Wednesday, August 27, 2008

over and under

That phrase says it all about the state of things around here: I am overwhelmed with work and responsibilities and I have been under the weather -- nothing serious, just enough to be annoying.

This blog was one of the more obvious casualties, but it is right up there with the out-of-sight victims, including "the pile of laundry in my basement" and "the weeds in my garden" and "the ickiness on my shower floor" and… well, you get the picture.

I am employing my time-honored system to overcome the more glaring and pressing issues: feudal labor.

In addition to the confessions about my laundry and garden and shower floor, I also feel compelled to confess that I do not pay my children an allowance.

I never have. And I don’t intend to start anytime soon, unless they threaten to out my petty, penny-pinching ways in front of all their friends.

You see, I have conditioned my children to ask for paying jobs around the house should they have some material itch that needs to be scratched. Don’t get me wrong; they do not get paid to do everyday chores. (That is why, for the most part, they avoid doing them.) But if I, or they, am in a bind, then the feudal labor system comes into play: I pay them a ridiculously low amount to do a job that, by all accounts, I should be doing myself.

Take that big project I was working on at the beginning of the summer. I paid the older two to watch their baby brother, and I paid the littlest one to be good and mind them. The catch was that they did not get paid if they were watching TV. (I knew from experience that I could do that myself, with far less financial consequence.) This led them to spend vast amounts of time outside, playing various games with each other in the fresh air, and I patted myself on the back for buying myself some peace and quiet while tricking encouraging them to spend time in the great outdoors enjoying each other’s company in relative harmony.


Mind you, it cost me plenty. They kept track of their time, and laboriously worked out their daily earnings, and eventually earned enough to buy Rock Band by the time I finished the project. (I deluded myself that I was also encouraging their math skills.) This was very fortuitous timing, as the steady tick-tick-tick of the pseudo-drum set would have driven me straight round the bend while I was working on that particular project.

(I tried to upload a very cute video of them playing Rock Band which -- at the same time of the cuteness -- demonstrated how annoying that tick-tick-tick is. But I cannot get YouTube to upload the video, and I am too tired to figure it out tonight. I will post it tomorrow if I get it worked out. Meanwhile, a picture of them playing will have to speak a thousand words instead. Terzo is playing the part of back-up dancer.)


Which brings me to today’s sisyphean task: picking the plum tomatoes.

As with the “no pay for sticking your little brother in front of the TV” rule, I have wised up a little in the chores-for-cash department. If I had offered to pay them a flat rate for picking the tomatoes, I would have ended up with twenty tomatoes and them swearing on my grave that the garden did not contain one more ripe tomato.


Instead, I offered to pay them per pound, which resulted in a little more dedication to the task. At this point, they are over sixty pounds and counting. They have picked five plants, with three to go. (I made them take the pictures of their progress, too. I drive a hard bargain.)


And I still managed to buy myself -- literally -- a little peace and quiet while they were outside this afternoon. Whatever the bill eventually comes to, it will be well worth the cash.

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