Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rewards for Good Grades?

So the end-of-the-year grades came out recently. How did your kids do? Here is the big question: do you reward your kids for good grades and/or do they get a consequence for "poor" grades?

One of our children gets good grades all the time and is completely self motivated. (Although, I have to point out, parents can't really determine how well their children are doing on their academics in elementary school with the generic marks of "Basic," "Proficient," or "Advanced" - and they only give out "Advanced" at the end of the year.)
Our other child wasn't trying very hard on his school work and so in turn was not earning very high grades (they do receive the traditional grading letters in middle school) - although we knew he had the capabilities of getting great grades. He just wasn't motivated to do his best. We saw what was happening, he didn't care, so we attached a carrot at the end of the string.

When my husband was in grade school he wasn't motivated to get good grades either. A grown up in his life told him at the beginning of the year that he would give him a dollar for every "A" that he received on his report card. Back in the day when one was graded on every little thing, and the list of possibilities inspired the young boy. That was the year he worked very hard and this grown-up person was so surprised at the string of As my husband as a young boy received on his report card. The grown up had to fork over $85.00 and my husband took the money, jumped on his bike, rode across town (when kids could ride across town by themselves), and bought himself a motorized helicopter. He will never forget that day and that helicopter was a prize well earned. The next year that grown up wasn't in his life anymore and no one offered up a reward for good grades and the young boy's grades fell and he just wasn't motivated anymore.

But then you hear of all those over achievers who tell the story of how their parents would look at the end of the year report card and ask why so and so got a "B" on their report card. Then the over-achiever child would feel so bad about themselves for not getting straight "A"s and that it affected their entire life and they never felt good enough. I heard that story plenty of times.

My son said that some of the kids in middle school got a penalty if they got a grade point average below a 3.8. They would be grounded for the entire summer.

So, what do you do? Do you reward or give consequences for "good" and "bad" grades. If you do or don't, why not?  How about if you have one self motivated child and the other non-motivated child? Do you give them both the same reward? I am interested to hear your viewpoint.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why I Went to the Midnight Show of Harry Potter

My husband started reading the Harry Potter series to my son when he was in second grade. He even added his own animated version with different voices for each of the characters. I started filling in for him at Book 3. Each of us quickly were captivated by the story, the characters, and the eloquent writing.
How We Came to be Fond of Harry Potter
My son was eight years old at the Book 7 release in July 2007. The local library put on a fabulous Harry Potter event complete with Harry Potter trivia games and the appearance of the Night Bus. That day people came out in droves, dressing up as Rita Skeeter, Hagrid, Dobby, and many other minor and some major characters. Two different tv stations interviewed my son and he was on that night's news. At midnight that night, my husband and my son also went our local book store for the book's release.

Read to Your Child
It took a year and half for my husband to read all seven books to my son and now that four years have passed my son has read the series seven times and last summer he read all seven books in one week's time. Our entire family have also watched all the movies and read all the books (except my youngest who is currently reading book 2).
Midnight Release
So when we found out that the final movie was to be released on Friday, July 15, 2011, a summer day with no school the next day, we knew we had to be part of history and see the movie at it's midnight release.

The Critics
Now I saw a lot of status updates on Facebook Thursday expressing how baffled they were that people would be sacrificing their precious sleep time to be standing in line for hours just to be there for the midnight release when they could have been home sleeping and wait to watch the movie at a decent time. They wondered, "what's the point?"
Why I Wouldn't Have Gone
Now if I didn't have (1) kids, (2) a kid that was completely infatuated with the Harry Potter series (3) read all the books myself or (3) the ability to survive a day without eight hours of sleep I too would not have shown up for the midnight showing either.

Making Memories
Why not be a part of making memories for our kids? Why not be a part of history in the making? Why not sacrifice sleep to do something that will be down on your kid's top ten things they have done before they were 20. Why not?
I'm all about making memories for our kids - that's why we take them to places like Yosemite or Disneyland. Here it is in our own backyard (so to speak) and a perfect time in our kids' lives, why not be a part of making memories? My husband was little when he was able to be in line for the opening of Star Wars Empire Strikes Back. He tells our kids that he was there and they just can't believe he was able to be a part of a day of history. Plus, while we stood there in line, granted we were not standing in 100 degree sun, my son noticed that everyone was happy and having such a great time waiting for the movie. The fans united.

Another Midnight Showing?
There will be more book and movie releases coming out in our future, but there may not be another moment, another book, and another movie quite like this one for our family. We may never go to a midnight release of a movie or book again. Why not seize the moment and be a part of something big; making memories with your children.
But yet again, my son and husband are in the process of reading "The Lord of The Rings" series so maybe we will be awake for "The Hobbit's" release next year! Maybe. Until then....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Do You Save Money?

Okay, so we have been told that we Americans have pulled out of a recession, but yet the jobless rate is still high and architectural billings are still low. Frankly, my husband and I are just thankful to have a job these days. Many people have lost a job and have had to be creative with bringing in a family income.
As you work with less income or only have one family member bring in the dough, what sacrifices have you had to make? How do you save money? How do you make ends meet? Have you had to change your spending habits? Do you shop differently or now cut out coupons?

The year 2009 was difficult financially for many. My husband and I both had to take a cut in pay, but we were able to make ends meet because we had a roommate for extra income and we went down to a one-car family. The year 2010 seemed to bring some promise for the next year and we went back to full salary, bought a second car, and our roommate moved out. Then 2011 hit. Both my husband and I had to take another cut in pay, but we also had a new car payment and no assistance in our mortgage payments now without a roommate. Needless to say, money got tight quick.

We have tried to be creative on how to make additionally money and we both considered picking up side jobs. My husband considered going back as a waiter and we both submitted applications for an early morning paper route. Neither of those options panned out. I responded to a photographer's request for assistance on photo editing as well as to some other part-time jobs opportunities I saw on Craigslist. Nothing fared out. If it did turn out that either one of us did pick up second job, life would have been hectic and a an additional challenge with keeping the house clean, the lawn manicured, a busy family's schedule, up with kids, and sane. So, without selling our house and moving out of town, we had to buckle down and change our way of spending.

One way we started saving money is by switching from me to my husband doing the grocery shopping. I used to shop Henry's and Trader Joes, but bulk is less expensive so my husband does all the grocery shopping by visiting Costco weekly. Okay, so I'm kind of getting tired of the same-o-same-o, but it is what it is.

I buy clothes from second hand stores, look for off season deals for 50-75% off back-to-school clothes, wait in the lines at WalMart, visit the small boutiques that often offer items at such a huge discount, and try to be creative with the items I already have. I don't get a manicure, or a pedicure, or color my hair (but I don't have grey hair either so it isn't a must). We don't have anyone coming to clean our house, or mow our lawn, or walk our dog (not that we ever had that, I'm just say'n). We also slowed down on house improvement projects. In addition to all that, we never eat out unless we have a coupon or for a summer treat at Mr. Frosties (a local ice cream place). We do, although, rent quite a few movies for $1 at Red Box.

The most recent discovery in our lives are all those sites out there that offer great deals such as Groupon, Living Social, Daily Deals, Hookup, and BuyWithMe. I love these sites and I have signed up with every one of them. I know, it clutters up my inbox, but for a savings it is worth it. One thing is one has to be careful to take a deal that benefits ones family not a deal that creates extra spending.

So what do you and your family do to save money or make ends meet during this time of economic hardship?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The State of Blissfulness: Are You Happy?

I read this book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World., for my Book Group and it got me thinking about my state of happiness.

The Background
Basically, the book is about the author, Eric Weiner, who had been reporting for NPR in those worn-torn areas and wanted a break from all that tragedy and to find the happiest places in the world. He traveled to the countries that ranked high on the happiness meter (Gross National Happiness), because there are people who do rate that in the world, and he wanted to discover what made them happy. He wanted answers, because basically, he was a little grumpy and he just wanted to know how to be happy.

Hot Topic These Days
This seems to be a hot topic these days because come January Real Simple’s feature article was, “Be Happier this Year: Nine Surprising Strategies to Get You There,” and NPR had a series on being positive, essentially, how to be happy. I guess there is a recent book and website about a gal who decided she wanted to be happy so she took a year to set her life up to be just that. On our city marketing LinkedIn group someone threw the discussion out there, “Name one thing that makes you happy. During the busy work day, people still had time to respond to what makes them happy (I’ll share the responses at the end).
So, it sounds like we all want a piece of happiness in our lives and we want to know why are some people happy and some are not.

No Grumps Here
Now, I would basically say I’m no grump – I’m rather quick to smile and received “The Most Smiley” award in college, and I just love people and take extra effort to make a friend (and keep them, no here today gone tomorrow stuff!). I do have an inner peace and joy in my life just from knowing and loving Him, Our Creator, and knowing that I have a purpose in my life gives me great direction, but it is circumstances that can determine if we are sad or happy. Some of the people Eric Weiner interviewed, happiness is a choice.
(Now some people might argue that Joy and Happiness are the same thing and the words could be used interchangeable, but I will argue differently. I see joy as a reflection of something deeper while happiness can come and go. We will save this argument for another day.)

A Sense of Well Being
The NPR series points out that happiness can be attained if we have a positive attitude, engaged at work, fulfilling relationships, meaning and purpose in our lives, a since of accomplishment, and well being which includes good physical health.
So, all that is in one place is a rare deal. Do we have to have all that to be happy? They mentioned that “life is sometimes unfair and we can sometimes be unrealistic.” They also said that “anger is not bad when it is a cause of life’s unfairness.” They said that it is not a “Pursuit of Happiness,” but “Happiness is a Pursuit.” Semantics? Maybe. But it sounded good.

Are You Happy?
So back in November of 2010 our book group got together and talked about this book by Weiner. I loved this book so much that I ear-marked pages and underlined so many great quotes and ideas. I loved that he visited Iceland and I never realized that the country is full of culturally aware people who basically accept people as they are. It definitely warrants a visit to a county I never ever would have ever thought to be a tourist of.
Anyway, we sat in big comfy couches and went around our group and responded to the question of if we thought we were happy or not. My answer was: no. Yes, surprising isn’t it, from basically a joyful person who wasn’t so happy in November.
It got me thinking why I wasn’t happy and as I pondered that question I started evaluating my life and how it effects my well being.

Here is what makes me unhappy:
  • unfriendly people like the ones who live in our neighborhood of just-out-of-college young people who have no vested interest in the neighborhood because basically they are moving out just as soon as they get a “real” job. We can take a walk and those passersby’s won’t reply “Hi,” even if we say “Hello” first! That really eeerks me. 
  • being overwhelmed with house responsibilities – you know, the dirty bathroom; the stacked dishes in the sink that spills over to both sides of the counter; the endless, bottomless laundry basket that keeps producing dirty clothes; the lawn that needs to be mowed again; the bushes that needs to be trimmed; the dog that needs daily cleaned up after; the constant paper flow; the messes that I clean up but then reproduce again, and on and on. And, yes, it is ME who has to do it all. My boys help a bit, but we can’t keep up. We just don’t invite people over any more, because I can’t keep up with our house!
  • clutter. I hate stacks of paper. I hate random stuff on the counter. I like thing put away and I can’t function with clutter.
  • a house that is not finished. Oh man, I can’t tell you how discouraging it is when I can’t see the improvements in the house happening quick enough. It has been three years since we have moved into this bonafide, fixer-upper home and we just don’t have the time to fix up. I’ve see houses built in three months. I saw a church re-gutted, repainted, and redecorated for a complete new look in no time at all, but yet we still have that hole in the bathroom wall. It can get discouraging.
So what do we do? Should we let things like the above get us down?
Well, I saw that happiness could be a choice or a conscience decision not to be happy so I started thinking about what makes me happy?

What Makes Me Happy?
  • My family. They make me laugh. We have so much fun together and sometimes the boys and I will just dance or just be silly and we have lots of fun. We have a lot of laughter in this house. (So how can I ever be unhappy? Right?)
  • Organization. Organization essentially helps in my mental state of mind.
  • The color yellow.
  • Gerber Daisies.
  • A night out writing. Writing gets my thoughts out on “paper” so they don’t stay cluttering up my mind.
  • A rainy day.
  • A clean organized desk. (Or should I just say, a DESK please!)
  • A chunk of chocolate with a chai latte with soy milk while reading a good book.
  • Sitting on a hill reading the Bible and spending time in prayer.
In the book, Geography of Bliss, Eric meets a housekeeper in India that always came to work happy. She wore lip stick and a bracelet and hummed while she worked. She lived in the slums with her family. The money she made fed a large family. She could come to work down and out about her “luck” in life, but no, she decided that she was happy and there was no reason to waste time and be less than that. This character in the book has stuck with me more than any other. Can you be happy when circumstances around you are less than desirable?

So what makes you happy? Does organization or lack of it affect you as much as it does me? Please share about your state of happiness and if you think it is a choice.

LinkedIn Discussion: Name one thing that makes you happy. * performing for an audience * early morning with a great cup of coffee * the peace of an early morning - but with Tazo Awake Tea instead of coffee * knowing that I've helped someone * swimming in the ocean * my daughters laughter * when people communicate clearly, openly, and easily * college basketball tournaments * visiting a National park * Applause * being on the water under sail headed to somewhere new * knowing where my cell phone is when I need it * A nice, unexpected surprise * being on the water under sail * a good book * a good economy * the sun * when people show the ability to step outside their own agendas * hearing that an unemployed friend has a new job * taking my dogs to Dog Beach for the day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"godlike" Behavior

The other day my family and I watched the movie "Bruce Almighty" (not to be confused with "Evan Almighty" which, I just recently discovered, is a spin off of the Bruce version).

Anyway, in the movie, Bruce is complaining to God that he is not doing a very good job, so God calls Bruce in and says he will give him a job: to be "god" to the people in his neighborhood. Then Bruce has "godlike" ability to not only move salt and pepper shakers without touching it, but even bring in the moon closer to Earth. At first, Bruce only cares about himself and uses his ability to benefit only himself. Then things start going wrong and he can't even help himself nor handle all the prayers he gets in on a daily basis. At the end he confesses he can't be "godlike" even in those couple blocks and gives God his job back for his neighborhood.

Well lately, I have been sickened by real people who have been so glorified over the years that they act like they too have "godlike" abilities and are not like everyone else.

I haven't even watched on episode of Two and Half Men, and I am only vaguely familiar with some of the movies he has been in, but those interviews of Charlie Sheen are disturbing!

He acts like he thinks he is "godlike." As if everything is in his power and we should all bow down to him. As you surely know, the series he is in was cut short due to Charlie's recent behavior. On the Today Show on Monday, Sheen can not even apologize to CBS for his crude behaviour that caused them to shut down production for the season, but they should accept him for the way he is.

On Tuesday we find out that Charlie has two "goddesses" in his house; yes he lives with two women and it seems that "rules" do not apply to Charlie.

Libia's leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, also thinks he has "godlike" attributes. He is one of the longest-serving rulers in history. Since he took over power in 1969, I am sure that he thinks that he is not like everyone else and he can't be touched. Funny thing, after all the protests in the street, he says that there has been no rebelling and his people "love" him. He must be completely delusional.

During this Paris' Fashion week, John Galliano, Christian Dior's esteemed designer, was fired after an episode of him on spouting anit-semitic statements went viral. When I was listening to BBC, they had mentioned that Galliano told everyone in the bar that they were ugly and if he was Hitler and he would kill them all and some how that all led to "loving Hitler"

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer never thought he would be found out either. He wasn't thinking that maybe he was a man with moral obligations like some other human beings are.

So, these people who act they have "god-like" abilities, have peppered our news last week. Since we have been listening all week to the news about these people, let's just pray that their attitudes haven't affected ours. Do you forget sometimes at home or in the office that the world doesn't revolve around you? Do you participate in trying to help others feel better about themselves? Do you ask questions about others or do you dominate conversation about yourself? Do you enjoy that others feel intimidated around you or do you genuine care for others? How can we portray a more "others-oriented" attitude in our lives this week?

PS What did you think about the news of Charlie Sheen's interview last week?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Borders in Our Lives

I have to admit I was surprised to hear the news that Borders filed bankruptcy last week and are closing 200 stores nationwide. Although, I was initially surprised, I understand how the Kindle and have squashed much of their business driving them to such desperation. And, I have to admit, I am guilty of buying books off of too, mostly because they offer the cheaper rate of the used version.

Our Local Store Still Open
Our entire family was relieved to find out that the Borders that we go to in Mission Valley was slated to stay open. We went there the weekend after the bankruptcy announcement and the store was full of people buzzing around looking at books and magazines and buying coffee from "Seattle's Best." The store seems to be busy every time we go there and, thus, the reason I was initially surprised of the announcement.

Went to Bookstore The Eve of His Birth
On the eve of my eldest son's birth, my husband and I were looking for something to keep us slightly occupied while we waited for our Sweet Pea to decide to come out of my womb; so we went down the hill to the Borders to pass some time. While we roamed the aisles of books, I started feeling very odd in deed and sat down in one of those big squishy chairs to wait for my husband to come back from perusing the books so we could go back home.

As we walked out of the store my husband saw someone he knew and, being the kind person that he is, didn't say anything about how his wife felt weird inside and needed to go home. So we stood in the parking lot and chatted with this gentlemen; he actually talked the entire time, something about a girl he liked, and I incessantly looked down at my watch while he perpetually talked. When we finally got home and into bed, that night my water broke and my son was born at 6am the next morning. I still walk by that squishy chair and that patch of parking lot where we stood talking to that guy and remember that time when I was laboring at Borders.

He Grew Up In the Store
It is funny that we were in a bookstore the eve of my son's birth because this son loves books. Even as a child he would sit in front of his bookshelf and look through those colorful books one at a time and leave a big mound of books next to him. He didn't really care about the toys in the room, just the books.

That same Borders is also the very one I would continue to take my son for the children's book reading and singing. The gal who read every week to this big group of kids, was so animated and fun, that I even started inviting my friends to it.

It is also the same bookstore that my husband took our son to the midnight release of Harry Potter #7, where people from all ages came as Rita Skeeter, Dobby, Sirius Black, and Dumbledore and they played trivial pursuit over the loud speaker and bleary eyed teens sat down in the corners of the store to read the new release.

As Time Goes By
Yes, this little boy is now 12 years old (well next month) and he still loves books and, yes, the Borders in Mission Valley is still his all time favorite store, even more than GameStop or Best Buys. This Borders is also the same one that my son goes to redeem his gift cards or to spend his allowance. He now has a large collection of precious books at home and he would rather have a book in hard back cover than in soft.

This weekend we went back to the store and it was bit of a rude awakening when my almost 12 year old didn't venture to the back corner where the children's section is located. He now keeps to the Young Adults section. He flits from here to there, from one aisle to another searching for his perfect next read.

We were sad to hear of the loss of 200 Borders in the nation, but we are also very delighted that our neighborhood store is staying put.

Has a bookstore or a library become part of your life? And, on a side note, do you own a Kindle? Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cold-n-Warm Climates

Recently my husband, two kids, and I went to Boulder, Colorado for a family wedding. We are fair-weathered San Diegian folk so we had to collect a few warmer items before we left. The boys received hats and gloves from Santa and I nabbed coats from Costco back in October. I bought me some boots and my husband thought he would be fine without a coat and just took layers.
The week before we left to Colorado, I was watching the weather forecast and if you remember there was a huge snow storm that fell on most of the United States except us in Southern California. Earlier in the week, Boulder had a high of -7 degrees. We thought we would die in such cold. Fortunately for us, it rose to above freezing when we arrived and we were able to enjoy the best treat ever: snowfall. It was only the second time my kids experienced snow (we went up to Big Bear, California one time while it was snowing).

While in Colorado, my family and I noticed a few differences in how the cold and warm weather cities are different:

  1. In the airport restrooms, when you wave your hands under the faucet to wash your hands in San Diego the water comes out cold and in Denver it comes out warm.
  2. Whenever we walked into a store, restaurant, and even a house in Colorado, hot air blows down at the entrance. In San Diego, whatever the weather is outside it is usually the weather inside; the only time there is blowing air is maybe at a grocery store to keep out the flies from coming into the store.
  3. Because of #2 we were constantly taking off and putting on our coats. One carries one's coat around in stores, they have hooks for them in the restaurants, there are coat checkers at museums, and hangers at the entrance of receptions.
  4. I still haven't quite figured this one out, but all the stores and restaurants have this extra room at the entrance. I know they have that at the zoo, but that is for a precaution in case an animal gets out one door, they can trap them with the with the second. Maybe that is the same concept with the cold and hot air in these cold weathered states.
  5. People wear light weight shirts under their coats. This is the weirdest concept af all. I would think that sweaters were sold and worn more in those cold states, but I honestly didn't see anyone wearing a sweater. When we arrived to Denver, we stopped at this BBQ restaurant. It looked as if it had recently snowed outside and I knew that earlier that week it was minus degrees, but the  hostess at the entrance was wearing this cap-sleeve t-shirt. This concept was very odd for all of us.

I discovered this reality when I went to New York City in December with friends a few years back. Our first night on the town, my friend and I went to a restaurant named Casimir on Avenue B, between 6 and 7th Streets (I ordered clams for the first time and they were so delicious, although that is all they served, a big bowl of clams, no side dish). Anyway, my friend and I took our coats off and did what any San Diegian would do, put the coat over the back of the chair (although they were long and dragged the ground and people could step on them). My friend and I started looking around to see how others in the restaurant were doing it and noticed that no one else had their coat on their chair, they hung them at the front of the restaurant or on hooks near ones table. No one was wearing heavy sweaters or scarves around their necks, except for us, but the women even wore sparkly tops and light weight short sleeve shirts. This struck my friend and I as very odd.

The day of the wedding in Colorado, it started to snow. We arrived at the church and everyone dumped their coats on chairs and couches on the way in. Now the thing that hit me as so strange is that the bridesmaids were wearing spaghetti strap dresses while it was snowing outside. The entire time I sat there I thought that was the strangest thing.

When I got married in November in San Diego, I had long sleeves made out of netting, because churches and reception halls don't usually have the heater on and I didn't want to get cold, because frankly, I get very uncomfortable cold even on my wedding day. It turned out to be a very beautiful that day and I didn't need the sleeves, but it turned out fine anyway.

In San Diego, airconditioners and heaters are rarely used. Basically, the average temperature year round (now don't hit me) is 70 degrees so if it goes below that temp or above that temp you wear your jacket or short sleeve shirt inside or outside of stores and restaurants. In my office, we hardly ever put the heater on or air and it can get cold in there so I will bring a sweater. My friend and I were talking about this concept and we realized there were only two, possibly three, months that people could comfortably wear tank tops or spaghetti straps: July, August, and possibly September. (Note: don't visit San Diego in June, it is cold and cloudy almost the entire month.)

Just two evenings ago it dropped to 37 degrees here in San Diego and it was so cold in our house that I was wearing my coat, scarf, and boots inside the house. Our house is set up for 70 degrees with it's single paned windows so our little heater just won't cut through the chill.

Have you noticed any other differences between the cold and warm climate cities?