Free Fun Family Apr 5 2019

Welcome to the weekly update! (You can read how my updates, started on Sundays and moving to Fridays in the first one).

Free

The garden keeps growing! I’m very excited for our CSA to begin in May, but for now, the YMCA’s Produce Market is filling a fun gap and adjusting my cooking/grocery shopping around in season, available fruits and veggies.

We’ve been pretty good about packing meals/snacks when we go out for a walk or to visit a place most of the time, but this week I made myself become aware of my slowly-creeping-spending on coffee/treats/snacks while out and about. I need to run every purchase I make through the values-alignment standard. Honestly? Dunkin Donuts, while delicious, doesn’t make the cut.

Fun

Outdoor walks are a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. They are also wonderfully frugal fun! Finally the great weather has returned to our part of the world consistently enough to make my children suggest we spend time outdoors. Our HOA repaired the tot-lot (playground) closest to our house (just in time for pool season in a month–yay!). We’ve enjoyed the blossoming flowers and emergent wildlife in our neighborhood. Spring is grand!

Our snake friend agrees with the positive assessment of the weather!

Family

J had two accomplishments this week: he competed at the state level for Destination Imagination and passed his taekwondo test for green belt. Furthermore, some part of his reader-brain switched on, and I cannot seem to sate his voracious consumption of books. He especially loves Dav Pilkey’s works at the moment (Captain Underpants and Dog Man). Thank goodness for public libraries where we can check out endless books. I cannot fathom the cost of raising the reader I’d like to raise if I had to buy all of the books he needed.

Other

I’ve been researching intermittent fasting as a means of controlling my blood sugars and simplifying my dietary habits for a few months, but have been on the fence about trying it. Last week, I had to fast for bloodwork labs and realized I wasn’t starving like a crazy person if I skipped breakfast. I have continued mostly eating with the 16:8 model of IF since that time (a few days I haven’t, a few days it’s been more like 14:10, but pretty good). I noticed that I feel more appreciative and mindful of the food I do eat, that the hours before breaking my fast are quite mentally acute, and that it has helped me control the quality and amount of my food more than other “diets” I have tried. I like these results, so I will continue to examine its effect on my blood sugar control and weight management.

Free Fun Family Mar 29 2019

Welcome to the weekly update! (You can read how my updates, started on Sundays and moving to Fridays as of today, work in the first one).

Free

With the beautiful weather, we’ve been spending a lot of time preparing our vegetable garden. Min wanted to build some raised beds using concrete blocks, as you can see in the picture above. The whole family enjoyed some time digging in the dirt, replanting seedlings and preparing for the end of the frost. While gardening (especially expanding gardening) is not a free activity, it is fairly low cost. Hopefully, we’ll end up with some yummy vegetables we grew ourselves!

Fun

I’ll take this present, thanks!

We celebrated my 38th birthday on Saturday with a trip to my favorite coffee shop downtown. H declared that my “present” was my family. Sounds good to me!

Last night, we went to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats and ran into J’s best friend’s family also catching the show. The tickets were a present from my mother. The performances were mesmerizing, athletic, and artistic. It was a late night for the kids, but worth their wonder and awe.

Family

I continue to be impressed by the programming and variety of spiritual development offered by UUCF. In just two months, my children feel welcomed, affirmed, and empowered by the activities designed for them on Sundays. It’s become something they (and I) look forward to at the end of our week. By participating, I feel a greater sense of peace and connection to my spiritual practice. It’s been one of the best choices I’ve made so far in my commitment to exploring my values for 2019. For a person who has never (ever–not even as a child) participated in a faith community, this is a surprise and joy.

Other

The Destination Imagination state tournament is tomorrow. I am so proud of what my team and J’s team have accomplished. However, I will also be grateful to return to a simpler schedule. I need the time to reclaim my exercise routine and reconnect with my family.

Free Fun Family Mar 17 2019

Welcome to the Sunday update! (You can read how my Sunday updates work in the first one).  We had great weather in Maryland this week, so we are moving ahead with our gardening project. Min turned 45 on Saturday (he’ll be 8 years older than me for a week–woohoo!), and J’s Destination Imagination team won third place in the regional competition, meaning he will be advancing to states. All of this is exciting, but a bit overwhelming. In honor of the crazy that is my life presently, I took a week off from blogging. However, I’ll share our week’s highlights with you now.

Free

A huge part of our gardening project this year is experimenting with growing vegetables from table scraps and seeds from food. We are also making raised beds with cement blocks (not free, but quite cheap). The seeds and scraps we’ve planted in the last few weeks are starting to sprout. In a few weeks when they are bigger and the last frost is done, we’ll transplant them to the ground and pots outdoors. We may not get much food this year, but we are learning a lot while keeping the costs fairly minimal. Between the garden and the CSA, we are hoping to reduce our summer food costs while increasing the quality of our diets.

Fun

J and teammates launch their rocket on the catapult they built for their challenge solution

We spent all day as a family at the regional competition for J’s Destination Imagination teams. There were lots of things set up for kids to do that were fun and educational (plus of course seeing performances that were full of creativity and STEAM-y goodness). H had a wonderful time watching the shows and creating her own art.

After the competition, we went to H-mart for Korean food and birthday cake for Min. We sang and had a great family celebration!

Family

Health is the most important foundation of happiness. We’ve been passing the colds around in our household. At any given moment, at least two of us are dripping or hacking up a lung or have a headache. It’s made tempers flare and lowered our ability to keep up with our usual household routines. This week, I’m trying to focus on my health and wellbeing. Good food, good rest, good activity, and good sleep. These things usually help us all feel better.

Free Fun Family Mar 10 2019

Welcome to the Sunday update! (You can read how my Sunday updates work in the first one).  My busy few weeks caught up with my body this week, and I caught a nasty cold that I am just now recovering from–oh no! However, life always moves forward and some cool stuff happened this week, so I will share that with you.

Free

Preparing containers for gardening.

I feel like I am just bleeding money this month! We paid for a one week summer camp (programming and robotics) for J, gardening supplies, a car registration, our CSA balance, and a replacement for my five year old smartphone. All of these are things we need to do, but after a high spending month last month, it feels like a struggle.

However, I have a lot more perspective about the long term than I did at this time last year when spending rounds made me feel hopeless. One win: for the phone, I took advantage of several discounts to get the model I wanted at about 30% off plus some cash back, so that was a win. It feels luxurious to have a phone that doesn’t die when I get a text message… or try to take a picture… or the battery hits 90% or …

Fun

Well… we had a blast at the dentist. I’ll just leave you with this special picture:

Family

H is struggling with growing up right now. She is less than two months from turning four and clinging desperately to her baby days. She regularly pretends to be a baby and laments clothing she’s grown out of. She is fiercely independent and full of verve, but also a major cuddle-bug and charmer. She would spend hours watching videos of herself as a baby if she could. Yet, this week, she asked when she could have a baby sister to teach like J teaches her. What a kid!

Other

The regional competition for Destination Imagination is this week. (I’m exhausted). Say a small hurrah for the teams I am working with (J’s team and the middle school team from his school I’m coaching). We need all the spirit and love we can get!

Free Fun Family Mar 3 2019

Welcome to the Sunday update! (You can read how my Sunday updates work in the first one).  This week has been all about playing catch up–everything from work to home chores to finances has felt a step behind. I am grateful to have a weekend mostly full of reviving, soul-filling activities.

Free

We have started some seeds for our garden (see the kitchen scrap tomato experiment of Min’s above!). This cost money, but will hopefully produce some garden bounty later in the year.

While I didn’t really have money “wins” this week, I did finish paying my mother back a bit of money I owed her (not counted in our consumer debt payoff). We felt a weight lifting from another small debt gone. Ever since her scare with social security, she’s been worried about having enough money to support her lifestyle. We decided to kick up our repayment to her so that we were not contributing further to her anxiety. I hope she can enjoy herself a little more with one less money worry on her mind.

Fun

Saturday was our monthly swing dance in Frederick. Since I spent last weekend in a training, Min and I decided to forgo the babysitting and bring our kids along for the dance. It had been about half a year since we last brought them, and they were much more mature this time around. Both Min and I actually got to dance a few times (instead of them clinging to the parents). I think their favorite part was helping me volunteer to take tickets at the door.

Family

This week, J and H have started to team up to build forts and paper airplanes, turn car tracks into pretend swords, and read with each other. Watching and encouraging their friendship is a great joy in my life. They even danced together at the swing dance many times. It is lovely to see them grow.

Other

I have officially joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick. I began attending about a month ago as part of my search in 2019 for living more fully aligned with my values. I have discovered in that time that it is a good fit with my family and is helping keep my spiritual journey on track. While full membership may be a ways off, we have met with Rev. Carl and signed up for official nametags and the youth choir for J.

Having never participated in an organized religion before, I’m still learning a lot of the nuances of belonging to a faith group, but I feel happy, welcomed, and supported. Like so many other aspects of my life, if you had told me I would do this 5, 10, or 15 years ago, I would not have believed you. Change is possible. Even for those of us closer (by a lot) to 40 than to 20.

Free Fun Family Feb 25 2019

Welcome to my Free Fun Family weekly Sunday update (although a day late, and a dollar short–haha). You can read the first update, where I explain this series in more detail, here. Each week, I’ll recap some general goings on in our world and focus specifically on the topics I love to blog about the most. The “free” will review a money/frugality win, “fun” will review something enjoyable I did/accomplished, and “family” will report on family doings.

Free

Rather than many specific “wins” related to money this week, I felt a shift in my attitude about money that seems important: I realized that I will achieve my financial goals over time. I had been stressing so much about our debt and how much progress I was or was not making on it, but this week I let go a bit and realized that our income continues to increase and our debt goes down. For so much of this journey, I’ve wanted to just get it over with as quickly as possible. I am learning that there is enjoyment in the journey, too.

For an actual money win, I picked up a few extra shifts at the hotline, so my next paycheck will be larger than usual. Hoorah!

Fun

Why did I write a Sunday update on a Monday??? Well, I’ll tell you: I spent the entire weekend participating in a fitness instructor training workshop. I cannot believe how incredible it felt. The founder of Freedom Group Exercise (and Frederick, MD native), Amanda Strand, led the training. She was so inspiring and empowering that my exhausted self ended training a teary, emotional mess. I was unable to fully impart the gratitude and spirit to her I felt in becoming part of the family of BANG. I have a long, complicated history with my health, but I have never felt more accepting of my body in a positive, powerful way than I have this weekend.

Right after the open “Master Class” on Sunday where the 15 of us who were trainees assisted leading some of the songs. Great turnout by current instructors and members to support our work. Can you find me?

I know it sounds hokey–I don’t care. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just want you to understand that this weekend helped me believe again in the goodness of people and how we can connect as human beings. I still have a long way to go to become an instructor (licensing, video taping evaluation, CPR training, etc.), but I am sure that I will work to follow through on this, even if I never teach a class for pay.

Family

Crazy Maryland weather–snow in the background of a beautiful day!

As you might have inferred, between the extra hours at hotline and the instructor training, I’ve been very busy this week, so I have had to be intentional about connecting with my children as much as possible in brief moments. We focused on maintaining our reading ritual and talking. Mother Nature handed us a gift on Wednesday of a day off other obligations through a snow storm that shut everything down. We enjoyed our time together.

J has been stepping into more of a leadership role in some of his activities lately. He’s been intentionally trying to help others enjoy their time more in activities he does, like taekwondo and Destination Imagination. I enjoy watching him work to develop these skills. He always has an interesting perspective and thoughtful plan. I am curious to see what will happen as he grows these skills.

Other

Note: being really sore and tired is a bit like being sick in terms of willpower. I have definitely struggles this week with my finances. I’m coming back to the positive habits I’ve developed with only a little damage. I appreciate that straying off my plan is only minor at this point in my journey.

Free Fun Family Feb 17 2019

Welcome to my Free Fun Family weekly Sunday update. You can read the first update, where I explain this series in more detail, here. Each week, I’ll recap some general goings on in our world and focus specifically on the topics I love to blog about the most. The “free” will review a money/frugality win, “fun” will review something enjoyable I did/accomplished, and “family” will report on family doings.

Free

I have been trying to keep my focus on the health and joy of cooking at home. I always feel better about myself and my cooking when I remember this joy. This week has been stressful, which has led to temptations to dine out or binge on unhealthy food. I’m being intentional about getting back to the joy. I cooked a use-up-the-veggies frittata that was amazing (see picture below), some good recipes using frozen pumpkin puree, and pinto beans with avocado.

Fun

I signed up for training next weekend to become an instructor for my favorite dance/HIIT/boxing fitness format, BANG. This week, I have to learn one track to teach at the training and familiarize myself with some new choreography. It’s been fun to practice at home. The kids are getting into it with me.

Family

Valentine’s day this week and great weather has led to some enjoyable family times together. I went on a date with Min on Tuesday. Our family walked around downtown on Saturday and tried out a new cake shop.

I’m trying to be more present with each of my family members when they speak to me, even if I’m busy and preoccupied. I do feel like it has led to some better connections to each of them.

Other

We have had a stressful, tiring week. However, we’ve stayed connected and positive overall. I am hopeful that this upcoming week will start to wind down a bit.

Free Fun Family Feb 10 2019

I woke up like this!

Welcome to my Free Fun Family weekly Sunday update. You can read the first update, where I explain this series in more detail, here. Each week, I’ll recap some general goings on in our world and focus specifically on the topics I love to blog about the most. The “free” will review a money/frugality win, “fun” will review something enjoyable I did/accomplished, and “family” will report on family doings.

Free

I got my federal tax refund this week. Wow–both tax refunds came so quickly! I’m hearing from a lot of people that the new tax reform law impacted them negatively. It is hard for me to gauge because I got a raise and promotion, so my federal gross income went up significantly. I paid a lot more in taxes than I did last year, but I was expecting to do so.

J cuts a log that will become (hopefully) a home for shiitake mushrooms.

We are preparing for our biggest season of gardening work ever! Since 2019 will be a year with very little travel and an increased interest in sustainability and food sourcing, we are hoping to use this time to create the vegetable garden we’ve always wanted. While it was a bit painful to hit Lowe’s for the first time in awhile, the preparation for a big family project is exciting.

Fun

Last Sunday, my family went to the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation service for the first time. I’ve been feeling a craving for spiritual development in my life, and I did enjoy the service and community. My children enjoyed their part of it as well. I plan to return in the future. I think I would like to dedicate each Sunday to my spiritual development, whether through this service, through connection with nature, or through volunteer service.

I worked an evening event for my main gig this week that brought me back to the high school where I taught a year ago. I checked in with colleagues and students I hadn’t seen in a bit, so that was lovely. While I love my new job and work colleagues, there is something uniquely special about working in a school, directly with children. Even though I don’t love stressful weeks with lots of evening events, whenever work brings me into direct contact with students and families, I feel more grounded in my mission.

Family

J and H are becoming quite the little team in terms of scheming and plotting–as siblings should be. While there is some competition between them, I am appreciative that most of their play is cooperative and collaborative. Even if some of it is about how best to attack Mommy and Appa.

H continues to develop through her musical theater dance class and library story times. She is becoming quite a “chatterbox” these days. J took his orange belt test in taekwondo (see picture). He passed with high marks! He has really developed in maturity with his study of martial arts. I am so appreciative of the taekwondo studio we found through some friends. If you are local to Frederick, I cannot recommend DreamKicks Taekwondo highly enough–Master Yuno and Ms. Sunny love and support the kids in the studio like they were family.

Other

I did not succeed on my health goals this week at all. I am checking in with myself about that and will make the time for my health this week. I feel better when I prioritize it. I will go back to basics and move intentionally every day for 20 minutes or more, hitting the classes I love most when I can. I will also work on the daily meditation. It helps with the health goals.

Small steps lead to great progress. I will get there…

Free Fun Family Feb 3 2019

A bit late posting today–but still here for your Sunday review.

Welcome to my Free Fun Family weekly Sunday update. You can read the first update, where I explain this series in more detail, here. Each week, I’ll recap some general goings on in our world and focus specifically on the topics I love to blog about the most. The “free” will review a money/frugality win, “fun” will review something enjoyable I did/accomplished, and “family” will report on family doings.

Free

The State of Maryland has already sent my refund–hurray!

I picked up a bag of vegetables through a the new Produce in a SNAP site at the Frederick YMCA Teaching Kitchen. The program is part of Hungry Harvest, a company that rescues imperfect produce (see my beautifully malformed carrots above) and sells it at reduced cost in urban food desert sites. I was very pleased with the quality/cost of the produce and being able to support a community initiative. I will probably shop there again in the future.

Fun

More snow this week made for wintry fun, but also some crazy school schedules. I don’t get time at home on snow days anymore (as an administrator), but I still made some memories on afternoon walks and snowball fights.

I also had a lovely date night with Min at our local swing dance First Saturday downtown. Overall, it’s been a wonderful week.

Family

We began a chores chart with money attached to the different chores.
(See H completing her chore of watering the plants in her unicorn pajamas.) I was inspired after reading Smart Money, Smart Kids, co-written by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze. Our kids are digging it so far, and our house is cleaner. I may post more about it if it keeps working out.

Other

I’m trying a workout every day challenge this week. Wish me luck!

Hope you have a great first week of February.

Free Fun Family Update Jan 27 2019

Welcome to my Free Fun Family weekly Sunday update. You can read the first update, where I explain this series in more detail, here. Each week, I’ll recap some general goings on in our world and focus specifically on the topics I love to blog about the most. The “free” will review a money/frugality win, “fun” will review something enjoyable I did/accomplished, and “family” will report on family doings.

Free

I filed my taxes–hooray! We will get a small state return and a larger federal return, but I did better at predicting our taxes this year than last. However, this year I will be working two jobs for more of the year in 2019, so I upped my withholding on my second job to ensure I won’t owe taxes next year.

Our refund will allow me to complete our emergency fund and savings goals to put us in the position to be paying for the current month’s bills from last month’s income (instead of just throwing all of our money at the bills, including the credit card from last month, and then paying whatever is left over to debt). I’ve become convinced that just working with the credit card “float” is unacceptable, even if we pay it off every month. I want to live outside of paycheck to paycheck stress, even though I’m focused on paying off debt as quickly as possible.

Silly master chef, Min, strikes a ridiculous pose.

I started to feel a little down this week when I realized that the above goal, although absolutely what I needed to do financially, will mean that we can only pay a small amount towards the debt this month, even though we’ve had a very good month of low spending. This led to me feeling inadequate, which led to some spending not in line with my desire to spend only within my values. (I got a coffee out and fast food for a meal). However, noticing this feeling, acknowledging where it came from, and making a plan to break it (I set up another recurring donation to the Community Action Agency of Frederick that funds the local food bank, soup kitchen, and homeless shelter; my first was to the local public library). Reconnecting with my values was the fastest, surest way to stop a spending spree in its tracks!

Fun

This week has really flown by. Work and school and everything in a flurry of activity, but we still had lots of fun. One night, when J and H and I were snuggled in bed after reading, the children decided to pretend I was the child and they were the parents. This made us all laugh so much that Min, who was downstairs cleaning something, came running up to check if everyone was ok. We all collapsed in fits of hilarious, sweet giggling. This is the greatest stuff of life–all of it free!

Digging for fossils at a Nature Center birthday party.

The most fun we all had together out of the house was at a birthday party for J’s friend from school. It was held at a local park which had lots of great activities for the kids. The birthday boy chose the theme of prehistoric Earth, so the kids learned about dinosaurs and fossils. The parents brought some bagels and homemade treats, so it seemed quite frugal, too. We all had a great time!

Family

Getting better at puzzles, while her brother has taekwondo.

I’m noticing the creativity and talents of my children growing as much as their appetites and heights. I was lucky to be able to watch a musical theater dance class my daughter loves on Monday because of the holiday–she is so enthusiastic and expressive. J’s artwork project for school (the line drawing above) shows his creative side, even though he’s usually my little engineer. Children are who they are, and we are but witnesses to their delightful becoming.

Other

I didn’t get to the gym as much as I’d like in the second half of the week because I was having some weird heartburn and resulting insomnia. That seems to be mostly resolved now; I can’t wait to get back to some classes. I also signed up for a charity fitness challenge to support our local YMCA that I’m hoping will help me develop a habit of morning exercise again (feel free to sponsor me to encourage my daily mileage!).

The club I volunteer to coach at J’s school this week (a Destination Imagination group) hit a snafu as two of the other more consistent parent volunteers are facing some health issues. I had hoped to be more of a supporter-volunteer, but it looks like I’m becoming more of the leader as we head into competition season. It’s been a lot more stressful working as parent volunteer than it was leading groups when I was teaching. The good of this is that I’ve found even more I love about the community of parents and teachers at his school. The bad? Stress, of course. But it is one of his favorite things to do, and Grandma volunteers, too, so it’s wonderful family time.

Little scientist J at a Destination Imagination team meeting.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. We’ll check in again next Sunday. Have a lovely end of January!

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