Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Was School Today? How I Got My Kids to Talk to Me.

My son is currently finishing up first grade while my daughter is in the last few days of 3K at the same school.  Each day I picked them up I would ask the same questions:  How was school today?  What did you do?  These questions always resulted in the same answers from both of them:  Fine. I don't know/nothing.

So I decided to change it up a little and ask them to tell me three things about their day.  It always resulted in the same answers, "I got a _____ in conduct," "I ate ____ for lunch,"  and "I worked on _____."  That third one was the only one that was news to me because they always brought home a sheet telling me about their daily conduct, and I packed their lunches.

So this was a good start, but not really the deep, meaningful conversation filled with delight and variety that I was looking for.

Time to change it up again.

So now I ask them each the following question:  Tell me a way today that you 1.) worked, 2.) played, and 3.) helped.

This finally gets me the answers I am looking for!  These are things I want to hear about their day and the answers usually give me enough information that I can delve further in with questions about details.  And if I start getting the same answers day after day, I ask for a different answer ("you've told me that three days in a row now; please give me another example").

It works great with my son and my daughter is picking up on it, although her definition of "helping" is not usually what I'm looking for ("I helped my friends by coming to look at something when they called me.").

What about you?  Do you have this same problem with your kids?  Have you found a solution that works for your family? 

Posted as part of Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.  Check out the other great tips from other great blogs!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What Would Have Been Impossible 3 Years Ago

So I am currently a long way from being debt free.  Although my journey to being debt free (excluding mortgage) started over 3 years ago and I thought I would be done by now, life happens sometimes and we just are not there yet. 

We have been making some headway in the debt elimination process and have hit a few speed bumps along the way.  For instance, at the end of 2012, we accumulated new debt because we were doing the best we could and still using up our savings while Chip was job hunting.  Since then, we have replenished our emergency savings fund, paid for a family vacation with cash, and are working on whittling down that debt number again. 

Although our debt is not as low as I would like, let me share with you a little incident that would have caused extreme panic just 3 years ago. 

Two days ago I had to have my car towed from the side of the interstate into the dealership to be repaired.  I had no idea what it was, but the last time it did something similar, I had to get a new transmission and a new catalytic converter (neither of which is cheap).  Today the car is not worth enough to put that kind of money into it, so I was really hoping the repairs would be minor so that I wouldn't be car shopping again this weekend.  We just bought a new vehicle and I hate having a car payment, but that's the route we chose to go (long story for a different post).  I certainly did not want another. I want to continue knocking down our debts.

Earlier that day I had scheduled a $2000 payment to go to one of our credit cards to knock a chunk out of it. I scheduled it for Friday.  That afternoon the car when kaput.  Once it got to the shop, the service department was closed and they were not going to be able to look at it until the next morning. That evening, before I knew what the damage was, I changed that credit card payment to $500, freeing up money to use to pay for repairs. 

Photo credit: lusi
Yesterday I got a phone call that the repairs were less than $500.  YIPPEE!  So I have set that cash aside to pay for the repairs and the additional $1000 can once again go toward the credit card, sending them $1500 instead of the $2000 I wanted to.

So why can I say "yippee" over a $500 car repair?  First of all, I was expecting the worst, so $500 wasn't too bad.  But mostly because three years ago I would have needed to put that $500 on a credit card (because I wouldn't have had the cash - even in an emergency fund) and I'm not sure I could have fit it on a credit card - depending on what month it was.

So not only did I not have to put it on a credit card, I didn't even have to dip into my emergency fund to do it. Of course I'm sending less cash to pay off debt, but I think this is definitely a WIN siutation.

Just three years ago, this whole event would have caused more stress than I can describe. Although I'm not debt free yet, I can already feel a twinge of the freedom that allows, and I can't wait!


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