My Real Life

January 16, 2017

Culture Shock

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

At the beginning of each school year, the 8th grade social studies teachers do a lesson on historical thinking.

It’s an activity that trains the 8th graders to think like an historian.

In order to create the lesson, we bring in “artifacts” from our lives and place them at a variety of stations throughout the room.

The students rotate through the stations and have to make observations about what they find and then draw some conclusions.

The students aren’t given the information that the artifacts are pieces of my life. They have to put it all together and decipher the identity of the subject based on the clues that they find, much like an archaeologist.

At the end, they write a biography of my life based on the info, which is always highly entertaining.

Some of the artifacts that I use at my stations are a wedding picture of my Great Grandparents from Denmark, my high school yearbook, an Archie comic, an album, an antique book, a glucose monitor and many other items.

Some of the kids struggle to make meaning of the items, others are able to see connections, and even others are able to weave a fairly accurate biography based on what they observed.

However, my favorite part of the entire process, every year, is listening to the students try to guess what a few of the objects are.

For example, even though I’ve heard that vinyl is making a comeback, the students hold the album in their hands and don’t even realize that there is something inside.

“What is this? Who is this a picture of? Do you think it’s her brother? Wait, is this a list of poems on the back? What IS this?”

Then, when someone in the group discovers that the side of the cardboard opens and there is a vinyl treasure inside, I hear…

“Oh! It’s a case for this frisbee!”

Students who have a dim recollection of seeing one of these artifacts at their grandparents homes ask questions like “This plays music, right? Is there only one song on this thing? How does it work? I don’t understand how the music comes off of here if it isn’t digital?”

Some of the items are fairly straightforward, and still, they struggle.

My Great Grandparent’s wedding picture is from the 1890’s. It is obviously from the 1890’s.

And yet…

“Do you think this is her wedding picture?”

Gee. Thanks, guys.

Then, the students pick up the glucose monitor.

“Oh, I know this! I saw it in a vintage shop. I think it’s a Yarakuchi. No, a Kapalanchy. Wait…it’s a Tamagachi! It’s like a virtual pet that you have to take care of or it dies.”

Yep. That’s it, kid.

And then comes the Archie comic.

Not a vintage Archie comic, mind you. One that I bought at ShopRite last summer.

“OMG…this is, like, one of the original comic books.”

“You think?”

“Yeah, totally. Look at what they are wearing. That’s like, clothes from the 1800’s.”

“I don’t think so. I’ve heard of this comic. This isn’t the original comic. The original comic was Scooby Doo.”

“Wait, the dog that solves mysteries?”

“Yeah. Scooby Doo came first. This is a total rip off of Scooby Doo. I think they go around and solve mysteries but without the dog.”



I share this, not because I think my students are anything less than brilliant, but because it amazes me, sometimes, how little today’s kids know about the items from their parents generation, much less their grandparent’s.

I feel like, when I was a kid, I knew all about my parent’s childhoods.

I knew the toys they played with, the music they listened to, the celebrities they worshiped, and understood their cultural references.

But my students, my own children, don’t seem to have those cultural connections.

They live in their world and have blinders on to anything outside their own experience.

Is it technology? Does it fill their every waking moment so much that they don’t have space to learn about the items and experiences from the past?

I don’t know.

But I truly hope that it this doesn’t become the new normal; that each new generation exists in a vacuum.

Although, it wouldn’t be a huge loss if the next generation were ignorant of all things Justin Bieber.

I just think that the sharing of culture is an important rite of passage between generations, and as the ancients shared their traditions with their children to preserve their civilization, so should modern adults continue the process, and modern children be willing to receive it.

Because, if they don’t, Corey Hart and his nocturnal sunglasses could disappear forever.

And that, my friends, would be a real tragedy.

January 4, 2017

Websites I Loved in 2016

We’ve all got bookmarks on our computers.

The places we go, immediately, when we get online.

If you are like me, yours are probably your email, social media, a news site, any sites you may need for work, and any shopping sites you visit.

Below are two of my favorite bookmarked sites that you might find useful in 2017.


I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t do some sort of shopping online, these days, myself included. Amazon is my BFF and I order from other websites when I can’t find what I want at Amazon. Sometimes, I think I could totally channel my inner Sandra Bullock, from The Net (an old movie that I would DEFINITELY recommend), and never leave the house and do everything online. However, if I can get something for my shopping efforts, other than the thing I am purchasing, I’m on board. So…enter Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a website where you log in there before doing your online shopping.

Then, you search for the online store you need and they will let you know if that is a store that they partner with and how many Swagbucks per dollar you can earn there.

Then, simply press “Shop Now” and it will take you to the site through their site and when you make your purchase, Swagbucks will add it to your “Shop and Earn” section and after 30 days, you will get Swagbucks for it, which you can cash in for gift cards or other goods in their “Reward Store.”

There are other ways to earn SwagBucks, like taking surveys or watching videos, but quite frankly, I don’t have time for that, so I just stick with shopping through the website. I’ve earned many a gift card through shopping with Swagbucks, which, as I’ve said, is always helpful.

If you decide to try it out, here is my referral link:

Frugal SOS Forums

About 16 and 1/2 years ago, when I discovered I was pregnant with Monkey Girl, Real Man and I realized that I was about to be out of work for 9 months on maternity leave and that was going to cut our income in half. We were newlyweds (okay, married three years, but still babies) and living in our first home. Half a salary wasn’t going to cut it.

So, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about living frugally.

I devoured The Tightwad Gazette. I read all three volumes of the book and started doing everything I could to save. I had articles published in couponing and frugal living magazines, and scoured the internet (which was still fairly new) for anything I could find on frugality.

In my searching, I stumbled across a message board that was in it’s infancy…The Frugal Village.  And I quickly began spending the majority of my time after work waiting for Real Man to get home from his job (he worked the late shift in those days) reading posts, joining challenges, and leading my own threads. The Frugal Village became a lifeline for me, and I became a moderator for the site and made many friends, some of whom I stay in contact with today.

Over the past 15 years, I have visited the site, on and off, always going back when I felt that I needed a kick in the frugal pants and some inspiration. However, a few years ago, the site owner, Sara, sold the site, and it didn’t quite feel the same. So, you can imagine my joy when Sara and I were talking, one day, and she told me that she had a new site, in it’s infancy, and invited me to come and check it out.

So, I invite you to come and check it out. Maybe you don’t need to. That’s okay. but, maybe you do. And if that is the case, I’d love for you to come and support Sara and see what it’s all about. As I said, it is still pretty new and there are only a few of us there, but the more the merrier.

Frugal SOS

January 3, 2017

At 45

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Today I turn 45.

Even with super long life expectancies, I’m guessing that this means that, at this point, I am officially moving into the second half of my life.

45 doesn’t feel that different from 44 which wasn’t that different from 43 and so on and so on.

Yet, 45 feels quite different from 35 and oh so much different from 25.

At 45, I don’t worry so much if people like me because I like me.

At 45, I see a baby and I pick it up and hold it and snuggle it and kiss it and love it and then I give it back and no longer feel the emptiness in my arms and wish for “just one more.”

At 45, I haven’t been to the hair salon in ages to cover up the gray because I kinda like those silver strands that are peeking in and feel like I’ve earned them.

At 45, while I am working hard to get in shape, it is only so that I can be healthy enough in the second half of my life to do all the things I have yet to experience.

At 45, I realize that “in shape” doesn’t mean “bikini-ready.”

At 45, I regret nothing I have ever done and only regret the things I was never brave enough to do.

At 45, I treasure my friends that have been with me since I was a child and I love the friends I have made as an adult.

At 45, I recognize how precious it is to have been married for 18 years to someone I have known for 29 years and still likes me anyway.

At 45, I enjoy my kids.

At 45, I realize my house doesn’t have to be perfect to invite a slew of people over. It’s the people that matter. Not the building.

At 45, I realize that I am an acquired taste and not everyone is going to like it and I will not apologize for being me.

At 45, I’m happy to be 45 because 45 is so much more than so many people ever get to see.

At 45…not every day, because let’s be real…but today, at 45,  I am happy.

January 2, 2017

Television I Loved in 2016



2016 kinda sucked in the real world.

But on tv?

2016 was totally rocking.

So, in an effort to help you find something you might thoroughly enjoy in 2017, here are some of my top picks.

Westworld: I’ll be honest…Real Man and I tried to watch this show together, but because of it’s time slot, I kept falling asleep within the first few minutes.

So, I decided to make it a treadmill show (until the treadmill died…another casualty of 2016) and found myself quickly spending ALL of my time on the treadmill making my way through Westworld.

I understand that the original Westworld was a 1973 film, and while I am usually totally into checking out the originals of things, this time, I want to stick with the current version.

This is one of the most creative shows I have seen in a very long time and it keeps you guessing throughout the entire first season.

I was so disappointed when I realized that we were at the end of the season and that, because it was an HBO show, I probably wouldn’t get to see it again for another year, but then Real Man reminded me that we can just go back and watch it again, because we certainly missed a lot the first time around. Hindsight, and all that.

This is my #1 cable pick for anyone looking for a show to watch.

The OA

Disclaimer: I have been typing this post for awhile and edited it right before posting because, OMG, DH and I just binge-watched this over the past two nights and I need other people to watch this so that I have someone to bounce ideas and theories off of!

The OA completely capitvated me and messed with my mind. I really loved this story and am partially hoping for a season 2 and at the same time thinking that any addition to the story will be like all of James Patterson’s novels that he writes with other people after his early success…just in it for the money.

The Crown

I started The Crown after a recommendation from a friend and devoured the first episode with my phone in hand, open to Safari, so I could Google everything I was seeing to find out what was true and what was Hollywood.

I am a total Anglophile and love all things British and royal. I get it from my Mom who had us stop everything when we were at my grandparents one summer so we could all sit and watch the wedding of Charles and Diana along with the rest of the world.

The Crown begins with the story of Queen Elizabeth II when she was a young woman in the days before her father died and she became the Queen of England. The historian in me ate every piece of it up, and the person who loves to be entertained was thoroughly so.


The fact that I’m an enormous Dr. Who fan can be my precursor to recommending Timeless. I could also mention that one of my favorite movies of all time, despite the fact that it was poorly acted and poorly executed, was Time Cop. I’m a sucker for time travel.

Timeless has a group of people who were recruited to travel through time to stop this man who seems intent on changing the future. Throughout the season, so far, we are given clues as to what he is trying to do, but not the full picture. While, at times, I wish they would just tell us what the heck is going on, it is definitely the continued mystery that keeps me coming back in conjunction with the different eras of history that continue to be depicted.

DC Legends of Tomorrow

Sticking with the theme of time travel, but in a much less mature, but highly entertaining fashion, is the CW’s DC Legends of Tomorrow. Unlikely superheroes team up to go through history and try to change a desolate future.  Pretty bad acting, not great story line, but I am hooked. I think I watched Season 1 in a matter of days, and they are in the middle of Season 2, right now, so you have plenty of time to catch up.

This is Us

I have yet to watch one episode of This is Us without crying. Not silent, gentle tears. Big, sobby ones. It has been a wonderful replacement for Parenthood, which I thought I would never say, because I loved everything about that show. But, This is Us has likeable characters, plausible storylines, and does a an amazing job at making you care about the characters.


I’m a sucker for a show or movie about demons, angels, devils, gods.

This is a good one.

It’s about Lucifer…yes, the actual Devil, who has escaped from Hell and has come to Earth.

And he is the protagonist of the show.

Which is a fantastic concept.

The show makes me laugh and it makes me think, as they show Lucifer struggle with his developing humanity and fall in love.

If you’ve seen anything in 2016 that you think I would enjoy, please, leave it in the comments! I’m always looking for something new to watch while I exercise!


January 1, 2017

Apps I Loved in 2016

Filed under: Reviews — Amy @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My phone is my lifeline.

I keep in contact with my kids and husband with my phone, I get my news on my phone, I check my email on my phone, all of my social media is on my phone, and my music and photos are on my phone.

I’m almost embarrassed to say, I’d be very lost without my phone.

In 2016, outside of the activities I mentioned above, there are four apps that I used consistently.

I’m sharing them with you, below, in case you are looking for an app or two that may help you improve yourself or improve your wallet.


I think everyone is always looking for ways to save money when grocery shopping. For a family of 6 that includes 3 boys who are always hungry, I spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out ways to make grocery shopping less of a pain in the wallet. I clip coupons and I check sales, but I also use some grocery apps on my phone. iBotta is one of those apps that doesn’t necessarily take money off of the purchases I make, but gives me money back that I can have deposited into PayPal or turned into gift cards for millions of retailers.  All you have to do is check the app before you go shopping, select any items they are rewarding that are also on your list, and when you are done shopping, reopen the app, take a photo of your receipt with your smart phone, scan in the barcodes of the products you purchased that you previously selected and hit submit. Sounds like a lot of work, but the whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes, and I only joined in September and was able to get $50 in gift cards to help with my Christmas shopping by the beginning of December. It’s so easy to use and worth it to let your rewards quietly accumulate until you are ready to cash them in.

If you think you would like to try iBotta, I am going to shamelessly ask you to use my referral code: vgylxjm  I’ve got four children with birthdays coming up in February and I’m not gonna lie…getting credit for referrals would be super helpful in saving for those birthday gifts. 🙂


Another app that I use, which is used in the same way as iBotta, is MobiSave. The difference is, MobiSave deposits money directly in your PayPal account, or I think you can also save it up and have them send you a check when you reach a certain point. While I don’t make as much money with MobiSave as I do with iBotta, I still use it every week because every little cent counts! 

And, as another shameless sharing of referral code, if you decide to try MobiSave, here is my referral code for this app: JFDAGCOO

My Fitness Pal

As I head into the second half of my 40’s which hurtles me toward 50 faster than a speeding bullet, I find the need to keep on top of my health to be a paramount concern of mine.

My early 40’s taught me that I can’t just eat whatever I want and still enjoy good health (and comfortably fitting clothes) so I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app.

In the app, I document everything I eat during the day.

If it is something that I’ve purchased, I can simply scan the UPC code into the app, or I can type in the name and select from a list. It has all of the nutrition information already loaded, and I can keep track of my calories, and more importantly for my diabetes control, the macronutrients, ie: carbs, sugars, protein, etc.

It pairs with my FitBit app (which I’ll discuss in a minute) and gives me exercise credit calories based on the steps I’ve taken throughout the day.

For me, this app is essential. If I’m not holding myself accountable, then I tend to go a little nutty and find myself swimming in a sea of PayDay bar wrappers, buoyed by empty Diet Coke bottles.

If you need to be accountable, then this is the app for you. There are similar apps out there, but this is the only one that I have any experience with, so it’s all I can tell you about.

I do pay for the full version, however, the free version gives most people the support they need.


So, you need to own a FitBit for this app to do anything for you.

However, if you are considering some type of pedometer/watch device, I’d go FitBit.

First, their customer service is amazing.

They have sent me two new FitBits after mine stopped charging, free of charge and just asked me to recycle the old one at my local recycling center.

Secondly, with my FitBit app, I can friend people I know who also have FitBits and we can challenge each other to competitions.

Believe me when I tell you that the teachers at my school are the most competitive people I have ever known.

And it’s fantastic.

Because the FitBit competitions spur me to stay on my feet and exercise, even when I don’t feel like I can move another muscle.

I think there was one week when I had almost 100,000 steps, which is about 20,000 per day.

Not too shabby.

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