The End Of An Awesome Holiday Break

I just went back to work a few days ago and man, I need a break after the holiday break!  It was pretty much non-stop and it was fantastic.  Here are some of the day by day highlights.

December 22

Technically break hadn’t started yet, but we kicked things off from a ‘fun’ standpoint.  My wife and I both love the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and got tickets to go on the giant movie screen.  We took the kids and made a whole night of it, going to dinner beforehand.  It was a great start.

December 23rd: The Official Start of Holiday Break

I had to work but there weren’t a whole lot of people here, and everybody started drifting out en masse around noon.  I stuck it out until just around 2pm.  We didn’t do a whole lot of fun stuff this day, mainly finishing up wrapping and getting things ready for Christmas Eve.

December 24th

Christmas Eve has always been one of our favorite times.  Growing up, it was always at my Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Even after my Grandpa passed and my Grandma moved to an apartment, we still got together.  After she passed, we took on the torch, and we now meet family at Church and then come back to our house for dinner.  It’s still one of my favorite days, even though I’m long grown up. I hope it makes great memories for my children.

December 25th

Christmas morning is always great and I try to see it through the eyes of my kids.  We opened up presents and got ready.  The afternoon was spent at my cousin’s, and we made our way over to my in-laws for the celebration for that side of the family.  Christmas is a great day but it’s non-stop.

December 26th

Having spent the night at my in-laws, we had breakfast and then opened gifts together.  The kids love having back to back Christmas celebrations!  This was official day where you have to put some serious effort into figuring out what day of the week it is.

December 27th

We finally got a break from Christmas celebrations (but more to come), and instead started on some fun activities for the kids to keep them busy.  The library has a big Lego building event where kids get to spend an hour rummaging through bin upon bin, creating something that they then get to put out in the kids area for all to see.  They offer this program about once every six weeks, and it was fun for me to take them.

We also did an impromptu dinner out with my in-laws.  My father in-law has a car that he drives only during the summer months, and wanted to free up some space in his garage, and asked if he could park it in our extra space.  Since they were over anyway, we decided to go out for some great pizza!

December 28th

The fun continued as we spent a few hours at the Henry Ford, which is a local museum with lots of history.   They have lots of cars, old airplanes, steam engines, locomotives, and other stuff.  They even have the actual bus, which has been fully restored, in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.  It’s informative and fun at the same time.

December 29th

My son loves building Lego and has a whole table (a converted train table) in his room to do so.  It’s gotten a bit out of hand, so we spent a few hours cleaning up sets and re-organizing his collection. It was, of course, all done in preparation for building new Lego sets that he got for Christmas!  While he and I did that, my daughter and wife had a field trip at a local chocolate factory!

After all this, we did the third and final Christmas gift celebration, as we got together with my parents for dinner and a gift exchange.

December 30th

We had another really fun day.  My wife took my daughter to get together with some ‘old’ pre-school friends.  They had fun catching up.  Once they got back, we went to a nearby trampoline place where they converted a few storefronts into a giant trampoline where people come to….well, bounce!  We had scored tickets on Groupon a few weeks back with the sole intent of coming this week, and it was a blast.  Afterward, my wife surprised the kids (me, too) by stopping for frozen yogurt.  Yum!

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I rooted for our favorite college football team, the Michigan Wolverines.  Unfortunately, despite a furious comeback, they came up a point short this year.  Maybe next year!

December 31st

New Year’s Eve!  For us, 2016 was a pretty good year and we went out in style.  Where we’ve often gotten together with my sister-in-law, this year that didn’t work out, so we kept the kids and had some old fashioned family fun.

During the day, we went out bowling, which was great, and then went to see Moano, the new Disney movie.  Everybody enjoyed that.  We went to dinner at a new (to us) restaurant, where we had good food and excellent service.

At home we did a family game night, including Pie Face, which involved canned whipped cream.  I made a fantastic chocolate chip cookie cake, and the kids stayed up until midnight to ring in 2017!

January 1st

We had tired kids but they held up remarkably well.  My dad’s Birthday is on New Year’s, so we went out to brunch and then came back to our house for cake.  Later, the four of us went for a walk as it was a sunny day, which is rare during the Michigan winter.  We had a fun dinner with dips, pigs in a blanket, shrimp and some other goodies.

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I again rooted for our favorite football team, this time the Detroit Lions, but were disappointed once again as they fell to the Packers.  They still ended up making the playoffs, but it would have been nice to have seen them win their first division title in nearly 25 years.  Here’s hoping for a miracle in the playoffs!

January 2nd

It was a cold day but was, again, relatively sunny, so we decided to go to the zoo.  It was surprisingly busy and the kids made it about 2.5 hours, which I thought was great.  I had estimated two hours as their maximum tolerance, so they came out ahead!

On January 3rd, I sadly returned to work, signifying the official end to our holiday break.  The kids had two more days off, not returning to school until the 5th, but the family fun had by the four of us was officially over.

You know it’s been a great break when you wish you had a couple more days!

Readers, how was your holiday break?  Any big happenings?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Importance Of Positive Messages

I read a post by Eliza at Happy Simple Life and it absolutely made my day.  She talked about her ‘happy file’ that she started years ago.  Whenever she gets a thank you note or a nice message from a friend or something else that expresses a positive thought from someone else, she puts in her file.  She’s been doing it for years and her file is getting full!

I have never done this, and I imagine most people haven’t, but I have to say that I think it’s a pretty amazing idea.  Think about it.  Anytime you get discouraged or overwhelmed or when you start feeling sorry for yourself or feeling mb-2015-01smilelike you’re unappreciated or maybe even under qualified, guess what?  You have a whole bunch of history that can tell you otherwise.

I can’t imagine any better way to pull you out of a funk than looking back and seeing the different messages that have come your way.

The Fourth Grade Gold Star

Feeling good about yourself is really important.  Want an example of how I know?  I can think back to my fourth grade class.  If my math is right, that was around 32 years ago.  I really liked my teacher and it was one of the better years of my elementary schooling.

Now here’s a memory: One day, I was just killing it with everything goin my way.  I answered questions right, I volunteered to do stuff around the class, I did really good on all the class work, and I didn’t get into any trouble at all (a big thing for me back then if you can believe it *lol*).  Long story short, I was just ‘on’.

At the end of the day, she put a little envelope on my desk and when I looked at it, she’d written a little note for me to take home to my parents.  It was simple, and said that I had a great day in class today, and had a gold star.

That note, that one simple thing, became one of my prized possessions.  Even years later, when I’d come across it, the amount of pride I felt was awesome.

As I’m pretty sure I still have it, I know that if I were to pull it out, that it would still make me feel good, 32 years later.

So just imagine how great a whole bunch of those would make you feel.

Side note: I often wonder if I truly did realize that I was having a good day, or if the positive experience of the note re-shaped my memory over time.  It’s funny how the mind works.  Either way, it ended up being a great day.

Readers, do you do anything like Eliza to keep track of the positive experiences, whether it be at work or with friends or with love?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Can One Bad Decision Cost You $450,000?

Bad decisions are inevitable.  Nobody is perfect.  But can one bad decision cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars?  The recent season finale of the TV show Big Brother has me wondering.

Note: The post below contains spoilers for the recent season of Big Brother (USA version), which ended on September 21, 2016.  You have been warned.

Big Brother: My Guilty Pleasure

Reality TV is not at all my thing, with one notable guilty pleasure, and that is watching Big Brother.  My wife got me into it over 10 years ago, and it’s something we enjoy.

Some might be familiar with the show, but for those who aren’t, here’s a very quick run-down: 16 ‘houseguests’ start off living together, and one houseguest per week is voted out by the other contestants.  There are a few mental and physical competitions each week, with the winners having the opportunity to pick who is up for vote, and everybody else getting to decide.  After roughly thirteen weeks, there are only 3 people left going into the finale.  The winner gets $500,000, second place gets $50,000 and third place gets nothing.

The whole show is pretty trashy, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Finale Time

We watched the show all summer and when it got down to the finale, the three people remaining were:

  • Paul – A pretty strong player who won a lot of competitions but who had a hand in voting a lot of people out
  • Nicole – Another strong player who laid low for most of the summer and then kicked it into gear at the end
  • James – A weak player who is a lot of fun, but who won pretty much nothing all summer long.

Now, the way the finale works is that, first, the three get whittled down to two.  This is done by:

  • Competition 1: All three players compete and there is one winner.  They get a break in the next face-off.
  • Competition 2: The two ‘losers’ of competition 1 square off
  • Competition 3: The winners of the first two competitions compete.
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann

The winner of Competition 3 is assured at least $50,000 and they also get to determine, of the remaining two players, which one stays and which one goes.

How The Competitions Were Won

The way it worked this year is that Paul won Competition 1 and Nicole won Competition 2.  Neither of these surprised me as everybody pretty much knew that James was a weak player and probably wasn’t going to win.   And he didn’t.

Now, the dynamic above has played out before in seasons past, where you have two strong players and one weak player.  See, it’s not an accident that a weaker player makes it.  Why?  Simple.  The strong players want a weaker player sitting next to them as that increases their odds of winning.

So, when Competition 3 started, I assumed that when Paul or Nicole won, that either of them would take James along.  This means that a strong player ends up with nothing, but it’s one of the quirks of Big Brother.

Competition 3 is done live during the finale, and I think that just about everybody was as shocked as I was when he picked James to leave, meaning that he would be facing off against Nicole.  Another strong player.

Well, since you read this far and you saw the title, you probably already guessed what happened.  He lost.  The way that it works is that the 9 most recent houseguests that are evicted (including James) get to cast the final vote.  Nicole got 5 votes and Paul got 4.

Did Paul Cost Himself $450,000?

I’m convinced that had Paul done the smart thing and brought James along that he would have won $500,000.  Paul said and did some mean things in the house, and that tipped the scales against him when he was against another strong player who wasn’t as mean, but I think against a weaker player, his better play would have trumped that.

Now he won $50,000.  That’s not too bad for 3 months or so worth of work.  But, after he has time to reflect, I’m sure that knowing that he potentially left $450,000 on the table by making one poor decision is going to eat at him.

Wwhile a bad decision isn’t going to cost most people $450,000,any decision has the potential to be a ‘game changer’.

Readers, what do you think about Paul’s decision?  What would you have done in his shoes?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

15 Summer Activities For Kids That Won’t Break The Bank

Summer isn’t here officially but the weather says it is.  We have one kid who has finished pre-school and already started summer break, and our other will be done in less than two weeks (he’s counting down the days *lol*).

It’s important to keep kids entertained, active, and engaged, so here are some things that we are planning to get us through the summer.  Not only are these fun, but many of them are free or very low cost!

  1. Flying Kites In The Park

    There’s a lot of parks nearby, but for some reason there’s one that we tend to go to when it’s time to fly a kite.  The kids love it and we will hopefully get to do it more than once or twice!

  2. Go To The Beach

    There’s a nearby beach that we can get into for a $35 annual pass.  On warm days, this is used A LOT!  This summer will be fun because there are two sides to the lake, a shallow side and a deeper side, and I suspect that our kids may want to be in different ends.  Fun!

  3. Cheap Baseball Tickets

    A new baseball stadium was built about 10 minutes away.  It’s not even a minor league team, but is instead an independent league of three teams that take turns playing each other.  Nobody will recognize the players, of course, but with tickets starting at $6, this is a no-brainer! And if there are no teams nearby, you could always buy a pair of quality baseball gloves and throw a ball around yourselves!

  4. Taking Care of the Vegetables

    The kids each got to pick out a vegetable at the farmer’s market this year.  They’re planted and growing, and they’re looking forward to seeing them grow and yield veggies!

  5. Playing In the Water

    We have a small pool, a water table, sprinklers, and water guns that are great for a few hours of fun on a hot day.

  6. Playgrounds and Play Dates

    We have a few great playgrounds at parks that the kids love, and are still interesting enough even for our older child (who is 7).

  7. Reading

    Our 7-year old son loves to read.  He has a few different series of books already and I know he’ll enjoy some downtime with a book in his hand…just like I remember doing at that time!  Our youngest isn’t old enough to read yet, but hopefully we can continue to steer her that way by getting her books she can look through and that we can read to her.

  8. Camping

    We have camping reservations throughout the state at different times across the summer.  The kids are definitely building memories that they’ll carry with them for life.

  9. Visit the Zoo

    The Detroit Zoo is one of the favorite stops for our family and we just renewed our annual membership!mb-2016-06-beach

  10. Stop at the Museum

    We have a great museum called The Henry Ford that has an indoor museum and an outdoor museum, so we can go year round.  We just renewed this as well!

  11. Visiting Grandparents 

    Our parents both love having the kids over, and hopefully our kids will get some well deserved time to be spoiled and loved in ways that only grandparents can deliver!

  12. Vacation Bible School

    -Our son went last year and really enjoyed it.  This year, both kids will be going and will both be in classes that contain people they already know!

  13. Activity Camps

    Each kid has an activity camp that lasts a week for a few hours per day.  Our daughter is going to a dance camp, and our son will be doing a robotics camp.  This one steps outside the bounds of frugality more than many of the others, but these are the things that they look forward to for months in advance.

  14. Making Crafts

    The kids both love art.  It’s good to have some stuff to do indoors on really hot or rainy days.

  15. Doing Nothing

    -I’m a firm believer that kids need a good deal of unscheduled time, so they’ll have some of that!

What do you have lined up for your kids this year? Any suggestions to add to our list?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.