allowance

We started giving the kids an allowance this year. I confess it’s mostly to help us quit impulse-buying them junk to bribe them through shopping trips. Now, we can fend off their pleas with Lessons About Fiscal Responsibility! Cool!

The biggest obstacle to the whole enterprise had been our complete inability to keep cash on hand, especially small bills suitable for allowances. We’ve had to keep stealing back and reusing the same $5 for tooth fairy visits. So we decided to do what any sensible parent in 2022 would do: become their online bank.

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I’m sure you can immediately sense the beauty and craftsmanship of this spreadsheet, but let me highlight some of its features, just in case:

  • Their $5 allowances are deposited into three funds: one for saving, one for giving, and one for spending.*
  • Balances are automatically calculated based on the previous week’s totals. All we need to input are withdrawals, which appear in red.
  • Conditional formatting highlights the current week.
  • Calculations into the future allow easy look-ups for when they can afford that super-cool train set they saw at Costco, or their first Dogecoin.
  • When withdrawals are made from the spend fund, the notes field allows us to creepily track every purchase. This helps them become accustomed to the surveillance economy they will inherit.

*We heard about this split on a podcast or something; it sounded cool. Annie has already stated her intention to donate her “give” fund to a Deer Rescue organization.

Who is enjoying this more: Annie in her rad new hat with ears that perk up when she squeezes a pump, or me reading “A Beginner’s Guide to General Ledgers”? It’s really hard to say.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 5 months old.

You sleep right past the green light after a rough night coughing and sneezing. We covid-tested you yesterday when you came home with sniffles (happily negative). You’re a little groggy this morning, but have no temperature and quickly perk up for a breakfast of sugary cereal—Dad has pulled out the big guns to motivate everyone downstairs.

We make it out the door roughly on time and enjoy a quick walk to school. You do quite a bit of skipping. Dad walks you to the door, and you disappear into the scrum.

I can’t get much out of you regarding your day. When I ask on the way home, you crow that you “ran ten laps around the world” and then were so tired you drank everyone’s water. So, somewhere between that and practicing letter sounds lies the truth. In any event, we see you again at 5:15, shoes on the wrong feet and excited to eat some orange slices.

you reporting on your day; Mrs. Dunbar's take on matters
you reporting on your day running around the world; Mrs. Dunbar’s generous take on matters

Once home, Annie pitches you on building a store up in your room to earn some money. We’ve just introduced allowances, and you are keen to up your balance. You both disappear upstairs while I cook dinner. Creative play, hooray! Tonight is particulary spectacular because it turns out that not only are you entertaining yourselves, you are also tidying up. Dad visits “the restaurant” at your invitation and discovers the clean room: it is perhaps the best moment of his life to date.

You announce tonight's menu: hamburgers, pizza, ice cream.
You announce tonight’s menu: hamburgers, pizza, ice cream

After a few rounds of serving up drawings of food in exchange for pocket change, you and Annie come down for real dinner. It’s less successful. Of the meal I serve, you eat five cherry tomatoes and ask to be dismissed for dessert.

There’s time for a brief ukelele collaboration and ten minutes of video games with Dad before bath time. You and Annie have very recently decided that the age of kid baths is over, and you shower now, separately. Oh, my little babies. You hop into yours, and when I stroll by, are happily chanting, “Scrubbin ma butt…scrubbin ma butt.”

I'm calling this one 'Little Brothers'
I’m calling this one ‘Little Brothers’

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When I come by again for Annie’s toothbrush, you and Dad are snuggling on the floor. This segues into reading Dog Man, and before we know it, goodnight! Thanks for the great day, kiddo.

a day in your life

It’s Monday. To console yourself, you decide to wear your new clothes and dress “like a jungle,” in a leaf-green shirt and floral pants, with coordinating N95. You eat overnight oats we had the foresight to make the night before, and a homemade waffle courtesy of Dad’s unbelievable patience for cooking breakfast foods on weekday mornings. It’s 45 degrees on our walk to school, which you execute without a jacket, firm in your principles to never, ever ever, wear a coat.

checking your pretend phone before descending from bed
checking your pretend phone before descending from bed
walking to school
walking to school, cold

You are one of four kids in class today, out of 18. Lino, Margaret, Eddy, and you, you tell me. Mrs. Nuncio let you look at books while you waited for more kids to show up, but they didn’t. There was a covid exposure last week, so presumably the rest of the class was home sick or scared. Omicron, man, I tell you what.

You’re just fine, though—symptom-free, testing negative, and vaccinated up to your eyeballs—so school is the place to be. It’s PE today, and the four of you play the parachute game. At the count of 3, you lift up the parachute, and two people run under it to switch spots. You and Lino go together, then Margaret and Eddy. Then you put soft lovies on the parachute and try to launch them off. I remember doing this in elementary school: it is rad.

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At Creative Action, you work on a family portrait, and decorate a mask. (“You’ll probably throw it away,” you tell me, “but that’s okay.”) Daddy arrives in the car rather than on foot—a special treat—and takes you to the new house to roll out the trash bins. Then it’s home for dinner, and you only freak out a little bit about the presence of tortellini on your plate before eating a bowl of meaty sauce all by itself, like a stew.

Dad and Paul start playing a video game, and you pop up after a minute to try for a poop, during which time you tell me all about your day of school while I type it up on my laptop (present moment, not pictured). We do the bedtime drill, and that’s all she wrote!

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 4 months old.

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You’re up before dawn and tumble into our room as soon as the light turns green, singing the inverted lullaby and brandishing Little Doggy. It’s Sunday, and we’re awake but still in bed, and for the first time in a while, you and Annie crawl in.

We head down for breakfast, and Dad makes some outstanding waffles with chocolate chips. Fed, you move onto race car driving while I head out for a run, and then it’s some tablet games while Dad does his. At 10, you’re suiting up enthusiastically for a quick bike ride to the new house, where Miles, Lyla, and Lisa are meeting us for their first tour. You’re most excited to show them the treehouse and “the secret area,” the kids-only loft behind the chimney. We’re there in no time. You and Annie patrol the perimeter of the front yard, standing watch for their arrival.

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The next hour is a whirlwind: you and Miles hammer together a little car kit, explore all your favorite places, and race around the whole house. Your cousins present you with presents, and you receive a toy car, a plus-plus block set, a bouncing moon ball, and a tiny Ron Weasley. The generosity! We say goodbye, close up the house, and head for lunch downtown.

We park at the Trader Joe’s and walk the width of west downtown to Fareground, where you demolish a couple bean and cheese tacos and some baguette, to the song stylings of a pleasant, jazzy cover band. You move onto swinging around posts and driving your new car across the plaza. When we’ve had enough, we descend to the trail, and you balance on every side wall you can find as we cover the half-mile west. We tunnel under Cesar Chavez and emerge at the library, cross the street to Seaholm and dive into Trader Joes snack shopping.

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Many, many desserts are acquired. We drop the groceries in the back of the car and hang out on the astroturf lawn for a few minutes. Dad shows you how to cartwheel. Poppy arrives with her dad, and you launch into games of freeze tag and goodness knows what else, turning a square of green into your personal playground for another hour. When Annie and Poppy pair off to flirt with some little dogs, you engage me in a game of “who can ___ better?” where ___= cartwheeling, sommersaulting, staring and being quiet and not moving, picking each other up, jumping, standing on one foot, and more.

Five o’clock finds us home, and you settle down with some PBS kids games. An old friend of Dad’s joins us for dinner, and you impress him (for real) with the way you sit at the table with us for dinner and (in your mind) with your lengthy and plentiful burps. We head up to bed, and you’re pretty cooperative, brushing at least your front teeth with flouride toothpaste (unicorn bubblegum sparkle) and climbing up to your own bed for 15 minutes of Harry Potter 4. The Tri-Wizard champions are announced. Oh boy, Harry, some trouble in store!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 8 months old.

Morning arrives. We apply some icky nail polish as part of your currently successful anti-thumb-sucking campaign, and shimmy into shorts and a t-shirt for this 85-degree December day. Downstairs, you negotiate over which advent calendar is yours to open this morning (you gave your turn to Paul for the lego Harry Potter calendar yesterday, so it’s his turn again this morning, but you get to open the Trader Joe’s calendar with the chocolate pieces that we cut precisely in half for you to share. Yeah, it’s complicated.)

Between bites of breakfast you squeeze in your math homework: transforming numbers by adding and subtracting 10s and 1s. We run out of time for your reading, regretfully, and pledge again to start a New Routine where we actually do homework at night. But this morning, here we are. We grab shoes, and brush your hair, and pick some masks, and pack a snack, put on Sous’ leash, and phew, here we go. On our walk, you ask me if there’s anything I want to talk about, and we have a lovely conversation about our plans for the weekend. Dad walks you up to the door and watches as the gravity of the school draws you in. We see you again at 5.

walking home with Paul
walking home with Paul
taking off your socks and telling me how bad your day was
taking off your socks and telling me how bad your day was

School, you report, was pretty bad. You had an upset stomach. You hadn’t finished all your homework and didn’t get a star. You had to take a mask break, in a designated private spot in the classroom where you can set a two-minute timer and draw or relax with your mask off. It was a PE day, which you usually love, but maybe today not so much. You and Paul bickered on the walk home, but at least you manage to agree on a movie for movie night: Elf.

At intermission we eat pot stickers and apple slices, then popcorn as we finish the movie. You stay up a little late to see the end. Upstairs, we trim a cuticle while you brainstorm more weekend plans and assure me you will not be resting well tonight. I read a little bit of Harry Potter 4, as the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrive for the Tri-Wizard Tournament. I say goodnight. Sorry you’re going to sleep so badly! See you in the morning.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 3 months old.

You’re up and playing with Annie around 6, and spying down from the top of the stairs to catch a glimpse of Dad, just back from a few-days trip. At 6:35, you begin your chorus, to the tune of our old lullaby: “The light turned green, and it’s time to wake up! The light turned green, and…” I help you get dressed and brushed, and you charge downstairs for a happy/silly reunion with beloved Dad. He feeds you, and I retrieve your photocopies of Annie’s math homework so you can add up coin values along with her.

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You clown your way to school in the chilly morning, give us both a hug, and head off for your day. It’s a good one. It’s a classmate’s birthday (Camilla) and also World Kindness Day, so thats’ gotta be good. But the best thing ever is: you are the very happy recipient of the THUNDERBIRD PRIDE AWARD, a student-of-the-week type recognition for two kids per class, for “doing great all week and trying hard.” It could not have gone to a prouder recipient. Your teacher Mrs. Dunbar sent me a message a few days ago saying she should have given it to you weeks ago, but it had been “such a good motivator for other friends.” You bound out of Creative Action and present it to us. (“Can we fix the spelling of his last name?” asks Dad.)

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We head home, lined up in formation according to your directions. When you give us the thumbs up signal, we’re to run. We look super, super cool.

It’s Lego Batman for movie night, which you resist strongly until we turn it on and it is awesome. We pause for a perfectly roasted chicken and potatoes, then it’s back to bat business.

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Dad reads you a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which we rather hope you lose interest in before it gets too grim (fat chance). He wishes you goodnight with encouragement to rest up for a fun weekend.

a day in your life

To Annie, this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 7 months old.

Still adjusting to the time change, you and Paul are awake by 6 and playing happily. I get ready for our day, listening to you in the background, until 6:40. You’re working on a lego village, and I help build a rainforest for the green Hatchimals while gently inserting tooth brushing and dressing into the game. You keep playing while I make breakfast, and come down when I call you at 7.

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You dig into your mango smoothie, toast, and math homework, counting by fives to total up nickels, and submit quietly to hair brushing. I have decided to do your hair brushing as long as you’ll let me—I love our gorilla grooming time. You and Paul get shoes, masks, and backpacks with relatively little prodding, and we’re off to school.

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Six-and-a-half year old Annie is a delight, and I would happily press pause here for a while. You keep on growing up, though, observing the world around you and developing new interests in things like human evolution. You’ve declared your intention to become a librarian when you grow up.

At school, it’s your third day with a substitute teacher, Miss H, whom you tolerate. She gives you worksheets, it sounds like, which you think are harder than whan Mrs. Nuncio usually has you work on. It’s a music class day, though, and you have a good time playing instruments and a game to the tune of…some song about an apple tree. Paul has the same class, and you sing together and teach me the game after dinner. Creative Action after school is the BEST, with rainbow scratch paper on which you make several solar-system-themed drawings.

Pluto and Saturn, wearing winter hats because they're cold. In another drawing, Jupiter "has a look on his face" because the sun is so much bigger than him.
Pluto and Saturn, wearing winter hats because they’re cold. In another drawing, Jupiter “has a look on his face” because the sun is so much bigger than him.

I arrive at 5:15 with a baggie of blueberries and dragging feet thanks to my headcold. You and Paul take it pretty easy on me, putting us in a line to march home with all the important roles: line leader, door-holder, and line monitor who assesses and reports on the line quality with a thumbs up, sideways, or down. We get home. I have prepared nothing for dinner, and you announce your devestating hunger. I ask you to choose between corn dogs, dumplings, or a peanut butter sandwich. You select a corn dog as the “least bad” and eat it with ketchup and giant apple slices.

You and Paul do a little swinging in the dark with our backyard lanterns for extra flare, then move it to a “night bath” with lanterns perched above the tub. You declare it a peaceful space, and we all stay quiet and listen to the water.

I need a little time to clean up the house and write this post—Dad’s on a work trip—so I turn on a show. Paul selects Donkey Hodie (get it?), the latest muppet venture from the studio of Mr. Rodgers. Wholesome lessons flow. You climb up into Paul’s bed for a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which you talked Dad into starting a few nights ago. Mrs. Weasley is upset with your favorites Fred and George for throwing their lives away on dreams of a joke shop. You take it in quietly, and go to sleep quickly. Goodnight, 1st grader.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 2 months old.

You wake up fully clothed, brush your teeth, and slither downstairs to a breakfast of fruit and yogurt. It’s dark and drizzly, and you’re happy to carry a flashlight to school, thrilled with the power of illuminating dark and spooky objects, like tree branches. You spot a snail gliding across our first small bridge, and we all bend over to admire its delicate shell.

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Dad walks you to the school door, and we say goodbye. You have, I don’t know, a day at school. At our parent-teacher conference yesterday, Mrs. Dunbar told me you and Eric James are her “math boys.” He changes the date on the chart every morning, and your job is to move the counter to show how many days you have all been in kindergarten. You called her over recently to show her how you’d written the number 452, which doesn’t sound like all that much, but I happen to know at this precise moment in my life that reading/writing numbers over 120 is a second-grade skill. She described herself as “blown away.” You have a joy for learning that delights her, and are often the only one enthusiastically engaged when she’s explaining a new concept. You also, ahem, have trouble sitting still on the carpet.

Anyway, you have a day, and tromp home after Creative Action with Dad and Annie. I’ve just put dinner on the table, and you go quiet as you sit down and devour the fruit. We vote as a family to approve your motion to switch a dessert day from Fridays to Tuesdays. Motion passes. You make sweet boba tea for your first Tuesday dessert, and do not like it.

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We go to the front yard to build a house for Little Doggy with our big wood blocks and tape. I think it’s our best one yet. The mosquitos drive us inside, and you hover near Annie completing her subtraction worksheet. I lure you upstairs with the promise of together time, and we draw pictures at your desk until it’s time for your bath. We put conditioner in your dry hair, and you make a tremendous number of silly noises.

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Clean and dry, you get back to work, making your own darn math worksheet! You head up to Annie’s bed with supplies to continue crafting while Dad reads the beginning of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. He says goodnight, and you keep drawing until an altercation with Annie requires our intervention at about eight. The feelings, OH, the feelings. We get you set up back in your bed, and you blink right out.