Kids on the Run

I really love the Girls on the Run program and I so wished we had something similar here in Kosovo.  Even a simple running group for kids would be wonderful. -- I know Girls on the Run is more than that but I'm not greedy.  And no, even though they call themselves "Girls on the Run International", they are not, in fact, international.  I asked.  They did say that I could create my own chapter but they want $7,500 as an initial investment.  I can think of a lot of things I could buy for this country for $7,500. 

I really wanted my kids to run, though.

Alan has been having a rough time with his health this year.  First his tonsillectomy, complete with two (minor) bleeding incidents, then the nasty pneumonia. It turned out that for the most part, the hospital didn't have NaCl to give the IV antibiotics with, so they used glucose.  I don't know whether that's standard practice but let me tell you, if you get half a liter of glucose for three weeks straight, it wreaks havoc on your body, and that's not only your weight.  Alan's fitness was non-existent at the end of the treatment.  He'd gained weight, and was exhausted all that time.

We started slowly by taking Alan on walks - the first one tired him so much, I freaked.  It was uncanny to see my boy, who could walk and bike for miles and miles, completely out of breath after an easy walk of one kilometer.  A few minutes on the trampoline left him completely winded with chest pain.  More maternal freakage.  Regular walk with his Dad after dinner every evening started to have a positive effect.  But that got me thinking...

Did you know that regular exercise is good for ADHD kids? It calms them and makes them more focused.  Alan used to get lots of exercise biking but we couldn't bring our bikes and around here it's not really a good place to go biking by yourself.  But would Alan even want to run?  For years, I had been dropping hints about my godchild Allison who's doing the Girls on the Run program.  My boys were never interested.  Their Dad even ran with Allison as her buddy on one of the runs.  No interest from my kids. Clearly, it was not going to happen on its own.

So I decided to bribe them.  I started with my oldest.  I chose a ridiculous bribe, really, and instantly regretted it (an iPod Touch! Eeek!  What was I thinking!??) but Alan showed immediate interest.  He's been wanting one for a long time now.   I suggested using the C25K program (Couch to 5K for those uninitiated) on my iPhone. You start with a 5 minutes warm up, then alternate jogging and walking (60/90sec) for a total of 20 minutes, and another 5 minutes of cool down.  I had no idea whether that was a good idea but you know?  I decided to try.

Alan and I did our first run on Saturday. It was surprisingly good - I didn't think he could do it but he did it just fine.  Then, yesterday, Leah really wanted to join in.  I was dubious - I didn't want to slow down for her, and I really wanted to focus on Alan.  I thought she was too young, too slow, too fragile. Hah. She ran like there was no tomorrow.  No complaints, no slowing down, no nothing.  She slipped once in the horrid mud that covers everything right now, but bounced back up and kept running.  Why was I surprised?  After all, she basically learned to walk on a trampoline and has been jumping for years now.  That girl is pure muscle and strength. Silly mommy.

Alan was pleased to notice that we ran a lot further (well, 500m further) than on Saturday before we turned around at the 15-minute mark.  I confess, I was pleased as well.  Mind you, we're not going fast at all.  Our run speed is about 9km/hr, so that's just a fast walk, really.  The aim is to be able to run for half an hour, though, not to finish a 5K as quickly as possible.  Endurance is the name of the game (also for me!  In particular for me!). Speed we can do later.

After the run yesterday, I finally looked up 5K training for kids (I don't actually count Alan as a kid anymore) and it suggested a 1 minute jog/5 minute walk for kids.  Jacob, who does not like walking or running, and who does not have the body-built of a runner, agreed to try this with his dad.  Right before, he almost opted out (he hates competing with a vengeance - does. not. like. it. at. all.)  That's why I thought it would be good for him to be alone with his Dad but then he complained he would be so lonely without his siblings.  I finally just pushed him out of the door.  Doug was very pleased to report that it was not a problem at all for Jacob and that both of them actually enjoyed this time together.  Jacob even reported it was fun because they "could talk all the time!"  Whatever it takes, my kid.   After they got back, David finally agreed to run as well.  The last pin to fall over, so to say.

So now we're all training for a 5K!  All that's left is to find a run somewhere - best in the US because in Germany, there are very few open races -- mostly, you have to be a member of an athletic club to run in a race.  We actually found a color run (not an original Color Run, though) close to Nashville, TN, when we are in the area in June.  We are waiting another week to see how we're doing, and then we'll sign up for that run.  It's a walk/run 5K for people from 2 to 100, basically, so even if the kids can't entirely run the 5,000 meters, they can certainly finish it and I hope it will be a great experience for them.   I doubt there will be cows, though...

 Look, cows!

Look, cows!

 Run, girl, run!

Run, girl, run!

 Finished!

Finished!

How to teach your kids about money

I guess you could just be lucky and have frugal kids who know all about how to handle money and budget their allowances from the day they were born.  If so, congratulations, you have totally lucked out.  In fact, I have one of those.  He reminds me of my brother who is the same way.  My brother also always had money. The three others, though...  they are more like I was when I was a kid.  I had to learn budgeting the hard way when I went away to college.  I'd like my kids to be able to do this before they leave home one day.

We set up allowances a while back.  It wasn't much, only a Euro or so per week.  However, Doug never paid out their money for fear they'd just spend it on candy. (Which is true for, well, at least two of them.)  That's not quite the way to go, I objected.  That's not how they learn to handle their own money, that's how they learn to be mad at Daddy.  If you are a natural spender, you have to hit rock bottom at least once to see how spending all your money will get you in trouble.

Back when we homeschooled, I thought it was a good idea to incorporate that into the curriculum.  I bought a book or two but nothing much ever came of it.  Partly that was because we stopped homeschooling shortly after, and partly because we didn't have a good system in place for their allowances and spending (see above).

Then, a few weeks ago, I read about FamZoo somewhere on the Internet.  It sounded interesting enough to check it out.  What is it, you ask?

FamZoo is a family friendly web site that helps parents teach children the practical skills they’ll need to thrive in the real world. Our learn-by-doing online tools include:
  • A virtual family bank for teaching money basics, managing allowances & chores, setting budgets, tracking savings goals, encouraging charitable giving, and much more.
  • Family checklists for making and sharing lists of all kinds: weekly chores, ToDos, homework assignments, groceries ... you name it!
Using FamZoo together, families build strong financial, social, and organizational habits in a safe, friendly environment.

Basically, what it does is it tracks all the allowances virtually and you as the parent hold the actual money.  You dole it out, you control it. 

The strength of the program is its flexibility.  You can choose three basic types of accounts for your child.  There is a simple one for very young children where you just pay money in on behalf of the child.  This can be used to keep track of money gifts, like baptism gifts, or birthday gift cards.  The next stage is for school-age children and is divided into Spending and Saving, and the stage after that is Spending/Saving/Charitable Giving.  Another nice feature is that you can set up what is called Saving Goals.  Alan is saving money for a Nintendo 3DS - so half of his weekly allowance is going into his savings account - the program will tell you how long it will take for him to reach this goal (in November) which is a great visual help. 

In the meantime, we keep track of all the money he is spending by writing it all down.  If he needs some money, he comes to me and asks for it.  I give him the actual physical money and he tells me what he plans to spend it on.  This way, he can keep track of his spending.  The kids can also sign into their accounts (and only their accounts) to check balances.  Only the parents can view all accounts.

One can set up payable chores (I'm firmly in the "we are family and we all contribute" camp and refuse to pay for things like making the bed or setting the table), or debits for misbehavior like fibbing or not doing homework.  If they lose 10 cents each day for not making their beds, those beds are soon as tidy as you could wish for!

I love how the program makes their in- and outgoing money streams visible for them. We have a rule that you own any money you find on the floor, so every day I have a child coming to me giving me a cent or two to add to their accounts.  It adds up quickly and shows them that every penny counts.  (I'm still waiting for the day when there are no more coins on the floor - where do they come from?) 

FamZoo also has a (very basic) phone app which is very practical when you are on the go and the kids want to purchase a souvenir in Paris, or buy cotton candy at the fair.   

The result of all this is that David has been able to buy a much coveted Nintendo 3DS after his birthday instead of getting it from us - this makes him extra proud, especially since he has quite a bit of money left in his account (he is my little miser). 

The allowances get automatically credited to their accounts every week so there is no more forgetting and the kids can't lose their money since they only own it virtually.  For easy of use we are equating Dollars and Euros which is a great deal for our kids but if I start to convert those currencies back and fro, I'll never see the end of it. 

For us, this is a great solution.  It's true that the service costs a fee  (starting at $2.50 a month for the prepaid service) and you could probably set up an Excel file to emulate the program but I'm willing to shell out that money for all the visuals and ease-of-use. We already see great results and I'm hoping that once they go off to college, they know exactly how to budget their money and how to make the most of it.

The verdict:  Recommended