California Student at Home? Check Your Mail for $738 Per Student

During the pandemic there have been a number of programs created to support workers, families, and students. In California P-EBT 2.0 is currently being distributed – funds for many California students. (P-EBT is a SNAP / food stamps program providing money for grocery purchases.) The cards are being mailed out to California families from early August 2021 through November 2021. I recently received two of the P-EBT cards for my elementary school children, with a value of $738 each.

The California Department of Social Services has a good summary of the current P-EBT program and who qualifies. The program covers a broad swath of students and schools and there is no application process – you may be sent a card without expecting it, as our family did.

I wanted to write up a brief post on this program specifically because the program doesn’t seem to be widely known, applies to families that likely haven’t received this sort of benefit in the past, and because the cards come in very non-descript envelopes that I imagine are being thrown away as junk mail by many.

Here’s the envelope our card arrived in – it came from South Dakota and no mention of P-EBT, schools, or even the state of California. When I picked it up I thought it was a credit card solicitation.

The letter inside has quite a bit of information and the process to register and activate the card is pretty simple, as long as you have the personal information for the student receiving the card.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition has a helpful post with information about the distribution timing for the P-EBT cards, phone numbers you can call for help, and more.

I had not used a food stamp / P-EBT program in the past and was surprised at how easy the card is to use. You simply swipe it like a debit card, enter the PIN, and payment is processed for any grocery items on your bill, with non-grocery items needing separate payment. I’ve used the card at Vons, Target, and even on Amazon. If you receive P-EBT but don’t want to use the funds personally, I’ve found a few websites where you can donate P-EBT funds online, but none in California. (Perhaps there are ways to do this locally in San Diego – if you can drop a Comment on this I’d appreciate it.) Or, as this Chicago story notes, you can purchase items to donate if you like.

I hope if you live in California and have school-aged children you’ll keep an eye out for these benefit cards, and that yours doesn’t end up in the rubbish bin. The money is a significant amount and can be a great help for many children.

So excited to be back in school!

Mount Laguna Morning Hike

The Laguna Mountains lie about 45 miles straight east of Downtown San Diego. Reaching a maximum height of 6,378 feet they have a very different climate from the nearby beaches that San Diego is better known for. The many campgrounds in the Lagunas are our favorite places to camp near our home.

This week I took our older kids and some friends for a morning hike at the Wooded Hill trail in the Lagunas. It had rained a bit in San Diego over the weekend but we didn’t expect a snow covered scene when we reached the higher altitudes. It was a gorgeous morning, about 50 degrees, and with both evergreen trees and some oaks starting to change to fall colors.

We walked about 2 miles in 2 hours, taking time to throw snowballs, climb boulders, and enjoy the sunshine at the summit of the trail. (Strava recording in images below with more details along with some scenery photos.)

On the return journey to San Diego, about 50 minutes total drive time each way, we stopped at the absolutely fabulous Grand Ole BBQ y Asada in Flinn Springs (the Eastern edge of El Cajon). With current Covid restrictions the lawn games weren’t available but it was wonderful to sit in the 70 degree sun with a light breeze and enjoy the best barbeque in San Diego County. If visiting San Diego or live here, highly recommend a trip and the brisket or beef ribs.

San Diego has great beaches and wonderfully temperate weather for which it is mostly, and rightfully, known. The broader area has a wide variety of plants and land forms to explore and many like Mount Laguna deserve more love.

Germs

– A Guest Post By Ambrose Anderson –

Germs are sort of like bacteria. Germs can be good and bad. Good germs fight bad germs and bad germs like virus, cold, and flu germs fight good germs. There is a five second rule – if you drop a piece of food on the ground for more than five seconds you should not eat it. If less than 5 seconds if you want you can eat it. The sponge we used to clean our dishes had millions of germs on it every time you use it to clean plates the germs from the plate get on the sponge. To avoid that throw away the sponge every week/few days and use a different one for the next week/few days.

Dirty pan

Germs spread by touching other people for a long time (more than five seconds). Fist bumps and high fives are okay, but you should do a fist bump instead of high five. They don’t spread as many germs as touching some one. You can have family rules to keep your family safe from most bad germs.

My dad and sister doing a high five
The author in action

How the coronavirus is affecting lives throughout San Diego (and the world)

– A Guest Post by Eva Anderson –

Dozens of people throughout San Diego had their lifestyle influenced by the coronavirus, a sickness that is leaving destruction in its wake at it moves rapidly around the world. People are going into chaos when the coronavirus hits their country, state, city, or community. New rules are popping up all over countries to keep people safe. The coronavirus epidemic is becoming a world wide struggle. New things that are happening, such as the closing of shops, are going on because people don’t need the things inside the shop, plus when people gather, like to shop or play, germs get on to other people, causing them to become sick. The coronavirus is a contagious disease, which means that if someone else gets the germ that person will get the same sickness. Therefore, shops are closing. Rules such as only ten people in the supermarket at a time are being made world wide to prevent the spreading of germs. Supermarkets are pretty much the only kind of stores open nowadays. Schools have been closed so me and my brother Ambrose have been doing home school to keep up on our learning progress. I can tell you that these changes have been affecting people I know, such as my classmates, teacher (Mrs. Bobier), and my around the block friend Sophie have all had to make many changes in order to adjust to this new lifestyle. Public parks (or at least their parking lots) have been closing due to these changes.

Ambrose Anderson riding his bike

My morning routine has changed as well. Instead of going to school in the morning me and my dad have been teaching Ambrose to ride his bike and we’ve been going on rides throughout San Diego (although he complains about hills a lot). Today we rode to South Park and back. My dad spray painted Ambrose’s bike red and black. I have heard that in Italy people are not allowed to leave their house except to get food. My family bikes every morning to get fresh air and exercise because those two things are very important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which is important to have due to circumstances beyond our control – the coronavirus.

Eva Anderson pulls Ambrose and Oliver Anderson
The author riding on her bike

Posted March 25 2020 by Eva Caroline Anderson

Raising An Investor

Raising children entails a lot of trial and error, and hoping that you aren’t screwing things up too much along the way. As our kids have gotten older we are moving into new subject areas, one of which is money. We want to expose our kids to good money habits while also giving them agency and discretion. Investing has been an area that has been going well so far so I wanted to share our experience with others in the same boat.

We set up an investment account at Betterment for each of the kids when they were born and have put in $25 a month since then. Now that the kids are old enough to be involved there is an account history and returns that we can go over together and learn together about expenses, how returns from appreciation and dividends work, and that there is risk involved in investing. Although we primarily use Vanguard for our own investments I like the aesthetics and diversification into multiple index funds / ETFs that Betterment makes more automatic – it seems to connect with the kids better and is more straightforward for them to understand.

Here’s the actual performance of one child portfolio over the past few years. The right graph includes a comparison to the S&P 500. Betterment currently charges a .25% management fee on top of the fees for the funds invested in.

[Note: We have chosen to hold the investment accounts for each of our children in our name so that we have control of the funds until we decide to give over full control. We’ve done this for reasons related to age and maturity, impact on college scholarships, and other considerations.]

Now when the kids receive some money for a birthday or we cash in the coins in their artisanal hand-crafted wooden banks we let them decide what to do with it – spend it, give it away, put in the bank, or invest in their Betterment account. It’s been fun and over the past year they’ve mostly chosen to invest their money, roughly 80% of their “earnings” going into their respective Betterment accounts. We sit with them at the computer but let them use the mouse, type in the contribution and notes, etc.

Here’s the current default allocation within Betterment for one of our child accounts, at a 95% stocks / 5% bonds allocation.

We’ll see how it goes in the future when there are more dollars at stake and more competing options vying for their attention and funds. From the early returns it’s been a simple and effective way to introduce investing for our family.

You can check out Betterment at: https://www.betterment.com/

Calculating compound growth rates like a boss (baby)

A New Crosswalk Request in North Park at Jefferson Elementary

Let’s make the neighborhood a bit safer and more enjoyable for all

North Park has had a number of crosswalks installed in recent months, including some with push-button flashing lights as you can now see at the corners of 30th Street and Myrtle as well as 30th Street and Polk, as well as other locations.  It has seemed to make a positive impact on the likelihood of drivers that yield to pedestrians at these intersections and hopefully an overall greater awareness for those walking in the area.

This post is to request a new painted crosswalk on the south portion (east-west crosswalk) of the intersection of North Park Way and Utah Street, in front of Jefferson Elementary.  This intersection is just outside the front doors of the school and this three-direction intersection has a stop sign for each direction of oncoming traffic.  There are currently painted crosswalks on the other two crossings at the intersection but just a “No Ped Crossing” sign for the third.

This aerial image shows the existing crosswalks to / from the Jefferson Elementary block in Yellow and the requested additional crosswalk in Red.

With all vehicles already needing to stop at this intersection it seems natural to include a painted crosswalk for pedestrians.  Especially given that the school provides services for children from preschool through fifth grade it seems even more needed to have visible markings and crossings to ensure drivers are aware of the hundreds of small children in the area.

Many parents and children walk to the school from the south and east directions, either from residences or from parking in the neighborhood.  Another marked crossing option would make the journey to school quicker, safer, and more convenient for all.  (And outside of school hours for anyone walking in the neighborhood.)

Below is the current status of this crossing.  Hopefully we can make this small improvement soon, for the use of students and the community at large.

If you’d like to help make this crosswalk a reality please reach out to the San Diego District 3 Councilmember, Chris Ward, at the following email addresses and simply voice your support.  A message as simple as “Crosswalks at Jefferson needed and I support. Thank you.” are great.

Councilmember Ward – christopherward@sandiego.gov

Council Office Representative Tyler Renner  – trenner@sandiego.gov

Grocery Shopping by Bike – Pannier Bags For The Win

I use my bike mostly for function – getting to and from places, shopping, going to dinner, etc.  One of the best purchases I’ve made was getting pannier bags, which make it easy to carry items and more comfortable than using a backpack or handheld bag.  Pannier bags attach to a basic bike rack (front or rear) and are a convenient way to carry goods, or to carry camping supplies if going for a long recreational trip.

A couple of years ago I bought a used set of Avenir pannier bags for $10 a piece.  They have some nice features like:

  • Reflective trim to increase visibility
  • Two bottle holders
  • One large pouch for large items (I’m usually carrying a laptop or papers) with clip straps to secure and expand or shrink height
  • Small zippered pouch for easy access to wallet, keys, etc.
  • Clips to secure bag to bike rack and reduce chances of falling off
  • Waterproof with drawstring tie on opening

One of my set of pannier bags

I went to the grocery store the other day and took some photos to show what a shopping trip by bike looks like.  I sometimes see newspaper articles or comments online about how non-functional it is to buy food items on a bicycle.  I strongly disagree – the parking is usually much easier, it’s cheaper than driving, and with a couple of good bags carrying your items home is a breeze.

Here’s my bike with two pannier bags full of groceries – I didn’t put the chips in the pannier bags for fear of crushing them although there was room in the expanded upper portion if I wanted to use it.

On returning home, I unpacked the bags on our table and took this photo to show the amount of food that can easily fit in a pair of bags.  We were cooking for a get-together so some of the items are in bigger quantities than usual but overall a pretty good idea of an average grocery shopping trip for me by bicycle.

We’re fortunate to live in an area with a number of grocery stores within a mile.  I often walk instead of biking, but often pick up a couple of items in other areas when I’m coming home from work or other activities.  Pannier bags are a great addition to any bike and I highly recommend getting a pair.

Have a great day and hope to see you riding soon!

A Small Butterfly Garden

We’ve had a couple of wood planter boxes in our sideyard that I made a few years ago for herbs and vegetables but have never had good luck with growing edibles.  Yesterday, we decided to repurpose one as a butterfly garden, which is more in keeping with our lot flora in general and hopefully will be more successful than the tomatoes and basil were.

We went to a nursery in the Midway District of San Diego, Walter Andersen’s, which has quite a large selection and is on to the way to our favorite beach neighborhood, Ocean Beach.  Our total purchase for the day was $77.49 for the following plants and one bag of bedding soil.  I sprang for a couple of extra large choices rather than smaller pots, so the total cost could easily be closer to $50 for the same selections at a slightly smaller planting size.

Plant List:

  • Achillea Millefolium (Siren song angie)
  • Acelpias fascicularis (Mexican whorled milkweed)
  • Asclepias mix mojonnier (Milkweed)
  • Asclepias physocarpa (Hairy Balls / Family Jewels) – commonly named for the seed pods resemblance to the human testicle.  Seriously.
  • Cuphea Llavea

    Hairy Balls Seed Pod
  • Galvezia speciosa ‘Firecracker’ (Firecracker Snapdragon)

All of these are butterfly friendly and pretty well suited to the San Diego climate.  Some, like the cuphea and galvezia are also great for hummingbirds.  Only the galvezia is a “true” California native plant but the asclepias mix is probably the most common milkweed you’ll see in yards around town and a great monarch butterfly attractor.

Wanted to share this project and plant selections in case others would like to easily add some habitat for butterflies at their own home.  Cheers!

Before Photo

After photo

Eva’s First Publication (Proud Papa Post)

My daughter Eva is currently in Kindergarten and we recently had an event in her classroom where all the kids got to read a book they had created to a group of parents.  I really enjoyed Eva’s book and wanted to post it here so that family could see it (and of course for the eventual inclusion on her college applications as a sign of prodigious intellect).

Eva - How to Love Others Book - March 2017

Hope you enjoy / smile / learn how to love others.

:),

John

For the full file, PDF is attached here.