Pokemon Go…… An Educational Tool…?

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Yes, you heard me right. If you find yourself reading this post you probably read the title and decided I was a wack job, after all, what on Earth could a game about throwing balls at imaginary creatures and doing battle with other creatures in an imaginary world teach anybody?

Kids and adults alike (yes, myself included) I actually downloaded it and started playing it before my kids after seeing friends on Facebook posting about it. I thought to myself, “I HAVE to see what all the hype about this stupid game is all about”. I’ve never understood Pokemon, I still don’t really. I’ve heard more than my share of conspiracy theories about it being funded by the CIA and the government using it to track our every move and I have to laugh… If the government really has nothing better to do than watch me walk around the world chasing Pokemon, have at it, I have nothing to hide and it probably explains a lot about the downward spiral of our nation. Honestly, I have to wonder how many of these people that are so concerned about the government tracking them through a smart phone app have a car, drivers license, GPS, cell phone, internet, credit cards.. I could go on, but you get the point. The government doesn’t need a silly game to “track” you. The game is kind of like a scavenger hunt and that’s what I like so much about it. I love a good scavenger hunt. But anyway, I’m getting off track as usual. Where were we? oh, yes… What can we possibly learn from this game?!

Pokemon Go is powered by Google Earth (as is the afore mentioned map app on your cell phone and probably your GPS). You actually have to get up off your butt and explore the world around you to find these things, you will not likely find many Pokemon at home and, in fact, I’ve only Pokemon I’ve ever found one anywhere near my home and it was the first one when I began playing the game and probably set up to appear near me. Kids and adults alike are getting up and out of the house, enjoying the sunshine and moving resulting in increased health and happiness in general. However, people still need to use their brains and pay attention. See? Says so right here!

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HEY! WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!

This has great potential for teaching the all important skill of reading a map (something the younger generation is losing due to the invention and easy access of the GPS that simply tells you where to go). I’m here, I want to get to the pokestop over there, how can I get there? Even without the benefit of street names on the map in the game it teaches the concept of direction.

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Not a bad map, and they even have all the houses and buildings set up right. I admit the poke stops aren’t always EXACTLY where they say the monument or whatever the pokestops physical representation is, but its not too far off.

 

The game is set up so that you start with 50 pokeballs to catch these pokemon with, but what do you do when you run out?! you can spend the money to buy more, obviously, OR You have to find a Poke stop. When you find one you tap on the screen and you spin the little medallion and pokeballs and other little helpful things come flying out at you and you collect them.

These little blue square things are poke stops. You can tap them to find out what they are but if they look like this you are too far away from it.
These little blue square things are poke stops. You can tap them to find out what they are but if they look like this you are too far away from it.
When the Pokestop looks like a big blue target you are close enough to visit the Pokestop. When they are pink/purple targets you have recently visited it and have to come back later to use it again.
When the Pokestop looks like a big blue target you are close enough to visit the Pokestop. When they are pink/purple targets you have recently visited it and have to come back later to use it again.

 

This is a cute Pokemon I caught at the park today.
This is a cute Pokemon I caught at the park today.

 

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This is what you will see when you tap on the Pokestop. Swipe the round medallion and the little bubbles with pokeballs and other goodies will fly out. Tap the bubbles to collect the goodies!

This has awesome potential for a history lesson as well, as many of the poke stops are historical land marks or monuments. They don’t give a whole lot of information about the location in the game, but many of the locations have their own information and google is a wonderful and equally portable thing. With a little work you have a wonderful research (think beyond google to nearby town halls, historical societies and libraries as well), reading, vocabulary, history lesson all wrapped in a nice neat little Pokemon package. Don’t want to stop and do deeper research right then? Take a photo of the location or even a screenshot of the Pokestop screen and work on it together later on!

I’ll give you an excellent example: While on a walk in the center of our hometown of Leominster, MA with my girls the other day looking for poke stops (mama was out of Pokeballs) we discovered that one of the poke stops was the first post office in Leominster. We’ve lived here more than 10 years and we NEVER knew it was there! I was actually just at the grocery store and I was talking to some people about it and how we found that post office, some of them have lived here 50+ years and didn’t know the post office had ever been anywhere but its current location! Sometimes they even give a little one line blurb about the location. At the very least, the way it is now, it can pique interest in learning more about the spots you find. Perhaps they will develop a way for people to submit more detailed (short) descriptions of some of these places.

It is my understanding based on my limited research that all of the pokespots are where portals are located in a game called Ingress that was created by Niantic, the same company that created Pokemon Go. They suspended submission of portal requests in September 2015 due to a backlog of portal requests. For more info, click here.

We’re going to do a little more research on this during our field trips to Salem, MA and while walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, MA and let you know what we discover!

Has your family discovered the joy of Pokemon hunting yet? Tell us about it!

P.S To the creators of this game, it would be highly beneficial to also create similar versions of this Pokemon Go as maybe, Ghostbusters (finding the ghosts and capturing them) and Lilo and Stitch where you capture and rehome the experiments (I admit I saw the Lilo and Stitch suggestion on facebook but it made me think of other fun versions of this game that could be created).

Our first setback

On August 25, 2015 (this past Tuesday AKA my sons 11th birthday) we had to leave Maine to come back to Massachusetts. Our house is not finished but school was starting the next day and no way was I going to be able to commute 2+ hours to drive my kids to and from school nor did it make sense to register them for school in Maine for a month. So, on Tuesday, we moved in with my husbands uncle (a single man with a ginormous house and is never home to enjoy it) (omg I can’t believe ginormous is actually a word!) who lives in the same city we do and in the same school district so that my kids can still take the bus. Even better my husband can sleep here with us when he’s done working and working on the house instead of sleeping in the tent in the back yard like he has been all summer. 

Anyway, Wednesday I get my kids off to school then take the baby and set about finding a job which had to start with me going and filling out a form to apply for child care vouchers. Our piddly income qualifies us but there is at LEAST a 12 month waiting list! (HOLY CRAP!). Something I didn’t foresee but given the state of our government and such I probably should have. So what do we do. Well, instead of me being able to work when my older 2 are in school I will now have to trade with my husband (after he’s finished fixing our lead shed (our not so affectionate pet name for our house) because he still has to work his day job and works on the house at night and every weekend like he has been since we left in June. I will have to find a job where I can work evenings (NOT overnights, I still have to be up at 5:30 am to get my older kids off to school and take care of the baby all day. So looking for hours 5-11 pm it is (still past my bed time, but it’s only temporary and will be so worth it when we’ve accomplished our goal). 

The Plan (or more accurately “the timeline” This is not my house plan,but rather my plan for how I’m going to accomplish my goal and when)

So here it is.. My plans.. Yes I have more than 1. Always good to have a backup plan or 3 right? Honestly I’m having some trouble figuring out a plan that will work with minimal chance for hiccups, please everybody AND have us comfy cozy by Nov 2016. My goal for this post is to simply get all my options down and hopefully something will click or perhaps someone will find this post and bless me with a comment containing something I’ve missed or a possible solution. We shall see!

Me and the children are currently still living in Maine as our “big house” is not yet approved for habitation from the lead contamination. My husband is still living in a tent in the backyard of our “big house” 2 states away. School starts August 26 for my 2 older children so we MUST be back in Massachusetts by our sons 11th birthday (the day before).

No matter what our plan it is going to take some sacrifice on all of our parts to make it work:

PLAN A:

I was visiting with a neighbor last week while waiting for it to be time to pick my kids up from dance camp and she told me that because of our current situation I would qualify for assistance with paying for daycare for my youngest so I could find a job (remember those sacrifices I mentioned earlier?). I have been a mother for almost 11 years and never have I put one of my children in daycare and it scares me to death!

It has never been easy for me to find a job. I’ve been out of the workforce for far too long and it seriously counts against me. I’ve tried looking off and on for about 5 years and I’ve never even gotten an interview. This time has to be different!

So…

 Step 1: Go to the appropriate office the day we get back and fill out daycare assistance application with the help of my neighbor (she works for social services and knows how it works and offered to help me fill it out.

Step 2: Once I get approved (I’m thinking positive here because otherwise I cannot get a job as daycare would cost more than I would be making in a week thus making it pointless) FIND A JOB. 

I’ll be looking for a retail type job. It gets kind of tricky because I still need to get my older kids on the bus in the morning and be home when they get home so my only available hours would be 8:30-2:30 Monday – Friday. I plan to ask for $10-$15 per hour and at that rate I would need to have a schedule that is basically those hours I’m available so as to take home $300 or slightly more per week.

I’m hoping all goes well and I (for once) find a job fairly quickly. I’m a hard worker but the whole being out of the workforce for more than 11 years seriously limits those willing to give a mom a chance.

Now, lets assume I get a job and I manage to get 30 hours per week and bring home $300 per week. If I work the months of October, November and December I could have $3900 by Christmas.

It would help, if my husband was agreeable, to put aside some of the money we hope to receive from our 2014 tax returns that we have not yet received since some jerk pretended to be us and filed our taxes before we could and ran off with the money. Even $1000 of that money would bring us up to $4900.

For $4000 we can find a decent travel trailer. We purchase the travel trailer. This will be our home while we build our tiny home up in maine. Plan B will deviate here cutting out the need for the camper, but as I’m doing research it could cost even more.

In Plan B we ditch the camper and ask a friend of ours if he would allow us to build our tiny home on his property. When its complete we would then have to pay to have it hauled as a wide load requiring special permits and I’m told it’s expensive (Close to $8,000 or more). However this would give us the most building time to be settled in before the start of the 2016/17 school year.

Another 13 weeks brings us to the beginning of April. I should have managed another $3900 and (husband willing) We should have our 2015 tax returns back with no problems giving us approximately $12,000 total. We would like at least 5 acres of land and I’m allotting approximately $10,000 for the purchase of land. (There is a really nice lot right now in Palmyra, ME that has been calling to me but doubt it will be available come spring). We purchase the land (having spoken with a qualified realtor so as to be sure there will be no zoning or size issues or any other problems with building a tiny home on the property. so that it is paid for and ready for our tiny home or camper. So far we have taken no loans and paid cash for everything so no new debt.

At this point we have a few options. It is April 2016, we put our house on the market and hope for a miracle that it sells quick and for at LEAST what we owe, then we take our camper to our land, find new jobs (Something we will have already been working on and could potentially have set up before we leave, though it may take a trip or 2 up there before hand to acquire) and start building our dream tiny home.

This plan allows for us to be there in early april giving me PLENTY of time to plan and plant a nice garden to feed my family in the summer and through the next winter. It DOES, however, raise a problem. Taking the kids out of school mid year and transferring them (not the end of the world) my bigger concern is their dance team. My kids are passionate dancers and LOVE being on the competition team and look forward to performances and their end of the year recital in June…

We COULD wait until the end of the school year (more of a possibility if we are able to build down here on our friends property) Waiting until June and moving up there with our camper raises the problem of not having enough time to build our home before cold weather sets in if we deem building on our friends property not a viable option AND too late for a decent garden meaning having to buy the food I would have grown at the store and no canned or frozen food stocked up for winter, again, necessitating the purchase of more food than otherwise would have been necessary.

What it means to “Live Tiny”

Someone recently asked me what “living tiny” means. As I was thinking of the best way to answer her question I began to realize that it can mean different things to different people and they can have different reasons for wanting to live this way.

In simple terms it is simply choosing to live in a small house. MUCH smaller than most people would EVER consider. A tiny house is typically defined as a home that is less than 500 square feet of living space. While a small house is less than 800 square feet of living space.  Below are just a few photos of some tiny houses I found by searching google for tiny house:


OK, by now some of you are probably thinking, “ok, this lady is NUTS! NO WAY could I EVER live in such a small space!” But hear me out. The average home in the United States is 2,700 square feet and the average home costs almost $200,000. Over 30 years plus interest you will have paid about $393,000 for you home. You’ve just about paid for it twice!!! And its very unlikely that your home will be worth what you ACTUALLY paid for it. Sure it will feel like you’ve made a profit because when you sell it you might get this nice big check. But it wont be for what you paid for it, you actually took a loss. In todays market and in the future you just don’t know what will happen. You can’t rely on property values to go up and certainly cant count on them to constantly rise, that is just illogical. If they only ever went up then eventually nobody would be able to afford a roof!

THE STUFF

Now you have all this wonderful empty space! What are you going to do with it? You have to buy STUFF for it! Before you know it you’ve spent tens of THOUSANDS of dollars on SUTFF! We are so focused on stuff. As I was tossing all of our possessions in the dumpster I saw all these things that we never even use! Cleaning out my kids overpacked cluttered bedrooms I began to ask myself, “why do they even have this?” Things my son hasn’t touched in years. Clothes pouring out of dresser drawers (by the way I’ve decided that clothing does not belong in dressers and it’s hangers or bust you cant see what you’ve got they are so bulky..) Presents my daughter got for her birthday and christmas the last 2 years had gone completely untouched, never even opened.. After a while this spacious dream home you purchased doesn’t feel so spacious anymore does it. A bigger house will solve the problem! or will it……? NO. It’s a vicious cycle, buy bigger house, get more stuff, bigger house feels smaller, buy bigger house, repeat.

THE SACRIFICE
Ok, so now you’ve got this wonderful house, and all this stuff. The American dream right? HA! If by american dream you mean busting your butt to work to make money for all this stuff that you are never around to use because you’re working so hard to pay for it Then sure! Money well spent… What else have you sacrificed in your pursuit of this dream? You don’t get to enjoy this stuff that you’ve worked so hard to buy, you’re hardly even home to enjoy the house for which you are working so hard. Before you know it, your children are grown. Where did the time go? You missed it! 
How many of you have fought with your significant other about money? Perhaps even ruined the relationship because of it? You work so hard that you never spend time with the people who matter the most and for whom you tell yourself you are working so hard. You tell yourself in the end it will all be worth it. No, more likely, in the end you’ll realize you missed it. Your kids are grown, you and your spouse (if you’ve managed to survive the whole ordeal) are strangers to each other because work always had to come first to pay for the stuff. All the experiences you missed because you were so focused on this track that everybody is supposed to be on. You’ve forgotten to LIVE… 
WHAT IF THERE IS A BETTER WAY???

I’m sick of doing what everyone else is doing simply because that is what you are supposed to do. I’m sick of fighting and struggling and I am SO SICK OF STUFF!!! 
Many people choose to build their tiny house on wheels. They may want to travel or where they live may have restrictions on how small you can build your house, putting it on wheels, for some, alleviates that restriction because it is now a camper or some other classification. Maybe you only have a small plot of land that you think is too small for a house or just want to leave a smaller footprint on the earth. Or how about being debt free! Tiny houses do not need to be on wheels and I’m actually leaning towards it not being on wheels. I envision a root cellar with an old style trap door in the floor leading down where I can store my bounty from my garden and all my yummy home canned goods.  
People think I’m crazy when I tell them that I am planning on building a home for my family of 5 plus a large breed dog in less than 500 square feet. The problem with “normal” homes is that they don’t use the space. They are large blocked off squares that are largely unusable. With the right design and the ability to actually use all the space you have. Think about a table that folds up flat to the wall when not in use, storage in the stairs, a drawer meant to utilize that useless space in front of the sink, storage built into the floor or into the sofa. 
Just look at some of these great ideas I found on pinterest!!

WHAT AM I HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH BY LIVING TINY?

What I want is simplicity. I want my family to be happy and healthy. I want to stop worrying about money and stop depending on others to bail us out when there’s too much month left at the end of our money. I want to see my kids grow up and not shut themselves up in their rooms for so long that we become strangers. I want them to grow up knowing there is another option that doesn’t involve living in debt the rest of their lives and to learn that things aren’t as important as experiences. How many experiences have we missed out on so far because we didn’t have the time or money? I want to reconnect with my husband, get to know each other again before it’s too late. Not the person he has turned into but the man he was when I married him almost 11 years ago. He insists that I’m just trying to run away from our problems, but he’s wrong. If only he could see that I’m not trying to run away from something, I’m trying to run towards something. I just didn’t know any better until now.  


Our Journey Begins

I see lots of blogs and social media pages about the tiny home journeys of single people, couples and even a small family. Well, we are a family of 5 (6 if you count our 75 lb lab/hound and I do count her, she is my 3rd born as far as I am concerned). Let me start by introducing us. Maybe you can relate to some part of our story. Grow with us, enjoy our triumphs with us and learn from our mistakes with us; No sense in making them yourself when we can do it for you, make some new ones instead!

Family photo to come soon
(what a time to discover there are NO photos of your whole family together, huh?)


We started our family in a 2 bedroom mobile home. My husband had been living in it since he was about 17. It belonged to his grandmother and was built sometimes around the 1950’s. When our son was born in the summer of 2004. It was old, it was falling apart and it was growing smaller by the day. And so… We took the next step that every other family takes… In 2006, we bought our own house!!! We had our very own 3 bedroom 1140 square foot home on 1/3 of an acre of land. Hooray for us, right?

Enter 2008……..

A mere 2 years after we purchased our home the housing market crashes… Our home is worth next to nothing…..

Fast forward to March 2015…

We are now the proud parents of 3 beautiful children and 1 dog (Yes, my dog is one of my children) 4 bunnies (a year ago we had 35!!) and more chickens than our city technically allows (SHHHHHH…). Still living in our temple of financial woe that is STILL not even worth what we owe on it. In the past few years my husband was unceremoniously let go from his job of 15 years and lost another job when it was discovered that the companies owner was embezzling from his own company. He, luckily, never went long without a job but now he is making a whole $10 LESS an HOUR than he was making previously. Our mortgage payment has also been steadily increasing these last 9 years. We are now struggling to pay almost $500 more per month than we were when we bought the house due to increased property taxes.

We take our youngest, Emily, to the Dr. for her routine check up at about 16 months old. Less than a week later I get a call from her pediatricians office. There was something wrong with Emily’s blood work… She has lead poisoning and the source is most definitely our home built in 1900 that we have been raising all of our children in for the past 9 years… My mind goes into overdrive, my heart sinks down to the floor.. I want to run to scream. I want to set the damn house of FIRE! How long has she been exposed? what about my other children? My dog? Me and my husband?

I have spent the majority of my life as a parent trying to keep my family healthy and safe. Making my own cleaning products and bath products to avoid all the unnecessary and harmful chemicals. I read labels like a mad woman making sure to avoid all the crap in our food that isn’t really food. Artificial flavors and colors (Why on EARTH does my relish NEED yellow 5 in it?! I don’t give a damn if its neon green!!!). I try to feed them healthy and, when available, local, organic or home grown food. OMG! is it in our soil too?!?!? I feel like I am suffocating in this house that has been gradually weighing on us more and more as each year goes by, we struggle harder and harder to make ends meet, often having to borrow money from family to pay our mortgage and other utilities (oh, did I mention this is also the year we become victims of tax return theft?) and for what?! To poison my children?! To live our lives in a miserable rut where we are just marking time until our untimely demise having never REALLY experienced life?! For a home that causes us nothing but stress and grief, My husband and I argue ALL THE TIME, and it’s ALWAYS over money.  I have had ENOUGH!

My husband and I sift through our options. I want to walk away (I know in my heart that we can’t, at least not right away. My conscience would eat away at me if we tried to sell the house (at a loss) knowing what was inside. I couldn’t put another family through that. But I also know that this house has caused too much trouble for us and that how much we have struggled and are still struggling even moreso, its not worth holding on to. But since his father has been helping to pay our bills off and on (more on than off lately) he has a say in this too. I feel stuck and frustrated.

August 4, 2015

Me my 3 children and my dog have been living in Maine (we are from massachusetts) since June 23rd in a family summer cottage (we had to wait 3 LONG months in that house for school to end so we could get our children to safety). My husband is sleeping in a tent in our back yard while him and is father work tirelessly to replace all the lead contaminated moulding. They have only 6 weeks to do this. They had to take a special class and get certification to be able to do this on their own and its not easy to do properly (Just a note, most companies that do this DO NOT do it properly putting you and your neighbors at risk). Nobody, not even my husband is allowed to live in the house while it is being decontaminated, hence the tent in the back yard. Our 2 oldest children go back to school on the 26th of this month (just one day after my sons 11th birthday) and we are expected to be back in that house by then… Before we left EVERYTHING we were keeping hat to be meticulously cleaned with Lysol (Don’t get me started) wipes. Each wipe could only be used ONCE, you swipe it once you fold it in on itself, you swipe it again, you toss the wipe, you get a new wipe, do it again.. and so on and so on. One item could easily take multiple wipes to clean… Our clothing had to be washed in certain laundry detergents that had serfactants in it so that it would bind to the lead dust. Why go to all this trouble you might ask? There is NO WAY to know which items were contaminated with lead dust and which ones weren’t.. 99% of our belongings went into a dumpster before we left. it was beyond full… Well, after all, they’re just things…

I’m sitting at the house having lunch with my kids. I don’t even remember why I thought of it or if I saw something that sparked my memory or interest. TINY HOUSES!! I started searching facebook for groups related to tiny house living, searching the internet for designs and space saving ideas and I began plotting out a floor plan. I could not WAIT to tell my husband about this! I asked questions and researched and asked more questions and did more research. I wanted to be ready to talk to my husband when he came up to visit us on Friday. How could he NOT think this was a great idea?!

Yeah…… 

We fought the entire weekend. I became so frustrated that he couldn’t see it. That’s right.. My husband and I do not see eye to eye on this. After having some time to reflect, I know we are both trying to do what is right for our family. But we do not agree on what that is. He did begin to warm up to the idea of tiny housing but the argument turned ugly and my abilities to follow through with, well, ANYTHING were called into question. I’ve always believed that you don’t know unless you try. if you don’t at least try, you have already failed. Not everything is going to work out as planned and some things will completely bomb. He said one thing to me that is still echoing in my head.. “Prove it”. He is asking me to prove to him that I am committed to doing this, he wants to me prove to him that I can do everything I said. Well… The only way to do that, is to DO IT…

So, I am going to do it!!!

Join me on my journey, OUR journey, as we navigate through the ups and downs toward our goal of living tiny as a large family.