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Cruising With Kids: Must Haves (and Do Withouts)

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This post is long overdue, as we returned from our Cruise 2016 in early May! But life happened, as it always does, and this got away from me for a bit.

Luckily, I’d jotted down some notes while we were still on the cruise so I wouldn’t forget. And I now present to you a list of “Must Haves” and “Do Withouts” for cruising with young children. Note, this is only from our own experience so I can’t necessarily comment on cruising with older children/adolescents. For reference, our kids (twins) were almost four years old at the time of our cruise.

Cruising With Kids:  Must Haves

  • Nightlight:  The cabins get pretty dark when the lights are out, so unless you want to sleep with lights on (or the kids in your bed, if they’re afraid of the dark), a nightlight is a great idea. Honestly, this is one I would recommend even just for adults because if you ever wake in the night and need to use the restroom, a nightlight will prevent you from tripping over unfamiliar terrain!
  • Multi-Outlet Power Strip:  This was absolutely invaluable for us, as outlets are at an absolute premium in the staterooms! We only had a single outlet and TONS of electronics to juggle (laptop charger, cell phone charger, tablet charger for the kids, hair straightener, hair dryer, curling iron, etc. etc. etc.) I do not know what we would have done without the power strip!
  • Beach Toys and Puddle Jumpers:  If you have young kids, it’s highly likely that most of your excursions will be beach-based (since many of the high adventure options have minimum age requirements). The problem is that the beach gets boring quickly for kiddos without entertainment, and anything sold by the port or on the beach is crazy-overpriced! We picked up a $5 bucket from Walmart that included lots of sand toys (shapers, scrapers, shovels, etc.) and it worked like a charm. The puddle jumpers were also clutch because it allowed the kids to safely wade into the water with a bit of a “safety net” (for those unfamiliar, puddle jumpers are similar to life vests, but designed for young children. Safety note: you absolutely still need to supervise, of course!!!).
  • Bottled Water and (Non-Alcoholic) Drinks: So, we cruised on Royal Caribbean. Every cruise line has its own rules so ask your cruise line to be sure. Royal Caribbean’s website states that they do NOT allow beverages to be brought on board. That being said, I read lots of blogs/websites/chat rooms where people said they brought on non-alcoholic beverages with no problem. We decided to chance it and see what would happen. We brought a full case of water and a 6-pack of soda. We had absolutely no problem going through security – no need to hide it or anything, we just set it right on the scanner and had no issues. This was fantastic because the waters on the ship are crazy pricey (like $4/bottle), and we didn’t buy a soda package so it was nice to have a couple sodas on the trip. You can also bring one bottle of wine per stateroom (again, see your cruise line’s policies). To me, the water was the biggest thing because it wasn’t always easy to get to water otherwise, especially on our excursions and exploring the different ports. We went through the entire case of water in the week we were on our cruise.
  • Snacks:  This would be nice even for adults, but with young children it was practically a requirement! Our kids wake up hungry IMMEDIATELY! It was nice to throw them a granola bar as we got dressed and made our way to the dining hall. Same is true around dinner time and even later in the evening before bedtime. We brought a variety of snacks (granola bars, cheddar bunnies, fruit leather, etc. etc.) and went through everything while on the cruise, having to re-stock on some snacks while in Mexico! Another tip is to grab some snacks from the dining hall. For instance, I’d always take an extra mini box of cereal in the morning and give it to the girls during the day as a snack (they eat it dry, without milk). Soo thankful for those Cheerios (and the girls loved their first experience with fruit loops!)
  • Cash: We had saved up all this money for our trip, but ended up bringing a pretty small amount of actual cash on the ship and we wished we’d brought more because we ended up having to use an ATM for additional cash. Not only is cash nice for tips (and I’d suggest bringing lots of $1’s for tipping porters, shuttle drivers, and really anyone handling your bags), but you also have to have cash if you want to gamble. We’re not huge on gambling, but we like a little Black Jack and the one night we hit up the casino we succumbed to the pricey ATM fees so we could pull out the cash to play. You’ll also want cash to tip the waitstaff and room attendant at the end of the trip. Note that a standard 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill (which goes on whatever card you have on file), but having worked for many years in the service industry, I wanted to tip a couple specific people over and above the 18% minimum. For that, you need cash.
  • Backpack:  To carry all your money, IDs, snacks, waters, etc. I much prefer a backpack over a big beach bag or diaper bag because I like that it requires no hands and doesn’t have to be juggled with a lot of other things. Just slip it on and you’re ready to go!

 

Perhaps equally as important as the “Must Have” list is the list of items that you should not bother bringing!!! Save the space in your suitcase for something more important!

Cruising With Kids: Do Withouts

  • Binoculars:  We actually bought a new pair of binoculars just for our trip after reading several sites that suggested them. Total waste of money and space, we didn’t use them a single time! This might be different for adults traveling without kids who are able to attend all the evening events. We only went to a single night-time show and really didn’t feel the need for the binoculars. Plus, it’s enough just trying to keep the kids quiet and in their seats. No time or space to deal with binoculars.
  • Empty Re-usable Water Bottle: I brought this thinking it would be valuable for our excursions. Turns out, since we were able to bring our case of waters, I never once used the reusable bottle. Plus, all the water stations on the ship had big signs prohibiting the filling of re-usable water bottles for health reasons. You’d be limited to filling it in your bathroom sink, which I never wanted to do because I swear the water tasted funny.
  • Sunhat: Another thing I bought specifically for this trip that was a total waste. With all the wind on the upper decks, I couldn’t keep a big sunhat on my head! And it was large and bulky and challenging to get around (especially considering all the kid toys, snacks, towels, etc. that I was also toting around). I ended up taking it to the beach at our first port and the wind just basically destroyed the thing. Stick to using sunscreen as your form of sun protection and leave the big floppy hat at home.
  • Walkie Talkies: Again, I bought this after seeing other reviews that recommended them. The problem is that the cruise limits the strength of the walkie talkies you can use and, in our experience, we were not able to hear each other unless we were already in very close proximity. Plus, we kept picking up other peoples’ conversations no matter what channel we tried to use. They also woke the kids up from a nap one day when they started crackling with someone else’s conversation. Cell phones don’t work either, so you just have to resort to the good old days pre-cell-phone when you would plan out in advance meeting times and places, etc. Note that room-to-room calling is free, so that helps!
  • Lots of Shoes: I really limited the number of shoes I took, but I still had 5 pair (tennis shoes, 2 pairs of fancy shoes, and 2 pairs of sandals/flip-flips). Even though I thought I’d been space conscious with shoes, I ended up basically living in a single pair of sandals the entire trip. I never once put on my tennis shoes, and only wore 1 of my fancy pairs of shoes. The other 99% of the time I stayed in my comfy sandals.
  • Ice Chest:  I brought a small ice chest for our drinks, again, based on recommendations of fellow travelers. However, in our experience it was totally unnecessary. We had a mini-fridge in our stateroom so we just put our drinks in it to keep cold. The ice chest ended up being used by our kids as a stepping stool to reach the toilet (so I guess it wasn’t entirely pointless….just not used for its intended purpose).

 

Those were our experiences, but I’d love to hear from others too!

What item was a “must have” on your cruise and what item do you think you could have done without?


April Budget Update

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Yikes! With how overdue this budget update is, I did consider just skipping it entirely. I forgot to post December’s budget and it was my first time to ever miss a month! I don’t want it to start becoming a pattern. So, instead of pushing it off any longer, here’s the extremely overdue budget:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 88
Water 55
Natural gas 60
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool 1075
Restaurants 249
Entertainment 1
Kids Activities 82
Groceries 582
Gasoline 99
Household Goods 9
Clothing 75
Toddler Stuff 5
Work Expenses 50
Rainy Day Savings 2142 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 424 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 1521
Total Budgeted $9,941

 

Comments:

Down Payment Savings ($2000): This is right on track.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by mid-summer. That being said, I already know we won’t have the full $2,000 for this month (May). Initially, we were hoping to start house-hunting this month but we thought better and have pushed it back a bit. We are really hoping to have a closing in August/September, so we didn’t want to see something and fall in love too early when we really aren’t ready to be making offers and negotiating yet. Womp, womp! It’ll be here soon, though, and I’m still doing Zillow searches just-for-fun. 

Electricity ($88): Our electric bill has never been lower! But we’ve already been flirting with triple-digit temperatures and our A/C is back in the ON position! I already received the bill for May and, although it hasn’t jumped way high yet, it’s certainly higher than April’s bill.

Restaurants ($249) + Groceries ($582): I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our grocery bill was pretty low this month (remember in months’ past where I was nearing the $700-mark for groceries!?), but the grocery bill is low because (1) we were on the cruise for one week of the months, and (2) our eating out budget was HUGE! Remember my post about blowing the restaurant/eating out budget early in the month? We aim to have this expense around $200 or less for our family of four. We blew this budget category early in the month and, honestly, the only reason it didn’t surpass $300+ is because we were gone the last full week of the month (longer, really, since hubs and the girls drove they added an extra week to their trip). All expenses while traveling were filed away in the “cruise” category, so they weren’t accounted for here.

Entertainment ($1): 99 cent song on iTunes.

Kids’ Activities ($82): This was our last month paying for the girls’ swim lessons. It was prorated since we only went for half the month. That being said, the girls did INCREDIBLE on our cruise! We spent a TON of time in the water (both in the pools on the ship and in the ocean at our docking places). I was so impressed with how their skills have improved and they seemed like little fishes splashing around in the water. It really made me want to re-start their swimming lessons so they can keep learning and improving. I’m waiting until the semester is over at school because the end-of-year time is crazy and our Saturday-midday swim class was far from ideal. When we start back again I’ll be looking for a weekday afternoon class time.

Household Goods ($9): I don’t remember if I mentioned it already, but I’ve deemed this year the year of buying holiday decorations on clearance to save for next year. In December/January I bought a bunch of Christmas decorations and in April I bought some Easter decorations. I go literally the day after the holiday, first thing in the morning, so I can try to find the best stock for cheapest. I know there can be great finds at garage sales, too, but those are so hit-and-miss that I’ve mostly relied on buying store stuff on clearance after the holiday has passed. The plan is to do this all year for all of the holidays. I’m pretty excited to finally start accumulating some holiday stuff here and there. We’ve always been very minimalistic when it comes to holiday decorations since we have typically moved every year (our current rental house is the longest we’ve ever stayed in a single place!!) I look forward to decorating for holidays with the girls as they grow!

Rainy Day Savings ($2142): I’d deposited $2142 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $3063.
  • Birthdays: $400. The girls’ birthday is on the horizon in June. To date, we’ve never had an actual birthday party for them, but we want to this year for the first time. It will still be simple (at our house, not another venue), but we’re going to start throwing a couple hundred a month toward this savings so we don’t get caught by surprise in June. This month I’ve over-saved because I’m anticipating that May will be a lower month.
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $182 to finally fix the car part that broke 2 weeks after I paid it off. This leaves $73 still in the car repair account. I’ll need to pad it pretty heavily in the next couple of months, as we know we’ve got some routine maintenance stuff coming up on our vehicles and it feels like every time we go to the shop its at least a thousand dollars! Cringe! At least we have time to anticipate and save for it instead of being caught by surprise.
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $542. This gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money. It’s sitting in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.
  • Annual Fees: $100. Need to slowly start building this back up. The total current balance is $250 but we have a few annual (or semi-annual) fees coming up within the next couple months (e.g., Costco membership and county pet registration are two that come immediately to mind).
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($424): $424 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $424. I also cleared out this savings in its entirety prior to filing taxes so I could make a contribution crediting tax year 2015.
  • No other savings this month, but I wanted to report that I also withdrew all of the cruise money from its account (and have subsequently closed the Capital One 360 savings account). At the end of the trip, we were left with an extra $800 over and above what we’d spent. I ended up re-categorizing this money as income for May. That way it’s put in with our normal income rather than being viewed as a separate pot of money. This will be particularly helpful because I don’t get paid from my part-time job this month.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Final Thoughts:

We put a little less toward debt this month than I’d hoped (I’d originally planned to put $2,000 toward debt). Instead, we put a bit more toward savings, particularly in some categories where we know upcoming spending is imminent (e.g., birthdays, annual fees). In May, I’ll kind of trade-off. Our savings will probably be a little lower and our debt payments will be a little higher. One big thing to note:  I don’t get paid in the months of May or August from my part-time job. Instead, my summer pay is split into two lump sums arriving in June and July. I’m trying to anticipate the lower income months and to spread the pay out when we have the higher income months. Also, I haven’t commented on our tax return yet. We had a return of $540 that hit my bank account just in the last week or so. Like our unspent cruise savings, I’ve simply categorized this as “Income for May” in our YNAB budget. Again – May will be a bit lower income month (given that I don’t get my part-time pay), so I’m hoping this will help pad our income a bit so we can keep up with the hefty debt payments that are planned this month.

Have a great month, all!


Teacher Appreciation

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Last week was Teacher Appreciation Day, but our school actually did a Teacher Appreciation Week back in early April! I’d meant to write a post about it at that time, but it escaped me until now.

I pride myself on giving pretty decent little teacher appreciation gifts without spending a bunch of money (see a previous teacher gift here, and a classroom gift idea here). This year was no exception. Since we did a full teacher appreciation week (not a single day), I spread things out a bit across the week. It helps that our school posted online a list of our teacher’s favorite things, and that they had a suggested calendar of things you could do to help celebrate the teachers. So here’s how our week looked:

  • Monday –  We brought our teachers’ favorite foods (we have 2 teachers):  one said her favorite snacks were cashews and the other said bananas. To make it work, we brought bulk cashews and dehydrated banana chips (both bought in bulk bins at Sprouts). I had the mini mason jars already at home and made a quick note and tied a ribbon around the neck from stuff we had on-hand. Maybe a $3-4 total cost (I can’t recall at this time, but couldn’t be more than that).

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  • Tuesday – I volunteered to come help during lunch time while the teachers had a special luncheon.  Free for me, plus I got to each lunch with my girls! Wins all around!

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  • Wednesday – nothing special
  • Thursday – I brought a homemade dessert (this recipe for churro cheesecake that’s incredible) because the teachers were having a dessert party in the afternoon. PRO Tip: I always buy stuff that we frequently use at Costco when it goes on sale, even if we don’t necessarily need it at the moment. Doing so meant I had all the ingredients on hand for this dessert because it’s made with mostly staples. The only “odd ball” thing, for us, would’ve been the crescent roll dough but I’d recently bought a Costco pack of it so we had plenty for this dessert.

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  • Friday – I wrapped up the week with $10 gift cards (per teacher) to Target along with a nice note of appreciation using thank you cards we already own.

A gift or act of service nearly every day of the week (for two teachers) for a total of under $25. You can’t beat that!

What do you normally do for Teacher Appreciation Day?

How many gifts do you typically give your kids’ teacher and/or class in a year? At the beginning of the year we did a class gift, we did a teacher holiday gift around Christmas time, and now a teacher appreciation gift. Do you do an end-of-year gift, too??? Any other gift-giving occasions I’ve missed (we don’t know the teachers birthdays, for example).


Happy Mother’s Day

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Happy Mother’s Day all!

We’re having a pretty low-key Mother’s Day this year. This is our first full weekend back from the cruise. I flew in late last Sunday night, but hubs just drove back with his mom & the girls on Tuesday so we’re still dealing with the unpacking and tidying up that comes after any trip.

I was really mad at myself this year because with all the cruise hubbub I really let Mother’s Day get away from me! Every year I like to do something for all the special Moms in our life (of which we have 5, between Moms/MILs and grandmas). I should’ve planned something before our trip but I didn’t and was left scrambling last-minute for some idea that wouldn’t cost much, would be meaningful, and that I could pull together QUICK given that I knew it was definitely going to be late (womp, womp!) I’ll be the first to admit that this year’s gift was a little lackluster. But it was homemade by the girls and yours truly. Here’s a picture of one of them:

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Yep. The traditional homemade M-O-M card.

This is our first year doing this style of card. In previous years (see here or here), I always put a little more effort to having the item be handmade by the girls, with my help assembling things. But now that the girls are learning and growing by leaps and bounds (I started blogging here when they were just 20 months and they’re now almost 4 years old! *tear* ), I wanted to put their ever-expanding vocabulary to use! So I wrote the Moms’ names (Grandma, Nana, Grams, Mamaw, and Nan), then I helped the girls to brainstorm words that started with the letters in the person’s name. After that was done, I wrote little notes to each person on the back and the girls signed their own names!!! Well….kinda. They’re SOCLOSE to writing on their own, but they do better with tracing so I did the dotted outline and they traced over the top. I made a little note to make sure the recipient knew these were authentic signatures! A fun milestone for the littles to celebrate! : )

I hastily ordered a few recent pictures of the girls from Costco (basic 4×6 size) and slipped everything into an envelope. Dropped it off at the post office on Saturday (yup – I told you they were gonna be late!) and we were DONE!

I know our grandmas love kid crafts and pictures, and they are always welcomed gifts! Plus the special touches (e.g., the girls picked the words themselves & signed their own names) make it all that more meaningful. I still feel a little guilty that the gifts are going to be late and it was so rushed in its execution but I always think it’s the thought that counts, and better late than never! A lot of love went into these gifts!

What are your plans for Mother’s Day this year? What do you normally get the special “Moms” in your life?


Cruise 2016 Planning

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In February we made our final payment for Cruise 2016. At this point our cruise has been paid in full, my plane ticket has been paid in full, and a few cruising essentials have been purchased with cash (e.g., new swimsuit, floppy sun hat, and a snorkel set so far). In addition to these, the remaining items for us to pay include transportation for hubs and the girls, all cruise-related gratuities, and a few more clothing items for the fam. Plus, I’d still like to have a nice little big stack of cash for while we’re actually on the cruise. All food is included in the cruise price, as well as water, tea, and lemonade. But if we want any other drinks, any souvenirs, want to gamble, etc. etc. etc….all that costs money.  My mom generously paid for a couple excursions for all of us as our Christmas gift in 2015, so the actual excursions have been paid (but, again, possibility of off-boat meals or souvenirs).  All in all, though, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Even after paying for the things listed above, we still currently have $2400 in our Cruise 2016 savings (I save for different goals in various Capital One 360 savings accounts < refer a friend link). I’d anticipate maybe $200-$300 in our remaining expenses (things like new swimsuits and sandals for the girls, and I’d like us each to have at least one new outfit, plus the obligatory trashy magazines and some snacks for our room, etc.). And there’s still 1 month until our sail date so there’s still time to save up some more.

My goal is to have plenty of money for our trip, and still have plenty leftover at the end. I really want to just have a good time and enjoy our vacation while we’re there without worrying about money so I’m not imposing strict limits on spending (with the caveat that, obviously, we’re paying cash so we can’t go over our cash limit). I hope to still have plenty of money leftover once the trip ends so we can throw it toward our debt and play a little catch-up since the first part of this year is going to be spent mostly in savings-mode (building back up our EF and saving for a house down payment).

But even though this is a get-out-of-debt blog, I just can’t feel guilty about this trip. We’ve been planning and saving for it for over a year (since February 2015). This was NOT a light-hearted decision made on a whim. We’ve carefully carved a little money from our budget every single month to make this goal a reality. The trip comes at a great time, as we finally declared our freedom from consumer debt! But, really, the point of the trip was to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday. Having lived through the completely unexpected turn of events in the past year that ended up with my Dad being laid off from his job, declared permanently disabled, and being diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration (a rare form of dementia), I’ve really stopped to reflect on my life and my relationship with my family. It’s hard not living near them and having them in my daily life. And there’s no promise of how much time we’ll have together. So as much as this trip is a celebration of our passing the critical consumer debt-free threshold, it’s also a celebration of family, love, and life. An opportunity to cherish the moment, even when we still have a lot of work to do on the get-out-of-debt front. Basically, it’s my way of claiming some balance in this crazy life of mine; one that’s totally changed in the past 2 years while I’ve been blogging. I wouldn’t change a minute, but I don’t take it for granted either.

I know that many readers are still deep in the trenches of debt reduction and I’d hate to feel like I’m bragging or rubbing our success in others’ faces. So I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the cruise, but I do want to acknowledge that it’s coming up in a few weeks and to talk a little about how we’ve been able to scrimp and save and actually afford the trip by paying in all cash (Cliff’s Note version:  basically, we planning and saved for a looooong time).

Hubs and I used to love to travel. Since our wedding in 2010 we haven’t traveled anywhere other than to visit family (which is still travel since we live out-of-state, but it’s not the exotic, beach-laying or mountain-skiing type of travel/vacations of the past). I’m so excited to have our first vacation as a family of 4 (+ extended family) and to build some memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.

I can’t wait!


This and That

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, friends!

My kids have Spring Break this week (yes, apparently even preschoolers are out), so I’ve been spending a lot of time with them this week and soaking up every moment since I haven’t had so much one-on-one time since I started back to work full-time. I’m lucky that it’s also my university’s Spring Break so I’m not expected to be on campus (I’m told that the syncing up of the Spring Breaks is super rare so I should be extra grateful that it worked out this way!)

This morning started out with some green chocolate chip pancakes in celebration of St. Pat’s

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followed by some painting. The girls worked on their rainbows and we talked about leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, etc.

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Fun little St. Patrick’s Day theme.

Truth be told, though, this week has been HORRIFIC. Seriously, one of the worst of my life. I’ve mentioned before about how, with my Dad’s dementia, we’ve had a couple minor emergencies before. This week we experienced one that took the cake and is going to cause some drastic changes to our lives.

In a nutshell….due to my Dad’s bizarre behavior (a classic symptom of his FTD), someone in the medical field thought he was suffering psychosis. They involuntarily admitted him to an absolute hell-hole state ran mental health facility. He was there for 3 days before we even knew where he was. When we finally found out his whereabouts it was through another patient’s family (meaning, no one from the facility EVER tried to contact us). There were various hang-ups and red tape to prove that the man does NOT have mental illness but, instead, has a rare form of dementia. In all, he spent 6 days in the facility. During this time he never once was allowed to shower or change his clothes, he was only fed at odd intervals, and he was doped up on all kinds of drugs (not to mention he was NOT receiving his prescribed medication which he is supposed to receive daily).

When my sister was finally able to free him from his prison (yes, it felt like a straight jail), he had THESE MARKS all over his body. Not just his arms, but across his back as well. We thought they were restraint marks…but on his back? The best part? He has NO RECOLLECTION of how they occurred. None. This is not from the dementia, folks. He hasn’t just lost full days and events at this point yet. That’s due to being doped up on something.

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We took him immediately to a doctor who documented all the injuries and ran a full chem panel (still awaiting results). We’ve reported the facility to the appropriate powers that be and are seeking legal counsel. To say it’s been a nightmare is a major understatement.

So there’s that.

My brother is flying to Utah next week to meet a realtor, do some housework, and get the Utah home on the market. But now we’re faced with moving my Dad immediately to an assisted living facility where he has more oversight. He would still be safe living alone otherwise, but since his bizarre behaviors can be misinterpreted as psychotic episodes, we do NOT want to experience any other similar situations. Having him live somewhere where the staff is aware of his limitations and can help protect him is vital. We’re heartbroken over what he’s experienced and it has been a major setback to his functioning.

So there are more financial implications to come. Retaining counsel, possible lawsuit, selling the second property, and placing him in an assisted living. Lots of money flying around. It’s a very scary thing. I’ve mentioned before that he had done a decent job of saving for his retirement, but money can go QUICKLY when you’re dealing with lawyers or paying $7k/month for assisted living. We’re definitely nervous about all that, but also feel a moral obligation (not just to our father, but for other patients of this facility) to hold them accountable for what they’re doing to others. I won’t say the name of the place, but from reading their Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Facebook reviews, we are not alone. Every single review was one-star. Every single review had a horrific story attached. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. Plus trying to sneak in some work time here and there. The cruise is coming up quickly and I really need to get ahead so I can be away for a week and have everything set to run on auto-pilot. Wish me luck!


Valentine’s Exchange

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At our previous childcare facility they didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, so this was our first year doing a school Valentine’s exchange.

Only, this Valentine’s exchange turned into party x 4 because I’ve got two kids and they celebrated on two different days (so all the kids could celebrate, given that many only attend on MWF or TTh).

There are 25 kids in the class x 4 (again, 2 kids & 2 days of parties), so we needed 100 Valentine’s all together.

Initially I let the girls pick their own box of Valentine’s from Walmart. They’re relatively inexpensive (about $2.50-$3.50 per box), but I realized after-the-fact that I’d only bought enough for one day (not two). Plus, some of the boxes only have 16 Valentines, so I was having to buy 2 in order to cover the 25 kids. When I went back to the store a second time (for day#2 of parties) I decided to do something a little different.

I bought a box of pink Valentine’s themed tootsy roll pops and set about making my own Valentine’s!

I stole the butterfly idea from the back of the tootsy roll box

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I cut the papers myself (which certainly weren’t great. I was rushing to do them on short notice), and I let the girls put stickers on the butterfly wings. Ideally I would’ve let them color and really decorate the butterflies, but time was limited.

After the stickers and suckers were in place, I wrote a To/From message.

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Really not great, but not bad in a hurry. And it was easy and cheap!! Plus, recipients got a full sized sucker! Score from a kid’s perspective, right? ?

After the party, I also took a picture of another kid’s homemade Valentine  this would be super easy, still cheap, and is a creative way of doing something other than the usual boxed Valentine stuff.

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Our girls are at a Christian preschool, so it works well for the environment. They just glued this card on the back of a box of sweet hearts. On the front, they filled in the To/From labels. That’s it! Super easy!

 

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So so there you have it. If you’re looking for a cheap, homemade last minute Valentine, here are a couple ideas.

What do you usually do for kids’ Valentine’s exchanges?


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