Posts tagged with: summer camp

Summer Camping!

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Today was officially my kids’ last day of preschool!!!!!! Starting in the “Fall” (which is August 2nd in these parts), they’ll be KINDERGARTNERS!!! I can’t even believe it! I want to cry from happiness AND sadness all at once! How is it even possible!?

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B and B with their teacher on the last day of school! Instead of a traditional “graduation” ceremony, they had what they call a “Teddy Bear Picnic” where parents got to come have a picnic lunch with the kiddos and their favorite stuffed animals. Nontraditional, but still really cute and fun!

The past couple summers have presented some big challenges in terms of childcare. Full-time summer care for young ones in my area tends to be exorbitant! I’m talking nearly triple what we pay during the academic year. There are some cheaper camp options, but I talked a little last year about how those weren’t the best option for us because it would be one week here, one week there, all over the place and it wasn’t a good fit with our kid’s shy and timid personalities on a full-time basis (plus, many of those camps were only 4-5 hours/day).

This year, we have a much different approach to things. For one, their dad will be around a lot more. For any new readers, their dad recently scaled back his business so he could return to school full-time. Over summer, though, he’ll be picking up a large portion of the childcare. At the same time, it would be great if he can make a little more money, too! So he’ll also be trying to work a bit more while still ultimately maintaining childcare as his #1 “job” for summer. The girls are also going to be taking a couple of camps! Although I still maintain that a different camp every week would NOT be ideal for our kids (every kid is different and I know some kids love trying lots of new camps, but I know our kids and they just would not thrive in that situation), I do think that they’ll benefit from dipping their toes into the camp scene. We’ve got them signed up for one week-long day camp in June and one week-long day camp in July. So they’ll still have a lot of stability (home the majority of summer), but will get to try a couple of fun new things (gymnastics camp in June, karate camp in July).

I’ll still be working all summer, but I also have a bit more flexibility in my schedule, too, so I’ll be more able to be around with the girls if hubs picks up an odd job, etc. So between hubs, myself, and the couple of camps, we should be good to go. The really exciting thing is that we should end up SAVING money since we’ll be using so much LESS childcare than the past couple summers. With hubs at home, we don’t need the full-time care we’ve always required in the past. Only paying for a couple of camps will be a drop in the bucket compared to our normal childcare costs. It’s been awhile since my last full budget post, but on average we pay approximately $1,100/month for childcare (that’s for 2 kids in preschool full-time). In contrast, we’ll be paying under $300 per camp this summer (for both kids). So we’re talking under $600 for childcare costs ALL SUMMER! Wooo! Can’t argue with that! I’m pretty pumped about the savings, particularly given that these summer months are still pretty tight on the income side of things.

For those of you with kiddos, I hope you’re enjoying a smooth and easy entrance into summer!

What do you do with your littles during summer? Stay home with them? Send them to camp? Babysitter? Something else?


Summer Childcare Update

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Hi guys! I hope your Monday is off to a good start!

Remember when I talked about our summer childcare plans? We ended up opting to hire a babysitter whose been coming to our house to watch the kids 3 days per week. I wanted to give a little update on how it’s gone.

First, in case you hadn’t noticed from our recent budget update, our childcare costs have been way down compared to the academic year! Part of this is because we’ve been out of town a bit and we only pay our babysitter when we need her, so we haven’t had to pay for chunks of time when we’ve been gone. The other reason, of course, is because we’ve only been using part-time care instead of full-time care. Overall, we’re paying more per hour, but less overall (since fewer hours, etc.)

I did have some concerns about the route we decided to go. First, I didn’t love that the kids were going to be stuck at home all day every day. Second, our babysitter doesn’t drive (she’s old enough, but just doesn’t have a license) and she lives a solid 45 minutes away, so arranging pick-ups and drop-offs has been really exhausting. Generally we meet her parents somewhere in the middle, but on the rare occasion we have to take her all the way home, we’re talking a solid 1.5 hours in the car for the round-trip. Far from ideal. And, finally, the time has been another big issue. Remember, I work a full-time job + a part-time job. So getting all my work done in 3 days/week (and nights while the kids are sleeping) was a big concern of mine.

Status Update…

I don’t regret our decision with the babysitter for this summer, but I don’t think we’ll do it again next year (or, if we do, we’ll probably do a mix of camps and babysitter). Most of the summer has been fine, but now that we’re nearing the start of the semester (5 weeks left!) I’ve been struggling with tension/stress headaches just about every day over the stress and anxiety of all that I’ve got to get done in such a short period of time. The struggle stress is real.

Also, I miss working at home badly! During the academic year I try to reserve one day per week to work at home. I tried to work from home with the babysitter exactly once and it was just not working. The kids are loud and make concentration difficult. Plus, when I’m home (even if I’m locked in my bedroom), they keep trying to come in and see what I’m doing, bang on the door, yell for me, etc. I also found myself coming out and helping a lot when I heard screaming/crying/fighting. Basically, I was not able to get much done. But we live a good 30-40 minutes from campus so when I physically go IN to work it’s a solid hour round-trip out of the day just for driving. Its a fast drive and doesn’t bother me during the academic year, but paying more per hour makes me realize the cost of that drive on a daily basis. And I’m just able to be more efficient when I’m home! I can start a load of laundry and meal-prep for dinner in-between emails and work stuff. It’s much harder to cram all that stuff into the nighttime hours (or on the babysitter’s off days while the kiddos are home with me).

Hubs has been stepping up, too. He’s stayed home a few days when I’ve had a meeting or something else that I’ve had to get to. But even so, I find that I’m rushing home to try to relieve him or whatever and I’m just not being as productive as I need to be.

This week, only, their school has a week-long camp. I signed them up but it’s only Mon-Fri from 8:30-12:00pm. The plan is to work from home this week (to eliminate the long drive to campus). When I pick them up, we’ll come home and eat lunch, then I lay them down for naps and (fingers crossed) get another couple hours of work done in the afternoon.

I was SO THRILLED to be taking them to camp this week! Like, I CANNOT WAIT for their school to open back up in Fall! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved having more time with them over the past couple months. But I’m sure other parents can relate to the feeling of being OVER summer (especially when its 10 million degrees, options for activities are limited, and I need to freaking WORK!). Here’s a picture I took (while at a stoplight – not moving!) of me taking the girls to camp this morning. To say I was excited is the understatement of the century, lol

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Oh, oh, oh!!!!

Also, we officially got my Dad’s Utah house on the market! It went live in the MLS on Thursday night. It’s had 7 showings since then and we got our first offer late last night. It was an over-list-price offer, but it’s not great because the couple is still “shopping lenders.” We don’t want to accept and tie the house up by going under-contract until we know for sure that the people’s financing will go through.

Our realtor is reaching out to the realtors of the other people who’ve looked at the house to get feedback and let them know there’s an offer on the table (in case others were on the verge and decide to put in an offer, too). We have until tomorrow afternoon to respond to the first offer so hopefully we can drum up a bidding war (though, being cautious of the fact that we don’t want to go too far above list price, as the appraisal might come in lower and ruin financing for anyone offering over-list). We’ll see what happens. Lots of moving parts. None of us siblings have sold real estate before (my bro & sis both own, but they’ve only bought once and have never sold), so it’s all new to us. Luckily, my mom is a real estate broker and although she and my father are divorced, she’s very sensitive to his health issues and has been more than willing to help navigate and guide us (the kids) through the process to make sure we’re taken care of and doing things properly. Our realtor has also been a dream to work with, so I feel lucky in that regard.

Anyway, gotta run and get some work done in the short time I have before I go back to pick up the girls from camp!

Have a great week! I’ll be back soon!


Summer Childcare Blues

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Finding reliable, reputable childcare has consistently been one of the most stressful parts of being a working parent.  So today I want to pose a question to the other working parents out there:  What do you do for summertime childcare?!?

The place we’re currently at operates on an academic year schedule (not surprising, because its preschool through 8th grade so it’s a real school campus, albeit a private religious one). Their last day is May 24th and they don’t reopen again until the second week of August. But here I am, working full-time at my day job plus part-time at my online job and I have NO childcare!? Yikes!

After doing quite a bit of research, here’s what I’ve found. I’ll go ahead and tell you from the get-go:  no good options exist. Especially in the under 5-year-old age range. (Disclaimer: a TON of options open up for school aged kids age 5+, so this problem may be specific to parents with younger kids).

  • Option 1: There are lots of different one-week long summer camps at different places around town. This would be perfect if I was home all summer with the kids and just wanted to send them somewhere educational a couple weeks out of the summer. But I need childcare every week. I know my kids and I know they do not thrive in that kind of instability (a different camp at a different place with different people every single week). This won’t work for us.
  • Option 2:  Half-day camps. There are two places we know and trust that offer half-day camps. Half-day is far from ideal (one is from 8:30-12:30, but the other is only from 9-12. A total of 3-4 hours per day!) They’re pretty pricey for being such a limited amount of care. The three hour camp is $100/week/child and the four hour camp is $175/week/child. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1500/month for 20 hours per week.
  • Option 3: JCC. We loved the JCC while we were there and only left because they were too far from our home. The commute wasn’t realistic after I started working full-time. But I thought that maybe we could go just for the summer. It’s someplace we love and the girls are familiar with. Wins all around, right? Nope. Turns out as non-members the prices are exorbitant. And there’s not an option for a short-term membership just for the summer. Getting childcare 3 days per week for 7 hours per day would run us OVER $2100 for our two kids!!!! Holy cow, that’s expensive! This would be my favorite option in terms of amount of childcare coverage and the enrichment activities/opportunities for the girls. But at that price, it just seems cost-prohibitive to me! For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $2100/month for 21 hours per week.
  • Option 4:  Part-time Babysitter. We’ve got a high school babysitter we really love (and the girls love her, too)! We’re friends with the family and have talked to her parents a bit about whether she’d be a good choice for some summer childcare. What we discussed was  3 days per week (a couple weeks with only 2 days of care), 8 hours per day at a rate of $250/week for 3 day weeks or $175/week for 2 day weeks. This is the most cost-effective option and also the best in terms of actual childcare coverage (looking at number of hours per week), but I don’t love the idea of the girls being home all the time and not interacting with other kids. Also, I worry about babysitter fatigue/burnout and having no reliable back-up if the sitter is sick. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1100/month for 24 hours per week.

(side note: for comparison purposes, we currently pay roughly $1100/month for full-time childcare, approximately 40 hours per week. So really ALL of the options discussed are nearly double our current rate of pay per hour of childcare coverage).

My Thoughts:

I’m thinking we might hodge-podge care a bit. I like the babysitter option, as it’s the cheapest and largest amount of care. To try to add in some enrichment and other child-interaction for the girls, I think I might also enroll them in a couple of one-week summer camp programs. That way they still have the stability I’m looking for (they’re not going to a new camp every single week; they’ll mostly be in familiar surroundings with a familiar babysitter), but they’ll still get to go out of the house a bit and experience some enrichment with other kids.

Also, I still worry that 3 days per week (even at 8 hours per day), might not be enough time. My jobs over the summer are definitely more flexible than during the academic year. For example, my main job dictates that I teach 3 classes per semester during the academic year. In summer I’ll still be working full-time, but only teaching 1 class (and it’s fully online). The rest of my time is being paid to prep other classes and oversee our grad student teaching. There’s really nothing that requires me to be on campus aside from a sporadic meeting here or there. So it’s possible the 3 day per week childcare scenario could work. But what if I get into it and discover that’s not enough time? We really have no other back-up or alternative arrangements, which is scary to me.

 

What do other working parents do? What suggestions do you have? As of now, we haven’t signed any contracts or put deposits down on any camps. We’re still trying to figure out the best course of action. What do you think?


Summer Plan – Extreme Budget Style

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Matt’s recent post regarding his summer plans got me to thinking about our summer plans.  We are currently in that lull between our regular homeschool year (Sept-April) and more relaxed summer school as I wrote about last year.  And this time last year we were preparing for some serious travel…TN, GA, OK, TX…all in the name of kids’ activities and family time.  We are pretty adept at traveling on a budget but even then, travel is expensive when compared to staying home and even moreso when living on our extremely tight budget.

So what are we doing this year….

We have two out of state trips plans….

1) In June to see my grandmother, kids great-grandmother in GA.  We will drive, stay with her and it will be just for a long weekend.  We haven’t seen her in almost a year and let’s face it, she is not getting any younger.  Not to mention, we have always loved going.  But we haven’t and we need to.  So we are going.  Anticipated costs: $60-80 in gas and possibly $40 if she feels like going out to dinner one night.  These monies will come out of our MISC fund of our extreme budget.

2) In September to see my parents in GA.  My dad’s high school reunion will take place in September so we are going to go for a long weekend to see he and my mom.  We won’t be inviting them to visit this year for a number of reasons, so this will most likely be our only time seeing them this year.  Anticipated costs: $60-80 in gas and possibly $100 for groceries.  I don’t anticipate we will be on an extreme budget any more at this time, but only time will tell, if so, this money will come out of our $300 MISC monies.

Summer camps for the kids….

1) As I have mentioned before, one of my dad’s gifts to the kids at Christmas is to help pay for one week at a local camp that each of the kids attends for one week out of the summer.  I pay the difference for the little ones and social services pays the difference for the twins, it was the one extra benefit they gave me with the adoption…1 week of summer camp for each boy.  These camps are already paid for as I plan for it in December so it comes out of the old Kids Activities line item on our regular budget and I have held back that money for it.

2) This year we attended a local summer camp event…and we won one free week of camp for Little Gymnast from Sylvan Learning Center – woot, woot!  It was also there that I got the idea to ask about bartering for field hockey which my daughter has recently taken up…and just this week, the director of the program came back and said she would love to barter for a website.  So two free weeks of summer camp – one for each of the littles!

3) We received an email from the summer camp that the kids attend each summer seeking Jr. Counselors, but they needed to be 17.  Sea Cadet has expressed an interest in doing this, but he’s only 16.  I wrote them back and let them know that if they got desperate, he was interested.  They wrote me back and said they really wanted only 17 year olds, but they have a two week training program which they would love to have him in and that there was plenty of scholarship money.  I talked it over with Sea Cadet and he has applied to the training program, and I requested a 100% scholarship.  It does require written references and an interview so we are waiting to see if he gets in, but I think it will be a great experience for him AND open the door for him to work as a camp counselor next year if he still desires that.

4) We have always taken advantage of the local churches vacation Bible school programs for one or two weeks per summer; unfortunately, Princess has now aged out of most of them.  We did find one this year that will take both the littles, so they will be doing a half day there for one week.  They always love the programs and I love that it’s free and a positive experience.

5) I am considering a couple of other camps for the littles, because even with this lull they are already antsy, and I really need some dedicated work time this summer (more on that in another post.)  But I will most likely have to pay for those, so no commitments yet.  They range from $150-300 per week for just day camp depending on the hours and specialties.

6) Thusfar, Sea Cadet has not committed to any summer camps.  I don’t know if he is losing interest or just wants a break, but I’m just following his lead and imagine that he will end up attending at least one local camp this summer to maintain his eligibility to rank up.  Cost for those are $160 for 7-9 day camp.  I told him that as long as it was within a 3 hour driving radius from our home I would make it happen if he chooses.

Volunteering…

1) Robotics Camps – The three oldest will be volunteering at least 40, probably more hours, towards their robotics team (yes, Princess has joined it for this next year.)

2) With an eye on college – I am encouraging the twins to find some regular volunteer work to do possibly for the summer but definitely for the school year since they need to “spice” up their college transcripts entering into their junior year.

Work…

Both of the twins continue to work.  Sea Cadet is working part time 15-20 hours a week while History Buff has upped his hours to full tiem plus over time.  As proud as I am of History Buff, I worry that he is going to burn himself out and really miss out on his last summer of “fun” as next year they really will have to work to help pay for car insurance, etc. They both continue to save 50% of each of their paychecks without complaint and then have 25% towards “bills” in their checking account and 25% as fun money.

Visitors…

Since lofting the beds, we are much more comfortable in tiny space, so we’ve invited our best-est friends to come visit.  We will have two of my best friends their their 3 and 2 kids stay with us for a long weekend (two separate weekends, we’re not crazy.)  We are really looking forward to their visits and intentionally picked the weekends during times when the pool would be open.  Both friends are very aware of what I am doing so I do not anticipate much extra monies required, but we will probably use much of our MISC monies those months to buy more groceries.

Other plans…

I have in the back of my mind that we will be taking a couple other overnight trips but nothing nailed down yet.  One would be to start visiting some colleges and then some other small “fun” trip, but we will see.

I think that’s it for our summer plans.  Overall, I expect is will be a relatively “cheap” summer for us, and I am greatly looking forward to enjoying our apartment pool!


Christmas Time is Here

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Disclaimer: This post does contain a couple of affiliate links.  I wanted to share these ideas with you and decided there was no harm if I let you know up front that they were affiliate links.

Having a frugal Christmas is not hard for me.  Okay, I take that back because of course I want to see the look of complete and utter joy and shock on my kiddos faces when they open presents.  But let’s face it…One, we really don’t NEED a single thing; Two, there are so many other things I NEED to do with my money right now (ie debt;) Three, we don’t have ANY free space.

Therefore, my temptation to “shop til you drop” is extremely limited and my desires for my kids Christmas gifts are pretty limited as well.  Over the last few years, I have really steered clear of “stuff” and focused instead on making sure that each child got one thing from each of these categories:

  • Something to wear – this is one that kids would normally frown at, at least in my mind, but since my twins buy their own clothes, they love when mom kicks in and helps them out.  We are not a name brand kind of family but this gift is either something they really need or something they really want, so sometimes socks and underwear and sometimes a new pair of tennis shoes.
  • Something that makes them happy – my kids submit lists to me every year and over the years they know that mom is not going to be trendy toys or anything she would consider “junk.”  (I stopped buying video games, system two years ago so they don’t put those on their list at all.) I encourage them to put things on their list that they will really enjoy having and calling their own.  So to give you an example of this years lists, here are a couple of things that they listed: Loot Crate subscription, a $50 bill, a bottle of grape juice all to myself, art supplies and the best one in my book “a baby duck that I can imprint on.”  Go figure!
  • Something they need – let’s face it, we can always find things our kids need, and in our case, with homeschooling there are always things that are needs that can be made a bit special by making them a gift.  Most years they twins get a box full of personal hygiene stuff.  At first it was because they lost it so often and now it’s because I know they would rather spend their money on other things, so if they are responsible and keep up with the stuff, it frees up their personal money for other things throughout the year.  Sometimes it’s art supplies, gift card to a specific place for an upcoming event, etc.
  • An experience – my kids have never been “toy” players.  Anything they got, when the novelty wore off 5 minutes later, the toy was literally just a waste, so we stopped toys probably 4-5 years ago.  Instead they get experiences…camp money (summer camp,) classes or something associated with that (sewing machine and patterns,) girls day out (hand written gift certificate for lunch out, window shopping and pedicures.)  Whatever it is, this is typically their favorite gift.  And I’ve found, especially with summer camps that if you register at this time of year, you typically get a “double discount.”  My dad is paying the deposit for each child to attend a week of summer camp this year as a Christmas gift for them so not only do I get the double discount, but I don’t have to pay the registration fee which is applied to their tuition and gives me months to pay for camp (line item Kids Activities.)

Because we are so limited in space this year which has really affected our crafting and science space I was struggling to find that “wow” gift for the little ones, and then after hearing from my oldest that he would like the Loot Crate subscription (second year he’s asked for that) I began thinking there might be something like this for the littles.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Tinker subscriptions – they describe it as a “Laboratory for Hands-on experiments delivered every month.”  How cool is that!  This is our first year trying it, but since Little Gymnast LOVES science I though this was the perfect way to surprise him and it’s the gift that keeps on giving since he will get one every month.  (We started with a three month subscription to try it out.)
  • Doodle subscriptions – they describe it as “Ready, Set, Make – fresh new DIY projects to make stuff that you’ll love.”  What a perfect gift for the budding DIY’er or artist.  Princess is getting a 3 month subscription to this which I hope will complement her current obsession with nail art and marker drawings.

This year I will round out the gifts with a magazine subscription for each child, cheap and educational – woohoo and probably a gift card to some entertainment…movie theatre or trampoline playground.  Great for winter entertainment when we just need a break from the apartment.

In the meantime, we have put up a six foot plastic crafting table in our living room and Santa’s Workshop is in full affect.  They have purchased supplies with their own money and are sculpting and painting, screwing together and hiding as they make their gifts for each other and our extended family.  Little Gymnast even bought a gingerbread house kit and has finally mastered putting them together…well, until he ran out of frosting from licking it off his fingers.

It truly is a wonderful time of the year!  Do you have any frugal gift ideas to share or a way you kept your family Christmas reasonable?