Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Week 2 Quarantine Life

Rather than posting daily, I've decided to do one weekly recap on quarantine life, unless it becomes the new normal - I hope not! 

During the weekend, we realized our laissez faire approach to homework and life was not working.  Our 2nd grader is the least motivated and she had somehow skated the entire week without reading any required reading or math!  Sneaky girl!!  Our oldest miss-read her homework instructions and did one page of math instead of five.  Somehow the boy had hammered through his pile and our youngest had gone on a binge completing many pages in her two workbooks and was driving us all crazy with constant questions so we had to put the breaks on her so we could work with the others. 

Husband put his foot down and declared it time to enforce a schedule.  Coffee hour in bed ended and we all began getting up at 6:30am again.  The positive side is the kids were dressed and fed before 7:30 and able to still watch their favorite show, Odd Squad.  I was showered and fed before going to work at 9 rather than squeezing it during my lunch hour.  We all felt more productive and ready for the day. 

Husband decided to continue taking the kids to school so he could get his teaching work done - prep homework for his classes, grade homework, etc.  He teaches 4 different classes so I guess that would be alot of books to bring home, plus we just don't have the printing capabilities to support all that!  Good thing we live 10 minutes from school.

The kids are in a safe environment with no other kids are going in so they just do their schoolwork while dad works.  They all get done around noon and come home for lunch.  I get a noise/distraction free morning to work.  In the afternoons the kids do chores, watch "Drawing with Mo Williams" and a zoo live cast show from the Cincinnati Zoo at 3pm followed by phone time.

Everyone seems to be mutually pleased with this schedule.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

2020 Spring Flowers

Last spring I was devastated to see no spring flowers were coming up around the house which we had bought the prior fall.  I had no idea what was in the flower beds for spring and ran out of time in the fall to plant anything with my travel schedule at the time.  I was determined to not let that happen again!  Spring is important, it's a magical time of year that brings hope and promise with so much beauty.  We could all use a little hope and beauty right about now.

I spent a year researching flowers, watching "Big Dreams Small Spaces", and in the fall I planted as much as we could afford.  Lidl had bulbs on sale for $2.00 per bag with $10 off coupons for spending $50 so I'd get $10 of free bulbs this way and I did it at least 3 times!  Now that $30 could have gone towards food but I'd like to think it was $30 of free bulbs. 

I think I planted over 100 bulbs.  The squirrels dug quite a few out and I was worried I wouldn't have any flowers left.  I know I should have used protective chicken wire but it was hard enough to cut through the mesh to dig a hole for every single bulb, I would have had to completely redo the flower beds, remove existing mulch and mesh paper to keep weeds at bay.  I hate the mesh paper but hate the process of removing it all more.  In the end, I put up with the squirrels nibbling and was surprised to see well over 50 survival rate.  This fall I plan to fill in the gaps with even more!  Maybe I'll even remove the horrid mesh paper - or not! 

The really fun part for me is seeing how excited the kids get over each new bulb.  They rush me outside every time they find a new flower has opened.  I love that. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Backyard Update

When we moved here there was a pile for dumping weeds, leaves and any other garden waste.  We added waste throughout the fall, spring and at the end of summer our finished acorn squash and tomato plants.  By now, the pile has turned into decent dirt, it simply required a little time to sift the dirt from remaining bulk.  I'm happy to say we finished this weekend!  Hurrah!  I was finally able to get the compost cans in that corner and begin seeding the bare parts of the yard with grass seed.  This is the perfect time to lay grass seed now that it's no longer going below freezing at night and 60's during the day.  Looking forward to a nicer lawn this year!

Now if we can just replace that horrid lattice work!!

And look who got a fresh coat of paint!

What you see here is three containers with various stages of compost.  The wood over the top is to help the middle container finish drying out while we have a week of rain and don't want it getting too soaked.  We plan to narrow this down to two containers once the middle one is finished.

This little area was not accessible last year so I'm excited to put in a small garden area here.  It's quite shady most days so need some plants that don't mind 2-3 hours of sun per day.  Also quite anxious to get that ugly gray lattice work off and repaint the boarder.

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 Quarantine - Day 5

Day 5 – we’ve established a comfortable morning routine that includes coffee in bed from 7-8am.  Husband is usually the awesome one to bring coffee.  Kids watch Odd Squad from 7:30 – 8am while we catch up on news with no distractions.  At 8am I wander downstairs to open the curtains and organize the living room cushions and afghans while admiring our amaryllis’ blooming.  I put on some relaxing music and make bread – this morning it’s pumpkin.  Just as I’m finishing husband burst into the room with Muppets Cabin Fever playing at an ungodly level.  He’s a wreaking ball to my Zen zone so I quickly escape to my office to begin this missive. 

End of day:
To be honest, I'm not sure what the kids did today, they already went to bed so I can't ask them.  We did do one family walk together this afternoon.  Today's weather was 81 high, it was amazing!  I got to work in the yard on my lunch break with my husband, which is fun because he moves all the heavy stuff for me.  

So far the week has had some great family moments.  We've watched two episodes of Lego Masters together, done one family walk, and I've walked the dog every day!  All the chores are caught up!!  We haven't pushed too hard on the homework, just asked them to do about 2 hours per day.  I appreciate some of the advise we've seen on Facebook this week about deschooling and realizing this has been hard on the kids to deal with.  We've had a few sudden crying spells and while they are all doing well, it's hard to have their entire routine demolished.  I think it's probably been good to allow them to sleep in and ease into this new home routine. 

The following are from today's walk.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

2020 Quarantine - Day 4

Day 4 – Our first actual day of going NO WHERE!  Yeah!  The internet is still making me mad.  It took me almost 30 minutes to launch a fun educational zoo talk for the kids through our horrid home computer.  Three kids walked away.  During my lunch break I poop scooped the yard and flower beds plus planted seeds for our summer garden, that feels like progress towards something positive.  Finally, we didn’t spend any money today.  Hurray! 

The kids did the most activities today:
  • Paper beads
  • Drawing
  • Old maid
  • Homework
  • Chores
  • Loom work
  • Reading
  • Watched zoo special on sloth
  • Watched 1/2 of Storks
  • One hour phone until internet locked up

Walked the dog for more than two miles!

This was Evie's first game of Old Maid and I'm told she was quite good at getting the Old Maid and not letting anyone know.  She gave it away successfully twice!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

2020 Quarantine - Day 3

Day 3 – I panicked over slow internet, Verizon worse than usual, can’t imagine dealing with it for two more weeks with kids home and using internet.  No current cases of Coronavirus in Washington County so went to Antietam Broadband to sign up for their plan that’s supposed to be much better.  Husband went to school to get our kids books that they had left the day prior.  

Walked the dog.

Kids reading together in parents bed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2020 Quarantine - Day 2

Day 2 – I stayed home and husband went to school for the afternoon with the kids but only one family showed up, he decided no reason to go back for the rest of the week.  

Walked the dog.

Monday, March 16, 2020

2020 Quarantine - Day 1

Day 1 – went to Walmart to get medicine for mom so she wouldn’t have to go and got milk for all of us so we could hold out for longer in going back to the store.  Husband took the kids to school to hand out school work packets to families so I could do my afternoon work meeting in peace.  

Walked the dog.

He's happy to be home.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Mom's Birthday

Yesterday was my mom's 77th birthday and we celebrated by getting to church early enough to sing Happy Birthday to her during Sunday School, we've been terrible with on-time attendance this year but made special effort yesterday.  We also had her over for dinner with my brother, aunt and cousin;  our last local family get-together before the grand quarantine social-distancing experiment of 2020.

I'm really glad mom was born on the 15th because we managed to squeeze in her birthday celebration before everything came to a screeching halt.

Today everything that was left to be closed, was closed.  All gatherings above 50 are banned.  Restaurants are closed.  YMCA is finally closed, they had tried to stay open in reduced capacity but after the governors declaration they had to close, for us that means no swim class.  All state parks are closed.

Since this is historic I'd like to document the following:
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants and gyms, his latest dramatic executive order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“I will make whatever decisions and take whatever actions necessary to save the lives of Marylanders,” Hogan said, adding that the orders will be fully enforced. “We’re not fooling around anymore.”
Hogan said he has activated the National Guard and state police to help enforce the executive order.
The governor’s executive order includes a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people. He also said he will add 6,000 beds to hospitals for increased capacity, and deploy more of the Maryland National Guard  1,400 are ready as of today and 2,200 will be by the end of the week.
The ban on restaurants does not include takeout or drive-throughs, Hogan said.
Last week, Hogan ordered the closure of public schools statewide, the closure of the cruise terminal at the Port of Baltimore and a ban on gatherings of 250 or more people.
On Sunday, he forced casinos, racetracks and off-track betting facilities to shut down.
Hogan also called for a ban on evictions and utility shut-offs.
“It’s impossible to know how long this threat will continue,” he said.
In reaction to this, movie theaters are also closed.  I'm so glad we had our spring break last week and got to see "Onward"!   I guess that movie is going to take a hit with theaters closing after a two week release.

On Sunday night we enjoyed "Frozen 2", made available 3 months early on DisneyPlus because the new CEO felt bad for all the kids stuck at home.  He now has 3 Disney fans for life with our girls.  They were so happy. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

2020 Pi Day

Half the family doesn't like pie - I know, it's shocking right!  We made pizza for the non-pie eaters, the other half of the family is happy to have less competition!  I might have gone a tad overboard, but Charlotte requested the apple pie so I obliged.  Top right is chicken pot pie in the iron skillet, bottom left is apple, bottom right is blueberry.

2020 Spring Break ~ Staycation

Last year we had an epic trip to Florida, it was our first attempt in quite some time to make spring break memorable.  I think prior years I had just worked through the kids spring break but in 2019 I got an extra week of vacation and that's what allowed us to make the trip.

This year our finances are tied up in an upcoming investment venture so we needed to be more frugal.  We also had a long list of parent errands to attend and both our jobs required some presence so we tried our best to give the kids a special thing to look forward to each day.

  • Inspection for Truck
  • Worked 2 hours in the morning
  • City Park
  • Little Caesars Pizza
  • Bank appointment for investment venture, dropped kids at mom's house while we went to the bank
  • Mike had play practice in the evening
  • Library for books and movies

  • Finish paperwork for investment venture
  • Dad go to school in morning to grade papers, mom do a couple hours of work
  • Onward Movie after lunch

  • Breakfast at Cracker Barrel with mom
  • Try to fix mom’s printer
  • Print art forms, chore list and make menu
  • More calls for investment venture
  • Call JCPenny for hair appointments
  • Finish pricing consignments
  • Change oil in SUV in afternoon 
  • Work in back yard for two hours

  • Finish new bedding in master bedroom
  • Science Center downtown Hagerstown
  • Swim class in evening

  • 9:30am – Mike doctor’s appointment
  • 10-11am – Walmart Pick up, got canceled so had to go inside to shop during pandemic craze with my four kids plus visiting kid!
  • Mike went to Costco in Frederick for supplies
  • 3pm – bank appointment for investment venture
  • Michaels to frame family photo
  • Kids went to my mom's house for the afternoon while parents did banking/Target/Michaels trip
Throughout the week the coronavirus news got worse until Thursday at 4:30pm, it was finally announced that all Maryland schools would be closed for two more weeks.  Our school, who started their spring break a week early, was now facing 3 weeks off school!!!  They will still have homework sent home complete each day so basically we're now homeschooling for two weeks.  No big deal, husband is a science teacher at their school so he can preside over their homeschooling activities while I continue to work from home.  

I'm glad we stayed home.  It might have been more stressful to deal with the news if we'd been traveling and by Friday stores were selling out of food fast.  Imagine coming back from a trip to striped down stores?  I'm sure they will be restocked soon enough but still the idea of coming home to such chaos makes me glad we stayed local.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Day I Became Persona Non Grata with the Girl Scouts

The year was 1997 or 98, I had graduated from college with an Associates in Industrial Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and no one would hire me.  There were no interviews.  I was surviving on temp agency assignments, face painting, coffee barista, dish washing, etc.  My goal was to save enough money to move to Florida to continue my degree with the eventual hope of getting a job in my chosen field.

AIP had a book filled with art commissions, people from the local community would call in when they needed an artist for face painting and such.  I pounced on the girl scout lead with much excitement.  They were planning an event at a local school gymnasium for all Pittsburgh girl scout chapters.  It was to be a day of festivities that included face painting.  They needed two so I quickly found a partner and committed to the date.  Prior to this I had been face painting at the Pittsburgh Pirates Stadium so I felt sufficiently ready to take on the girls.

Nothing could have prepared me for the energy and deafening noise.  There must have been over two hundred girls - and two face painters!  Every one of them wanted to be painted and they were - I hate to say it, kinda bratty.  It didn't matter, we pressed on until every last girl was painted.  There were no breaks.  No lunch.  Just non stop painting.  They were relentless.  No one came to check on us until the very end when checks were handed out.  We were asked if we'd ever like to do this again and of course we said yes.

Suddenly the girl scouts disappeared and there was only leaders left to clean up the carnage.  We noticed a giant balloon display and asked if we could take it home.  They said yes.  We took it down the hill to our car but it wouldn't fit, so we had the sudden inspiration to let it go!  Just as we were about to let the giant balloon bunch fly free, a women came running down the hill screaming at us to NOT LET THE BALLOONS GO, something about killing animals, death to the environment, etc.  Shamefaced, we lugged the balloons back up the hill and into the gymnasium.

We were never invited back.

Dear Girl Scout Leaders,
I still buy your cookies and I've never released a balloon, on purpose, ever again!  Also, I'm kinda glad you never called back.  My head still hurts from all the noise.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Frugal Living - Investing Year 1

2019 was our first year to to invest in the stock market.  Prior to this year we had never had significant funds to invest.  In 2018 we held money in a money market account for down payment on our house.  Prior years money was tied up in a renovation house that was not meant to be, but once this was sold, we were happy to finally try our hand in the stock market.  Despite dour warnings at the end of 2018, we jumped in with much excitement.  We invested with Vanguard and put 30% in energy bonds and 70% in high earning ETF's.  It was surprisingly addictive.  At first I checked our accounts daily, by mid-year it was once a week and by now a few times a month.  

The biggest mistake we made was putting all our reserve funds into ETF's.  We got a little carried away with the idea that all available money must be working money and when there were times that we had to pay off a big bill for vehicle repairs, it was a hassle to sell funds and move it around.  This year I plan to keep our reserve account separate so it's available when needed.  

We've set up money market accounts for our kids since they were born and they were earning pennies each year.  We put all their money into separate accounts in Vanguard and invested each into ETF's.  It was really fun to watch their money grow throughout the year and I've been working with the two oldest to teach them investing basics.  If they can learn at a young age they could be set for life.  This year I want to put money into each account for their birthdays in addition to whatever presents they get.  I think that could be a good tradition.  

Monday, January 20, 2020

Frugal Living - Annual Memberships

I'm not an official finance blogger, but I like to write about what works and what doesn't work.  If it can help someone then great!

Annual Memberships - we started cutting back in March 2019, and we haven't missed the two items cut.

  • We switched back to an old disk software of Microsoft 2013, as long as we can keep this edition working, we won't need an annual membership.  We use it for a few basic household charts:
    • Chore Chart
    • Menu
    • Favorite meal list
    • Bills - we've made our own excel checkbook and monthly budget
  • Executive Costco - got talked into it once by a fast talking manager, never needed it, haven't missed it.
This year I've cut my annual membership to 4-Word Women.  It's a fantastic organization - if you live in a city and can enjoy the events, but I live in a small town and the closest gatherings are in Washington DC.  I have literally never been to a single event as it's 1.5 hour drive, plus meal expenses and they always pick fancy restaurants so the anxiety of dressing for an event, making it on time, and then socializing is just too overwhelming.  I work from home, if it were local coffee house meet ups I'm totally there.  I actually did one coffee shop meet up in Winchester, MD with someone who was trying to build up the chapter, but I never heard from her again.  I haven't read their newsletters in two years so basically I have no reason whatsoever to continue this membership.  

The only memberships we have left are Costco and Amazon Prime.  I've debated these all year and continue to renew, however, they are still under discussion.
  • Costco - we have to drive to Frederick, 30 minutes away over mountains, not an attractive option in the winter, and time consuming.  I plan to try a free pass day at Sams, which is local, to see if I can get similar products.  I'm considering doing Costco quarterly for our favorites and just stocking up.  I really love their credit card, every year our rebate check gets bigger as we put all our expenses on the card and pay it off each month.  They offer 4% back on gas, 3% at restaurants, 3% on travel, 2% for Costco and 1% on all other purchases
  • Amazon - do I really need stuff in 2 days?  I think the days of them being the cheapest are gone, I price compare everything and it's getting harder to find a better deal at Amazon.  I think I only buy from them so I can skip a store run!  I don't watch Prime Video because the offerings are just not that interesting.  I do have their credit card and the cash back almost pays for the annual fee.  This one renews in July so I guess I have some time to evaluate it's value.
Summary - only keep the memberships that are actually providing value to your family!  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Amaryllis update

January means it's time to take those amaryllis bulbs out of hibernation and replant them!  It's so exciting to have a January planting assignment, it makes spring feel that much closer!!

Just a quick recap on bulb care, in October, I removed all bulbs from their pots and placed them in a box with wood chips.  I left them in a dark corner of the basement where it stays around 70 degrees.  I'd prefer cooler but that's about as cool as I can seem to get it.  The bulbs are supposed to hibernate for 6 weeks, it's easier for me to just re-plant them in January after the busy holiday season. 

My husband set up this pink grow light which we bought from Lowes.  We bought the metal stand from Aldi for $40.00 this week.  The photos are a little weird because of the lighting.

I start out with a little water on day one, slightly more on day 2, try really hard to not get water on the bulb as it's fragile.  Each day I water a little more until the dirt seems more consistently damp.

I need to move the shelves, because they are right across from our heating/air conditioner unit which husband says sucks air from that general area so it might cause the plants to dry out too fast.  For now, I'm just happy to have replanted all 8-10 bulbs!