Monday, July 15, 2019

House Cup Open: One Day Only

The fourth of July holiday found us smack dab in the middle of a two week span where the House Cup was intentionally suspended. Due to our summer schedule, all the kids were not going to be together for a period of two weeks. My son was going for a week visit to my parent's house. So with one kid gone, we were not going to give o take away any points.

However, the night before the 4th I was informed that I needed to include the Slytherin and Huffle puff on my 4th of July road trip. I was headed up north to visit my sister for the weekend. My Coparent Boyfriend was working on a project in the same area (out of town) and he wanted to see his boys for the holiday. So, I decided that opening up the House Cup for one day was my best bet at transporting three kiddos safely and effectively by myself. Otherwise, I was facing a three and a half hour car ride at the mercy of whatever behavior arose.  I knew I needed backup, and House Points were the way to go.

I wanted to make it fair, so I sent a message to my parents. I told them they could award Ravenclaw House Points for any help with chores, politeness or reading that was done. If he was rude or unhelpful they could deduct House Points.

Meanwhile, back at our house, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff all earned House Points by packing their own travel bags. I made a list of what they needed and they each took turns reading the list and packing. I also had them clean the windows of the car at the gas station before heading out of town.

We had a pretty smooth trip with the three kids, until about 45 minutes away from our destination. Hufflepuff threw an empty soda bottle into the front seat. That was a House Point lost. He was quiet for the next half hour after that. I also had to send a message in the form of a House Point lost that it's not OK to pinch his brother.

At the end of the One Day Open House Cup, Ravenclaw won the most House Points. He finished the day with 8! Apparently the grandparents kept him busy.

Now that we are all back under one roof, the House Cup is back open and I am going to "double Down". From here on out, it will be 2 points in and two points out. It's not really changing the value of the transacions, but what it does do is fill up the vases faster. Even though we have been competing for half the summer, the vases still look mostly empty. I think that seeing the vases start to really fill up will give them a boost to get through the rest of the summer with enthusiasm. So far they still like it, and I want to keep it that way...It's nice having help with the dishes and not have to listen to complaints. A simple "House Points to Gryffindor" is all that needs to be said.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The House Cup

The House Cup opens today!

For several weeks now I have been prepping and planning how this would all work.

I began with the banners. Each child received a gift bag with the materials to make their own house banner. I included glitter glue in their house colors, pipe cleaners, puffy balls and an optional magic marker. Tacky glue and scissors were the community materials.

Next I considered the vessels and filling for the house points. I scored 4 vases at Michael's and hit up Dollar Tree for the gems. (They have plastic gems perfect for adding to the vases, just like in the Harry Potter books.) While I was at Dollar Tree I had a horrifying Fun Dollars Moment when I realized that most of what I had purchased at Michael's I could have got at Dollar Tree for half the price. Lesson Learned. Always do Dollar Tree FIRST!!!!

The gems I bought only came in red, blue and clear. So I bought Silver and Gold spray paint to create the gems needed for Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

Last night I set the gift bags with the banner materials on the table. When they came home for the day, they were greeted with a gift bag in their house color.

Each child had free reign with regards to their banner creation. Older Brother made me giggle a little when he pulled up his tablet to view the Hufflepuff House Shield.  He wanted his banner to be a true representation of his house crest. That's what I was hoping for when I came up with this; a genuine interest in participation.

As each kiddo worked enthusiastically on their banner, I read to them the Sorting Hat song from The Sorcerer's Stone. They each got to hear the qualities and traits of their house.

We let the banners dry overnight and hung them before breakfast this morning. They each received their first house point for finishing their banners.

So, the participation and willingness to place value on the House Points system seems to be there, for all the kids. Thankfully this makes sense and is attainable not only for my 1st grader but for my 5th grader as well. It's something that Boys and Girls can participate in, so all the kids are included. It also gives us a base understanding of what's ok and what's not ok. House point in, House point out. For behaviors that we see and want to encourage, we give a house point. For behaviors that we don't really appreciate, we take a house point. Are two kids bickering? House point from each. Did someone put away the dishes when we asked? House Point awarded.

We had been paying the kids in coins for chores prior to the House Cup.  They kept them all in a mason jar piggy bank. But as with most incentives, the grown ups got lazy and would forget to pay for tasks completed or the kids did not place value in what we were offering. Sure the coins would add up, but not fast enough. Even when they had several dollars worth of coins, we wanted them to save them. Eventually the kids lost interest in earning money for chores, and we have just let it ride for the time being. The difference with the House Cup is that we are not placing a monetary value on every task performed. It's giving a credit. That credit is visibly represented with the gems accumulated. Also, it is "equal", meaning all the points earned are the same value. When the kids had a jar full of coins, one kid could have $5.00 or $1.00 but the same space was used due to the coins having different values. The kids like the fairness of the House Points system. They can see that if someone does one task and someone does another task, they don't get paid differently, they just each get a credit for the help they provided. We are assigning a One Point value to all transactions. (that will keep it fair and attainable for this first round.)

The Rules I came up with for the House Cup are as follows:

1. Only adults can give or take away points.
2. House Points cannot be requested, only given or taken. (so that way the kids aren't like, "Do I get a house point for doing that?" Or "will you pay me a house point for doing whatever?"
3. No theiving or lying. If they are caught taking House Gems, or if they lie about someone taking House Gems, they will loose ALL their House Points.
4. We only do House Points when the kids are all together. As I mentioned before, the two kids participating that are not my own children are my "bonus" kids, so they do spend time with their mom. So to keep it fair we only run the House Cup on days when all 4 kids are available to earn or loose points.

And as for the reward...

The children actually have no idea what the prize is at the end of the House Cup. We will run this for 3 months; June, July, August. At the end of the three months we will count how many gems are in each vase. The kiddo with the least amount of gems will get something ( they just don't know what it is.) The person who had the most would get the biggest something. That way everyone gets rewarded for participating. It also encourages them to hold a value to what we are doing. because I intend to run another round of House Cup with a twist after we finish the initial House Cup.

There will also be intermittent monetary encouragement during the House Cup.  I agreed to pay them an allowance. Since I am starting at Square One with finances, I wanted to go back to what I learned at Square One with regards to allowance...from the parent perspective.

When I received an allowance from my father when I was school-aged, I would receive one dollar every time my dad got a pay check. So that is what I am going to do with the kids. They will each receive one dollar to go towards their spending money for the trip every time I get a paycheck from now until our trip.

I have tried other methods of getting the kids to help out, or to encourage behaviors we want to see more of. But using the House Cup as a Money and Behavior solution was really what I was after. I want the kids to learn how to communicate. I also want them to want to be helpful.  they all have a common goal of doing their best with measurable and observable behaviors.

Since starting this post I have already had a load of dishes willingly put away.

House Points to Slytherin.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Four Houses

I came to a shocking realization this week...I have now gone public not only about my intentions with Carrick's 11th birthday, but also with a new relationship. I now proceed with caution because as with any relationship, things are subject to change at any moment. While it takes a fair bit of courage to come out about being with a new person, it takes even more for me to publicly post about this new person...and his kids...

So, I will be open, yet discreet. I will also walk with the understanding that we are all new at this and will take it one day at a time. But as of right now, the way it stands, we are all housemates and we are all on this journey to Hogwarts together.

Part of what I enjoy about Carrick earning this trip is that I am earning right along side him. Now that I have established myself as a single person, I have successfully started to manage my own finances as well. That is part of why this has become fun for me again. I am earning and saving and it's all mine. I am no longer the spoiled housewife spending an allowance given by the breadwinner husband. I am a single (yet partnered) gal paying rent and bills as well as saving up for my dream vacation.

When I originally began this journey, I had no intention of taking anyone else besides my own kids. But one day, I shared this dream with my house mate. He said that sounded like an awesome idea. He thought a road trip with all of us would be totally doable. It made me nervous, but excited at the same time. Travelling can be dicey even with the closest of families. What about taking a blended "family" on a 16 hour road trip? I will reiterate...I proceed with caution...

With the idea of taking 4 kids instead of two kids, my perspective changed. I also started to see the qualities of each house in each of the four kids. Ironically, they each embody the traits and characteristics of each of the Four Hogwarts Houses. I was delighted that while I was shopping over Spring Break this year, I found the perfect gift for each of the kids in preparation for this journey:

They each recieved their house T-shirt.

So, who are these four individuals? Lets meet them. 

Carrick, is the main character in this journey. It's all because of him. So, let's meet Carrick first, shall we? Carrick and I share a special bond in the we are the two Ravenclaw representatives on this Hogwarts journey. "Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure" is the house motto of Ravenclaw. Ravenclaws are the oddballs as well as the innovative thinkers. Carrick has embraced his inner "nerd" as he calls it and it has become part of his identity. He has found power within himself by drawing out his wit and using it. Carrick and I like to engage in deep conversations and bounce theories off eachother. As a Ravenclaw myself, I see the same traits in Carrick. There is no mistaking his Hogwarts House. The Eagle is the mascot of Ravenclaw house, representing the soaring mind and imagination of those who are a part of this house. Carrick's imagination and creativity are boundless. He is my little Ravenclaw.

Lily, my daughter is also someone you may have met before on Fun Dollars blog. She takes after her father in representing Gryffindor House. She is bold. She is courageous. She will look at problems head on. Even though she has timid moments, she is always self-possessed and draws her self up to meet challenges beyond what I would expect from her. The Gryffindor pride and chivalry is deep within her. Nothing holds her back. The Lion is the mascot of Gryffindor, demonstrating the pride and courage of the house.  Lily embodies the lion; a loud roar and a ferocity that lets you know who is boss.

The Hufflepuff of the group is the oldest of the "bonus" kids. (We're not married, so they're not step kids. I have been told "bonus" is the correct term for family-esque members.) For now we will call him Older Brother. He is the rule-follower and the helper of the group. He is the reliable one, the hard worker. He is Hufflepuff through and through. Loyalty is this kid's middle name. The Badger is the mascot of Hufflepuff House, soft and solitary. Older Brother is a sensitive kiddo who prefers one on one time, which is part of why he is such a great helper.

In stark contrast is Little Brother. He is the Slytherin of the group, just like his father. Little Brother is mischief with a devious twist. He has an ornery giggle to match his mischief. He is cunning, in the sense of showing ingenuity. He is always crafting odd little projects from his imagination. He also has quite a bit of ambition. He is likes looking for ways to make money, whether they are realistic or not (Like wanting to resell his unwrapped Halloween candy to the evening walkers in the neighborhood.)  The Mascot of Slytherin House is the snake, small but dangerous. You just never know what that kid will come up with or try to get away with.

We enjoy each of these kids just the way they are. Understanding them within the context of their Hogwarts Houses helps me to relate to them and be a better guide for them. It also helps the kids understand one another too. The kids also pull a sense of pride in representing their Hogwarts Houses. Ravenclaw, Griffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. So, what are these kids doing to earn their own Fun Dollars for the trip? Look for the next Owl to deliver the post. Until then, Happy Spending.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Journey Begins

It's been a while. There's been a lot that has gone on in the world of Fun Dollars. To start with, I had to start over, financially, emotionally, professionally. If you want to know all the details of how I got to where I am now, this is not the time or the place. But if you want to walk with me from where I am now, you are more than welcome on my journey.

My starting place is my current residence. My destination is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. My time frame is Spring Break of 2020. My goal: to pay for a family vacation.

To bring you slightly up to speed, I am now divorced and living with a fellow single parent. Our kids were friends and it just made sense to raise our kids together instead of doing it alone. So, the people on this journey with me are my own children and my housemates; the guy I am seeing and his two kids.

A long time ago, when I was sitting in the NICU in Flagstaff, holding my premature baby boy, I read to him Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It was the first book ever read to Carrick. When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was first built, I knew I wanted to take him there some day. With that in mind, I knew I didn't want to take him to "Harry Potter World" without him actually knowing the story. So, consideration for his own set of the Harry Potter Series became my first hurdle.

Thanks to a sister who works at Half Price Books up in the Chicago suburbs, I acquired a set for Carrick. One by one she supplied me with a complete hardback set of the Harry Potter series. I saved each book as they came to me over the years, all with this Harry Potter trip in mind.

As Carrick's tenth birthday approached, I knew it was time to commit to this cause. Somehow I had to find a way to make this happen for him, in the most magical way possible. So for his tenth birthday, he received the entire set of Harry Potter books with instructions. If he could read all 7 Harry Potter books before his 11th birthday, he would get a trip to Hogwarts!

He had already read the Sorcerer's Stone in third grade and began the Chamber of Secrets in fourth grade. So he started where he had left off. He began reading his own copy in the garden of the Burrow. I loved watching him commit to the task. I also enjoyed answering his questions about the books. I remember his first query, "So, mom, why are they tossing the gnomes?"

As he progressed through the pages, I was delighted to see that he really was enjoying his reading time. My other "secret agenda" with all of this was to get him to read more. Before these books came along, it was all I could do to get him to read a Dog Man book. While there's nothing wrong with Dog Man, I knew the value of reading a book not laid out like a comic. Delving into a plot, discovering the characters, and immersing his imagination in a way that sparks his desire to keep on with the book is what I was after.

He has now completed books 1 through three and began on book 4 last week. I totaled the number of pages from his starting point in Chamber of Secrets and it came out to an average of 10 pages a day. So far he is on track. Even if he doesn't finish by his 11th birthday, Spring Break is a month and a half after he turns 11. (Just in case...) He has demonstrated commitment and discipline to this project, and I have no doubt that he will accomplish his goal. He has turned off his ipad at night in order to spend his time reading. He started taking his book to school to read when he is finished with his homework.

I am so excited to share this journey with him and with you. I have to go now...I hear the Sorting Hat calling.
Carrick's 10th Birthday. The complete set of Harry Potter delivered by Hootie the Owl. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sensible Splurge

If there is one time I count on splurging a little, it's on my coveted sister visits. When I lived in Arizona, I was fortunate enough to get to visit my sister once a year. Sometimes it was by myself, sometimes it was with one or both kids. Whatever the company, or lack thereof, I always enjoyed getting together with the person who has known me the longest in this life, my sister.

Last year, I went to help my sister with her new baby while her husband was gone to a conference. As a first time mom, and a working mom at that, she was in need of someone to watch her daughter whom she knew and trusted. I am sure that her mother-in-law would have happily made the six hour drive for the weekend to baby sit her first granddaughter. I knew my mom would not have thought twice about coming up for the three days either. But the person my sister wanted to hang out with and leave her daughter with was me, her sister, who lived 3 day's drive from her; Phoenix to Chicago. Needless to say I flew instead of drove.

My husband was gracious enough to grant me my ultimate wish of wishes, to babysit my niece!!! I purchased the plane ticket and arranged for a babysitter for my own (older) children. A few weeks later, I was landing in O'Hare.

Since I knew that "Sister Visit" is synonymous with "Shopping" I asked Corey before I left if I could have a Fun Dollars budget for the weekend. I was given $100 to use wisely for any and all purchases. I knew I had to be smart about what I bought, so even though I bought some items for full price, I did so with discernment. I shopped with my existing wardrobe in mind and made a few new additions while staying within my budget.

During the time my sister was not at work, she and I drove to our favorite shopping spots; Woodfield Mall, Target, Khol's, Old Navy, DSW, and IKEA (not for clothes...). Just a couple of Sister Shoppers about town. Then during the time she was at work, I warmed bottles and changed diapers, loving every minute of it.

Of the items I chose to bring home from my sister visit, this outfit became one of my favorites. I wear the long-sleeved elephant-embroidered t-shirt on a regular basis. It's my signature shirt now. I wear it with the skirt pictured, or with jeans, or with a black skirt, or black dress pants. Sometimes I might even wear it with leggings if I feel daring enough to pull it off. The shirt came from Ragstock, ringing in at $13.00, full price.

The skirt I found on clearance at Target for $7.00. I wear it with the elephant shirt, or a white tank top. I also have a black tank top and a grey short-sleeved shirt I can rotate with the skirt. But when I wear the elephant shirt with the skirt, with the grey leggings (cropped out of the picture, and also from Target,) I am wearing an entirely "Sister Visit" outfit. I bought all of those items while shopping with one of my best friends, my sister.

Now that I live in Illinois, and only a 4 hour drive away, I look forward to many more sister visits (and babysitting opportunities!)

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Next to Nothing

This post is in honor of my late grandmother, Helen Elizabeth Robinson. With the news of her passing today, I feel it is only fitting that I share with you her influence on my Fun Dollars spending.

For as long as I can remember, at least part of my wardrobe has consisted of second-hand clothes. I used to go shopping with my mother at various consignment shops when I was in grade school. Some of my most memorable outfits as a child came from these stores. At first, I was self-conscious about wearing clothes that other people had worn. I thought that somehow other kids at school would know that my clothes weren't expensive and make fun of me. However, it was my grandmother's pride in bargain-hunting, thrift store shopping and rummage sale purchasing that dissipated my notions of inferiority.

My grandmother was never bashful about her bargain buys. To her it was a joy and a triumph that must be shared with all.  If someone complimented her on an outfit or a piece of jewelry, her response was never, "Thank you", it was, "I got this at 65% off at Carson's..." and ramble on about the sales person she talked to, what other purchases she made and how much she spent and saved all together. With Helen, it was always about the bottom line, her savings.

Her eagerness to share prices didn't stop at compliments, either. It spilled over into her gift giving as well. It didn't matter if she was giving you a birthday present, Christmas present, or a "just because" present, she would always leave the price tag on the gift. Then, upon opening the gift, there would be some recollection of where she bought it and how much she saved when she purchased it, oftentimes referencing the price tag that remained.  Grandma relished a good find when sale shopping and bargain hunting and was never ashamed to admit it.

My grandmother was a frugal indulger. She wouldn't think twice about going to a rummage sale and buying an outfit for $1.00. It didn't matter if she had 10 pairs of jeans at home, if she was at a rummage sale or thrift store and found a pair that fit, she would take them home with her.  Every time I saw her she wore something different. Her wardrobe seemed like a bottomless pit of clothes, none of which were ever purchased at full price.

I remember going to her house once upon a time and she had clothes hanging up on her shower curtain rod in her bathroom, just like they would be hanging up in a closet. At first I thought that maybe she had hung them there to dry. I came to find out she had run out of space in her closet and had nowhere to put them. Her shower rod was simply bonus storage space. And make no mistake, all of those clothes were second-hand or purchased at rock-bottom prices. They were all things she couldn't pass up because they were inexpensive.

I learned to take pride in my frugal spending. Maybe not sharing how much I spent with everyone who comments on my finds, but I never hesitate to share where I bought something. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. If someone likes something, sharing a bit of the history is part of the fun of the hunt. And, once in a while, when it's appropriate, I will share the wonderful bargain price or the amazing deal on whatever is complimented.

One of the reasons I enjoy shopping at Goodwill is to prove that looking fabulous doesn't have to cost a fortune. I also have no problem wearing inherited clothes from friends. My days of apprehension about wearing second-hand items are long gone.

So, today's outfit cost me next to nothing. At a grand total of $10.00, this outfit rocks the house. It's one of my new favorite. It is comfortable and looks sharp. The Jones New York shirt from Goodwill cost $5.00. The pants were inherited from my neighbor. The tank top was $2.00 at Forever 21. The Jennifer Lopez sandals were also from Goodwill, and half price for a whopping $3.00 (shirt and shoes were both a part of the $20.00 summer clothes budget, by the way.)

My grandmother would have been so proud; looking this good for only $10.00.

In Loving Memory of Helen Elizabeth Robinson.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


If I could share one piece of advice to newbies starting their closet curation process, it is this: Purchase items that will work with more than one thing you already own. The more versatile your clothes are, the more outfit options you have. You can turn three pieces into six outfits if you know how to shop. Since I am primarily budget-minded when I shop, I don't like to buy things that can only be worn one way. If I buy a shirt, I think back to the bottoms I have that might go with it. If I buy capris, I imagine my closet and the shirts hanging in it that will coordinate. Versatility gives you the option to be ready for any occasion. It allows you to dress for any weather. It gives you more choices when the laundry isn't caught up. And, above all, it saves you money.

This week's clothing theme is "Out of Africa". I have chosen my first five outfits to write about, and they all have some sort of nod to Africa. It's not something I particularly chose when shopping for these outfits, but as it happened, I have shown an affinity to bolder prints over the past few years.

After going through ALL of my clothes, I noticed I had several groupings of similarly-themed outfits. There is my "Out of Africa" collection, which I will be sharing this week. Next I will show off my "Pretty in Pink" collection. After that, I will move into "Stipes and Solids", finishing off with "Glitz and Glam". After sharing all my work clothes I will do a bonus week of my "Evening Out" clothes. These are like my "honorable mentions". They are clothes with stories, but not necessarily ones I would wear to work. 

To kick off my "Out of Africa" week, here is my first outfit. It consists of a cheetah print tiered skirt, leggings, and a black camisole. On Monday, when I wore this outfit, the temperature outside was 46. Needless to say, I was not going to waltz outside in a cami and sandals. However, the high was supposed to reach 76 in the afternoon. I knew I didn't want to be sweaty and gross after work while picking up the kids. So, I planned ahead. I wore a black sweater and a puffy vest in the morning with my sheepskin boots. After lunch, I went out to my car for a quick-change. I swapped boots for sandals, and a black cardigan for the sweater and vest. Lighter clothes to feel cooler in my day...planning for the versatility I knew I would need. 

At the core of my outfit is the cheetah print skirt. I bought this at one of my favorite stores when I lived in Sedona. Allie Ollie was my place to shop. I would meet my best friend there and we would play dress up. Most of the time we would leave with a shopping bag to attest to our store loyalty. The skirt started out one tier longer than what you see pictured. It was originally more versatile than just working for differing temperatures. It was made so that it could be worn as a skirt or a dress! I never did like it as a dress and for about two years, I would roll the waistband/bodice so that it would cover up the top tier and shorten the skirt. I wanted it to look as short as in the pictures I am showing you now. After wearing an incredibly tight waistband for two years, I thought to myself one day, "I will never ever wear this as a dress. Why do I torture myself by making the waist band so tight just to get the length I want? Why not just cut off the bottom layer?" By making the decision to shorten the skirt, I was giving myself the freedom to wear the skirt more often. I didn't like wearing it that much because it was either too long, or too uncomfortable. 

Now I wear it so much more often because it's the length I want and it's comfortable. I wear it in the summer time with a cami or tank top and no leggings. I wear it in the spring and fall with opaque leggings and a layer over the cami. On cooler days the layer is the black sweater; it's one of my lighter sweaters. On warmer days I layer the sheer, black cardigan. I change my shoes out according to the temperature too (boots or sandals). In the winter time, I wear my black, fleece-lined leggings and a heavier, creme colored sweater. It breaks up the darkness of the black when it's already so dark outside. 

One skirt I can wear year-round with three different tops. I never put this skirt away for the seasonal shift. It is a permanent fixture in my closet. Its construction and fiber content have allowed it to hold up in shape and color for so many years I have lost count. I think it might be a six or seven-year-old purchase? Fun Dollars very well spent. 

This skirt is the hallmark of versatility. Even though I can't wear it as a dress anymore, it is still incredibly versatile and works on many levels in my wardrobe. 

Take a look at what you have in your closet this week. Find the items you own that are the most versatile. Maybe they are items that can be dressed up and dressed down. Maybe they are things you have that can be worn with several other items. See what you have that can serve you in more than one season. Take note of these items. They are the backbone of  your closet. 

Until Next Time....Happy Closet Curating!