We used to be a family of four: me, my husband, our son and our daughter. But since Christmas, we’re the Clarkes, party of five.
It started so casually. I took advantage of a Black Friday sale and ordered myself two half-price Echo Dots* as a Christmas gift from my husband. I also hinted to my sister that she could buy me a third as her gift. I wanted three so I could put one on each level of our house and use them as intercoms.
I excitedly set them up on Christmas morning and started playing with the Alexa app. I pictured myself using the devices for day-to-day reminders (e.g. “Alexa, add eggs to the grocery list.”) and maybe she’d replace Siri occasionally.
“Alexa, play Shake It Off by Taylor Swift!” our daughter shouted at the kitchen Alexa, while our son interjected “No! Alexa, tell me a joke!”
“Guys! Stop! She was in the middle of asking me the question of the day!” I protested.
“Alexa, play The Greatest Showman soundtrack!”
“No! Alexa, tell me a story about Lego!”
It was not even noon on Christmas Day. I swear, if poor Alexa had the power to unplug herself and hop out the door, I think she would have quit on us.
Our eight-and-a-half year old son had been begging for a computer for Christmas. We eventually decided we’d “gift” him with my desktop computer since I was due for an upgrade. (He would get the brand-new keyboard, mouse, speakers and headphones, but I’d get the new tower and monitor.)
There was no question about where his computer would go: right in the dining area, in plain view, where we could keep an eye on things from anywhere on the main level.
But that meant moving one of our hutches to make room for a new, larger desk — instead of the tiny, rarely-used built-in one we’d tucked in a corner.
We usually build simple, modern desks out of 2x4s and sheets of white melamine, but that wasn’t going to work for our farmhouse-style main level. Whatever we built would need to match the dining table, chairs and nearby coffee table — white legs, stained wooden tops — and mimic the classic, vintage feel of their turned legs.
I sketched out what I wanted and presented it to my handy husband, since he’s better at building anything load-bearing and, um, important. It seemed pretty simple. I wanted turned spindle-like legs to match the dining table and chairs, a thick-looking wooden desktop I could stain dark, and an “apron” under the desktop that could be painted white.
… He didn’t see my vision.
We started giving our kids allowance when they were four and six: $4 per week for our four-year-old daughter, and $6 per week for our six-year-old son. One dollar per year of age, we figured, was pretty reasonable.***
***It eventually (quietly) got downgraded to be a biweekly allowance because WOAH it was adding up quickly as they turned five and seven, and then six and eight. Giving our eight-year-old close to $40/month in disposable income felt … like too much.
They “earn” their allowance by keeping their rooms reasonable (C has lost her allowance at times if her room’s a disaster) and generally helping out around the house. Nothing too crazy. They’re responsible for feeding the dog and giving her fresh water, letting her out to pee, scooping poop, etc. They fold laundry with me when I ask. (C loves this. D does not.) If they make a mess on the floor, they know how to sweep it up into a dustpan. They always have to bring their dishes to the sink and push in their chairs.
Since we’re not a household that’s big on carrying cash —
And so, on Oct. 11, 2016, we brought them to their first-ever bank appointment and set them each up with their own account. I also set them up as “payees” in my account, so I could automatically transfer their allowance.
They actually ended up getting Debit/VISA cards, since that’s just what most debit cards are these days.
A four-year-old with a credit card?! LOL WUT?
Yup! Sort of! The VISA aspect of their Debit/VISA *has* been handy when the kids want to use their allowance to order something online. Y’know, as kids do these days!
They can’t spend more than what’s in their account, so it’s not a true credit card. It’s more like one of those prepaid VISAs.
Instead of me putting through the order and transferring the money to myself (from their account), they can order it in their own name. (And getting a package in the mail ADDRESSED TO YOU is a big deal when you’re in elementary school.)
Mostly, the kids use their Debit/VISA cards as actual debit cards. I keep D’s in my wallet (at his request), while C prefers to keep
If we’re in a store and they want to buy something, they ask me to check their balance. I log into their account using the banking app on my phone, take a screenshot of their balance, and show it to them — reminding them they need to tack “a few dollars for tax” onto the price of whatever it is they’re interested in.
Nope! Sometimes they’ll suggest something and I’ll just refuse, as the parent. (A violent video game, an enormous bag of candy, or something else I just don’t want them to have.)
Other times I’ll sort of roll my eyes and ask if they REALLY want to waste their money on X or Y — usually a cheap toy I know they won’t actually play with, or something that’s going to fall apart if they look at it. But they remind me it’s their money, and … yeah, OK, fine.
You can definitely see their personalities in what they buy and how much they spend in a single go.
D will buy art supplies and/or fabric for a little project if we’re in a store like that, but he’ll usually save up his allowance until he can buy a LEGO set.
C is famous for saying “I wanna waste ALL my money!” which means she wants to spend every damn cent in her account. Yes, “waste.” Oh man. She is the kid who will make two or three transactions in a single store and have me check her balance in between to see how much is left. She usually buys LOL Dolls, art supplies/fabric, or this weird
She gets frustrated because D always has more money in his account (he SAVES IT, girl) and sometimes she’ll decide to save hers, too. I hope she’s learning. I don’t know. Maybe?
Yup! (They’re pretty cute pins, to be honest.) They love remembering their PINs and getting to punch them in. (I specifically asked the bank NOT to enable “Tap,” so they’d have to remember their PINs — and also in case they lost their cards.) I’m always over their shoulder, whispering to hit “Chequing” and “OK” or whatever.
Then they beam with pride when the salesperson hands them their receipt. (C actually keeps ALL of hers, so her future accountant is going to be very pleased with her.)
If they don’t have their debit card with them when we’re out, I’ll usually agree to buy it for them with mine (as long as I AGREE with the purchase, ahem). I pay for it, and then I log into my banking app and send myself an e-transfer from their account to cover the cost. Everybody’s happy.
Oh, they like cash, too. Often it’s a matter of explaining “You have $10 in cash and $18.29 in your account,” and they either pay with one or the other or combine them for a larger purchase. (“Ten in cash and the rest on debit, please.”)
No, it’s all theirs to do as they please. We have separate RESPs for each of them, so that’s where the “important” money goes (i.e. an RESP donation from the grandparents at Christmas) to be saved for college/university someday.
Yes, BUT not a lot.
We have a tradition that on report card days, we go to the Needs (gas station) near our house and I buy them “any treat they want.” (It sounds much flashier than it is, because … it’s a gas station!)
I take them out to
If we’re in a Dollar Store because I need to buy something, I might say they can each pick one thing (knowing it’s in the $1-$2 range). Sometimes they’ll get a treat here and there when we’re out shopping (and I pay) but honestly, I’m not often in stores with them so it doesn’t come up a lot.
If they want something in their school’s book fair? They pay for it.
If they want to pay to download a video game, like Minecraft on the PS4? They pay for it.
If they desperately want a toy or a craft kit or art supplies in a store? They pay for it.
It’s easy to say “If you really want it, I’ll check your balance.” Often they don’t want it badly enough to actually pay for it themselves.
TLDR; I like that our kids have debit cards. It’s easy to transfer them their allowance (which we give them so they learn how to manage money + that we’re not just going to pay for everything).
When my friend Lisa asked us to take a look at the bedroom of her eight-year-old daughter, Katie, I knew a few simple changes would have a huge impact.
Katie is our son’s age (they even went to preschool together for two years
We’ve built quite a few of these desks so far, actually. My handy husband whips up a simple frame out of 2x4s, which is then painted or stained. (For Katie’s room, we went with a crisp white — Picket Fence by Fusion Mineral Paint* — so it didn’t clash with her pretty hardwood floors.)
Then he cuts a sheet of white melamine down the middle, trims the ends, and fits it on top — using a couple of brackets underneath to keep it in place. (My job is to take the long plastic edging strips and click them over the raw edges of the melamine. It’s sort of fun.)
Because we did two separate (identical) desks, instead of a huge L-shaped one, Katie will be able to move the desks into different configurations if she wants. Our son sometimes pushes his together to make a big rectangle, or puts them end-to-end so he has a full wall of Lego-playing surface.
It can be lonely working from home, especially in December when it seems like EVERYBODY ELSE gets to go to a company Christmas party.
That’s why I always throw myself one …
But this year? The boss a.k.a. ME wasn’t keen on having a party.
“There’s so much to do!” she kept yelling. “We’ll never get it all done! All hands on deck! No rest for the wicked!”
Honestly, it had the whole team feeling pretty stressed out.
I found myself daydreaming of parties from years gone by …
I thought the boss might have had a change of heart. She brought down lunch!
… but it was just her leftovers from the previous night. *sigh*
Things seemed promising when she handed a card to each employee, but … once again, we were underwhelmed …
Even though we weren’t having a party, she distractedly handed out the service awards. I’d won Employee of the Year for five years running, so I was feeling pretty excited until … what???
I. WAS. ROBBED!
One thing I always count on at our corporate Christmas parties is a nice cold Diet Coke. So when the boss said she’d pass out drinks, I was NEVER expecting she’d pull a stunt like this …
It was time for a wake-up call for our mean, terrible boss!
I’m pleased to report that she reconsidered and I *did* win Employee of the Year — six years running, now!
My colleagues and I finally started to relax and get into the festive season with a few selfies. #lovemyteam #workfriends
And then? It was time for some REAL LUNCH …
My boss may have needed some MAJOR convincing, but I’m glad she finally realized that we need a party. You can’t work yourself to the point of exhaustion every day. It causes wrinkles.
Nothing sweeter (er, asparatamier?) than a holiday party Diet Coke!
Thanks for “joining” my little Christmas party-for-one again this year! Wishing all of you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
P.S. Two of my self-employed friends also threw themselves holiday parties. Hop over to Eat, Drink and Be You to see Kerra’s party, and then stop in for a cuppa on the farm — Farm Fresh Style, to be exact — and see Lori’s party.
Four years into being an elementary school parent, it finally happened: I opened a report card that mortified me.
Our son’s report card was packed with WDs (Well Developed) and glowing comments about how he’s “confident” and “compassionate” and “knows what he has to offer the world.” I beamed.
Our daughter’s report card contained almost all DEs (Developing as Expected) which was great … except for a big ol’ ND — “Needs Development.” I gasped.
You might be wondering what happened to grades like A, B, C, D and F. We didn’t have either marking scheme when we were kids. It was either E (Excellent), VG (Very Good), G (Good) or HD (Having Difficulty). I sailed through school with all Es and VGs.
Most people know pink is my favourite colour, but I wasn’t expecting the lights in my home office to suddenly start flashing hot pink, soft pink and magenta while I was on a call.
I heard giggles from upstairs as my office exploded with colour like a nightclub at 1 a.m. The kids had gotten hold of my husband’s iPhone. Can you imagine how funny it would have looked if I’d been on a video call?
How did the kids control the lights in my office from another floor? They’d like to say it’s because they’re Hogwarts students, but really it’s because my office now has “smart” lighting that’s controlled by an app.
The folks at Lowe’s and RONA
They look like ordinary white light bulbs and they’re rated to last 25,000 hours (which seems to be the average for LEDs), but they can turn 16 million different colours. Sixteen million!
It took me less than five minutes to (A) locate our router, and (B) plug in the hub. Once I downloaded their app (Sengled Element, available in the App
I mean, it’s fine in other people’s houses. I know plenty of people who love decorating for the holidays and their homes look wonderful.
But in my house? Ugh. It always feels cluttered and over-full during the month of December, once we’ve pulled out the lights and stockings and Santas and tinsel garlands … and the giant wooden gingerbread man that seemed like a fun idea at the time. Then there’s the (special but admittedly gaudy) tree itself.
Of course, my children adore Christmas and all of the decorations that come with it. So I thought I’d make an effort to replace a few pieces with ones I liked better — specifically, something simpler.
I decorated bedrooms for two tweens a few months ago and fell in love with the sweet pom-pom garlands I’d made for their rooms. So I picked up packages of red and white pom-poms and made a few to swag over the windows in our living room.
Well, that was unexpected! My eight-year-old son just came home with what may be the most … unusual … secret admirer note?
In case you’re not used to kiddie-writing, it says …
Hi. I really like you. Like not as a friend. Like a boyfriend.
I always call you Senpai. You’re my Senpai.
I always look at you at recess.
Love from, your secret admirer
A quick Google search and I figured out that “Senpai” basically means someone who is older than you and/or more experienced than you, and the phrase “Notice me, Senpai” is a cool way of talking about your crush when you don’t think they know you exist. (D was very flattered by this point.)
But wait! It gets even more … interesting?
D and I found a cute-looking anime video on YouTube called “Notice me Senpai” and figured this is likely where an elementary-aged kid in Nova Scotia learned about the phrase.
Naturally, we watched it …
At first, it was very sweet! The girl likes the boy! The boy actually looks a little like D! Aww.
Senpai, I saw you at school today
Took your picture then I snuck away
I want you to notice me …
but I’m just someone you don’t notice!
Then things took a dark turn …Please notice me, Senpai
Luckily, my darling boy didn’t seem freaked out. He’s happy with his note, and suspects it’s either a fellow Grade 3 or a girl in the 2/3 split class.
I suggested he give the note to his teacher and ask her to pass it around the staff room for handwriting identification. He loved this idea, so YOU’RE WELCOME, TEACHERS! 😉
In the meantime, um, I suppose we’ll be on the lookout for little girls at our school who love anime and perhaps show murderous tendencies to other little girls who may stand in her way of winning my boy?
GRADE 3, WHAT THE HELL?!?!
Welcome to Veggie Village, the very boring column where we talk about forcing our kids to eat vegetables because we’re mean. Today I’m going to share my favourite methods for steaming broccoli and how to … OK, that should guarantee any kids have stopped reading …
I could say this is the year it happened, but it actually may have started last year when our son was in Grade 2. It wasn’t dramatic.
My reply is always the same. “Wow, that’s not nice. Santa’s not going to like that!” He really isn’t.
Our daughter, who’s only in Grade 1, piped up another day that she’d heard the same thing. (Their bus ride is about five minutes long and yet it’s plenty of time to learn bad words, tell scary stories that will upset them later at bedtime and potentially ruin Christmas magic.)
“A girl on the bus said Santa’s not real, but I don’t believe her because I want presents!” she chirped. Our son quickly agreed.
I really don’t know what they believe about the big guy in red. We have always been a little loose about the details …
First of all, this isn’t even true. But he claims everyone else (well, almost everyone) is allowed to play Fortnite and I’m the only stick-in-the-mud parent. I asked him if his friends jumped off a bridge, would he? He looked at me blankly and said, “There … aren’t bridges in the game.”
He’s got a point here. The only nice thing about Fortnite, in my opinion, is that its popularity has encouraged my serious little robot child to dance. The game is responsible for dance crazes like The Floss, The L, Best Mates and Groove Jam. They’re adorable, like this generation’s Macarena. Apparently, there are also lots of silly costumes, like spacesuits and dinosaur outfits, that appeal to younger kids like him.
He thinks this is a great selling point. It is not.
It all started with the placement of the shed (technically a baby barn) in our backyard. It was strangely positioned about six feet away from our deck, with a winding garden behind it. It made an already-narrow yard feel even narrower, and we talked for years about moving it … somehow … to the back of the property instead.
Well, YouTube to the rescue! We stumbled upon a video (I think it was this one) that showed a guy moving a huge shed “by hand” by rolling it on long wooden polls. It sounds crazy and, it turned out, it was crazy, but it seemed doable. Didn’t the pioneers always load barns onto logs and move them to a new homestead of something? It seemed legit.
At $30 for six posts, we decided to give it a try and see if it worked. Without going into too much detail — because no one should try this at home — we started by jacking up the shed. I was freaking out the whole time, positive the whole structure was going to come crashing down on my husband’s foot (or head).
We slipped the posts underneath and rigged up wooden skids and a pathway of pavers. The idea was that the shed would smoothly roll along them to its resting point at the back of the yard. (Fat chance.)