Chosen One

alone

I wrote this post a few nights ago, and then didn’t publish it. It sounds pretty whiney, which I am not proud of. And I’m doing really well lately. But you never know when someone else might be feeling the same way, so I’m going to share it anyway.

Sometimes I wonder why I was chosen to live this life.

I don’t mean this in a woe-is-me-why-me kind of way, I truly don’t. Honestly, I mean this question as a serious contemplation. Why was I chosen for this path? Why was I selected as the person to be The Hubs’ wife, to become a widow, to be a single parent, to spend my life alone now?

I never would have expected these things. But here they are. Deep down, I truly believe that there is a reason for all of this, for the path my life has taken, for the things other have to endure.

I have to believe that.

I don’t know those reasons, I don’t know what grand scheme they play into, I don’t even know who makes those reasons…I don’t know anything. I just know what I feel in my heart to be true. And in my heart, I believe there has to be a grand plan. Only a God of epic proportions could create all of the intricate, unexplainable beauty in this world, so it stands to balance that only that God could be behind all of the pain as well. And if the Jesus I know, that forgiving, accepting, loving, renewing presence, has anything to do with that God, then it can’t be all for nothing. The sorrow and devastation has to eventually be for good somehow, even if I can’t see it now. I have to have faith in that, in something, or it would all seem so pointless that I wouldn’t be able to hold on.

My faith could be wrong, I don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows. But isn’t that the very essence of faith? Believing when you don’t know?

So, I have to believe that there is a reason.

I just wish I knew what that reason was. If I knew why, if I knew for sure that there even was a why, it would make living with the questions a little more bearable. Maybe if I knew there was another chapter for me out there, it would make the waiting a little more pleasant.

I know I am fortunate. I often look at myself from the outside… yearning and contemplating while sitting inside my comfortable home, listening to beautiful music, comforting myself with a nice glass of wine and a plush blanket, just feet down the hall from my amazing child… and I feel such GUILT. Who am I to feel that I am suffering when there are such wonderful blessings around me?

But sometimes I still ache.

Sometimes I wonder if I was chosen to be alone.

Expectations

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Expectations. You’re better off without them.

So many times over the past four years, I have lived with expectations. Whether it was conscious or subconscious, they were there. Expectations for myself, like how I ‘should’ act or feel, or what a ‘normal/good’ widow would do. Expectations for others, believing that things wouldn’t eventually change when many of the people close to The Hubs said they would stay in our lives. Expectations for the future, in some ways just treading water in the present while constantly looking toward what is next: when will this all be over, when will the next chapter get here, what is coming and when will it start?

But having expectations only sets you up for failure.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that there is no way to know what is coming. If you get so caught up on what could or what you think should happen, on planning your life out, on behaving a certain way or expecting certain behavior from others, on waiting for the perfect moments to get here so you can do certain things…well, you might be waiting forever.

You’re better off without expectations. Does this mean we shouldn’t have standards, should stop striving, stop being motivated, turn off our ambition and sit back on the couch not caring about life? No. Not at all. But it’s important to realize that we aren’t in control, and no matter how much we prepare and hope for things to happen, it’s possible that life might have another plan.

So don’t set your expectations in stone. Don’t pin your happiness on those set things. Make sure they are fluid, or leave them out to shore altogether.

Besides, you never know.

It could be much more fun to discover the unexpected beauty that washes up at your feet. <3

 

This post is a response to the weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama’s Losin’ It!. Learn more about the ‘pretty much famous’ weekly prompts here. This week I chose: “You’re better off without it….” 

Kids Chore Chart & Allowance Jars + Free Printables

Now that Little Man is the big five, I’ve been trying to give him a little more freedom (using an empty public restroom alone is so exciting!). I’ve also been giving him a little more responsibility. This is a great age when children are eager to learn and eager to please, and are beginning to form the foundation for lifelong habits. One of the things I’ve implemented with success is a chore and allowance system. I’ve had a few questions about it so I thought I’d share what we are doing. I am no expert, this is just what works for us and it is still fairly new so I am sure it will get tweaked as we go.

kidschoreandallowancesystem

Choosing Chores

Little Man has always been my little helper and has regularly had small things he is expected to do around the house. So when deciding on official chores, I thought first about what he was already succeeding at. I wanted these goals to be attainable to give him a sense of accomplishments. However, I also thought about would stretch him and help me as well. There are many resources out there regarding age-appropriate chores than can assist you in determining what would be best for your kiddo. I ended up with six chores: making the bed, feeding the fish, setting the table, clearing the table, cleaning up toys, and making sure laundry is sorted properly. These are daily chores that he is expected to do simply as a “good citizen” member of the household. In addition, each week I might add on a few optional “extra jobs” he can complete to earn extra. These are things that might help me out that week, like taking down decorations or wiping down the windows.

Creating and Using a Chore Chart

When I started developing our chore chart, I looked around at so many lovely blogs and websites that shared their own kid’s chore systems for inspiration. After researching for a while and thinking I would have to make my own because none were just right, I stumbled across one at The Gilded Pear that was absolutely perfect for what I wanted! I figured rather than recreate the wheel, I would utilize the awesome chart she shared in her post about children’s allowances. (Thank you Leisha!) I chose the blue and green version and modified it to suit our needs. I keep it on the fridge (for now, eventually it will go on a clipboard so the kiddo can reach it himself) inside a clear page protector. I can mark it daily using a dry erase marker, and then erase it at the end of the week. I also store a Notes page on the flipside of the page protector that details the specifics of the chore and allowance system, so that grandparents or anyone that might stay with Little Man can refer to it if needed.

chore charts-green & blue

Determining Allowance Amount

I think is very personal to each family’s unique dynamics. You may find that your child is motivated by a small amount, or that you can afford to offer a larger amount. I did a little research on this as well, looking around various financial sites to see what was recommended. I ended up deciding to use the child’s age to determine earning power. So, since Little Man is five years old, he has the potential to earn $5. When he turns six, his allowance will increase to $6, and so on. Once he reaches teen years, I’ll likely reevaluate this depending on his maturity level, involvement in school/volunteerism/extracurriculars, driving status, etc. But for now, I anticipate this working well for many years.

Earning Allowance

Little Man is expected to complete all of his chores daily, Monday-Saturday, with Sunday free for resting. He earns check marks on his chore chart for each one he completes. At the end of the week, if he has received all of his check marks each day he has earned his allowance. If he misses any chores, his allowance is reduced by a certain amount per chore not completed. His allowance can be increased for that week by completing any “extra jobs” I might have for him. It can also be reduced for behavior. It is known that everyone is expected to be kind and respectful to each other in our household. I wasn’t sure how I was going to track this on the chart, but The Gilded Pear‘s chart integrated it in a fun way for kids. If there are repeated instances of disrespect or mean behavior, his chart is marked with frown faces. If he receives a certain number of frowns, he knows his allowance is forfeited for the week. (So far this hasn’t happened!)

Pay Day

Sunday is Pay Day, the kiddo’s favorite day haha. On Pay Day, Little Man and I sit down together and review his chart. We tally up how much he has earned from regular chores and extra jobs, and if necessary make any deductions. I also use this as a teaching opportunity, taking the time to talk about how proud I am of his responsibility or gently suggest corrections he can make for the upcoming week. Once the final amount has been reached, we bring out the Bank.

The Bank and Money Tracker

To make it a little more fun, I made a “family bank” that holds all of the money I use to pay out allowances. His eyes get so big when as he watches me open the bank and draw out dollar bills and quarters. :) We had a lot of fun creating our bank together. I used a simple office storage box from Target and let Little Man choose stickers to decorate it with. At the beginning of each month I pull out a few week’s worth of allowances (which I have factored into my monthly budget) in singles and put them in the bank. I wanted to teach Little Man about the importance of knowing where your money goes, so I also keep a Money Tracker sheet in the bank. I made a simple form that the kiddo and I use together to record how much he earns each week and what goes in and out of the bank. We also use this form to determine how his allowance is distributed among his three jars.

bank1bank2Kids Money Tracker

The Three Jar System

Another big lesson I wanted Little Man to learn is how to manage his money. Once again (noticing a trend here? yes, I love to research things!) I looked around quite a bit for inspiration on child-appropriate ways to teach money management. One of the first things I came upon was the Three Jar system, and I loved the idea behind it. This system divides the child’s allowance among three jars: spend, save, and share. The official Three Jar site uses an online program and has other specifics, but I wanted to tweak the idea to fit our family.

Since Little Man is motivated by visual reminders, I decided to use clear glass jars so he could see his earnings grow. I used some stickers that I let Little Man pick out and labeled the jars Spend, Save, and Give (rather than share, to really nail home the idea that we are giving not to receive anything in return).

Each week, his allowance is divided with 40% to Spend, 40% to Save, and 20% to Give (so with his $5 allowance, he gets $2 each to Spend and Save, and $2 to Give). This might sound too complicated for kids, but its pretty simple right now and as he gets older it will be great math practice. :) The Spend jar is his to do with as he wants. If he wants to spend each dollar on M&M’s the second he earns them, that is his choice. He earned it. If he wants to keep it in the jar to grow and buy a TV with it later, so be it. The Save jar is for savings only. Money is never removed from this year, with the exception of once a quarter or so when we will take it to the bank and deposit it in his savings account. The Give jar is money that is designated for others. He might use it to purchase a gift for someone or to donate somewhere.

jars1jars2

jars3jars4

Putting It All Together

It all sounds like a very complicated system when you type it out, but I promise it’s not. It has been working very smoothly and is already rewarding for Little Man and I both! He is motivated to work and is learning to be patient as he waits to earn his allowance each week. He is also learning about the value of money and buying things; his little eyes get big when he reads the prices on toys that he never noticed before. He is (slowly, haha) learning to weigh the benefits of immediate gratification (must buy this $1 piece of crap toy right.now. before my money burns a hole in my pocket) with the satisfaction of saving up to get what you really want (a $6 airplane is the goal of the past two weeks). It makes my heart swell as I see him contemplating ways he can use the money in his Give jar (I’ll buy Nana some pie! or give some toys to kids who don’t have any!). Yes, it adds a little more work to my day and week to supervise and administer the system, but it is negligible. Every time I see his face light up with satisfaction at checking off a chore or hear him ask if he can help me, every time I see him count out dollars on his tiny little fingers or scrawl his name across the top of his tracker in his little misshapen handwriting, I realize what an important foundation is being formed.

If you are looking to get started with a chore system, please check out the links I’ve listed throughout this post. Also, I’ve turned my Chore Chart and Allowance Notes as well as the Kids Money Tracker into free printables, so feel free to download them and use them if you’d like. Click on the images below to download a PDF. Easy-peasy! :)

Chore and Allowance Notes . Kids Money Tracker
Do you implement a chore chart and allowance system in your home? What do you use? Share in the comments!

Linked up at Polkadots on Parade

tristan

Looks like the kiddo will become a successful swiss banker. :)

Tuesday Tunes | Wake Me Up

Aloe Blacc — Wake Me Up

Each week I share a currently meaningful or relevant song from my playlist. You can check out past Tuesday Tunes here. I love new music, so please share your favorite tunes in the comments or use the new the new weekly linky below! This is the first go at a weekly linkup, so please share! :)

Tuesday Tunes Weekly Link Up!

User Doesn’t Exist

It may have been more than four years now, but there are still random occurrences that sucker-punch me in the gut. Like today.

I’ve kept The Hubs’ email account open for a few reasons I don’t need to go into. If I haven’t had to check it in a while, I try to sign in periodically to make sure the account doesn’t get purged. Today I realized it had been a while so I tried to log in. And what did Hotmail (or Live or Outlook or whatever it is now) greet me with?

“This user doesn’t exist.”

Thanks for rubbing it in, Hotmail.

I tried a few more times, googled a bit, and tried to use my horrible excuse for a memory to recall when I last accessed the account. Well, it turns out what felt like “a while” must have been a year because the account was deleted.

nooovia

Punch in the gut. This happened to me with my old Hotmail account about a year or so ago. I had kept it active just so I could save all of the emails/pics/etc I had acquired from 2003 to 2007 before I switched to Gmail, but I let it go a little too long and Hotmail deleted it. I was devastated to lose it without a backup, so I vowed to be careful not to do the same with The Hubs’. Apparently I suck, because now all of his emails, all of our email traffic, everything from 2003 to the day before his death…six years of exchange…is GONE.

Gut punch, I tell ya.

It’s my own fault, so I can’t be too mad. (Although I really think they jumped the gun and it wasn’t quite a year. I mean c’mon, my godawful Yahoo account from high school is still active!) And since I don’t delete non-junk emails, if I really wanted to find something we exchanged between 2007-2009 I could find it in my Gmail. But still. That’s only two years. Just like that, another record of his existence = deleted. Gone.

Maybe it’s for the best. I can’t keep holding on to those types of things. It’s just material, and all of the important stuff is right in here *thumping my chest*. But it still sucks. Really sucks.

Back up your important emails, lovelies. <3

LauraMc

That is just awful! Can you email hotmail and see if they may have a backup somewhere? Anything from the internet is often not truly deleted. I am proud of your for reacting so calmly! What an awful occurrence.

Erin

Good idea, Laura! I think I will, it can’t hurt. Might as well ask about my old one as well. I’ve made peace with it if they say no, but if they can offer something it would be nice to have! You can bet I’d be backing it up ASAP! ;)

I kept Kevin’s email alive on hotmail as well-I probably haven’t check it in 2+ years, so imagine the same things has happened to his. Probably not something I want to face.