Friday, August 25, 2017

How I get my kids motivated to learn memory verses and say them in Church

Background, all the other kids in Sunday School come prepared knowing their verses and my lazy lot have been lackadaisical all summer long, acting like once school ended their brains fell out.  Well, I'm not having it anymore.

I threatened to take away their electronics for one week.

Seriously, it's the best plan I've come up with yet.  You should have seen the wild panic and the mad rush to learn these verses.

They were in tears.

Mournful cries of "what if I cry while saying the verse in church".

I was unmoved by their emotional out pour.

On Sunday, they both, 7 and 9 y/o, said it with total confidence.  I knew they could do it if they just practiced every day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Road Trip 2017

Our family does an annual pilgrimage to West Texas from Maryland once a year to visit husbands family.  This will be our 3rd trip since moving to Maryland, prior to this we used to fly from Florida, but we had less kids back then.  Driving is cheaper then flying for a family of 6.  The only draw back is that it takes 3 days.  We try to break this up with various pit stops for entertainment.  Here is our the first leg of our trip went:

Friday - Sunday we spent time in Ripley, WV visiting friends.

Our kids promptly made themselves right at home by completely unpacking their backpacks and throwing their clothes into the resident girls laundry hamper - logical to them, not to the one responsible for re-packing and extracting our entire family from friends residence.  Our things were spread so far and wide that we left behind our bread box and church shoes!

A little explanation the bread box, it had a loaf of Honey Wheat for sandwiches, Mini Naan, homemade sweet potato bread for breakfast, and tortillas.  I was quite sad at leaving this behind.

Our next stop was Bowling Green, KY, about 5 hours drive from Ripley.  We had planned to see Dino World on Monday but the weather was showing rain for the entire day so sadly we got up and decided to try the one in Texas.  Monday's drive took us to TexArkana where we spent the night.

Tuesday's drive got us to Glen Rose, TX around 1pm, we ate a quick lunch at Sonic and then went to Dino World until it closed at 5pm.  At this point we were about 5 hours from our destination.  After a family meeting, it was determined that we should drive all the way, even if it meant stopping for dinner and getting in around midnight.  I guess everyone was tired of hotels at this point and just wanted to get to Mema and Pepa's house!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Update

May was a busy month with one trip to Florida, last day of school, a children's day service at church, and prep for our 3 week road trip.  No wonder I didn't find time for blogging or my favorite series "Frugal Living".  In fact I will have to skip writing a monthly post for Frugal Living because we've hit status quo for the moment.  Instead I'll work on a few travel with family posts, my 2nd favorite topic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Frugal Living - April 2017



Here is my April edition of money saving tips.  Subject matter - my road to recovery from 10+ years of cell phone contracts!

I've been an AT&T subscriber for more than 10 years.  I can't remember what my bills were in the beginning but I know they got more expensive once my husband and I got hooked on iPhones.  My first iPhone was a 3GS 8gb.  I adored that phone until the space got so small that it couldn't accommodate email, photos, upgrades and everything else I wanted so I upgraded to the iPhone 4 with 16gb and stayed happy with that until 2 years ago when the same problem occurred.

A very helpful man called me over at Target and made a very compelling case on how we should upgrade to the iPhone 5.  I guess he caught me right when my contract was about to end because the bill came out to only slightly more than what I was already paying, approximately $130 per month for two phones.

The new plans 2 years ago were showing that we would have paid considerably more per month on the iPhone 6 so I thought we were getting a great deal on the 5's. I realize now how sadly naive I was.  Here is how it breaks down:

We paid $130 per month for 2gb of data total.  This past month our contract ended on April 17th.  Our bill would have gone down to $84 if we had stayed with AT&T.  Subtract $130 - 84 = 46.  Take 46 x 24 months and the total is $1,104.  We paid $1,104 for two iPhone 5's.  Excuse me while I curl into a ball and cry myself to sleep.  But wait, I don't have time for self-pity, I firmly believe that we must be constantly trying to make ourselves better at everything so I will take this as a wake up lesson that I finally managed to learn!  
Even before I did the math, I was already feeling uncomfortable with 2 year contracts so I started looking into other plans a month ago and promptly ran out of time due to travel and illnesses so I decided to start with Cricket who was offering $70 p/m with 3gb data each for two phones that we brought into the store .  There is no contract so if we find a better deal elsewhere, we can walk away at any time.  I did later find that GoPro is offering $50 for two phones at 2gb each and Freedom Pop has a similar deal so maybe I'll try them later.

I went on eBay a few weeks ago and bought an iPhone 6 with 128gb of space for $255 because I was once again running out of room for email, photos, upgrades, etc.  My husband decided to stick with his iPhone 5 because he was not running out of space.  I can honestly say the difference between 5 and 6 is very little in terms of how fast apps run or operate so for me it was simply a choice of more space that was the critical factor.

Lessons learned:
  • buy phones online after scouting the best deal
  • no more phone contracts - EVER!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day is Every Day!

I love Earth Day as a reminder to be kind to our planet.  Regardless of where you might stand on global warming, it's still wise to be kind to the space we inhabit, for ourselves and future generations. 

I'm excited to share a few ways that we combine living frugally with being environmentally responsible:

1.  We take our trash to the dump twice a month and pay an annual fee of $166 VS our prior cost of $384 to Apple Valley Waste.
  • We recycle all cardboard, paper products, plastics and glass.
  • We compost all food (except meat) which includes scraps, forgotten leftovers (really trying hard to minimize these) and egg shells.
  • We shred all bank documents along with any paper that is not saturated in color ink and it all goes into the compost bin.
2.  I make a weekly menu which includes home cooked meals for 95% of what we eat.  We save money and reduce packaging.  Examples:
  • Refried Beans - with just 2lbs of dry beans, we make 6lbs of Pinto Beans that are frozen in 1lb containers and thawed for making quick refried beans. 
  • Homemade Yogurt - with 1/2 cup whole milk, I can make 1.5 quarts of yogurt.  It's not as thick as store bought yogurt, but it taste wonderful with homemade smoothies which we make almost every day.
3.  We garden a small 10x10 plot in the summer and can/freeze the following to be used throughout the year:
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Pinto Beans
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Red Peppers - we go through these too fast to save
  • Onions
  • Garlic
4.  Mowing with a push mower rather than gas.  We have both, but my husband prefers to use the push mower as much as possible.

My goal for the next year is to eliminate (as much as possible) zip lock bags.  They've been a weakness of mine for years and while I don't think the savings is significant, it's more of a desire to reduce our trash/landfill contribution.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Update

There has been more travel and sickness in this year that I would have initially imagined.  The March Asia trip ended with a few days in California to meet with a client and review all the plush toys we had worked on the prior week in China and ended with me getting the most horrific cold I've ever gotten!  I couldn't even sleep the night before my return flight home, it was that bad!!  I called a doctor from our Telehealth plan and they assured me I'd be fine flying home but to try and get as decongested as possible.  I bought Afrin the next day in the airport and that completely cleared my head.  I will keep this in my "required medicine travel bag" from now on!  I had a netti pot, cough drops and other meds with me but none were effective in loosening the clog.

The jet lag and cold combined made it an almost two week sickness after which I returned to California for another quick two day trip.  Thankfully I have no more travel until the 2nd week of May!

Last week our 5 year old got a stomach bug and now this week the oldest has it!  I can't wait for everyone to be healthy again!

I missed writing about finances last month and I've got a great report to write this month so stay tuned!  This one is about our changes in cell phone coverage and I'm excited to share how we've grown in this area.  I think most financial changes involve a certain amount of will power to change bad habits along with bravery to try new things.  Let's face it, isn't it just easier to live with what we've always done?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back in Asia - Trip 2 of 3 for 2017

I was told at the end of 2016 that I was on the budget to travel to Asia three times in 2017.  I don't think I've traveled this extensively since 2006 or '07.  I remember going three times a year 10 years ago.  It was right before I started having babies and the trips back then were three weeks long.  At least they are shorter now.  I'm down to 11 days and that includes travel!  My schedule is as follows:

13th Monday - flight to Newark, then Hong Kong
14th Tuesday - arrive in Hong Kong at 8 or 9pm, spend night near China boarder
15th Wednesday - stop at international grocery store and get breakfast foods for the week, drive into China, 1.5 hours, work in plush toy sample room until 7 or 8pm in evening
16th Thursday - drive to another part of China to visit an IC office, 6 of us stand over an engineer for 4 hours until we get the sound/mouth movement needed.  Poor girl.  I'm sure she was glad when we left.  Return to our sample room and work till 7 or 8pm.
17th Friday - work in sample room
18th Saturday - work in sample room
19th Sunday - work in sample room
20th Monday - work in sample room return to Hong Kong in evening
21st Tuesday - fly to California
22nd Wednesday - meeting with client
23rd Thursday - return to Baltimore (home)

I'm not sure what condition I'll be in when I get home but for now I feel fine.  Strange how the body adapts.  I'm praying for down time after this trip and dreaming of all the fun things April will bring - Easter, Church Revival, a birthday party with friends from Maine, ladies children's day event from church, and time with friends.  See, my 2nd Asia trip was supposed to be in April and I might have missed these things.  It was hard taking this trip with short notice, but it will be better when April is here.

The question I'm asked the most by friends and family in the US is this - what do you do when you are in Asia?  Well, I've accumulated 16 years of Disney plush toy design experience and I direct a team of pattern makers on how to make the plush toys look like the Disney character.  I don't speak Chinese and I don't sew patterns.  I create spec sheets and correction through Photoshop and Illustrator and a translator is needed to communicate with the team.  We go shopping for materials, visit printing factories, embroidery factories, mechanism and IC factories while I'm here.

When I'm in the US, I review plush toys through photos.  Being here in person allows us to get 200% more work done because we can work faster in person.  There are no delays.  So when we get big projects from Disney, I have to come here to work.

My job has given me amazing flexibility to work from home in Maryland so when Asia travel is needed, I do it.  In time, there will be more creative people hired to work here what I'm doing now and this will not be always necessary.  I might even miss it one day.  For now, it's my life and I'm going to make the best of it.

This is the view outside my hotel window at 8:49am:

The bridge has been like this since I was here a year ago.  I'm wondering if it will ever get finished.