Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting ready for a new year!

Since I have some time off, I am planning out what I want to do with my son over the next few months. I know that these things are not unchanging, because I always end up doing whatever I feel when the day comes, but I like to have some kind of guide for ideas on what to do with him and when. If I don't, I tend to get into a funk and not want to do much of anything.

Right now, I putting events (holidays) on a calendar that I made in Microsoft publisher. From there, I added "letters of the week" that kind of go with the events. I also wrote down what I want to do for sensory tubs. I was going to plan for January, February, and March, but just the first two months are enough for now. I have put on crafts for most days, trips that I want to take with him (this helps me make sure to get full use out of my memberships), and anything else that I can think of that will be fun, educational, or just related. Many of my ideas have come from No Time for Flash Cards or sites that were linked, so please check them out!

I'll let you know what our plans are for the new year when I feel that I'm finished.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I don't expect to be gone for too long, but just in case!

While I have you here, I want to tell you about my Christmas. This year, we decided to celebrate our family Christmas, today. It was sort of a weird year, because I did 96% of the shopping this year...actually it may have been even higher than that. I even did my own Christmas shopping. As in, I bought my own gifts and wrapped them myself. I have never had to do that before, because my husband has always been really great about Christmas gifts.

Well, there were 2 gifts that he bought me and one that he made for me. These were all complete surprises to me. The first is a Glee Christmas CD that he downloaded and copied for me. The second was a set of 4 Bingo lottery tickets, which are always my favorite gift. The third gifts was a pair of purple fleece Pjs. Which of these gifts made me laugh out loud????


How about the 3X fleece PJs?! Now, anyone that knows me, knows I'm not a slender gal. Sizes, for me, run between 16-18 or L-XL depending on the clothing. So 3XL??? Not so much my size! Nice try hunny! I still love you.

PS...PLEASE
take back the PJs ASAP! I could really use ones that fit!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Savings for the new year.

There's no denying it! 2011 is going to bring us a little bit closer to being free of debt (although we will not be debt-free for a while!) We have two big things that will be paid off in the first half of 2011. Those two things are our car load for our Civic and one of my student loans. Can I get an AMEN!!!

The car has been such a headache! We bought it back in September of 2007. When we bought it, I was teaching full time and just found out I was pregnant. We thought that replacing my Taurus was a good idea, because it was over 10 years old and the transmission was going. At the time, $20000 (plus a bunch more after tax, title, some stupid package that they scammed us into buying, and probably a ton of other fees) did not seem too hard to deal with.


A few months later, when our lives changed completely and we were completely out of savings and not working, that bill seemed like the devil! We have made it a goal over the past few years to have this car paid down in less than the 66 months that our loan schedule. We are finally starring at just over $1500 left on the loan. We will have it paid down as soon as we get our tax refund (which is how we've managed to pay it down the past few years). Then, it is on to peeling off the rest of my little (I also have a HUGE) school loan.

Basically, I do everything that involves paying bills and financial planning for our family. I have a few basic goals that tend to change from time to time. Usually, the goals change a little depending on what I am working to pay down or save up at the time. Right now, it looks a little like this.


Golden RULE
(so important that it doesn't even get a number!). ALWAYS find a way to pay less than what everyone else is paying and/or find a way to buy it without withdrawing money from our checking or savings account. Either use a coupon, ask around to see if someone has one that they don't need, go to thrift stores, ask for it as a gift, sell on ebay or craigslist to make the money, buy it on craigslist or ebay, or just wait and pray that something good will come our way. (I have to say that the last one seems to work for us a lot)

#1. Always pay down the credit card, because that has the highest interest rate.
#2. Put away $25 a week in our savings. This is direct deposited, so I don't have to remember. Although, I usually only set it to do about 5 weeks at a time so that I can still make sure that we are okay on money and not overdraw our account. The main goal here is to have our 6 months worth of savings in case of job loss.
#3/4. Add on husbands 401K and stock options as we find ourselves being able to.
#3/4. Pay down car loan, because this is the bill that holds the next highest interest rate after the credit card.
#5. Put away $100 a month for our son. He has his own savings account and I want to prepare him to go to college or leave home to follow his dreams.

Honestly, I am lucky if I get to the end of that list. So, going on from there would be a moot point.

The important part of it all is that the goals are there! And I have to compliment my husband here. While he fought me on my ways for years, he has really come around. I think that I can say that he has learned patience. For example, about two years ago, we were really struggling. Out of the blue, his computer just died. He was going to need over $500 worth of parts to fix it. He immediately went online and gave me that $500 number that I though was going to kill me! At the same time, it was just a few weeks from his birthday. I held strong and told everyone that I thought would be getting him a gift that he either wanted cash or a gift certificate to the site that had the parts that he needed.

He also got creative. He found a website that let you do surveys to make money and earn gift cards. He managed to earn himself a gift card that would help pay for parts. He also found out about a site that allowed him to play certain games and win prizes if you scored the most points on any given day. I was skeptical of the game one, but ultimately, he won a Visa gift card for $200. Obviously, he was able to find alternative ways to get what he needed. He held on to that and has continued to take the path of patience. I think that is awesome!

And not that I ever hoped to change my husband, because he really is an awesome, loving, caring, and kind person, but I am grateful that he joined me in my ways. It is great to have someone that loves me and understands how important it is for me to be able to fulfill our financial goals for the future.

Although, the hard part of being the person in charge of the budget and financial planning is that I can be blamed when we are not both retired at 90! :)

Christmas Tree craft

I knew that I found this craft on No Time for Flashcards, but took me a few days to actually go out and look for it. I changed up how they did it a little.

My poor baby has been feeling sick. Yesterday, we were in the thick of a 101+ fever. It seemed like nothing was going to keep him in a good mood, so I decided that something new might help.

For this craft, we used an old box, crayons, bows, glue, and some candy cane stickers.

First, I cut a Christmas tree shape out of an old Priority Mail box. I opened the box up so that it could be nice and tall and sturdy.

Next, I had my son color the Christmas tree different shades of green and the stump different shades of brown. We practiced signing green and brown while doing this.

After coloring, I started handing him old bows had become flat and not as perfect as I would prefer on a gift. I took off the backing so that he could stick them on, but the did not stick well. That is why I added glue to this project. I think that because of the wax in the crayons, you will need to either switch to a different medium for coloring the tree (like paint or markers) or add glue to stick the bows to the tree.

Finally, we added some candy cane stickers that I just happened to find. Viola! We have ourselves a beautiful tree!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas...please never change.



I consider us lucky. Some people have to drive long distances between home and family for the holidays or long distances from one side of the family to the other. Lucky for me, I don't have a long journey. Hubby and I can get from our house to either of our parent's houses in about 30 minutes. From there, we can get from one set of parents to the other in 10 minutes (5 if we are in trouble for being late).

I feel for my friends though. The ones that I have to schlep the kids, the new toys, the animals...all over the place to be with their family. It is difficult. And who wants that much stress on Christmas? I mean, I know that being with family is a good portion of what Christmas is all about, but it is just as much about having some quiet time and relaxation to enjoy everything that is going on. Sometimes that can be hard to do.

For some reason this year, I have been thinking a lot about what would happen if we were to lose either set of parents (mine or my husbands) any time soon. The holidays would not be the same. I always plan for going to my Mom and Dad's on Christmas Eve for their party. Then, we sleep there and wake up on Christmas morning, just like I have since I was a little kid (I really, really love my husband for never insisting on changing that). I was often one of the first ones awake. Of course my Dad always wakes up before I do and he and I sit down and talk while we wait for others to get up. That time with my Dad is always really nice. It's not often that he and I are able to really sit and talk without someone else in the room. We always start by opening stockings after everyone is awake and then gifts. Then, we have Christmas breakfast with my old neighbors (a tradition start forever ago, because they were just like family and we all LOVE being together on that day). After breakfast, this is usually when I am starting to feel like a child...not wanting to ever leave my parent's house and my husband starts with a nudge to get me going...and then it turns into a little yelling argument in the back room (he has to remind me again that I am an adult now and I can't stay here all day).

So, we slowly start to back the car and say 'goodbyes'. Usually, I have a little tear in my eye as we pull out of the driveway. I think back on Christmas' past and wish that I could go back in time. By the time we get to the end of my (parent's) road, my husband steps on the gas and I am thrust back into reality. He starts zooming down and road and reminding me that we were supposed to be at his parent's house a half hour ago! Inevitably, we get the phone call, these days it can go either way, it's either his Dad asking where we are and how long we will be (Scott always answers this one and says that we are much closer than we are) or we get a call from one of sisters asking if we are there yet (which I am okay answering, because if they are calling it means that they are late too, so I won't have to lie!). Within, five minutes (remember....5 minutes if we are late....it always applies on Christmas Day) we arrive in his parents driveway and pray that there are not already two other cars their (so that we are not last). Usually, we get in one more fight over our lateness before we walk into the house and act like we are having the most perfect day!

After we say our hellos and our son runs off to play (he wasn't really running last year, so this is a little ad lib), Scott and I sit down and try to play it cool. Usually, if we are all there, this is when we turn off the TV, Bungie (Dad in-law) takes out his camera, and wrapping paper starts flying like we're digging for gold! I love this part! There are tons of gifts for everyone and since each of the past few years has added a new member to the family, there are more and more presents and ciaos each year! That's the point in the day when it almost feels like a scene from a Christmas movie. All of the kids are excited and we all thank each other. This is also a good time to share "news"....one year it was us sharing that we were engaged...if anyone were ever pregnant about this time they would probably share that at this point too. Oddly enough, 4 out of 6 grandchildren were all in a 30ish day bubble around Christmas. I think last year, this was the time that Scott's parents told us they were taking us to the beach for summer vacation.

After all of that, we usually just spend time together. We play with toys, sometimes take naps, or eat ourselves silly on snacks. Then, we sit down to a nice dinner prepared by Scott's Mom. She always takes out the fancy stuff for us. Fancy plates, fancy wine/water glasses, fancy tablecloth. We say a pray before we eat and the there's the inevitable argument about which way the food is going around the table and who has mess up the process by passing to the wrong way (usually Bungie did it...lol). We dine on ham (this year turkey) and broccoli casserole (which is always gone before you know it), green bean casserole, and a pineapple casserole that has grown on my over the years.

Eventually, the night comes to an end. Jen and her crew usually have to first (although they have been known to stay the night). Then, Scott and I hang around with Erin (and usually Erik, but he's going to be staying in TX this year) and hope that everyone will stay the night like it was back when we first started dating. Everyone eventually leaves though....and Christmas is over.

I usually have a hard time getting to sleep on Christmas night. I keep praying that I will wake up in the morning and it will be Christmas again. Since I know that will never happen, I just pray that nothing will change for the next year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another cheap game!

I went to Toys R' Us last night and picked up Battleship. While I was there, they were having an extra 30% off of a lot of games as part of their Friday night and Saturday morning sale. I decided to see what else I could get for super cheap with my Hasbro coupons. As it turned out, they had Pictureka Flipper game on sale for $6.98! Sweet deal since the regular price on the tag said $29.99! WOW! Then, I had an additional $5 off! I ended up getting Battleship and Pictureka for a grand total of $5.32! BUT WAIT!!!



With the Toys R Us, Hasbro Rebate I will get an additional $3 back on my Battleship purchase.

Prior to getting this great deal, I went over to the game department to finally get something that my husband would not know about for Christmas. I found that they had some great deals going on! If you bought two games over $49.99 you got a $40 gift card. Not bad, but I wasn't looking to spend that. Plus, I was there for a specific purchase. I wanted to get my husband the new Classic Mario Collection game for Christmas.

I have been wanting the Family Game night games for a couple of years now and they just released a new one.


The Mario Classic Collection is currently $53.99 on Amazon, but it was at Toys R Us for $29.99. Family Game Night 3 is $29.99 on Amazon. I paid $39.99. Total at Toys R Us was just under $75, but I also got that $25 gift card AND that Hasbro rebates will give me $5 for the Family Game Night 3 game! Not too shabby!

Toys R Us certainly has a lot of good deals to get you in there for the holidays!

***Edit: I could have made this deal a little better by using my $25 gift card on the games, but it took 6 hours for the card to become activated. I know that usually you don't need the entire 6 hours, so I did try it, but the card would not go through. I don't mind having this card to use later. When we get to mid-end of January it will be inventory and clearance time and that means LOTS OF CHEAP DEALS!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Whole Wheat Banana Bread that is always a huge hit.

I found this recipe at www.pinchmysalt.wordpress.com back in the Summer of '09. I was making a lot of different breads at the time and decided to give this one a try.

When I make this, sometimes I will make small loaf of bread and then also make muffins or mini muffins. I tend to think that it is easier to determine how much is appropriate to eat when I can count just how many muffins have left the pan!

What you will need:
1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 c (2-3) mashed bananas....I always use more!
1 tsp vanilla
2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts (I always skip this one)

*Preheat oven to 350
*Grease pan or pans
*In large bowl, cream butter and sugar
*Add eggs, bananas, vanilla and beat well
*In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt
*Stir liquid mixture into dry (add nuts here if you are using them)
*Pour into 9x5 loaf and/or muffin pan or mini muffin pan

For the 9x5 loaf, bake for about 60 minutes.
For the regular sized muffin pan, bake for about 10 minutes and check.
For the mini muffins, bake for about 7 minutes and check.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wedded Mommy Bliss!!: Snow Day = Finish up some projects!

Wedded Mommy Bliss!!: Snow Day = Finish up some projects!: "It's snowing (or was a little while ago) in Pittsburgh. So, we decided to use the time to get one of our projects finished up for Christmas..."

Snow Day = Finish up some projects!


It's snowing (or was a little while ago) in Pittsburgh. So, we decided to use the time to get one of our projects finished up for Christmas.

A few weeks ago, I showed you the gingerbread men that Matthew was making. Yesterday, we finally got around to painting them and putting some finishing touches on them. Here is how they turned out!

The best kept secret at Christmas!

Last Thursday night was a late night! I was up until around 2am just trying to make sure that everything will be in order for Matthew's party on Saturday. I did manage to get a lot done. I made 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies, baked, cooled, and dirty iced his cake (then froze until Friday when I will decorate), baked some chocolate brittle, and even managed to do a couple of dishes!

While I was getting of that done, I was thinking that it is time to give away one of my favorite family recipes. Many know of the Chocolate Brittle that my Mom makes, but few people know just how easy it is to make! Here it is!

****One thing about this recipe, I've seen people make this and have it come out very sticky and almost wet. After having made it in an apartment that had a tiny size stove and having the recipe flop, I think that the size that pan is VERY important. I counted the number of saltines that we put on the pan at my Mom's one year and there were 72. I have been able to cut the recipe to fit my own pan that holds only 56 crackers. What you have here is the 72 cracker "original" version.

You will need
(72*see note above) Two rows of saltines
Two sticks of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
12 oz bag of chocolate chips


*Preheat oven to 375.
*I suggest some Pam on your cookie sheet!
*Cover cookie sheet with 72 saltines
*Bring to a boil butter and brown sugar
*Remove from heat and add baking soda (if I ever forget a step, it is this one)
*Pour mixture over crackers
*Bake on 375 for EXACTLY 10 minutes (if you cut the recipe, you might check on this around 8 minutes to make sure that it isn't burning)
*Remove from oven and spread 12 oz bag of chocolate chips (optional add crushed nuts or coconut on top of chocolate)
*Put in freezer until chocolate is set up.
*Break into pieces

That's it! If you want to make this a week ahead of time, that's fine. You can keep it in the freezer until you need it.


This is what it will look like when it is done. This is not my personal brittle, but a picture that I found that I thought looked most like mine when it is finished.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Living in a Monsters World!!: ARE YOU READY!!!!!

I would LOVE to try out this craft idea!

Living in a Monsters World!!: ARE YOU READY!!!!!: "I AM SO STOKED ABOUT THIS PROJECT!! I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON HIM FOR THREE DAYS NOW AND HE IS DONE!!!! WAHOO!!!! HERE IT IS!!! CUT DIFFERENT S..."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A few of my favorite things...ornaments

This year was an abbreviated tree decorating year. Instead of filling every branch with ornaments we choose the ones that were most important and put them up. The reason? Well, I thought it was because I had a two -year-old, but as it turns out, it looks like I did it that way due to lack of energy to keep going, because my son hasn't bothered with the tree at all!

Every year, when I put up the ornament, I think about where they came from. I remember doing this when I was younger and saying "Mommy, who got this one?". It was always special to hear the stories of where our ornaments came from. I thought that I would share the stories of the ones that made it to our tree this year.


This ornament is the Hallmark Millennium time capsule ornament that my Mom got that year. This is one of my new favorite ornaments, because the time capsule actually opens up and and there is a scroll inside with information about what was going on as we headed into the new Millennium. Mom take the time just to jot a couple pieces of information, all of which were positive, and bring back fond memories. Mom said that she wished that she would have bought two of them, one for me and one for my brother. As luck would have it, I found one at a garage sale a few years ago and it is being held for my brother. I look forward to pulling out this ornament every year. I love looking back and thinking about how far we have come. I think that I am going to add another piece of paper to that ornament this year and update where we are 10 years later.


We have a set of 4 of these little icicle snowmen. They were a grab bag gift to our family from my Aunt Deb about 10ish years ago. I loved them as soon as we opened them, and begged for them when I put up my first Christmas tree. My first Christmas tree was awesome! I decided that since I could do whatever I wanted (I knew Scott wouldn't care), I wanted to have a tree that was all glass, silver, and snowmen. These fit in PERFECTLY!


This cute little ornament takes me back to 1991 (thank you for dating them Grandma!). That year, when my grandparents came up from Florida in the summer, my Grandma taught me how to make them with scrape fabric. I remember that we kept losing the patterns, so she would have me run all around the house looking for objects that were circles so that each one would be slightly smaller than the previous. We made a LOT of these little trees that summer, but I have about 4 of them left. I think we gave them all to different members of the family. My Mom still has one that we did that was bigger, like for a table. These bring back fun memories of learning new crafts with Grandma. She was always teaching me something new!


This little rocking horse (his rocker has been broken in the box for well over 10 years) was a gift to me from my best friend when I was about 5. Amy and I went to daycare together and decided to get each other gifts for Christmas. She gave me this rocking horse and all I remember is that I was so excited to have my own ornament to put on the tree that year! It really is beautiful though! Each year when I take it out, I feel like a little kid again when I remember how many trees that I have put that ornament on. It even make it to the tree the year that I had to have all glass, silver, and snowmen!



This is a recent addition to our tree! This was given to us the year that Matthew was born. Well, I guess technically, it was given to him by my husband's Aunts in Florida. We told them that we really loved trains and had hoped to get Matthew into trains. My husband and I also happen to really love Disney. This ornament was perfect! Also, before my son's first birthday (he was about 9 months old) we were all able to make our first Disney trip. We met up with, and spent a few days with his Aunts while we were there. We had a blast. I will never forget that trip and this ornament reminds me of that.



This little guy is nothing fancy. Just a glass snowman that when you put a Christmas light in the bottom of him, he lights up very beautifully. This is obviously from the time of glass, silver, and snowmen. In fact, it was the first ornament that I ever bought for my own tree back in 2004. Really, I think it was the only one I bought. I remember it primarily for the fact that I was about to get this, which I think is just lovely, for just a dollar at the dollar store. I think it was a nice find!


This recent addition is just joining our tree for the first time this year. This is a Winnie the Pooh, 2008, Lenox ornament. I wanted to buy this for Matthew when he was first born, but those Lenox ornaments are pretty pricey. However, Macy's always has older ornaments that they are stuck with during the summer months. This summer, I was able to acquire this ornament for about $5! I was excited to buy it and now I am excited to have it on my tree! Someday, I'll pass it on to Matthew and tell me about how I got it for just $5 at Macy's...and hopefully it will end up on his tree!

Those are my favorite ornaments and their special meanings. I am so grateful to be able to look back and think of the special moments that came with each of these ornaments. Each one holds a special place in my heart (even the ones that did not make it to front lines this year).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Potato Candy!!

I was first introduced to Potato Candy while living in Virginia. One of the teachers made it and I said "Wow, this fudge is really great! How do you make it?" I ended up learning about the easiest to make candy recipe EVER!

Over the past few years, I guess I forgot about it. Something made me think of it recently and I looked up the recipe online. I was even easier than I remembered!!!

Here's some instructions to get you started!

What you need:
small-medium (think size of your fist as small) potato
1-3 pounds of powered sugar
Peanut butter (the amount can vary depending on how much you like peanut butter. If you have half a jar you are better than good)


First, peel, cut, and boil your potatoes as though you are making mashed potatoes. After they have boiled to the point of being soft, put them in a large bowl and start mashing. You do not need to at milk or butter.


Next, you start adding your powered sugar. I added about a cup at a time, but I eyeballed it and then stirred until it was well mixed. When you first start mixing, it is going to look very wet. As you continue it will turn to almost frosting, then pancake batter. Eventually, you will get to the point where it will be stiff and you are able to shape the mixture into balls. That's how you know you are done. For me, I used an obscenely large Costco potato, because I didn't want to see it go bad. Because of the size, I ended up needing about three pounds of powdered sugar to make this recipe! If you use a bigger potato, please remember to use a bigger bowl. I was seriously contemplating moving my mixture into a bigger bowl so that it didn't overflow. Luckily, it didn't.


Here, the mixture is finally starting to set.



After you get your mixture to the point where it is "moldable" you will take it out of the bowl (yoy may need to do this in chucks if you have a ton of it like I did!). Put some down on a baker's mat with some powdered sugar and roll it out flat. Spread the peanut butter, in whatever thickness you prefer, over the mixture and roll it up like a jelly roll.



Sadly, I did not remember to take a final product picture. Sorry about that.


I would suggest cutting off the ends to make it look a little more pretty, but from my experience, if someone knows what this stuff is, they don't really care how it looks....they just want a piece!

All in all, this took about 40 minutes of my time.

20 minutes to peel, cut, and boil the potato
10 to add the sugar and get it thick
10 to get it rolled out flat and then rolled up to the finished product

I am currently freezing a large roll for this weekend. As I hear that it freezes well. I will let you know!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cloth diapering update

It's been about a month or six weeks, so I thought that it was time to share how things are going with cloth diapering Matthew.

Everything has been going very well. We have been using Bum Genius brand diapers during the day with the large size liner and a combination of Bum Genius and Haut Pocket diapers at night with both the infant and large sized liners. We have had no problems! This has been basically a seamless process and very easy! I want to show you how cute these diapers are, so here's a couple of pictures to show you what a cloth diaper of today looks like.





What are the worst parts?

Hmm....defiantly having to work out the #2s. Which, I could avoid somewhat with the liners that I was given, but for whatever reason we haven't even tried them.

Also, doing the laundry can be a pain. You are supposed to wash these diapers in a cold cycle to agitate the stain and then doing a hot cycle. I guess some people have a setting on their washer that does that, but we do not. So, I have to make an extra trip down to make the washer do the extra cycle which sometimes gets me backed up.

Other than that, this just isn't so bad. I think that a lot of the reason is that I picked a good time to start. If I had decided to cloth diaper when Matthew was first born, I have a feeling that I would have felt overwhelmed. Between "learning on the job" how to nurse and lack of sleep and finding time to get anything done, I think I would have stopped before I ever got started. Now, though, everything is pretty much old hat. I know what to expect from my son and I know how to work around him.

I forget to tell you that I was also able to sell some of the extra diapers that I had. After I was all done buying and receiving via freecycle.com, I had about 52 diapers. That is way more than I could ever need. I sold off 5 of them and made $30! That helped to offset the costs of the diapers that I paid for. It brought down my cloth diapering costs to about $120! Which isn't too bad for a lifetime (and then some) of diapers.

If you are thinking that this is something you would like to try, I urge you to give it a shot!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Thanks

We took our treats to the fire station and police station about a few days before Thanksgiving. I made each their own chocolate turkey cake and then they had about 3 dozen chocolate chip cookie feathers. We also gave them a little note that Matthew colored that told them that we were grateful for what they do. Sadly, we could not hand it off to a real policeman. We had to give it to a receptionist, so Matthew isn't going to have the pictoral memory of this that I'd hoped for. BUT I WILL certainly do this again next year!!!






This is what our mailman got. A little red bucket of chocolate chip cookies with a note that told him we were thankful for what he does.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Being Thankful!

I was able to get started last night. I got home from work around 7pm and started baking chocolate chip cookies. I ended up with 8 dozen cookies! While they were baking I was also able to wrap about a dozen Christmas gifts and watch Glee!

The cookies are ready to go, but I also got a few cakes, because I think that the fire station and the police station are probably going to have a lot more people there and a few dozen cookies just won't cut it. Today, I set out to make my two very simple cakes. I get the ingredients added and go to mix it up...GREAT! I killed my hand mixer last night while making cookies. I had a feeling that was coming. Sad, this mixer is not even 3 years old yet.

So now, the list of broken/lost items includes: digital camera, laptop, laptop keyboard, and hand mixer....OY!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Being Thankful

Our gingerbread time is over for now. These next two weeks are going to be devoted to giving thanks.

The big project of the next two weeks is showing people in our community that we are thankful. I have bought all of the mixes and ingredients to make goodies for a variety of community members that help us out in a great way! Some of my list are: the police, firemen, the childcare watchers at the YMCA, the mailman, that super nice security officer at the bank who is always so polite and always opens the door for me at the bank.

I still need some kind of poem or card or something that I can put with these treats to kind of explain what it is all about. I'll be searching the web in a minute for something that might work.

As for what my son will get of this...Well...he's just a few weeks shy of two, so I'm thinking that he isn't going to get much out of this project. My hope though, is that some of the people might be willing to stop and pose for a picture with my son so that I will be able to make a little book for him that will show him what he did this year. Then, as we look at it over the next year, hopefully he will be excited to do this project again in the future and we will have started planting the seed that will help him to give thanks. I also happen to like that this will get us into the kitchen making different goodies. While this can sometimes be a chore with my son, I know that he really likes helping me and it good for him to see me measure out the ingredients and taking the time to touch, smell, and taste new things (vanilla extract, flour, sugar, mint) is really a good thing for him at this age.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gingerbread and G week

We are still doing gingerbread week for the rest of the week. Part of the theme plans are to make Gingerbread Man cinnamon ornaments that Matthew can make and then give to his grandparents for Christmas. I have been excited to do this for a few weeks and decided that today was the day.

Here are the items that we needed for this project.


The recipe:

1/2 cup cinnamon
1/2 apple sauce
2 tbsp glue

Mix everything together and then roll out on wax paper and cut out Gingerbread Men. Then, use a stray to make a hole in their head for an ornament hook. Let them dry for about four days until they harden.

We ended up having some problems with the mixture and had to add flour to make it more doughy. I would guess that I used around 1-2 cups of flour to make it more doughy. Although, I will warn that we also had an apple sauce explosion and there might have just been too much apple sauce.


I have gotten in the habit of letting Matthew add and stir the ingredients. I still have to help him to keep it in the bowl, but he is doing well. As we were stirring things in, I took a moment to let Matthew sniff the cinnamon. I knew it was a small that he was not going to be familiar with.


Next we roll out our dough...and eventually add flour, because it is just too sticky! We worked the dough with our hands too, because it is nice to be able to touch and talk about what we feel.


Once we got it right, it was easy to roll out and cut. If I place the cookie cutter, Matthew can press down on to make the cut outs.


I like to reuse as much of the dough as possible and Matthew LOVES to do the rolling. Here we are rolling out the dough to make more.


In the end, we had 8 nice looking Gingerbread Men. The recipe that I found said that after they dry out you can paint them. I think these are the perfect cute little homemade gift!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gingerbread and G week

My son is going to turn two in about a month and he loves to learn! So I was excited about a month ago when I found the site "No Time for Flashcards". The author blogs about different craft and learning projects that she does with her son. She has ideas for all kinds of things that I never though MY son could do! Surprise! He can ...and he LOVES it!

Using "No Time for Flashcards" as an aid, I started doing my own little themes to help my son learn more about his letters, colors, and practice find motor skills. This has proved to be very successful!

These past two weeks, we have been doing things related to gingerbread, because we have been working on the gingerbread that we will take to PPG this weekend for their display. I thought that since it was going to be such a big project, we should build around it. So, all of these two weeks were devoted to Gingerbread and letter "G".

Today we had a great time making a green, glittered, glued, G. I wanted to share some pictures. Along with making this "G", we also practiced how to sign the letter "G" and I talked about words that start with "G".

Here's pictures of our project today.




Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cloth diaper update

I just wanted to let you know that everything has been going well!

I finally got my last shipment of diapers in the mail today! It was 17 diapers that looked brand new along with about 12 big inserts and 14 small inserts! They looked BRAND no and had no smell at all!! I was pretty impressed with the no smell part, because I've had a lot of issues with the ammonia smell in the inserts and diapers even after a few washings.

I thought that the biggest issue that I was going to have would be getting all of the laundry done, but that hasn't proved to be an issue at all. I've been running the cold load every night or every other night and then running the hot cycle first thing in the morning. So far, so good! I can't wait to try out these new ones though! The lack of smell makes them so nice!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cloth diapers

My husband and I have been discussing expanding our family a lot lately. We know that there are issues and concerns about how we will do it financially, but who isn't thinking about that?

Well, I'm always willing to do whatever I can to save a buck. So, I decided to look into cloth diapering. I had to first think about what it was going to save. We've basically only used Babies R Us brand diapers since the day he was born with the occasional pack of Pampers or Huggies whenever I found a great deal.

The BSU diapers run around $25 for a box of about 100 (give or take based on baby sizes). Those diapers 100 diapers will last us about a month, sometimes a little less, but for the sake of this...

$25*12months*2.5 years of diapers = $750 (not too bad, right)

But then we do $750*2 kids = $1500

WOW! That's a lot of money just to diapers a couple of babies!!! GEEZ!! Sadly though, I know that there are many people that spend much more!

The cloth diapers (we went with one size pockets) can also be pricey....
1 Bum Genius diaper, brand new runs about $25, and you'll probably want about 20! Awesome part though....these will be all that you need!!!

$25*20 diapers = $500!

I happened to have gone a much cheaper route...ebay! It is very common to buy used diapers, sanitize, and reuse on another baby. I bought these lots:

5 BG at $51 (which included shipping)
17 BG at $96 (which included shipping)
1 BG at $2.50 (which I ONLY paid shipping and it came from a site other than ebay)

In the end...$149.50!

But prior to my buying, I had put an ad on freecycle asking for anything that I could use to get started cloth diapering. Sadly, I didn't get a response until I was already committed to the other purchases.

From freecycle.... 18 BG diapers and 10 Haute Pocket diapers...cost NOTHING!

Lucky for me on that last one, the woman also hooked me up with my diaper pail, pail liners, rice paper (catches the poop), 3 odor sprayers, and extra inserts!!

WOW!!! That's BIG!!!

So now I have more diapers then I can count or ever need. What I am I going to do? Well, one of the benefits of cloths is the that even when you are done using them, they still have value! My plan is to use what I have for now, but started to weed out ones that might need a little work (sometimes there are parts like the velcro or elastic that wear, but it can be replaced for less than a dollar), fix...or not fix, and then ship them off with the hopes of recuperating some of the $150 that I spent. If I can get the cost spent to $75 over all, that would make me happy!


I know that there is also cost in laundering these diapers. I started making my own laundry detergent about a month ago and it just happens to be safe for these diapers. BUT I also got lucky in that the same wonderful woman that gave me her diapers on freecycle also gave me about 60 loads worth of laundry detergent!

Detergent costs for OUR diaps: $0 for probably 5 months
Water costs for diaps: I honestly don't know....and I'm not that concerned with it to be honest!

Overall costs: $150 for diaps, $0ish for laundring diaps for the first 5 months, $0 for the cost of pail, liners, and other goodies to get me started.

$1500 to diaper 2 babies
- 575 that I've already wasted on M
- 150 cloth diaper cost =
I still come out $775 richer....not too shabby!


I can deal with that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Tis the season....

There's a season for everything! The season is when something is at its BEST! Guess what? There's a season for shopping too!! When you buy early and put away or put off a purchase until the buying season, you can really save some cash!

Here's just a quick aid to let you know what is in season right now....

Back to school is a great time to buy clothing and shoes. You can get some great clothes for the Fall. Even better, you can get summer clothes on BIG sales! Check out all of your favorite stores for their awesome end of the summer sales. Old Navy is one of my favorites. They get (and I missed it!) had their take an extra 50% off of the already 50% off stuff! That's an awesome deal...add to that they they had yet ANOTHER addition 25% off if you are a student or a teacher and WOW! You could make a killing with those kind of sales!

This is also the season for socks and underwear. Often this time if year you will see a lot of store with great sales on those big packs of underwear and socks (you know...Fruit of the Loom and Hanes to name a few). As an added bonus, this us the time when you are also likely to get even more for your money as they usually have bonus packs that allow you to get a few extra pairs in your pack for the same price as without them. EVEN BETTER...you might be able to find a coupon for these packs of underthings. This is a great time to buy for the year.

If you are daring...and some of you might be...If you wait until the weeks AFTER school starts, sometimes you can get those same packs of underwear and socks discounted, because they are clearance them out. Last year, I was able to get 3, 7packs of underwear that were $3 each. I would have got more, but they didn't have anymore in my size. And THAT's that risk you take!

In food, the summer is a great time to buy hot dogs in particular, but also the condiments that go on them. This is the time if year when you will be more likely to see places like Giant Eagle with a BOGO on different brands of hot dogs. There are always LOTS of hot dog coupons in the summer as well.

Here's what I do.... (This happens to be the upcoming sale at Giant Eagle...and the coupon came in the mail today...)

Normally a pack of BallPark hot dogs might run, say, $3.50 a pack. So, you get two packs and you're looking at $7.

This week, GE has them BOGO (Buy one, get one)....

Now, that's two packs for $3.50

BUT this week's redplum (mine comes in the mail, but you might get it in your newpaper) has a coupon that is 75 cents off of two BallPark products.

Now your two packs of hot dogs cost $2.75....

BUT WAIT!!!


Giant Eagle doubles coupons...

So, instead of it being 75 cents, it's like $1.50.

So you actually end up paying $2 for two packs of hot dogs!

THAT's what I call a deal!!! And you will see this deal probably off and on until around Labor Day when all of the picnicking kind of gets put on hold.

And so you're wondering, "Seriously, Lauren...I only need one pack of hot dogs!" I say, FREEZE THEM! They can stay in your freezer for a while and you can just use them when you need them! You paid less for two packs of dogs than you would for just one. Why waste your money?


Other food items to stock up on now are breakfast foods and lunch packing items. Over the next few back-to-school weeks, you are going to see lots of great deals on Poptarts, cereals, fruit cups, and lot of other things that you would normally put into a child's lunch. These items will often be on sale, but ALSO have a coupon in the paper. Be on the lookup...and STOCK UP!!! If you have a good rubbermaid for hiding/putting away extra stuff, you could even use this time to stock up on those lunch bags of chips. You can get them pretty cheap and they would be great for Halloween.

This is also a great time of year for fruits and vegetables. In this area (PA) we are at our peak for a lot of veggies. If you buy them now, especially from places like Farmer's markets (think Soergels, Shenot, that guy on the side of the road, etc)you can buy and use what you can and cut the rest and freeze it.



Great example for this, last year, it was about mid-September and apparently green peppers were very plentiful at my local Farmer's market. They were the BIGGEST peppers I've ever seen AND only 50 cents each. I bought two on my first trip and then took them home and thought about what I was going to make with them. My husband loves fajitas, so I made them and had lots of leftovers that weren't going to get cooked. I ended up freezing the already cut peppers and using them as I needed them for future fajitas. I did end up going back for a second trip and buying 8 more peppers. I cut all of those down, along with some onions and I had the start of a nice little meal. Those all lasted until about March or April. At which point, you can imagine how sad it was to the store and spend $2.99 a pound on peppers.

Point is...be on the lookout for great deals on veggies!

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Smart Hands

I just finished watching my first My Smart Hands lesson! I have a few songs that I need to learn, but I feel confident that they will be pretty simple to learn.

I am anxious to get started on my first class! I hope something just kinda falls into my lap!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Toys on sale!

Did you know that this a great time to stock up on toys for the super kid in your life?

I was at Target again today. I decided to check on the Thomas the Tank toys for Matthew. There are a large number of Thomas toys from a variety of sets that are on sale. Prices ranged from 30-50% off. I picked up a few things for Matthew, but don't wan to go overboard in case someone else caught this awesome deal! I noticed that there were toys in a lot of aisles on sale. I would highly recommend making a withdrawal from your Christmas or birthday fund to buy a couple things.

"Buy now, Save now!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

A tip I got today!

$10.00 cat neuters through August - Plus: low-cost spay/neuter options for all dogs, cats and rabbits. Animal Friends offers special packages for Pit Bulls and feral cats.

Call 1.800.SPAY.PGH to learn more!

My Smart Hands

I'm still super excited to get started with My Smart Hands. I have an e-mail address set up and have been looking at their forums and posting comments for the last 24 hours! Aren't new adventures exciting? Is there anyone out there this interested in coming to a class whenever I get all set up?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Smart Hands

I am taking a leap of faith I guess.

I am about to become a My Smart Hands instructor. I am really excited! I am going to be teaching sign language classes to parents, kids, and teachers. I'm nervous about this new adventure, but also very excited! I will be looking for some people to practice with for my first few classes. Anyone interested?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My back has been out....and that's tough!

It has been over a week!

July 5th we had some company coming to visit us. I thought that I could make them more comfortable by bringing our smaller air conditioning unit downstairs to keep the living room cool for them. As it turned out, I ended up throwing out my back.

This time last week, I had all but moved into my parent's house and was living there so that my mom could take care of my son for me. I was not able to stand up, so I was propelling myself across their living room floor on my stomach to get to the bathroom. Once there, I would practically scream in pain while I attempted to get onto the toilet.

That was horrible. I honestly thought that the pain was never going to let up.

This week is a new week! After almost a week of prescription drugs, I am feeling much better! I am still having problems lifting my son, but being able to take breaks throughout the day helps a lot.

With all this time on my hands, I've been thinking about ways that I can earn money at home. My husband said that he thinks I'd be great a selling stuff on ebay. I think that's a good idea, because I LOVE to bargain shop, but I hate all the clutter that comes with selling stuff and then sending it to the post office and all the shipping and stuff. However, we do have an unimaginable amount of stuff in our house. So, I've decided to start with that stuff. I listed a number of things on craigslist to generate a little bit of start up income. You know, something to get me fired up about what I might be doing. And I will admit that I do enjoy this! I actually set a goal for myself to help me keep up my interest. I am attempting to make $320 between now and the end of July.

Why $320? Well, we rent from my parents...and even though they tell me that they don't want my hubby and I to have to worry about money and we can just pay them whatever we can pay them, I do not feel like that is fair. My feeling is that they don't get a break paying the mortgage on the house...AND they already charge us a lot less than what they normally charge their tenants....so the least I can do is pay them what we agreed to!

For August's rent, I still owe them $320....which I know I will make when I work next week, but I thought it would be cool if I could make that up another way...just in case!

So far....not bad!
I've got a few video games for sale....they actually cost us nothing and they look like they will be going for about $20
I also have a wedding tiara and veil that have gotten some interest at $40.
I also came to realize that since my hubby has made copies of all of our DVDs, there is really no use in having them anymore....so I'm selling all of my Friends DVDs for another $35.

There are a couple other little things that aren't getting many lookers, but if I can make $100 my first week, that's not too bad! But can I make a living at it?!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My husband's birthday

Next Sunday is my husband's birthday. It is also Father's Day. My hubby is going to be 29! I can't believe that we were 16 and 17 when we started dating. It seems like just yesterday!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Signing!

I have been teaching Matthew to sign for about a year now. I remember the early days of signing. He would just sit there and look back at me and kept thinking that he was never going to be interested in signing back at me. Then, around 9 or 10 months, he started signing 'baby' so that he could watch "Baby Einstein". I was so excited when he started to sign back!

Now he uses somewhere between 15-25 signs to communicate his needs. He has enough signing vocabulary to get most of what he wants or needs. He also can label animals (a lot of them) by signing.

I learned everything (well just about) that I did about teaching sign to my son from Laura Berg. She started Mysmarthands.com after teaching her daughter to sign at a very young age. I would have liked to take one of Laura's classes, but there are none around here. Luckily, Laura has been super kind in offering a lot of information on youtube, so that's where I went to look for ideas and to help me learn American Sign Language for babies.

The upside of my son learning sign language is that he has been able to "talk" to me since he was 9 months old. Usually he is just trying to tell me that he is hungry or wants his cup, but it neat to take my son to see my son sign "dog" when there is not even a dog nearby, simply because he heard a bark from somewhere in the neighborhood. I think that is awesome. Also, as I a former classroom teacher, I know that there are many different ways that people learn (http://www.ldpride.net/learningstyles.MI.htm Try out that site to find out how you learn). Many of the boys that I have worked with over the years are much more hands on. How can language be more hands on then learning language WITH YOUR HANDS! ***SIGH*** Why didn't I think of that while I was teaching all those crazy little first graders????


The downside....trying to explain to friends and family that the reason that my son only says "Dadahhh" and "dog" has very little to do with his learning sign language...and that it is not going to stunt his verbal language skills for life! My background in ESL taught me that learning a second language can be really tough! It is very easy to rely on what you already know to learn new words, but that is okay! As long as you continue to work on that second language growth. It is even okay to just listen for a while and get used to a new language. In this article by Judy Haynes, you can read about how a second language is usually acquired. http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/language_stages.php


I highly recommend that you give sign language a try. No matter if your child speaks or doesn't speak....try it out!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kindred spirits

I met someone that is similar to me. I am happy about it. Short, but I wanted to share.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Home schooling 101

Recently, I had a conversation with my husband. Ultimately, he told me that he was very interested in having me homeschool our son when the time comes. As a former classroom teacher and child that started "school" at 6 months, public school was all I ever knew. It worked for me, why not my son?

I've spent the last few weeks reading a lot of literature on homeschooling. Now, I'm starting to think "Why isn't everyone homeschooled?!" I am also taking a good look in the mirror and seeing that there is a lot of academic information that I do not have. Last week, I took a book out of the library, simply...English grammar. I have never understood grammar. I never really cared too much about it either. Mostly because I never had any issues with anything that I wrote for school. I was always an above average (like the "B" kind of above average) student. It is funny that even as an ESL teacher, I was not too concerned about grammar. I should have been! At least a little! There are so many parts of grammar that I do not understand. Also, knowing what I know about how I learn....I have to actually read it, see an example, and then rewrite it myself to have it stick. So, it's taking me some time to really understand this stuff.

It is very okay though...I want to learn this, because I want to be able to help my son understand it someday. Which is funny, because that is just the foundation of home schooling! Depending on how you home school, (because there are many different way to home school) the idea is that you want learning to be self-directed. As the parent, you help to get your child more information on something that is already of interest to them. You use their inner desire to learn and their motivation to learn about certain topics to help them determine what they will learn and be successful at gaining in depth knowledge. I think that this is something that I tried to do as a classroom teacher as much as a classroom teacher can without really knowing everything about her students. For some kids, I would pull out books specifically tailored to their interests. For others, I might pull them aside and teach them something that was a little beyond the "normal" mathematical curriculum, simply because I thought that they were just that interested and could handle it. Those were some of my favorite times as a teacher.

I am going to keep reading and see what else I can learn.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making baby food

I recently saw a post on one of the couponing sites that I go to about making baby food. I think that there are probably a lot of mothers that are interested in making food for their child, but just are not sure how to start. Here is what I did.

Like so many things, getting started is the hardest part! One you try it, and make just a teeny bit of time for making baby food, it truely is not a big deal.

The simplist, cheapest, easiest thing to give your child when you are just starting off is bananas. My son started with bananas and just LOVED them! Here's how you make baby food bananas...

Baby Bananas

1. Pick a banana that is yellow or even in the early stages of browning
2. Peel the banana
3. Break the banana up into chucks and put them in a small bowl
4. Use the back of a spoon, fork, or any other utensil that is handy and mash the banana until it is very slimy and wet looking
5. Serve it to your little on a baby spoon

Seriously, that one is as simple as it gets. My husband and I would take bananas in our baby bags, because we knew that we could mash them up on the spot, no matter where we were.

Another food that my son ate a lot of in the beginning were carrots. Here is how you cook carrots for a baby.

Baby Carrots
1. Wash and peel your carrots
2. Put a vegetable steamer into a small pot and place water in the bottom. (There should be about enough water just to peek up through the holes of the vegetable steamer)
3. After the water is boiling, place a layer of carrots in the vegetable steamer
4. Put a lid on the pot and let everything good on low heat for about 20 minutes
5. After 20 minutes, check on the carrots. Take one out and put it on a plate. If you can use a fork to cut through the carrot, it is done. If not, cook another 10ish minutes and check again.
6. Take the carrots out of the steamer and put them into some kind of food processor (or you can do this by hand if you prefer). Put your food processor on a puree setting for about one minute. The carrots should turn into a thick mush that is very wet. You can add some water or breastmilk if you are finding that the carrorts aren't pureeing very well or to add some nutrients.
7. Serve to your little one!

Often, I would use three or four carrots at a time and have a lot of leftovers! You can very easily freeze most baby foods and really only take about 1 hour a week to make all that you need.

I would love to share more about my days of making baby food with anyone that is interested.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Baby signs

I love when hard work turns into something worthwhile! I started with my son when he was around 6 months on sign language. I didn't follow any kind of program. I just picked the signs for mommy, daddy, and eat and kept doing them over and over. I was so sick of doing them and getting nothing but a look from my son that seemed to say, "Hmm....is my mommy crazy or what??"

Around 11 or 12 months, I was probably close to giving up, and then one day....he copied me! We were getting to our wit's end with him throwing his food all over the floor when he finished eating, so I'd taught him the sign for "all done". He did it!
Since then, the only other sign that he really attempts is "cup". So what though! Just knowing that little bit of information about what he wants help both my husband, my son, and myself to be a little less frustrated.

I'm proud of my hard work. Although, I do wish it came a little easier!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sickness.

This morning, my son sounded really bad. I decided that it was really time to call the doctor. I was able to get an appointment. For which, they said, "Come on in right now."

I decided that it was my turn to get a break from appointments, so I armed my husband with a list of symptoms, medicines that he's been taking, and questions to ask. Then, I sent him on his way.

I was sure that my son had some kind of a lung issue. He's had bronchitis at least twice in his short 13 months of life. I was wrong. It was another ear infection. He'll be on antibiotics again.

It is so hard to make the call when you are the mother. When do you need to call the doctor? At a visit a few months ago, my doctor said that it was lucky that I waited to take my son it, because I wouldn't have seen any kind of infection in his ear if I had brought him earlier. I guess that's good. I'm always afraid that I'm waiting too long though.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My husband is the best!

I just have to say, that my husband made my day!

Today, my husband had off...and I had to work. We were both home during most of the day, save the face that I had to work in both the morning and at night.

My super hub took care of our son all day. HE fed him all of his meals AND he ordered the pizza for lunch, when I was too cold and lazy to do it myself...and he cooked me dinner! NOW, he's going to laugh at some crazy movie that I borrowed from the library.....I think this makes him awesome! MUAH babe!

PS...with the dinner...he even remembered that you have to have a vegetable too....awesome again! ;)

ahh.....another day...

I'm tired and bored today. Today I'm missing the days before I had a child where I could be lazy for an entire day and no one really cared. Now, I'm feeling guilty that I'm not doing something constructive.

I had hoped to take my son to see some animals today. The zoo was doing something at one of the local malls...the had a bunch of animals that the kids could get up close with. He's still a little sick though, so I decided against it. Maybe another time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hooray...my son is sick today! ;(

Yep....lunch just came back up.

After having just gone to the doctor 6 days ago for a well visit and hearing that his nose and throat look great, I just don't feel ready to call yet.

My son seems to be a little under the weather today.

My son seems to be a little under the weather today.

Last week, he was drooling and eating his hands a lot. I assumed he was teething, but there's nothing to see yet.

Today, since he's got a runny nose and cough, we're going to stay in all day until we HAVE to leave. That means, I'm going to do some of things that I do that are not scheduled into my week, I just do them when we end up staying home for whatever reason and/or my son decides to sleep longer for his nap than usual.

First, I had defrosted a roast to make for dinner. Hubby and I are rarely home for dinner. His new shift at work has him working from 11am-9pm four days a week and I leave at about 4:30 to pick up the kids that I watch and get them to wherever they need to be on that particular day. So, dinner, especially hot and homemade, is never really a priority....except for when we need some leftover for lunches and take to with us to our jobs.

So, I have my roast going. I have learned to LOVE my crock pot! I just recently started making turkeys and chickens in there! It's great and uses a lot less gas (we have a gas oven). I also make a lot of roasts....I love the taste of potatoes that have been in the crock pot and are now all moist and soft! Yum!

The reason that I actually stopped, not because my darling son decided to nap, but because I want to try a new breadmaker recipe. I almost always make a wheat bread that takes over 2 hours. I want to try the rapid version of the wheat bread and I gotta look it up.

I also plan to get done with about 3 loads of laundry. I thought I was getting close to the end, but didn't realize just how much the bin upstairs had until I this weekend. It really bums me out when I feel like I've finally come to the end of it, that I might be able to rest and not do laundry guilt-free. Then, I end up thinking about...worrying that if I decide to sit and eat ice cream during my son's nap (one of my favorite things to do!) that sometime someone is going to see the horrible overflowing bins of dirty clothes and judge me. I will never know why that thought is always in the back of my mind.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A story of life changes.

It is amazing how one small period in time can change your life.

Here's my story....

It was about this time 2005 when I realized that what I was doing just wasn't working for me anymore. I told you I was busy....I have ALWAYS kept busy...

Back then, I was working 3 jobs.

I woke up at about 6:30 and went to the school 3 miles away and was something like a teacher's aid (I am certified, but it is hard to find a teaching position in this part of Pennsylvania). I would be there until 3:45. Then, I might have a few minutes to go home, before I left to watch the kids that I watch now. If there was no school, or sometimes on Saturdays, I would go to help a friend of my mom's with her son's business.

At one point, I tried to keep track of the number of hours I was actually working in a week. I found that it fell somewhere between 60-70 hours! I was always excited for pay day, but pretty much hated my life.

So, February came, and I decided come hell or high water, I was going to find a teaching job. I talked to my fiancee and we decided to map off a area that would be within a 6-8 hour drive from where both of our families were in Pennsylvania. Ultimately, by April, I had found a position in Shenandoah, Virginia. Which is only about four hours away from our families. It seemed mostly perfect. The downside was that my fiancee still had a semester of school left at Pitt and he was going to have to continue to live with his parents until he finished. I was going to be on my own from July until early December.

I had taken a job teaching English as a Second Language. It was stressful. I had to work at four different schools. One, was about 15 miles from the other three. I didn't have a sense of belonging with any of the staff and it was difficult to make friends since I was always missing stuff, because I had to be at another school.

I did, however, manage to get to know two wonderful first grade teachers at one school. They not only took me under their wings, but also offered me a place to go on Friday nights to unwind. We would get together from time to time and have these little wine parties. We'd drink a glass or two and just chat. I always LOVED going to these little gatherings.

I guess it was one such gathering where the topic of needing first grade teachers for the following year came up. They suggested that I apply for the position. I thought about it, but just didn't know that I wanted to make a change. EVEN with as stressful as it was to not belong anywhere, I LOVED my ESL job! The kids and families were fantastic! I've never met such well behaved kids in my life!!! I think it was about as close as I could get to learning about the places that they were from without actually going. I LOVED it...and my students looked up to and adored me.

Eventually, I realized that there was going to be a lot of shakeup over the summer and I should probably get myself into a classroom. I applied, and was accepted to teach first grade! I got started on my room right away!

That year was also the one where my husband's back problems started to peak. He was in pain almost all of the time. He had started sleeping on the living room floor and had a hard time getting up to do anything.

That summer, July 2007, was when my husband and I were married. It was a beautiful day. While other people have issues with DJs, weather, or someone not showing, my day was the best ever. Sadly, my husband wasn't having the best day of his life. He was taking a cocktail of medicine to help keep his back in order so that he didn't have to stand with his upper half shifted to the left and his bottom half shifted to the right. When I watch the wedding video that my cousin took for us, there is a part where he is getting onto our bus to leave and he is so crooked, but he kept on smiling and acting just as jolly as ever.

When we got to the reception, I remember thinking that it was the best day EVER and that I was so lucky that everything was more prefect than I had ever imagined! My happiness faded when my husband leaned into me and said, "I'm done, I just can't stand up anymore." I was left to finish some small tasks alone....like visit with all the guests at the table....and keep the dancing going....and toss candy to the kiddos during the 'Lollipop' song. Honestly, I didn't want to see him in pain, but I felt really stupid doing some of things by myself. I felt like people just assumed that I was such a control freak that my husband didn't even know anything about what I was doing...like I planned all of that stuff without him. I didn't though....that's just how things turned out.

The worst was later that night when my husband was in tears on the floor because it hurt so bad. We had this fancy, expense room at the Marriott and just couldn't sleep in the bed no matter what. He took to the floor and said that I should stay in the bed and enjoy the king-sized bed all myself. I wanted to....really really bad, but my brain or heart or something just kept telling me that I needed to lay down on the floor with him and stay by his side like a good wife. So, I did. At least until he fell asleep and I didn't know what to do with myself. I ended up spending the night at the bar with my family. We had some good laughs, but that is certainly not how I imagined my wedding night! I NEVER thought my mom and dad would be a part of it! :)

Well now, that was July. We were supposed to take our Disney honeymoon in August, but my husband's back doctor told us that we should cancel. So, instead, we just decided to have all the unprotected sex we could handle! Truthfully, we'd been together for eight years at that point and we spent a lot of time trying not to get pregnant....and never did. We actually thought that there might be some kind of issue and discussed adoption a lot!

It was September 2nd when I told my husband that if my period didn't start by the end of that day I was going to get a test. I honestly never beleived in a million years that I could really be pregnant. I guess a part of me just thought I could get a rise out of him and I liked that. He was working at Walmart at the time. I decided, later that day, to pay him a visit AND seriously consider getting a test. I picked up the test and went over to where he worked, AGAIN....never thinking in a million years that I could really be pregnant. It was cool to see him freak out just a little.

When I got back from Walmart, I thought about taking the test, but ended up finding the slightest tint of blood in my urine and thought "WE'RE SAVED!!!" I told Scott that all was well and I didn't need to test. Oh, the relief!

But then another day past....and nothing else was coming. That night, we very nonchalantly, took the test out of the package, read the directions....and talked about it very nervously. I STILL didn't think there was any possible way that I could be pregnant. Yet at the same time, I knew.

I remember taking the test. We ended up with one very dark pink line and one VERY light pink line. I remember each of us going to a computer to find images of other pregnancy tests to see what their results looked like. I remember being frantic! I just kept thinking that I was so not ready to be anyone's mom. Scott's back was in horrible shape. Worse than ever before! I was only making $2200 a month and Scott was making little more than $800 a month. We had a tiny apartment that wouldn't even allow us to stow away our boxes properly. I had no family to help me! I didn't even have a DR in this one-horse town!

I remember crying a lot, because I didn't know what to do next. I had always wanted to have children, as long as I didn't have to actually give birth to them (that seemed like a pain that I could never recover from!). I had just always imagined that Scott and I would be a little more stable. He would have a good job, we would have put away a nice stash of money, we would own a house with a yard, and we'd have all the time in the world to put together the perfect baby nursery together. We'd take the birthing classes together and everything would be like the movies! LIFE CHECK...NOTHING IS LIKE THE MOVIES!!!


That weekend, we were both still feeling down. We ended up driving to the mall and walked through the baby aisles at Kohls. Scott picked up these little baby Halloween PJs. They were so tiny and so cute. We had to buy them. Scott hugged me and we both realized that this was something we could handle. We just needed to stop paniking, and talk about it.

We ended up waiting a few weeks to tell our parents. We wanted to tell them in person, so we waited until the beginning of October when we had to come up two weekends in a row for weddings. That first weekend, was my mom's birthday. We set it up so that it seemed like we were taking them out for her birthday. Boy, was my family surprised to find out that Scott's family was coming. I'm sure they were confused when they walked in and way about 4 extra chairs at the table.

We told them all that night and the hugs and kisses were plentiful.

We spent the next few weeks going to appointment after appointment. I have VERY high blood pressure. When I did see a doctor to confirm that I was pregnant, I had stopped taking my regular medication weeks before (because I was careless) and my blood pressure in the office that day was 220/120! I spent most of my pregnant time going to different doctors to get on the right medication and also the right dosage. That was a pain in the neck! Thankfully, most of my doctor visits were in Woodstock, which was just about five minutes down the road from my house. It is a small hospital, but everyone that grew up in that area was pretty much either born or gave birth there. It is quiet, safe, and the people are friendly.

I remember driving up to the mall (which was at least a 45 minute drive) to buy maternity clothes. The first thing that I bought was THE best pair of overalls OVER! I would still wear them if I could! I LOVED them! I remember going into the dressing room and putting the fake belly on and wondering if it would really get THAT big.

The week before Christmas was what we had been waiting for! We were going to find out the sex of the baby. Hubby and I were really hoping for a girl. We have all girls in the family and my husband was comfortable with girls. For me, I just wanted to be able to be the Girl Scout Leader, the Mother of the Bride, and all of the other things that Mothers and Daughters get to do together. No such luck. We were having a boy. We both cried when we found out. Probably for different reasons, although I never asked hubby why that made him cry.

We were so excited to tell everyone that we were having a boy and even more excited when the boy clothes started coming in as Christmas gifts. I can remember watching our neices open gifts that year. Hubby and I were sitting on the couch and he hugged me. I'm pretty sure that we were both thinking the same thing.....our little one is going to be down there next year! Christmas will NEVER be the same! This Christmas ranked up there with the one a few years ago where hubby proposed on Christmas Eve, but we knew that the next year would be even more magical.

Christmas was over and it was time to get back to reality. Hubby was still having lot of back problems. We talked a lot about how sad it was going to be that he couldn't lift up his son. That really made him sad. He was on the living room floor nearly every night now and requiring better pain medication, because he just hurt so bad. I was just starting to get out of the phase where I fell asleep every night at 6pm and then woke up to watch 'Friends' until four in the morning. I was headed to my monthly visit with the baby doctor specialist, which I wasn't too excited about. She was kinda rude....granted, I'd been warned.

Mid-January, I went in for that appointment. I remember that THEY thought this was going to be the first time that I was going to find out about the sex of the baby. RIGHT! Anyway, I ended up waiting for HOURS to see someone for the ultrasound. By the time that I got in there, everyone was gone from the waiting room, TVs were turned off, even the secretary had left. I didn't care. I just sat there and worked on stuff for school.

When it was finally my turn, I was just thinking about how much I LOVED being on the "special list", which ultimately gets me two ultrasounds a month! That's lots of seeing my baby. Things started out well. Then I remember the tech saying "I'm going to get the doctor now". As it turned out, there were problems. The baby was not doing very well. There were problems in the sac that were causing the fluid to be low and the placenta to fall apart. I didn't know what to do! No one was with me. I started to cry uncontrollably! The doctor was talking to me about what needed to happen and I just didn't hear a word she said. My worst fear had come true. My baby was sick and I was going to be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I was 21 weeks. The doctor told me that if I could make it to 24 weeks, she could deliver the baby. After I was able to pick myself up, I was like the engine that could! Things weren't that bad. I could power threw 3 more weeks! I would just stay in bed as much as I could and watch a lot of movies and stuff.

My mom came down that weekend. She brought me everything should could think of to keep me busy and off my feet. Plants, books, even a foot massage bath. I was just glad to have her there. Although, I remember her acting like she was holding back all of her feelings of concern. I kept staying positive and making comments that in probably made it seem like I was in denial that anything could really happen. She just looked like she wanted to believe it, but having the life experience to know that everything isn't always cookies and candy, knew that things were grim.

On the following Tuesday, I went to see the baby doctors that I had been with in Woodstock. They were supposed to close up my care there and send me to be totally treated at the other doctor.

There was a medical student there that day. I had been with her before and she was sweet and a little unsure of herself. The doctor did some measurements and stuff and then was called out of the room. She kind of put the med student on "busy work", telling her to take the baby's heartbeat and stuff. No biggie. She had out the heartbeat microphone thing and couldn't get a heartbeat. She tried in a few different places. I wasn't worried, hell, she was only a med STUDENT. I didn't know everything when I was a student teacher and even the things I did know could get messed up if I was stressed or something. She kept trying and I kept thinking...whatever...let's just get the doctor back in here for an ultrasound or something. The heartbeat monitor isn't that interesting anymore.

The doctor came back in the room and also tried to find the heartbeat. She couldn't, but said, I'm sure everything is fine, let's just take a walk down the hall and do an ultrasound to be sure.

I got all strapped up and she put on the ultrasound stick-thing. A few seconds later she said, "This is a baby that is no longer living". I just remember looking at her and saying "What?" I remember feeling upset, angry, scared, and relieved. Until we had to start talking about what would happen next.

I still had to deliver the baby.

Sales.....and me!

Did I mention that I'm a super sales shopper? There are a few places that I really enjoy shopping at and I have learned when their best sales take place. I also know most of the best ways to get good coupons to stack with those sales.

For example:
January is always a good time to shop. Specifically the 2-3 weeks of January. That is when many stores are trying to get rid of their winter inventory and the sales are HOT!!!

Last year, about this time, I was stalking Target for their baby stuff that was on sale. About 1-2 weeks ago, they started clearing out a lot of inventory in their store. I headed over to my local Target this past Friday to find that they had a TON of items, all over the store, at 50-75 percent off. I know it is early, but I stocked up on gifts for my son and my 4 nieces for both Christmas and their birthdays. I was also about to get a couple nice shirts for myself (all under $5), Gamer PJs (org. 21.99, marked $5.99) for the hubby, and 2 new pairs of Velcro sneakers for my little one (each marked down to $4). I also bought our first tent (4-6 person tent $39.48), and an igloo cooler (under $10)....in all I spent under $200. It is nice to be able to knock out so many different buys at one time. Some of the best bargains were the Polly Pockets that were $2.50, and a baby doll that was $25, marked down to $6.

Granted, to some, I might be going overboard. I admit that I do at times, but I don't feel too bad about it, since I know that I'm spending what I can afford to spend and I won't be stressing about gifts at the last minute.

Let's do Old Navy next. I only started shopping there a couple of years ago. About three years ago, I stumbled into their store....5 months pregnant (more on that later) and found that there was a sale that I couldn't pass up! They had racks and racks or clearence items that were already discount up to 50%....and you got take ANOTHER 50% off those prices! I went nuts!!!

Well, last weekend, I was waiting to hear that this sale was coming up again....but nothing. So, hubby and I went out to the mall and I just bought a bunch of stuff that I thought would be cute for my son for next winter and a couple of things for the year after that in case he decided to start needing a 3T as we are coming out of winter next year. Well, I had a coupon (which Old Navy puts right out on their site!!!) for $5 off of $25. As it turned out, I had exactly a $25 gift card to spend. I believe that I was able to buy something like 5 winter outfits and the total came to $22 and some change after the coupon. THIS week the extra 50% off sale was going on. Well, lucky me, I was able to take in my receipt and get a price adjustment on what I bought a week ago. $13 was credited back to me! Amazing! I did a little adding to see what the price would have been for all of those items at regular price....$100!!!! I could never afford that!

Another place that I love to shop is at Bath and Body Works. Honestly though, I can't afford shower gel at $9.50 a bottle! Enter thier big sale! In January and in June, they their big "SEMI-ANNUAL SALE". Those same shower gels are just over $2 during that sale! Granted, sometimes their inventory stinks, but you have to be kinda open to different scents. I've not had too many problems personally, and I think that I'm pretty hard to please as far as scents go. As an added bonus. When you answer their survey that is mentioned at the bottom of the receipt you can a $10 off $30! Last time I was at the store, the woman wanted to make VERY sure that I understood that coupon NEVER expired! No too bad!

And....as is life, my child is in need of me. I gotta go.