Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Stop, Mom."

This is what Sawyer said to me after I insisted on taking photos of him and Linc while they were watching a movie together.


Photo of the Day

More Rolling Over = Less Sleep

My wild almost-five-month old is now rolling over with a vengeance. Well, okay, maybe not a vengeance. But he is rolling over.  Mostly from his tummy to his back, and it's totally screwing up my nice sleeper.  At least for now.  He keeps rolling over onto his back and then waking up, thinking, This isn't how I sleep!  Then he's ready to party.  As in, he went to bed over an hour ago and is now watching The Importance of Being Ernest in my Mom's lap.  Mostly he's still sleeping for long stretches, but often now he switches to our bed somewhere around the 4-5am arena because I would rather let him finish off the night with us than stand there trying to help pat and soothe a very wide-awake baby at that hour.  I actually fell asleep leaning over his crib the other night while patting his bottom.

During the daytime hours, he is all over the place.  I've been giving him lots of tummy time and back time in the floor as he's stretching his muscles and doing new things.  He's definitely done a few pre-crawl type of scoots this week, though I'd bet we're still two months off from that.  But he'll definitely reach and stretch and do his best to move to toys.  He also loves the bumbo and the exersaucer and has recently discovered how to bounce in the doorway jumper.  Today his new thing is back-arching, which is what he's been doing tonight, like he has gas or something.  Or maybe he just likes it?  Here are a few photos of him getting active.  (And eating his toes. And discovering his tongue.)



I'll Take T-Shirts for $1.99, Alex.

I am loving the fun deal at Bargain Mom this week!  Just got the heads-up that if you order basic T's (reg $5.99) from Charlotte Russe, they are $1.99 with the code BASICTEE at checkout.

I also stocked up at Old Navy this week, buying two $2 camis (all that I could find in the picked-over rubble) and a pair of $6 jeans that I am five pounds closer to fitting in after this week of eating well.  Yay for low prices and lowering body weight!

Last Day for Lots of Stuff!

-Today is the last day of 80% off at restaurant.com.  Promo code- PLATE.

-It's also the last day to enter in my Crystal Light series for a chance to win $100.  Click here for links to all the posts.

-It's also the last day for $2 layering camis at Old Navy.  If you go to the one on 59 at The Fountains, I got a pair of jeans for $6.  They're on clearance for $9.99 and then they go down at the register!

-You still have a few days to enter my Twitter-following contest to win one of my paintings!  Click here for details.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Big Coupons This Sunday!

I am swimming in the eye area (and apparently tired, because that phrase made sense in my head), and don't remember where I read it, but this week, there may be as many as FOUR coupon inserts in your paper.  So buy several as you get ready for Coupon Armageddon.  (Really, I kind of just like saying Armageddon.)

Coupon Armageddon Pt 3: Get to Know Your Stores

When it comes to stores, not all of them are created equal.  Before coupons, I shopped at HEB and Walmart.  Both have great prices and HEB has fabulous, quality foods.  (If you don't know HEB, it's a Texas-based store.)  There is a Kroger about five seconds from my house, but I only went there when I was out of milk or something at 11pm, just because the prices in general are higher than both HEB and Walmart.  Now, post couponing, I go basically to Kroger and, and then CVS for a few great deals. Here is my lowdown on just a few stores and links for those I don't know much about.

Keep in mind that each store is different and while some stores have nationwide coupon policies, others may be different store to store.  Look at the end of this post for a few tips.

Kroger
My Kroger doubles and triples coupons.  I'd always heard that in commercials and didn't know what that meant.  Here's what it means:  Kroger automatically triples coupons that have a face value of up to 35 cents and doubles coupons up to 50 cents.  This comes in handy when an item is knocked down to something like $1 and you have either a 35 or 50 cent coupon.  This is how I got free BestLife butter spread the other night:  marked down to a dollar and I had 50 cent coupons.  Ta da!

Also, you can use a coupon for BOTH items when you do a buy one, get one free sale.  As in, if you're getting in on a buy one shampoo, get one free coupon and use TWO $1 off coupons.  Or, use a B1G1 coupon AND a $1 off for the item that is free.  Huge savings!  My store no longer accepts printed coupons, but there are tons you can digitally load on your Kroger card.  There are definitely some items that never get cheap enough for me to buy there, especially certain produce, like romaine lettuce, which I buy every week.
-Here's a great link to a video by Southern Savers on Kroger. (Thanks, Sarah!!)  I can't watch it right now because my computer is being wonky, but I know people who love this site so check it out!

CVS
The Extra Care Bucks (store credit that prints on the end of your receipt) make CVS home for some great deals.  I have made out like a bandit here--my record being spending $2 on a $40 bill.  CVS takes printed and paper coupons and every week changes out the ECB deals.  Often every week there will be at least one deal that is buy an item for a certain price and get that exact price back in ECBs.  If you use other ECBs to pay for that item, you keep the free game going.  See how this can work?  Free, free, free!

The key is often doing several transactions in one visit.  Example: Today, I bought diapers for $21, used a $1.50 coupon, and then used $7 in ECBs from a previous day.  So, paid $15 out of pocket.  Then I got $10 in ECBs back.  In my next transaction, I bought two Arm & Hammer detergents for $7, used a $1/2 coupon and 1 2-pack of Dove beauty bars and used a 75 cent coupon.  I paid for this with my ECBs (and bought a pack of gum since there was a buck left and you can't carry it over past that one transation) and then received $4 ECBs back.  The total I paid was $15 and I got a giant pack of diapers, two detergents for cloth diapers, and two soaps.  AND I still have $4 ECB to use on my next CVS trip.
-A great CVS site is  I Heart CVS.  Check for lots of tips and tricks!

Walgreens
I have had a few issues with Walgreens, which works basically like CVS.  Partly, my problems began with the experience involving shirtless women and undercover cops and body wash, which you can read about here.  What really gets me about Walgreens is how they have a lot of specials that are "in store coupons."  Several times I have gone and asked about these "in store coupons" and have been told by employees that there are none left.  When you're being specific about coupons and deals, you need those coupons.  Also, I'm pretty sure that if they advertise a price with an in store coupon, then they are supposed to honor it, and have been told this by NICE Walgreens employees, while others refused that advertised price.  I don't like hassling and dealing with managers and having to explain how shopping should work, so I usually avoid the hassle unless it's an amazing deal.
-A great Walgreens site is I Heart Wags.  They could probably explain my in store coupon issues.

HEB
This is one of my favorite stores ever.  When people come to visit Texas, we go to HEB.  I love their brand of products and am addicted to the fully cooked sweet chili chicken.  YUM!  They do not double or triple coupons, so even though sometimes their normal prices are lower than Kroger, you can still save more at Kroger.  There are also lots of restrictions, which I'm not getting into here.  I wish it was better, because again, this is my favorite store.
-If you want to read their coupon policy, check here.  I haven't found (yet) a fully HEB dedicated site.

Target
I get overwhelmed with Target and tend to buy things I don't need when I go there.  It's one big temptation, so unless I read about a great deal, I don't go there.  It is nice that they have their own printable coupons that you can stack (combine) with other paper coupons or printed coupons.
-To become a Target expert, check out Totally Target.

A few tips on stores:
-Before you head out to a store, find and print the coupon policy.  Then, if you run into trouble at the register, you can reference their own policy.
-Check expiration dates and your store's policy on accepting them.  Some stores take expired coupons, some don't.
-Realize that often, the deals you find on websites may not apply to YOUR store.  Some stores are very different in different locations, just as coupon policies can vary.  (Also, sometimes the coupons that come in the Sunday papers vary by region.)

Huh?

Sawyer is such a huge talker now.  He repeats almost everything he hears, from "pork schnitzel" to "push me closer."  He's trying out full sentences and jabbers along all day.  I love having fun conversations with him.  With all these words he now uses, I can't believe his new favorite:  Huh.

He says it all the time when you ask questions, or just while you're talking.  Here is a typical conversation between me and Sawyer.

Me:  Sawyer?
S: Huh?
Me:  I think that we're going to--
S: Huh?
Me: --have lunch and then go to the playground.
S: Playground!
Me:  Does that sound good?
S:  Huh?  Yes.  Playground.
Me:  We need to put a new shirt on because--
S:  Huh?
Me: --you got avocado on your shirt during--
S: Huh?
Me: --lunch.
S: Huh?

I will say that it is NOT my most favorite thing.  The funny thing is that he does it so much, Rob and I have now started doing it when we talk to each other as well.

Gammy to the Rescue

Rob is headed out of town again today, so I am very thankful to my Mom who flew out yesterday to help out for the weekend and stay for a week.  It's nice to have company, an extra set of hands, and someone to watch things like The Hills with at night.  We're definitely missing Turkey, but Sawyer is happy to have Gammy!

Coupon Armageddon Pt 2: Go Surfing

Welcome to my second post for those of you interested in starting out with coupons BY someone who has just started out with coupons.  Remember that I will be linking to sites that have amazing content, great deals, and a whole wealth of knowledge that I don't.  This is just my user-friendly take.  

Part Two: Go Surfing

After you start clipping and organizing your coupons, the next step is a digital one.  GET ONLINE.  This is a multi-pronged approach and is probably where I spend the most time, for now.  I'll break it down into the types of sites you need to be checking and what to do when you're there.  

Coupon Match-Up and Bargain Sites
These sites will be your new best friend.  Basically, this is where I go on a daily basis, both to find what to buy in the grocery stores and to find daily deals.  It's amazing: they do the work for you.  You will find what is on sale at what store and what coupons to match for the best deals.  There are billions, but here are a few of my favorites:
You'll find lots of links within these sites, so if you don't like the format or the site doesn't do as much with the stores you use, you can easily find another.  Often they integrate and one site that doesn't do Kroger match-ups links to another site that does and so forth. There's lots of couponing love to go around.  Even if you're not ready to hit the stores yet, go to these sites daily to see what great deals they've found, and on a weekly basis, check the sites for deals at your favorite stores.  You can also find great resources and hear testimonials on frugal living like how to pay cash for you home and how to plan and freeze meals to save money.

Digital Coupons
These are coupons that will load to your Kroger and Randalls special customer cards.  Basically, you'll create a username and password, give them the digits from your valued customer card, and then you can go through a list of digital coupons to add to your card that will go through AUTOMATICALLY when you check out at the store. (Wait an hour between adding and shopping, just to be sure.)  You can also do this at Kroger's site for their store. 
I'm really bad about remembering to load coupons, and I still save money without them.  But recently I MADE some money on items at Kroger by loading these coupons on my card. I had a paper coupon for $2 off, plus a digital for $2 off and the item was only $3 total.  So I got $1 credit for that transaction.  (If you ever have an overage, it will only apply to that transaction.  You will not receive store credit.) Even if you're also using a paper coupon, these digital coupons will work for the SAME ITEM.  That's called being stackable, and stacking coupons is one of the best ways to save.  It's also super easy and requires nothing of you in the store but to use your card!

Printable Coupons
In addition to online digital coupons, there are online coupons that you can print at home.  Not every store accepts these, and recently, my Kroger stopped taking them, so I rarely use them.  (Every Kroger is different, so yours might work--you need to ask!)  Target and CVS for sure accept them, and Target has its own digital coupons that work only for Target.  You will need to install a program on your computer so that the bar codes will print correctly, but it's easy and the sites will direct you toward the software when you go to print.  I think the limit for one computer is two of each coupon.   There also may be a limit of the number of coupons that can be printed, period, so if you see a site talking about a HOT coupon, it means that the coupon will be popular and may run out quickly.  

Tips:
-Do NOT click "print all" when you go to the coupon site.  I did this once because there were like 12 pages and I didn't like going through clicking each one.  It printed 55 PAGES of coupons and emptied out my ink cartridge. 
-If this seems like a lot of work, do what I do.  If you are checking the coupon sites and see a great deal using a printed coupon, the site will almost always include the link to that coupon.  I usually ONLY print these if a site presents a good deal that I want to use.
-Know your store before you print coupons.  As I said, my local Kroger does not accept them.  My next post will be about how to choose your store, so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prepare for Kroger Coupon Armageddon!

Okay, that sounds a little frightening.  It's actually exciting!  There are one billion great coupon sites that will do this better than I could, and I will definitely link to them.  I am not turning into a coupon site, don't worry. But I've decided to write my own series only because I've had a bunch of people ask me, and sometimes it's just better to hear it from someone you know than a stranger.  Plus, since I've just started out, I'm not far off from where these lovely new people will be.   I'll be linking to more expert sites, but let's get started with my take!

Here are a few great links to get you started.  Really, they all do a much better job than me.

Getting Started:  The Very Basics
Before you even hit the store, there is a lot of prep involved.  This gets easier after the first time, so don't freak out.  I'm going to break it into bite sized actions.  Here's stage one.

Clip Coupons
I'm a dummy and honestly didn't know what the coupons from the paper looked like.  Before I took the class, I was told to clip coupons.  I pulled the Kroger weekly ad from the paper because I thought that it was coupons. It was confusing because I didn't SEE coupons, but I didn't know what I was looking for.  Here you can see what you might find in your Sunday paper.  Usually it's either Red Plum, Smart Source, or Proctor & Gamble.  There might be one or two in a paper.   If there are great coupons, you may want to grab more than one Sunday paper. You can also buy coupons online at places like Ebay, A Full Cup, or The Coupon Clippers.  Coupons are also available online at places like Coupons.com or Smartsource.com.  Target has their own printable coupons that you can use alongside other non-Target-specific coupons.  (More on that later.)  In addition to paper coupons, you can load digital coupons from Kroger or Cellfire.com.
Sort Coupons
Some people like a binder for this, but I prefer something like a recipe box.  Mine came from the dollar store and works really well.  As for tabs, here's a list to go by.  You might want to make your own.  I have something like 30 tabs for different things.  If you think you might not want certain tabs listed, start out with them all and then see after a few weeks--if you have a few empty sections, dump them.
Here is the list of tabs I got from my coupon class.  I've adapted my box to fit me better.  For ex:  I don't use the "bags" tab and use the term "drinks" rather than "beverages."  You might want to cut out some of the hygiene tabs, but DON'T.  You'll get a ton of coupons and do want them separated. 

Baby
Bags
Baking
Batteries
Beverages
Boxed
Bread
Breakfast
Candy
Canned
Cleaner: dishes
Cleaner: household
Cleaner: laundry
Condiments/Dressings
Crackers/chips
Dairy
Dental
Fragrance
Frozen
Hygiene: Body
Hygiene: Deodorant
Hygiene: Shaving
Hygiene: Face & Makeup
Hygiene: Feminine
Hygiene: Hair
Hygiene: Soap/Lotion
Jelly & Peanut Butter
Kroger
Meat
Medicine
Mexican
Misc.
Office Supply
Organics
Paper Products
Pasta & Rice
Pets
Pillsbury
Popcorn
Produce
Restaurant
Spices
Snacks
Target
Yogurt

More on coupons hopefully tomorrow.  As I said, little bites!  Sunday is coming just around the corner, so get that binder or box ready for your coupons.

Cousins? Cousins!

Saw is super excited to have his Beaumont cousins in town for a bit.  Here are a few fun photos of a playtime the other day.

It takes a lot of quesadillas to feed all these kids!
The chill area.
The REALLY chill area.
Charlotte chilling.
Ila at the table.
Saw, strangely playing with trucks instead of cousins.
Charlotte and Daddy Chris.

Bounce You! No, Bounce U.

Yesterday I got to use a Groupon I'd bought a while back for an inflatable place called Bounce U.  I met up with two derby friends, Shank and Rebel and our kiddos ran amuck.  As far as a review, the place is definitely a few steps down from Monkey Joes, but I liked that it was all in a smaller room so I could watch Saw without losing Linc.  There are only four bouncy things that are open in their free gym, but since I only paid $15 for the 5 passes, so I'm okay with that.  Saw didn't notice and had a great time!
As you saw in yesterday's photo of the day, Sawyer likes to blow the air thing on his face.
Then he found a great boxing mask.
Which helped his jumping.
Linc, meanwhile, was busy glowing.
Here you can see Saw pummeling down to try and take out Bea on the giant slide.  This thing was insanely dangerous and not well-monitored, just so you know.

Photo of the Day

Spiritual Thoughts, Part 2

See how many spiritual thoughts I have time for when Sawyer is at school?? :)

In light of my challenging (read:  terrible and awful) weekend and my post about the light in the tunnel, the passage I read in Philippians this morning was applicable and hugely encouraging.

Philippians 2:12- Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on...

That is an excerpt.  And I'm not going to finish the verse or put it in its context, only because if you want to know the this or the whole passage, you can find it online and be inspired on your own.  I want to focus in on this little bit here because it spoke to me as a mother, as a Jesus-follower, and as a person.

Okay, so I have to put in a little context.  The "this" Paul hasn't obtained is in v9-11 and refers to the righteousness of God coming by faith, the knowing of Jesus and the power coming by his resurrection, the suffering associated with believing in Jesus, and the resurrection.  Basically what Paul is saying is that he has not gotten the full experience of these things.  Some will come in life, and some will come by death.  Either way, he hasn't obtained it all.

He also isn't perfect, and this is what really struck me.  In the beginning of the chapter he spoke of all the ways he had fulfilled Jewish law and custom as a Pharisee, before Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.  In those circles, he was pretty high up.  The glory and merit of those things was lost as God transformed him into a new person.  Those things did not count toward getting him into heaven and some of them (killing Christians, for example) were really on God's bad list.

Now as a believer, he has the promise of perfection.  Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn't live, and the transaction that happened on the cross is this:  our imperfections were all placed on Jesus, and his perfection was credited to us.  (The "us" here being those who believe and accept his gift, and that invitation is an OPEN one.)  So, in essence, we have perfection, if you were thinking of it like a bank account.  God looks at our account and sees Jesus' perfection.  And yet...here we are in our time on earth, still as messed up as ever in our daily thoughts and actions.

I am not perfect, except in the sense that God has placed Jesus' holiness in my account.  I was not perfect this weekend when I got mad that my kids weren't sleeping and yelled at them.  I am not perfect on a daily basis, in ways big and small, but I had such a low point this weekend that it's easy to beat myself up.  To focus on the weakness I saw in myself and the selfishness and the frustration.  But what does Paul say?  I am not perfect, but I PRESS ON.  Later in this chapter he talks about living up to what we've already received.  We've been, in that account way, made perfect.  Now we just need to live up to that calling.

We can't.  And this is where it can bog us down as parents and people.  We can't be perfect.  Yet we've been made perfect and are asked to live up to it.  What do we make of this conundrum?  WE PRESS ON.  We forget what is past and press on toward the glories ahead.

As a mom, this is so freeing for me.  I could sit and wallow in my guilt about hitting a low point this weekend.  I can think about how I could have/should have been better.  I can beat myself up and be discouraged.  Or, I can realize that I am not perfect.  But I can press on.

Spiritual Thoughts, Part 1

This is what happens when Sawyer goes to school:  I have time for spiritual thinking!  Among the christians reading this, probably half of you are like, "What do you mean? I have my time with Jesus EVERY day no matter what because he's the most important thing," and the other half of you are like, "Jesus time--what's that?  Who's he?" (as sung in "It's a Hard Knock Life" from Annie about Santa Claus...)  The reality is that especially with two kids, my time with Jesus is really rare.  The other week, I actually had seven whole days in a row where I got to read my Bible and journal, and it was EPIC.  Now, time with God looks more like this:  a little reading and then a lot of thinking about what I read during the day and perhaps praying in my head while folding laundry and wiping bottoms and loading the dishwasher.

In the quiet of my home today, I got to read and journal and now plan to ponder about the things I read and journaled, but first wanted to share a few things here.

Someone gave my husband a newer translation of the Bible called The Voice recently. (And I may or may not have just poured coffee all over it while trying to shake off an enormous spider.)  The project of translation comes mostly from a church here in Houston called Ecclesia (which I think means church) and aims to not only have a translation that holds true to the original text, but is also beautiful, embracing the artistic.  There are other goals, but that's the one I notice most when reading it.  Rob and I read it to Sawyer before naps and bedtime.  (He still calls this, "Read Jesus?")

While reading some 2 Corinthians to him last week, I ran across a phrase that I found beautiful and inspiring and I've been mulling over it for days now.

2 Corinthians 5:6-  In light of this, we live with a daring passion and know that our time spent in this body is also time we are not present with the Lord. 

My normal reading version (ESV for now) translates this as "good courage," which I find to be wholly boring somehow.  It's not, but there's something kind of amazing to me about daring passion.  Context is important, so the "this" that the idea of daring passion comes in light of is the promise that God himself has given believers a permanent and future home in heaven, and the real and present gift of the Holy Spirit now as a sign of that promise.  So, because we have the pledge of the Holy Spirit and the promise of heaven, we live with a daring passion.

I'm not going to really go on about what that daring passion means to me.  I know that I would love for people to say that I live my life with a daring passion.  I would love for that to be true of my days, and think it's possible to raise your kids and be a stay at home, partly working mom and be daringly passionate.  I can have daring passion while folding laundry.  The phrase creates a vivid picture of an attitude that I would like to claim and aspire to, and I think because it's an attitude, whatever your walk of life, you can live daily with daring passion.

What does the phrase daring passion say to you?  Do you have your own phrase or picture of how people would describe the way you live?

Morning Count

1 Load of Laundry
2.5 Homemade Lattes
2 Giant Baby Poops
1 Big-Boy Potty in the Toilet (and a little on the floor)
1.5 Rolling Overs by Baby
4 Blogs Read
1 Egg Broken in the Floor
1 Child Put to Labor Cleaning Mommy's Mess
1 Missed Phone Call from an Old Friend
2 Encouraging Phone Calls with Good Friends and Fellow Moms :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Do I Stopile My Stockpile?!?

I'm a little out of control.  The last week or two, I have gone out of my grocery budget.  I know--I'm supposed to be SAVING money with coupons.  The thing is, if you've tried it, you realize that it becomes and addiction.  I see a great sale and go nuts.  As I've mentioned, I have enough toilet paper and paper towels to cover Houston and enough body wash to wash Houston.  I also am totally good for at least a year on deodorants, have probably two months or more of disposable diapers, and won't need detergent until maybe Christmas.  In the freezer, I have an entire shelf devoted to frozen veggies and another one stacked high with chicken and steaks and sausage.  One shelf is half-full of cheese.

I am spending at or a little more than my weekly budget because I keep seeing deals that I can't pass up.  Plus, as I said, it becomes an addiction, like a game, and when those weekly ads come out (and our grocery store switches in the middle of the week, so even if I go Tuesday, I want to go again Wednesday because it's NEW!) I get really pumped.  Even though I have been spending the same or a bit more, I am still in the stockpiling phase.  I wanted to be done with it sooner, but the reality is that I still didn't have tons of some essentials.  When you can get things like detergent for $2, you buy a LOT.  So I do. Then I'm in the position where I spent my budget on toilet paper for the whole year and detergent and don't have enough left for my romaine lettuce and tomatoes and my weekly milk.

I do see the end in sight:  I have at least 6 months of almost everything we use.  This means that every week now, I will be buying milk and produce, but will have almost everything else I need for the week.  It's just so hard to stop!  I also have a really tough time using anything in my freezer, because I like how nice and full it looks.  If any of you reading are more advanced in this coupon thing, how and when do you start eating and using all those things stored so neatly in YOUR freezers??

Photo of the Day



Sawyer, upon deciding that the hose blowing air should go in one's mouth.

Another Great Deal on Cloth-Diapering Detergent

Here's another good CVS deal this week, especially if you have cloth diapers and are in need of detergent. I have been using Purex Free and Clear since the beginning, but have had a hard time finding that at a cheap enough price now that I'm couponing.  I used this chart over at Diaper Jungle and found that Arm & Hammer for Sensitive Skin got three stars out of four, same as the Purex I'd been using.  Even if you aren't washing cloth diapers, you can choose from other Arm & Hammer detergents and get a great deal.



Arm & Hammer Detergent:  2 for $7
-use $1 off 2 (from this week or last week's paper)
-get $2 ECB back for purchase


Final Price:  $6, plus $2 back--so it's like paying $4 for two detergents!

A Tweeting Contest

You may have noticed on the left sidebar a new widget:  real-time tweets.  These are great for getting links or just finding out what I happen to be eating at the moment.  I enjoy peppering my tweets with randomness and what, to me, is humor.  Later, I will also use it as a tool to help promotion on my books that I hope to one day publish.

Here's the thing:  I have an embarrassingly small number of followers.  I'm sure it's uncouth to beg for followers, but I'm nothing if not uncouth.  So here's a little contest for you.  Follow me on Twitter and you will be entered to win this painting.
This is from a photo (sorry for poor quality--using the Beanberry) I took while in Scotland and is of Loch Ness, from near Castle Urquhart.  That's the castle always appearing in those Nessie photos.  For the record, I DO believe in the Loch Ness Monster, though I did not see him/her while I was there.  Sadly.

To enter the giveaway, please become a follower on Twitter and leave me a comment to let me know.  If you're already a follower and want to be entered, leave me a comment here.  Also, if you retweet, you will get an additional entry, so retweet and leave a comment here.  (The comments make it easier to enter you than just going through my Twitter account.)  This contest will run through 11:59 on August 4th, and you can find my twitter account by clicking the link with the tweets on the left or searching for @kikimojo.

Old Navy Cami Sale!

If you like layering camis from Old Navy, they are having a special $2 sale (usually $8.50) from Thursday to Sunday of this week.  This is an in-store only special and all you have to do is say "Cami for me" at checkout.  Or, if you feel dumb saying that, you can check here for a coupon.  Thanks to MiBargainMom for the heads up!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

There's No Light in the Middle of the Tunnel

Today has been a good day.  Following another good day yesterday, and a mostly good (or at least okay) day on Sunday.  But from Friday night's bedtime to Saturday night, I had probably one of the hardest 24 hours I've had as a parent.

Rob left just before bedtime on Friday and didn't get back until late last night.  Sawyer is two years old, which kind of says a lot in and of itself--there's attitude, there's rebellion, there's a strong will.  (There are also lots of lovely things, but those three things are new.)  Some days he is sweet and fun and we have a great time, and some days he goes into what we call rampage or destructo mode where it's like he wants to see how many rules he can break, how many ways he can do what HE wants rather than what we ask.  Pretty normal for this age, really.

I think he decided to rebel since Rob was gone and really test me, so both Friday and Saturday bedtimes were something like two-hour events, and most of Saturday daytime was spent dealing with things like Sawyer running over Lincoln with a toy lawnmower or pulling Tex's tail or playing with the off-limit remote controls or throwing food or basically anything else that he knows he is not supposed to do.  And all kind of with that defiant I-know-I'm-not-supposed-to-do-this-but-that's-the-point kind of attitude.  By the time he fell asleep Saturday, I was exhausted in a physical, mental, and emotional way.  I decided that there as NO way we were having any more kids unless Rob has a different job where he's home more.  Which made me really sad, because even on that tough day, I know I do want more kids (God willing).

Two days later and I feel recovered.  I am enjoying my kids so much today and that terrible attitude of Sawyer's is gone (for the moment).  Rob is also home, so we're parenting together again.  It's hard now to remember exactly how I felt or how it was so hard in the moment on Saturday because right now, it's not.  Just as, in the throes of having a horrendous day, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You can know all you want that people have it worse than you, or that your hard time is finite.  Many of my friends have husbands who are out on oil rigs for weeks or out of town once a month.  Or they have more kids and less help.  But thinking happy thoughts or putting my hardship in perspective doesn't make my hard time seem easier--it only made me feel like a worse person for having such a difficult time with my circumstances.  You may know the light is not far off, but if you can't see even a glimmer, it doesn't always help to know it's going to come soon.

Almost every mother I've spoken with has said that the toddler years brought them to their knees.  At the end of most days I feel consumed by my lovely, needy children.  There is so much joy in it, yet there are times when I feel like I just can't handle one more minute.   What's additionally hard is feeling isolated and wondering if you can talk about it, and to whom.  With so many big news stories of women harming their children, I think there is additional fear and pressure added to being honest.  After all, when you say, "I'm going crazy,"  you don't want people to think that you are literally going crazy.

Whether you are actually struggling with your sanity and need real professional help, or just losing your proverbial sanity and need a hand, I think most of us could be better at asking for help.  I am the worst at this.  I hate feeling weak, or like I'm failing at doing my work as a mom by myself.  So, here is my honest admission as an encouragement if you're struggling.  Or if you're not, let it be an encouragement to be honest when you do need help, whether that's with your kids or just your life in general.  Let's be honest about it--maybe not with the world (unless you write a blog...), but with people close to you.  And if you're in the light, like I am today, look around for those people crawling around in the dark and give them a hand.

Tuesday Confession(s)

1. I need more Twitter followers.  This is kind of embarrassing.  You can find me here: @kikimojo

2. I have two-day old dishes in my kitchen sink.  Ew.

3. I moved my computer back to the kitchen table because I miss blogging during the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Great Couponing Ideas This Week

I love checking the blogs for deals, but I've started poring over the weekly inserts for stores on my own and checking my coupons to see what I can do.  Here are two fun things from CVS this week:

Pampers Diapers 48-96 count $21.99
-Use $2/1 coupon (I have a few from the paper and a few from the mail)
-Get $10 ECB (basically a gift cert to CVS on your receipt)
Final Price:  $10 or so, depending on coupons

*I plan to use this past week's ECBs, so the final amount I pay out of pocket will be even less.

U by Kotex $4.99
-Get $4.99 ECB
Final Price:  FREE!  You are paying $4.99 out of pocket, but if you have ECB from, say, diapers, you can use that and just keep the free money coming.

Just Add Water

This weekend was really tough with Rob gone.  It wouldn't have been so bad but for the fact that Saw decided to test me and was more rebellious and difficult that he has ever been on any day of his life. It was hard.  So yesterday we got out of the house and met up with Shank, a new derby friend, at La Centerra's water fountain thing with our kids.  They ran amuck, got wet, and we mostly didn't break the rules.  (Which are:  no nudity, no bathing suits, no diapers, no running.  Okay, so we broke them all.)

Love the action shot! Waaaaaaaaaterrrrrr!

Hardy and Saw played together for one second.  Here it is. 

Sprayed in the face.  Always good for a photo op.

Man, those sullen kids.   They're practicing for the teenage years.

What a great, free time.   I love friends and water. 

80% Off Dinner

Restaurant. com is offering their 80% off special again. That's $2 for a $25 gift certificate for dining out at restaurants in your area.  Check the site to see if they are in your area and what neat places you can try for a price that's criminal.  The special code is PLATE.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Ravioli

This recipe comes from our close friends, Kandy and Gary, who have been marvelous enough to share their secrets with us over the years.  I'm pretty sure I learned the basics for what I know now from Kandy's cooking classics, and think all my basic favorite things to cook are things built on the foundations of her recipes.  I did not make this one last week, but watched it being made and got to eat it.  A few years ago, I had a really bad experience with butternut squash and haven't eaten it since.  (Let me warn you--if you happen to vomit after eating butternut squash soup, it looks the same coming out as it did going in, and can really ruin that soup for life.)  This may have been the first time I attempted to eat ANYTHING butternut squash, and even after my horrific experience from a few years back, this dish was heavenly.  I think that it righted the wrong and freed me to eat butternut squash again.  Yippee!

The recipe calls for a you to have a pasta machine, but Kandy said that you can use a rolling pin and your strong biceps.  Or maybe she said that afterward, you'd HAVE strong biceps.  Hm.

Butternut Squash Mascarpone Cheese Ravioli

1 small butternut squash
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
nutmeg
1 8oz container mascarpone cheese (usually found in specialty cheese section)
3 c flour
3 eggs
1 stick butter

Cut the squash into quarters.  Cover with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Back at 350 for about an hour.  Cool.  Scoop out flesh, mash and add a little nutmeg.

Pasta: Spread about 1/2 c flour on a cool surface. Pour the remaining cups in the center of the area in a mound. Make a well in the middle of the mound.  Scramble the eggs and pour into the well.  Mix flour and eggs together, adding more flour if needed.  Kneed for about 5 minutes.  Let it rest for 15 minutes.  Roll the dough out with a pasta machine (or your strong biceps).  Cut the rough edges from the pasta (and you can save to make pasta scraps with--another great meal!) and cut into squares.

Mix the squash with the mascarpone and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg as needed.  Put a teaspoon of the mixture in the center of the squares.  Use and egg wash to seal the squares and make sure the filling doesn't come to the edge.  Press firmly to seal in the filling.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and drop in the raviolis, making sure not to crowd the pot.  (Don't do them all at once unless you have a huge pot!) Cook until the pasta is limp, just a few moments.  Drain.  Just before serving, brown one stick of butter in a large skillet. (If you have lots of ravioli and not a huge skillet, do 3T of butter at a time and just a few raviolis.)  Add ravioli into the butter and coat.   Serve immediately.

Making Money on Milk

If you've been clipping coupons with me, check to see if you have any for Smart Balance Milk.  (I don't know what week they came, but I have like four $2 off coupons.)  Then go to Kroger's website and load your card with a digital coupon for $2 off Smart Balance Milk.  Then go to Kroger and buy Smart Balance milk for $2.99.  Your milk is not only free, you'll be credited $1 that goes toward your bill at that moment.  Nice, huh?

If you didn't save the coupons, you can still load the digital coupon onto your card.  You can (sadly) only do this once.  I plan to use the rest of my coupons to get 99 cent milk this week.  Deals at my Kroger change on Wednesday, so check your Kroger sales before you go at a site like Money Saving Mom.

What Roller Derby and Labor Have in Common

They're not so different as you might think.  Last weekend while calling lineups for the Bayou City Bosse$, our mantra on the bench from Chicken (our bench coach) was, "Just think about the next two minutes.  You can do anything for two minutes.  Once the jam is over, don't think about what you did right or wrong--that jam is over.  Get ready for the next two minutes and only think about that."  (Okay, so I'm paraphrasing.)  If you don't know much about derby, each bout (game) is made up of any number of two minute jams.  They can be shorter than two minutes, but never longer.  I know from last season that two minutes can seem like a really long time when you are hitting and being hit, sprinting and stopping and falling and blocking and trying to make it one more lap around the track.  But if you think about it like that, two minutes is such a short burst, you CAN do anything for two minutes.

Labor was really very much the same mentality.  The Bradley classes I took emphasized focusing only on that one contraction.  When you're in that contraction, think about that contraction. Don't think about the one that just finished, and DEFINITELY don't think about the one about to come.  Think only about the one you are dealing with at the moment.  You can handle that one contraction. That one contraction gets you one contraction closer to seeing your baby, just as that one jam gets you one jam closer to the end of the bout.

I've been thinking lots about my labors the past few weeks, for whatever reason.  I'm still working on my birth story with Lincoln, and it's just really hard.  I definitely feel like I got to a point in labor when I couldn't see just that one contraction--I was thinking to the end and thinking, "I can't do this anymore."  Labor really brings you to your knees.  Sometimes literally, but definitely mentally and emotionally.  Thinking about one contraction at a time sounds easy from out here.  It's definitely harder in the moment and in the whole process of labor.  But when you're in the throes of it, thinking about just one contraction is so much easier than thinking about how much longer you have until the end.  And at the end of both labor and a derby bout, you have something amazing waiting for you.

Um, assuming that you WIN the derby bout.  Which the Bosse$ did.  Here you can see the celebratory dogpile on the track.

photo by Tony Sodaro

Last Week for Crystal Light!

Having a baby is a lot like backpacking in Colorado.  This week's final Crystal Light sponsored post for Blogher on my review blog is about my proudest physical accomplishment.  I wrote about a backpacking trip I took in 2000 when I worked at a church doing youth stuff.  It was an intensely insane trip, and not just because I didn't wear deodorant for five days.  (That just made it intensely smelly.)  What I kept thinking about while writing the post is how much the same mental state that got me up the mountain one step at a time was the same mental state that got me through labor twice.  Labor and birth definitely beat out backpacking as far as tough physical accomplishments, but you can go read about backpacking anyway and comment for your chance to win $100.  Also, here is a link to the page with quick links to all four of my posts.  You can still comment on any of the posts, and each comment is another entry! (Limit one comment per post per person.)

Ode to Single Parents: A Haiku

I'm a horrific poet.  (You'll see.)  But I wanted to do an ode to single parents out there, since this weekend without Rob has given me so much more respect for their hardships.  Feel free to add your own haiku (as an ode to whatever) in the comments.

Two arms must be strong
to contain all the chaos
my biceps are weak

OR

I smell like I've been
wrestling alligators but 
then, maybe I have.

OR

My mojo is less
than what you must have in your
little fingernail

Photo of the Day

There's funny....
And then there's just cute. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Really, Comcast?

It's thundering in the distance and my internet has been going off and on (mostly off) for hours. When I called Comcast, there was a lovely message saying that due to the inclement weather, they are aware of many outages and are working on it. I guess knowing IS half the battle, but I really want them to concentrate on the fixing it part of the battle. Guess my preview will be a preview for a while longer. It's just too annoying to write longer from my beanberry.

Preview

I think my internet is working again, so you can look forward to posts very soon about the following:

-a haiku for single parents
-recipe for butternut squash ravioli
-what to do when your child is a terror in public (a question, not an answer)
-how learning to roll over decreases sleep

My boys are both fighting nap time right now so it may be a while until all these posts are posted, but stay tuned!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Should There Be a Parenting Dress Code?

The question is not so much should there be, but IS THERE a parenting dress code.  Or, at least, a kind of unspoken understanding that once you're a certain age and have kids, you should no longer wear certain types of clothes or shoes, get tattoos, have weird piercings, dye your hair (except to cover grays!) and so forth.  I just posted on Blogher about this and really hope you'll go read and comment.  Don't look for answers--I just asked for opinions.  I'll give you mine in a day or so.  Here's the link to my post!

Photo of the Day

I couldn't catch the great smiles from me tickling him, but love these wide eyes.  There's Frodo of the Nine Fingers, and there's Lincoln of the Giant Eyes.  The next one almost gets that smile.

Double the...Jogging?

Okay, maybe just double the fun, because I for one hate jogging.  We're super thankful for this hand-me-down from Paul and Denise!!  I think the boys like it.  Even though only Rob really looks happy in this photo.  I blame the sun--it was bright!

Impulse Boots

My favorite shoes of all time were these metallic blue Doc Marten boots I had in college.   LOVED.  THEM.  Wore them with everything and loved everything about them.  Except how they made my feet bleed. I got a size too small because they were on clearance and that was the only size.  I figured they'd stretch.  But after six months of bleeding feet and lovely scars, I gave them away to a friend I knew would appreciate them.  I'm still sad about it.

I'm older and wiser now and should be into sensible shoes.  The thing is, sometimes I like sensible, but I still harbor a love for big metallic boots.  Hence my impulse buy this morning.  They're not blue, but pretty amazing, don't you think?  I'm pretty sure I'll be judged by other moms if I wear these to the playground, but hey.  I like my life exciting, and these boots definitely go with that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Punked with Benefits

Last night Rob and I had a Hot Date.  The great thing is that I tell Sawyer when Rob and I go out that we're going on a Hot Date, and now he asks to go too.  Or, randomly throughout the day will say, "Want to go hot date?"  The point being that we had a highly unlikely and unusual hot date last night that resulted in free stuff and a big punk.  Want to read about it, click here to visit my review blog.  (And also feel free to leave comments on the Crystal Light posts so you can enter to win $100!)

In other news, this is more my normal speed.  I took this pic of my lap at tonight's Boss dinner.  My calamari tried to escape.

New Moves and Grooves

Lincoln Logs is becoming quite the mover and shaker.  He has discovered the exersaucer and the bouncy doorway thing.  This is a new era, people!  The first few days he actually just kind of hung there in the doorway thing, but today he learned to bounce and had a great time, spitting and bouncing and twirling.  I remember Saw at this stage and how he loved to see the new things he could do.  It's definitely fun!  Linc is also doing that thing Saw did where he uses his hands to try to spin everything. It's cute and brings back memories and makes me wonder if Sawyer really was ever a baby.  That just seems like a dream I had...

Guess What?

I JINXED IT.

Saw woke up last night for the first time in like two weeks. I knew I should have kept that secret in my big hair with all the rest.   (In case you missed it, Mean Girls reference.)

Blogone

Okay, it's late.  I'm tired.  "Blogone" seemed like a good term that mixed "blog,"  "gone,"  and "doggone."  See?  Tired.  Not clever or funny.

Moving my computer to the room behind the baby gates in my house was probably good for my kids.  It's not so good for my frequent blogging.  I'm going to squeak out a few posts before bed (yawn) and hopefully see you tomorrow.  What's going on in my world is this:

-Rob is leaving tomorrow for a few days. Boo.
-Lincoln learned to spit.  Yay?
-Sawyer likes to do pull ups.  Um...
-I'm just busy with life and babies.  Yippee!

Sorry for the big blank nothing that is my blog today.  Here are some posts to make up for it.  And you know you're going to want to hear about the crazy dinner Rob and I had last night...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sleep These Days

If I were good at sleeping, we'd be getting a lot of sleep around here.  Sawyer, while often putting up a fight going down, has slept all night for something like 7 nights in a row.  Which is the most nights in a row he's slept in months and months.  Thankful is an understatement.  Lincoln is still a fabulous sleeper, but as he's getting more mobile, we've had some middle-of-the-night issues as he makes his way to the end of the crib and gets his legs or arms stuck or rams his head into the wood.  I added the bumper pads, but even so, last night at 4am, Lincoln had run out of wiggle room and was wide awake, ready for a conversation. Yawn.

I don't know what changed with Saw, other than we kept up our consistency and standing firm when he woke up and got up in the middle of the night.  And he finally stopped getting up.  I was scared to write about it in case I jinxed it, but it's been two weeks of good sleep now.  So, hopefully this won't ruin our long sleeping streak...I'll let you know in the morning.

Twitter-Challenged

I feel like an old woman.  For years, I resisted such things as Myspace, Facebook, and (believe it or not) blogging.  Now I have a never-used Myspace account, a Facebook account I check hourly now that I have a Beanberry, and obviously am a full-time blogger.  In the same way, I've been resisting Twitter, which really seemed just like a glorified Facebook status update.  The thing is, it's a great way to connect, and even serious sites that talk about things like selling your novel discuss the importance of tweeting.  Plus, I kinda like writing new and random updates about the random things going on in my life.

But now that I've held out so long, I don't really "get" Twitter.  See? I'm an old woman.  I don't really understand all the weird symbols and how to get the most out of this new-fangled contraption these whipper-snappers are all using.

So...anyone want to share tips with me?  I need help. And if you want to follow me, I'm under the username KikiMojo.  (And there's probably a way to directly link up to my Twitter on here, huh?  That's the kind of tip I need.)

The Cost of Cleaning

So.  In addition to misplacing my vacay fund, I also lost my extra care bucks.  Not such a huge deal, as it was free money from buying something at CVS.  But I had my whole plan of buying diapers today and using a coupons so that they'd not only be free, but I'd get three bucks back.  My theory about the disappearances is that I must have, in a cleaning frenzy, thrown out the extra care bucks and also the envelope with the vacation fund.  At least, I THINK that's what happened.  I can't find either the money or the ECBs anywhere.  Did I put the money in an envelope?  I vaguely remember writing "vacay" on the outside of an envelope and putting money inside...but why wouldn't I put it somewhere safer?  I mean, really.

The lesson learned is that when I get really into cleaning, I need to pay more careful attention to what I'm throwing out.  At least, that's the lesson to learn if I actually DID throw those things out.  Who knows, maybe I'll find them one day.

The thought I can't escape is that somehow, with this brain, I'm supposed to have CHILDREN entrusted to my care??  Yikes.

Pickle-Hating Store

You may notice that I've added a new page up on my top navigation bar for a Pickle-Hating store.  Basically this links you in to Amazon where I've created a custom store with books and items that I've written about here, from great books on parenting or birth choices and my favorite maternity jeans to cloth diapers.  I'll try to add anything I'm reading or talking about to the store so that if you're interested, it's only a click away!

Why I Am Who I Am

This photo says it all, really.  The politically incorrect tribesmen.  The sheer terror my brother faced thinking they were real men with spears.  The terror on my mom's face because Dad just made her touch the boa. (Or python?)  The dreamy yet annoyed look on my face because as much as I love snakes, this one weighed more than me.  My Dad's short shorts.

This is my favorite family photo of all time and is hanging on my wall.  It has also been submitted to Awkward Family Photos.  I'll let you know if we make it, but I think we're pretty deserving.  And awkward.

Tuesday Confession: Wednesday Edition

I have several confessions to make.  One funny (ish), the other sort of not so much.

Confession #1:  Remember that $50 I set aside for vacation that I saved from our grocery budget?  Yeah, I don't know where I put it.  I think that I did that thing where you put something in a "safe place" but then can't remember where that safe place is later.  Shoot.

Confession #2:  I may never get my book done.  I've realized in the last few days when I have had my office hours free and clear but chose to watch TV or write thank-you notes or hang with Rob instead that nighttime, while free from kid responsibilities, is a really hard time to get motivated to work.  Right now, I feel CONSUMED by the end of the day.  My boys are wonderful.  (Not angels--no one is, and I don't mean that.  I mean that I love and appreciate them.)  They are fun and I have great moments every day with them.  But I also have hard moments, and rarely have more than 20 minutes to myself at any given time between 7am and 8 or 9pm.  Which means that by 9pm, I feel like most of me has been sucked out and that I need to recharge to make it through another day.  Writing IS recharging, but it also requires a lot of attention and my brain, but I don't feel that I've had either lately at night.

I'm pretty discouraged about it, and am trying to think about other options.  My ideal would be to have a bit of time each day during the day without the boys to work.  Even if that's one or two hours where I know I can just work.  (Read:  nap time doesn't work because they don't nap at the same time and inevitably wake up as soon as I get serious about working.)  I'm trying to see if I can afford to pay someone even just two days a week for maybe two hours each day to watch Linc while Saw is in school.  Or something.  I don't know.

It's hard to be a mom and want to be the best mom you can, fully present and fully engaged, and yet want anything for yourself.  Whether it's work that I WANT to do or getting my hair cut, it's a challenge.  I know that women manage to juggle the whole kids and work thing and know there are many women writers who write at night and sacrifice sleep and other things to do their work.  I'm not sure what's wrong with me that I don't feel that I can handle that right now, but my brain has been mush at night lately.

That's kind of a long confession, huh?  And in case you, like my dad, are worried about my frequent posts about hardship lately, I really am doing fine.  I have come to believe through experience and in talking with other women that the time when you are have toddlers is just one of the most challenging times ever.  Rob and I are loving the heck out of our boys and our life, but it is also overwhelming and challenging.  I think that's just life??

Monday, July 19, 2010

This Week's Challenge

As I'm still finishing up with the whole clearing my house and head thing, I have a new challenge that's a little more bite-sized.  Rob and I are going to find at least five trash bags full of things that we can donate to Goodwill.  When I told him this, he said, "Great!  So...you'll fill up four and I'll do one?"  Nice try.  I'm doing three and he'll do two.

Five is just a starter--I bet I can get more.  I'm thinking clothes, old shoes, and a lot of things I was planning to sell at a yard sale that will probably never happen. 

Take my challenge to toss--er, donate--three to five (at minimum) trash bags of things this week.  Do it!  Do it!  And, of course, tell me about it here.  I'll let you know what I find to pass on.

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