How to be a better money role model for your child

By Kimberly Palmer

As a mom who writes about money for a living, I figured my 6-year-old daughter would learn a lot about personal finances from overhearing me talk about my work. She’s listened to me give radio interviews espousing the benefits of budgeting, and heard me talk at the dinner table about the importance of frugality.

The behavior I was modeling, though, was severely undermining many of those lessons. She noticed that when we went out for dinner, it was almost always her dad who picked up the bill at the end of the meal. (In fact, I often left my wallet at home, knowing he had his.) When she heard her father and me talking about bills and saving for college, she probably could tell that while I was handling many of the monthly bills, her dad was managing many of the longer term savings accounts. Until recently, I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know some of the passwords.

As I researched my new book, “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family,” I realized that I was probably passing on harmful lessons to her and that the situation needed to change immediately. The dozens of smart moms I interviewed taught me how essential it is not only that I take more control over our family finances, but also that I demonstrate that behavior to my daughter, so she can learn from it.

A 2014 survey of parents, kids and money by T. Rowe Price found that boys are more likely than girls to say their parents talk to them about setting financial goals (58 percent versus 50 percent). The survey also found that boys are more likely to consider themselves smart about money and to say that their parents are saving for their future college tuition.

[Are we holding our own daughters back? 5 ways to help our girls become leaders.]

Those gender differences are pretty disturbing, and I can’t help but wonder if they are related to the fact that surveys repeatedly show that as young adults, women tend to save less, invest less and earn less than their male peers. One 2014 Wells Fargo survey found that women in their 20s feel less satisfied with their money than their male peers and that the women carry more debt.

The moms I interviewed who I admire most when it comes to money were in constant communication with their children about the financial choices they were making for their families. Those useful conversations include the mistakes that they made with money; how and why they earn money and what it pays for; and how they are saving for big goals such as a family vacation or college tuition.

I started trying to incorporate these money-related discussions into our daily chats. On the way to school, when my daughter asks for a story from my childhood, I tell her how I made a budget before my parents let me get a hamster, and about my first job running a neighborhood summer camp.

I could tell she started thinking more about money, too. She often reminds us now that we shouldn’t go out to lunch because it’s too expensive. Or she offers to share her piggy bank savings with us if we ever run into hard times (I really appreciated that one). After helping me pay the water bill one morning, she brainstormed ideas for how we could reduce our water consumption. When her 3-year-old brother bemoaned the fact that I had to go to work on a day he didn’t have school, she calmly explained to him, “Mommy has to work so we can live in our house.”

Like highly trained CIA agents, our kids are studying us all the time — even when we think they’re distracted. Sometimes it’s shocking to hear them repeat our words back to us; sometimes it’s adorable. One thing is for sure: In all things, from eating to getting dressed to interacting with our partners to paying for a restaurant meal, we are their models.

Kimberly Palmer is the author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family,” from which this piece is adapted. She lives in the Washington area with her two children.

How letting go of anger has allowed me to be a better mom

I’ve been frustrated most of my life. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing; irritation simply follows me. On the outside, I am engaging and good-humored, but beneath the surface is a pinched up shrew with the patience of a 2-year-old.

One of my many hidden talents is the ability to roll my eyes without splitting a nerve. It is a skill that requires equal amounts focus and fury, and one that I’m sorry to admit I have mastered.

Whether I am standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s office, my cuckoo clock eyes are perpetually in motion. For the most part, I keep the verbal anger to a minimum, which explains the pulsating vein on the side of my face and the reddish hue of my cheeks. But every so often I snap, causing a whirlwind of impetuous behavior.

We were living in Florida when I was eight months pregnant. It was mid-July and hotter than hell. I was on my way home from the gym when I saw an SUV in the rear view mirror speeding toward me. I assumed he would drive around since we were on a two-lane bridge, but instead he sped up and revved his engine directly behind my car.

I could feel the blood boiling in my hormonal face when I glanced up and saw him pounding his fists on the steering wheel. He was testing my patience, which was destined for failure, but I rejected his challenge and gestured for him to pass.

When he pulled alongside my car with a mouthful of contempt, I exploded. It was the only time I had ever unleashed that kind of fury on a total stranger, and I let him have it all. I was so angry that my hands were shaking. There were two of them, and two of me; one of which was still in the oven, yet I couldn’t let it go.

We continued the charade until the next light, which happened to be red. There was nowhere for me to hide and no one around to witness the insanity that was about to ensue. I was trapped, alone, and very much afraid.

I could hear them screaming at me from their windows as I eased my way toward the light, and watched in horror as their car shook to a stop. When the driver stepped out, he slammed his door shut and began stomping his way over in my direction; by now my heart was beating out of my chest and I could not catch my breath.

To this day, I honestly believe he might have killed me right there on the spot had his friend not pulled him away when the light turned green. I had allowed myself to become totally unhinged for the first time in my life, and it easily could have been my last. What a foolish thing to do, particularly for an expectant mother, and I am thankful my child wasn’t around to see it.

When I got home that day, I could not stop crying. I felt like the worst soon-to-be mother in the world and was too ashamed to tell anyone what had happened, so I didn’t — until now. The thing about losing control is that it makes you realize how swiftly it can materialize.

Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that it happened before my daughter was born. It allowed me to see the dynamics of anger and taught me how to stop myself from taking it one step further.

I have a strong-willed child. She is the spitting image of her temperamental mother, minus the elevation. When she was little, every request was an invitation to push my buttons, and she picked at them with everything she had. If I asked her to do something, she would puff out her tiny body and challenge me to a verbal joust. If I told her not to touch something, she would ease her way over to it with the grace of a swan and throw a finger on top of it while giving me a side-eye. She was relentless, and I was beginning to lose control.

We had just finished finger-painting in the kitchen one afternoon when I asked her to help me clean up. As expected, she dismissed my request by running to her room for cover, but this time, I followed behind. I wanted to set an example for future behavior, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. We bickered back and forth until the conversation became heated and a familiar feeling began to build up inside of me. My hands were shaking — just as they were on that hot summer day — and I was afraid of what would happen if I stayed.

I knelt down on the floor with tears in my eyes and hugged my little girl. I told her to stay in her room and think about her behavior while I went into mine to do the same. Then I ran to my bedroom closet, closed the door, and sobbed my way back to sanity.

It’s hard being a parent at times. Children can push you to the ends of the earth and all you want to do is scream. You repeat yourself 10,000 times a day as if no one is listening, but they are… and they hear everything. It only takes a second to reach the point of no return, yet finding your way back can last a lifetime.

When I lost my temper that day on the road, intolerance rattled my foundation and awakened self-control. In one thick moment, I learned the importance of keeping my cool and counting to 10: a lesson that could have come at a much higher price and one that we all need to embrace.

Lisa Rene LeClair is a writer, humorist, social media junkie and mom. She blogs for your amusement at sassypiehole and she tweets @sassypiehole.

Valentine’s Day books for kids (and parents)

It’s almost time for kids to choose a box of valentines, address them to each classmate and deliver them to desktop mailboxes. Before the big day, though, grab one of these books and spend some heartfelt time reading together with your littlest loved ones.

Here Comes Valentine Cat, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

The cat isn’t in the mood for the fun of Valentine’s Day. For one, Cat doesn’t have a friend to make a card for. Making matters worse, a new neighbor has moved in Dog. Soon, bones are flying over the fence and hitting Cat in the head. Can these two be friends? Throughout the story, a narrator converses with Cat and asks questions. Cat’s answers are sometimes revealed in signs he holds up, like a not-so-sweet valentine created by Cat for Dog: “Roses are Red/Violets are Blue/Who’s the Worst Neighbor?/I think it’s You!”

Cat’s facial expressions perfectly mimic those of a toddler’s and are captured within a pleasing soft-palette of ink and color pencil drawings. Wry humor and a twist ending make this book a charmer.

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I Love You Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies

Duck really wants to spend the day with his neighbor, Bear. Bear, though, really wants to spend the day alone, lounging around in his robe, with a cup of tea. Can Duck pester his friend enough to get him to play with him? He gives it his best shot, offering all the ways Bear will like him more if he just goes for a walk with him. Bear tells him he likes him “already.” Says Duck: “I’m not taking no for an answer, Bear. We’re having fun, whether you want to or not.” Bear’s response: “Ugh.” Throughout the day, Duck keeps asking for reassurance that Bear likes him.

The fast-paced interplay between the relentless Duck and curmudgeon-like Bear translates to a lively and humorous story complemented by richly drawn illustrations that precisely represent each character’s personality. Kids will want to read this again and again, and will look forward to the pair’s next adventure.

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Mr. Goat’s Valentine, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

Mr. Goat needs to buy a gift for Valentine’s Day — something special for his “first love.” That “something special,” though, turns out to be a little unusual. First stop for his gift: Miss Nanny Goat’s weed stall. He places his order: “Crabgrass, pigweeds, and ragweed in that nice, rusty can. They are for my first love. She’s fond of ragweed salad.”

Mr. Goat continues creating the perfect gift — perfect for a yucky-food-loving goat, that is — until the end when we get to see who his first love is. There’s just the right amount of eww factor in the gift ingredients to make kids laugh, and readers will be surprised to find out who the gift-recipient is. Along the way, bright and bold illustrations provide plenty of reasons to capture the attention of those who enjoy a sillier, less sappy take on Valentine’s Day.

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Ollie’s Valentine, by Olivier Dunrea

The adorable Ollie, known for his adventures with his fellow gosling friends, is on a search. It seems everyone except him has received a valentine: “Gertie gave it to me!” says Gossie, holding a silver foil heart. “BooBoo gave it to me!” says Gertie, clutching a red heart. And so on. But who will be Ollie’s valentine? A surprise mirror on the last page holds the answer.

The colorful foil hearts incorporated into the watercolor drawings add an enticing texture that kids will want to rub their fingers over. It’s all wrapped up in a sturdy board book format, making it a perfect gift for a little one.

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Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

Everyone’s favorite caterpillar is back in this gem of a book. Sized for little hands, this small book speaks directly to tykes, telling them why they are special. The first pages contain the words “You are …” and feature whimsical floating hearts, setting the stage for the rest of the tale. The next pages read “… so sweet” and show the caterpillar making its way through a strawberry. Next is “… the cherry on my cake,” followed by more sentiments. Parents will enjoy taking their time reading the very few but impactful words and soaking up the vibrant collaged artwork that sends a warm message.

Mia Geiger is a writer in the Philadelphia area. You can find her atmiageiger.com and @MiaGeiger.

What happened when our family created a new holiday (hint: you might want to try the same)

“Let’s make a new holiday,” my older son said one night while we were finishing up with a bath.

“What kind of holiday?” I asked. I was skeptical. Between birthdays and anniversaries, hallmark holidays and days-off-school holidays, candy-laden holidays and gift-giving holidays, our calendar is already pretty saturated with celebrations. Frankly, after a while, they all seem to blend into a blur of sugar-glazed parties to cover up all the inherent stress and chores, unrealistic expectations and shortcomings.

“We’ll draw names and exchange small gifts with each other, spend time together doing something fun,” my son suggested. “And then just continue on with our normal day.”

I stared at him. “Huh?”

“Just small little gifts…like maybe a book or something?”

I stared at him some more. He dried off, put on his pajamas, and wroteGiving Day in big letters on the calendar.

Over the next few days, we talked about what Giving Day would look like. We would draw names and give a small gift, either inexpensive or handmade. We would do something together as family. And we would volunteer or give to someone outside of the family. Giving Day would be about giving, not about getting. As an aspiring minimalist, the last thing I want is more “stuff” in the house, much less another chore on our already-too-long list of obligations. And I desperately wanted to prevent Giving Day from turning into a Buy-Me-Something Day.

Our first Giving Day was about six months ago, and true to form, not once has our new holiday gone according to plan. In fact, in many ways, Giving Day has been a comedy of errors. There were loud grumbles and fights when the boys delivered their homemade cookies to the neighbors in the rain. Our plans to volunteer as a family were derailed when our water heater broke and my husband had to stay home to wait for the plumber. My younger son cried when his brother’s hand-drawn picture wasn’t what he hoped it would be. And when we tried to pay for someone’s meal anonymously, the restaurant blew our cover and the whole thing was more than a little awkward.

In the past few months, Giving Day has slipped off its monthly place on the calendar and become more of a whenever-we-get-our-act-together holiday. It seems that I’m not only failing at the compulsory holidays anymore; now I’m failing at our own made-up holidays too.

In an odd way, however, our Giving Day debacles and snafus seem rather fitting and appropriate. Like most holidays, the reality of Giving Day rarely lives up to the idea of it, but in many ways it represents everything I want to teach my children about holidays, generosity, and family.

Giving Day is flawed, messy, and imperfect. We bump elbows and get on each other’s nerves, but for a day, we show up, bring our whole selves, and spend time together. We fall short of our expectations, but we try again next time. We give awkwardly, but enthusiastically and with a full heart. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are about?

A lawyer-turned-writer, Christine is the author of Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life. She writes at www.christineorgan.com and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

A DIY Project That Makes A Perfect Gift!

If you are like me, then you enjoy giving gifts more than you like receiving them.

I always think of fun cute things to create for gifts.  Last week was one of my girlfriend’s birthday!  I took three photos from Instagram and had the Fed-Ex Office store next to Starbucks in River Park print them out using a laser printer and the thinnest paper they have (they one have one thickness).  I then went to Michaels right across the parking lot and found everything else I needed.  The Mod Podge, sponge brushes, the transferring gel and even the wood to transfer the pictures to (I didn’t have to go to Home Depot)!

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