Thursday, April 29, 2010

Out on the Town

Short(ish) post this evening, it's getting late and I'm all tired out. We did our first actual enumerating today for the Census, and I was happy because I got to start out very close to home. Things went well! I had to stop when I ran out of forms, but I got some good work done and more importantly, people talked to me. That was my big worry, what if people wouldn't answer the Census? But so far, so good. And I'm in walking distance of both home and the training place for the moment, so though it will be a bit of a hike to get home from training and then go out enumerating while M has the car tomorrow, it will not be impossible. And he has promised that he will make sure to get the car registration renewed, too.

Tomorrow is my last day of training, and then my time will be my own. That will be good, because it means that we can get back on our normal life schedule again. That will also be not-so-good because it means I need to regulate my own time to get my work done. I want to get at least 20 hours a week of work, and hopefully more, which means a lot of weekend work, and all the evening work I can squeeze in before dark. I think we're going to have some tiring days ahead. But the money, the money! I think that once I've got my first paycheck in hand, I will have a fresh surge of energy.

M and Robert spent the day together, and did pretty well. Robert didn't sleep in the afternoon again, so he was kind of fussy. We need to get the poor kid back on his schedule. When I got home, I fed him and he fell asleep in my lap. So I took pictures of him, obviously. =) He got just an absolute ton of food today, silly baby, and processed a great deal of it just before bed, much to Daddy's chagrin. But eventually he went to bed, clean and relatively  quiet, and played with his cats for awhile before falling asleep. It was very nice and peaceful.

A Prince Among Babies

Well, I was back in census training today, but apparently Robert had a very good day. M took him to school with him and made quite a splash amongst the students. He slept through the lecture M was TAing, then sat nicely on his lap while M was teaching his class. Everyone thought he was extremely adorable. They're totally right, of course. All the travel made him a little fussy in the evening, but not so fussy that he didn't calm down and get smiley again for awhile when I gave him a baby massage and blew raspberries on his tummy. We've been having to put him down earlier this week, which is a decidedly mixed blessing. I like the longer evening, but it's hard to get him down when the room is still so bright, no matter how tired and cranky he is. And of course going to bed an hour earlier means he's up an hour earlier, too. Urgh. Mostly I'm just glad he's sleeping through the night. He's always been good about that since almost the beginning, knock on wood.

Tomorrow's going to be a bit more complicated than I thought; apparently we're not just training in one place all four days, we're actually going out into the field, and I need to get there somehow. Actually Thursday won't be so bad, since M doesn't have class, but Friday is going to be a serious problem. Maybe I can try to get a ride from one of the other trainees to wherever my assigned area is. Or maybe I can beg and bat my eyelashes and get someplace in easy walking distance. Wherever I go, I will not be able to share many stories of my adventures, because we are sworn to strict confidentiality for 72 years. Bummer. But it's really not so bad, and when it's mind-numbingly tedious, I remind myself that I'm making more money than I have in a very long time, money that will fund a number of my near-future ambitions such as life insurance and car...

Crap! Just remembered I have to get the car registered! I wish I could do that online. I definitely do not want to be driving illegally while I am working for the government, or any time, really. I'm going to have to check and see if they have Saturday hours, otherwise I'll send M over there with the baby and a check on Friday after his class. We are rapidly running out of April! Anyway, that's one more good thing that me having a job will help us have money for. I can put up with some tedium for that. But I really, really miss the baby when I'm working. At least pumping wasn't as bad today, I took a sheet and hung it around my pumping area, which I prepped before the start of the day and left in place till the end of my last session. That helped quite a bit, though I'm still not getting as much as I used to. I used to be able to do four ounces reliably, now I'm averaging half that. Maybe if I got back into the habit, but I much prefer to do it the easy way and just feed him.

Oh, and I got my birthday present from my sister in the mail today. It is awesome! When my teapot came broken and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said I wanted the  Ingenuitea  teapot, which is a really weird and awesome teapot. You put loose tea into it and pour hot water over it, then when it's steeped, you set the whole thing on top of a mug and the tea drains in, leaving the leaves behind. You sort of have to look at it to get the idea, but it's really cool. And she sent me some excellent tea with it as well. I should be going easy on it because it's Earl Grey and has caffeine, but I'm already on my second mug tonight. Oops. =D It is much better than the yucky nasty tea, though I am still drinking that as well. No more tea for me tonight, though, it's almost bedtime.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Learning to Count

Today was the first day of census training, and man was it a long day. The entire day consisted mainly of filling out employment forms and getting fingerprinted, but that managed to be startlingly complicated. I kind of thought that people who were hired to work on the census would've been hired based on their ability to competently fill out forms, but that does not appear to be the case. The most popular way to fill out a form appears to be "fill it out as fast as you can without reading it or waiting for instructions, then get another one when you realize you've screwed this one up." This is especially bad because the government tends to be rather tetchy about how its forms are filled out. But we eventually got through it, and hey, I'm getting paid! I made money today, woo-hoo!

I think the worst part of training was not actually the training itself, or even the forms. It was the pumping. I was told we were going to get a morning break, so I fed Robert at 7:15, then figured we'd get a break midway through the morning and I could find a private place and pump then. But all the problems with the forms meant that we ran late all morning, and we did not get our morning break till literally noon. I was about dying. And then the place I was allowed to pump was the baby nursery, next to the daycare. It had a rocking chair and stuff, but I had to move a crib away from the wall to get to the outlet, which ate into my very small window of time (not to mention the fact that I had to go to the bathroom SO MUCH.) Oh, and speaking of windows, this room has two of them. Not to the outside, one is to another, occupied nursery, and one faces right into the busy hallway. Needless to say, despite my discomfort, stress prevented me from doing much productive pumping during that break. During the longer lunch break, I organized things a little better, found a slightly more protected position, and did somewhat better. While we were waiting in the endless round of fingerprintings, I gave it yet another go, since I hadn't really gotten much that day, and someone walked in on me. Sigh. This will be a fun three days .

Robert and M did well though, Robert was in a mostly good mood, and M managed to watch him and write his necessary paper and lecture at the same time. Robert was also good at the neighbors, according to their report, and thoroughly charmed the visiting grandchildren. I choose to believe that report, even though the moment he saw me, he started crying like he was starving, obviously forgetting the three bottles he'd gotten while I was gone. He  didn't nap as much as he usually does, which tends to happen when the schedule is disrupted. He was fussy in the evening and went down hard, but early. I got a couple of cute pictures of him in the jumparoo first, though. =)

I have realized that we are out of bread and I am out of budget. A conundrum indeed. I think I may have some buns that aren't too stale around here somewhere. I've got plenty of cheese and lunchmeat, all they need is a vehicle in which to brown bag! Ah well, back to work tomorrow!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Start of Something New

My job starts tomorrow! Aiiieee! I'm excited and terrified all at once. It has been a sort of ridiculously long time since I had an actual job anywhere, and this is the first time ever that I'm trying to juggle work and baby. I don't know if I'm ready for this. I know it's really silly, that moms do this much earlier than I've had to, and for much longer hours every day, but I still feel so nervous. I spent time tonight making a schedule for the week, where all of us will be going, when Robert is eating, and writing out a sheet of instructions for the neighbors who are going to watch Robert for us tomorrow. It's only three hours, I know it will be all right, but I still feel nervous. M is kind of freaking out as well, which doesn't help. =D I keep telling myself that it'll be okay, that I really, really need this job and the money it will bring in, and that being around other people is good for Robert. Our neighbors are very nice people and will take good care of him. Deep breaths.

In other news, I screwed up today and went over my budget for the month. Urgh. I realized all at once that almost all of my really good diaper coupons expired today, so I went out to Target and spent them all. They had a deal going where if you buy three jumbo packs, you get a five dollar gift card, so between that and the coupons, I saved sixty percent, but I still don't feel sure that I did the right thing. I hate that, knowing that I got a deal, but not knowing if it was good enough, or if I should have let it go and let the coupons expire. The diapers came out to 12 cents apiece, which is within my price point, but I already have a lot of diapers. I bought size 3 and 4, because I have enough size 2. I'm going to have to put these in the attic or something. I guess it's good, because you never want to buy diapers at regular price, but I don't feel quite as good as I would like, especially because of the budget thing. We had money come in from a couple of sources this month, and I added my survey check that came in, but after all my shopping today was done, I'm 6.45 cents over budget, with four days left in the month. Sigh. No more shopping.

My last hurrah, besides the Target trip, was one more jaunt to Walgreens, to do the other transactions I didn't get to yesterday. Man, were they picked over! I went to the one that still had the most stuff at the end of yesterday, but they were cleaned out as well. I still managed to get some of the stuff I'd wanted, and got sixty dollars worth of stuff for six dollars, and now I am done there for the month as well. The lady who checked me out was the same one as yesterday, she is very nice. We joked our way through my transactions. It's always good when you get a friendly cashier on a slow evening.

Oh, and a new step for Robert today as well. He lay on his tummy for almost five minutes, watching Fraggle Rock without crying. Up until this point, nothing I've tried has been able to work that magic. I think my channeling of inner Mean Mommy is paying off. Robert still doesn't like being on his tummy, but he is starting to get used to the tummy interlude. Now he just needs to work out how to get off his tummy on his own!

Looking at Hair

Today's review is brought to you by my friends at All opinions expressed within are entirely my own. 

Robert has reached a new milestone, the milestone of reliable hair-grabbing. He thinks it's hilarious, actually. One of the surest ways to get him to laugh is if I'm looming over him, kissing his tummy, and he can get hold of a double-handful of Mommy's hair. It's funny now, mostly because he hasn't got a huge amount of arm strength going for him, but I know where this road leads. It may be time to get a new haircut. I really like the way the color we put in is working out, so I'm feeling pretty bold, hairwise. I visited to get ideas for new hairstyles and maybe see what's fashionable lately. I don't exactly keep up, but now that I'm back on the job hunt, it would be nice to look current.

This place has tons of articles about beauty and fashion tips, and lots and lots about hair. I got a little lost navigating at first, because it's a very celebrity-centric sort of site, full of articles about how to get so-and-so's look. It would be tremendously useful if I were a little more plugged in, but most of the time, I have only the vaguest idea of what so-and-so looks like. There were some good general articles though, like about the best hairstyles for your face shape and  best shampoo to protect color-treated hair. (My current shampoo, John Frieda Brilliant Brunette , made the list, and I'm glad because I think it's great.) I think I got some tips for a good summer cut, maybe something to obscure the center part in my hair, and take a little weight off the sides. I have a very round face, and getting the sides sleeker is more slimming, apparently.

It's kind of a cool site, and if you ever wanted to figure out how a celebrity managed to get a certain look for hair and makeup, it's definitely the right place to go. The layout's a little bit cluttery, and if you're looking for something specific, it can be hard to navigate. It kind of reminds me of a women's checkout-aisle magazine in website form, for good or ill. You can get tons of advice on how to get a new look, and gossip about Kate Gosslin's new hair extensions, all in one website. I'll probably keep this one in my bookmarks for awhile, and some day when the baby isn't feeling quite so demanding, rustle myself up a new summer look.

Oh, and just for reference, here's me now, or as of a few weeks ago, anyway. Check out my new brown hair!

Brown Once More

Another Kentucky Valley Sunday

I'm going to try and keep this short, because the evening got away from me and it's already midnight. Gack! Robert was really good today in church, I packed him a big bottle and between that, his paci, and the before-church nap, he made it almost all the way through the sermon before we had to walk him around a little. After church, the coffee-time snack was cake, and he put his hand right in the middle of my cake and got frosting everywhere. Gotta watch those teeny hands every minute! Luckily, M happened to be right there with a napkin and saved the day.

In the afternoon, I spent about an hour doing coupon reconnaissance, getting ready for my Walgreens trip. It usually doesn't take nearly so long, but there are a ton of sales there this week, and I wanted to take full advantage while spending as little money as possible. I don't have much budget left for the month! Walgreens has a complicated set of couponing rules that you have to know in order to be really successful there. I swear, if I taught a life skills class in high school, Walgreens would totally be the final exam. It'd hone the math skills, too. I finally took off with Robert, who had been  fussy and needed a car ride and some cart time so he could get a nice nap. We ended up going to three Walgreens before we found everything we needed, but it was worth it. In my three transactions, I spent 8.23, and received 98.60 worth of stuff, a 91.65% savings rate. (Incidentally, it also pushed me back over 75% this month!)

 I got a box of Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets, two packs of maxi pads, four toothbrushes, two boxes of dental floss, two bags of dental floss picks, two bottles of body wash, two bottles of shave gel, two boxes of Sudafed Sinus, an electric eyebrow trimmer, two candy bars a package of packing tape, three copies of the Sunday newspaper, and a bottle of weird orange pop. (I needed a filler item!) For those of you playing along at home, if I had been paying regular price, just the roll of packing tape and the three newspapers would've cost just a bit more than my out of pocket cost for the whole trip. Couponing is your friend! Some of the stuff went straight into the bag for the food pantry, but some of it, especially the laundry sheets, I am very happy to have for myself.

For supper, I dipped into the food I couponed last month and made chili tamale pie with two cans of firehouse chili and two packages of corn muffin mix. It was very easy, pour the chili in a baking dish, mix up the muffins and pour them on top, cook at 400 for 25 minutes, then melt some Mexican shredded cheese over the top. Yum! For dessert, I made some cookie bars from a mix I got for free. We've got lots of leftovers for tomorrow lunch, too. And that's good, because Monday is always such a grind. I'd better get some sleep!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Cheese Stands Alone

Robert and I went out shopping first thing this morning. We needed some stuff. I'm going to make biscotti tomorrow, and we were out of butter and vanilla, plus I wanted to stock up on some more cheese at Meijer. I did some research and found that shredded cheese freezes well, plus their block cheeses have July sell-by dates on them. I'm pretty sure they will stay good, especially since we eat quite a bit of cheese. I ended up buying seven and a half pounds of cheese for fourteen dollars, which is pretty much impossible to beat, at least around here. I picked up the butter there too, but headed to Sam's for the vanilla. (It was an icky cold rainy day today, but that worked in my favor since I could leave the cheese in the car for a half hour.)

I haven't been to Sam's in quite awhile. We don't go as often now that I'm couponing, since coupons actually work more effectively with smaller packages. Smaller packages generally equals being able to use more coupons for the same volume, after all. But there are some things that are just cheaper there, like real vanilla extract, and 42 pounds of cat litter. Don't buy generic cat litter, especially if you have a small apartment. Gack. I also picked up a flat of bottled water with sport caps, like I do ever couple months. They are very handy to have around, and if you just rinse out the bottle, you can use it over and over, refilling it from the Brita pitcher, or even from the tap. M and I typically go through a bottle a week each, which means one flat lasts quite some time. One thing they haven't got yet is the big 40-packs of iced tea tubes. I hope they come in soon! That is definitely the cheapest way we get our caffeine, and we go through lots and lots of it. I bought seven boxes at the end of last iced-tea season, but it didn't come close to lasting.

Robert was in a hungry mood today, and alternated being smiley and laughing at my funny faces with being unbearably fussy. He also seemed to have a rash around his neck this morning that went away after a little while, so I'm going to keep an eye on that. I haven't changed detergent or anything, so I'm not sure what it would be from. It's sad when the baby is upset and can't tell us what's wrong. I keep wondering if he's getting enough to eat, but he had three stinky diapers, including one diaper-burster, and soaked through another outfit, so he's got to be getting a fairly decent intake. I kind of wish he'd gain some more weight. I know I'm probably just being a paranoid new mom, but it's hard not to worry sometimes.

After Robert went to bed (went down screaming, was sound asleep in less than ten minutes), I took a look at the coupon deals for the coming week. CVS is totally blah, but Walgreens is looking very good. I will probably be making several trips and spending much of the last of this month's budget there. There's not much left, even though I've been using gift cards where I can. I've done pretty well, I was up to a 75% savings rate for a little while, though now I'm back to 73.5%, after the Kohl's trip. So far I've spent 204 dollars on 760 dollars worth of stuff this month, and have fifteen dollars left to spend over the next five days. Let's see if I can make it work.

Friday, April 23, 2010

And Called it Macaroni

Rainy day today! Good for my plants, but bad for me! Robert and I missed our weekly trip to the thrift store (which is okay, because it meant I finally got the clothes I bought for him last week washed), and had to stay indoors all morning. Robert was fussy again, though we had some good times when I was flying him above my head and singing the Superman theme. The boy's got quite a smile on him, I just wish he'd break it out more often lately. I've been giving him the gripe water a couple of times a day, and it seems to help, so maybe he's gassy. I should mind what I eat more and see if that helps. I froze a quarter-sized chunk of fruit juice and tried him on the mesh teething paci today, but he would have none of it. I don't think it's his teeth yet. He ended up going to sleep at seven, which is early and unusual for him, but I can't say I wasn't grateful. ;-) 

This afternoon, after M got home from school, we made a family trip out to Meijer. Lately I have been needing him along for my Meijer trips because their carts are poorly designed and Robert takes up all the room in one basket, plus I usually need to do two transactions. Meijer's coupon policy is not bad, but they only double two identical coupons per transaction, and some of their sales have per-transaction limits. Today was a special "Buy 5 of these, get $5 off instantly," and there were some really good deals. We got 25 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, four boxes of Ritz, two boxes of Chips Ahoy, a jar of Miracle Whip, four packages of deli meat, a box of Capri Sun and four packages of cheese, all for sixteen dollars. I also bought birdseed for the birds, because hey, they gotta eat! I'm marking down on my spreadsheet whenever I buy food for Victoria and the birds, so I can get a more precise measure on that for the budget. Even with Victoria's premium food, their food expenses are not too much. It is the vetting that is always the problem. I am hoping for healthy pets this summer. 

Oh, and I got a check from one of my survey companies in the mail today, so that's fifteen dollars to add to the budget this month or next. Hurrah! I actually just quit that survey company, so that's kind of funny. It was the first one I joined up with, and it was reliable, but the rewards were very small. Now that I can regularly get at least a dollar and often more for each survey, I am not interested in 25 and 50 cent surveys anymore. I also decided at the 11th hour to cancel our life insurance medical exam for tomorrow. I called the agent yesterday because I had questions, and he never bothered to call me back. If he's like that when he's trying to sell me insurance, what's his company going to be like when we're reeled in? I think we may be able to do better. 

Conquering Want

Robert was fussy almost all day today. I wonder if he's starting to cut teeth, or if every baby just has days like this. He woke up at 5:30, ate, and unconditionally refused to go back down again. Thank god it was Thursday and M was home all day. I stayed up with Robert till seven, then passed him off to M till 9:30, when I felt slightly more awake. Robert took a short nap in his crib and a slightly longer nap in the bouncy seat, but otherwise he was awake and mad about it. We did not go to knitting, because I knew he wouldn't be good, and it would just cause more trouble. Eventually in the afternoon, I packed him up and we went out shopping.

One of my birthday presents was a gift card to Kohl's, which is very cool. I like Kohl's, and they happened to be having a very good sale this week, with lots of things half off. It was kind of funny, actually, doing shopping that wasn't with coupons, and wasn't for bare essentials. I could buy things just because I wanted them. And when you get down to it, I have many wants! I bought a wind spinner to hang on one of the hooks on the patio, because it would look great with the giant terra-cotta windchime I got as a wedding present. I also got a skinny grater with a handle to let me easily grate cheese onto pasta, as well as zest lemons and stuff like that. It's pretty neat. I also spent quite a bit of time at the jewelry counter, something I rarely do.

Mother's Day is coming up, my first one as an actual mother. I have already discharged my daughterly duty by my mom; I got her a whole bunch of her favorite lotion and gave it to her when we went up to visit. Yay, coupons! She should be set until next Mother's Day. But I don't know so much how to deal with it myself. When  I was growing up, pretty much every year for Mother's Day or her birthday, my dad would get my mom some really beautiful piece of jewelry (usually he would say it was from us kids, too). My dad is awesome at picking out the perfect jewelry, and when he gave it to her, it was a sign of love, not just of giving her a sparkly present. I know that's not the way my marriage is. M shows his love in lots of different ways, from sometimes spontaneously washing every dish in the house because he knows I'm tired to stopping me in the hall and kissing the heck out of me. But he's not a jewelry guy. He's more flowers and candy and books.

I realized today that some part of me would be disappointed not to get something pretty to wear for Mother's Day, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. The jewelry sale today was really good, too. I got a really beautiful pair of 24k gold over sterling silver earrings for only 12 dollars, down from 40. They're just beautiful. I'm really happy to have them, and now my jewelry itch is scratched, plus I don't have to worry about where the money for a fancy present would come from. I will take a picture of them pretty soon to show them off. All in all, I spent 33 gift card dollars on 76 dollars worth of stuff at Kohl's, and I think that is pretty good.

Robert was still being good when we finished up, so I left him in the stroller and pushed him across the parking lot to the new Sears Outlet. I wanted to look at chest freezers, just to price them out, you know. They are expensive! The ones they had were also kind of bigger than I wanted. I would love a deep freezer so much, even if I'm not sure where I'd put it. I'd find a place. Once I'd looked at the deep freezers, I wandered around the store a little more, marveling at the countertop dishwasher and the portable washing machine. Those are also very expensive. Then I stumbled headlong into WANT.

Back when I was in college, I had an awesome coffee machine. It made only two cups at a time, but it made them directly into these brushed-metal thermal go-cups, no carafe or anything. Just enough for one person, really. I loved that thing. One summer when I was moving out, I had to carry it and a bunch of other boxes down from the third floor, and I decided to leave them in the lobby while I carried the whole lot down, then move them to the car. During this process, someone decided to help themselves to my stuff, and they stole my  blender and my coffeemaker. I was so sad, but I learned a valuable lesson. Anyway, what did I find today at the outlet store but a coffeemaker just like that lost one, and for only fifteen dollars.

I wanted that doggone thing. I looked at it, then walked away, then came back, then circled half the store, then came back again. But I thought about it and thought about it, and I didn't get it. Because I can't spare fifteen dollars without blowing the rest of the month's budget, and because I haven't got any place to put it, and because summer is a'coming in. But mostly because I knew I didn't actually want coffee. I wanted this cool thing I used to have, and maybe I wanted to be able to get something, when I'd just spent half an hour dreaming over all the things I couldn't have. I couldn't afford 350 for a freezer or 600 for a dishwasher or a dryer, but I could justify fifteen if I tried hard enough. I didn't get the colander I wanted at Kohl's because it was more expensive than I thought I could find somewhere else, and I didn't buy any of their cute baby clothes because we visit the thrift store every week anyway. Getting the coffeemaker would be trying to wipe out what I couldn't have with what I could. I don't know when I even would've been able to take it out of the box, our kitchen is so crowded. So I didn't buy it, I didn't buy anything. But I do have a price point for freezers now, which is something.

After we got home, Robert and I went over to the neighbors. They are going to watch Robert for me on Tuesday, hurrah! That makes things considerably easier on me as I go for Census training next week. Wish me luck! Oh, and I should explain the picture of Robert from today. When I had my baby shower, I asked everyone to bring a bead for me to put onto a string to take with me into labor, so I could remember all the people who love me and were praying for me. In the dark hours of the early morning when I was bracing on the windowsill and trying to get through the contractions, that chain was on the windowsill right under my nose. I couldn't even reach for it, but I looked at it, and I remembered. Taking a picture of Robert holding it, and all the people who love him, seemed only appropriate.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Day

The weather has been getting steadily nicer after the little cold snap we had, and is currently hanging right at that perfect spring place, not too hot and not too cold. I wish it could stay like this forever. My new plants are doing well, just starting to stretch out a little in their new, roomier homes. I do like the neat appearance using pregrown plants has given my garden. Last year I couldn't bear to thin, especially in the herb bowl, and it got messy and overcrowded, and eventually only the basil did really well. I'm looking for bigger and better this year. The tomatoes and peppers are also starting to sprout in their little greenhouse. When they're big enough, I'll plant them in my hanging baskets and it will be pretty. I looked long and hard at the Topsy Turvy  tomato and strawberry planters at Walgreens, but in the end, I just couldn't justify the cost when I have serviceable baskets at home. Maybe they aren't quite as neat, but they are already paid for! If by chance the Topsy Turvies should go on clearance sale, I may revisit that decision. I have lots of hanging hooks this year. =)

We were back on routine today after my birthday break, and that was okay. Robert had a few fussy moments, just normal ones, but he also took a couple of short naps, and that was nice. He fell asleep during tummy time for the second day in a row. Maybe that means he's getting used to being put down on his stomach. I have to keep doing it, I've noticed his head is getting a little flat spot in the back. It is definitely baby rotation time. He also sat in the bouncy seat, swung in the swing, spent time playing in the bed and on the floor with Mommy, and had some good mobile watching time in his crib. Baby's days are just packed.

I got the third of my birthday books in the mail today, it's Vision in White  by Nora Roberts. I couldn't help myself, I read the whole thing, squeezing it into the moments of my day when I could read, even if that was in the bathroom or while nursing. I really liked it, but that's hardly a surprise. Nora rarely misses. I hate the deckle edge they put on it to make it fancy, though. It's just a ragged edge on the page that makes it harder to turn. I also dug into the second book in the quartet, though I haven't finished it yet. I know it is greedy of me to want to read all three of my books in three days, but I can't help it. Any new book from my favorite author is an occasion to celebrate. It's not like I won't reread them again and again anyway.

After M got home, Robert and I took the car for the weekly CVS trip. There were some free things I wanted to pick up, plus a diaper deal on Pampers. I hadn't expected to get the diaper deal, but M's mom sent me Parents magazine this month, which just happened to have the 3 dollar CVS coupon I needed. Cool! I got the value box of Size 3 Pampers (Robert is only just in size 2, but I already have a closetful of those) for 21 dollars, then took off five dollars with coupons, then got five dollars in Extra Care Bucks for buying them, bringing them to a total of about fifteen cents per diaper. Not my best price point ever, but good for Pampers. Pampers are always harder to get a good sale on than Huggies, but I do like them a little better.

 We also got a free Green Bag tag that will save us money if I can remember to bring my reusable bag along, a couple of things of mascara for when I am being all professional again, and some last clearance Easter stuff. (Yes, I know, but it was 90% off! You can't ignore 90% off!)  I got one of those premade Easter baskets for 79 cents, down from 7.99. It has plastic racecars in it, so I'm going to take it apart and put the cars in the food pantry bag. It's not food, and it's not toiletries, but I can't imagine that they won't be able to give away a toy to someone who could use one. I got M a big chocolate bunny for 30 cents, in honor of watching Rack, Shack and Benny this week on Netflix. He ate it while holding the baby, and I'll just say it was lucky we were already planning on giving him a bath. Hurrah, Easter candy! ;-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day of Rest

The birthday celebration continued into today, as M took Robert after his morning feeding and hit the road, leaving me with a precious morning all to myself. I immediately went back to bed. Two hours of sweet, wonderful amazing sleep later, I got up and had a hot bubble bath with my new book, then took a leisurely shower and had more cake. By the time my guys got home, I was almost finished with my book, and feeling exquisitely relaxed. It was lovely.

M had to go to school in the afternoon, so Robert and I still spent plenty of time together. I decided to get some Easter pictures of him, though he still doesn't fit well into his Easter outfit, since it was clean and I knew we hadn't gotten any on Easter. It was a bit of a job to coax smiles out of him when he was wearing the bunny ears, but the pictures turned out immensely cute, so I was happy. We watched some more Fraggle Rock and did some more tummy time. Today I inflated one of the exercise balls to try and give some variety to his tummy time, but he was not impressed. He screamed himself to sleep on the blanket and had a little nap. But for most of the day he was happy and easy to deal with, so that was nice.

Today was also a good day because I cashed out another reward from one of my survey sites, this one a 25 dollar Paypal deposit. That'll come in handy when it arrives! I also got the refund from Amazon for my broken teapot, so I'll have to decide what to do with that. A little bird told me that I may be getting tea apparatus as a present, so I'll hold off on buying another teapot. ;-) I also took a look at next week's sales at Walgreens. Looks like it's going to be a good week! I still need to hit up CVS this week, too. I don't have much money left in the budget this month, but we're good for food right now and I've got Extra Care Bucks and Register Rewards in my wallet, so I should be set. I got some money from my folks for my birthday, beyond what they gave me for the mobile, which is super-duper awesome. I'm saving that for now, though. When I don't think ahead about how I want to spend my money, I usually spend it on stupid things and feel bad later. I want to have plans!

It's getting late now though, and I need to get to bed. I'm trying to save up milk ahead of time for when I'm in training next week, but it's a slow process. I'm not pumping four ounces in a sitting anymore, that's for sure. But Robert seems to be getting what he needs, and that's the important part. And I've got three six ounce bags and four three ounce containers in my freezer already, so I'm on my way. I may not be making more donations to the milk bank anytime soon, but first things must come first! I'm excited about working for the Census, but I still need a babysitter for the training days. Gotta work on that this week.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday! And what a birthday it's been, too. M got up with Robert at 6:30 and took him out to Kroger, where they bought me a birthday cake. Our family tradition is for breakfast in bed on birthdays, but he killed two birds with one stone by presenting me with a giant slab of german chocolate cake and a glass of milk in bed. Tasty! M had already given me my present just after midnight, a personalized signed copy of Fantasy in Death, the newest hardcover from my very favorite author. One of the highlights of my internet career was when Nora Roberts called me a bitch (in a friendly way, honest!) in a romance novel forum, but that's a story for another time. =D It is an awesome cool present. He also got me a padded mousepad, with the faith that I will one day have an office desk to put it on.

Because it is Monday, though, M had to go to school as usual, at least in the daytime, so Robert and I did our thing for the morning and early afternoon. Robert gave me the excellent present of a nice long nap and a reasonably calm day. In the afternoon, we walked over to the deli and bought some turkey, a little pasta salad, and some pimento cheese, because it was my birthday. Robert got some adoration from the people there, including one very inquisitive toddler, and took it all in stride. Back at home, I sat out on the patio with Robert, who'd fallen asleep in the stroller. While he snoozed for a few minutes, I had myself a mini-picnic and finished a book I got from my folks' house when we visited. It was nice, very peaceful. The weather today was lovely, if just a bit on the chilly side.

I think one of the best parts about birthdays is hearing from all the important people in your life. I got calls and voicemails, emails and Facebook messages from all my friends, wishing me a happy birthday. It made me feel really good. Sometimes being out here makes me feel really isolated and lonely, but on days like today, I remember that I'm never more than an internet connection away. M skipped his evening seminar so he could come home early and ride herd on the baby, giving me precious relaxation time.

We hung around the house till eight, as Robert went through his fussy evening time and had his last feeding of the day, then at eight when I normally would've put him to bed, we put him in his car seat, sealed up the zippered cover, and headed out to Red Lobster. Red Lobster is our special occasion tradition, and we had some gift cards from M's folks just for this particular occasion. Like I said, we were worried that Robert wouldn't be able to handle it, but as it turned out, he was perfect. We sat in the bar area, which oddly enough is apparently the nonsmoking area now, where the lights are dim and things are pretty quiet. This was perfect for Robert, who basically slept through the entire meal and didn't even need the bottle we brought along. I had a pina colada, light on the alcohol, and the snow crab legs (my very favorite!) and we split a lobster pizza. It was wonderful. Talk about a great birthday present from the baby, giving Mommy and Daddy an hour to eat a meal and talk and enjoy ourselves while he snoozed. When we got home, he went right to sleep, unfolding like a little flower as soon as I laid him down in the crib. He's so beautiful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Herb Garden

Church this morning was nice as usual. I really like our new church, everyone is so nice to us, and they all love Robert. Yesterday they had a congregational meeting with food, and they marked some of the leftovers for us, so we had a pan of baked pasta to bring home with us from church. It was delicious and wonderful to have. I think I kind of forgot what it was like to be part of a church until I got involved with one again. I would like to be able to do more, but Robert crimps my volunteering style a bit. That's okay, eventually he'll be old enough to bring along to things. I also found and Facebook-friended a bunch of church people, which is great because I am so lousy with names. Now I have pictures with names attached to look at, yay!

After church, M went to get the oil changed in the car. We weren't supposed to be due for another month, but somehow we're several hundred miles overdue anyway. Oops. Anyway, he got it changed and they also replaced a taillight I didn't even know was out. That reminds me, I need to get to the courthouse this week and get our car re-registered! The last thing we need is a ticket! I'll probably do that on Thursday, I just need to keep reminding myself. We watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  on Netflix on the television, which was fun. It's been a long time since I've seen that, and all the funny lines were funny again. Robert fell asleep in the swing, and took a nice long sorely-needed nap.

While he was napping, I took the opportunity to slip out to Walgreens for my weekly papers and to work a couple of deals. I had fifteen dollars worth of register rewards that would expire day after tomorrow, and I needed to use them up. Register rewards are basically coupon money, they are for dollars off your next transaction, so you can basically pay with them, anything except the tax on your purchase. You don't want to let them expire. Using my register rewards, I got four bottles of low-dose aspirin, two bottles of vitamins, four reusable grocery bags, three bottles of Dawn, four bags of gummy worms, two packs of Walgreens-brand Ding-Dongs, and three Sunday newspapers for $3.87 cash. Not bad, considering I would've paid 3.75 just to buy the papers, even at Walgreens' reduced price. In addition to that, I got 13 more register rewards to use next week! I will probably give the vitamins and the aspirin to the food bank, because I'm sure there is someone who is on aspirin therapy or who could use a Vitamin D supplement, but I don't need them myself.

Later on in the evening, after reading in the paper about Home Depot's special sale today, the three of us headed out all together to get some gardening supplies. I decided that this was how I was going to split the difference on my birthday money, spend it on something that I do very much want, my garden, but that is also good for the family. Today all their vegetable and herb plants in peat pots were buy one get one free, and since they were mostly 3.50 apiece, that's quite a good deal on a healthy plant in a four inch peat pot. I bought sweet basil, greek oregano, cilantro, catnip, lavender, and a watermelon, because I have always wanted to try growing one. I needed a bag of potting soil to put those in, and to freshen up last year's container gardening, and we picked up another 98-cent concrete slab to add to the path leading from the lawn to our door. I also picked up one of those tiny little seed-starter greenhouse things, and some tomato and pepper seeds to start in it. Vegetable seeds were also BOGOF, which was cool, and we got a CFL lightbulb for our living room lamp for 97 cents. Sweet!

When we got home, I decided I wanted to do the gardening right away, and set to work. Robert watched me for a few minutes, but it was getting on towards his bedtime and he lost interest rapidly. M took him inside while I finished and watered everything. It looks really good. After Robert was fed and in bed, I put together the little greenhouse, too. I can't wait to see how everything grows. Man, I am looking forward to some _amazing_ spaghetti sauce this summer.

Saturday Shopping and Baking

Morning started today at 4am with baby-feeding, but thankfully Robert went back down till seven, a slightly more humane hour. M and I swapped off watching him and each got a facsimile of sleeping in that way. It's not like the old days when we'd snuggle in together until halfway through the morning or later, but sleep is sleep. It helps that Robert is at his most charming in the morning, happy and smiling and noisy with sounds that aren't crying. We still have a lot of new-parent hormones flowing, and a big gummy smile can turn either of us into a cooing parental puddle, which is pretty funny to watch and oddly enjoyable to experience.

I didn't make it out shopping last night like I was going to, thanks to a sudden and acute attack of the lazy, but I went out today to Kroger with Robert. I used to do my WIC shopping and non-coupon shopping at Meijer, but I am still unhappy about the way I was treated last month, so boo to them. Kroger was very busy, something about one of the other nearby Krogers being closed for some reason, but we soldiered through anyway. I picked up some escarole for the birds because the vet says they need more veggies, and a little ball of lettuce is just the right size. I also got some bananas and a cantaloupe, and two boxes of Mother's Milk Tea , because I was totally out. The stuff is horrible, but it really works, I had some of that and some oatmeal this evening, and it made a real difference when I pumped, plus Robert was less fussy.

The WIC voucher this week got us milk, cheese, eggs, juice, beans, rice and peanut butter, all the nutritious staple foods. I did make the mistake of setting the voucher down in the carseat while I was bagging the lettuce, and when I looked over again, Robert had it clutched in his teeny little fist. He was happy about it, too. I had visions of trying to present a crumpled up, soon-to-be-drooled-on voucher at the checkout, and spent several minutes carefully prying it out of his hand. The time when I could use his lap as my coupon table is past, I think. Ah well. While we were there, I browsed the clearance carts and shelves as well. Kroger usually has interesting things on clearance, and sometimes I can get really good deals. Today I got some lemonade tubes and some almond-cranberry oatmeal for well under a dollar each, and I picked up a NUK Learner Cup  for just 3.19 on clearance. Good deal! Robert won't be ready to use it for awhile yet, but might as well get it now when the getting is good!

At the checkout, I found that my cashier had the same midwife as me, Sister Kay, which was cool. I felt bad though, because she had her baby less than three weeks ago and was already back at work. I think that's just awful, but what can you say? It's not like she probably had much choice in the matter, checkers don't get paid maternity leave. It was another reminder to me to be grateful for all that I have, even if sometimes I feel frustrated or like we never have enough. I'm actually very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in and have the opportunity I do. Once we got home, Robert went down for a nap and M and I cleaned out the birdcages, then he did all the dishes. Woo-hoo!

Having all the dishes done put me in a creative mood. I haven't been using eggs as fast as we get them lately, so a lot of them have built up in the fridge, and I decided to use some for baking. I found a cool recipe for cinnamon-sugar biscotti and made that. It was easy, and I even got down the food processor to give my flour a proper sifting. M and I both thought it turned out really well. I would like to try it sometime when I have real butter on hand, I think it would be even better. I tried some with my tea, but that was actually kind of icky, because it made me taste the tea for longer. I ended up going with my usual technique, letting the tea cool till tepid and then chugging it as fast as possible. Undignified, but it works.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Taking the Baby for a Test Drive

It was another early-rising day for the baby, but at least this time he didn't add in a middle-of-the-night feeding to go with it. M and I took turns with him in the early hours, so each of us got just that little bit of extra sleep that makes the  difference between zombie and human. While M was at school, Robert and I walked to the thrift store. I realized when I got the box of 3-6 month old clothes out of the closet that many of the really, really cute outfits he has simply do not take into account the possibility that it would be 80 degrees in April. The thrift store had some super cute shorts and short-sleeved onesies that will help pad out his warm-weather wardrobe, and at fifty cents per item, you can't beat the price. I also picked up a few more dime romances that in fact did cost a dime. I love the thrift store. While I looked around, one of the volunteer ladies gladly held onto Robert so I could browse, which helped. I haven't been able to find the Moby wrap since we came back from our trip, and I am beginning to suspect it got left in my folks' car. Super bummer. That and my phone cord seem to have been the main casualties of that trip. Well, Memorial Day is coming soon enough, I guess.

After M got home from school, we decided to do an experiment. My birthday is next week, as most of you probably know, and we always go out to Red Lobster for a nice dinner. It is my favorite, and we have gift cards! But  we don't know if Robert will stand for it. To test drive him, we went out to a lower-pressure venue, the Golden Corral. It's not a cheap restaurant, though it's cheaper than Red Lobster, but the food is good, and most especially, it is fast. It is a buffet place where you pay up front and get your food yourself, so if the baby started freaking out, we wouldn't have to wait for the check or anything like that. But he did well. We set him on the table in his carrier and took turns getting our food, and he played with his toy and looked around and chilled out  while we ate. He got a little bored and fussy towards the end, mostly because he was getting hungry. I think if I'd had a bottle with me, we'd have made it through even longer. But it was a good test, and a really nice meal, and a great way to start the weekend. Eating out is such a treat.

And tonight I pestered M into giving me one of my birthday presents early, because the teapot I ordered for myself arrived broken and had to be sent back. He eventually bent and gave it to me, much to my delight. He got me Cake Wrecks , the book written by the writers of one of my favorite blogs, also called Cake Wrecks. It's all about disastrously bad professional cakes, and it is hilarious. I had forgotten she had a book out, and have spent most of the evening reading it. We got some rain that broke the hot weather, thank goodness, so we're still not turning on the air conditioning. Go us! =)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Warm Weather

It's definitely a hot spring so far around here, with temps in the 80s most of the past ten days or so. Great for my strawberries, but not so good for our apartment. I would like to continue enjoying the enviably low electricity bills we've been enjoying for as long as possible, so I'm trying to delay turning on the air conditioners, but it's only April and already my willpower is being tested. I realized that this time last year, I was just barely or just about to get pregnant, which is kind of a funny thought. What a difference a year makes, huh? I think I would've been much hotter last summer if I'd known I was pregnant. My mind is a powerful force.

Anyway, Thursdays this term are cool because M does not have any classes. He's got tons of work, of course, but some weeks he won't even have to go in to school. I like that, it's good having him here, and it means that I can possibly get out to knitting without having to take the baby along. Robert is very popular with most of the ladies, but last time I was in, he was fussy and the owner got annoyed, so I'm giving it a nice long cooldown. Besides, if I go in without him, I might actually get some knitting done! I still owe my cousin half a blanket for her new baby, and I've done nothing on it for months. Gah. It's hard to knit with a baby in one arm, or with a million other things to do when my hands are free.

Robert got to play with both his Mylar balloons today, which was very funny. I think he was treading that fine line between overjoyed and overwhelmed. He was fussy in the bath, which is very unusual for him. Usually he likes his bath, so I'm hoping this isn't a new, no-bath phase. I've been looking forward to getting him into the pool when it opens. He was then good for most of the day, but fussy in the evening, until he made a big poop while sitting in Daddy's lap. Then he felt great and went right to sleep! M and I enjoyed some more Netflix on the TV, and I made some of the tortellini I got for nearly free last week. I know from experience that one package is tasty but not filling, so I stretched it with penne pasta and it worked really well.

I think I may need to give away the gum I got the other day. I tried to eat a couple of pieces of it, and it's got my jaw popping even now. Ick. It was supposed to be that whitening gum. I will have to stick to my whitening toothpaste instead. And tomorrow I really need to go to the grocery store, as we are out of both milk and yucky tea. I feel I can use our second WIC check in good conscience now, since the fifteenth is over and thus the month is half gone. Gotta make sure to budget those, same as anything else.

Baby Shopping Aggregator

From time to time on my blog, I will do reviews of websites I've been asked to look at, sort of like a survey where I share the results with people. I receive compensation for doing these reviews, but they don't tell me what I have to say, or even that I have to say nice things. All the opinions contained herein are entirely my own.

Today I looked at a baby shopping aggregator called Well, actually it's a shopping aggregator for a lot of things, but they have a fairly substantial baby section as well. If you're not familiar with the concept of a shopping aggregator, it's a website where you can enter whatever it is you're shopping for and it will look at different websites to see what's available and how much it costs. Ideally, the aggregator directs you to the lowest priced item available and you can buy it directly from the retailer's website.

The best way to test one of these websites is to run some actual searches on it, so that's what I did. First off, I ran a general search for baby tunnels. I think it's a crying shame that the Baby Einstein tunnel we got for Robert has been discontinued, but there are other tunnels out there. This site returned a good variety from a bunch of different websites, though it leaned very heavily towards Babies R Us and seemed to ignore sites like Amazon and Target. I learned about products I'd never heard of, and that I might not have found just looking at one site. So that was a positive.

The next search I ran was for a specific baby item, the Winkel I was talking about last night. It's currently enjoying Most Favored Toy status around here, and I've been told by experienced parents that anything especially beloved should be backed up in case of loss or disaster. It found the Winkel right away, both the original version and the alternate-color version, so that was good. What I did notice, though, was that it didn't give me a list of places that carry the Winkel, just one hit for each type, and a price tag of 13.95. I prefer my aggregators to be able to show me a list of places that carry an item, and the price plus shipping from each site. Just for reference, I ran a quick Google search and turned up three prices lower than that for the Winkel at other stores. So I'm not sure I would use it for actual shopping, at least not on its own.

Overall, I think this baby aggregator could be a valuable research tool when you're not quite sure what you're looking for. It's really nice to be able to look at a lot of different sites without having to navigate all over the place, and to compare different varieties and brands of things. For individual items, though, I think it should just be a starting point, and I would probably look at other websites as well. That's alway good advice, if you want a good bargain, you've got to shop around a little.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Netflix Day!

I'm going to come right out and admit that I'm cheating today, the picture I'm posting is from yesterday. I forgot to take a single picture today, and I'm not about to sneak in there and risk waking him up just for a blog picture. I will try and get two tomorrow to make up for it. He still has the same cowlick today as he did yesterday, I never did manage to get it smoothed down. Luckily, it is adorable. 

Today was an exciting  day because our Netflix for Wii disc arrived in the mail. After about five minutes installation, we can now watch Instant Watch Netflix on our actual television, through the Wii! It is immensely awesome, and I love it! Who needs cable, seriously! And it doesn't cost any extra, either. We may never return our DVDs and get new ones, but we still get value from our Netflix, and now it will be even better. Today Robert and I watched an episode of Fraggle Rock, and tonight Mike and I are catching up on some Mythbusters. (Can you tell I got a new widget on my blog? I can point to anything I want on Amazon and it makes the linky for me. Kinda neat, and I can make a list of my favorite things in the sidebar, too.) Nursing's going to be a lot nicer with something to look at to keep me awake. I know it's bonding time, but Robert sometimes wants to eat every couple hours, and that's a lot of bonding. ;-) 

M spent time on the phone with Dell today, and they're sending him a new hard drive for the one that failed out and took his important paper with it. Not as good as getting the data back, but at least the computer is going to work again. When he got home from school, Robert and I headed out shopping. We hit up CVS for some new conditioner, some whitening gum, another stick of cocoa butter, and two rolls of toilet paper. That all cost 45 cents. I have been smearing the cocoa butter over the dry patches on Robert's head, he seems to like it, and it makes him smell like a candy bar. I told him "New baby smell and chocolate smell, you're basically catnip for women," but I don't think he got the joke. 

Anyway, after that, we went to Walgreens and got nothing, because their stocking is bad this week and they didn't have anything on my list. One of the tough things about couponing is being willing to walk out emptyhanded if you have to. We finished up at Walmart, which Robert likes because that is where he gets his balloon. I was smart today and brought his Winkel  with us, now that he is getting old enough to hold onto toys. One of my friends with small kids recommended this thing, and it is great. He can get hold of it by one loop and shove another one into his mouth, plus there's a rattle in the middle. It was really funny watching him try to shove a loop in his mouth lengthwise and just lick on it when he couldn't make it fit. I just wish it had a different name, because the one it has just sounds weird. I will leave it to the imagination of the reader to construct sentences with it and see why. While Robert was thus occupied, I got two 12 packs of disposable razors, 12 cans of dog food for the animal shelter, two single-load packets of Tide, a bunch of Scotch-Brite sponges (my favorite!) a pasta side dish, and Robert's weekly Happy Birthday balloon, all for 1.84. I still had a gift card in my wallet, too, so we paid nothing out of pocket for the trip. Good show! 

Another thing we've been doing this week is working on life insurance and estate planning. Depressing! Really the last thing I want to talk about a week before my 28th birthday is who will raise Robert if something happens to us, and how we can take care of the family if one or both of us were to die. But depressing doesn't mean we don't have to deal with it, and now is the time to get insurance, when we are both young. Dealing with that has also meant confronting the sad fact that we have not been eating like we should for the past, oh, six months or so. I have been getting lots of vitamins and minerals, but I have also been eating like a horse, and that isn't good. We need to exercise and get in shape to be good examples, and so I can get back into all my nice pre-preggo clothes. I have a nice outfit I would like to wear to Robert's baptism on Memorial Day, if I can fit into it. Here's hoping! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Something New

I got a job today! A temporary job, but a job nonetheless! I'm going to be working for the Census, starting at the end of April and going for 6-8 weeks. I'm very excited. There'll be four days of 9-5 paid training, which will be a bummer to find babysitting for, but after that, most of the work can be done evenings and weekends, when M is around to babysit. It'll be great! I've already started planning how I'm going to spend the money that comes in. Not in a counting-the-chickens way, but in a "I want to have this budgeted so I don't go crazy from sudden income" kind of way. We've decided that we need to get life insurance, so this job will pay for that, as well as the next six months of our car insurance so it doesn't have to come out of M's paycheck. I would also love to finish paying down the smaller of our credit card bills with this money. I have it budgeted to be paid down seven months from now, which would be good, but getting it done before summer would be awesome.

We ran up our credit cards two years ago when neither of us had a job for awhile, and didn't do so well again last summer, when M's stipend gets really low. This year, though, we're not going to do that. I have put away money in a savings account for summer, and worked out a budget that will take us through the summer, hopefully even if unplanned expenses crop up. Hey, no expense can possibly be more of a shock than the one we got last summer! =D Between that, the computer, and the hospital bill I finished paying off last year, we'll be going into summer with more money and fewer monthly payments to make, and I feel really good about that. I'd feel even better if I had a permanent job, but right now I will do what I can to keep us afloat and enjoy the gift of this time with Robert.

And it is a gift, I know, one that most of my colleagues from school wouldn't be able to enjoy. Robert changes so much every day, developing a personality and an understanding of the world that fascinates and amuses me. He also drives me crazy sometimes, especially when I'm tired and he's fussy, but those junctures are getting rarer as he sleeps through the night and becomes capable of being entertained. I love watching him play, even if it's mostly flailing right now. He's so pleased with himself when he manages to catch one of the crochet cats or give the balloon an especially hard pull. Honestly, I also like that he likes being by himself sometimes, to sit in his bouncer and look out the window, or enjoy his mobile for a few minutes. I love to play with him, but I only know so many songs and clapping games and funny faces. It's a challenge finding a balance between not overstimulating him and not giving him enough Mom-time. I'm just doing my best and figuring that most people grow up well-adjusted, so if I even do a pretty good job, he'll probably turn out okay. He's awfully cute, and that'll help him in life, too. ;-)

A Note on Car Repair

One thing I'm trying out with my blog when I'm not posting pictures of Robert is writing reviews for various web services. I get compensated for these reviews, but they do not tell me what to write, or even that I have to say nice things in order to be compensated. All my opinions here are my own.

Today I checked out a website called RepairPal. Car repair has been a subject kind of near and dear to my heart since Robert was born, since I've been worrying about what we're supposed to do about our heat and air conditioning. The AC in our car works until the temperature goes up to about 85, then it completely fails. This makes the car very, very hot, which can't be good for a very small person. I had it into the dealership last year to get it looked at, but they said it would cost 1600 dollars, when we bought the car for six grand. Ouch! There has to be a better way, but I'm not at all familiar with car repair places around here.

RepairPal offers a directory of auto shops, along with estimates of what a specific repair is going to look like in your area. I started out with a list of San Diego auto repair places, but it was easy to put in the information I wanted to find out about my car and my city. I put in that I wanted to know about an AC Compressor replacement on my 2001 Honda Civic, and it gave me an estimate of 600-1100 dollars (hey!) and a list of possible repair shops in my area. Needless to say, I'm going to be doing a little calling around when I scrape up the money for some car repair. They also have helpful articles like what to do if your check engine light comes on. I like that, as I know nothing whatsoever about cars, and am more likely to be baffled than concerned by any car problem that arises.

The site also has a section for reviews and ratings of cars, along with lists of recalls and safety bulletins for your vehicles. So if you're car shopping and looking at, say, 1999 Ford F-150, you can enter that, and read up on what people have said about theirs, and what kind of repair problems it might have. This is a nice feature, but I was kind of confused by the Recalls section. I looked up my Honda again, because we just got it called in for a recall on the driver's-side airbag, but I didn't find that recall listed. There were a lot of safety bulletins about the air bags though, and it might have been included in one of those.

Overall, I think it's a neat site, and I'm going to bookmark it to look at again next time I need repairs on the car. If nothing else, I will feel a lot better going into a repair shop after reading a description of my problem and getting even a broad estimate on what it should cost to fix it. It has a nice clean interface, and it doesn't cost anything to use, which is a vital point for me. I like it.

Oh and here, to round out this essay, is a picture of our car, Buddy Lumpkins, on the way home from the hospital with Robert. I had to clip it from a video file, as we do not actually take many pictures of the car. Go figure!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Today was a better day, even though it was a Monday. Mondays are the worst day of my week again this quarter, with M gone with the car for a ten hour stretch. That's a long haul with a little baby. Luckily, I put Robert on a regimen of intense eating and napping, and that seemed to help ease whatever made him so fussy yesterday. He took a bunch of short little naps, had a bunch of small feedings, and was generally sweet all day until he started winding down around six o'clock. He even went to bed early, going down fussy at eight, but only needing the paci replaced twice before he was off to his dreams. All of Robert's dreams are of someone robbing the baby, to judge by the way he throws his hands up when he is especially asleep.

One fun thing I've noticed lately about Robert is how much he is starting to use his hands. He is still not good with them, but he is really trying. He can grab the foil part of his balloon and wrestle with it, good for many minutes of enjoyment for both of us, and today he got his hand on the bottle I was giving him and held it himself for a little bit. (Pumping is going a little better these last couple days, thanks, yucky nasty tea!) He's also laughing now, which is hilarious. I'll lay him on his back on our bed, lean over him, and tell him "It's...time...foorr...KISSES! Mwah-mwah-mwah!" and kiss his cheeks or his forehead or his tummy, and he will laugh and laugh. He's still really easy to overstimulate, so it's common to go within moments from laughter to tears, but he's getting so much more personable with each passing week. I love it!

Good news on the financial front today, and not just the fact that I didn't get out of the house to go shopping. ;-) I got the official word that I have finished paying off my debt to the law school for my computer that broke two years ago. The EXTREMELY overpriced piece of crap computer, I might add, that never worked right and cost three times as much as a comparable private market computer might have. The payment that I've been working on, a 750 dollar chunk, was actually the third of three installment payments on a laptop, if you can believe that. The reason it wasn't in with my student loans was that the school screwed up and didn't bill me for it until after it was too late to include it with the loans, and after the money I did get was all budgeted. They informed me that I owed this money the week before finals in my third year, right after my grandmother died, right as I was working on a very stressful senior research paper, just before the trauma of law school finals. They weren't going to go without their pound of overpriced flesh, of course, but they magnanimously deferred it for a year, when I, naive as I was, was sure I would have a job. Not so much, but the bills come due anyway. I got an installment plan and have been paying it off in bits. That bill was a reminder of one of the worst times in my life, and having it finally paid off and gone is awesome. As for the student loans... we're not going to talk about them right now, when it's been such a nice day.

I have to think of something to do with the rest of the barbecued chicken. I never realized how much meat could go in a crock pot until I tried eating barbecue chicken sandwiches four days in a row. Pulled pork is great because you've got sandwiches, you've got meat for soup, you've got meat for fried rice. You can change it up. What on earth do you do with shredded barbecue chicken except eat it in yet another sandwich?

Helping My Hamburger

Today I took nineteen pictures of Robert. All of them are of him crying or just about to cry. This should give you some kind of idea of what kind of baby-wrangling day it was. He was sweet at church, thankfully, and then spent most of the rest of the day having baby tantrums. I haven't made it down to the store lately for a weighted feeding, but I think I'm going to have to. He's so fussy after eating, I wonder if he's getting enough. In the meantime, I'm drinking the mother's milk tea that I have, and looking at getting more. That stuff hardly ever goes on sale, either. Bummer.

The new week of shopping has been good to me so far, though. Meijer is running another of their "Buy 10 for 10, get the 11th item free" promotions, and once again it has coincided with a good run of Hamburger Helper coupons, as well as coupons on a number of other box and package mixes for things. M and Robert and I went to the store this afternoon, and while Robert sniveled in my cart, we got two identical orders of 22 items apiece, each one 12 Helpers, two boxes of potatoes, two boxes of pasta, two cans of soup, and two packages of cookie mix. We split on the last items, he got dinner rolls and I got the sponge cake portion for strawberry shortcake. I also picked up a tub of Cool Whip towards that end as well. With coupons, we ended up with 73 dollars worth of food for 21 dollars. (Observant readers will note that this is about half what you'd expect to pay for 44 items in a Buy 10 for 10 sale, but that's the beauty of coupons.) I used our gift card from last month, so it doesn't come out of the budget, either. Excellent. The only other purchase of the day was my weekly newspapers at Walgreens, plus I picked up the free 8x10 I ordered during their week of deals last week.

Oh wait, no, I was totally wrong about that. This evening I got a wild hair and started shopping on Amazon, because it is almost my birthday. Swagbucks and Surveyhead, two of the online companies I work with, reward me in Amazon gift cards, and I had 40 dollars worth saved up after a few months of work. Not bad! I found a beautiful glass teakettle/infuser that is stove and microwave safe, and will infuse tea right in the kettle. It's just lovely, and will be even better when I don't have to drink the nasty tea anymore and can have good tea. I also picked up an entire Nora Roberts trilogy that I've been wanting but haven't wanted to pay for up until this point. I got the first two used, and picked up the third one on preorder, so I saved in each case. Between the tea kettle and the four books, I used all my gift cards, but I only ended up spending 49 cents of my own money. That will be a lovely birthday present to myself, and now I don't mind so much if I end up needing the cash money for something. I can't wait to brew a pot of tea and sit down with a new book... preferably after seeing M and Robert off on some adventure outside the house. ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday, What a Day!

Big milestone today, Robert and M went on their first big unsupervised outing together! I know it might seem kind of weird that it's taken so long, but M has been very busy, and we were gone on our trip for awhile, and Robert is still not quite twelve weeks old. My nerves about the idea were a part of it, especially when Robert was a newborn, but far more than that was the fact that if there is an outing to be gone on, I generally want to get out! I like our apartment, but it's not very big, and it is quite cluttered, and I love to get out of it. Today, though, the guys went out and left me to relax and do the laundry while they hit up White Castle (coupon!) and the comic book store, and also did things like looking at grass and trees and such. They had a very good time, and there were no disasters. Oh, and I found my phone, which was very good for my peace of mind while they were gone. Still no camera cord, though!

Anyway, here it is, Saturday, the end of the couponing week. It's been very busy! At the end of the first full week of April, there is good news and bad news and good news. The good news is that my saving rate for the month so far is very high! My current saving rate is 74.48%, which means that every dollar I've spent this much has been worth almost 4. That's great, and I'm very happy with it. I've gotten some great groceries and other stuff, and have a bag for the food pantry. The bad news is that with two-thirds of the month left, I have used up two-thirds of my budget already. After rebates this month, I have spent $94.73 to buy $371.26 worth of items. (I love my trusty OpenOffice spreadsheet, can you tell?) That gives me 55.27 to take us through the end of the month, which is... not exactly ideal.

That brings us to the other good news, though! April is my birthday month! For my birthday, I received 30 dollars from my family, as well as a gift card to Target. I'm going to try and stay under budget and on the gift card, and save the money for something nice just for me. But hey, if it doesn't work out, it's really nice to know I've got that little bit of extra wiggle room. I've also got a survey check coming sometime fairly soon, so that might help. Not digging in the sofa cushions yet! :D

As for today's picture, one thing I'm starting to notice is that the more Robert sleeps during the day, the easier he is to put down at night. This seems counterintuitive, but it's true. Today was another very-awake-or-very-sleeping day, where Robert was extremely engaged when he was awake, had very brief fussy periods, and slept like a stone when allowed to nap. He went down at 8:30 with hardly a peep. Happy mommy! I guess it's true that being overtired makes babies harder to calm down. I've also been pumping once at night and feeding him the bottle in the afternoon, which seems to get us over the late-afternoon fussiness hump pretty well. We're learning!

Super Double Coupon Day!

Today was a very busy day. We had to get up early early and get out of the house by 7:30 for my appointment at the health department. Not being insured definitely sucks. I had to wait a month for this appointment, where I filled out a questionnaire and gave a urine sample and made another appointment, again for a month from now, though I can pray for cancellations. If that appointment in a month goes well, I will get another appointment to actually see a health care provider, woo-hoo! I can hardly wait.

There was no time to go home after the clinic, because M had to go straight to class. Robert and I dropped him off, then noodled around in Cincinnati for a couple of hours, so as not to drive all the way home and back again. I have a bag packed up for the food bank, so I went to church to drop it off, but it was closed and locked. I even tried the parsonage, but the pastor was not in. Oh well, I can always drop it off on Sunday. Filling the bag made room in my storage boxes, and it makes me feel good, too. Part of me thinks it might feel kind of odd to be in a shelter and getting this fancy shampoo and conditioner, but maybe it'll make someone happy. I have decided that in the future I will definitely buy less conditioner and more shampoo. I use conditioner all the time, but shampoo is totally more useful. After the church, we went to McDonalds and I used my last free frappe coupon while Robert allowed people to coo at him for awhile. I nursed him in the car in the parking garage, and we were ready to face the rest of our day.

When M was done going to class it was time for him to teach a class. We headed back into Kentucky to his other school, where he showed Robert off to his faculty friends and to his class. I sat in his office with Robert while he was actually teaching, and ended up turning off the top light so the baby could catch a nap. He was fussy. When that was all done, we headed home, Robert ate again, and then it was time for SUPER DOUBLE COUPON DAY!!!

I have been very excited about Super Double Coupon Day at Remke. This weekend, Remke is having an event where they double coupons up to 2.00, rather than just 1.00 as is the norm at doubling stores. So if you have a coupon worth one dollar, it's suddenly worth 2, which is huge. Remke is a small local chain, so nobody does price matching online and I was on my own, so I printed off many one dollar coupons that I thought might net free or cheap product, and Robert and I did some serious shopping legwork. And we did well for ourselves! One thing to remember is that Remke is not a cheap store, not at all. You don't see stores with competitive prices doing super doublers. The only stores I've ever seen do it at all are Remke and K-Mart, which is a store that combines the dirty hopelessness of an off-brand dollar store with the upscale prices of an affluent department store and the surly customer service of the Soviet Union. Remke is a far more pleasant place than that, but its prices are super-high for groceries in this area.

Even with effectively two dollars off coupons, quite a few things remained out of the price range I was willing to pay, but I got some great deals. I wound up spending fifteen dollars on what would've been a 45 dollar purchase after Remke's sales, before my coupons. Tack on another 20 for shopping the sales, and I paid fifteen for what would've been closer to 70 if I'd gone in there with no sales and no coupons, so I'm pretty happy. The best part, I think, about the super doubler is that it let me indulge in a few premium items I normally couldn't get even with coupons. I got a box of Peppridge Farm cookies, which I love, some Buitoni tortellini, and two packs of King's Hawaiian rolls, which I also love, but which are normally so expensive I can only buy them for parties. We used the rolls tonight on the slow cooker barbecue chicken I made of the cheap chicken quarters from Kroger, and it was amazing. Love it! Robert was a very good shopping buddy. I usually let him "hold" the coupons by setting them in the carrier while I push the cart, but today he surprised me by actually grabbing them and waving them around. I almost couldn't get them back. =) He's getting really good at this whole "having hands" thing!

Oh, and as promised, pictures of my coupon binder! As you can see, I really haven't done any wholesale clipping, I've just put the whole insert into the page protector and secured the top with a paper clip. My coupon-matching websites tell me which insert to look in for the coupons I need, and if I see a sale and want to coupon-match myself, I can always use the Taylortown Preview, a website that lists all the coupons in every insert. I would like to think of something clever to do for a cover, as right now I just have the generic "This is a binder" cover on it, and that's boring. I know a few people read this regularly now, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jumping for my Love

Still haven't found my camera cord, how annoying! I did find out that I can swap out the SD card into my camcorder and upload it that way, which is better than nothing. So I have a picture for you today! Yesterday was a pretty quiet day, Robert and I hung out in the daytime and nursed our colds, then I went and picked up 20 free photo prints from Walgreens. That makes 70 free photo prints in a week, between Walgreens and CVS. Almost all of them are of Robert. ;-)

Today was a nice day. Robert was in a good mood almost all day. When he was alert, he was very alert and wanted entertainment, and when he was not, he wanted to sleep. He took a very nice nap in the crib, and one in the bouncer, and one in the swing. The big excitement, though, was the Jumparoo! I know he's very little for it, but I have been wanting to put it together since basically before he was born, and his head control is very good for his age. I took it out of the box and put it together this morning, then tried him out in it. He really loves it for about five minutes at a time, after which point all the stimulation totally overwhelms his tiny brain and he wants out. I think he'll really have fun with it as he gets bigger. Right now, I have to put a pack of sheets underneath it, because his little feet don't touch the floor, even on the lowest setting.

When M got home from school, Robert and I took the car and went to Walgreens to spend the last of my coupons there this week. I also took my old ink cartridge to try and get it refilled, but was informed that Epson cartridges aren't refillable, at least not at Walgreens. Bummer! I will look into that further, but I may just have to keep an eye out for deals at Staples and Office Max. I have Office Max rewards coming to me next month, I know.

At Walgreens, we picked up more Frappucino (yay!) and the very last clearanced Easter candy that I will get, I swear, and another thing of Kotex and three more shampoos. I found out from my pastor how to get stuff to the food bank, so I'm getting a bag ready for this weekend. I then splurged and bought a package of page protectors so that I could actually put together my coupon binder like I've been wanting to for weeks. That cost more than all the rest of it put together, but it was worth it. I got the binder put together tonight, and I love it. (I will show you a picture of how it turned out tomorrow!)

We had not-so-good luck at the checkout counter, when I didn't get one of my register rewards, and the manager had to be called. It turned out that the cashier had forgotten to ring up one of the shampoos, so I didn't get the reward I should have. We had to void the whole transaction, get all the coupons back out of her envelope, and try the whole thing again. But she and the manager were very nice about it, and I was very nice about it, and most importantly, Robert stayed calm the whole time. He is often chancy at checkout, when the cart is not moving. In the end, it all turned out fine. Oh, and they also let me trade in my two unopened packages of Size 1 Huggies for Size 2 Huggies, so I am feeling very good about Walgreens today.