Monday, December 28, 2009

8 Numbers to Have in Your Cell Phone

  1. ICE Number—“In Case of Emergency” numbers are now suggested for your cell phone. Some phones have a slot pre-programmed into the contact list for you. For those that don’t…just put something like “ICE-Husband”. This is a number that emergency workers can contact in case of an accident or emergency of any type.
  2. Insurance Agent—You will won’t this one on your person if you are ever in an auto accident. Some people have also used it to avoid going to jail when they did not have their insurance card on their person during a traffic stop (although I will not promise this will work for you). A definite to have on hand.
  3. Pharmacy—Great to call in refills, call with questions about medications, or to check store hours when you need to run out for medicine late.
  4. Childcare—In case you need to call them because you are running late to pick your child up or need to make arrangements for someone else to pick them up for another reason.
  5. Boss—You never know when you will get held up on the way to work (highway accident, unexpected construction, family emergency) and need to call in to tell him/her you will be late.
  6. Roadside Assistance #/Tow Truck—Make sure you know how to get in touch with someone in case you are stranded on the highway. Whether it be a tow company, a local repair shop, or AAA, make sure you know who to call.
  7. Local Take Out Place—You’re running late home from work or just want to surprise the family with your favorite take-out. Make sure you have it on your person so you don’t have to find a phone book to call them for a pick up order.
  8. Doctor’s Office—Always good to have for questions, emergency appointment needs, or referrals.
Photo credit: mihow

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Merry Christmas to you all.
Now stop reading blogs and go celebrate the birth of the King of Kings!
photo credit: debsch

Monday, December 21, 2009

8 People to Remember at Christmas

I am going to use the characters in the Christmas story to discuss 7 groups of people that we need to remember here at the holiday season. Why only seven? Well, Jesus is the eighth and He doesn’t represent anyone but Himself.

  1. Jesus—The “Reason for the Season”, right? I won’t get on my soapbox about the commercialization of Christmas or the abuse of the holiday. I will just simply state that He IS the very reason for Christmas whether we acknowledge it or not, and it would be in our best interest to do so.
  2. Mary—Ahhh….how can we sum up Mary? She was a scared girl. She was asked to face a lot of hardship. She was called to carry a child out of wedlock in the face of a society where it was greatly shunned. She was asked to love a child that would be hated by His society. She was asked to give her heart away to a son who would be murdered one day by the very people He came to love. She was asked to do a number of tasks, and she accepted her lot in life humbly, obediently, and willingly. She gave her heart to a task that would one day break it. Let’s remember those who give their entire life breathing on this earth to following through with God’s place, regardless of how much they will sacrifice to do so.
  3. Joseph—Joseph was a man entrusted with a great task. He was expected to provide for his family as the man of the household. Greater than that, he was to take his meager occupation and use it to raise the very Son of God. He was called to be the father of the Son. He had a great task ahead of him with limited resources. He was the one that God entrusted His Son to while on this earth. He was given the task to be a role-model within his own means. Let’s remember those who are working hard to provide for their families and doing the best with what they have been given.
  4. 3 Wise Men/Kings/Magi—Remember when Jesus noted that to those who have been given much that much will be expected? The Magi are representative of those people. You see, they were scholars and very wealthy men in their day. They had been gifted with both talents and resources and both were used to honor Jesus for Christmas. They brought Him gifts acknowledging their submission as well as who He was. They were obedient to God and used their wealth to give to Him. Let’s remember those who, despite their wealth, can humble themselves before the King.
  5. Shepherds—This lowly group of men were considered one of the lowest caste in society. However, if you will note, they were the first to hear the news of Christ’s birth. God remembered the lowly and even honored them by sending messengers directly to them. They honored Him in turn by proclaiming the good news to all they came in contact with. I’m sure that those who would not have been told by the rich and powerful got the message that night when they might have otherwise never known. Let’s remember that the very least in our midst might be mighty members of God’s creation.
  6. Angels—The very messengers of God. His creation. They proclaimed in God’s glory the announcement of Jesus’ birth. We should remember those who have been called to share the news of Jesus. May they only use their proclamations to draw attention to the center of the festivities.
  7. Innkeeper—There was no actual innkeeper in the Bible, but we have always created one in the stories since there was an inn, so someone must have been running the place. It’s sad that since it was time for the census that Joseph & Mary were turned away due to an overcrowding in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Let’s remember those who are so focused on the busyness and chaos of this life that we neglect to see what is really happening in their very midst. They need our prayers for peace and calm.
  8. Donkey—The true ministry tool of this story. The donkey was a beast of burden and used to carry Mary, Joseph & their belongings to Bethlehem. Let’s remember that there are many ministries in the world working to bring Christ to a dark world in a very real, hands-on way. They are loving through tasks and deeds because that is what they have been called to do. As with the donkey, they might get no true high praise from men on this earth, but the recipient of their works will never forget them.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Photo credit: bishopitalia

Monday, December 14, 2009

8 Christmas Movies/Specials We Watch

Tis the season to feed our Christmas-season-watching desire. What we will have to include?

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 - TV) - We watched this last Tuesday night with Patrick for the first time. A true classic with the RIGHT message.
  2. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983 - TV) - Also watched with Patrick last Tuesday night. As the kids get older this will of course fade into the background (although the others cannot...I will not allow that). But while they are young and like Disney, we can tell a classic story through those characters.
  3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - (after the younger kids are asleep, of course) - This is actually my family's "traditional" Christmas movie to watch together.
  4. Elf (2003) - LOVE IT! Seriously bound to be a classic.
  5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 - TV) - I haven't seen the movie version, but the cartoon is definitely a classic
  6. A Christmas Story (1983) - I hate this movie. Let me repeat myself. I. Hate. This. Movie. But Chip loves it, and Patrick is sure to as well, and those are two really good reasons that I will sit in while it plays across our screen.
  7. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - By far a classic in the purest sense. I feel like this is one I have to watch or it's just not Christmas.
  8. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964 - TV)/Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970 - TV)/Frosty the Snowman (1969) (TV) - This must be listed as one because if you watch one, you must watch them all. The originals. I don't care so much for the "spin offs."
Honorable Mention:
  • Home Alone (1990) (the original one only...the others were pathetic) - We don't normally watch this one, but it is a good family movie and one Patrick is sure to love with all of its slap-stick type fun.
  • The Santa Clause (1994) - This one has good potential. It's a cute movie.
  • The Nativity Story (2006) - There was some controversy in the making of this movie that surrounded some of the actors, but after watching the movie last year (or maybe the previous year), I have nothing but good things to say about it personally. It takes some artistic liberties to fill in gaps where the actual Christmas story leaves some unknowns, but it seems very plausible in its telling.

Is it wrong that Elf and Christmas Vacation made the list while the Nativity Story only made an honorable mention? I actually feel really bad about that, but honestly the top 8 are the ones that we will see this year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One of the Best Example of Holiday Thoughtfulness

One time, about 10 years ago, my sister amazed me. Truly amazed me with her giving and thoughtfulness

Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to imply she is not thoughtful or giving, but I watched her do something that never would have crossed my mind.

On Christmas Eve, she took an entire cooked ham, with trimmings, two gallons of sweet tea, and a red velvet cake to her local fire station. They didn't know she was coming. She just showed up with the meal around mid to late afternoon and gave it to them.

I was floored.

What an awesome way to thank those guys who had to work their shift on Christmas. Those guys who risk their lives to protect the general pubic. Those guys who obviously were going to be celebrating with their fire station family that night.

They make sacrifices every day. Sacrifices much greater than the money it took to buy the groceries for that meal. Sacrifices much greater than the time and effort it took her to prepare that dinner. Sacrifices much more than braving the icy rain encountered while delivering it.

I saw her in that moment not as the big sister that she has always been, but as someone who was truly generous and someone to emulate.
Photo credit: jamesacampbell

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WFMW - Helping Baby Dress

With a new baby in the house, I am always looking for tricks to help me out in dealing with this little one. And although this isn't my first time around, I certainly can't claim to know everything.

However, I have discovered a "hack" to help me dress our daughter.

When putting on a shirt, she often likes to bend her arms or make them almost completely limp, making it hard to get her little arms through a long-sleeve and successfully out the other end. I found out though, if I just stick my index finger through the wrist of the sleeve and poke her hand, like any baby will, she will immediately grasp my finger with her precious little hand and hold on (for dear life it seems). I can then easily pull her arm all the way out the end with little effort and time on my part.

So that's What Works for Me. Go visit We Are THAT Family and see what works for everyone else!


Photo credit: Victoria Bjorkman

Monday, December 7, 2009

8 Items for the Kids’ Medicine Cabinet


To go along with last week's list of items you should have in your own medicine cabinet, I am adding this week's list to include items especially for children's health care.
  1. Tylenol/Ibuprofen--Children's strength.
  2. Nasal Bulb--Unfortunately, teaching children to blow their nose is not always easy.
  3. Petroleum Jelly--Use this to lubricate rectal thermometers or to prevent chapped lips/cheeks on babies.
  4. Thermometer--Age and usage appropriate of course. Rectal thermometers are the most accurate, but not always easy to use. Oral are perfect for older kids. Ear thermometers are not terribly accurate in infants. Underarm or forehead are the least accurate although can give you a good idea of their temperature.
  5. Stomach Meds--Age appropriate of course. You can buy kids' Pepto for older kids. Mylicon or similar anti-gas medicine for infants is almost always necessary to have on hand.
  6. Medicine Dropper/Syringe--For easy of giving babies and small children their medicine. Once they leave the toddler stage, they are probably fine to use the dosage cups that come with the liquid meds.
  7. Saline Nasal Drops--Since most medicines are no longer allowed for children under 4, this homeopathic remedy is a good cleanser for the sinuses without introducing chemicals.
  8. Pedialyte--Great for rehydrating after stomach bug, when child hasn't had an appetite due to illness, or just to re-energize on a hot day.

Would you care to add anything?

Photo credit: nathansnostalgia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Financial Status - Update #2

So a second month since my confessional post has passed and I am here to update you on how we did this month so you can hold me accountable! As a reminder, you can see how we did during the first month here.

After last month, I predicted that we would be over budget this month on both gasoline (due to traveling to see family) and groceries (as we were hosting Thanksgiving) with the hopes to offset them in other areas. Let's see how we did:

As a reminder, I'm not showing you actual amounts spent, as I'm not comfortable posting THAT much financial info about ourselves. The amounts shown are how much either over or under that we were in those areas noted.

INCOME: On budget.
The number actually show $201 over budget due to being reimbursed for some spending (rebates, credit card cash back and buying some things and getting paid back for them). So since these were all associated with having to spend money first, I am not considering them "gain." =)

OVER BUDGET AREAS:
Gasoline: $82 over budget. As I noted above, I had expected this due to some extra traveling.
Groceries: $25 over budget. Also expected, but not nearly as far over as I would have thought, so I consider this a bit of a "win".
Restaurants/Fast Food: $131 over. Yikes! This is really a tough one for us obviously. We had some company and went out to eat a couple of times, so I guess that's why we were so badly over. Need to stick to this one better!
Baby Supplies: $16 over budget. I was well below budget last month ($34) so this isn't a big deal. There were a lot of great diaper sales going on and I took advantage of a couple of them. So this should set me up to be in really good shape in this area for a month or two. =)
Pharmacy: $63 over budget. We were a bit sick this month. Also, I went to the doctor and was given a new prescription that costs more than my last one, so I will have to update our budget to reflect this change.
Doctor: $40 over budget. Since both of the kids went to the doctor last month, we were one copay above our budget. I thought we would "catch up" this month by not having to go, but I had an appointment this month that I had forgotten was scheduled, so although there was only one appointment in the family, I didn't have any money in this area of our budget prepared, so we were over one copay again.
Home Supplies: $54 over budget. We had to buy a water filter for our fridge. I had not anticipated this (things like this slip my mind usually). On the plus side--this reduces the money we spend on bottled water and other drinks (because we can drink water in their place).
Coffee Shops: $10 over budget. These aren't necessarily "coffee shops" but usually stops to convenience stores (that's just how I categorize them in Mint).
Veterinary Services: $139 over. We had the dog boarded while we traveled and she was groomed while she was there.
Gifts: $200 over budget. We're doing birthday and Christmas shopping.

ON BUDGET AREAS:
Mortgage (very predictable)
Credit Card Payment (What we've set aside)
Life Insurance (very predictable)
Auto Insurance (very predictable)
Pest Control (very predictable)
Television (very predictable)
Hair/Salon
Late Fees (yes, they were zero, and that is the plan)
Newspaper (very predictable)

UNDER BUDGET AREAS:
Babysitter/Daycare: $135 under budget. With Thanksgiving holidays and Patrick being sick, we used sick days instead of paying for those days the kids weren't in school.
Utilities: Water bills was $5 under budget, and our electric bill was $130 under budget! We have to plan for the extreme hot and relative cold, so I have budgeted $200 to heat/cool our house as an average. Since our bill was only $71 this month (!), we saved big money!
Clothing: $54 under budget. This is set up as a rolling amount, as we do not buy clothes every month, but when we do, it is more than one month's budget. In other words, after buying Abigail and Patrick some clothes this past month, we have $54 that will roll into next month to accumulate until we need to spend more on clothes.
Auto Service: $30 under budget. This should help make up for being $63 over budget last month!
Make-up/Toiletries: $9 under budget.

So all in all, another decent month. I expected being over budget in groceries and gas, but completely did not anticipate we would do so poorly in eating out. Sigh...still a weakness I guess. It seems we made up for it in areas we were under budget though, so in the end it is okay. If we can just get rid of that eating out problem, we can send more money to credit cards!

Speaking of which...we have not put anything else on the card that we paid off last month. It is actually stored away and we will close it as soon as we have more room on other cards and know we don't need it for an emergency. We have "snowballed" our payment and sent the month we didn't need for Card #1 payment and sent it in addition to the regular payment to Card #2.

On an unexpected note, we have closed Card #2 and will work on paying it if off from here. We got a notice that our rate would change to a variable rate on December 1st. Not wanting a variable rate on ANY loan, we opted out, which closed the card and will allow us to pay it off at our current rate. It's a good thing, as there is no possibility of us using that card again.

We are looking into refinancing our home under a program the VA loan people have going on (we have a VA loan now). It will result in a lower monthly payment...by about $250. We can then sent that amount to paying off debts and get them down faster.

Also in the upcoming month--I will be reimbursed half of my medical deductible from having Abigail. This is just a perk from my employer. =) We are going to put 2/3 of it in savings to help build it and use the other 1/3 to pay for our Christmas gifts this year. Hooray! It will actually show up as an additional credit card payment though because we've been shopping some great deals already (while not overspending, of course) and I just turned in the paperwork on Tuesday to get the reimbursement, so I should have it soon.

For December, there will be an additional credit card payment for this reason and we will once again probably be over in gasoline due to traveling. Hopefully it won't be too bad though because I won't have to commute to work for about 1-1/2 weeks. =)

What else can we do to help ourselves? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WFMW - My Frugal Christmas Gifts

This year the purse strings are tighter than normal. Chip still has not found a job (seriously...it seems NO ONE is hiring around here right now) and we're still trying to attack our debt. So in our efforts to control spending this Christmas we are having to be a lot more careful about where our money is going. I typically give small gifts to all of my employees (6 of them) and my boss. We have some good friends I'd like to give gifts to. And there are three people that are work friends that I will exchange gifts for. This is all in addition to our family gifts, which are also on a tighter budget this year.

So I have decided that all of those other people are getting the same thing this year...homemade goodies. All of the ingredients will be on sale this holiday season and they are cheaper to make in bulk than just as a few. These are the items that are currently on my list of possibilities:

Super Brownies (some of my friends will wonder why I didn't make these if they aren't included!)
Red Velvet Cake Truffles (YUMMY! I will do them in white chocolate and may try to get creative and drizzle them in red)
Fudge (probably peanut butter to avoid too much chocolate in one place)
Haystacks (my mom used to make these. So good and so easy)
Pies in Jars (I just found this recently and fell in love with the idea!)
Peppermint Bark (how holiday-ish)
Snowballs (LOVE these)
Peanut Butter Blossoms (Patrick loves to help make these)
Dipped Pretzels (love sweet and salty together)
Dipped Ritz Sandwiches (one of my childhood favorites at Christmas)

That's all that is on my mind at the moment. I am not guaranteeing that I will do them all. Those are just possibilities. And I can mix and match for different people...they don't all have to have each variety. And luckily--none of them read this blog, so I know there is no threat in them finding out early!

What do you think? Do you have any favorites I didn't list that you would recommend?

I think this will work for me this holiday. Head over to We Are THAT Family to see what gift-giving ideas others are coming up with!

Monday, November 30, 2009

8 Items Everyone Should Have in Their Medicine Cabinet

  1. Bandages/Gauze/Tape—Assorted sizes are a must for the most basic of first aid.
  2. Alcohol & Hydrogen Peroxide—Most basic needs for cleaning wounds.
  3. Antiseptics/Antibiotic Creams--to prevent infection in a cut or wound
  4. Thermometer--must have for cold/flu season
  5. Tweezers—Removing splinters, ticks, stray hairs. =)
  6. Pain Killers—Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Aspirin should cover all the bases.
  7. PeptoBismal or similar—covers a number of stomach ailments.
  8. Ice Pack/Hot Water Bottle—to use for swelling or muscle aches.

Sure there are others…cough medicine, antihistamines, eyewash, compression kit…that would also be a great addition, but in sticking with the most basic, this would be my list.

What would you add to this list?

Join me next week for items to add to this list for those of us with kids!

Photo credit: vetcw3

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What to Buy That Teenage Girl

What would you pay for a happy teenager? I know...that must seem like a mythological creature to those of you who have teenagers living with you. But I bet you can have a happy teenage girl on your hands for less than $25 this Christmas (okay...she might break a smile out for you at least).

I have a 15-year old niece on my shopping list. Ahhh...teenagers. What to do with them? Can't wait for mine to reach that age (since I can't type with a "tone" of voice...that one was dripping with sarcasm).

However, you can get some really great deals on makeup at E.L.F right now and what teenage girl doesn't like make up?

First of all, sign up at shopathome.com. Although I am signed up through upromise and mypoints, E.L.F. doesn't offer any rebates through those two sites, but they do throught shopathome.com. =) They actually offer 7% cash back! While you are there, you can check out a plethora of coupons that they have for E.L.F as well as MANY other stores.

If you aren't familiar with E.L.F--all of their make up (standard) is $1.00. Standard shipping is $6.95, so you should stock up while you are there. I have used it and I like it.

Some of my favorites for this particular shopping extravaganza:
  • Save 75% off make up cases with code EH75CE.
  • $1.98 shipping on $15 purchase with coupon UNDER2SHIP through 11/30
  • Free Shipping on Orders over $35! Use code 35SHPFREE through 11/30
  • Get a free Healthy Glow Bronzing Powder when you spend $10 at eyeslipsface.com! Just use coupon code BRONZE at checkout.
  • $25 Restaurant Gift Card with $15 Purchase. Use code YUMMY
  • 50% Off All Bath Items with code BTH50OFF
  • FREE 27 Piece Mini Makeup Kit With Any Purchase! Use code LOYAL thru 11/30
  • Spend $15 and Get a Free Smokey Eye Kit with code GTLSEYE
  • 50% Off Minerals with code MIN50LTD

You can only use one coupon code, so choose wisely.

How am I using it today? Well, I'm buying a large make up case for $3 (usually $12) and filling it with makeup and brushes for a total of $24.95 shipped. Plus I'll get 7% back since I'm shopping through shopathome.com! =) Not a bad price for a happy teenager.

Monday, November 23, 2009

8 Reasons I am Thankful


  1. Husband. I have a husband who loves me and truly cares about my happiness. Seriously...he has proven that he is in it for the long haul. He puts up with my stubbornness (me? no!), and still professes his love for me. He would rather me with our family than anywhere else. He is a fantastic father. I am truly blessed.
  2. Kids. We have two of the greatest kids to ever exist. I know...all parents believe that about their own children. We happen to be right. Seriously...they are well-behaved, good natured, loving little people, and we are blessed to have them living in our home with us.
  3. Health. Yes, we have our health. We have had health scares in our house, but in the end, we're all great. We have two perfectly healthy children. We are truly blessed in that our bodies work the way they should when so many intricate processes could go awry.
  4. My upbringing. I was raised in a close, Christian family. We didn't always get along. We had our (huge) share of problems, but altogether, we did and truly do love each other. We know we can rely on one another when the world is against us. We know that we have a friend to talk to at the other end of the telephone. I am who I am greatly because of how I was raised.
  5. Home. We have a home. And to boot, we have a nice house. We have never wanted for anything in this housing department. We are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We are dry in the rain and have no major deficiencies in our living condition.
  6. Job. During this difficult economic time for our country, I still have a job. Too many people, including Chip, have not fared as well through cutbacks and layoffs, but we still have an income and are able to live off of my earnings.
  7. God has provided. Through this period of an income shortage, God is still providing. He has allowed extra money to find us when we would need it and He is making sure that we are making ends meet. He is so faithful.
  8. We worship. We are free to worship God as we please. We do not experience persecution. We do not have to hide our beliefs. We can read our Bible without hiding. We can sing songs to God loudly. We can openly meet in a place of worship. We can proclaim His glory in our surroundings. We are free.

Photo credit: aslave4christ

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WFMW - Fire Safety in the Home

At work this week we are having our fire extinguisher training class and it has inspired me to focus on home fire safety for this week's Works for Me Wednesday.

Smoke Detectors:

  • Replace the batteries twice a year. It's easiest to coordinate this with changing your clocks to and from Daylight Savings to remember to do it.
  • Test them once a month.
  • Replace them every 10 years.
  • Locate them in every sleeping area and at least one on each level of the house for minimum protection. For better coverage, also install them outside of each sleeping area (hallway) in the (finished) attic and basement, at the top and bottom of all stairs and in frequently used rooms.

Extinguishers:

  • Have at least one extinguisher per level of your home. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends one for every 600 square feet of home.
  • Have at least one extinguisher for your kitchen, one for your garage, and one for your basement.
  • You should also have one in your car, boat and RV.
  • Buy an ABC extinguisher in order to cover any type of home fire possibility (these extinguish dry fires, chemical fires, and electrical fires). If you buy a water-based extinguisher it should NEVER be used on a chemical fire, including a kitchen fire, as it may only worsen the situation. An ABC extinguisher is best for all-around use.
  • Check the gauge on your extinguisher once a month to insure that the arrow is pointing to the green area. If it is not, you need to replace your extinguisher.
  • Once a month also verify that there is no physical damage to the outside of the extinguisher, the hose is not dry rotting, the nozzle is not obstructed, and the pin is still in place. Never "hold" the pin in with anything that is stronger than the break-away tie that often comes with them. DO NOT use a zip tie. Also, during this monthly inspection, flip the extinguisher upside down and then again rightside up a couple of times to "shake up" the contents. Otherwise the powder can settle and be less effective in a fire.
  • Do not store extinguishers directly by a fire source (ie over a stove) as you might not be able to get to it in the event of a fire.
  • Store them in a place that is easy to access, but out of reach of children.
  • If you have to use one, assume it is empty and replace it with a new one.
  • You might consider getting a "Purple K" extinguisher to fight kitchen fires specifically. Although ABC extinguishers can usually put out kitchen fires, Purple K extinguishers are designed for high heat fires that results from cooking mediums such as oils and fats. Warning when using these though...they use a gas that replaces the oxygen that is fueling the fire with carbon monoxide. Do not consider buying or using these if you need to use them in a small, contained area, as the person using the extinguisher needs plenty of room to breathe and an easy escape route with this one.

Fighting a Fire:

  • Make sure family members are out of the house before trying to fight a fire. If you are unsuccessful it might be too late to get them out later.
  • Make sure you have a clear route out before beginning to fight a fire.
  • Don't be a hero. If the fire is not small or you cannot control it easily, get out and let the professionals handle it.
  • Stand 6-10 feet away from the fire and point the nozzle at the base of the fire. Don't fully blast the extinguisher at the fire, as you might blow it in another direction and ignite another flammable object. Use light, short bursts to put out the fire.

Other:

  • Establish a fire safety plan for your house. Make sure all family members know how to get out of different areas and where to meet once you are outside.
  • Consider installing fire ladders in each upstairs bedroom. You might further consider installing them in each room upstairs that has a window.
  • Make sure fire ladders are installed per the manufacturer's instructions for a proper fit.

So...in an effort to further educate you on fire safety as well as remind you (and myself) that this is an important part of home-making, this is my Works for Me Wednesday post. Now I need to go finish up some of this stuff, like investigating ladders that we could possibly use with small children!

Go over to We Are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else.

Photo credit: AntiPainKiller

Monday, November 16, 2009

8 Chores Any Preschooler Can Do


I am a big believer in teaching children to do chores from a young age. It teaches them responsibility, life skills they will need, how to contribute as a member of the family, and how to work. And if you teach them while they are young, they are more likely to enjoy it rather than complain and see it as a burden.
So here are a few ways to start them off young:
  1. Feed pet. From the time our son was 2-1/2, he's been helping to feed the pets. We stored the dog food in a sealable rubbermaid tub in the garage and he was allowed to step out there with a plastic cup, fill it up, and bring it into the house to pour into the pets' bowls. He thought it was a great task to get to participate in and it helped instill both work in him and the necessity to take care of pets.
  2. Clean up toys. All toys must be put away before bedtime. That's the rule at our house. In my mind it is more peaceful if we go to bed with a clean house so that is what we see when we wake up. =) Everything in our house has a location, so it is easy to let Patrick put away his toys in their labeled bins. I won't pretend it's perfect, as there are nights that he still does not want to clean up his toys. If he's been good and just is too tired, I will often "help" him by letting him do most of the work. However, if he is just being hard-headed, I offer to put them away myself, but with the caveat that if I put them away, he will not see them again for a while. That usually gets him moving.
  3. Clear the table. Once a meal is over, he throws away napkins, remnants of food, and any paper plates that he might have used. He places all washable items on the kitchen counter on the "dirty" side of the sink.
  4. Fold towels. You can teach basic folding methods for items such as washcloths, dish towels, and bath towels. I remember folding towels as the age of 4 for a family of 6...and it was a full time job, as my mom did not allow reuse of a bath towel in our house, so each day 6 new towels were dirty. I was soon promoted to bigger and better things to fold, but towels are easy enough for any pre-schooler.
  5. Dust (socks on hands). So you don't have to give them a can of spray furniture polish, but you can put old socks on their hands and let them dust the furniture. It can be a game until they figure out it is housework, but that usually takes a while. =)
  6. Wipe up Messes. The rule in our house is if our son makes a mess, he cleans it up. That includes kicking over the pet water dish, pouring pet food in the floor rather than in the bowl, spilling drink on the kitchen floor, or splashing water outside the tub during bath time.
  7. Carrying/Putting Away Groceries. They can certainly carry in the lightweight ones. Patrick gets a kick out of putting all of the pantry items into the pantry in bags. We even give him a bag or two of stuff on the lower shelves that he can put away. Since he's an organizational freak like mom, he likes to make sure they go where they should. Regardless of whether they get put in the right place, he feels like he is helping and that adds to that "big boy" feeling he loves.
  8. Weed Garden. If you don't try to cultivate anything exotic, you can get your kids to pull up weeds in the flower beds or around the trees and/or shrubs. Make sure they are either in a location where there are no flowers to confuse for weeds or that the flowers are in bloom and easily discernible from the weeds. This is time well spent with your little one outdoors.

Do you have your little ones do any other chores?

Photo credit: Three if by Bike

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Great Discount Sites

With the holidays coming up, I have really been scouring discount sites for gift-giving needs. In this process I have used some oldie-but-goodies as well as been introduced to some new ones. I thought with everyone currently trying to snag great bargains, I could help you out by making sure you knew about all of the ones that I frequent.

Slickdeals - Now I don't usually visit slickdeals personally, as there is a LOT of information there to sort through. My recommendation (and personal practice) with SD is to subscribe to their blog feed to get some hot discount updates. Also I usually stop by there to do a search through their forum if there is something in particular I am looking for a good deal on.

Woot - This is a fairly new site to me. This seems to be hit or miss depending on your personal preferences. I haven't ordered anything yet, but I have seen what would be good deals if I was in the market for the featured product of the day. This site updates it's single featured product once a day (or when the product of the day sells out). A funny feature to this site is their "Bag of Crap." Everyone once in a while, unannounced, they sell a BOC for $5. You seriously have no idea what is going to come in it. It really could be something worthless or it really could be something awesome. I've heard accounts of both. I'm sure it's whatever items that they just have a few of in their warehouses. The article that goes with each product is also entertaining at least. Example - Today's featured item is a Gateway 11.6" Notebook computer for $279.99 plus shipping. There are forums to get more information/comments about the products.

Similarly there is Kids Woot, Wine Woot, and Shirt Woot for special interest. There is also Sellout Woot via Yahoo.

1 Sale a Day - This is a very promising site that a friend just introduced me to about 2 days ago. Similarly to Woot, every day they feature one main product (can be anything) but also have categories for Wireless, Watch, Family & Jewelry. Two days ago they featured Wii Sports Pack (tennis racket, golf club, etc) to attach to your Wii nunchucks for free (you paid only $5.99 shipping) although they normally retail for $79.99! Yesterday they had freshwater pearls - an 18' necklace - for only $15.00 (normally right at $200). My friend ordered from them for the first time (the Wii package), so I'll let you know how that goes.

Retail Me Not - Not a discount site, but where I ALWAYS check for coupon codes before ordering ANYTHING on the internet. I have saved so much money through them!

So those are my recommendations. None of these sites asked me to mention them...I am truly just passing along what I hope to be helpful information.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Financial Status - Update #1

So after my confessional post, I asked you guys to keep me accountable. Well, that's pretty hard to do if I don't update you, so I plan to do that at the beginning of each month.

I am posting how much over/under we were, but you can't see our budgeted amounts. I'm still feeling out my comfort level of publishing such personal info.

Here's where we stand for October:

INCOME: $2905 over expected.
Result of one extra week in the month for unemployment check, a reimbursement check from Chip's previous employer, and the sale of trumpets mentioned in the confessional post.

OVER BUDGET AREAS:
Credit Card Payments: $1944 due to sending money from the trumpet sales to pay off card #1. I can definitely live with this one.
Gasoline: $56
Groceries: $45
Mobile Phone: $60 (we bought new phones in September and the chargers we had to pay for showed up on October's bill)
Dining: $90 yeah. No kidding. The "good" news is that most of this was incurred before I started tracking using Mint. We had a really bad beginning of the month for eating out.
Doctor: $140. We have a $40 co-pay. I chose one co-pay per month to be in our budget. Since both kids were due a check up this month, we were $40 over. I also sent an extra $100 to apply to hospital bills from Abigail's birth. Since neither child is due a visit to the doctor, if everyone is well through November, the rolling budget will clear itself out for December's check up (for Abigail). The additional good news--I will get reimbursed $40 for a co-pay from my employer. (they reimburse up to two co-pays a year per member of the family; I've already collected both of Abigail's, but not Patrick's, so we have one due to us).
Auto Repair/Parts: $63. We needed some new wipers for the van. The good ones aren't cheap (and we needed three of them), but they should last for a while!
Hair Cuts: $20. It never happens that BOTH guys need them at the same time...but it did this month! This should roll through November and balance out for December.
Home/Building Supplies: $15. We went over because Chip built an obstacle course for Patrick's birthday party. Oh well...he only turns 4 once. =)

ON BUDGET AREAS:
Childcare (very predictable)
Life Insurance (very predictable)
Life Insurance (very predictable)
Newspaper (very predictable)

UNDER BUDGET AREAS:
Utilities: $43 Hooray for weather that doesn't have our AC pumping constantly!
Baby Supplies (non grocery): $34 I had some diapers already stocked up from a good sale, so not much was needed in this area.
Clothing: Nothing spent--None of us needed anything this month. This is one item in Mint that I have as a "rolling" expense so whatever we don't use one month will roll over to the next. We don't buy clothes regularly, but when we do, we buy more than what I've budgeted for one month, so it should work out.
Pest Control: Nothing spent--Strange. We didn't get a bill. I wonder if they came....
Make-Up/Toiletries: $4. Hooray! True underage!

Some miscellaneous items that I didn't expect or budget for:
Birthday party preparation costs
Photos printed (miscellaneous).
Photo shoot at Sears
Dog Food/Grooming

So, overall, we were over budget with our expenses, but had more income than expected as well, so we did okay. Obviously I can see that we need to work on our eating out budget and now that we are in the groove of not eating out so often, this should go down drastically for November.

I expect November to possibly be over budget for gasoline, as we will be traveling to visit my mom this weekend, and most probably in groceries, as we are hosting family for Thanksgiving this month. However, my hope is to offset these areas by being under in other, more controllable areas.

The good news is...one card is knocked out of the running now. We can "snowball" and add that payment towards card #2.

What do you think? Any suggestions to help us?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WFMW - Boil Water Faster

I must give all credit for this hack to my hubby. He is brilliant at times, and this is one of those moments for him to shine. =)

You want to know how to get water to boil faster?

Easy--put the lid on it.

Yes...the process is easier if you have a glass lid and can therefore see that the water is boiling so you can proceed with whatever task made you boil the water. But seriously...the process happens more quickly when you put a lid on it.

Why? The lid traps the heat inside, making it hotter inside the pot and therefore encouraging the water to reach boiling temperature faster.

No, it doesn't cut the time in half or anything, but there is a noticeable difference to me.

It's that simple.

And that works for us at our house. Go over to We Are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else!

Photo credit: canonsnapper

Monday, October 26, 2009

8 Free Family Fun Activities

Today is the beginning of a new series I am naming "Monday 8s" where I talk about 8 of something. Really clever, no? Some of these will be about frugality, some about family life, some about general information, and some about random things.

I know, not too specific is it? Well, that's the fun of it I guess.



Today's Monday 8 will fall into the realm of frugality since it is the kick-off post.

So here's to a new series beginning!

8 Free Family Fun Activities
  1. Visit local park/playground. Most towns/communities/neighborhoods have some form of local park or playground to visit. You can find anything from playground equipment to picnic tables to walking trails to tennis and basketball courts. This one is a "no brainer."
  2. Library. The library has drastically changed since I was a child. Now you can find lots of good and free reading material as well as movies, books on tape/CD, magazines, and free internet usage. Most also have some type of playstuff set up in the children's area like a train table or such. Just remember to keep your voices low. =)
  3. Nature Walk/Bike Ride. Get outdoors with the entire family. Ride your bikes to explore (semi) far away places together and get some great exercise. Or for something closer to home, take a walk and look at birds, bugs, leaves and flowers on your way. My son is one to collect rocks, so there are always plenty on the trip to occupy him. And a walk with a handful of rocks is always an adventure to him!
  4. Picnic. This one is a fun one. You don't even have to go to a park for this one. Just set up a blanket in the yard and have a meal together on the ground. Fighting off the ants is part of the fun. Or even if it is raining, have a special indoors picnic. We VERY OCCASIONALLY have had the treat of eating on a quilt in front of the TV while watching a family-friendly movie. It's always a treat!
  5. Play hide-and-seek/tag. That's right...get outside and run around like you were 8 years old again. You're not too old for it...and your kids will love it!
  6. Camping. Sure you can go all out and do this at a campsite, but I was thinking something even more simple...like your own yard. Set up a tent or just put some sleeping bags out on a porch. You can be within a few feet of the house, but your kids' minds will be far away getting to enjoy this specialty!
  7. Playing Board Games. There are so many good board games out there for kids now. Some emphasize learning (counting) or skills (money) while others are just outright silly. They are all fun though and just a few dollars invested once can create memory after memory for your children.
  8. Sing/Dance. That's right...just turn up the music and let loose! Your kids naturally love music and they don't care if you have rhythm or can carry a tune. They care about fun...so go have some!

So even when our purse strings are tied tight, there are still lots of fun things to do in order to create a lifetime of memories for your children.

Photo credit: theophine

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Watering Down Frugality

If you go by the dictionary’s definition of frugality, you will find that it is “1.) economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful and 2.) entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty”.

However, some confusion comes into play with a basic definition. To people “on the outside,” the word has a connotation usually associated with “cheap,” “tightwad” or “miser.” Those who live frugally know it to be a completely different lifestyle than those words bring to mind. Frugality is about being smart with your spending. Whether that means buying less, buying better quality, buying on sale, or not buying at all depends on your level of frugality.

You see, there are different degrees of frugality, and I believe all should be applauded. Everyone making an effort to improve their quality of life while making changes in their spending habits is using their resources more wisely. Sometimes people start slowly and continue to make changes as their comfort level is altered. Some people dive in to the deep end from the beginning and take a “sink or swim” approach. Some decide to “up” their level of frugalness after they learn new and exciting ways to save money without compromising what is truly important to them.

To go along with the “sink or swim” analogy I used above, I am dividing people into 6 categories. Let’s examine them now:

SUNBATHERS: This category is filled with people who are aware that there are people swimming out in the water, but are not interested in participating. These are people who like to spend money. They put little to no thought into trying to save money or look for a bargain. If they find a sale, it is counted as a “bonus” incentive for buying the product, but are not deterred if the item is full price. They are not interested in pursuing a frugal lifestyle for some reason (reason does not really matter).

SIDELINERS: This group is the spectator group. These are people who like to find things on sale and may even shop with the intent of finding a good sale but still seem surprised when they find a good bargain, as if it is an abnormality. They know people are finding great deals and wonder how. They worry that their lifestyle will be compromised by living any more frugally than they do, but often wonder if they could pull it off themselves. They search coupons hoping to find their favorite products. They want to get into the water are afraid the water might be too chilly for their tastes.

TOE-DIPPERS: These are people who are beginning their journey into a frugal lifestyle cautiously. They do not want to compromise their quality of life or just are not confident in their ability to really make enough changes to have an impact. They are proceeding carefully…looking for sales harder, researching prices for items on the internet, shopping around stores for the best deals. They begin to consciously keep coupons and use them regularly at the store. They may “downgrade” from an expensive-to-maintain car to an easily serviceable model to cut costs. They have become content with the temperature of the water, but are not sure about its depth. Some are content to walk through and just get their feet wet and others are building up their courage to wade out a little deeper. Unfortunately many get side-tracked here because they buy cheap rather than frugally. When this happens the sting of the water is too cold and they run back ashore.

WADERS: This group is waist-deep in the frugal lifestyle. They are comfortable with being open about their savings-based lifestyle and are not afraid to let others see them out in the water. They have conquered the initial steps and are usually familiar with how to get the best grocery prices, how to utilize coupons on a regular basis, and have made efforts to reduce home energy costs by efforts like turning off utilities when not in use. They only order water at restaurants because they refuse to pay for another type of drink. They are encouragers to the toe dippers, offering, “Come on in! The water’s fine!” They have learned the difference between buying smart and buying cheap. They know that it is okay to pay more for quality. They usually know items that it is okay to go “cheap” with and when quality truly matters to them. Many people are content to stay here and jump as the waves roll in. Others are heading deeper to where they can no longer reach the bottom and are forced to test their swimming abilities.

SWIMMERS: These are those who are swimming about and truly enjoying their frugal lifestyle. It is very much a part of their everyday lifestyle, and they are comfortable with their place in the water. This group “works” grocery store and pharmacy sales and coupon policies. They menu-plan based on store sales. They often stockpile non-perishables and toiletry items. This group refuses to pay full price for anything and often uses coupons, sales, bartering, negotiating, and other tactics (or any combination of them) to purchase for themselves and their families. They share their tips with others although sometimes the others cannot understand how swimming works. This is the group who has people standing behind them in line at the store who fall into three categories: 1.) those who wonder how in the world they learned to swim so well, 2.) those who are annoyed by the fact that swimmers get in the way of their fancy yacht, and 3.) those who feel pity by the fact that these swimmers obviously do not have the means to walk.

DIVERS: This group is full of those who are one with the ocean of frugality. They enjoy home-made or home-grown items. They use cleaners made exclusively of baking soda and vinegar. They have mastered the efficiency on their utilities. They often do without the conveniences that society has grown to depend on (cable tv, multiple phones, super texting plans, new vehicles, high speed internet, convenience foods, fast food). They squeeze every mile they can out of their gasoline when they have to drive places but often find other ways to get to their destination, such as biking, walking or public transportation. Meals are cooked from scratch. They all, I would think, have a large pantry and/or a deep freezer. This group understands that there is a world underneath that being able to dive allows them to appreciate that those on the shore will never get to experience themselves unless they too begin to get in the water.

It’s funny…those on the shore are soaking up the rays and wondering what the fascination is with the water. They often pity that those diving in the water, as they are not enjoying the sunlight as they are. Those diving however, understand that that sunlight warms their water and appreciate it for how it works for them. They pity those on the shore for missing out on the ocean life.

The thing is, as long as you have gotten your feet wet, I feel you should be celebrated. There is nothing wrong with your particular level of frugality. If you are comfortable there, you should be applauded for doing what you can to enjoy the water. Not everyone is a strong swimmer. Not everyone wants to encounter the sealife that can only be seen when you dive. Not everyone wants to wade any deeper than their ankles for fear what is swimming around their feet. The point is, celebrate what you are doing and enjoy it. If you want to go deeper, it is okay to go at your own pace. Most of us have gotten to where we are by slowly wading out deeper and deeper and finding our own comfort level.

Of course, these are stereotypes, and with all categorizing, many will not fit easily into one specific category. But you probably know where you fit the best. I am somewhere between a wader and a swimmer. I am swimming, but I’m not yet a strong swimmer. Sometime I get scared and drift back to where my feet can touch. I’m working on it and getting more and more confident daily.

So what about you? Where do you fall? Leave a comment letting me know if you are content with your current category or what you want to change in order to take that next step.
Photo credit: kerryvaughan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WFMW - Using Trip Meter on Car

For today's Works for Me Wednesday, I will share with you what I use the trip meter of my odometer on my car for.

I have a Trip A and a Trip B. I utilize them both.

Trip A is reset every time I refill my gas tank. I use this mileage and divide by the amount of gas I put into the tank to get my (rough) miles per gallons performance. It's not an exact science, of course, but it's a good estimate. By doing this I have found out which weeks of speeding have done the worst damage on my mileage and which gas stations have gasoline that gives decreased performance (and thus avoid those stations).

Trip B has a different purpose. Because Chip typically changes our oil at home, I reset this one with each oil change. That way I can keep up with when the next oil change is coming up and remind him (since I'm the one who sees my odometer frequently).

So, plain and simple, I know. However, we get good use out of our Trip Meters in helping us maintain our vehicles.

That is what works for our household. Head over to We Are THAT Family to see what works for other people!

Photo credit: nateOne

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WFMW - Save Time in the Morning

I know, I know...you've heard this one a million times. However, this is not "Post an Original Idea" Wednesday"...it's What Works for Me Wednesday, and I am posting something that works for me.

Why would I post something that you've heard over and over again? Because I had heard it so many times and ignored it...like many of you currently do. Now that I do it, I can sleep in an extra 10 minutes or just keep myself from being frantic in the mornings.

What's this age-old tip?

Pack lunches the night before.

Now I only have my own to pack at the moment, as Chip is currently out of work, Patrick eats at school, and Abigail's bottles are prepared as much as possible at night (sometimes we have to wait to get more milk to top off a second bottle in the morning), but since I know what I want, it's not too hard to pull off. =)

Seriously...just by packing my lunch at night (or at least getting it in a nice pile of already portioned containers in the refrigerator) saves a LOT of time in the morning.

It works for me! Go over to We are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else!

Photo credit: anissat

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WFMW - Cleaner Bathtub

From the time I took baths unsupervised, I was instructed the same thing...wipe out the tub when you're done.



Why?

Was it because I was a grungy little girl who loved to play in the dirt? Probably.

However, as I grew older and wiser and gulp more like my mother, I came to understand that this action had far more reaching results than just keeping the immediate coating of filth I carried out of the way of others.

By wiping out the tub with our towel after each bath, we avoided ring around the tub that resulted from dirt--sure. It also avoided water stains both along the edges, on the bottom, and on the hardware. There was no need for scrubbing on Saturday/cleaning day, as it was already quite clean. Just 5 seconds of work after each bath (times the six people we had in the household), and much time saved at cleaning time on the weekend. Some simple bathroom cleaner run over it and no elbow grease was necessary.

And for the record...that photo is NOT of my bathtub. =) My mom wants you to know that it is not hers either.

This worked for my mom, and it should work for you too. Go over to We Are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else as well in this week's special Cleaning Tip edition.

photo credit: Kamal H.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WFMW - Baby Bath Aid

So with the arrival of a new litlte one, I now get the opportunity to be creative with baby care again. I've got one to share with you that I just discovered about 2 weeks ago!

You know that "personal care" squeeze bottle that you use at the hospital after a natural delivery of a baby? (you might use it after a c-section as well...I can't personal speak from experience) Of course they send that home with you for continued care.

Well, after you are done with it, it makes the perfect means of rinsing off baby during bath time. Yep...to avoid pouring large quantities of water across little baby, the squirt bottle allows better control of the location and amount of water that you use to rinse off the baby. Makes for a perfect shampoo rinsing agent.

So that's my latest brilliant idea.

Go over to We Are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday posts!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Must Haves for Our Baby

I know, I know. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. Different children have different personalities and therefore different needs. However, with this second child almost here, it is amazing how much less STUFF seems essential. In fact, I had to laugh when we were registering for baby gifts at Babies R Us at the list of items the store recommended as "essential." We've gotten along just fine without them for the first one. I'm now going to review what I think are essential...and non-essential...baby needs...at least for our household.

ESSENTIAL FOR THE NESPYS:
  1. Nursing Pillow--Yes, we fell victim and were convinced to buy a Boppy when Patrick was born. You know what? It was a life-saver! For the short time that he actually nursed (just one week due to problems he had latching on), it was great. However, from there on out when he was drinking from a bottle, the pillow was still the way to go. I used it, my husband used it, the nanny used it. It was great. Later it also served to help him sit up a little and for supervised tummy time. In fact, we plan on reusing it for our little girly on the way.
  2. Breast Pump--I used a Medela hospital grade pump the first time because I committed myself to full-time pumping. I wanted him to have the benefits of breastmilk, but due to his latching issues, I would have to dedicate time to pumping a lot. This meant that I needed a quick, effective pump that would quickly express all I needed in 10-15 minutes. It worked like a charm and once I returned to work, I was able to pump just twice a day for no more than 15 minutes and supply the child with 2-3 meals easily. This is a must for working moms who desire to supply breastmilk to their newborns or moms for children who can't/won't nurse properly.
  3. Milk Storage Bags--Related to Item #3 are these bags. We used the Gerber ones, as they worked fine for us. I stored them with the oldest bags/milk in the front of the freezer and was able to use them when baby hit a growth spurt and I needed to train my body to "catch up" with his new appetite or for the occasional middle-of-the-night-exhaustion-induced spillage of milk while preparing.
  4. Bottles--Everyone has their preferences, but we used the Playtex VentAire system. So many recommend higher end bottles, but these worked beautifully for us. They were easy to clean, did not require liners (which although inexpensive, add up price-wise over time), easy to find nipples for and we were quite successful with them. They do require that you put them together properly to avoid leaking, but due to their construction, they are SO easy to clean. Regardless of what kind you choose, make sure you find one that has a nipple that is agreeable with your child.
  5. Stationary Exercise Table (aka Exersaucer)--I know, I know. So many people say that these are non-essential. And truly...essential is not really the word I would use for this, but so very valuable a purpose ours served when our son was small. We used it to contain and entertain him while we ate dinner (as he ate earlier than we did and had playtime during our dinner sitting next to us in his saucer) or while we prepared meals.
  6. Boudreaux's Butt Paste: What?! You heard me. I don't know if this is a product that can be found nationally, but if it is, GO GET SOME for your little one's diaper rash needs. I hesitated buying anything called "butt paste" for our child, but after reading that it worked miracles, I bought a small tube to try. Wow...was I amazed! This stuff worked when "competing" products couldn't make any impact. It was a little more expensive, but so worth it since I didn't have to use nearly as much to solve rash problems!
  7. Gas Drops: So we had a gassy baby and these provided much needed rest for us. I would recommend having some on hand!

NON-ESSENTIAL FOR THE NESPYS:

  1. Hooded Towels/Tiny Washcloths: Yes, they are cute and we have some from the first baby and have received some cute ones for this second one. But seriously...a regular sized towel and wash cloth are just fine.
  2. High Chair: What?! How can this be? We truly did not spend $200 on a high chair for our child. Nope. Just a booster seat. It had a tray that could be used like a high chair or it could slide right up to the table when the child gets older. To prevent a messy chair underneath, I kept an old bath towel under the seat that could easily be removed and either shaken off or washed as needed. It worked beautifully for us and only cost around $20-$30. Hooray!
  3. Shopping Cart Covers: Maybe you have a child more prone to accidents than our first was. Or maybe your grocery store does not have wet wipes on the wall next to the cart storage area. Or maybe I'm more for "building their immunity" than you are. However, we were given one of these with our son and never...not once...used it. Maybe I'm reckless, but riding in the cart never killed me, so I didn't assume my son would get any dreadful disease from it. And he didn't. Therefore, I am not too concerned about having one for my daughter either.
  4. Wipe Warmer: This is a non-essential that we had and used frequently. But only because my mom was convinced that those nasty cold wipes were upsetting him (he got over it when we used the ones from the diaper bag, but hey...who am I to argue with Nana?). It was probably nicer than a cold wipe...especially in the winter when he was tiny, but completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Bath Robe: They are terribly adorable. Our son wore his after his first bath. And then never again. It wasn't practical because we still needed to get him dressed. It made for some cute pictures. The same robe will probably be reused for the same purpose with this child. And then never again.
  6. Pacifiers: This is just for us with our firstborn, as we know different child have different needs and the girl we have on the way may be a pacifier-baby. They seemed great for our son when he was tiny (which some people don't recommend them before they are 3 months or so anyway), once he was about 6-8 weeks old and found his thumb, we never needed another one. Now we just have to get our 3-year old to stop sucking his thumb!
  7. Diaper Stacker: We had/have one with each of the nursery bedding sets we've had because it came with the set. And we used the one we had with our son (the baby on the way, we've yet to see if it gets used), but seriously...they work just as well out of a drawer or the box/package they come in. It's not as cute that way, but the cuteness of the diaper stacker is lost quickly in my opinion.

So that's my list. It's not a recommendation for you necessarily...it's just what we found to be true for us with our first child.

What about you? What items have been your life-savers or a complete waste of your money?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Perks for Working Moms

So a topic that is at the forefront of my mind currently (due to an upcoming arrival in a few weeks) is moms who work outside of the home. My title indicates that all moms are not working moms, and that just simply isn't true. However, for the sake of brevity in my title, I chose one to represent what many people call moms who hold jobs/careers aside from the mom duties they perform.

There are obviously some employers who make being a parent easier than others. Some are very flexible and accommodating while others seem to be completely heartless when it comes to matters of the family. I have been fortunate to work for two companies during my two pregnancies that are quite understanding and offer aid to new moms as well as bosses who were quite lenient when it came to working with parenting issues that arise.

Below are some perks offered by different employers to make being a mom at the office a bit more bearable.

Flexible Work Schedules: This is one of the more common among mommy-friendly companies. Many companies offer options for returning to the tasks of one's job such as flexible or compressed work schedules, job-sharing, and telecommuting options.


Paid Leave: This is another one that many companies offer, but is not a given for all moms-to-be. The states of California and NJ offer 6 weeks of paid time off for new moms, and Washington DC allows new moms to be paid via filing disability through the city, but otherwise, this one is determined by the employer in question. While FMLA guidelines allow for 12 weeks to be taken off for the birth or adoption of a child without retribution for the time missed, it does not assure that the time will be paid by the employer...that is simply the employer's call. Some offer full pay while on maternity leave, some offer partial pay while on leave. Some offer a discounted pay rate (like 2/3 your regular pay rate) while still withdrawing the monies used for benefits, such as insurance, which must be kept throughout this time.

Childcare Options: Some employers offer on-site childcare for employees, which is a wonderful option that you know will work with your personal work schedule as well as help you avoid driving out of the way to get to a daycare for your children. In addition to on-site care, some offer back-up childcare in case yours falls through and school's out childcare for school-aged children who often get holidays and breaks not observed by the employers, not to mention summer vacations. And still other employers offer discounts or reimbursements for childcare to offset some of the cost of having to have someone else watch your children while you are at work. These can all be invaluable services for working moms.

Adoption and Fertility Assistance: Some companies even provide perks that assist those who want to be parents but cannot to so naturally by providing adoption assistance (in the form of both time and money) as well as fertility assistance (in the form of both time and money).

Gifts for Newborns: Some employers will give gifts to the families of newborns that can range anywhere from keepsakes (like a silver spoon or cup) to money to baby supplies like wipes, clothes, diapers, etc.

Breastfeeding Support: Employers are most always willing to accommodate nursing moms within reasonable limits. However, some employers definitions of what is reasonable is different than my own. For instance, please don't insist that I must express breastmilk within the "comfort" and "privacy" of a restroom. That's just not sanitary in my opinion unless it is a never-used restroom that is maintained on a regular basis. I would still balk at this though. Some places of employment do offer private rooms, many even complete with refrigerators, for use for pumping breastmilk. A few even offer lactation support for their working moms.

On Site Services: There are also employers who make it easier for the working parent to take care of errands while at work so as not to subtract from family time or require time off of work. Some offer dry cleaning, credit unions, convenience stores, movie rentals, salon services, take-out food, and other amenities that allow for less time to be rushed upon leaving work to go home.

Special Perks: There are a few businesses that go above and beyond when catering to their working parents. For instance, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta offers up to $10,000 to assist in the payment of infertility treatments. American Express allows employees to buy vacation days above what they have earned using pre-tax dollars. And Microsoft provides on-site mammography tests for all female employees.

Working Mother Magazine created a 2008 list for the 100 Best Companies to work for as a working mom. You can view the complete list in alphabetical order along with details here.

What about you? What is the best perk or worst treatment you've received as a working-away-from-home mom?

Photo credit: Wondermonkey2k & beckycheek

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Remembrance...

This is a repost from my blog from Memorial Day last year.

Today is Memorial Day. Although most of us "celebrate" with a day off work highlighted by a grill, a pool, and friends, this day really should (in my opinion) be held as a much more reverent occasion. Maybe it's because I am married to a veteran. Maybe it is because said veteran is an Army bugler who has provided the rite of TAPS at more funerals than either of us care to count. Maybe it is because many family members of mine have been in the military. Maybe because I live in a military town and am surrounded by families who are short a member currently because of current deployments.

It really does not matter whether you have a family member who is currently serving or if you've never even met a service man/woman (although, I'd love to meet you because I don't think that exists!). Either way, we are all free due to many, many people sacrificing what is most sacred (their very lives) for the greater cause of freedom and liberty. Not only have those who have been lost to the conflicts made the sacrifice, however, but also those they left behind.

In honor of all of the men and women who have made it possible for us to be allowed to sit here and type whatever we want (yes, even those people who insult them and trample on their efforts), I wanted to post a notes in honor of this holiday and those whom it represents:

In Flanders Fields
--Major John McCrae
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw T
he torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Memorial Day
- C W Johnson
We walked among the crosses
Where our fallen soldiers lay.
And listened to the bugle
As TAPS began to play.
The Chaplin led a prayer
We stood with heads bowed low.
And I thought of fallen comrades
I had known so long ago.
They came from every city
Across this fertile land.
That we might live in freedom.
They lie here 'neath the sand.
I felt a little guilty
My sacrifice was small.
I only lost a little time
But these men lost their all.
Now the services are over
For this Memorial Day.
To the names upon these crosses
I just want to say,
Thanks for what you've given
No one could ask for more.
May you rest with God in heaven
From now through evermore.

Some Rules of Etiquette for the Flag

*The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset.*Exception: the flag may be displayed at all times if it is illuminated during darkness.

*The flag should be protected from weather damage, so only an all-weather flag should be displayed during rain, snow, winds and other detriment weather.

*When a number of flags are grouped together, the U.S. flag should be at the center and at the highest point of the group.

*When a U.S. flag is displayed other than from a staff, it should be displayed flat, or suspended in such a way that its folds fall free.

*When displayed over a street, the flag should be placed so it faces north or east.

*When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff, unless the flag is at half staff.

*When displayed on a speaker’s platform against a wall, the flag should be placed above and behind the speaker with the union of the flag in the upper left-hand corner (as the audience faces the flag).

*When used to cover a casket, it should be placed so that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should never be lowered into the grave and should not be allowed to touch the ground.

*During any ceremony when the U.S. flag is passing in parade, all persons should face the flag, stand at attention and salute. This means that a man should remove his hat and hold it with the right hand over the heart. Men without hats, and ladies should salute by placing the right hand over the heart. This salute should take place while the flag passes.

*When a U.S. flag is flown at half-staff, it should always be hoisted to the peak then lowered to half staff position. When taking it down for the evening, raise it to the peak again then lower.

Freedom Is Not Free
-Kelly Strong
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

TAPS
-Major General Daniel Butterfield
Day is done...
Gone the sun
From the lake...
From the hills...
From the sky.
All is well...
Safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light...
Dims the sight
And a star...
Gems the sky...
Gleaming bright
From afar...
Drawing nigh
Falls the night.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

Throughout history, there are many armed forces members who have died in numerous wars without their remains being identified. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is symbolic and represents the war grave for unidentified soldiers. The tomb in Washington DC houses the remains of an unknown soldier from WWI, WWII, and Korea. The soldier representing Vietnam was exhumed after identification was made via DNA. Due to DNA records, it is not expected that any further soldiers will be unidentified in future conflicts and therefore there are no plans to add additional soldiers in the future. The inscription on the tomb often says that they are “known but to God.” The Tomb Guards are an elict group of soldiers who dedicate not only their military career, but some aspects of their entire lives, to honoring the fallen. To further understand their level of commitment, please read this description and these FAQs regarding their duties.

Information acquired from Roswell Remembers, Memorial Day Tribute, and USMemorialDay.org

Photo credit: mordoc, rfirman, tomlara

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