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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday Online Shopping

I'm not a big Black Friday shopper.  I don't love the crowds or the rudeness that it seems to bring out in people.  And I really don't like that the stores open earlier every year.  A bunch are even opening on Thursday this year, forcing many workers to miss time with their family to work the sale.  Not to mention the promoting of commercialism over family during a time of year that should be all about family.  Let's not forget the real meaning of Christmas here people!

Therefore, this year, I am protesting Black Friday by only shopping online.  You can still get some really great deals! This year there are 6 fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the retailers are getting desperate and things are going on sale early.  And to prove it, I've listed a few great sales here.

Before you start your shopping, let me suggest a few more tips for keeping Christmas on budget.  Here's my procedure:

1. I look at our budget and determine how much I want to spend on Christmas, give or take.
2. I make a list of the people I plan to buy gifts for.
3. I divide my budget among those people.  This is never 100% even.  My husband's grandmother is impossible to buy for, so I always have to spend a little more there.  My sister-in-law ALWAYS wants gift cards.  I hate those things, I'd much rather get someone a really great gift!  This year I'm trying to stick to $25/person or couple.  I have 7 siblings, not to mention in-laws.  My sister and I always agree to get gifts for just the kids, so I take her off the list.  Details people, details!
4. I shop around online and add the items I'd like to buy or make for each person.  You can create a private Pinterest page for this to keep track of your finds.
5. I adjust the budget accordingly, making sure to stick to my overall total budget.

NEVER NEVER NEVER start without a list.  Lists save you money, when it comes to budgets, groceries, or Christmas shopping.  Just do it! 

Ok, made your list?  Time to shop!

Kohl's has some spectacular deals on toys, many half price or more, and they are ALREADY on sale.  That's right, you can go buy them online right now.  A couple on my list:







Graco Just Like Mom Deluxe Playset
Originally $44.99, now $24.99









 Fisher Price Drillin' Action Tool Set
Originally $24.99, now $12.49

Using coupon code BLACKFRI should get you 15% off your entire order too!
Shipping is FREE with a $50 purchase.

Target is having a Pre-Black Friday Sale too.  Don't forget to use your Red Card for an extra 5% off.



Originally $15.00, now $9.00
Also comes in red or cream solids










Originally $39.99, now $29.99
This has convenient hour settings, so if you work like me, you don't have to worry it will burn.  It even has travel clips that hold it closed!



Amazon.com is always my go-to for great deals.  They have daily limited-time deals, so make sure to check out their  upcoming deals so you don't miss something on your list.  I have an Amazon Prime membership, which gives you free shipping, better prices, and tons of other perks.

 
$19.99, Tuesday only.

For the crafter on your list, this is perfect!




$18.99, which is 61% off!

Everyone needs these things, for you camcorder, digital camera, game camera, etc.






And then there are the Daily Deal websites.  They are like the TJ Maxx of the web.  FYI, most of these have a long wait time for shipping, so plan ahead.

Zulily.com is a site for daily deals for moms, babies and kids.  Everything from maternity wear to toys and kitchen goods.

JossandMain.com is a great site for anything home.  They even have lighting and rugs.

Gilt.com is a designer discount site, for your loved ones that have to have that label!

Modnique.com used to be Totsy, which is all about the kiddos.

Don't forget Ebates.com, where you can get discounts just for going to a site through their website.  Kind of funky, but it works.  Happy online shopping!


Friday, May 31, 2013

Fever Virus or Global Pandemic?



On Friday night, Little Man was sleepy.  He has sleepy nights sometimes if he doesn’t nap well at Gigi’s during the day.  So I didn’t think much of it.  He sat on my lap and let me rub his back and drifted in and out. 

The hubs came in from mowing the lawn and wanted to hold him, so I grudgingly handed over my unusually cuddly baby.  Hubs said, “wow, he’s hot!”  I hadn’t even noticed, because when he’s sitting in my lap I always get hot.  So we went upstairs and used our handy-dandy ear thermometer (may I say this is one of the greatest baby inventions ever?) and the GPS voice told us, “your temperature is 102.3 degrees Fahrenheit.”  



I thought, surely it’s wrong!  So we did the unthinkable and took a rectal temperature.  102.7!!!

MASS PANIC ENSUES.



Me: “We’re going to the doctor NOW!”

Hubs: “It’s 7pm on Friday, they’re closed!”

Me: “Then we’re going to the emergency room!”

Hubs:  “Really, are you sure?”

Me:  “Yes!  The sheet the pediatrician gave me said always bring them in if their temperature goes above 101!!!”

Hubs: “Ok, ok, so are we going to Children’s or the local hospital?”

Me:  “I don’t know, call and ask!”

Hubs: “Call who?”

Me (and this is a very typical response): “Never mind, I’ll do it!”

After grabbing the diaper bag and strapping Lane into the car seat, I call the local hospital to ask whether they can treat him there or whether I should take him to Children’s Hospital, which is 45 minutes further.  Much to my irritation, I get the following response, “Ma’am, I can’t give you medical advice over the phone.”

“I’M NOT ASKING FOR BLOODY MEDICAL ADVICE, I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF YOU CAN TREAT A 10 MONTH OLD BABY!!!”  (I've been trying to stop swearing and my substitute profanity tends to be British.  Weird, right?)

“We’ll be happy to see him ma’am.”

“THANK YOU!”  This is said with seething sarcasm, which I cannot adequately describe through typed print.




Of course once we get there we have to wait 30 more minutes before we are seen, and 20 more after that before he’s given any real treatment.  Now, I know, I know, you’re saying, that’s amazing for ER wait time!  But if you’ve ever had a sick child then you know that every second is more physically and mentally painful than the last as you watch your baby suffer.

And what was his treatment?  After finding no upper respiratory problems in his chest x-ray and testing negative for strep, they gave him some Motrin.  Not that I expected anything else.  They did thankfully give him a prescription for amoxicillin to treat the cause of the fever, whatever that may be.  The next day I heard that a “fever virus” was going around.  So creative with the names, that CDC. 

I’ve now done a little research on fevers (I included the links here, please read for your own mental health!)  After said research I felt absolutely ridiculous, because I was definitely guilty of believing most of the fever “myths.”  And I call myself an educated woman.  Did you even know there’s a name for that panic you get when your child has a fever?  Fever phobia, the only phobia where the fear is in someone different than the person experiencing the phobia stimulus.  I seriously thought brain damage occurred at 104°, you don’t reach that danger zone till 108°.  In reality, most fevers are a good thing, turning on a child’s immune system so they can burn off an infection. 

Looking back, I probably should have given him some Tylenol, see if it brought his fever down, and brought him in the next day.  Had I been properly educated, I would have avoided a near heart attack, and a scary unknown ER bill amount that I don’t even want to think about right now.  

Today, we went to the pedi for a follow up, and he asks me, "what were they trying to cure with the amoxicillin?  This does nothing for viruses."  Well, let me give you my medical opinion, oh wait, I'm not a doctor!  I don't know why the hell they gave it to him!  So apparently we all must add a line to our mom resume.

Lesson of the day:  Education, it’s not just for kids.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Working Mom Blogs or Lack Thereof




It’s always good to know you’re not alone.  It’s why most of us read blogs, to learn tips and tricks from other people in life situations similar to ours to make our lives better.  So since I’ve been back to work I’ve been desperately searching for blogs written by other working moms.  Thing is, there just aren’t that many.  I believe I can infer the why – if you work full time and you’re a mom, you’re just too busy to write a blog.  Not saying that SAH moms aren’t also busy, but I know when I get home from work, all I want to do is hang out with my baby, not work on my blog.  If I was at home with him all day, I could set aside some time for it, but as it is, I’m still feeling that guilt most first time working moms feel for every minute we are away from our babies that we don’t have to be.  That’s what I’m really looking for in another working mom’s blog, ways to cope with the guilt that’s associated with spending 40-50 hours away from your child.

I’ve also found that a lot of working mom blogs are politically oriented, spending most of their time touting the cruelness of the American laws regarding maternity leave.  From what I’ve read, we are far behind most developed countries in this arena.  While I agree things need to change, I’m more interested with the here and now, and dealing with what we’ve got.  So hopefully I can try to fill this hole in the blog world.  If you have a blog or know of one that fills this gap, please leave a comment, I’d love to read it!

You may ask how I have time to blog.  The truth is, shhhh…I write posts at work.  I have occasional down time and I can’t stand to sit at my computer with nothing to do, so I blog.  Since I’m in the construction industry I don’t have a lot of flexibility to work from home, so I figure I may as well make the best use of my time I can, both at work and at home.



Here are a couple blogs I love:



Ha!  Yeah that’s a great big list isn’t it?  Like I said, I haven’t found many that aren’t uber-political.  I don’t like getting into that because, and I may lose some followers here, but I’m a republican.  Yes, that’s right, I’m part of the 1% of working women that is not a democrat.  Why, you ask?  I’m a southern Catholic pro-life crazy person that actually believes that the financial issues need to be addressed before the social issues.  Slander me if you will, but to each her own, I believe what I believe.  Which makes it EVEN MORE difficult for me to find something helpful to read.  Eek.  So if I haven’t lost you already, leave me a comment on your favorite working mommy blogs.  Thanks!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"What's for Dinner?"

Oh how I dread this question.  Because although I work all day, it's always the first question I'm asked when I get home.  Sometimes I don't even get all the way home, sometimes it comes as an afternoon text.  For some reason, I am the only one with the ultimate power to decide what to do about dinner. 

I used to love to cook.  No, let me rephrase, I still love to cook, but between taking care of a baby, trying to keep the house from becoming a disaster, and working my little (ok, maybe not that little) tush off to bring home the bacon, I'm just too tired to cook those gourmet meals every night like I used to.  My poor husband, he thought he'd get 5 star meals every night for the rest of his life...and then came babies.  How life changes.  So how do I answer this notorious question?  I have a book.






Recognize this?  Yep, it's a cheap photo album I got for $5 at TJMaxx.  I keep my family's favorite recipes in it.  This way I'm not constantly digging through cookbooks.  That gets really daunting to me.  Plus, I'm a visual person.  I like to see a picture of the food before I try it.  I get most of my recipes from Food Network and Pinterest.  I try them out, and if we love one, it gets added to the book.  I bought some 5x7" index cards at the dollar store as recipe cards and used some pretty file labels I already had to separate chapters.





Every two weeks when I make my grocery list, we look in the book to see what sounds good or what we haven't had in a while.  And if I saw something I really want to try, I'll add that to my grocery list.  If we don't like it, it never makes it to the book (and gets deleted from my Pinterest page), but if we do, I add it, and then I modify it as I want/need.  If you wanted to get heirloom fancy, you could even take a photo of the recipe and put it above the recipe card.





The great thing about a photo album is that the clear plastic protects the recipes from kitchen splashes, and it's really easy to remove the card, make a notation to the recipe, and slide it right back in!  After I've made my grocery list, I write everything I planned to make for dinner on a dry-erase board in the kitchen.  Every night when I get asked the dreaded question, I get to ask a question back: "Did you look at the board?  What sounds good to you?"  They pick, I cook.  No hair-tearing-out.  And in 50 years when my grandkids ask, Grandma, how do you make this?  I can pass down the recipes to them.  Yummy!

Couponing for the Working Mom

Couponing.  I've read tons of blogs about how much money everyone saves going nuts with coupons, going through store ads, comparing prices...but not a one was written by a working mother.  Because the truth is, if you work full time, there's no way you have time to do all that.  And the time you do have, you don't want to spend couponing, you want to spend it with your kids.  So how can you get some of that savings?  Here's what I do.  It's a very watered down version of couponing that saves you some mulah for about 15 minutes a week.

Buy you a little coupon file for a couple bucks from the notebook aisle at Walmart.

Label each tab with categories.  Try to stick with categories by aisle of the store you shop at.  Here's mine.  I use dry food, cold, frozen, toiletry, baby, grocery, and I have a couple tabs for store coupons.


Sign up for your local Sunday paper.  They will try to talk you into getting the Wednesday paper too, but all of the good coupons come on Sunday.  They charge about a dollar a paper.  You will save far more than that, so it's easy to justify the extra cost.

Now yank out the coupons and start clipping.  Now here's the tricky part.  What to clip?  If you follow a few basic rules, you won't spend too much time clipping, and you won't be the crazy coupon lady who takes 30 minutes to check out.


1.  Lose your brand loyalty.  Try the brand that has the coupon.  There are a couple of items that I absolutely have to stick with (my favorite organic milk and Huggies One & Done wipes, there's just no substitute,) but for everything else I try to use what's on sale.  Especially with toiletries.  Colgate or Crest, who cares, as long as your kids use the toothpaste!

2.   This may be the most important rule.  ONLY CLIP COUPONS FOR PRODUCTS YOU USE!!!  Folks, this is why companies do coupons.  They are trying to get you to buy their product.  If you don't already use pre-cooked boneless ham, DON'T clip it.  You'll just end up spending more, and that's what those companies hope for.

3.  Stockpile.  Not everything, don't go all Disaster Prepper, but a few extra bottles of shampoo under the sink isn't going to drive your husband nuts.  Here's why:  coupons come in cycles.  If you want to know what they are, look here.  I don't know or care what they are.  If I see that there are a ton of diaper coupons that month, it's diaper coupon season.  I clip them and stock up on diapers.  I know I'll use them.




4.  Only shop at one or two stores.  I get most of my fresh food from Publix, and I always shop their two-for-ones.  I get cleaning supplies, dry goods, and baby items from Walmart, because even with the Publix coupons, they are usually cheaper.  Make sure you know those stores' coupon policies.  Publix doubles everything $0.50 or less and you can use a Publix and manufacturer coupon for the same item!

5.  Plan ahead!  The more often you shop, the more you spend, because of those little impulse items.  I go every two weeks, and I try my very best to stick to my list.  I make meal plans and write what I've planned for on my dry-erase board.  So the fam still gets to choose dinner, but from the list of what we have, so less goes to waste because I forgot I had that bag of baby carrots at the bottom of the crisper drawer.  I also keep a running list of what we need so I don't forget anything (this also helps cut down on the grocery trips.)

6.  Last but not least, use the coupons to make your dinner list.  Take those coupons out of the file and stick them in your pocket.  So now when you check out, you just hand the cashier a little stack of coupons, they quickly scan them, and you're done!  Make sure you've read the coupon fully so you don't only grab one bag of diapers when the coupon is only good if you buy two.

And that's it!  Headache-free, quick & easy couponing, from one working, busy mom to the next.  Happy shopping!

Monday, February 25, 2013

8 Tips to a Better Family Photo

We had family photos taken this weekend, yay!  I love actually being in some of our family pictures.  Since I take most of them, I'm rarely in them.  Handing my husband my DSLR is like handing my 7-month old a cell phone.  He'll take it, look at it curiously, and most likely smash it.  Ha, ha.  You only think I'm kidding...

So the perfect photo is hard to get.  You've likely sorted through hundreds of Pinterest boards trying to find that magazine shot, the one where everybody is smiling and beautiful and natural, like Gap models with coordinating outfits.  And the reality is a husband who is bored, a baby who is tired, and 80% humidity that destroys the hair you worked on for an hour in about 5 minutes.  Frustrating, isn't it?  Well, there are a few things you can do to help you get a great shot, although you most likely will not be on the cover of Family magazine any time soon.

1.  The Photographer.  Ladies, I like to save money just like the next couponer, but here's one of my exceptions.  You get what you pay for when it comes to a photographer.  If you think it's just a photoshop savvy person holding an expensive camera, you are not just wrong but WRONG in capital letters.  I learned this the hard way by hiring a discount photographer for my wedding.  Don't make my mistake.  Ask around, find a professional.  Usually that means they have a studio.  Not a drop cloth in their garage.  And if you like what they do, continue to develop that relationship.  And spread the wealth, recommend them to your friends!  (I use Gretchen B in Helena, Alabama.  She's wonderful, and the baby loves her!  She also helps me with great tips for getting better pictures at home.)   Since we've established that you must spend some money to get quality photos, how do the budgeters deal?  Choose one or two special occasions a year, and make them count.  How to make them count?  Keep reading.

2. Plan ahead.  If you want outdoor photos, make sure it's not going to rain.  Ask your photographer if there are any great parks around.  Odds are they will know some great spots.

3. New clothes.  If you're already spending the money to get some great shots, make sure everyone looks their best.  This doesn't have to mean getting entirely new outfits, but plan each member of the family's outfit and fill in the blanks with new pieces.  I pick 3 colors, two neutrals and a color pop, and make sure everyone is coordinated but NOT matching.  Everyone in a white or black collared shirt is a very outdated look.  For women and girls, don't wear a ton of jewelery, moderation!!!  You want to see you, not the bling.  Jackets, belts, and a cute necklace can make you look put together.  For men and boys, don't go to fancy (ties/bowties) or they will be uncomfortable.  I did blue, white, and jeans.  Other great combinations are yellow, gray and khaki, or blue, coral, and jeans, or mint, khaki and white.

4. Makeup.  Stick with matte.  Sparkly makeup does strange things with the flash.  Go for a natural look.  Again, you want to look like you, only better!  Apply it in natural light instead of the bathroom incandescent light.  Put on a little more in the eye area than you normally do so you don't look washed out, and make sure you do your brows.  It makes a big difference.

5. Props.  If you found a picture you like of a family on a quilt, bring a quilt!  Don't expect your photographer to read your mind. 

6. Be prepared for meltdowns.  Bring everything you can to fend them off.  Snacks, a baby bottle, jackets for everyone in case the weather doesn't cooperate, toys, etc.  Make sure you include that favorite toy that always brings a smile.  You'll need it!

7. List of photos you want.  Again, your photographer is not a mind reader.  She does the best with what she's got.  So if you have specific shots you want, make a list and give it to her in advance.  Keep in mind that photography is an art form, and her point of view might be different from yours.  Some photographers are really in to props and some are not.  If your point of view is very different from your photographer's, find a new one.  To avoid finding this out the hard way, a smart idea is to create a Pinterest board or a file of photos you like and compare them to her website, or even send her an email to see what she thinks.

8. Know when you're done.  Most likely, your kids will dictate this.  When they're done, you're probably not going to get any more good shots.  You may get one or two cute ones of grouchy faces, but that's it.  When nobody's smile looks real anymore, call it!  You know your family well, and you'll know, when they're done, they're done!

Above all, have fun.  The really great shots are usually candids taken when everyone is relaxed and isn't  really focused on the camera, but on each other.  What do you think of ours?


Again, props to my favorite photographer, Gretchen Birdwell!  Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/birmingham.photography.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Baby Photography: Daddy's Tattoos

My latest idea for baby photography came to me while admiring my shirtless husband loading the washing machine...swoon.  He has some tattoos, and I thought how cute a just-like-daddy tattoo picture would be so cute.  Don't worry!  I drew them on with a Mary Kay eyeliner in Sage.  Hypoallergenic, and easy to remove with baby wipes.  The hard part was drawing them on a wiggling baby.  Scaling them down was difficult too.  If I had to do it again I would try carbon paper and make my own temporary tattoos, but this was spur-of-the-moment, so I made do.  Here's what I came up with.  What do you think?







Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mommy Tips and Tricks for Storage



If you are a new mom, you may be surprised by the sheer quantity of stuff you now have for your baby.  How can such a small person need so much?!  If you’re a seasoned pro, you’ve probably figured out some nifty tricks to organizing all that stuff and making it more manageable.  I know I have, and every time I find a new trick, it seems so simple, and I think, why has nobody shared this with me before???  For shame my mommy friends!  So here are a few things I’ve learned that I wish somebody had told me sooner.

  • Bottles: Never store baby bottles fully assembled.  I used to store my bottles all neatly assembled.  It was cleaner and easier.  So why would you do it differently?  One word, and an ugly one indeed, MOLD.  If there is even the teeniest bit of moisture on the bottle or the parts, you will seal it in when you assemble the bottle and it will become a petrie dish for mold.  Imagine my horror, opening up a bottle and finding icky green spots.  I went on a bottle disassembly and examination rampage, cleaned them all, and threw out quite a few just in case.  Lesson learned: store them disassembled!
  • Baby cabinet: Store all of your bottles, spoons, cups and containers in one cabinet, designated the “baby cabinet.”  I have a little 2-drawer shelf I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond that I store my bottles and parts in.  I have different sized nipples in labeled Zip-locs.  All my baby spoons are in a plastic cup.

  • Baby shelf in the pantry: I have a shelf (well, half a shelf) dedicated to baby items in my pantry.  All his food items, yogurt, cereal, etc. are on this shelf.  I store my baby cereal in plastic Tupperware instead of the cardboard container it comes in, and I have a tablespoon in the container to portion it out when I need it.
  • Bibs: I found a neat tip on Pinterest, put Command hooks on the back of your high chair and hang your bibs on it, so they’re always there when you need them.
  • Baskets: There are toys EVERYWHERE in my house.  Living room, dining room, bathroom, master bedroom, and of course the nursery.  So I have a pretty basket in each room (they have tons of choices at places like World Market and Old Time Pottery) that I throw the toys in when I clean up.  They sit inconspicuously in each room, adding to the d├ęcor, while secretly hiding a quick access toy stash.
  • Frozen milk and baby food: I have a separate freezer shelf dedicated to baby items.  I bought a long skinny plastic refrigerator tray from Bed Bath & Beyond to cycle milk (newest in the back, pushing the oldest ones forward.  Next to that I have Ziploc freezer bags of baby food cubes, labeled with the date and ingredients.  I cycle those the same way.  My milk storage bag and freezer packs go on the same shelf.
  • Diapers: I stockpile diapers.  (I'll dedicate a future post to couponing diapers.)  So at any time I may have 10-15 bags of diapers.  I stack them by size under my changing table.  I also have my stash of wipes and a basket of medicines and other baby products inside.  On top I have a Prince Lionheart changing station, far more convenient than that diaper hanger that probably came with your baby bedding set.

  • Closet: Since we have a small nursery, there’s no room for a dresser.  I use hanging shelves in the closet for clothes, hats, linens, and shoes.  Socks go in a gift basket I got at a shower.  I have two big bins in the bottom of the closet, one for clothes that are too small, and one for clothes that are too big.  So when he grows out of something, I toss it in the too small bin.  When it’s full it gets labeled by size and put in the attic.  Then I cycle in the “too big” items, and so on.  All this takes up half the closet.  The other half has shelves for big toys (walkers, bouncers, etc.) and the top my husband takes for his hunting clothes!

  • Books, stuffed animals, and nick nacks go on one long high shelf my husband put up across one wall of the nursery.  It’s just a few Lowe’s floating shelves mounted side by side, he had to cut the one at the end (and the bracket) to make it fit.  I’m planning to hot glue a rattan ribbon across the front of them to cover the seams, I just haven’t found the ribbon yet (I saw this on HGTV, yet another project I haven’t finished.)

I’m always looking for more ways to organize, so share some of your projects!