Spring Breaking-It

Ah, spring is in the air!  It means the kids are out-of-school on spring break… and that means I need to take my stay-at-home-dad duties a lot more seriously.

While many families choose to travel somewhere warm or exotic during spring break, we’re just hanging-out at home.  Both of our boys can have a great time even if we don’t travel somewhere, and as I mentioned in a recent post, they don’t fly particularly well yet.

That’s OK.  There will be plenty of time for traveling when they’re older. For now, we’re content to stay home, cook our own meals, …and play a lot of board games together.


The Myth Of Extra FI Time

During this spring break, I need to be chief entertainer, personal chef, and bottle washer for two young boys.  Two rambunctious boys.  Wish me luck!  Maybe they’ll ‘break’ me!

Unfortunately, this is new gig is going to consume a HUGE amount of my time this week, and I won’t be cranking out a second weekly post here like I usually do.

Finding time to do everything is always a challenge (even for financially independent folks like me).  The difference is, I just happen to have more flexible free-time than your average working-stiff.

For anyone who thinks your ‘time difficulties’ disappear when you reach financial independence, think again.  That’s a total myth.  In fact, one of the most common statements I hear from early retirees after-the-fact is “How the hell did I ever have time for a job?”

I wonder that myself!  Time simply isn’t infinite and money won’t change that… even if you have a gigantic investment portfolio.  Something’s gotta give occasionally.  In this case it’s going to be the blog that “gives” this week.  I’ll be taking the rest of the week-off from blogging while I shift my “blogging time” to “time with the kids” time.

Sorry folks!  Family takes priority, but this links back to one of the biggest reasons why I wanted financial independence in the first place — time with the family.


Family Activities On the Cheap

It’s worth repeating if I haven’t said it already — keeping two energetic kids entertained for a full week is no easy task.  Normally if we had nice spring weather, I’d take them to the park or go hiking.  Unfortunately the weather forecast for the week is kinda shitty…

local weather

Rain, rain, and even more rain.  Ugh!  Well, that’s Seattle weather for you.  Now you understand why people from the PNW often travel to someplace warm for spring break.

Fortunately we Seattlites know how to have fun while standing knee deep in rain…


Board Games

Board games are one of our favorite family activities when the weather is bad outside.  Board games provide plenty of mental stimulation for the kids, and even for adults like myself.

For example, I started teaching Tako Jr. #1 how to play chess this week, and already with just a couple days under his belt, he’s doing great!  He already knows how all the pieces move, basic openings, and how to end a game with ‘checkmate’.  I think he’s doing great for a 6-year old.

chess game

Of course, chess is a two-player game, not a family game.  I need to involve the whole family, and the latest addition to our stable of games is Tokyo Highway.  It’s a game about building the crazy-complicated highways in Tokyo.

tokyo highway

As usual, I tend to DIY games that don’t require thousands of pieces… so our version of the game (pictured above) is 100% homemade.  If you’re not interested in building your own board games, you can certainly pick up your own copy online.


Tent Shopping

We’re going camping this summer, and we currently don’t own a tent.  Last year we borrowed at tent from friends, but we can’t do that every year.  So, I think it’s time we bought a tent.  If the boys help me out, I think they’ll feel like they have more ownership over the camping trip and enjoy it that much more.  So, I’m taking them shopping with me.

I tried to find some good tents online, but finding a good tent on the internet is easier said than done.  It’s really hard to tell what quality is like on the internet these days.  Paid reviews, and fake reviews really make it hard to accurately judge a product.

We’ll also be camping near the ocean this summer, so it makes sense to find a tent with plenty of waterproofing.  You never know when a little ocean squall is going to come through.

This week, the plan is to head over to REI (a popular outdoor co-op) to check-out tents.  REI tends to have good quality outdoor gear, and it’s the kind of store that has tents already setup, so we can browse the different models.

rei tent
REI tents (like this one) are usually much higher quality than your typical Chinese re-branded tents.

I always worry about quality when I buy stuff these days.  You just can’t trust brand names anymore.  Quality has gone down because they outsourcing everything.  Even some of the former ‘top’ brands have gotten pretty terrible as they outsource more.

For me, if I’m actually going to spend money on a product, I’d much rather have a quality product that lasts for years instead of a “disposable one” that only last for a couple uses.

I’ll definitely pay extra for quality if I have to.


Library & Books

Later this week, I’ll be taking the kids to the library.  We absolutely love going to the library.  There’s always plenty of kid-friendly entertainment, and they’ll hang-out for hours playing games on the library computers.

We’ll borrow a bunch of story books for the kids while we’re there too.  That should help keep the little rascals entertained for awhile.

For myself, I just got my hands on a shiny new novel called Tiamat’s Wrath.  It’s Book 8 in the Expanse Series, and I’ve been just waiting to sync my teeth into it.  Never mind the “just OK” TV-series, the books are exceptionally well written science fiction.

tiamat's wrath



There’s also going to be plenty of delicious food cooked this week.  I plan to make a bunch of stuff the kids enjoy.  Spaghetti, grilled cheese sandwiches, tamago-gohan, cheeseburgers… and all the rest of the food my kids known and love!

I kicked things off on Sunday with some home-made pizza…

thin crust pizza

I know I haven’t been publishing many food recipes recently — I’ve been too busy with investing posts.  That said, I recently had a few readers asking for my Mapo Tofu recipe.  Should I cook-up some Japanese Mapo Tofu on the blog next week?  Anyone interested?


To Be Continued… Next Week

Well, that wraps-up this ‘slice of pizza life’ post!  This will be my final post for the week, but I’ll be returning when spring break ends.

This week my time focus is all about family time.  If all goes well, I should be back to my regular writing schedule next week after the kids go back to school.  I’ll see you then!


[Image Credit: Flickr]

30 thoughts on “Spring Breaking-It

  • April 10, 2019 at 7:10 AM

    Have a great spring break! I’m a huge fan of the Expanse series too. I didn’t know book 8 is out. I’ll need to reserve it from the library. Our spring break was 2 weeks ago. It was a nice break from school. Our son had friends over and they had a good time. The weather was pretty good that week. Enjoy!

    • Thanks Joe! Looks like we’re stuck with rain and colder temps this week, but we’ll make due!

  • April 10, 2019 at 7:41 AM

    Tokyo highway looks neat – will have to check that out!

    We recently picked up an REI tent ourselves for this year. We went with the 4-person Grand Hut – something big enough to stretch out in and even stand up in. They’re doing a 20% off sale on one item (at least they were last week) which helps too.

    Now hopefully it’ll stop raining enough to enjoy it.

    • They don’t seem to be doing a sale right now, but the Grand Hut looks pretty good! 🙂

  • April 10, 2019 at 8:04 AM

    If you have room, set up the new tent in the living room for them to play fort or “camp out”. Blankets and pillows and a string of lights around the top will make it a memorable spring break. Enjoy your family time!

    • Thanks Jonesy! We’ll definitely set up the tent in the house. Good fun for the kids!

  • April 10, 2019 at 11:14 AM

    Haha, I was one of those people who thought my problems with lack of time would disappear when my job was out of the way… live and learn! I’m definitely busier now than I was when I was working.

    That’s amazing that your 6-year-old is learning chess. That’s something I never learned and so I haven’t been able to teach my daughter. Maybe I’ll add that to the list of things to try to fit in! 🙂

    You shouldn’t go wrong with REI – they’re supposed to be the best of the best when it comes to camping supplies. I know what you mean about quality going downhill. I recently heard that Coleman isn’t a good brand for tents for instance. I always thought that they were, but maybe I was wrong.

    Have a great time!

    — Jim

    • Yeah, Coleman was one of those brands that really “sold out” when they outsourced everything. Now they’re considered the lowest quality gear.

  • April 10, 2019 at 11:43 AM

    Enjoy the break! If you pick up a tent, set it up in your living room to break it in – somehow that is as (if not more) fun for our kids as actual camping.

    • Oh, definitely. We’ve got to try it out before hand, right? 🙂

  • April 10, 2019 at 11:43 AM

    Did you pick out a tent? We got the MRS Elixir 4 person tent recently after quite a bit of research. I’ve done quite a bit of camping in the background in my 20’s and early 30’s and always liked the MRS tents. Elixir has some great features that some other brands do not have. Having said that, REI does offer a lot of great quality REI branded tents.

    • I checked out MRS tents — whew! They look really expensive. I don’t think I can spending $1k on a tent we’ll only use a few times a year. That’s a tough sell. But MRS does look like quality stuff.

  • April 10, 2019 at 11:51 AM

    I miss your food posts! Yes please to mapo tofu.

    Your thoughts on how even at FI, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day is soooo true. I am not FI (the dream!) yet, but currently on a mini-retirement/sabbatical, and I’m spending most of my time on hobbies and creative pursuits. It’s amazing to fill my days up with the things I like, I totally agree — how the heck did I fit work into my days before? LOL

  • April 10, 2019 at 12:21 PM

    Love the staycation spring break plans. Teaching chess to a 6 yo is pretty impressive. My daughter started playing chess with me a year or so ago (when she was 12) and has improved to the point where I have to actually concentrate if I still want to win.

    This spring break I did the complete opposite and had a fairly expensive one doing a Disney cruise.

    • He’s strategy is still pretty basic, but we’re getting there! Hopefully he won’t lose interest in the game before his skills improve. 🙂

  • We got the REI Kingdom 6 a few years ago. It’s been great. Got it when they were running a sale and got the optional garage (I think they call the garage a mudroom now). Our family is 5 so wanted a fair amount of space. It’s not cheap but quality seems good and we’ve used it for a few years and expect to get many more years out of it. Someone else mentioned MSR. I haven’t used their tents but other MSR gear I’ve owned has been outstanding. I have an MSR stove that still works great after 20+ years.

    • How hard is that Kingdom 6 to setup? It looks semi-difficult. I’m looking for something pretty simple to put together.

      • I guess the answer is all relative. I personally think it’s relatively easy. I can set it up alone in maybe 10 or 15 minutes, given that I have experience with it. My kids (ages 10 – 15) can set it up themselves. In fact one of my kids took it backyard camping and a bunch of young girls set it up alone. I compare that to the cheapo Walmart cabin tent we had prior. Truly impossible to set up without two adults working on it.

        Here’s a review I found on youtube:

        Now that said, I have the same model as in the video above. But looking at REI’s website it appears they’ve redesigned it. Judging from the pictures, it appears to have one or two additional poles. I’m thinking that would improve lateral stability and reduce the need to use the guy lines. But I don’t have experience setting up the new model. REI’s return policy is pretty good so not too much risk in trying it in the backyard to see if it works for you.

  • April 10, 2019 at 2:42 PM

    My FIL taught our son to play chess at age 6 and he took to it right away, then Grandpa found a great online chess school, you can try some of the free sessions to see if he likes it before committing. It’s really good and the lessons can be narrated, this is a great feature and means he doesn’t need the instructions to be read to him…thechessschool.net

  • April 10, 2019 at 3:06 PM

    Tents are definitely not as well made as they used to be. My last tent they put an inferior bungee string in the pole and it broke in the middle of putting the tent up on just the 2nd time of using the tent. Thankfully, we were just camping in the backyard this time for the kids.

    • Wow, that’s a bummer. What brand of tent was that Robbie?

  • April 11, 2019 at 9:59 AM

    Here’s another vote for the MaboDofu recipe.
    The pre-made mixes seem to be about twice the cost of the tofu, or more.
    I’m looking for a more frugal option.

  • April 11, 2019 at 6:29 PM

    Very personal and insightful article!

    I especially resonate with your quote,

    “Time simply isn’t infinite and money won’t change that… even if you have a gigantic investment portfolio.”

    Very true. Time is the one asset that we cannot own. Opportunity costs directly correlate to this as I mention in my new article on my website. Every choice we make has a cost.

  • April 12, 2019 at 4:08 AM

    Have a great Spring Break!

    When I was a kid my best friend’s parents would set up a tent on their deck and we would “camp out” for the entire weekend. It was some great fun and cheap! We would run an extension cord out and have a 6-way hooking up a lamp and stereo for us to listen to.

  • April 12, 2019 at 4:25 AM

    First of all,Happy Spring break … And wow,your 6 year old likes chess .. thats cool.I never found the interest.Hope someday…Though Boardgames are so fun to play and I like your stay at home n enjoy the vacation idea.

    Enjoy !!

  • April 12, 2019 at 6:50 AM

    I love the changing of the season from Winter to Spring. Longer days and warmer weather definitely make for a happier life.

    Enjoy your spring break. I know I will be enjoying mine – Disney here we come!

  • April 13, 2019 at 6:47 AM

    ““How the hell did I ever have time for a job?”

    Yup, my thoughts exactly. Can’t believe I ever thought I’d have so much time in retirement. Too much to do, too little time.

    Love your ideas for entertaining your little ones! When it’s raining outside, boardgames and books are the perfect distraction. Plus they are inexpensive and they make you smarter, so it’s a win-win!

  • April 15, 2019 at 12:42 AM

    Have a great spring break with the family, Mr. Tako! We just finished ours a couple of weeks back.

    Being the Chief Entertainment Officer is a great gig. 🙂


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