Posts tagged with: kids activities

Our New Life in Full Affect

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The last month has been a blur.  Today is my one month anniversary on my new job.  It is going great, and I am LOVING what I do. The wait was worth it to find the perfect position and the perfect company. I am so grateful.

Let me fill you in on what has been happening:

  1. Worked 40 hours per week in the office at my new job.
  2. Continued to work 25 hours a week for one of my part time jobs.
  3. Continued to work approx. 10 hours a week for my other part time job.
  4. Continued to school the kids – we are meeting twice a week (Sundays and one night a week) with intermittent study times together at night when the kids get stuck. It is definitely not ideal.  I’m going to have to re-evaluate our curriculum for the fall. But we will finish the school year in the next month and move on to a lighter schedule for the summer.
  5. Gymnast is going to gym (1 hour away) twice a week and soccer less than a mile away, 3 days per week.  He needs the energy outlet.  He is gone for the week with cousins to FL — this is why I wanted to move near family.
  6. Princess is playing basketball and has gotten involved with the youth group (that’s a first for her.)
  7. Sea Cadet continues to work at the movie theater he transferred with from Virginia, and looks forward to returning to VA the first week of June where he will spend the summer working as the Senior Boys Counselor at the same camp he worked at last year.

If you have done the math…I’m putting in upwards of 70 hours a week at work.  Oh, and I forgot, I’m starting every day with an hour in the gym.  It’s been life changing.  It’s been a whirlwind!  But I do have some exciting news…

We have rented a house!!!!  And you will not believe my rent…it is only $650 per month!!!!  I can’t believe it.  It is exactly the reason I wanted to move here.  We have not moved in yet, because frankly we don’t have furniture. Sea Cadet is staying there now on some old furniture family gave us, but we don’t have any beds.  Our stuff will be delivered by Upack on Tuesday so we can start making it home.  I have decided to move all the way in (we haven’t unpacked our stuff in over 2 1/2 years) and make it home.  We are all excited.  But it’s going to be a while before Gymnast, Princess and I move in while I watch for good deals and save money to get beds.

Our new home is 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, small manageable yard with just enough space for the kids to play.  Really, the only two things I am going to miss right now are 1) a dishwasher and 2) being able to have pets.  But all in due time.

A monthly budget is on the horizon.  I’ve just gotten my first full paycheck so I have a better idea of what my take home will be.  I did use every bit of my savings to get into the house.  I have to pay a $500 deposit, $650 first month’s rent, $250 to the city to turn on utilities and about $100 for a few odds and ends to get us started (toilet paper, broom, mop, cleaning supplies and a shelving unit to create a pantry in the laundry room.)

Princess and I return to Virginia this weekend for her to get her braces off.  It will be a quick turn, and it is the last trip we have planned. My new job has already agreed to let me work remotely while I travel, which thrills me to no end!


Cross Your Fingers for Me

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Later today I have what I think will be a final interview for a full time job here in GA.  It’s the one I referenced here that called me on our move down.  I’ve been through the first interview, personality test, submitted professional references, so I think this should be the last in person part of the process…

Not counting my chickens before they hatch, been through too much of this in the past year and a half to do that, but I am hopeful. We’ve got one more week here before we return to VA for a week for Gymnast state meet, Princess orthodontist appointment and so on. (Yes, I did let this potential job know about this commitment in the very first phone call and again in the person interview.)

This move has been a BIG change for us all.  While I am really enjoying the lower cost of living (gas and groceries,) we are all filling the pinch of lack of activities for the kids.  We’ve been exploring the surrounding counties to see what their parks and rec departments have to offer.  I know once they get plugged in and make some friends it will be easier on them.

trying on shoes

Princess and I spent Friday night window shopping and trying on shoes just to get out of the house while Gymnast spent the weekend at cousins.

Oh, and Sea Cadet has a job interview as a vet tech tomorrow. I’m not sure how that will work since he has unofficially committed to the same summer camp as last year. If he gets this local job, he will have some decisions to make.


“Free” Swim Lessons & A Preschool Update

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Remember when I put out the question of whether it would be a worthwhile expense to pay for swim lessons for my girls this summer? As a reminder, they have never been in any paid activity (ballet, soccer, swim, etc.) in their entire lives with the exception of childcare.

Well we just got letters sent home from our girls’ preschool (they attend the Jewish Community Center). We signed permission slips for the girls to go to the pool over the summer months where they will be receiving swim lessons from certified water safety instructors! This is “free” to us (in quotations because we pay a lot for the childcare, itself, but we are not required to pay any additional money for the swim lesson services). So YAY!!! I was super excited about this because I had NO IDEA this was going to happen! What a selling point/benefit for parents! I’m surprised they didn’t make a big deal about this when we first enrolled our kids here (they didn’t even mention that over the summer they do swim lessons!) To be fair, it’s surely not as in-depth as paid lessons (they go for 30 minutes twice per week for a few weeks in the summer), but it will teach them the basics and won’t cost us additional money out of pocket. Win-win!!

So that’s the free swim lesson update. Onto the preschool update…

Currently we pay a TON for very high quality care (see our budget where these costs are outlined here). Finding care for children aged 2 and under is challenging in our area. There were cheaper options available, but the quality wasn’t nearly as good. You can read about one of our experiences here. So we were willing to pay extra for really high quality care. There were two main issues related to this when we chose to go to the JCC. 1. Cost, and 2. Distance. Our current childcare facility is a full 30-40 minutes away. And since I work from home, that’s a 60-80 minute round-trip twice per day (once for drop-off and once for pick-up).

When the girls first started I was pretty diligent about staying at the JCC the whole day. I’d work in the library, then move to the patio, out to the commons area, etc. But there were lots of distractions and across time I found myself simply driving home more and more often. This, of course, meant less work-time since I was spending more time driving. In the past month or two all this driving has really become burdensome for me professionally speaking. I’ve had difficulty getting my work done in the limited hours available to me. The girls are in preschool 21 hours per week, but I easily have 30 hours worth of work. Not to mention the driving time means that the 21 preschool hours really only equals about 17-ish hours of actual work time. Less when you factor in other miscellaneous errands or activities (e.g., I’d often go to the gym at the JCC for 30-45 minutes when I’d drop off the girls. This reduces my work hours even more…now down to about 15-ish per week). The point is that I ended up working more and more late in the evenings and/or on weekends and felt my overall productivity waning. Toward the end of the Spring semester I was barely hanging on by a thread. Still taking care of my responsibilities, but just barely.

So we knew it was time to move the girls to a new preschool facility. They turn 3 in June and a ton of new options will become available to them (many preschools are only for potty-trained kids age 3 and up, so they weren’t options last summer). I found one place I really like (I spoke about it here). Last Friday I went to the preschool office and paid the enrollment fee ($75 per child) so starting this Fall (the preschool year is the same as the academic year in our area – starting in August and running through May), our girls will officially be starting a new preschool!!!

I’m super excited because both of our big issues with the JCC (price and distance) will be resolved to some extent. Instead of a 30-40 minute drive, our new preschool is about a 10-15 minute drive. And we’ll be saving some money, too. I ended up deciding to enroll the girls in 5 half-days instead of 3 full-days. The difference is 21 hours (for 3 full days) versus 25 hours (for 5 half days). The price is going to be about $800/month for both kids. We’re currently paying over $1,000/month so we’ll be saving a couple hundred a month (not to mention gasoline and having more work-able hours since I won’t be driving as far). I wish we’d be saving more, but I think this was a good compromise and I’m happy with the trade-off.

We do have to be officially “accepted” to the program (I had to fill out a huge application packet and they’ll notify me within 2 weeks if we’re accepted or not), but the woman at the front desk didn’t seem worried about it. My guess is its more of a formality to make sure there aren’t glaring red flags about the family or children somehow. I think we’ll be okay (fingers crossed).

So now let’s just hope that the transition is a smooth one. The new preschool has fabulous reviews and I coincidentally met a mom at the park whose kids go to the preschool and she just raved about it. So I’ve got high hopes!

Do you pay for summertime activities for your kids (if you want to share, just out of curiosity, I’d love to know how much you pay and what the activity is)?

How much do you pay for childcare?


So Worth It – Kid’s Activities

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I know that there were lots of opinions on my kids involvement in different activities and the amount of money I spent on them.  While much of their activities are bartered there are certainly costs associated with them, and the driving alone is a hefty chunk of my time not to mention gas….but I declare that as I/we get more selective, they do pay off.  I have talked alot about my youngest being a competitive gymnast and this past weekend his meet season kicked off.  I did good financially…in the past we have driven up, stayed a couple of nights, done some sightseeing…nope, not this year.  We drove up and home the day of, and here’s what we got to see.

For the record, I have bartered my skills for his monthly tuition. I do have to pay uniform and meet fees along with the gas to get him to practice three times a week and to out of town meets (all of them are out of town except the one we host in December.) This year the meet fees are right around $400 for the whole season…his dad and I split that and it has already been paid.

He spends 12 hours a week in the gym…and these videos show the results of a little over 2 years of training (not counting his missing the majority of last season due to broken hand.) In my book, it’s so worth it!

 


The Boys Go to Camp

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I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off this week as we prepare to leave for two weeks and all three boys had different events/camps they had to pack for….

1. My eldest left for mini boot camp yesterday, with a fully packed sea bag.  He purchased all needed items with money he had worked for – yeah!  I paid the $25 fee for the weekend event.  He is currently planning to go into the Navy when he graduates and is quickly making rank in the Sea Cadet program. This weekend is to prepare him for a full two week boot camp that he will attend at the end of next month.

 

The Twins - Ready for Prom & modelling clothes they will be wearing at their camps this week.

The Twins – Ready for Prom & modelling clothes they will be wearing at their camps this week.

2. His twin will participate in the TeenPact National Convention beginning Monday. We were blessed with donations from our church members as far as dress clothes goes and he will definitely be a sharp dressed man on campus next week. I paid the early bird registration fee for this event, and since it’s really the only thing he participates in, it comes out of the budgeted kid’s activities line item on my monthly budget. The total was $399.

3. My youngest son is a competitive gymnast, he is beginning his third year of training and he is very good as well as very dedicated. Last year, he heard of a training camp past Olympians run called FlipFest. I will not lie, it is astronomically expensive to me; however, I told him last year that if he continued to train hard, had a consistent good attitude and wanted to continue at the end of this past season, I would send him. He has done that and more! He is going to the first week so it’s discounted and I registered him early to get that discount. He has had to save all his own spending money. Cost for the week $695.

 

Competing on Pommel at the 2013 Astronaut Dave Brown meet

Competing on Pommel at the 2013 Astronaut Dave Brown meet

I know many of you have questioned my Kids Activities monthly line item, perhaps this post gives you a better idea on how it’s saved and spent. I am SO BLESSED to be able to barter for many of my kids’ activities: Tae Kwon Do, monthly Gymnastics fees, etc. but in the end there are some I must pay for. I try to make wise choices and encourage my kids to do the same.

Please wish us safe and frugal travels for the next weeks as we leave tomorrow to pick my eldest up from his mini boot camp and head out of town. My posts the next two weeks will primarily be travel related…traveling as a cheapskate, I hope!


Fun for the Summer

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Our school year is now officially over, and we are all enjoying a couple of weeks of downtime before our summer school schedule kicks in.  I enjoy these weeks because I don’t have to do lesson plans, work review or help kids stuck on math problems…freeing me up to concentrate on work and my own personal projects that are typically on the back burner.  The kids enjoy these weeks because there’s no schoolwork and no mom after them to get things done on deadline.  One of the best things though about these two weeks is that it gives the kids ample time to get bored. During these two weeks there are very few restrictions on bedtimes and electronics and even fewer plans. Towards the end of this time their electronic games get boring, eating sandwiches gets boring, jumping on the trampoline gets boring, being in the house gets boring….you get the point.

I used to start scheduling things immediately and they rebelled saying they never got a break (especially since we have a school schedule all summer too.)  So the last couple of years, I’ve let these first couple of weeks go and it’s made a huge difference in how they feel what’s the summer schedule kicks in…they are bored and ready for mom to step in again!

Our summer travel and adventures are still a few weeks away so I’m looking for free to very low cost things to get the kids involved and engaged.  Here’s the list I’ve come up with so far:

Beach days – pack the cooler, grab the radio and sand toys and hit the beach.  This takes up a whole day as we are busy in the morning getting ready and when we get home, we’re all exhausted.  Only cost, gas money, but it’s only a 20 minute drive so not to bad.

Craft days – one of my ways to earn extra money is starting an Etsy store.  I’m getting ready to stock with things I’ve made over the years that are literally just gathering dust.  But we’ve got a few crafts that the kids make that people have always been interested in, so we use craft stuff in the house and then if quality is good enough, post it on the shop.  At this point, this costs us nothing as we have TONS of crafty stuff around and it might even make us some money (the kids get a percentage if one of their items sell.)

Park days – we have LOTS of local parks and tourist attractions with Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Settlement being within walking distance and as residents we get a $10 annual pass to visit all these really cool places have to offer.  Timing is key with these as taking food is a royal pain and if we wander around too long then we end up with food costs.

Gardening – we grow a pretty substantial garden and all the kids pitch in on a regular basis to maintain it with weeding and watering, etc. But there are days when we can do a work day to get more stuff done that’s not the typical stuff.  We always end these with a big meal on the back porch surrounded by our plants and gardens that we have worked so hard on.  I think these are my favorite days.

Movies – when public schools get out, the local theaters will offer free/$1 movies at 10am on a couple mornings a week.  We really enjoy those when they fit in the schedule and sometimes I even spring for popcorn, but most of the time we eat a big breakfast first and take water bottles.

In all the years past, we’ve had Busch Gardens/Water Country passes so spent a good amount of time there, but these year we don’t, so we don’t really have a “pool” to visit and I’m not interested in paying hundreds of dollars to join a local pool at this time.

Do you have any free or really low cost entertainment ideas for kids in the summer months?