Culture and recreation

First a bit of housekeeping to answer some questions that were posted to me.
I am on a graduate stipend and working as a TA. The Dude is doing a distance program for his last year of undergrad and he has some grants and loans coming to him. After I finish my PhD (5 or so years down the road), I would like to teach, advise, research, and write. The Dude will (hopefully) have finished his undergrad and gone through grad school by then, and so it won’t be a full five (or so) years of poverty, just 2-3.

One huge concern of mine is that everyone’s creative soul is fed. I want our lives to be rich with experience if fiscally poor. Fortunately I am pretty resourceful. I found 2 free sleepaway environmental science camps for Rin through our local parks dept. We forgot to register the first day and so I figured all the spots would have been snatched up, but to my great joy, he is enrolled. They are each 3 nights long and involve hiking, stream observation, camping, treetop canopy ecosystem observation, and all sorts of fun stuff like that.

We are trying to take advantage of our university community as much as possible. We are checking out free movies, free museums, and exhibit openings. It is also important to me that the boys get a taste of college life. I don’t want it to be something I go and do and return from, and their lives remain untouched and separate. So we have devised a plan. I will be in school Monday through Friday from about 9 to 5 or 6 most days. I will try to get as much work done there. In order to save money and get fit, I am walking to and from school. It is about 3 miles round trip, and uphill both ways. So I want to leave my books at school. On Monday evenings I come home, we have dinner and then walk to our local library. On Tuesday nights we have quiet family evenings at home.

Wed and Thurs I have class until 6. On those nights, the rest of the family will walk or drive to the college and bring me lunch. And then we will hang out on campus. Thursday was our first run through of this. While I ate in the commons, the boys played WII with some college guys. And then we headed over to the library for an hour of quiet study time. Sadly most of our time was spent wandering the library getting lost because it is so freaking huge! But you know what? Now when my boys go off to college and they get lost their first week, they can remember that it is a common occurrence and they are not alone. And we will get better acclimated in the coming weeks. They did finally find some books and we all settled into a nice cozy time. Other opportunities we will have include free concerts, star parties, and events associated with sporting events.

Although I have use of the university rec center, it was not a good buy for the rest of the family. But once again, I followed my nose into a deal. Our park and rec department has an indoor pool and fitness center, as well as an outdoor seasonal pool. It is almost $500 for a full year, which is a good buy but a little much for us. But they have a weekend only pass for half the price. Since we will be busy with school during the week, that will work fine for us. ANd it gives us access to the outdoor pool in the summer as well (again, weekends only). So, I was feeling okay about that. About $20 a month. But then I got a flyer in the mail. They are running a special in Sept, everything is 1/2 price! So we will get our membership for $120! So we will be spending a lot of weekends there.

We have a yearly membership to the science center in our old town. There is a science center here that honors the membership, so we will be able to go there for free as well.

We are working on building our camping supplies back up (this was an excessively stupid move when we were in purge mode before moving, we sold our tents and sleeping bags). We got our tents back today. We found two at Goodwill for a total of $14. We bought two sleeping bags for $4 each this week as well. Once we have all that in order, we will be able to camp again, and that is fun cheap entertainment for us. We are also keeping our eyes open for cheap snowboards and cross country skis for fun in the winter.


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Camping. Library. What else does one need? LOL

Even though I'm only in my 2nd year of grad school, we've been in low budget mode for years. It's amazing how many free cultural events there can be in a major metropolitan area. The key thing is to get plugged in to the right news channels so you know when they're happening.

Thanks for answering my questions. It's quite uplifting to see that you are able to implement so many community and cultural activities despite the loss of half your former income (!)

This is great. Love the new blog. I am going to Yale next year and with two kids, it is a whole different ball of wax then heading off on my own.

What I like most about this post is that you have decided what kind of experience you want during this time, what is important to you, and you are setting up your life around those priorities. That's an excellent way to approach it, and I think I'll use it.

Using that kind of approach, the things that seem important to me now are:

1. My kids get a taste of the college life (and have positive experiences with it).

2. My family is a part of the community wherever we are. That my kids get a sense that they are known and loved and have people they can count on (which is somewhat to counter the impact of us having moved so much in their lives).

3. I get more time with my family than I do now, even though I will be studying and working (no stipend on my end).

4. We model for our kids an environmentally conscience life, a creative life, and a FUN life. And that we have fun together, as a family.

5. That we don't rack up student loans or debt in all this, as my income may not improve at all with my masters given my field.

So far we have been leaning toward on-campus dorm-style housing (or student family housing if we can get into it, but the waiting lists are really long for that). They are these little dorm-style two bedroom apartments right at the grad school, and they will allow children. We are leaning toward that option because it basically lifts up all the above priorities. My kids will definitely be a part of college life, we'll have an easier time getting really involved with the campus community, we'll be able to steal away more time together as a family because we will be right on campus, and campus opportunities will all be around every corner and it will be possible for us to manage without a car (or with just one car). Plus campus housing means we won't pay for any utilities, even if the rent is slightly higher per square foot than for off-campus housing.

Of course, these little apartments are dinky and there will be major downsides. But I guess my point is that this is a really great approach: to decide what values and goals will drive your decisions and go from there.

By the way, thanks for sharing your experience regarding the campus rec center. I have had a heck of a time getting info about the student family members discount at the Yale rec center…and I have a feeling it can't be that good with everyone being so tight-lipped about it. I'll definitely get more info about the parks and rec department now. Nice find on the $120 weekend membership.

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