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5 Tips For An Affordable Beach Trip

I’ve shared the pictures from our beach trip this week and I wanted to share how we make our beach vacations affordable. Since we have kids in school now we can’t go in the offseason anymore. The middle of summer is pretty much our only opportunity. But there are definitely ways we make sure we keep our spending in check. 

1. Check Groupon for hotels. We have 2 or 3 favorite hotels and I religiously watch Groupon for room deals on those hotels. This year I found our suite for 60% off the regular prices! I booked way back in early March for a June vacation and saved hundreds of dollars!

2. Buy groceries! It is just way too expensive for us to eat out every meal. We typically eat every breakfast and lunch in the room so I buy stuff for sandwiches, some pre-made salads, and lunchables. I buy all the drinks and we take a cooler to the pool and ocean. The $116 we spent at Walmart saved us hundreds on eating out.

3. Take advantage of early bird dinner deals. The seafood all you can eat buffet that we love and have been going to for over a decade has a great early bird deal. Before 4:30, kids buffet is only $12.95 and adults save $5 each on their buffet. That saved us over $45 off what the cost would have been at 5:00! The other restaurant we always eat at is a great local steakhouse/tavern. If you get there by 4:30 kids eat free! That saved us $36! 

4. Don’t get sucked into outside attractions. We don’t do the water park, the amusement park, the zoo, the mini golf, the aquarium, the arcade, etc. We are there for the beach, ocean, and pools! So that’s where we spend all of our time. It’s cheaper for us to do the other stuff at home because we have memberships to the water park, amusement park, and zoo! 

5. Avoid the souvenir stores. This has been a hard and fast rule for us since the kids were small. This year we made an exception for 3 reasons- the kids are older, they have their own money to spend, and boogie boards were on sale for 2 for $5! But that’s all we paid for. Maia used her own money to buy a hoodie. Mason and Zoey saved their money and bought nothing. 

Those are just the basic ways we choose to save money at the beach. I cannot afford to shell out a thousand dollars on a 4-5 day beach trip. Especially not with a kid going to college soon!



Our Summer 2018 Plans

We are a couple of weeks into our summer break and we’ve enjoyed every single second. I meant to write a post about our summer plans a few weeks ago but…well, moving. That’s pretty much my excuse for everything these days. Moving pretty much sucked all the energy and mojo right out of me for months. This summer is going to be different than summers of the past. We don’t have a neighborhood pool this year, which has comprised about 90% of all summer activities in the last 12 years. I was worried about how the kids would react to not having a pool but they actually didn’t mind. Typically by the third week of summer they’ve grown bored of the pool. Most of their friends had already moved from our old neighborhood so it just wasn’t as fun anymore. This year we’ve had to brainstorm other fun things to do and they had lots of great ideas!

Adventures and Fun for Summer 2018:

*Beach Trip
*Go bowling
*Go swimming at the lake
*Play mini golf
*Go to the waterpark
*Go to the spraygrounds
*Midnight Glo-stick hot tub swim
*Go to Carowinds
*See an outdoor movie
*Camp out in the backyard
*Enjoy Pelicans Snoballs
*Go to the zoo
*Go on a waterfall hike
*Have an ice cream sundae bar
*Go to the library
*Glo-stick night trampoline jumping
*Family Game Night
*Go to the aquarium
*Go to the children’s museum
*Enjoy the ice cream truck
*Go to the movies (we want to see Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Skyscraper, and maybe the Teen Titans movie)
*Host a water balloon dodgeball game
*Have a midnight movie marathon party
*Have a picnic in the park
*Host a World Cup viewing party

To make up for the lack of a neighborhood pool we’ve decked out our bonus room and backyard with fun stuff. We added an air hockey table, table tennis set, and basketball arcade game to the bonus room. Matt wants to add a pool table to the front room and I’m dying for a skeeball game. Basically we’re just old teenagers. We bought a trampoline and a portable hot tub for the backyard and the kids are loving it! I have some personal goals for summer as well.

My Goals:

*Read at least 10 books (hopefully more)
*Finish Zoey’s room
*Finish Maliah’s room
*Finish Mason’s room
*Finish the master bedroom
*Finish bonus room (create art center and finish tv area)
*Decide on what to do with the formal living and dining rooms (hint: neither will be used for formal rooms)
*Sell all the kids outgrown uniforms
*Go on at least 4 date nights

It’s going to be a great summer!



I’m Still Alive, I Swear

Hi friends! I’m still alive, I promise. This has been the biggest whirwind of a month. I did not mean to disappear for the last couple of weeks. I don’t have a lot of time right now but I wanted to pop in and give a quick update. As most of you know, we have been working hard to get our house ready for sale. Our goal was to be ready to put the house on the market in May so we could move after the school year ended. Well, the state of our current housing market necessitated us moving up our timeline. Houses are literally selling in days in our neighborhood with bidding wars and multiple offers. So we spent the last month working like dogs to finish up any last minute projects. I think I’ve slept 5 hours since March haha! But we did it. Every project was finished and we called our realtor. Our house was on the market within 5 days of calling her. And the offers began rolling in, even before we had showings. I’m happy to tell you that our house is officially under contract. We had multiple good offers and accepted an all cash offer over asking price. They requested a quick closing so we’ve been scrambling to find and secure our rental house and all the hoops that requires us to jump through. 

We’ve had so much going on other than our house stuff too. Tyler went to prom. Maliah has a boyfriend. The little kids spent the weekend at their grandparents….I’ll do a real catch up life lately post soon when my head is finally above water again. I can’t wait to share the professional pictures that we had done of our house for the MLS listing! 

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Chronicles Of A Flu Stricken Family

So I completely disappeared from this blog last week. There was a good reason. Our entire family, with the exception of Tyler, was stricken down with the dreaded flu. If you follow me on Instagram then you saw me chronicle parts of the week. Here’s a glimpse into the week of a family struck down by Influenza.

Day One:

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That’s patient zero up there. Saturday evening Mason started feeling crummy. 3 hours later he had a fever of 103 and was miserable. So first thing Sunday morning we were at Target Minute Clinic for a flu test and exam. He was positive for Influenza A. I took the prescription for Tamiflu and the doctor’s not very optimistic “good luck” and we went home. I called around to all 34 pharmacies nearest me until I found one with Tamiflu in stock. $50 later we had the last 2 bottles of medicine that was so awful it made Mason gag and cry every time he had to take it. 

Day Two:

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Monday morning came in like a wrecking ball. All 3 younger kids had fevers hovering between 103-104 all day long. They were sad, miserable, and impossible to please. I spent the day catering to a hoard of tiny dictators who insisted on sharing their germs with me. I almost lost a finger trying to sneak a Kit-Kat out of their Halloween candy but flu germs? Those they’re willing to share. Matt came home early Monday afternoon with the dreaded Man Flu. And Tyler refused to set foot in our house until all the flu germs were gone. He packed a bag for the week and took off for a friend’s house. Lucky. 

Day 3:

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All that lovely sharing of flu germs worked and I woke up with a high fever and a general feeling of death. Matt stayed home from work- his first sick day in 12 years! Dang Asian immune system. The entire day consisted of lying on the couch and occasionally tossing medicine at sick kids. I don’t remember anything else. 

Day 4:

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That picture pretty much sums it up. A gazillion dollars spent at the pharmacy just to keep us alive. Day four brought with it fun tummy troubles for the kids which led to more moaning and whining. After I made the trip up the stairs for the millionth time to take a kid a fresh water bottle while Matt moaned on the couch, I started to wonder just how long I’d have to hold that pillow over his face……luckily for him the stairs sucked out all my strength. 

Day 5:

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Day 5 brought total misery for Zoey. Her cough turned into wheezing and severe congestion, her ears started hurting, and the dreaded white patches appeared in the back of her throat. We did some spoonfuls of honey and peppermint essential oil in the diffuser to help with her coughing. Then we did a detox bath with more oils. It definitely did help! I got her into the doctors that afternoon and sure enough- strep throat and a double ear infection. Go big or go home, Zoey!

Day 6:

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Day 6 saw some improvements finally. Mason was fever free for the entire day. Maliah was also fever free. She declined to have any pictures taken of her while battling the flu. I don’t understand her reluctance. Ha. Once Zoey got a few doses of her antibiotics in her, she felt much better. 

Day 7:

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We finally left the house. Finally. Everyone was fever free and starting to go crazy in the house. So we headed out to Target. We needed some stuff- like Lysol and food. The kids were so excited to re-enter the land of the living again. 

So ends the week of misery. Everyone went back to school today and Matt went back to work. Tyler finally came home last night. I spent the entire day washing and sanitizing bedrooms and bedding. Every square inch of this house has been disinfected and cleaned. I’m not taking any chances!

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The Reality Of The Perfect Christmas

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I remember the holidays when I was a little kid. We watched Christmas movies on our only TV when they came on one of the 6 channels we got because my dad refused to pay for cable- but only if dad wasn’t already watching something. My mom made us hot cocoa from the packets- sans marshmallows because the ones with marshmallows were a dollar more. We went to one family Christmas party on Christmas Eve after church and all the other holiday parties were adult only. On Christmas morning we woke up to our unwrapped presents separated into piles for each of us (thanks Santa). We had a couple of hours to enjoy them before being forced into our frilly Christmas dresses and beginning what my sister and I now refer to as the Holiday Parade of Homes through 4-5 relatives homes where we would be shuffled off to play with cousins or dogs while our parents enjoyed wine (mom) and scotch on the rocks (dad) with the adults. See back then Christmas was not all about how to create the perfect, magical Christmas for the kids.

Fast forward to the current day.

Pinterest is clogged with 10,546 creative ideas for Elf on the Shelf to delight your kids, 999 extravagant holiday recipes to make at home with your kids, 6500 new family traditions to start immediately so as to not spoil childhood for your kids, 498 ways to make your gift wrapping stand out, and 1.4 million holiday crafts to do with your little cherubs. Christmas has become a whole thing dedicated to creating the perfectly staged Instagram and Facebook posts to show friends, family, and complete strangers that you are a family (and mom) to be envied.

No more. I’m saying no to the pressure to frantically manufacture Christmas magic, to send the perfect holiday cards, to all the things that everyone says you must do to create the perfect Christmas season for your kids. I’m saying no to pushing and forcing and making my family participate in all the activities that society today deems necessary for a picture perfect Christmas. I’m saying no to using Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook as guidelines for what I should be doing this holiday season. I’m saying no.

Instead, we will focus on what matters most to us. We will drink hot cocoa from a packet- with marshmallows because we’re not savages. We will lounge in our comfy fleece pajamas in front of a fire watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We will make Christmas cookies from refrigerated dough and enjoy every bite. We will decline most holiday party invitations in favor of quiet family nights at home. We will blast our favorite Christmas songs and sing along. There will be no perfect Christmas cards, no outrageous elf antics, no 4 hours spent waiting to spend 20 minutes driving through Christmas town to see lights, no 5 course holiday meals, no matching family pajamas, no expertly decorated Christmas trees or mantles, no Clark Griswold-esque outdoor light displays.

I’m not sending any Christmas cards this year. I can no longer justify spending hundreds of dollars on cards that just get tossed out in a couple of weeks. Our elf, Jingles, likes to find creative places to hide every night but she very thoughtfully does not create mischievous messes for me to clean up. The kids don’t have any desire to drive through the Christmas town to see the lights anymore. We’re going to be dining on Cinnamon Roll Bake and a delicious egg breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. I don’t think there is any possible way to force Tyler to participate in matching Christmas pajamas- he’s pretty stubborn. One of our Christmas trees is lopsided because a foot is cracked and the other Christmas tree is half lit because I can’t find the burnt out bulb. We bought one of those Star Shower laser light things to project Christmas lights onto our house this year instead of hanging real lights.

And you know what? That’s ok. Christmas isn’t about perfection. I’m happy with how we are celebrating Christmas. My family is happy. I can scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, enjoy those perfectly decorated houses, and smile because they really are beautiful. But I don’t feel envious or cheated or less than. I feel grateful. We have everything we need. And that’s what matters. 

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