Have you heard about…?

Most people who know me in real life have heard me talk at one time or another about my favorite toys (Discovery Toys), my favorite coffee maker (Keurig) and my favorite computer (my iMac). That’s because when I love a product, I can’t help but tell everyone about it.
So, it seems interesting to me that the latest trend in marketing focuses on paying people to tell others about products or services. I have started using three web sites lately that use this type of marketing, and so far, I’m a fan. In fact, I would want to tell people about them even if I DIDN’T get anything in return.
ALICE
The first one is alice.com. If you’ve ever watched The Brady Bunch, I’m sure you’ve wished you had your own Alice to take care of everything around the house.
With six people in our family, I need an Alice just to help me push my shopping cart through the grocery store. I usually have to get that mongo cart with the park bench at the back. I put two kids on the bench, another one in the baby carrier in the cart and I often have another one hanging off the side pretending he’s a firefighter.
By the time I get that Mama loaded with groceries, I can barely push it. And it never fails, I get to the end of my shopping trip and remember I need paper towels and toilet paper. Too bad. No more room.
This is where Alice comes in. Alice is an online store, sort of like Peapod. However, she specializes in non-perishable items like cleaning supplies and paper products. She also carries pantry items like coffee and tea, make-up and baby care items.
I just used her for the first time, and I liked the fact that she reminded me of all the possible things I might need. I could compare prices and brands easily, and she even included coupons for some of my purchases. She remembers what I ordered and will remind me when she thinks I’m about to run out of garbage bags or anything else on my list.

And shipping is always free, so I don’t have to worry about toting all that stuff out to my car. It will just show up on my door step in two days.
If YOU would like to try Alice, just use my referral link and I will get a discount on my next order. If you like it, you can pass along your referral code and get future discounts, as well.
DIAPERS

I’ve also been using diapers.com since Baby #4 was born. I like diapers.com because I can buy the super deluxe, humongous box of diapers, which gives me the best price. I usually can’t find the really big boxes in the grocery store.

The price is comparable to shopping at a large warehouse store, like Sam’s or Costco. However, you SAVE even more money when you use a referral code.

If you use my code at check-out, EMIL9445, you will save $10 on your first order and get a $5 credit toward your second order. When you use my code, I also get $10 off my next order. Once you have ordered, you will get your own referral code you can pass on to others.

SWAGBUCKS

I first heard about swagbucks.com around Christmastime. This is a search engine that pays you to search the Internet.

Another blogger wrote a post about how she earned so many swagbucks, she was able to pay for all of her Christmas shopping with the money she earned. I was curious, but I didn’t feel like looking into it. This week, she posted that she had earned enough swagbucks to buy her family a brand new iMac! OK… it couldn’t hurt to give it a try!

If you decide to use it, download the swagbucks toolbar and make it your home page. You will start racking up points, just for searching the Internet. You get lots of bonus points if you refer someone to the web site.

If you want to try it, please use my referral link. After you get started, you will get your own referral code to pass on to your friends.

So… what do you think? Have you earned money this way? Do you like this type of marketing or does it bother you?

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Highlights of our trip

Ahhh… Home sweet home. It was hard to say good-bye to the summer temps, the beach and the pool, but it’s always great to be back home.
Before we left… back when I could just sit around by the pool updating my blog… I put together these highlights of our trip:

1. Spending the day in Disney World with good friends.


We only had one day at Disney, so we started when the park opened and stayed until it closed. It was a long day, but well worth it when we saw the fireworks over the castle. You know the old saying, “if you’ve seen one fireworks display, you’ve seen them all?”. Well, with all things, that is NOT the case at Disney World!


2. Finding more seashells than we ever imagined. We didn’t have to go searching for seashells because they came to us! I would pull my chair up to the edge of the ocean and watch the shells wash ashore with each wave. I would sort through each new batch of shells looking for unusual ones. The water would carry the other ones away.


When we would dig into the sand to build a sand castle, we found that the beaches here are literally made of sea shells. If you look closely at this photo, you can see that our sand castles are covered in shells.


3. CapableDad was in China on my birthday this year. So, for my belated birthday celebration I asked to watch the sunset on Captiva Beach. Captiva is at the very tip of an island off the coast of Florida. This beach is at the end of the island, and it feels like you are sitting at the edge of the world.


4. On one of our beach excursions, we went to Ft. Myers Beach. The beach was gorgeous with the most perfect sand for building sand castles. When we arrived, I was a little alarmed to see a sign warning visitors to move their feet around in the water to avoid sting rays. The sign said sting rays were most often found between May and October.

Well, it was only the first week of May, so I told the kids we probably didn’t need to worry. The water was as warm as bathwater and the sand underneath was unbelievably soft. It was the perfect environment for sting rays.

We didn’t think we would really see one, but we were feeling wary. Then, my son and I spotted something like a small brown piece of carpet under the water. We made a mad dash to get out of the water. We kept watching and saw the sting ray about 10 more times. It got so close to us that we could see its eyes.

I snapped a ton of photos of it, but didn’t realize my memory card was full. This is the only one where you can see it.


5. Jumping in the pool. First thing in the morning. Right after lunch. Swimming until bedtime. Ahhhh….


And now… it’s time to face reality and put away six suitcases full of clothes!

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Our days in Florida

I wasn’t sure if this idea of doing homeschool away from home would be one of my many Great Ideas that are better in my head than in real life. We still have a lot of school work to complete before we can end our school year, hopefully, at the end of May.

So, we had planned this as a “working vacation”. I created a binder for each child with the assignments for each day we would be gone. We would only do our five to six core subjects, rather than all of the work we typically do at home.

Each day of our drive, we were in the car for at least four hours, so I also included school work for those days. Doing school in the car went way better than I ever imagined. Unlike at home, when the kids are distracted by wanting to take breaks to play or get a snack, we didn’t have anywhere to go in the car. And it turned out to be a good way to make the ride go faster.

Once at our friend’s home in Florida, we mostly kept the same schedule we do at home. We would do school first thing in the morning.


We did several subjects outside by the pool.


CapableDad had his own home office.


Once we were done with school, we jumped in the pool to cool off.


And then, we usually spent the rest of the day at the beach. EverydayBaby stayed home and took a nap while her dad worked.

We spent lots of time building sand castles, searching for seashells and looking for ocean life. Our most exciting find was when we saw a large sting ray swimming around in the shallow water near our feet. We ran out of the water as fast as we could!


In the evenings, we would grill out by the pool, swim, watch a movie or play games. Since this is a rental home, the closets were empty. The kids created a clubhouse in one of the walk-in closets. A second closet they called their “auxiliary game storage”.


My friend who owns the house stocked it with games, puzzles and activity books. It was often difficult to pull the kids away from the games, even to go in the pool.

We all agreed that the best part about Florida was the slower pace of our lives. We weren’t constantly being pulled in different directions by the phone, places we had to be or other commitments. Even our daily drives out to the beach seemed peaceful compared with the fast pace of battling traffic where we live.

And even though we still did our school work, this definitely felt more like a vacation than home.

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Dodging storms and perfect timing

I’m finally getting a chance to continue with my story of how we ended up doing homeschool away from home. Click here if you want to get caught up.

We picked out the only stretch of time we could get away without interfering with too many other activities. We planned a four-day drive to Florida with stops in several major cities and a two-day drive home. We would be gone almost three weeks.

But just a week or so after we had made all of our plans, CapableDad found out he needed to meet a client in China. His trip would cut into the first part of our vacation.

I was bummed.

We had two options. We could cancel, which seemed most logical. It was a pretty crazy idea to drive 23 hours across the country with four children, especially a four-month-old who still was rarely sleeping more than three hours straight at night.

Our other option was to push back our departure by a few days and leave as soon as CapableDad got home from his 11 days in China. As soon as he got off his 12-hour plane ride. When he was completely jet-lagged.

We got together with our small group right after we heard the news about his China trip. I remember saying that if we had to cancel the trip or push it back, I just wanted to know there was a reason. I just wanted to feel like God cared about it. That it wasn’t just our stinky bad luck.

Finally, we went with Plan B. Because that seemed the rational choice, right? Get in the car and drive for four days, departing an hour after my husband’s plane landed? It usually takes him a week to recover from a China trip, so I couldn’t imagine how he was going to survive the next four days on the road.

Since he had been gone for 11 days, I also was exhausted. I had been scrambling to get everything ready to go, including all of our homeschool work for the next few weeks. And the day before we left, our family got pink eye, and I decided I should wash every sheet, towel and blanket in our house before leaving.

CapableDad got home from the airport around 3 p.m. and by 4 p.m., we were ready to go. We drove five hours the first night to Louisville, Ky. The next day, we drove to Nashville and then to Atlanta. We spent the next two nights in Orlando before driving four more hours to southwest Florida.

As we were driving all of those days, we kept listening to weather reports about the storms that were hammering Georgia and Florida. IF we had left two or three days earlier, as WE had planned, we would have been driving right through those storms.

And IF we had left when WE had planned, we would have spent our one full day in Orlando sitting in our hotel watching the rain.

IF we had departed when WE had planned, we wouldn’t have been able to spend an afternoon sitting around the pool in Orlando with CapableDad’s parents who just happened to be at a conference the same day we were there.

And IF we had departed when WE had planned, we also would not have been able to meet up with good friends, who just by chance were spending a week at Disney World. Because we left a few days later, we had perfect weather and an awesome time together at the park. We also were able to meet up with a friend who works for Disney and got three of us into the park for free.

After we made our original plans, our friends who own the house where we would stay also asked us if we would be able to drive an extra van of theirs to Florida. Because CapableDad travels so much, we were able to get one-way plane tickets home for free.

This was an amazing blessing for two reasons. First, their van is actually a lot more reliable than ours. Second, while in Florida, we heard about massive flooding in the Nashville area that actually destroyed that beautiful Opryland hotel we visited on the way down. Since we were flying home, we didn’t have to worry about running into any trouble along the highway due to the flooding.

We have been amazed at how everything worked out. And I have been so thankful to see so many reasons that our trip really DID need to be delayed. In the end, it was all perfect timing.

So, what have our days been like doing school away from home? Coming soon…

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The oasis… now underwater

If you were reading my blog last week, you will remember those photos I posted of that beautiful oasis where we stopped on our drive to Florida.

That was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where flowers bloom year round in a 9-acre enclosed dome. Having just been there a week ago, it’s unbelievable now to look at photos of the flooding in that area.

That beautiful hotel is flooded with more than 10 feet of water. If you haven’t seen the news coverage, check out this video:

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