a 5 year old that he doesn't have enough money and that Mommy isn't going to kick in the remaining $10 is torture. We went round and round and up and down about it, but I remained firm. He even checked out some other non-Playmobile dragons, but didn't want any because they "didn't move". He knew what he wanted, and couldn't purchase it.

To say he was disappointed is an understatement.

He was down-right pissed.

In the end, however, he chose two smaller Playmobile pirates at $3.99 each. And while he is very satisfied with these two new additions to his collection of Playmobile, he has not ceased talking about that dragon. The dragon I told him he would have to save up his own money to purchase.

Let me repeat. The dragon I told him would have to save up his own money to purchase.

I'm not buying it.

We have been hot and cold on giving our kids chores around the house, and even more cold about giving them money to do them, and yet this summer I began treating their chores as jobs. Come to work - get paid. Don't come to work - don't get paid. This worked. For a time. But I made some small errors in implementing the plan which contributed to this project failing.

At class Thursday night, Dave Ramsey talked about a similar system by which he used a chart to list the chores to be completed by his children daily, each worth an equal monetary value. Every day his kids would either CHOOSE to complete the chores or to ignore them. At the end of the week, the number of chores completed would be added up and his children would be paid accordingly.

This is exactly what we were doing with our kids this summer - but without the chart. No visual aid - our first error. It worked for awhile, but since they couldn't see the list of chores, or check them off, they lost the sense of ownership, and I found myself continually having to remind them of what was expected.

Nothing like hearing Mom's nagging voice every day.

Tonight I called a Family Budget Meeting. I explained during the meeting that Daddy and I were working at using our money well, and working towards getting out of debt. I explained that getting out of debt meant to not owe anyone any money. I then shared with them that I had cut up several credit cards because I had paid them off.

And then, I unveiled their Commission Charts.

Why Commission? Because in the real world, one doesn't make any commission if they choose NOT to work. We are treating chores as a job. A real job. I'm a Mary Kay consultant. As a consultant I am able to receive 50% commission on every sale (barring discounts, giveaways, etc.). If I sell our full Timewise Skincare set for $90, I take $45. If I sell $300 in a week, I take $15o.


In our house, both kids have the same chores - chores that I have deemed necessary for insuring that our household functions smoothly on a daily basis:

1. Placing dirty clothes in the laundry basket every morning. (I do a small load daily, so if the clothes don't get put in the basket, they will not get washed. I don't run around picking up after Harper and Zane. If they're out of underwear because it's all in a pile on the bedroom floor, it's not my fault. Have fun going commando, kiddos!)

2. Straightening up bedrooms - and specifically, the floor. (We spent the day doing this in both Harper and Zane's room today. The rooms look AMAZING. Harper's especially. She loved having friends up there tonight when they came for dinner.)

3. Gathering personal belongings throughout the house and returning them to their "home". (That means shoes, toys, coats, Transformer's, and Playmobile pirates.)

4. Putting all folded clothes away. (I do a FULL load daily. Wash, dry, and fold. I do NOT put their clothes away. When the kids get home from school there is a nice folded stack either at their bedroom door, or, in Zane's case, waiting for him on his bed.)

Now, Dave Ramsey could afford to give his kids $5.00 a week for chores. I. Can. Not. My kids get a whopping $.05 per chore. Or, $.20 a day. $1.40 per week. $5.60 per month. While payday is Saturday, I keep clear glass jars in the kitchen and fill the jar every day with their take so that they can actually SEE the money that will be theirs at the end of the week. The amount they receive is directly related to the chores they complete. THEY CHOOSE.

They are already in the habit of putting aside 10% for tithe, 50% for savings (they are getting passbook accounts this week), and 40% for spending. (Yes, of course I help with the calculations.)

They do NOT receive extra for other things I may ask them to help with around the house. Some chores such as helping to clean up the toys in the basement, walking the dog, or putting dirty plates in the sink, need to happen quite simply because we are a family. A team. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team, right? No cash bonus here.

Harper and Zane's charts are are magnetic boards on their bedroom doors and include both pictures and a written list of what's expected daily. A pen is attached so they can check off what has been accomplished and add up their daily totals.

One extra piece to insure that chores are accomplished? No screen time until chores are done. We don't allow TV or Wii (for Harper) during the week. However, she does get time on the computer (and some TV if there's something good to watch - we're being soft during the Olympic Games). Zane does get some Wii and TV during the day. But neither kid gets any screen time unless chores are accomplished.

And that's how we roll.

And really? The pressure is on me to encourage, rather than nag, about completing their jobs. Think about it. Do you feel motivated by your nagging micro-managing boss???

If the project fails, it's my fault. I'm the Project Manager.

Personally, I am looking forward to having another Family Budget Meeting in a month at which time they will receive raises for doing so well.

This may not be the right course of action for your household, but think about it. All companies run a bit differently, do they not? You'll figure it out. But first, make an actual intentional goal about teaching your children the value of work, saving, spending wisely, and giving. And then, make a plan.


As a family.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stop, The Lent You Save May Be Your Own

Just in case you are a new reader, check out my 2008 thoughts on Lent.

Apparently in 2009, I didn't give Lent any thought. Well, I'm sure I did. I just didn't write about it.

Lent is one of those seasons where I get really cheeky and opinionated about walking with Christ. But, before I go there, let me share a little of Zane's theology with you regarding God's omnipresence.

"So if God really needs to be somewhere in a hurry, he is actually already there."

And his thoughts on Heaven after I told him there would be a terrific feast.

"I don't think they use glass up in Heaven. They serve everything in baskets."

That's very biblical-sounding. Don't you think?

Ok, and now, Lent.

You can reread my post from 2008 to get my thoughts on Lent. I hesitated to re post because I don't want to be misunderstood. Only you and your Maker know what sacrifices need to be made in your life to draw you into a deeper relationship with Jesus. My opinions certainly can't get between whatever God is calling you to set aside for 40 days. He trumps me.

For myself, I know without a doubt that if I were to give up coffee, chocolate, buffalo wings, or popcorn with olive oil and Parmesan cheese for 40 days, I would turn around and reclaim them as soon as I could say "Happy Easter!" And that may be fine for some. I want more. I want Lent to change a habitual way of thinking. I want to make a sacrifice which completely overturns the type of thinking that settles for the excuse of "well, that's just the way I am". I want to set aside something that causes my way of relating to God and others to become revolutionary.

I want my Lenten sacrifice to be something for which I must absolutely yield to the power of the Holy Spirit in order to experience growth and change in my life.

So, this year, I am relying on God's Word and His very breath that gives me life to refrain from . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . COMPLAINING.

2009 was a chock-full of complaints. As I look back on that year, I see hands-down the toughest year of our married life. With 2008 taking a close second. You can go back and read 2008. If you dare.

2010? It's looking pretty good thus far. So why taint it by complaining that upon needing a shower after a super hard workout this morning, the mechanism that sends the water from the faucet up to the actual shower head broke and I had to bathe under the faucet by squatting down on really fatigued legs? As if I hadn't done a ton of squats already?! No worries. I had clean water in which to bathe and while I may be a bit crampy, I'm fresh as a daisy.

Why "pull a 2009" by expressing my frustration over getting a migraine at the same time that I am having a very difficult talk with a woman needing help? My head hurt like the Dickens, but it only caused me to focus on her more and internally pray that God would place the words in my mouth because I couldn't see straight.

Why, on only the second day that I've announced that I will attempt to refrain from complaining for 40 days, does Harper have an incredibly difficult packet of math homework to complete?

Are any of these surprises?


Did God cause them so that he could check me on this non-complaining quest of mine?


This is just the stuff of life. However, my response to today has been very different. I feel like I'm getting a supernatural ability to forge onward. Moving forward by showering on my knees, pressing on through the pain in my skull, and phoning a friend for a visual aid that will help Harper with her assignment. No crabbin'. No grubblin'. No moanin'.

But rather, praying.

Philippians 2:14 says to do all things without complaining or arguing. So I'm going to give that a try. And at the risk of sounding uppity or judgemental, let me offer up a word to the wise: It's just not fun to be around those who complain about everything. Just as I will remain accountable to you for watching what kind of stream flows from my mouth, how about helping me by doing the same? Let's stick to pure water.

And while Lent has already begun, and you may have already committed to "giving something up", take a time of silence and solitude to see just what the Lord is asking of you for these next 40 days if you haven't already. The sacrifice is yours and yours alone, so don't feel as if you need to give up something that you see the masses ditching for this season. You don't have to follow the "I'm off chocolate" crowd. Lent should be your own.

Embrace challenge.

Expect change.

Experience Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When A Neighbor Calls

"Joline, the call is coming from inside the house. Next door."

The natives are getting restless.

I received a phone call last night. A voice on the other end questioned my commitment to blogging seeing as I've not posted a single entry in two weeks. The muffled voice expressed disappointment at finding the photo of the Reuben sandwich still holding court as my most recent entry, thus revealing my lack of writing anything new. The voice was eerily familiar, and sounded close by. Through the laughter I realized the truth. This was serious.

This was no stranger calling, but rather, a raging fan whose house I can see from my office window.

I locked all the doors and windows, and then spent the rest of the evening in front of the TV, flipping between Olympic Men's Figure Skating ('cause that Johnny Weir intrigues me so) and LOST, while jotting down notes to add to this blog before THEY called again.

(HA! Me so funny.)

No, it's true. I've been a writing hoodlum. At least, here. However, I am, at the moment working on a piece to be submitted to a site, and have a goal of doing so before the end of the month. For let's review one of my writing goals for the year: submit one article for publication each month. I mentioned to my neighbor (who is truly so very encouraging of my writing and I adore that she is missing my witty banter) that there just didn't seem to be anything to post lately.

A quick "life-check" revealed that I couldn't be more wrong.

While Cuppa Jo seems empty at the moment, me, myself, and I, am very full, to the brim.

  • There is almost 30 inches of snow outside.
  • I just began taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Seminar and am on my way to kicking our financial butt back into shape.
  • I just completed taking myself and my Mom To Mom group through a 30 day challenge of praying for one's spouse every day.
  • I am now the proud owner of a Keurig. (Purchased prior to Dave Ramsey kicking my lazy *&%$!) Coffee snob no more.
  • I am on Day 14 of Tony Horton's Power 90 workout and am already seeing some definition return to those muscles that I know God gave me. More @&^kicking.
  • I finally cleaned out my scrap booking bag and am ready to dive back in once I have the coin to actually get photos printed.
  • Harper has begun working on a story. On her own. With no prompting from me. My favorite line being, "Suddenly the blast of a trumpet broke the quietness of his ride."
  • I've been hosting Zane's friends and enjoying his adventures with friends at their houses.
  • The living room and dining room are well on their way to being decorated with the help of my own personal Candice Olson, in the form of a wonderful friend and neighbor.
  • My "Z" key has been broken for 2 weeks now.
  • Mary Kay'ing continues around my dining room table as a means of getting to know people and earn cashola to pay down our debt.
  • I like to bake.
  • I also like to shred paper and have been shredding TONS of old, unnecessary paperwork. (Yes, I actually find this to be fun.)
  • I have been spending time with friends. At their houses. At my house. At church. Any where. I love the time I have to be with people. To share meals. To share belongings. To share life.

So, dear neighbor, (and you know you are dear), while my blogging cup seems empty, it is because God has been filling my cup with all good things. Things that YOU reminded me to jot down. Here. Thank you for the reminder!

Speaking of jotting them down. THIS is my next project:

Getting this blog turned into book form. For my children. Thank you to my dear friend over at The Rauch House for the brilliant idea. I had two other blogs prior to this one. We'll see if we can get them bound as well.

Thanks for the phone call.

And the molasses.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Family Dinner: You Want Witty Quips with That?

Reuben night.

Why haven't I thought of it before?

This family loves Reubens.

Tonight we settled down to a perfect diner dinner of Reubens and dill pickles. Hold the fries.

Harper was very impressed with George's Reuben grilling skills, noting that they came very close to resembling her favorite dish at The Town Square Diner - her joint of choice.

Dinner was winding down when I asked Harper to hand me her multiplication math worksheet packet so that I could check her answers.

"Why do you ALWAYS have to check my answers!?"

"Because God told me to, WHEN HE HANDED ME A BABY!"


And then, thankfully, a ton of a laughter.

Ice cream was served.

"Mommy, can I have sprinkles on mine?"

"Um, the chocolate sprinkles met with an accident last night."

George took a long look at me, "You didn't. The whole thing?"

Yes, Sherlock. What was left of the half-full bottle (did you catch that - I'm a positive person) met its demise with a bowl, a spoon, and my mouth while watching the last episode of "Worst Cook in America" last night.

I have a thing for chocolate ants. Blame my father.

I quickly found some replacement sprinkles in the back of the cabinet which didn't meet my qualifications for a late night binge. Harper, who is anti-sprinkle (which begs to argue whether she's truly my flesh and blood, except for the Reuben fetish), handed all the bottles to Zane with a hearty, "Knock yourself out."

Our dinnertime bash ended with an interrogation of Zane as to the whereabouts of the last piece of his Reuben which we had asked him to finish.

"Zane did you eat it?"

Big eyes.

"Zane, did you feed it to the dog?"

Big eyes.

"Zane, did you throw it away?"



Gotta love the family dinner.

What did you talk about around the table tonight?

New Girl In Town: 6 Month Check-Up

The following is a reprint of my most recent piece published in The Bridge.

“Mom, I can not believe I’ve only lived in Beaver for 5 years.”

“5 months. You’ve lived in Beaver for 5 months.”

“Oh. Right. 5 months. Funny.”

Last month as we rounded the seasons into winter, I realized through a slip of the tongue just how comfortable I’ve become in Mayberry. And while the old saying, “you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl” most certainly rings true in my case, the shock of going from city to small town has been softened by the entrance of sushi on Third. Yama, you had me at hello.

In only 6 months, this transplant has definitely made the most of all Beaver has to offer, and has also been intentional about marching herself and her children down to the Warhol, the Children’s Museum, the Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art, and Mellon Arena. Running a 10K and Half-Marathon also added to my Pittsburgh education, and I can now proudly say that I’ve run all over the city.

Although, driving to Cranberry still freaks me out and gives me vertigo.

Still, I’ve embraced this place.

You can argue that I’m in the honeymoon stage, and so of course everything looks new and crisp, and is perfectly packaged with a beautiful shiny bow on top. But, as we, both seasoned resident and newbie, blaze our steady course full steam ahead into 2010, let me ask you something.

Have you embraced this place?

This place we all call home?

See, I know life can get dreary and stale. Day in and day out looks the same. The schedule never changes. So, how about in 2010 we all make a resolution to kick the daily doldrums to the pavement by trying something completely different, as I have for 6 months now.

No, no, no, no, no, and again, no, I’m not talking about those resolutions that we all love to make and hate. You know the culprits, the losing weight one, or its evil twin, the eating healthy one.

I’m talking about actually trying something you’ve never tried before.

I began taking tennis lessons this year. At 40. Please. Do you know how humbling that is? Me, the professional multi-tasker. In the past, I’ve been known to nurse a baby, carry on a phone conversation, and type an email, while straight-ironing my hair. With a cup of coffee in hand. And don’t think I did all of that without lipstick.

And yet during those first few weeks of tennis lessons, the invisible hole in my racquet whipped me into humility. It can be mighty uncomfortable to attempt an activity that you don’t pick up so gracefully on the first try. And how about the added pressure of playing the next court over from a fantastic tennis player, who has not only had to dodge my rogue balls, but also works at the library where I ALWAYS have overdue books and fines!

My husband is taking yoga here in town and up until the week when he brought a male friend to class, he has been the sole guy. Sure, that was awkward for him, until the night he returned home from class, all yogi-bravado-like, entered the living room, and then proceeded to balance his entire frame upon the ring finger of his left hand.

If we can do it. So can you.

How about a book club? A new sport? Make the decision and the plan to visit the museums that Pittsburgh has to offer. Re-visit church. Volunteer. See a play or musical (gasp). Put together a team of five and join mine in relaying the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. Gather some friends and visit a new restaurant every month that features food from a different culture.

Go ahead, try some sushi. It won’t bite.

Just try something new.

Something radically different.

Maybe even a little scary.

Perhaps doing so will change the way you view your home.

Scratch that.

Our home.

Happy 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Idiot Box?

We love it and we hate it.

We want it, and yet we also want less of it.

We have too many. We don't have enough.

The one you have isn't good enough. Must have flat-screen. Must have HD. Must be plasma. Must be fresh. (Little Shop of Horrors humor there).

We got a new TV in 1996. We are still using it. Every other television that we've had has been a hand-me-down from someone upgrading their system. And while our older models aren't the most user-friend any more, what with the digital cable, DVD, converter box, and the Wii all needing to be plugged in, we know that Radio Shack will continue to supply us with everything we need to keep our dino's from extinction. We don't have TiVo or DVR. We're talking dark ages. Not bunny ears land of old, but compared to most folks - ancient.

Last night was the premier of the final season of "LOST". Yes, I am a fan. I was so excited about the event that I made sure to have popcorn on hand. George knew to get his own bag. After a drizzle of olive oil and a shake of Parmesan, I sat back on the couch to watch the recap show and the 2 hour premier. 3 hours of TV. More than I watched all last week.

See, we don't watch a lot of TV. So last night was indeed a big deal. As I was planning my evening, I began to get flashes of television shows from the past that warranted the same reaction I have to "LOST" - the one's I couldn't bear to miss and would have to rely upon a VCR to record if I wasn't home to watch them.

My earliest memory of looking forward to a favorite show was "Romper Room". However, the show stressed me out, for that d*&% "magic mirror" NEVER revealed that I was sitting out there in "televisionland", waiting, and hoping, that my name would be called. I also loved "Captain Kangaroo". As for "Zoom"? No. I was always too jealous that "those kids" got to be on TV.

Fast forward to the "Land of the Lost" years. I was totally a Sid and Marty Krofft kid. After school. Never did quite "get" what "HR Puffinstuff" was all about. Or the "Bugaloo's", but I was hooked.

There was "The Donny and Marie Show", a smattering of "Sonny and Cher", "Wonder Woman", "St Elsewhere", a little "Remington Steele" thrown in, "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties", "Seinfeld" to be sure, "Star Trek: the Next Generation" (getting my geek on), "Arrested Development" (Americans don't understand/appreciate comedy), currently "Glee" and, of course, "Lost". Claiming the Best in Show? Joline's People's Choice Award? The mother load?

"The Gilmore Girls".

To make "The Gilmore Girls" even more special, imagine my joy while watching it one night only to see one of my commericals run during the episode.

I could now say that I shared the screen with Lauren Graham. Well, kind of. Only she was in the fictitious Stars Hollow, and I was in the former Marshall Fields store downtown Chicago.

I wonder what television shows my kids will remember. Frankly, I don't allow TV during the week - although I have been know to let Zane watch Dinosaur Train, and Harper - some Biggest Loser and Chopped here and there. It's funny, though, for I know I watched way more TV growing up then they do now, and yet, those shows mentioned above are the ones that immediately came to memory when I began to think about television.

I don't think the television is an Idiot Box. But I do agree that it can certainly dumb one down if hours are spent in front of it.

Take me. 3 hours last night. I can hardly type a sentence. And I'm still in my robe.

What television shows made a lasting impression on you while growing up? Do your children have any favorite weekly shows now? What about you? What will I find you watching while lounging on the couch with a bowl of popcorn?