Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Q & A -- travel & money

I am a mother of 3 girls, ages 6 1/2, 2 1/2, and 8 months. They bring me joy daily as well as challenging my patience. I am sure most mothers would make the same statement.
I am not trying to get too personal with you...after all, I have never actually met you, and you don't know me from Eve, but I've noticed that you and your family are able to travel quite a bit and I am sure in the process create many memories doing so. Have you and your family always been able to do this, even when you had little ones?
It will be a while before our young family can afford to travel, even little trips, because of financial goals (which I am logically happy about, but emotionally annoyed with ) we have made. It is difficult to travel with little ones, as well as not financially feasible, but I am wondering what we do in the meantime to help create memories as a family and what I can do to not go stir crazy while spending 98% of my time at home.

Back in the early years (that I talked about more extensively here) I pined away to travel. I had grown up traveling and became hopelessly addicted to how the world opened up to me as we soaked in the cultures of different countries. I figured that is what every family should do.

And then I got married.

And Dave and I got real jobs we couldn't leave to travel the world on a whim.

Plus, those jobs didn't pay us much money.

And then I got pregnant.

It was around then that my family decided to go on a service "expedition" to Africa.

And then they went to Bolivia. They saw and hiked Machu Picchu.

They built water-wells for small African villages.

They went on an African safari. They hiked Mount Kilimanjaro.

My sister packed up and headed to India to do service which had always been my dream.

And then I think everyone took off for Africa again.

It was about this time that I was confined to a small apartment with these two toddlers only fourteen months apart hanging on my legs and making messes.
Traveling to a foreign country with my family was about as far from my world as going to the moon.
I was in the midst of trying to get my babies to actually sleep at night without waking each other up let alone help fight world hunger.

That's when this became Elle's first bedroom:
As I slid that pack-n-play in and out of Elle's "closet" to do laundry and cleaned up small disasters everywhere I went, I daydreamed about service expeditions and hiking far-away hilltops, my mind engrossed in a new culture. It was around then that my sweet mother started reminding me of something she'd remind me of forever after: "life is long."

And you know what? She was right.

I hunkered down and did what I knew deep-down was much more grand (although not nearly as glamorous) as travel. I was a Mother. And that was a new culture all on it's own.

Dave and I stuck to our 10-20-70 deal (the one I talked about back here). We always scrimped by so I could siphon out some spending money here and there to build up a travel fund. When I did photography every cent of the money I made went directly toward that.

You see, everyone has their "thing." Not everyone goes hog-wild over traveling. I know you can live never leaving "home" and have a wonderful life.

But Dave understood (and still does) that traveling is my "thing"...my "love language" if you want to call it that. He knows that I'd take a donation to the "travel fund" over pretty much anything else (ok, well, photography stuff is expensive too, but although I do have a very, very nice camera that I thank my lucky stars for every day, I don't care to have many other accessories to go with it). Dave knows I don't care an ounce for expensive jewelry or expensive clothes or hair maintenance or make-up or skin care (yeah, I probably should care a lot more about that now that I'm getting so old)...But I'd so take a trip over stuff like that. It is a very rare occasion if we ever go out to eat as a family and all that stuff adds up. We just prioritize the travel fund and I'm so thankful Dave "gets" me on that.

I don't want to make it sound like we never traveled in those early years. My family still took us under their wing and we got to do some fun things. We got to go home and see family at Christmas and we lived in D.C. so there was really no lack of culture there.
Plus we were driving distance from New York and Boston so we made trips there when we could.

Money is not as tight as it used to be for us but I remember worrying so much about even paying a babysitter so Dave and I could go out on a date, let alone going on a trip.

I guess what I'm saying is that we are able to travel now partly because we had those financial goals you guys have when we were in that stage, and because we prioritize travel over other things. We have saved and worked a LOT to get to this point.

And you're right, you can create wonderful family memories without any travel at all. You just have to get creative. I'm all about family traditions, even if it's just taking walks every Sunday together or skyping family every Thursday or having "late nights" every once in a while with just one child at a time. The little things become the big things when kids get older.

Plus, it wouldn't hurt to plaster a big map on your wall and make a plan about future travel so that you can be ready when the day comes :)Since we can't travel to all those exotic countries I wish we could, at least we can talk about them over dinner ...

I have been thinking a lot about the cool map you have displayed in your kitchen
{see above and this post}. Do you have anything covering the map such as plexiglass like in a frame? Or is the map just exposed so you can touch it and put the red dots on like you have? I'd love to do that but would be afraid my younger kids would tear it up. Having a world map is such a cool idea plus it makes a great decoration piece.

I bought that map laminated. It is really pretty tough and can handle having stickers put on and taken off if needs be. I had a guy come build the frame right into the wall and the map is just velcro-ed to the wall behind it.

You guys are blessed to go on a lot of really nice vacations and you live in a really nice neighborhood. How do you manage to still teach your kids be grateful for what they have, and not see themselves as better than other people?

I don't know you personally, but from this blog you seem to be succeeding at this. Growing up my family was quite poor, and I always thought that was the only way that you could "guarantee" your kids would be "humble" and grateful in life. However, both my sister and I read your blog and are very impressed with how you achieve this when you are so blessed monetarily.

This is such an interesting question, one that I think about all the time myself. I'm continually trying to figure out what makes kids grateful and happy and well-adjusted to life. I see plenty of families with plenty of money pump out good, gracious, thoughtful kids while others who are scrimping by sometimes end up with children who feel entitled to the world. I think some of it comes with personality and other parts come with the environment they are raised in. I think we'll all find the answer to this question in this book:
Ha ha.

Really though, I don't think we can ever underestimate how important it is to teach kids the value of money and have them earn/save/give away their own however is best for our own individual families. That is the tough part: we as parents are in charge of figuring out what that "best method" is for our families. And it will probably be different for each one of us.

Growing up, aside from the 10-20-70 rule my parents engrained in us a fear of debt and credit cards as well as a desire to give to others, and made sure we were aware of people all over the world who lived in situations vastly different from us. They did this through talking our ears off about it mostly...and traveling to third-world countries. I hope Dave and I can do the same with our family.

We are in the process of re-working our whole money earning/using system in our family. It started out with opening a real bank account for Max.
...And reworking things he's in charge of paying for and it's filtering through to the other kids. As soon as we work out all the kinks on that I'll report here how it's going. But so far it's worked wonders with Max, (hopefully at some point he'll have more than a few dollars in his account:).

I love the chore page idea! {from this post} Do you pay them for chores or is this just something they have to do?! I pay mine 50 cents to a dollar depending on the chore and wondered if I should be doing that....they have to keep their room clean, but they don't get paid for that. They get paid for folding laundry, emptying dishwasher, vacuuming and stuff like that!

We do not pay kids for chores. We all do our part to make our family work, and chores are part of that. I am, however, working on a detailed "Money Job Chart" where they can take a task that isn't part of the regular cleaning routine and earn extra money for it. I'll post it when I get it done. I want them to get creative on earning money in different ways.

At what age do you have your kids begin doing chores? And, at what age do you start giving your kids allowance?

Our kids start doing chores as soon as we get on-the-ball enough to train them to do them:) Sometimes I'll kick myself for doing things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. I think kids can do a lot more than we give them credit for (which is carefully outlined in this book).

We have learned that although sometimes she claims she "can't," Lucy is excellent at emptying the silverware from the dishwasher, clearing her place after meals and cleaning on Saturdays with her big sisters. She can also make her bed pretty well with just a little help. I guess the key is just having high expectations and working with them, which sometimes we're ok at and other times we are horrible.

As far as allowance goes, we are in the process of re-working that in our family right now. By "re-working" I kind of mean quitting. We started a system years ago where we gave our kids an allowance when they turned eight just so they could learn how to manage that money and get used to the 10-20-70 thing. But then we got lazy about actually handing over the money and the kids didn't ever notice. We realized that they were collecting money in different ways all on their own. (babysitting, birthdays, lawn-mowing, etc.)

Much more on this later because I have to run to a meeting, but as always I'd sure love to hear other opinions about all this money/traveling jazz. As you can see I sure don't have all the answers.
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