2.28.2011

I heart CVS


It seems everyone wants to save money these days.  Label it the economy, the housing bust, the new practicality.  Whatever the reason, we can't argue that it is trendy. 


Enter the Krazy Coupon Lady.  This woman keeps a blog, of sorts, that lists every deal at every major retailer. She was the subject of a new TV show, Extreme Couponing, on TLC, where $638.64 (retail value) worth of groceries came to a mere $2.64 cents after coupons.  


I have been into couponing for some time. It started when I was expecting baby number three and trying to buy a new house, and wanted to find a way to better budget.  Today, for me, it's not so much about saving the money- it's about reallocating the money.  I can afford this or that, but why pay retail? There is a little game in getting a good deal from the stores and having your cash to spend on other things, like this trip to Paris


One of my favorite places to coupon (yes, it's a verb) is CVS.  There are weeks when I walk out with bags of stuff for mere dollars.   Here is what I got this week. 


Two spin toothbrushes ($6 ea), two toothpaste($3.29 ea) and contact solution ($5.99).  My cost?   - 1.50. Yes, NEGATIVE $1.50.  The store actually paid me $1.50 in overage to take this stuff off their shelves. 




 Tide High Efficiency laundry detergent. (Avg retail $7.50, on sale $5.94 ea) My cost?  $11 for three. Let's apply the -1.50 from above and these cost me merely 9.50, or just over three bucks each. Not bad! 

Four Axe body products ($4.50 ea). My cost, $4 for all or $1 ea. 


So, $13.50 for everything (valued over $60 without coupons). Now, the first question I'm often asked is why even bother with the things like body wash? You could save that $4 also.  Well, one, I love a bargain. And, two, sometimes you have to stack coupons in strange ways to maximize value.  For example, I had to buy a certain number of Proctor and Gamble products in order to get my Tide so cheaply. The body wash filled-in the gap.  Plus, I can give it to my brother. He loves that stuff.


This may not be the best example, some weeks are more lucrative than others. Still, it's a fun game knowing I beat the system. It's also retail therapy. I love to shop and I can't spend all my money in high end children's boutiques, much as I would love to. 


So, hop on over to the Krazy Coupon Lady and spend some time there. Who knows, maybe you'll catch the couponing bug too. 


Marie  

2.27.2011

I want this

Click to read about my Messy Drawers but first check out this fabulous staircase.  Loving it.


Don't open the drawers!


I used to be excessively organized over laundry. Years ago, as a stay-at-home-mom with just one little bitty baby, I washed all her laundry separately in Dreft and ironed, hung, folded each precious outfit. I sanitized every spot and everything Madeline owned gleamed like new. I prided myself to take such care. My little laundry room had shelves and hangers and was a pristine work-area.
  
We had a guest bathroom, and the color scheme was gold and navy.  The towels were folded and piled in opposites: gold, blue, gold, blue, gold, blue. The soap was always carefully replaced upon a little pedestal of perfectly folded washcloths. My linen closet was organized by sheet size and color.


My dresser was super organized with panties rolled up into little tubes and PJs stacked in coordinated sets.  If my husband needed a sweater, I could tell you exactly how many down in the drawer it was, and on which side.  "The blue and gold sweater is on the right, fourth one down." All his socks were rolled. I ironed every businessman shirt (or sent it out to be cleaned and boxed).  Our walk-in closet was worthy of a photograph, with occasion, style, and color coordination.  


Then came baby number two... and I held in there as best I could. 
Then came baby number three... and everything went to pot. 


Today the clothes are lucky to make it to the drawers at all.  I do have a drawer just for undies and socks, but those items are crammed in whilly-nilly and dug through each morning.  The middle drawer, which should be for incidentals like jogging pants or swimsuits, is full of PJs and the PJ drawer is full of everything else.  Nothing is folded...  


Correction, it's folded when it goes in, but after surviving a day in the drawer, it's a jumbled mess.


The girls put away their own laundry.  In two dressers, they do manage to have dedicated drawers (undies,  dance shorts, socks, a drawer just for swimsuits, leggings) but their PJs live in a large plastic blue bin in their brother's closet, and school uniforms are in my back closet next to dad's suits.   Though they have dedicated space to keep things organized, I cannot account for the condition WITHIN the drawers.  Again, jumbled, dug through, and willy-nilly. Half the time they don't get the danged drawers shut anyway; things are so bad in there.


At this stage, I just hate laundry.  And, because I am so smart ridiculous, I spent a bunch of money on a new washer this week... a steam washer.  Will this make me embrace the chore and get back to a love of perfectly pressed and organized clothes?  Heck no.   But--  they will continue to be clean, if wrinkled, and no one ever has to know-- provided they don't open the drawers! 





2.21.2011

Go with the flow

  It seems my life just has a natural flow to it, and things just fall into place. I'm lucky this way, because I often just fly by the seat of my pants. I expect things to work out, and they do.


 I have wanted to buy Alex a power wheels car for his birthday.  He has one- his sister's old Barbie Jeep. It is pretty small, and I painted it black and orange last summer to make it okay for a boy, but it is truly on it's last legs.  The thing is, they are really expensive and we have this big vacation coming up so I am trying to watch what I spend. 


 My eldest had a sleepover last night, and my middle one was feeling left out. She talked me into going to Walmart... which I totally did not feel like doing.  When we got there, they had not one, but two, Power Wheels marked down... they had been the display. When I saw the price, it was easy to say, "SOLD!" 


 I got him a wonderful truck, regularly $350, for $150 bucks... and it is compatible with the battery we already have so...bonus! ...instant back-up.  It felt so good, like a lucky day.  I wanted this thing for him so badly, and it just fell into my lap at a price I could deal with. 

  Right place, right time. It happens a lot to me. I wish the same for everyone! 









2.16.2011

The F-words





Bad Mommy!
 I find myself dropping the F-words 
a little too frequently. 






That's right, French Fries. Fast-Food.



Why junk food? Click here to read more.

2.13.2011

No, really, I am afraid of baboons

I am afraid of balloons. Absolutely hate them. In my worst times of anxiety, I have actually lied to my kids about balloons.


"Oh, those balloons, they're for orphans... Sorry."
"We can only buy balloons on rainy days, Honey."
"No, I said not on rainy days, Honey."


My mother in law used to mail balloons to the girls, the kind you blow up at home. I used to throw them away before the kids saw them. (My God, what was she thinking? Doesn't she know what these things are capable of? They can take out an eye, choke a baby, pose a strangulation risk, and cause an audible popping sound!)


I know it was a crazy fear, but it was my crazy fear. My looney-momma-protect-the-children-even-if-it-means-saying-no-fear.


Admittedly, as the years have gone by, I have gotten better about balloons.  My kids have managed to beg, borrow, steal, or be-gifted enough balloons over time to inhibit my fears and guarantee that their childhood's have not been balloon-free. Plus, I have always allowed mylar balloons.  I mean, I wouldn't want to deny them, right?  And there was one year where I actually put tiny toys into balloons and had all the party-goers sit on them to POP'EM and retrieve their prize.  Wow, that was brave.


Tonight the girls brought home balloons from a birthday party. Nice, Safe, Mylar balloons, which lasted all of a half-hour before they decided to pop them, on purpose, then heal them with duct tape.  It was only an hour before they were in the trash and the little one was asking for more baboons. Because I am now so-grown up and fearless my kids have me trained so well-- I will probably be at the dollar store tomorrow trying to replace the broken baboons.  Do you think they'll laugh at me if I show up in safety goggles and ear plugs? 

Do you like Orange Juice? My son loves it. Click to read more.


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2.12.2011

Hide & Seek, toddler rules

When Alex started wailing for his orange juice today, I didn't think much of it. After all, OJ is the only thing he drinks, so demanding I find it didn't seem like much of a problem. I figured he misplaced his sippy cup... not a big deal. Probably under a toy bear or something.           


I couldn't find it anywhere; so I did what any reasonable mom would do- I made a new one.


"No cup! NOOOOO CUUUUPP! JUICE. BOX." 
No. No. No. No. No and no. No type of cup, no color of cup, no cup was gonna placate him. "No Mommy, notta new juice. I need my orange juice. I need my juice BOOOX." Clearly "box" was the operative word, the one meant to clue me in... but I failed to get it.


This went on
and on
and 
on.



No juice box and Mom with No-Clue.
Why?




BECAUSE HE WAS LOOKING FOR THIS

OMG, look how tiny it is.



Techincally, it is "orange juice"; and technically, it is a "box"; and technically, I don't have a "huge" house; but 2200 square feet to play "Find-The-Juice-Box-When-You-Don't-Even-Know-WTH-You're-Looking-For" is not exactly my idea of a fun afternoon.                                                        
I found it.

This post is sideways...  click to see. 





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2.10.2011

Embrace the spit bubble

My son has a cough. And by cough, I mean nasty, deep, retching, spit out of the lungs, hacking, open-mouthed, toddler cough.  He coughs at me, on me, and next to me. He wakes up in the night, climbs into my bed, and coughs in my hair. He wipes his nose- won't let me wipe his nose- and then hugs me. It's his cold, but he wants to share. What can I say? A toddler who shares, I must be doing something right. 


Tonight I gave him a hot bath to steam some of the congestion out. It's not a pretty picture, but I'll give you a peek:  Runny-nose-and-hacking cough-boy took one boat into the tub and enjoyed himself for a little while.  Then he coughed like crazy, produced a large spit bubble, and deposited said bubble into the bath.


Alex, don't do that.
I have a watey, mommy. It watey in my mouth. (water).
Ok, spit in in here (I hand him a cup).
No
Okay, spit it in here. (I hand him a tissue).
No! 
But, Alex, that's the bath. We don't spit in the bath.
It watey, Mommy. It deep, I needa put my watey inna tub. 


Some might say that's just plain gross; but raising kids isn't for the weak. It's not clean, not perfect, and definitely not sanitary.  It is funny, however, provided you have the right attitude. You have to embrace the grime... yes, actually embrace it.


My grandmother used to say, "Everyone eats a peck of dirt in their lifetime." That's because she had nine kids and didn't bat an eye if someone ate something dropped onto the floor/driveway/playground/litter box.  


When my first child was born, she dropped her sippy cup and I  gave her a fresh (if not hermetically sealed) one as a replacement until I could boil the germs away on the dropped one.  When the second was born, I picked up the dropped item, rinsed it in the sink, and handed it back.  By child number three, I looked down at the item, casually picked it up, blew on it, and handed it back.  "It's good for the immune system."  Now I am certainly not the first mom to relay that little quip about the cups and the reason is because it's true.  As the kids grow, and survive our mistakes, we realize that they are going to be okay... and sure, a little dirt never hurt anyone.  


But I do draw the line at germs.  Dirt is dirt, but germs are...  germy.  When my kids get a cold, I inquire everywhere... who had a cold.. who was sick at school...  Oh God! Did we go to Mcdonald's??  I will track that germ down and well... do nothing... but I like to track them down.  I like to know the origin of the germ so I can avoid it next time, or at least have a source of blame. 


So what's the line on Alex's spitting in the tub?  Gross, germy, or plain old-fashioned humorous kid-dirt?  How do you find the "right" mommy attitude? The attitude that isn't grossed out by kid's actions but also isn't completely immune to them either.  I guess, for me, it's a matter of weighing the harm.  Is spitting in the tub likely to be harmful, cause bodily injury, or spread infection? No. Okay, then, file it under "Funny".



2.09.2011

Instant party. Instant headache.


video

Wordless Wednesday?  This video nails it!

Okay, so it's sideways.  That's so it hurts less-  
Honestly, I can't fix everything. 

Have you read about the Spit Bubble

2.07.2011

It's not dirty, it's just "lived in"



House cleaning is not the bane of my existence. It is my existence. Quite simply, it's what I do.  I have difficulty understanding how some moms have spotless houses and still maintain employment outside the home. I assume it's because there is no one in the house all day to mess it up.  But at this house, I am home, Hubbie works from home, the little man is certainly always at home, and the girls are here when not in lessons or school.  That's five-- with no daycare, no nanny, no maid. 


My house is constantly being cleaned, yet it is never clean. I will finish one room, walk into another, work in there, return to the first room and think, "Woah, didn't I just do this?"  I have an aunt who once said, "Why bother?"  
Well, I bother because it's my job-- The job I chose and the job I like to do. I just wish that when it was done, it would stay done.  For a day, at least. 


My girls have to clean their room every Saturday. Every single Saturday, unless there are plans, in which case they do it on Sunday.   This is, and has been, the rule... since ever, like always.


Every Saturday, they are surprised.  You want us to do what? Really???  But Moooooom, do we have to?  This leads to:


"It's her mess, not mine," and 
"I want my own room."     


Still, despite the procrastination, the arguments, the accusations, the frustration, and the surprise, they manage to get it done. They earn an allowance for the few chores they are assigned, and most weeks it goes into the bank. So, by Saturday afternoon the girl's room is clean.


By Sunday afternoon, the girl's room is messy.


At the party last week, one little friend; one whom I adore, not only because she is sweet, but because she is a bit outspoken like me and definitely not-afraid to put-it-out-there; this one little girl says, "I never wanted to say it at your house, because I didn't want to embarrass you, but their room is messy." 


Thank you, dear child, for not embarrassing me at my house-- saying it in front of twenty other people is certainly the kinder, gentler way to let me know that I have trouble keeping up with my kid's messes. 


But I am not embarrassed. The great thing about being a mom is that:


    There is always someone to blame 

Late? I'm so sorry, I couldn't get out on time because of the kids.
Forgot to do something? I apologize, there is so much going on with the kids.
Not return a phone call? Really, I meant to, but the kids had homework.
Dirty Dishes? It's the kids.
Floors need sweeping when someone stops in? Don't mind the mess... it's the kids you know... and the dogs. 

It's not me. I know that it's not me.

I gripe to Steve that while I love my job, and I live 100% of everyday to take care of my family, there is a fine line between taking care of them and being the servant. I don't mind cleaning-- I do mind picking up 10 pair of shoes out of eight rooms, none of which are in a closet where they belong.  I don't mind doing dishes, but I do mind picking them up out of the toy room (see my post here: my magic sink).  I don't mind cleaning up toys, but I want to clean them up from the toy room floor, not the living room couch. And, don't get me started on where they deposit laundry (on the floor, any floor). 

But Steve puts it in perspective. He reminds me that I leave coffee cups everywhere. It's true, I set them down nearby wherever I am in the house, move away from them, forget where they are; and pour another cup.  This is why I have about 30 mugs in my cupboard-- well, 2 mugs in the cupboard, 20 in the dishwasher and at least 6 around the house. 

But it is my only fault.  Other than this one idiosyncrasy, I am very organized.  If you ask me where something is, I can tell you in seconds flat. 

Which brings me to:

There is a place for everything and everything in it's place

I think this is what drives me up the wall the most. Not the messes, I can manage that okay. It's the not-putting-it-back-where-it-came-from phenomenon that pervades my daily life. 

When I want my black sharpie, I go to my pen cup. When I want the tweezers, I open the bathroom closet and look on the back of the shelf in their little holder. When I want the butter, I look in the drawer with all the dairy foods. That's where I left it, that's where it belongs, that is it's place. 

But these things are never there. 
Why?
Because some little someone used it/took it/ borrowed it/lost it and now because 

 There is always someone to blame

It is usually impossible to find the culprit... I need all my time to find the item.  And that brings me back to this: 

"It's her mess, not mine," and "I want my own room."

I want my own room too. Heck, I'd settle for one tiny space--  maybe just having my desk hands-off to all comers. I tried labeling things. I wrote, "Mom's" on my biggest, best, new scissors.

Tonight, Hubbie borrowed the scissors. He, unlike the children, did not abscond with them leaving me to wonder where or who took them. He's too smart, too funny, and he knows me too well.  No, he took the scissors, said, 


"I'm taking these scissors."
"Okay, but put them back." 
"I don't know, I think I'm going to cross out 'Mom's' and write 'Dad's'."

That was hours ago-- and the scissors are not back.  I know because I had to cut open a package and I had to do it with kids blunt craft scissors.  What package you ask?


A new thermometer.  I had to check Alex's temp and found the baby ear thermometer in the girl's room- not working.  Of course, its home is in the bathroom closet; but that's the whole point of this post.  


"Which of you took the thermometer?" 
"Madeline"
"No, Sophia!"


Maybe sometimes there isn't anyone else to blame. Maybe sometimes it is what it is, a scrambled family with too much going on and too much stuff to keep track of.  Either way, I think I need to buy new scissors. 


I like things organized. I don't get to have that right now. Maybe when my kids are grown and out of the house, I will find a way to have it my way. Meanwhile, I struggle along the best I can. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I will be one of those moms who rewrites the family history.  When my kids say the house got messy, I'll just live in denial. "What? Our house messy? No. I always kept it clean."


It's the cleaning I'll remember, not the clean.  Irma Bombeck once said, "Cleaning your house while kids still live in it is like shoveling the walk while it's still snowing."


Well, it's snowing here everyday and try as I might, I can't find the darned shovel.  It's not where I left it, and I forgot to label it "Mom's".  

If this sounds like your house, then you can probably relate to this to: Too busy to eat?

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You have one too many children, Madame.

We are planning a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland, Paris. Yes, Paris, France.
I know; It's totally nuts but go with me on this one.


Planning has not been easy.   We had special tickets that had to be ordered through the travel agent with my husband's company, on multiple accounts-- two tickets for us, then three for the children. The travel agent was zero-help and it took Steve the better part of a week to untangle this one.  At this time, plane tickets are ordered and we assume we are on the same plane and in nearby seats; God willing it all goes as smooth as it looks on paper.


Passports. Oy Vey, what a mess!  Mine and the two girls were expired and Alex never had one.  Have you ever imagined getting an almost-three-year-old to hold a pose for a passport photo?  As if.  No, our little King covered his face with his hands and wailed for over and hour. How am I supposed to explain to the customs check-point that the baby with his hands over is face is in fact my kid?  Ultimately, we sat him in his stroller and the two girls held a white sheet behind him (it has to be a smooth white background) while I pretended to hit the photographer in the head with a ball.  Now this got his attention and made him laugh, but what does it say about him and his future as a diplomat? I'm not sure I want to go there... but that sticky little point aside, we managed to get some shots.


$15 per person for photos= $60.  Two hours of time.


We went to the post office and the gentleman in charge rejected three sets of Alex's photos before telling us that "maybe" this one set will be okay.


$80 for me
$110  x 3 for children
$25 to post master
$75 to department of who-knows-what
$5.40 in postage
___________
More than $515 in fees and we don't even know if they're going to pass. If they don't we can add expedite fees too, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the desk clerk  at the, uh,  international bureau of identity and passport control, clearance, and approval- the one in charge of photos- that guy, has kids and a sense of humor.  The mega-afro Alex was sporting that day is not going to add any points in his favor, I assure you.  I can hear it now. White, blond, afro? Who are these people?


Which leads me to:


Booking a Hotel Room in Paris For A Family of Five


There is not much new development in Paris. Hotels in Paris are old. According to what I have learned, most beautiful boutique hotels, the sort you want to stay in when in the City of Lights, are 10x10 cells with a bed and nothing else. Sounds romantic, yes?  But all these rooms for two in this romantic city ought to lead for a need for rooms for five, or four, or three at least, right? Well, you can find a limited number of rooms for four. Either overpriced or dumpy, take your pick... it doesn't matter to me because...


I have one too many children.


My understanding now is that most families with children must book two rooms. (Or three!)  Finding inter-connecting rooms is difficult, and you cannot guarantee it with online booking.  I spent Monday- Thursday looking for a hotel room for five. I spent Friday calling Paris asking where to find a hotel room for five.  Here is what they told me.


Me: Can I get a room for four and use a baby cot?
Msgr Frenchie: It is not possible. (insert beautiful accent here)
Me: Can the baby share my bed like he does at home?
Msgr Frenchie: No, he must have his own bed.
Me: But you don't have a room for five?
Msgr Frenchie: In Paris, we can give you a "family room" that is two rooms shared by one family.
Me: Okay, but they will be interconnecting?
Msgr Frenchie: I'm very sorry, but rooms in the area do not have interconnecting doors. We will put your children on the same floor as you, however.
Me: I don't think that will work for us. Can you recommend any hotel that can accommodate us?
Msgr Frenchie: The problem is, you have one too many children, Madame.


Okay! What was I thinking?
"No, Steve, we can't have another baby--
What if we ever decide to go to Paris!?"


I finally settled on a big international chain hotel. It won't be "French" but it will be in Paris, France.  Of the five hotels this chain has in Paris, one of them has a suite for six.  I booked it and tried not to faint at the price.


Next I have to book the Disneyland Hotel, which I know has rooms for as few as one or as many as ten. Ten!  Talk about extremes, right?   It's not like an international tourist destination should have any consistency. We'll get the park tickets as part of the hotel  package and that will be one more thing off the list.


I've already started packing for the plane.


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