Monday, November 29, 2010

My Kind of Day

It was a cozy Sunday at our house.

Inside, we were all bundled up watching A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey.
Outside, we had snow flakes on and off all day.

On the stove was a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
My Nana's recipe...

I love being Italian.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Thanksgiving Weekend

It's been a very relaxing enjoyable long weekend. Ben has had 6 days off from school, Emily 5 and David 4 days off from work. We've been watching movies, shopping and eating leftovers. Life is good.

Here's Thanksgiving Day...
It started with the Macy's parade. Ben was in heaven.

We loaded up and drove down to my Dad and Suzy's in Phoenix, an almost 2 hour ride.
My Aunt Rosie and her husband John drove in from California.

Suzy worked her butt off for several days getting everything ready. Don't let all these ladies in the kitchen fool you. Rosie, Emily and I didn't lift a finger.

Aunt Rosie getting some baby love.

Suzy bought Ben some costumes after Halloween. He quickly became a ninja and then Darth Vader.

Here's my Mom with my kiddos.

My sister with her son Rocco.

My beautiful nieces... (Joey's daughter Auna on the left/Tammy's daughter Tiffany on the right)

At one point, I couldn't find Emily. It's a large house, and after I searched, I headed to the backyard, not there. And guess where I found her? In the driver's seat of my Dad's BMW convertible.

My brother and Dad playing with my sons.

Then it was time to head back home. The kids watched The Grinch, but I think everyone was exhausted.

On the last day of this mini vacation, we wanted to hang up the outside Christmas lights, but it's 33 degrees out. I'm thinking it can wait until next weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three's Company

I love the hours when everyone is home together and we have nothing to do. The kids kick back and enjoy being together.

We put up our tree last weekend. It was cold and rainy and we had nothing to do. This weekend will be outside lights. In any case, the kids are comfy under a heated blanket watching Jim Carrey's The Grinch. Popcorn came after the photo.

Emily is so responsible. She is off school today for the holiday. David left work at 7:40 and she was the only one up. David started to tell her the rules. But, she cut him off. "I know Dad...when Caillou is over or if Noah starts crying, go wake up Mommy." And she did just that. I would never leave her home alone babysitting yet as she's only 6, but I have 100% confidence that I could leave her in charge of Ben and Noah for at least an hour and everything would be just fine.

Emily was giving Noah a ride on the teeter totter this morning.

I think he was loving it.

I made them all toast for breakfast. Noah gets just butter. Emily likes peanut butter. Ben likes cinnamon toast.

I'm so blessed to have these three kids. They are the best.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful

Thanksgiving to me has nothing to do with the meal. Actually, the meal is probably the least exciting thing to me. Turkey is good. I like potatoes and soft rolls. I don't care for stuffing or dressing. And don't even put green beans on my plate. The juice might seep into something good and ruin it completely. I don't really care for pie, any pie. Love fruit, just don't bake it. I'd rather have an apple than an apple pie. You get my point.

What I love about Thanksgiving is spending time with my family and reflecting on what I'm thankful for. I love that the kids are getting a little older and they are enjoying the holidays more and understanding what they are about.

Ben made this in preschool today. It sums him up perfectly at the age of 4.

And Emily made this today. I'm so proud of her. She's been working hard on writing nice and finger spacing and punctuation. I'm so impressed.

I'm thankful for my kids. They are awesome.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Walking

Noah turned 15 months last week, technically 13 months as the Dr. said they adjust his age for development through age 2.

You'd think with a big brother and sister around, he would've been off and running months ago to keep up with the action. But, this little man does what he wants when he wants. He's very head strong. I don't know where he gets that from. Oh yes, me!

He took his first steps today.
video
He went from that to this in an hour. He looks a little like a drunken sailor, but he's getting it.
video
Other than getting out of diapers, this is the last real baby milestone.
I'm a little sad. But proud of my little monkey for finally having the confidence to take those first few steps.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lucky

About 18 months ago, I started reading The Pioneer Woman's blog. She does a few giveaways a month and I always enter. Last year I won a Kitchenaid Mixer and at Christmas time, we won a Chef's Catalog $250 gift card. She has tons of followers now, so to be the lucky winner out of thousands of entries is shocking.

Then a few months ago, I won a $40 gift card to CSN stores. We used it to get a new mini food processor and a coffee grinder, which I thank heaven for every morning.

I've been following another blog since the beginning of the year. I had it bookmarked and I'd check it every few days. Although, I just added it now to my blog list. Blogs are funny. I start to follow some strangers blog and either I end up loving that person and feeling like I've known them for years or I find out that I'm really not that into them. It's nothing personal.

Anyway, Kelle is a Mom whose world got rocked when she unexpectedly had a baby with down syndrome. Her photography is beautiful. Her fashion sense is trendy without being over the top and it's doable, even for us stay at home Mom's. She doesn't paint life as all sunshine and lollipops, but tries to enjoy the small things. And that's why I love her blog. You can read it here. Oh and she just had a giveaway and guess who one? Me! Yep, I got a $50 gift certificate to Lilian Eve Designs. Awesome stuff. And I seriously need something spectacular to jazz up my Old Navy tees. I think I may love this win the most because it's MINE ALL MINE! No cookware, nothing practical, just something to make me feel pretty.

And every stay at home Mom needs a new fiber necklace to make herself feel pretty. Plus it will cover up the baby drool stains on the front of my shirt.

I'm totally thinking this is a must and maybe this one with my hair color, I can rock lemongrass.

With all this luck, I should head to Vegas. I'm thinking I'd look great wearing this icy blue hair pretty on The Strip.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brushing

Noah likes to do what his big brother and sister are doing.

And brushing his teeth is no exception.
video
Did you notice at the end of the video, Noah looks at me and sees the camera and gives me that cheesy smile? He's a riot.

I cut out the middle sixty seconds and took a picture. It all looked like this.

And this is the finale. Spitting and all.
video

My kids use an electric toothbrush. I just feel it cleans their teeth faster and easier. A few months ago, I gave Ben a regular toothbrush and he just held it to his teeth and told me the batteries were broken. Brushing teeth is becoming a lost art. I can already hear me talking to my grandchildren now. "When I was a little girl, we had to MOVE our arm to brush our teeth, back and forth really fast." Gosh, we had it rough.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holy Sciatica!

I woke up on Saturday morning with a pain in my butt.
Literally.
I thought it was muscle related. It went from my rear down to my knee. It got progressively worse through the day. By that night, I was in severe pain. I couldn't sit or lay down. Stretching my leg killed. My husband went to our friends and got some Ibuprofen and a prescription strength muscle relaxer. I took the muscle relaxer and hoped for a great night sleep.

What I got was anything but. It was obviously not a muscle as that medicine did nothing. At 3 in the morning, I took the Ibuprofen and diagnosed myself via WebMD. It was my sciatic nerve in my back. I had all the symptoms:
* Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
* Burning or tingling down the leg
* Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
* A constant pain on one side of the rear
* A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
* Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body. Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes. For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating.

Mine was in that debilitating category. I "slept" with a heating pad on all night. And I literally had to pick up my leg by my pajamas as I could not move it. I felt paralyzed. Any little movement sent me yelping in pain. I was on the verge of going to the emergency room.

The next day brought more pain. I took Ibuprofen every 6 hours which helped some. Chronic pain sucks and I was ready to find the nearest medicinal marijuana shop. I couldn't even put on socks or sit on the toilet without crying.

Sunday night, my husband called his sister. She's a physical therapist. She had shown David a few exercises to do while we were in California to help his back. David told her what my problem was and she suggested two exercises. You do each exercise 10 times each. On the hour every hour. Except while you are sleeping.

The first exercise counters the 1,000 times a day that I bend over. Seriously, you don't think about it. But just emptying the dishwasher is about 25 bends. All this bending is probably what aggravated my sciatic nerve in the first place.
***Object in picture appears fatter on a widescreen.***

The second exercise is to stretch the area that is hurting. The first time I did this one I cried it hurt so bad. I couldn't even get my leg up on the table. David had to help me. You lean over until you feel a nice stretch, 10 times.
***Setting the timer on your camera will give you this expression.***

So, I did as I was told. Exercise at 7:00. And 8:00. And 9:00. And 10:00. By the last one, I was already starting to feel better. I could get my own leg on the table. The next morning, I was 75% better. I kept doing my exercises all day yesterday, but the routine of my day was countering my good efforts. By last night, I couldn't put on my socks again.

But, I keep doing my exercises. Today, I'm about 90% better. I can't believe that some very basic exercises helped me that quickly. Well I can believe it because they did. And that's why I'm writing this post. Maybe some other poor soul will do a google search at 3 AM and with this info, they'll be feeling like a new person by 7!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Noah's Smile

All parents love it when their baby smiles. Noah has a great smile that melts my heart. But whenever he sees the camera, he smiles like this.

I'm not kidding.
video
Here's hoping he outgrows this phase.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Coupon High and Low

This is the last I am going to speak of coupons for a while. I think I burned myself out. And good thing, my pantry and 2 refrigerator/freezers are bursting. I don't want to even look at another coupon for awhile.

This is my last shopping trip to the store:

There is a 15 pound turkey which you can't really see in the back.
These are items I normally buy with the exception of a few items that were free, like the bottles of tea and boxed potatoes which will end up at the food bank. I needed to get to $100 to get my free turkey, so I did what I had to do.

$201 worth of stuff.
I paid $36.

And I'm done.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Seven

David and I have been married for 7 years today.

If I knew then what I know now, I'd do it all over again.
In a second.
And not change a thing.

Love you babe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holiday Photo Card, Our History

Sometime in my 20's, I started sending out Christmas cards to friends and family. I was single and it felt like the adult thing to do. Once we had kids, I became a fan of the holiday photo card. I wasn't blogging yet, so it was a good time to send out a picture. It just felt more personal, and who are we kidding...I wanted to show off my babes.

The first year we met, I did not do photo cards. We had only been dating for a little over a month and I think David would have ran for the hills if I put us on a card together. If I had, this would have been the photo I used from December 2002.

Let's all bow our heads and mourn the loss of our youth. We were thin (dare I say fit?), wrinkle free and well rested. And don't get me started about the lack of gray hairs. I'm almost shedding a tear.

The following year, we got married. I didn't send out photo cards that year either. We had just come back from a 17 day honeymoon. We were training for a half marathon, and I got pregnant which conveniently got me out of the half marathon. I was a little busy. But, this would have been the picture I used from November 2003.

David did run that marathon 2 months later. 13.2 miles, God love him.

By the following Christmas, we had a family and the holiday photo card tradition started. Thanksgiving, 2004.

By the next year, I was 8 months pregnant with Ben. December, 2005.

Christmas 2006, well the kids certainly look happy or not.

The following year, I had to give up control. The "perfect" family photo was not going to happen in 2007.

October of 2008, was a great family photo...well for David and I. And who cares where Ben is looking or that Emily has a finger in her mouth when David and I look fantastic! Can I crop the kids out of the photo? I learned that multiple picture photo cards are a must.

And by the following year, Noah joined our family. Christmas 2009.

I love looking through all the photo cards and seeing how our family has changed over the years.

I read about a photo deal through Shutterfly this year. If you blog about it, you get 50 free photo cards. And you know this coupon queen is all about free. You can check it out here. Shutterfly also offers photo gifts and calendars. Which are always nice gifts for the grandparents.

I already have my eye on this lovely multi-photo:

Picking out a card is the easy part. Shutterfly has tons. You can check them out here.
Taking the picture is another story.
I used to try to coordinate outfits.
Now, I just hope no one is crying, including me.

Personality

Noah's personality is really starting to come through.

Give him a pen and a piece of paper and he tries to draw or write. He does this on our dry erase board too. Maybe he'll be an artist one day. Of course he'll need to learn to turn the pen around and get the cap off, but it's good enough for now.

And he'll always oblige me in taking a few silly photos.



Until he's had enough...

And that's about how I feel today too!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Books, Tomatoes and Chores

It was a gorgeous weekend. Not too cold, not too warm, a slight breeze...beautiful. It's suppose to drop 10 degrees this week, so lows at night will be about 23 degrees. We spent much of Saturday morning removing anything left in the garden. The kids wanted to help and by help I mean lay on the hammock and have me get them books. The sun was really intense so I also had to put up an umbrella and get Ben sunglasses. His eyes are more sensitive to the sun. They have a rough life.

While they were relaxing, David and I were picking all the tomatoes out of the garden. Fried green tomatoes anyone?

There are easily over 500 tomatoes. They'll probably take until Christmas to ripen up. Oh well they are red and green, they'll fit right in with my Christmas decorations.

I asked Emily to feed the dog on Saturday night while I was doing dishes and David was wrestling with Ben and Noah. She pitched a huge fit. And I decided their time of doing nothing is over. I had chores as a kid and I never had an allowance. We were all expected to pitch in. And that's what my kids are going to start doing. They are now clearing dishes from the table at meal time and they are doing any other chores that I think they can do throughout the day.

They put away the clean laundry. Notice the costume...Walmart clearance...and we are all done with costumes for next year for $8. Even Noah wanted to help. And by help I mean pull every piece of laundry out of the basket and throw it on the floor.

I even had Em do the windows. Sure she needed David to help her a little bit, but as long as they are trying and not complaining about it, I don't care.

And Ben helped me give those 500 tomatoes a bath. Emily also feeds the dog now at night without complaining. I like chores. I like them even better when my kids are helping me do them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Couponing 101

If you don't need to coupon, this post will probably bore you to tears. Feel free to just keep on going to the next blog. No hard feelings. Or stay and read and maybe I'll convert you.

I'm writing this to help a few people who have commented or e-mailed about what I'm doing. Basically, what I'm doing is saving a boatload of money.

For example, this was today's stop at the grocery store. There are 2 roasts along with 2 steaks, and the rest you can see. The total for this would have been $73. I spent $19.

I got these items free (left to right):
Taco Bell cherry limeade (okay that was after the grocery store trip)
2 Renuzit air freshener
3 Best Life Butter
1 Toothbrush (couldn't resist)
2 Green Giant Broccoli Steamers
1 Quick Cook Pasta
2 cans of Campbell's Chunky Chicken Noodle soup
Seriously, it was all free. Actually, I made 21 cents on the pasta.
The roasts were on BOGO (lingo for buy 1 get 1 free).
The 2 steaks were in the special "manager's reduced" section. Basically, a sale by date of tomorrow, but they looked pretty darn good to me. Especially the price...they were originally $18, I got them for $8.

In the beginning, I spent hours on this. Way too many hours. It was almost overwhelming. Here are the best web sites that I have found to go to, and to the friends that I sent a different link to, scratch that. I found an even better site. But first things first...the coupons.

Sunday Paper
You need to get the Sunday paper. I pay $1.50 a week and I get Wednesday and Sunday home delivery. If you don't want to subscribe to the paper, you can get the coupons other ways. If you have a Starbucks, McDonalds, Wildflower Bread Company, etc nearby, stop by on Sunday afternoon and you'll likely score several inserts that people have left behind in the paper they read. If you are friendly with your neighbors, ask them. You know who gets the paper, so mention that you are couponing and they may offer up their copies. I also just listed an ad on Craigslist asking anybody in my neighborhood if they wouldn't mind recycling them to me. I did this a few hours ago, so I don't know if anyone will offer their coupons. But there has to be some Moms or Grandmas out there who would love to help out a nice family, such as ours, by leaving their inserts at their front door. It can't hurt right? But honestly, I'm doing extremely well on my one copy of coupons. The rest is just gravy.

Clipping Coupons
You don't have to tell me, clipping coupons is a pain in the butt. Who wants to spend hours doing that every Sunday? Not me. So, I go through once and clip the products that I normally use. I put them in a coupon organizer. The rest of the coupons stay as they are. There are two main coupon companies that publish the Sunday inserts, Red Plum and Smart Source. Write the date on the front of each insert, 11/7 or whatever. Put them in a shoe box or file folder.

When you look at the blogs I will list, they will tell you exactly where to find the coupon. Such as RP (for Red Plum) 10/17 (for Oct. 17). All you have to do is go to that insert, find the coupon and cut it out. A lot of times, they will have a link to a printable online coupon.

Now, you don't want to buy a bunch of stuff that you won't use. If it's free, I'll get it no matter what. I can always donate it. But don't be afraid to switch brands. If you buy Wishbone salad dressing normally, but Ken's is a great deal, try it. I'm not brand loyal. I'll go generic in a second for the best deal.

If you are in Arizona, by far the best site I found is Juli at Bargain Believer. She seriously spoon feeds you the information, eat it up!

Nationally, there are several sites I like.
If there is a deal at CVS, you can find it at Simply CVS. One time she even mentioned that when you buy the razor check the package for a free shaving cream coupon. I wouldn't have even noticed because a few thieves had stolen the front coupons, but low and behold in the back was a razor with that exact coupon on it. Nothing gets by Cheryl. Also, CVS is one of the most coupon friendly stores out there.

I don't get to Target as much as I'd like as it's an hour round trip, but I still like Totally Target. Target has tons of online coupons and they allow you to stack them with a manufacturer coupon.

If you are not in Arizona and looking for local grocery store deals, go to Be CentsAble. It's a web page that lists web pages. You can search your state and find what store you go to and you'll find numerous sites to look at.

And I can't not mention The Coupon Mom. I had seen her on Oprah a long time ago and she helped get me motivated and learn the basics. You have to join her site (for free), but she does have some great info and a coupon database. But, it's not as thorough as my local site that I listed above.

You must be organized. I use a small card box that I made tabs for each section out of index cards. I sorted it by the way my Fry's is laid out because I shop there most...produce, bread, baking... After baking, I have several sub categories, cake and cookie mixes, flour & sugar, then the rest just go behind the basic baking tab. It makes it way easier to find what you are looking for if you are organized. I also have tabs at the back for all the different stores I shop...Fry's, Walmart, Safeway, etc. This way if I read about a deal for a store, I'll pull the coupon and put it behind that stores tab. When I'm there, I already know what I'm looking for.

I look at the web page to find the deals for the store I'm going to. I print up any online coupons. I load coupons to my Fry's card. And I'm all set. Always bring your coupon box with you as there is almost always unadvertised specials that you have a coupon for.

Couponing is not for wimps. If it were too simple, everyone would do it. It takes a little work and time and it'll pay off for you.
It certainly has for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pinching Pennies

Another month has come and gone and I'm keeping up with my couponing. I'm trying to cut our previous spending of $935 per month. I was very successful last month, and managed to save almost half on our grocery bill.

I knew this month would be harder. We were going to be on vacation for a week which meant eating out and trips to California's higher priced grocery stores. I tried to bring what I could, but space was limited in our mini van just with the necessitates. I'm still happy with how things turned out. We spent $608 on groceries for the month of October and while in Cali, we only spent $133 on eating out. It was unavoidable at the zoo, sea world, etc. Plus you HAVE to eat a pizza as big as a stove at least once in your life. Hopefully, twice!

I never calculated eating out in the original $935 average as we rarely eat out, maybe once a month. With that being said, I won't count it in this months total, and we saved $327 on groceries.

I'm getting pretty good at stacking sales and coupons and which web sites to visit to find where the deals are and where online coupons are. I'm still learning though. And I think this month may be my best yet. I stocked up on tons of canned goods, pasta and other items at the store yesterday. I spent $43 (which included the Toy Story 3 DVD..I had a coupon) and saved $89 in coupons and bonus buys, etc. I love that.

The biggest lesson I learned is that tons of things are free. And when I say free, I mean free. The item is $1 and you have a coupon that can be double/tripled to $1, so it's free. Or you can get online coupons for free items that cost way more than a dollar. Here is a picture of just some of the items that I got for free last month.

After I took the picture, I realized I forgot the men's body wash, 2 rolls of paper towels, gum...

If you coupon, you never have to buy another toothbrush, toothpaste, dish soap, soap, dental floss... I'm kicking myself that I didn't do this years ago.

My biggest problem now is realizing that I might need to join coupon anonymous. Seriously, it's become an addiction. I guess it's a healthy one, but now that I'm getting better at it I don't think I will need to spend as much time researching everything. Hey, my husband has his new car show. I have my coupons. We're even.

Last night when I showed David more free toothpaste, he told me he was cutting me off. I'm not allowed to buy toothpaste anymore. We have a 3 year supply now. I told him I would continue to buy it if it's free and I'll donate it to a local charity.

But only after I build our stock pile a little more...

Around Our House

Noah is getting into everything. I can't get anything done unless he is undoing something else. If I want to put on make up and brush my teeth in the morning, my bathroom will inevitably look like this.

And when I'm doing dishes, he'll get into something else.

It would be very frustrating if he wasn't so cute.
**************
Ben watched one of the Spiderman movies the other night with Toby McGuire. We had shown him some of the action parts before, but he wasn't interested in anything else. Now he will watch the entire movie, and he did just that three times yesterday. I know the movies are PG-13, but it's really just for violence and his animated cartoons are just as violent (if not more) as this movie.

I picked him up from school today and we had a conversation that went like this:
Me: You're the best Ben.
Ben: Not everyone thinks I'm cool.
Me: Who doesn't think you're cool?
Ben: That guy at school.
Me: Which guy at school.
Ben: The one on the glider.
Me: (Did he say glider?) You mean the one on the slide?
Ben: No, the one on the glider...outside the window.
Me: There was a guy on a glider outside the window at preschool?
Ben: Yes and he said he was going to hurt me.
Me: What did this guy look like?
Ben: He was green.
Me: (I'm still confused) He's green and he's on a glider?
Ben: (very frustrated that I'm not following along) Yes and he throws pumpkin bombs.
Me: Are you talking about the Green Goblin?
Ben: Yes
Me: You know he is not real, right? That what you watch on TV is pretend?
Ben: No.

And I now understand that the PG13 rating has nothing to do with violence and everything to do with not being old enough to differentiate fact from fiction.
I guess I don't need to wonder what he daydreams about while he is supposed to be learning about the letter B.

And today we will be watching Sesame Street.
*****************
David has never been much of a guys guy. He doesn't drink beer and I had to explain what first and 10 meant during the Super Bowl. He can tell you what channel Food Network is on, but he's never turned on ESPN. Now, he likes the occasional Diamondback game and he gets into playoffs for baseball and hockey, but that's about it.

Out of no where, he sets up the DVR to record some car show, Top Gear, on the BBC. What? What? What? He's watching it every night and laughing while I play scrabble on the laptop. We used to watch Dancing With The Stars together. Who is this guy and what has he done with my husband?

I'm going to overlook the car show, but if he brings home a case of Bud Light that isn't for making chili or marinating brats, I'm going to have to find out what happened to my husband.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

She Makes Us Proud

I had my first parent teacher conference last week. We had one in Kindergarten, but David went to it. So there I was sitting in a chair three times too small listening to Emily's teacher say some pretty wonderful things about my daughter. I was so proud of her. She is such a good student and tries her best.

Her report card was pretty darn impressive. I don't think I ever got grades this high and I doubt David did either. I usually got O's and S's, but never 21 O's and 1 S+.

Then the teacher showed me her reading stats. She's already reading 47 words per minute. At this time of year, they want less than 20. By the end of the year, 60.


And all this hard work earned her Student of the Month for August! August! That's awesome!

So, we all went to the assembly yesterday and watched her get recognized for Student of the Month.

And she also got Perfect Attendance for the first quarter. Last year, she was sick at least one day out of every quarter. So far, so good this year.

They called all the names of the kids who had perfect attendance and they stood up. Out of the entire K, 1, 2 and 3 grades, maybe 40 kids stood up.

She is doing so well in school and we are so proud of her.
Great job Em!