Dollars and Sense

I’ll never forget my first real job. I’m not talking about chores around the house for allowance; I’m talking about the first time someone outside of my family hired me to do a job that I actually got paid for.

My family was living in Bird City, Kansas (a tiny town in the northwestern corner of the state) and I got “hired” to work in a little grocery store just two doors down from where my Mom worked as a teller at the First National Bank. There were two grocery stores in Bird City at the time (which was pretty incredible considering the population at the time was fewer than 500). I worked three days a week for an hour after school stocking the soda cooler. I’d organize the single cans into neat rows, and sometimes make six-packs by popping the cans into the plastic rings. I was paid $1.00, and usually spent 50 cents of it on candy before I left the store. The rest ended up in my piggy bank back home. If memory serves, I was 8-years-old.

I learned very quickly how great it felt to earn money and buy things I wanted. My parents always provided for Lindy and I, and made our lives comfortable, but there was something I enjoyed immensely about being able to watch my stash of cash grow and walk into a store to buy something that I worked hard to save up for.

I quickly graduated from stocking the soda cooler to spending my summers mowing lawns for both sets of grandparents and the neighbor lady who owned the vacant house next door, and babysitting for several families in the neighborhood. I got my first legit, let-the-government-take-half-my-paycheck-in-taxes job when I was a freshman in high school, logging 20+ hours a week at the local grocery store, Hinky Dinky, where I stocked shelves, scrubbed floors, and worked as a cashier, wearing the regulation Hinky Dinky polo and bright blue smock.

Working may not always be fun, but it is always rewarding. There’s always a sense of accomplishment and pride when you complete a task. And if you have a job that you actually enjoy, you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to earn a living and maybe even have a good time while you’re doing it.

Thankfully I married a man who shares my work ethic, and who also believes that it is important to teach our children the value of a dollar and that we live in a world where you are expected to work hard for what you want–whether that be tangible items you want to purchase from a store or more abstract goals you want to accomplish.

We started teaching this to Cadence very early. We enjoy buying things and treating her to thing we know she wants, but we are also very comfortable telling her no. She has chores she is expected to complete around the house without compensation–things like keeping her room clean, throwing her dirty laundry down the laundry chute, and taking her plate to the kitchen after meals. We feel it’s important for her to know that there are some things you just need to do without reward. Other things, like cleaning her bathroom or helping us clean up the yard, we offer her a small payment, which she promptly runs to deposit in her piggy bank.

Cadence has been saving her money for more than a year now. With the exception of a few dollars withdrawn to buy some of the cookies her Kindergarten class made for their Kids for Kids fundraiser (to help buy goats for children in Haiti), she has been quietly adding to her stash and feeling her piggy bank get heavier and heavier with the fruits of her labor (and all the extra pocket change her Papa Duane likes to give her just for being an awesome granddaughter). She finally decided she wanted to empty the bank and count her money and go treat herself to something at Toys R Us, so Stevie and I sat down with her to count all her hard-earned cash.

The one rule we have for Cadence’s money is that she also learn the importance of saving for the future. That means, any withdrawals she makes get “taxed”. Stevie takes 60% to deposit in Cadence’s college fund. The rest, she is free to spend however she wants.

So, we sat down and started, sorting all the coins, and then stacking them. By the time we finished, I think we were all a little surprised to see that Cadence had managed to squirrel away a grand total of $94.10.












Stevie rounded up Cadence’s cut and handed over $40 for her to go shopping. When we arrived at Toys R Us, Cadence was giddy with excitement at the prospect of having so much money in her purse to pick out whatever she wanted.

Stevie took the stroller to go walk around and keep Henry occupied while Cadence and I meandered through the aisles and explored the possibilities. We looked at Barbies and dress up clothes and craft kits. We checked out some Lego kits. Cadence seemed pretty intrigued with the Lego Cinderella Castle and Avengers Tower sets, but scoffed when I told her the price.

“Those are way too expensive,” she said. “Let’s keep looking.”

She kept coming back to the My Little Pony aisle, picking up and putting down a dozen different figures and play sets until she finally decided on the My Little Pony Rainbow Kingdom Playset, with three levels of fun for the small collection of ponies she has managed to collect.


When she found out she had enough money to buy it, she scooped up the box and beamed. She even had $10 left over, which she tells us she wants to take to school when she returns on Monday to donate to help buy another child a goat, or maybe pick out something for her little brother. She hasn’t decided just yet.

Back home, Stevie and Cadence sat down immediately to build Cadence’s new tower, and she has been playing with it non-stop ever since.

She’s already starting to fill that piggy bank back up. She’s hooked, and her daddy and I couldn’t be prouder.

And who knows, maybe one of these days she’ll take us up on the offer to help us pay the mortgage. 😉








Elf on the Shelf 2015 – Day 19

It’s been a bit of a rough week. Lots of projects keeping us busy at work. Lots of activities with Cadence’s school as the year winds down for her Christmas break. Stevie’s office Christmas party on Wednesday. Tickets for Stevie and I to go see the new Star Wars movie late Thursday night. Somehow, every free moment just seemed to get filled up with something.

And then, little H-man got sick.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, we noticed he sneezed a couple times. No big deal.

When I came home for lunch Wednesday, Mom mentioned that he’d been coughing and sneezing quite a bit, and she’d had to wipe his snotty nose a few times.

By the time I got home from work, the poor little dude was coughing, sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes miserable. Mom said she’d thought about calling me at work since he seemed to be getting worse so quickly, but she hated to bother me knowing how busy I was.

Stevie and I were supposed to go to his office’s Christmas Party at home of NU President Hank Bounds, but I couldn’t leave Henry home so miserable. I decided to stay home with the kiddos, while Stevie headed out to the party.

Cadence was crushed. She’d been looking forward to a night hanging out with her friend (and babysitter extraordinaire) Sam Bates for like a month, counting down the days on her calendar on her way to Christmas. Had the heartbreak come a day or two before, it may have given her some time to prepare, but she was hit with the bad news of Henry’s sudden illness and a total change in plans when she walked in the door from school. Poor girl couldn’t hide her disappointment, and it wasn’t long before the tears started flowing.

When we asked Cadence why she was crying, we expected her to say she was sad because Sam wasn’t coming over. Instead, she sobbed about not being able to find her My Little Pony coloring book.

I honestly didn’t even remember that she had a My Little Pony coloring book, but apparently she did and we were suddenly nearing Defcon 1 because she couldn’t locate it.

Stevie and I scoured some of the familiar spots with no luck. Eventually, he had to leave for the party, but Sam Bates saved the day by asking if she could come over and drop off some gifts and hang out for a little bit.

Thank God for Sam Bates. Seriously, I may not have survived the evening without her.

And luckily, whatever crud struck Henry ended up being relatively short-lived. He ran a low-grade fever and had a bit of congestion for a day or two, and then the illness just sort of faded away.

Friday, Cadence’s godmother, Tammy, and I got to go spend some time helping out with her class Christmas party, and then Tammy came over for her and Cadence’s annual gingerbread house building. The two had a blast as always…






And then, late last night after Cadence finally wound down from her class-party-gingerbread-house-construction-sugar-high and fell asleep, Cosette and Leo saved the day by finding the missing My Little Pony coloring book, right where you’d expect it to be hidden in a random Rubbermaid bin in the basement.

Way to go, elves. You guys rock.






Elf on the Shelf 2014 – Days 11, 12, & 13

Well, I haven’t been very good about finding time to post this year, but that doesn’t mean our little elf hasn’t been busy. Here’s what Cosette has been up to the past few days.

First, she played a little hide-and-seek with Cadence and found a good spot to hide in the Christmas tree…





Cadence was tickled when she found her. Tricky little Cosette!

Then, we woke up and found Cosette and Buzz Lightyear in the middle of a rowdy game of Uno…





It was a good game, but Buzz won.

And this morning, we came downstairs for breakfast to discover that Cosette had rounded up all her friends for a little party and a sing-a-long. Who knew Buzz Lightyear was such a great piano player? Looks like they all a lot of fun!





Elf on the Shelf 2013 – Day 4

Other than an accident I had just 11 days after my 16th birthday, I’ve racked up a pretty great driving record. Don’t get me wrong, that one accident was a doozy–three car pile-up that made the front page of the local newspaper (though, to be fair, there’s not a whole lot of other news in Holdrege, Nebraska). The story I wrote about it was even published as a full-page article in the Omaha World Herald my senior year of high school, and to this day, my dad still won’t let me live it down.

And yet, ever since, I’ve done pretty well behind the wheel. I obey traffic signals. I rarely drive more than 2-3 mph over the speed limit. I use my turn signals. And I routinely slow down to let other drivers merge or pull into traffic when I notice them waiting patiently for their turn.

I will admit, though, that moving back to Nebraska has done me some good. During the 9 years I spent living in New York, I developed quite a road rage problem. It’s not that the drivers in New York are bad (that title belongs to drivers in New Jersey and Texas). In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Driver’s in New York are actually seriously amazing at navigating the maze of roads and exits and road construction and commuter vehicles, all packed in like sardines doing 70 on the parkways and racing to beat the lights and avoid pedestrian traffic in the heart of Manhattan. It’s actually a freakin’ miracle that more people aren’t killed on New York roads.

The thing about New York that brings out the road rage in even the best of us is the fact that other drivers will call you out (with deafening bravado) for every idiot thing you do in traffic. Forget to signal a lane change? The guy behind you will lay on his horn for the next two exits. Accidentally cut in front of someone because they were lost in your blind spot? You can bet that guy will tailgate you for the next mile or two, gesticulating wildly and pointing out what an asshole you are to all the drivers around you. And should you get distracted and not notice that the light has turned green, you have about .03 seconds before 5 out of 7 cars behind you treat you to an impromptu symphony of blaring car horns.

In New York, the rage comes, not from the fact that there are an overabundance of bad drivers on the road, but from the fact that you are suddenly made aware of what a shitty and oblivious driver you are.

It’s never fun to realize that you’re the problem, and so the embarrassment turns to rage. And while my time in New York ultimately made me a better, and more conscientious driver, it also turned me into one of the loud, horn-abusing drivers for a brief period in my life.

You live, you learn, right?

This morning, we awoke and discovered Cosette taking a few driving lessons of her own, with Woody manning the controls. Cadence wasn’t impressed. She complained about the fact that the batteries in her My Little Pony car were now dead, and that Cosette was too big for the pony car. If that’s not a little of that New York attitude coming out in my child, I don’t know what is.

You better shape up, Cosette.

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