Smart House Technology for Saving Energy

Electricity is not cheap. In fact, the average cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the United States in May 2018 was 13.15 cents. Unsure of what that means? A kWh is a measurement for the amount of electricity you’re using. One kWh equals the amount of electricity needed to run a 1,000-watt appliance for one hour. With that in mind, something like a 100-watt light bulb would require 10 hours of being on to consume 1 kWh of energy.

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Paying only 13.15 cents for 10 hours of light doesn’t sound too bad. However, when you consider all the other electronics in your home, it can really start to add up. For example, taking a six-minute shower in a 10,000-watt shower uses 1 kWh. Watching the TV for three hours burns 1 kWh. And cooking in a 2,000-watt oven for a half hour will utilize 1 kWh. Throughout the course of a single day, nearly everything you do collectively piles on to your monthly energy bill.

Want to find ways to lower your monthly energy bill? That’s where smart home technology comes into play. Smart technology allows you to cut back on your energy usage by turning your heat or air conditioning off when you’re not at home, remotely controlling electronics, and automatically closing your window shades to keep your temperature-controlled air from leaking out. Of course, these are just a few of the ways these energy-saving systems work. To learn more about how smart technology can help in your home, check out the infographic below.

smart house technology

Emergencies to Plan for Before an International Trip

Many people have international travel on their bucket lists. I know I do! Whether it’s a week in Paris or a month in Costa Rica, traveling internationally is as educational as it is exciting. But what happens if you experience an emergency on your trip? Do you have a game plan for that situation? Here are three emergencies to plan for before an international trip.

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international trip

Natural Disasters

international travel

Image via Flickr by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Before traveling to your destination country, be sure to educate yourself on what type of natural disasters could happen. Are tornadoes common in the area? What about hurricanes? Although experiencing a natural disaster while you travel may be rare, it’s still important to take precautions in your planning.

Designate a location where your family or friends could meet in case of separation. Pack a first aid kit, a flashlight, and some food. Check in with the State Department for natural disaster information. Also, make sure you have copies of your passports, visas, and travel information so you can leave quickly if needed.

If a natural disaster does strike, seek out evacuation routes. Follow any instructions given by emergency personnel, including the Red Cross. Find a safe place to wait for help. Only eat food and drink water that you know is safe. Avoid downed power lines and flooded areas. Pay attention to television or social media alerts. And, after the natural disaster passes, be sure to check in with your family and friends; they’ll want to know you’re safe.

Terrorist Activities and Violence

Terrorist activities and violence, whether criminal or political, can happen without any notice. The State Department recommends that travelers stay aware while traveling abroad. It’s also a good idea to register your trip with the State Department to receive security messages and travel advisories.

Keep in mind that terrorists look for “soft targets,” such as airports, public transportation, sporting events, and hotels. Be aware of suspicious activity when you are in or around these locations while traveling. Pay attention to the local news. Also, make sure you know the location of your home country’s closest embassy or consulate. Finally, you and your travel companions should stick together. Don’t wander off alone.

Medical Emergencies

If you get sick or injured while you are traveling, having the right protection is important. For example, a membership with MedjetAssist can provide additional assistance to you in case of an emergency. MedjetAssist can arrange air medical transport from the hospital in your destination country to a hospital of your choice in your home country.

By upgrading your membership to MedjetHorizon, you will receive additional protective services in the event of a natural disaster, terrorism, kidnapping, or violent crime. Additionally, you will receive crisis response services including evacuation, legal assistance, and communication with your family members back home.

Although you hope to not deal with a crisis during your international trip to Paris or Costa Rica, being prepared for an emergency abroad will give you comfort. To enjoy your international trip and stay safe while traveling, education and preparation should be on your to-do list.

Summer Daily Planner for Kids Printable

Last summer, the last thing I wanted was for the kids to wake up and spend all day, every day on their electronics. I also didn’t want to spend my day nagging them repeatedly to do their chores. So I started leaving little to do lists on the counter for them with various chores that they needed to complete before they could even think about pulling out an electronic. It worked fairly well. It allowed me to sleep in a bit too (well…if you call sleeping until 7:30 am, sleeping in)! This summer, I want to do the same thing, but go a step further. I will be using this summer daily planner and attaching it to the fridge every night.

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summer daily planner

Print your FREE Summer Daily Planner printable HERE

I think it is very important for kids to have chores during the summer (and during the school year). We do not pay an allowance right now, as the chores we ask the kids to do are things that help out the family from day to day. Things we do pay for are extra things. For example, cutting the grass, doing a load of laundry, etc. My husband and I like to listen to Dave Ramsey and I believe he had a podcast all about how your kids can earn commission for various jobs. Basically you will put up a job chart and the kids can pick and choose extra jobs if they want to earn a little extra money. It works out well (usually).

summer daily planner

The nice thing about this summer daily planner is that you can write out one sheet for both kids. I just make sure to label who does what or they would fight. Seriously…I don’t know about your kids, but mine seem to fight about everything lately. Since my kids are older, one thing they are responsible for in the summer is making their own breakfast and lunch. I take care of dinner. However, what I hate is when I see them standing in front of the fridge just staring at the food like it’s going to spontaneously change into something new. By giving them two choices, they feel like they are making their own choices, which they are, but you are still ultimately getting them to eat what you want them to eat!

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So how do you get this summer daily planner sheet to work for you? Simply fill it out accordingly and slip it in to a sheet protector and hang it on your fridge. At the end of the day, slip your daily planner sheet into a binder. This way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single day. Lets face it, a lot of these daily chores, as well as the meals, can be repeated! Definitely take a look at those InkJoy Gel Pens. They are super nice to write with AND they come in pretty colors. I don’t know about you, but I just love writing in different colored ink!

What are you waiting for? Download your FREE summer daily planner printable today!


How to Set Up the Our Pact Premium App

Do your kids have cell phones? When my kids were younger, I said that my kids wouldn’t get cell phones until they were driving. That changed! Getting them phones earlier has actually been a benefit. There are times I need to be in two places at once, which means one child gets dropped off somewhere earlier. Having that phone makes me feel better. Besides that, having a phone gives me something I can take away. It’s all about finding what’s meaningful with punishments, right?!? However, taking away the phone defeats the purpose of why I initially got it for them. That’s were the Our Pact Premium app comes in.

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our pact premium
Image via Pexels

What is Our Pact Premium?

A lot of parents joke that they give their kids electronics like phones or an iPad so they have something to take away. As parents, we know we have to discipline our kids and take things away. In order for it to be effective, it has to mean something to them. Taking away the phone leaves kids without the very reason you gave it to them. So they can contact you if need be. Our Pact Premium is an app for both iOS and Android that allows you to manage exactly what they do on their phone and when. It’s a parenting game changer. Goodbye are the days when you collect the phone and take it away for X amount of days. Just turn off what you don’t want them using (games, YouTube, etc) and hand the phone back to them.

 

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Installing the App

It is very important that you read this section. I do not want another person to have the trouble I had installing this app and setting it up. At 9 pm I started setting it up and at 3 am, I was still trying to set it up. Nothing was working right. The directions on their site are a little vague and the step by step directions tech support emailed me didn’t work either. I finally gave up and went to bed and figured I would try again in the morning. When I woke up this morning, I had an idea as to why it wasn’t working and decided to try a different way. It worked! Had two phones set up in less than 25 minutes.

First things first…if you are planning on going with the Premium plan, set that up FIRST. Trust me. Once you have the Premium plan paid for, you will be prompted to download the Our Pact Utility onto your computer. Once that is downloaded onto your computer, do the following:

  1. Plug your phone iPhone into your computer.
  2. Run the Our Pact Utility program and follow the directions on the screen.
  3. Follow the prompts on your iPhone. When it asks you about allowing configuration, click “skip configuration”.
  4. Pair your phone by going to pair.ourpact.com.
  5. Log into the parent app and start setting up the schedules and blocks.

So why didn’t it work before?

When I initially tried setting up the app, I didn’t purchase the premium plan at first. By not doing that, I set up the free account. With the free account you do not need to use the Our Pact Utility program. Should be easy to upgrade from the free to the paid accounts, right? Wrong. In order to set up the paid account, you have to fully remove the free account. That’s easy enough. However, you cannot use the same name for the paid account that you used on the free account. So be sure which account you want from the beginning. I will say, in my opinion, this app is not worth it unless you pay for the premium plan.

Our Pact Premium App Features

You will know you have your account set up with the premium features when you see “access granted” and you can start blocking apps.

our pact premium

Next you will want to decide which apps you will always allow, which apps you would like to block for now and which apps you would like set up according to a schedule (more about that later). The nice thing is, if you decided to block an app, it disappears from your child’s screen. When you unblock it, it reappears.

our pact premium

Once you’ve decided on what to do with the various apps, you will want to set the schedules. On my kids phones, I have all the apps that I do not want them having access to during the night set to disappear at 8:15 pm and stay gone until 6 am (Monday through Friday). Since I would like them to not wake up at the crack of dawn just to watch YouTube, I also set a schedule for Saturday and Sunday.

our pact premium

Another really great feature is the ability to limit how much time your kids will be on their phone and iPad. You can set a daily allowance for them. When their time is up, they are done! I know when my kids were much younger, I was very strict about electronics during the school week. By setting daily allowances, your kids and their device self monitors and you don’t have to sit and watch the clock!

our pact premium

As if this app was already great enough, this next feature allows you to completely block adult content. I don’t know exactly what constitutes as “adult content” (besides the obvious), but I like that there is that extra little feature to help keep that stuff away from the kids. We have the settings on their iPhone to block it too, but as you’re probably aware, things can slip through.

our pact premium

Tonight we were at Sam’s Club picking up a few items and when we got in the car, Bella said “hey, where did all my apps go?”. So the bedtime schedule worked exactly the way it was supposed to! Besides the issues I had setting the app up with my sons phone, I am very happy with the Our Pact Premium app.

Have you used the Our Pact app?


5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Family Car

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Finding the perfect family car can seem like a daunting task sometimes. Not only is it an extremely large purchase, but it’s also something you will be using day in and day out for years to come. Especially if you have kids in sports or activities. If you are like me, you spend several hours a day shuttling kids back and forth. Since I spend so much time in a car, here are my top five tips for finding the perfect family car, hopefully they help you as much as they have helped me!

perfect family car

Image via cars.com

How to Find the Perfect Family Car

I still remember when I was pregnant for the first time. I had a new VW Bug that I loved! It was super cute, but totally not practical at all for a mom with a new baby. It would have been very difficult to get an infant seat in an out of the car. Not to mention, the trunk was not big enough for all the baby stuff we carted around daily. So off we went looking for a new car for our growing family. Little did I know, having kids would change my ideas on what I needed in a car!

Tip One: Infant Seats and Car Seats

What I didn’t know with my first child was how important it was to take the car seat with you when shopping for your perfect family car. With our first child, we leased an Aztec. We felt rushed with time to pick a car and the price was right. However, no matter how much I enjoyed driving that car (it really was a good car), it was NOT a good car for a rear facing car seat. Even having the car seat in the middle seat, it pushed both the driver seat and the passenger seat too far forward. It was NOT comfortable for us at all. So, not only do you need to take the car seat with you, but you also need to read up on the car seat safety checks done on may popular brands of cars.

Tip Two: Test Drive All the Cars

Make a list of the cars you like. Using sites like cars.com, you can easily make a list of cars you like. Once you have your list, go to the dealership, used car lot, etc and test drive the car. Sometimes you don’t even need to leave the lot. There was a car that I thought I loved, but the second I sat down, I realized I did not like the car at al. I didn’t even turn the car on. The shape of the driver seat was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to get out of it.

Tip Three: Features

This may seem silly to some, but the features in a car are very important to me. I drive a lot. We are gone many weekends for lacrosse or soccer tournaments. If I am going to spend a lot of time in the car, I want to make sure it has the things I want. For instance, the three things I have to have in a car are heated seats, a heated steering wheel and remote start. I live in Michigan. The winters are brutal. Those three things insure that each and every time I drive my car, I am comfortable.  So think of the features you want and don’t settle. Make a list with a column of must have features and a column of features that would be nice, but not mandatory.

Tip Four: Backseat Space

After you turn the car seat front facing, the kids really don’t need much space in the backseat. However, once they outgrow the car seat, leg room for the kids need to be taken into account. My husband is tall. When he sits in the front seat, he has to have the seat all the way back. In some cars, it was very difficult for someone to sit behind him. So take your kids car shopping with you so you can see if the car is right for everyone!

Tip Five: Trunk Space

Finally, when I am looking for a car, one of the first things I do is open the trunk. Like sitting in the seat, opening the trunk can determine right away if the car will work for you or not. Lacrosse bags are huge. If they won’t fit in the trunk, the car won’t work for our family. Think about the things you cart around all the time. If you have a baby, make sure your stroller fits in the trunk.

Whether you are checking out local dealerships, used car lots or online searches for your next car, these five tips will help you narrow down your list and help you find the perfect family car.

What tips could you add to my list?