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Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Despoiling Project

So, how did the kids do with Christmas? Did you strike that happy medium of introducing just enough Wow Factor so they would feel Christmas (or whatever you celebrate during winter) was wonderous and special, yet with enough restraint that they didn’t storm angrily around the room, lip jutting out and arms crossed, declaring imperiously, “Not Zelda Twilight Princess! That’s from last year! I said Zelda Skyward Sword!” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Or maybe it’s not.

I did hear a report or two from friends who witnessed evidence that their precious progeny have had it a little too good for a little too long. (Don’t worry; I won’t “out” anybody.) Luckily, this is pretty fixable if your kids are still young – or young-ish.  Here are some thoughts on what you can change to reverse the spoilage:

  • Do not buy regularly
  • Put them to work
  • Eat meals together
  • Delay
  • Demonstrate
Let’s examine each in depth:
  1. Do Not Buy Regularly.  How often do your children get a little extra something from you? Do you buy toys, game cartridges, DVDs, iTunes, stuffed animals, meals out, a box of donuts, PopTarts and so on on a regular basis?  I would encourage you to really think hard through this. Make a physical list if it helps, or go through your credit card statement. All of these extras should be rare. Give them an allowance; there is no better way to curb constant asking for things. Don’t give them an allowance that is so hefty that there’s really no need to delay getting anything they want. I have heard as a rule of thumb a dollar for each year of their age, per week. I think that is too much! By that measure, my 7-year-old would be $28 richer every month. That would defeat my purpose, because he would not have to wait/save for more than a few weeks to buy a fairly expensive game. So I keep it pretty small.
  2. Put Them to Work.  Even if you live like the Trumps and you have live-in servants to fold every towel and make every bed, I still contend that every child should work and assist around the house. Don’t connect this to the allowance! The allowance is training in using money. The household assistance is training in caring for the home and being self-sufficient. When people connect household work with allowance, the spoiled little children who have tons of stuff anyhow often decide that they don’t particularly care if they get their allowance or not and then they won’t help in the household. They do not have this option! They cannot opt out of household work because they aren’t really hard up for dough and if you break the first commandment and buy them things every time they blink, they won’t care about earning money.
  3. Eat Meals Together. Strange – why did I put something about eating meals together in a post about spoiled children? Because I believe that eating as many meals as a family as you can possibly manage decreases food pickiness exponentially. Fix a good meal and then expect the kids to eat it. Don’t make Chicken Nuggets for Connor, that he gets to eat while watching Toy Story in his bedroom, Uncrustables for Maddie in the kitchen and Pizza Rolls for Zack, who is on Facebook and can’t be bothered to come to a family table. I know it’s hard to get everyone together for dinner, but try, damn it, try hard. And when everyone is finished? They have jobs to do for dinner clean up.
  4. Delay. I know you know this one. Part of the trouble is that as adults, we don’t really delay much anymore. Remember Lay-Away? Remember when you had to pay a little bit for several weeks to own something in the near future? No one-click buying, no (GASP!) Book-In-60-Seconds, no Buy Now, Think Later?  Reinstate it. For yourself; for your children. Delay buying something for at least a little while. Consider if there is another way to have it without buying it. Consider if something else that you already have can meet the need (want?). Absolutely make your children wait to have something, especially if it is big and important.
  5. Demonstrate. Delay leads me right to demonstrate. Part of why some kids are spoiled is because their parents are. Do you always have to have the exactly, perfectly right or best thing? Or can you live with second-best, not exactly right, cheap, free or borrowed? They see what we do. Do you get a new phone because there’s a new phone to be gotten? Did you go LCD TV because you can? Thinking about getting a new car for no real reason but that this one is “old”? The kids do see that. They hear. They learn. If your kids constantly whine for upgrades, look first at the apple tree standing right here. (Not the Apple tree, as in iGreed.)

Despoil the children (and maybe yourself) for 2012. It is a project that pays both physical and emotional dividends for years to come and sets your kids on a path that I am positive you do want for them. Not one disadvantage could arise from taking on a despoiling project. (Well, they might not like it much, but that’s because they’re spoiled.) You will be happier, richer, have better relationships and a cleaner house if you stop spoiling the kids.

Something to consider, anyhow.


The Awesome Pillow my Mother Made

I just have to show this off!


My mother made this 100% homemade for my son for Christmas. The Ravens fabric on the reverse was a small “scrap” she found at the fabric store. For the logo, she downloaded a sample off the web and used it as a template to craft the logo entirely by hand from felt fabric.

I am blown away by the craftsmanship my mom used in making this pillow.  What an absolute treasure!



People speak of spring cleaning, but there is no better time to go on a house-wide purge than just before winter holidays come along. With Christmas, Hanukkah, and…oh, I don’t know…Kwanza? Winter Solstice? Whatever it is that makes you merry, there’s bound to be an influx of gifts. If you have kids, (or maybe even dogs), that goes exponentially.

I’ve been going through room-by-room and divesting myself of all sorts of things. Here are just some of the places I’ve purged and organized and some of the umm…treasures…that I’ve moved along:

Kitchen Cabinet: spices that I can’t remember ever using – Turmeric? Why did I buy that? I think it was when I thought I was going to make Indian food until I discovered I’d have to do that hung yogurt thing, which was way too much work.

Bathroom Drawers: lipstick I never wear; hair heat-sheild that does nothing but make my floor sticky; Sedona Sunset hair dye (I haven’t done red in two years); various travel-sized lotions and potions without enough left to make it through a weekend away; Ear Wax removal kit (ummm…yeah); and most questionable of all, the bags that prescriptions came in, due to my irrational fear that I might have to call the pharmacy and won’t be able to find the number. (See? None of us is immune.)

Nightstand Drawers: Digital address book (who needs that nowadays?); old charts from NFP, back when I was trying to get pregnant (my youngest child turns 7 today); that horrible MOTH schedule book that makes me feel like a home-management failure; some odd notes that make no sense now; a library schedule of events from 2008 and…the journals. Well, I didn’t throw out the journals. I don’t really know what I’m going to do about the journals. More about that in a moment.

I went through toys with my boys, got rid of great gobs of baskets – I can’t imagine what I thought was so important about each one. I sent some artificial plants and flower arrangements packing; The kids put aside about 30 DVDs they don’t want; I went through medicines and threw out the old; I dug through the art drawer and chucked tons of hard clay, dried-out markers, ugly pencils and random drawings. I took to Goodwill some wooden puzzles that all my children used. I admit that this was tough. But it’s time to let somebody else enjoy those things.  I don’t want to hoard and hold onto these things that could be a great blessing to other children when my children clearly no longer need them.

Here’s a word about giving things away: always give things away with your whole heart. Even if you are lending something to someone, do not lend it off if you cannot let go of it. You really should only lend things if you would also give them away with no regrets. If you lend or give things to others but you still own the thing in your heart, it will hurt the relationship and be a burden to the recipient.  If that’s the case, you are putting things over people. Let me tell you a story.

Years ago, a friend of mine lent me some nice toys and books that she still owned in her heart. She told me she wanted me to have the use of them, but that she’d like to have them back eventually for her grandchildren. I was too young and inexperienced at the time to realize how bad a position this was for me to be in. I could not really enjoy the items, because in the back of my mind, I feared I would ruin them. In fact, one of the books was in my daughter’s bed when she threw up all over kingdom come and that was when I fully understood that I did not want these items anymore, unless my friend was ready to truly give them to me.

Don’t do what this friend did. Purge. Give away. By all means, go through your things. But give things away with your whole heart. They’re just things. Naked we came and naked we’ll leave, so the stuff in the middle is just stuff.

Now – about the journals. This is really troubling to me. I’m open to suggestions. I have journals going back some twenty years of my life. There’s good stuff in there and there’s a fair amount of trash, too. There are words entombed there that I really think I’d be better off burning. Keeping what I wrote down in bad times ties me to that past at least a little. I don’t think we really release a wrong done to us while we keep record of it written in a journal. I do believe thoughts are things.

However, I don’t want to just throw out all that recordation. I confess: it’s precious to me. I love looking back at what I thought about when I was 23. Most of the time, I roll my eyes at what a dork I was. (When I’m 80, I’ll probably roll my eyes about what I’m writing now.) The thought of transcribing all those journals and sanitizing the parts I’d rather throw out is too daunting. There’s thousands upon thousands of words written there. I don’t really know what to do with my journals. It’s tempting to just leave it and let family members argue with each other after I die.

So – how about you? Are you willing to go on a clean-out? I promise you, there is no self-help program that will yield bigger results for less effort than the simple act of going through your home and divesting yourself of excess. All the stuff that doesn’t describe you anymore. All the stuff that makes you feel like a loser. All the duplicates that are broken, the bottles half-empty you don’t like well enough to finish, the projects you thought you’d take on before you discovered it just isn’t you. Purge it and feel a weight lift off your soul. Just give it away.