The Long Road Home

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Road trips used to be my preferred way to travel. In fact, I loved them so much I even had a job in Admissions, that put me out over the road for about 6-8 weeks at a time. I LOVED IT! Note the past tense here. Road trips were awesome, until I had children that is.  I love my girls more than anything in this world, yes, even coffee; but they have obliterated my passion for the open road. It was right around the time Madz was 18 months old, I began to feel differently and if ever there was a second thought, that maybe I might just have it in me…well, then there was my trip home a few weeks ago that absolutely sealed.the.deal.

Packing the car, the bags, the snacks, the entertainment all of this for a single trip. Typically planning, prepping, and hitting the road is exciting. Well, when I  went to VT just getting on the road was a process. I had contemplated for the long time drive v. fly (well, for me this is a no brainer flying is WAY worse for me; two words: existential angst) but financially it made much more sense to drive with the girls. The money from not having daycare for the week alone, made up for the cost of the rental, which I had booked on Priceline so upfront the cost was much less. However, the local rental company I endorsed, was terrible and  although I was being a bit of a PITA I reinforce my right as a paying and apologetic customer for “any additional hassle” for you to do your job with pleasantries. In the end I’m still (10 days later) waiting on the final outcome of cost, which hopefully will pan out as I was “guaranteed” it would. Would I book online through a third-party again? Yes. But a few things to be learned. First, there really is zero flexibility with third-party vendors so your plans cannot be changed. Book carefully and confidently. Second, stick to your guns. Don’t let them up-sell you and (third) read the fine print! The woman tried to charge me for specifics I repeatedly denied, she thought I wouldn’t notice. Sorry, lady but not me however I commend your sales efforts and reply with only the most genuine of southern hospitalities… “bless your heart.”

As for the trip itself, here are the tips I noted and learned on my 14 hr trek up to the NEK:

1. Invest in an E-Z pass. Tolls are getting higher and higher! Plan your route and if you don’t have this pass check out the free website Toll Fare Calculator to plan accordingly. It’s much better to plan ahead then hold up a NJ Turnpike toll for 3.5 minutes as they write you a ticket. To all the motorists I held up on 7/16 around 10p …Sorry!!

2. Pack your meals ahead of time. Cheese sticks, fruit, flavored water, individual snack packs and lunchables not only made the girls excited to snack in the car but it wasn’t hugely unhealthy as I feel like we would have been going through drive thrus or gas stations. We actually didn’t have to stop for any food on our way. Yes, we did have to get out a stretch and an Old McDonald’s Play Place was of great use but the girls had already eaten so I grabbed an ice coffee after they played and ran off some energy and we were back on the road.

3. Get some fresh air! The girls loved having the windows down and the wind blowing in their hair 🙂 It kept the positive vibe going , gas costs down, and the driver wide awake!

4. Make a pit stop. If there is one thing I have learned from many road trips both with and without kiddos it’s that I  can no longer hop in the car and go for 12 hrs and expect to make it to my destination. They need a break and mentally so do I.  We booked, in advance, a stop in NJ  for the night and in the am my Step-mom aka. Grandma-Jill and my niece were our travel buddies for the last 5 hrs but more importantly, we really needed her place to stop and rest for a night. Also, its good to think ahead all the cities you’ll be traveling through to establish if there is anyone within reasonable driving distance that you can call either in an emergency on the curbside or to meet for dinner and/or a driving break.

5. Last but not least, cherish the time and appreciate the craze. I remember how quick it always seemed to take getting home then getting to our destination wherever we went when I was growing up. To me, this is completely opposite when you are an adult traveling with children. You cannot get home fast enough. They need out, you need out; quite frankly this “vacation” just needs to end because you are screaming to get back to the office and some sense of normalcy. The road home, in either regard is a long one, but nonetheless it’s an incredibly memorable one and I wouldn’t trade the road trip with me and my little ladies for anything. Yes, we missed B- dearly but I’m so grateful (even in the screaming) to have had such special girl time that even if they don’t remember…

I always will. ox

July Madness

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I have to start by saying how refreshing it is to sit here on a Sunday morning enjoying a cup of coffee, with only a day of enjoying my ladies ahead. As I write to the unknown the world it is a refreshing reminder of just how therapeutic this whole thing is for me. It has been so long since I have had the opportunity to sit and just be; but for me this is the perfect way to start a new week.

Being the crazy month that July has been I feel like I have quite a few updates, on all accounts. So here’s my plan, a quick budget review and update with a recap of all the happenings in the Fowler Fam and then throughout the next week I’m going to post more detail about some of the low-(er) cost fun and tips I’ve picked up in the last few weeks. Now I realize that the my extreme budgeting is more of an idea, a therapeutic road of sorts for my personal journey of healing. By no means do I claim to be an extremist of any kind and there are plenty of other how-to blogs on saving, that is not what the Frugal Fowler Project is about. Our family is far from knowing or being experts regarding the “how-to” in the world of saving, instead we will continue to go down this trial by error discovery and we hope to live, learn, share, and change how to better our personal and family finances.

With all of that being said, we knew in December-far before the birth of this blog, that July was going to be crazy. From Summer fun, to big weddings, birthday parties, road trips, and 30th celebrations, we were well aware that “living and spending” would be at a peak; and for us, not taking part was not an option. What’s working hard and earning without living a little and making memories with great friends and family? Yes, you want a nest egg but raising a family without making memories is not for us. I maintain  that it’s about balance and admittedly we haven’t always had great balance but again…we are working on that. I digress. Part of what has been hard about July is that we have worked hard to save and I feel like I have continuously handed over my debit card and every time I twinge just a bit. We did not set up a budget for the month (for reasons combined of a. not having the time because of work and b. out of fear) I can admit this lol but I can also admit this was a mistake; lesson learned again. The good news is we actually saved on childcare-this helps for bank account balance; we only used what we had planned to use out of our savings, and as for our checking account it’s still in the positive (and because I’m an openly paranoid person let’s take a moment to knock on wood it stays that way). More importantly though, we made fantastic memories, and as we move into August I am confident that if we make a plan to save, perhaps a spending freeze is in store to be on the safe side, but we may just be able to get right back on track.

On the healing front, yesterday was one year since we rolled into Raleigh for our big move to the south but for me July 27th is something more. It was the last time I actually saw my Daddy, it was the last time I got to hug him, it was the last time my girls got to hug and kiss their Grandpa. He was the final push that made us decide to uproot our life and replant it south of the Mason-Dixon line; and he took full credit. I miss him terribly but I hope, as we continue to work hard and move forward that we make him proud and I know that I’ll get to hug him in my dreams as I have so many times since his passing. Although it’s never the same I feel so blessed to have such wonderful memories of this amazing man. Thanks for the push, Dad. ox

I realize some of the pics have been used before but they were taken on this very morning as we headed out of town ❤

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4th and Fun!

 

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Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays because it really does illuminate what (in my opinion) all holidays should be about the 4, really good F words, great- food, fun, friends, and family.

Our first 4th in NC was a success! B- had the day off, which never happens. So we had a family fu1012679_617373782435_788948635_nn day that cost us a total of 21.00. We had a slow start to the am and the girls were slightly cranky so they took some downtime with Daddy which wound up with Daddy being suckered into going poolside with our little ladies (he falls into it every time lol); then we had lunch at home and spent the afternoon at the lake. Came back to the house for dinner and then went for ice cream and a free fireworks show at a local shopping plaza. This sounds funny but they were spectacular! The only downside was that Madz was scared of the fireworks, in her defense we were super close and it was uber loud. Eating our meals at home and not traveling out too far for the day helped us keep the costs down. Our only expenses were entry into the State Park and ice cream. It was a fun day and we are grateful to have gotten to spend it as a family. With Brent’s work schedule we rarely get to do much as a family and we calculated that since November we have only spent 6 full days together(including holidays). So needless to say it was amazing!

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For the weekend we were able to go on our annual July 4th weekend camping trip sans Brent, unfortunately. This is a tradition we have stumbled into and we love it. We always go with friends, a great tip for keeping vacations low-budget and high fun is to enjoy activities with friends and family. It allows for everyone to make great memories without hitting the bank too hard. Of course it also depends on what the activities you are taking in are but camping is a great example. Everyone contributes to everything, keeping costs to a minimum.  In total we had six kids and they had a blast! It was definitely a ton-o-fun and I really hope to have a repeat next year. Sad to say we had to cut our trip short, originally planning a 3 day/2 night trip we left on Saturday because Charli got really sick. I am about 99.9% certain it was an allergic reaction to Watermelon but she gets allergy tested in a few weeks so we will know for sure then. A bit unnerving and a situation I’d prefer to not repeat next year, lol. Thankfully though, she’s totally back to her frisky, sassy self and has seemingly settled into terrible-twos about 2 weeks too early.

Budget Update: Our debts continue to go down as we are two payments/months away from paying off a huge medical bill. I realize it’s only one of the many debts but hey, progress is progress!