Saturday, November 24, 2007

Coming soon, to a theater near you

You know the movie guy? The one who talks on ALL the trailers that Hollywood has ever produced ever? Ever wonder how he got started? Who wakes up and says, "I want to go into voice-over acting"? Personally, I think it would be kind of cool, as I am much better at talking than looking good. It would be fun to do your work in your pajamas as well. If you are interested in Voice Over Training, you should check out this Web site to see how to get started. They have a weekly podcast to help out newbies as well as veterans. It features voice-over coaches from the U.S., Canada as well as around the world, giving expert tips on marketing, acting techniques and more.

Mostly I think this is something for other people, for those who live in Hollywood and have a life-long dream of making it in the entertainment business. But then there's a teeny voice in my head that remembers that my friend Kiki got her son a modeling job when he was 6 months old. And they are just regular, non-Californian people. So if she can break into show biz, so can I, right?

Are we done yet?

My wrists hurt because my mouse at work is broken and I have to move the whole mouse around to navigate my screens rather than just my finger on the roller ball. It's mega frustrating and I'm so glad that Stephen is good at fixing me because I've seriously been into physical therapy for less pain than this in the past. Sadly, I'm not done with all my work yet and can't go home until my pages are read and I make my corrections. Sigh.

I spent a ridiculously long time both yesterday and today fixing all my previous sponsored posts in hopes of regaining my google rank. Yes, they finally found me too. But thankfully, I learned a trick to recover it at the exact same time that it crashed.

I found out about the trick from several sources, but they all heard it from the same source, a source that would have reason to benefit from us doing it, whether or not it really made a diference. But my new friend Barbara is the one who first confirmed that it DOES work, even though it took several hours, it's worth doing if you want your PR back.

The trick is ...

oh, and she has another site, Shades Of Melancholia here on blogspot. I am so glad to hear from her that it works to do this, because I don't think I would have bothered otherwise.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Support your local artists

I am getting so frustrated with the rat race and commercialism and manufactured Made In China products. Learning to knit has really put me in touch with the amount of love you can put into a handmade item. When something is made by a person, it's not only more honest, its one-of-a-kind. I would really like to do more of our holiday shopping at places like the St. Augustine Artwalk, where arts and crafts are sold by the people who made them and are just trying to make a living doing the thing that they love to do. These are the kind of people who need our support this Christmas, not the big box stores of the world.

I think the fact that this town has a First Friday Weekend Art Walk every month is absolutely awesome. Around here, the most I can hope for is to hit a few of the holiday bazaars while they last. We as a nation really need to start supporting locally made things. If I were in Florida, you better believe I'd be at this event. The only thing I love more than pretty artwork is pretty original artwork. :-)

Deal or no deal

Stephen had this brilliant idea that we should shop around for a good deal on a laptop this morning since we were already in civilization for Thanksgiving. He wanted to get up early and shop with the crazy people! Dude — there many reasons why that is not a good idea. Here are a few of them.

1. My mom would have to be in charge of watching sleeping Ben, and they'd be on opposite ends of her ginormous house with no monitor. So realistically, one of them would have to wake up and move. Neither of them would really be thrilled about this.

2. I am working tonight until 1:30 a.m. Getting up at 4 and staying up until 1 equals death.

3. I am really hoping to either get a laptop for Christmas, or at least use the money we get to buy one in January. I do not want to buy it on credit unless its a really good deal.

So as a compromise, we decided to go window shopping for laptops with my mom and Ben at about 10 a.m. We figured most of the sales last until noon or 1 p.m. Well, we didn't find anything under $600 and I know I can get one online for $500 easily, and maybe even $450. That's the lowest advertised price that I've seen. Anyway, we gave up and went home. I had to work at 3 p.m. so we wanted to leave my mom's house by 12:30, just in case we hit traffic. (And we did! Everything was fine until the last 10 minuts of the trip, which ended up taking about 45 minutes!!!!) So we arrived in town exactly at 3 p.m., and they just dropped me off here. About 20 minutes later, Stephen called me ranting and raving about something.

Apparently, our local Staples had laptops on sale for $350 until 10 a.m. Here! Not in Kent.

He was mucho frustrated :-(

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Scary is not for me

One of the reasons that I really don't like horror movies (or "suspense" movies) is that they are often too true for comfort when it comes to revealing human nature at its ... uh ... finest. I spent a ridiculously long time trying to think of a memory of being in a "threatening situation with others," just like in the movie The Mist, but to be honest, I tend to block out those types of memories. But I do know that when you have hard choices to make, and no matter what you decide, everything could go wrong and someone's going to be mad, it can be so overwhelming that it seems like the easiest thing to do is just do nothing.

When Ben was 4 months old, we flew to my friend's wedding for a long weekend. When we arrived back in Idaho, it was past midnight by the time we drove the two hours from the airport. Stephen had left his car at his work (I can't remember why — see? Blocked it!) and I was supposed to drop him off so he could drive it home. I knew that both of our phones had dead batteries, so made sure he had the key while we were still en route. By the time we got there, baby Ben had woken up and was crying to nurse. We were only 5 minutes from home, so it seemed silly to sit for 20 or 30 minutes to nurse him in the back of the cold car. So I dropped Stephen off and drove home as fast as I could to nurse the now screaming baby.

When some amount of time passed, I thought, "Maybe he decided to pick up some groceries, since he knows we have nothing in our fridge. That's sweet." When more time passed, I thought, "Something must be wrong. Why hasn't he called?" I double checked to make sure that my phone was plugged in and on. I knew that his phone was dead, but surely he could find one to use somewhere. When even more time passed, I assumed he must be walking home. But soon, two hours had gone by. If he were walking, he'd have arrived already. I started to really freak out. Ben was asleep and so I called my friend (who also happened to be our neighbor) to come over and stay with Ben (he's a night-owl, I knew he was up) while I got in my car and prayed I found my husband alive and in one piece.

As I was about two minutes onto the road, my phone went off.

"Are you going to come get me now?" was the snarky greeting of my husband.

"Yeah, I'm on my way, where are you? Are you OK?"

"What took you so long?"

"Why didn't you call?"

And on and on the fight went. The circular logic is not even explainable here, but we were both exhausted, upset and very sure that the other person was the one who had messed up big time. I wouldn't say that the situation brought out our "true" nature, as we love each other very much and usually don't have very many big fights, but it certainly took what would normally be considered manageable feelings (worry, fear of abandonment, etc.) and magnified them big time. Because I was scared and didn't know what to do, I just waited and thought, "Surely this situation will work itself out." The problem is, my husband did the exact same thing, and so we each were hoping the other one was going to save us. Sometimes you can't depend on others to save you. Sometimes you have to go out and do the saving.

I am not planning to see The Mist by Stephen King because I have enough stress in my own life. I don't need to go pay money to get even more emotional. But I know there are plenty of people who do like horror movies, and even find them to be somewhat therapeutic. And if other people want to learn life lessons from those types of movies and pass them on to me? Great. Just leave out the grisly details please.

Oh noez! Another etiquette question ...

The last one didn't go over well, but hopefully I won't get in too much trouble for asking about birthday party etiquette for a 2-year-old.

We decided that we wanted to have Ben's birthday at the Olympia Chuck E. Cheese for a number of reasons. It's not as far for everyone to drive. Ben and the other little kids will have a better time with something fun to do than just running around our teeny tiny house. My dad and step-mom are allergic to cats and couldn't come if it were at our house.

But just yesterday, it occured to me that we are probably expected to pay for everything. Isn't that how birthday parties work? The parents bring their kid with a present for your kid, but you buy their kid food and pay for some tokens? Stephen flicked me for not having thought of this. I already told a bunch of people that it was going to be there too, so I can't really back out now. Gulp. Maybe I'll ask my mom to get Ben a birthday party as his gift. (She won't want to. Her style is to get something that will continue to be used every day for a long time so he'll always remember that it was from Nana.)

Pain relief that works

My step-mom, Laurie, has suffered from back and shoulder pain for years. She also has fibromyalgia and lots and lots of trouble sleeping. I don't know if Freeze It would help her, but she's definitely the kind of person that would rather try something natural and topical before taking a bunch of drugs for her pain. She's lived with it for this long, I just wish there was something more we could do. Because my husband is a massage therapist, I'm used to him being able to "fix" (he's technically not allowed to use that word, but I do anyway) almost anyone. The problem is, when he tries to work on Laurie, she hurts so much that he can hardly do anything. She has to ask him to use less pressure or stop completely.

Here is a photo of her from a few years ago (it's all I could come up with on short notice) with my kid brother Daniel.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I think she would really benefit from my winning a year's supply of Freeze-It, because she isn't the only one in that family that suffers from muscle pain. My father has actually had surgery on his lower back because he has had so much pain in the last few years. I know that Freeze It Gel can't replace medical treatment, but it would sure be awesome if he could find a little relief. Between the two of them, someone is always hurting in that house. They could take turns applying the Freeze-It for each other and then lie there in a big mushy puddle and be happy together. They've been married for 10 years now, and I think they deserve a little destressing time.

Freeze-It can also help with arthritis, joint pain and muscle sprains. I know that when they sent me a sample a few months ago, I was very impressed with the product. It penetrated WAY below the surface of the skin and really helped to relax my muscles. It's not for people who don't have serious pain, because it is super intense. They aren't kidding when they say this stuff really works.

Here is the commercial where they explain it more.

Cost me all of 50 cents

After procrastinating for way too long, I finally dragged Stephen out today to pick up some invitations for Ben's rapidly approaching 2nd birthday party. We are mega-busy and now is not a good time to do this, but if I wait until I actual have the time, it will be like three days before the party and then I'll be sad when no one can come.

Anyway, I asked to go to Staples because I remember them having some really nice stuff and I wanted the invites to have a nicer, quality type appearance. Well, strangly, they don't have birthday invitations. They have thank you cards and baby announcements and baby shower invitations, but no birthday ones. Lame.

So, since there's really nowhere else to go in this little town, we ended up at Mal-Wart, again, and I picked out some invites that I liked. They were $6 for 20 invitations, which I thought was pretty fair. (Hopefully I don't need more than 20, yipes!) When we went to pay for them, they rang up for $0.50. They were clearance.


Travel the world and the seven seas

It's fun to dream about what you could do with money if you had it. I like to think we'd travel all over the world, but of course, always shopping for deals and grabbing the cheap flights when we see them. A lot of companies have holiday offers going on right now that I'd love to take advantage of if we had the extra funds. But even better than dreaming about what you would buy for yourself if you had money, is dreaming about what you would buy for others, especially at this time of years. When I saw cheap flights to Christchurch advertised on Dialaflight, I thought immediately of my mother-in-law, who I know would be so very touched by such a gift. Someday I'd love to be able to return some of the kindness and generosity that she has bestowed on our family over the years.

Made with love

Somehow, (I'm still not sure exactly what happened) my SIL's offer to teach me to knit cost about $15. She claims she wasn't meaning for me to buy circular needles (straight ones are only a couple of $$$) but she did insist that I get a book in case I needed some help when she wasn't around. I don't really learn well from books, but it's there for emergencies. My husband was not thrilled about the whole knitting thing though. ("Let's see, you spent money we don't have to take up a new hobby that's going to take up time that we could either spend together or use to be productive.")

OK, so our house is trashed again/like always, and I never clean anything much. I realize this. But previously I spent the time that he was putting Ben to bed reading or on the phone, and he didn't object to either of those things. I guess that might be because they don't cost any money. I read books I already have or I get them from the library. I tried to tell him that knitting is not expensive ... you only need to buy the needles once, and the yarn is like $3 for enough to make a ton of stuff. AND, I can make stuff that we need so we don't have to buy it. Not to mention the awesomeness of homemade items vs. made-in-China crap that supports our disposable society. I want my son to own clothes (are scarves considered clothes?) that were made with love. It really makes a difference, just like buying whole foods and home cooking them vs. buying frozen/processed crap in boxes and cans.

So now its my goal to be sure and actually FINISH a scarf and have it be useable this winter so that we don't have to buy him one. Plus, I thought it would be really super cool if I was fast enough to get one done before Christmas, I could give it to my nephew Cameron and then do one for Ben and they could match. I would love love love to make my own gifts. It's not only less expensive, it's more personal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Worth 1,000 words

One of the coolest things about posting the video of me and Ben cooking the other day was that it reminded me of the fact that our camera takes videos as well as pictures. I ignored it for quite some time because I didn’t have any way of getting the photos and videos off of the camera, so I figured, “Why bother taking them?” (How dumb is that?)

We are lucky that we got our camera as a gift, but if we didn’t already have one, I’d check out these Nikon D3s. One of my blogging friends was telling me the other day that if she wanted to share old pictures, she’d have to pull them out of albums and scan them. I wish she would — cause I’d really like to see them — but understand that it’s pretty inconvenient to have to do that. I’m so glad almost all of our important memories are in digital form.

Music to my ears

Ha ha. I started out yesterday talking about the $4 video we got for Ben at Ross and ended up talking about why we got a new one but never actually explained what it was.

It’s like a knock-off Baby Einstein type product (which I do not approve of for babies, but think is fine for 2-year-olds) about the four seasons. It’s mostly real film of things like flowers, kids at the park, kids at the beach, fireworks, kids at a pumpkin patch (dressed up in costume — so cute) kids playing in leaves, kids sledding and some holiday lights. They even include a menorah, which makes me smile.

The whole thing is set to classical music so you can have it on while you do the dishes in the other room and not have to pull out your hair. At the very end, it switches to the ABC song (so you know its almost over and your kid’s gonna start looking for trouble) and amazingly, it seems to be teaching Ben his ABCs even better than Elmo. He knows about 1/3 of the letters now. A-H, and then O-U ish. And Z. Sort of. I think he thinks the letter is named “and Z” because he always says “and Z.” It’s too totally cute. Definitely worth $4.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bed from heaven

When I was pregnant, I admit that it was nice to have a massage therapist for a husband. But what I really wanted was a new bed. Our mattress was ancient and sagged in the middle. I used a body pillow from like week 10 and on, but it wasn't enough. By the time I was about six months along, my back ached more and more each and every day, no matter what my husband did to fix it. We decided that we would use my birthday money to get ourselves a new mattress.

While shopping, we had a chance to lay down on lots of different kinds of mattresses, but we both agreed that we liked the tempurpedic mattresses the best. Sadly, they were WAY out of our price range (we've pretty much always struggled to make ends meet, even then) so we went with a regular mattress with a memory foam topper. It was very awesome — a huge improvement from what our bed was before. But sometimes, I still wonder how blissfully happy we'd be now if we'd gotten the tempurpedic mattress. Seriously, it was like laying on a cloud.

Ka-pow = oh no

So even though we’re still struggling with the $$$, I approved of spending $4 on a new video for Ben. He watches a movie everysingletime he uses his potty, which is basically all the time now. As long as we’re home, the pull-ups are just catching accidents. (And poo-poo, but boy is that another story.)

Anyway, I wanted him to have a new movie because he was (or maybe Stephen was) getting tired of just watching Elmo all the time. First, Stephen put on Cars for him, which I was OK with, because it was rated G and really cute. But next, it was Powerpuff Girls, which is PG. OK, fine, because they were just watching the opening scenes where the girls are born and then go to Kindergarten and then play tag. Well, then Stephen kept letting him watch a little more each day and it was getting more and more violent. You knew it was bad because Ben was acting scared at the movie. So what do we do? Turn it off? Well, that’s what I wanted to do, but Stephen was talking him through it, helping him to feel excited instead of scared. And it wasn’t long before I found myself doing it too. We were trying to cheer him up by desentizing him to the violence.

“Ka-pow! Go Powerpuff Girls! Get those bad monkeys! Yay, Powerpuff Girls save the day!”

And sure enough, he wasn’t bothered by it anymore. And even surer enough, it was only a few more hours before it occured to him to take a pillow off the couch and attack Blinx with it. “Bad kitty! Ben-Ben get you!” I pulled the pillow from him, told him he could hit the pillow with his fists or yell into it, but he couldn’t hit the cat with it. I turn around 30 seconds later and he’s hitting Blinx with his fists! Dammit.

What frustrates me the most is that Stephen just doesn’t seem to see this. He thinks, “Oh, he’s being a boy. All boys go through this type of stage. We teach him that kitties have feelings and put him in time-out if he does it again and he learns what the rules are. No biggie.”

And I guess those things are fine enough, but why set him up to fail, you know? We show him videos of little girls beating up on monkeys, we cheer them on, and then we tell him he can’t beat on his cats? Why aren’t we cheering for him? You get the idea. Whoever thinks violence on television doesn’t cause it in kids clearly never sat down and actually paid attention to their kids. It’s quite obvious to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get a garage makeover

We don't have a garage, so this wouldn't really help us, but my mom does and it's totally gross. It's a detached garage filled with a bunch of junk that mostly not even hers. If it were up to me, I'd go in there, and have a huge garage sale (get it? ha ha ha) and then trash whatever didn't sell. Then she'd have room to put both her car and Joe's car in the garage. And if she got some garage flooring it would keep everything from getting so dirty again. There are oil stains and dust and dirty and all sorts of gross things on the floor of that garage. I think the black and white checkerboard pattern is pretty cute. Better her garage than my kitchen, anyway.

Buried in bills

I thought for sure we'd be able to survive until January because November is a three paycheck month and we've got plenty of gifts not only already purchased, but even already paid for. But that was before the mail came yesterday and we have not one, but TWO huge bills. One was for getting Stephen's "suspicious" mole removed, which was $400. Guess how much insurance paid? Go on, guess. That's right — $0. Why do we have insurance again?

The other was the last dental bill from all the work I had done last summer. That one was $800, and $300 was covered by insurance. Why just $300? Well, obviously because I've already maxed out all the benefits I can get for this whole year. Horray.

So, I guess all that money I was thrilled about making the other day will just get thrown into bills. And we'll probably still have to make payments on them. Why not? We're making payments on everything else ...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Getting back on track

All it takes is one little disaster, one unexpected issue, and suddenly you can be flat broke. For us, it was having our son in the NICU for the first eight days of his life and finding out that our house was rotting underneath our feet. But whatever it is, once you're stuck in a cycle of not being able to afford your life, it can be so hard to get out.

Nothing quite as brilliant as the typical theory of only lending money to those who can prove they don't need it. That's why there's now bad credit loans for people who might have fallen on hard times and just need a boost to get out. This site lets you compare a lot of different offers and choose the one that is the best fit for your situation. For example, if your car breaks down beyond repair, but you have to have a vehicle, you can get an autoloan. As long as you choose one with payments you can afford, and remember to make them on-time, you will be able to build your credit back up again. And by the time you can qualify for a regular loan, hopefully, you won't need one anymore!

Friday, November 9, 2007

These boots were made for splashing

I insisted on celebrating last night, even though it would make more sense to celebrate making money by not spending it, that isn't how I work. So we went out to dinner at Happy Teriyaki and then did a little shopping. It was mostly necessary shopping though, I swear! We got more pull-up ("Carrots still there, bunnies on 'em") diapers and a really cheap movie. (Seriously, this is what Ben says to differentiate between the pull-ups and the old baby diapers. Unless he uses one and then it's "Carrots all gone, bunnies on 'em") We also got him some new shoes to replace the ones we ruined. I know, poor people should not ruin their child's only pair of shoes, but we didn't do it on purpose!

We'd gone for a walk in the rain the other day and managed to get all the way to the school (they have a covered play area that both the kid and the dog really appreciate visiting when it's raining) and most of the way home with no incidents when Ben took off running and started stomping in a puddle. His shoes were soaked all the way through, but we still had to go grocery shopping that day. Since they are his only shoes, our options were: Go another day, bring him without shoes, have one of us stay home with him and the other go alone, or try to dry out the shoes. We chose option 4, try to dry out the shoes. We propped them up by the heater vent and turned it up full-blast. Well, the shoes were dry in about 15 minutes but the little liner things in the soles shrunk up and fell out. (They were $10 shoes from Payless. Why spend a lot on shoes he's just going to outgrow?) Well, we'd only had them for a few months and they were still a little big on him ... so we were very sad. Stephen said we'd just make do and have him wear them anyway, making sure that he always has socks on (he hates socks and usually doesn't wear them). This worked OK I guess, but I just feel like a bad person. They can't be comforatable with no cushion under his feet. If I'm bringing in all this extra money that we weren't even counting on, surely we can afford a new pair of shoes for our son.

So we shopped around and I didn't really like anything that we saw. Everything was either ugly or expensive. Some pairs were both! So we headed back to Payless. (It wasn't THEIR fault that the first pair fell apart, you know?) We tried three pairs on him, the $10 pair were kinda cute, but wouldn't really go with very many of his outfits. The second pair, $17, were pretty cute, and actually looked a lot like the pair we were replacing. We were just about to get them when I saw a pair of brown boots — also $17 on sale. The giant sign on them said "WATERPROOF" and I heard the cheesy little "Hallelujah" chorus in my head. Brilliant! All children's shoes should be waterproof.

We bought them and he wore them out of the store. He wasn't thrilled, because they are heavy and clunky and slow him down quite a bit. Plus, he likes to take his shoes off in the car and he was extra grumpy that he couldn't kick these off. (They are tie shoes, but have a secret zipper on the inside for easy on and off for parents. Again, I restate that these are awesome shoes!) So when I got up this morning, I was happy to see that it had rained last night. We'll be sure to go for an afternoon walk today and I'll show him that it's OK to jump in the puddles now because new boots protect our feet. After that, I bet he'll take to them just fine.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Strollin along

When Ben was a little baby, I believed in baby-wearing with all my heart. I alternated between two slings and a front pack whenever we went out. I tried to keep him as close to me as possible because he used to cry if he thought he was being ignored. We got the best use out of our baby carriers when he was about 8 to 15 months old. But the older he got, the more he objected to being carried. Plus, he was getting heavy! So my husband dragged out our old stroller one day when we were planning to go for a walk, and I thought, “This will never last. He’ll be begging to get out in a few minutes.” Well, that walk lasted for more than an hour and that’s when we knew that he was finally old enough and secure enough to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Of course, that doesn’t mean its that easy on us parents though. The stroller is a hand-me-down and the steering is atrocious. It’s awkward to push and really bulky to store, even when it is folded up. I would have replaced it, except that I figured that one stroller was as good as another.

Boy did I have no idea. Talk about being on the edge of trendy! This company Mutsy, has created a truly innovative new stroller design. They convert from a bassinet style to a car seat holder to an upright stroller for an older child. They almost look like a luggage cart with a baby seat attached. The style seems like it’s right out of a futurist movie like “I Robot.”

I really like the college navy and the college khaki (whether they are implying that its for college student moms or college-bound babes, I’m not quite sure, but they are still really stylish.)

You have got to be kidding me

This is just not OK.

Date rape drug found in children’s toy

I know we’re having money problems. And the shiny made-in-China stuff at Mal-Wart sure can look tempting. But I am just not OK with the industry regulations right now. I am this close to limiting Ben’s new toys to solid pieces of American wood, carved and sanded by myself or my husband only. We’ll do it in our own house and make them into cute shapes like teddy bears and trains. That’s a toy right? I’m sure kids got along fine before brightly colored plastics and battery-operated light-up things were invented.

I mean, a choking hazard is one thing, and if these kids swallowed small toys that were meant for older kids and choked on them, I could maybe see blaming the parents a little more. You know, like the toys have an age on the outside of the package for a reason. You don’t sue the bleach company if your kid drinks bleach and dies you know? It’s bleach, it’s SUPOSSED to be toxic.

But when toys for kids of any age contain the date rape drug and kids who eat the toy go into a coma? There is something majorly wrong with our world. It’s almost like someone is doing this on purpose. And seriously, I don’t care how much you hate Amercia, you just don’t target children. You just don’t. And if its not on purpose, but just people being lazy and trying to cut costs to drive up profit margins? Well, shame on them. They certainly won’t be making any more profits now, huh?

Tourist alert

I absolutely love to travel and I loved the time we spent in New York. We went to the The Metropolitan Museum (and spent several hours there, hypnotized by the beautiful and intriguing artwork) and to Bloomingdales (I got socks because its all I could afford, but I still wear them and think "These are my New York socks, yay!") and out to eat a lot. We wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty but there just wasn't enough time. We settled for looking at it from the mainland. As for the Empire State building, well, I think we might have seen it from the cab! There was so much to see, but it was all so expensive and we were only there for a whirlwind 24 hours.

I know that if I ever get a chance to go back, I'm going to insist that we take our time and actually see the sights. In fact, I'm going to insist that we each get a New York CityPass. They are $65 for adults and $49 for youths age 12-17. I'm assuming that maybe kids are free? The site had some tips for dealing with kids' short attention spans when it comes to museum viewing and such, so obviously its not that they aren't letting you bring them. Anyway, the pass gives you admission to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the new Greek and Roman galleries, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Guggenheim Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. And you get to go to the top of the Empire State Building and see the observatory and take a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise. Wow. All this would cost $130 if the tickets were purchased individually. The winter special is good from Dec. 15 to March 15. If you live within day-trip distance of the city, the deal is even better, because you really have the whole three months to use up the six tickets. Seems a little more peaceful than cramming it all into one jam-packed vacation.

Achieve it

You know that cheesy old addage, "Anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve"? That kind of inspriational message is usually found on posters in the guidance counselor's office at a high school. And even when I was IN high school, and like the cheeriest, giggliest girl you could ever imagine meeting, those posters made me want to barf. There was one of a bird trying to eat a frog and the frog was already in the bird's mouth but he used his froggy hands to squeeze the bird's neck closed and the text read, "Never, ever give up" or something like that. It's kind of a nice idea, but even then I knew that there are some things that you should just give up on.

Take me for example. A realistic dream was to be a journalist. Everyone told me that I was good at writing, I seemed to enjoy it, and I really loved layout. But if my dream was to be a singer, a la Carrie Underwood? There are not enough voice lessons in the world to fix the fact that my tone is bad and when I think I'm matching what I hear, I'm actually painfully flat. (I can hear this quite clearly when listening to myself played back on a tape. Just not while I'm actually singing for some unknown reason.)

So the dream I entertained as a child of being a rock star was out. Just plain out. No amount of dreaming and believing was going to make it happen.

Well, what about my current dream? To be at home with my kid(s) and maybe someday train to help and support other nursing women? With our family's finances? How will we get by without my steady income?

For awhile, it felt like that dream was too far on the rock star side of things. I struggled to earn a few extra $$$ here and there. I was thrilled to make $5 every few days. And now? With hard work, perserverance and some dumb luck, I really feel like I am starting to turn my life around. We had problems and I said, I will not let these problems stop me from following my dreams. I found a solution and I worked at it, HARD, for a very long time. And now everything looks so rosy I'm starting to wonder what else I could accomplish if I set my mind to it. I am very stubborn, you know :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reach out and help someone

It's that time of year again when we are stretching our budgets to the very last dime that all the heartstrings tend to get pulled the most. There are so many important causes out there and you just can't support all of them, no matter how much money you have set aside to give, it's never enough. Usually, I let my son put loose change in the Salvation Army cans and that's about it. We are just so strapped at this time of year that we can't really afford to do much more.

That's why I thought this Web site was so brilliant. Everyone is out shopping for the perfect holiday gift, and a lot of us tend to shop online. It's just less frustrating than going out to real stores and waiting in lines. Well, what if I told you that there's a way to shop online and directly benefit Alzheimer's research at the same time? By purchasing heart of care jewelry for someone you love this holiday season, you're not only getting a beautiful gift, but showing your support for this important cause.

My husband's grandmother didn't have her mind for the last 10 years of her life and it was really hard for everyone, especially my mother-in-law, who took her into her home after she couldn't care for herself anymore. I have to say, even though I didn't even know her that well, it is really hard to see a grown woman lost in the abyss of her memories and past without knowing who she is or what she's doing. She used to get up in the middle of the night to shush us while we were watching movies, thinking we were her own children and the whole thing was taking place years and year ago. I have never experienced anything quite like speaking with someone who doesn't see you for who you are. This disease is so heartbreaking for everyone involved, but especially the person's loved ones.

We recently saw the movie "The Notebook" and they did a really good job of depicting what it's like to love someone who is suffering from memory loss. Hopefully, a cure can be found soon. Please take a moment to visit these sites and give if you can.

Late for my life

I came in to finsh up a few things at the office really quickly and got majorly distracted. It's a good kind of distracted, but seriously, I've been here for way too long and I'm sure my son is crying for me because it's getting pretty late. Have I mentioned how hard it is to balance work and home life so that I don't feel like I'm failing everyone around me? Everytime I try to get a special jump on one, the other suffers.

I am tired of trying to do it all, be it all, to everyone all of the time. Here's a special treat for those of you who read this blog instead of just my lj. Stephen applied for a full-time job this week. That was why we dragged the computer out, to get his resume information off of it. It's a massage job at a medical practice. It has benefits. I am practically drooling over this prospect. I don't know how we would make it work, but I am ready to make it work.

Wish him luck!

Happy teeth

I have major issues with my teeth. Thankfully, I've never lost a crown, but I have chipped a filling. If it had been in the front where people could see, maybe I would have been motivated to get it taken care of right away. But instead, it was way in the back and I just ignored it. That allowed the root to get infected and lead to my eventual root canal. It was expensive and painful and just plain stupid of me to let it get so bad. I do still have dental fear, but it's getting better now that I've learned about the drug that helps you sleep through the procedures. Now, I know that if I were to chip another filling or actually lose one of my crowns (I have three now, yipes!) I'd be smart enough to go in right away.

But that's sometimes easier said than done. Dental emergencies don't just happen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you know? So in the meantime, I happy to see that there's a new product out there called Dentemp OS which will help manage the pain of a chipped filling until you can get an appointment to have it repaired. It also works as a paste to help cement a crown back on should it pop off at some random time. (This has happened to my mother and she couldn't eat for days!) I'll be sure and let her know about this temporary dental repair product. It sets in just 30 minutes and then you can even eat on it and everything. It's obviously not designed to hold as long as real dental work, but it will sure get you through in a pinch.

Two to three

The difference between three and two is most obnoxious when dealing with six.


Well, say you have a package of six hot dogs. If there are only two people, then you get three meals out of them. But if there are three people, then they only last for two meals. And sure, Ben doesn't always eat a whole hot dog (sometimes he does!) but you can't just cook half of one, and so we end up finishing his food. This means we eat more than we would have if he weren't here, AND all of our food doesn't last as long.

We went to the farmers market this afternoon to try and get enough fresh fruits and veggies to keep us from having to go to the regular grocery store this week. Their stuff is better, and cheaper, and we don't come home with a whole bunch of junk food. We are really trying to eat better, (whole foods) and watch our budget at the same time. (Yeah, I know, but they are all natural 100 percent beef hot dogs with no nitrates, Ben loves them and they were on mega sale last week, OK?)

So tonight's dinner was: leftover mac & cheese made with real cheese, hot dogs, yellow squash, crackers and freshly pressed juice. Weird, but sastifying. And we successfully avoided my Happy Terriyaki craving. Now we just have to keep on having days like today and maybe we'll make it to January in one piece!

Mix it up

I’ve always wanted one of those pretty mixers that you put on your counter and push a button and it does the rest. No fuss, no muss.

This Hamilton Beach® Stand Mixer fits the bill perfectly. It was awarded a “Best-Buy” rating by two different leading consumer magazines and it comes with a three year limited warranty. I tend to gravitate toward companies that stand by what they make. Seems less likely that you’ll end up in the middle of a recall.

The Eclectrics® Mixer comes in lots of colors, and at first I couldn’t decide at all. I narrowed it down to the sterling color and the sugar color. The sugar would probably match our black and white kitchen a little better, and interestingly enough, it seems to be cheaper. $200 isn’t bad for such a fancy mixer. This thing can mix the dough for nine dozen cookies at once! It’s definitely tougher than any job I ever see myself tackling in our homely little kitchen.

But the most exciting thing of all is that Hamilton Beach® is giving away a free Hamilton Beach® Mixer to the top ten bloggers who post the most creative videos. I would absolutely love to win this contest because we currently only have a little hand mixer. It’s also a Hamilton Beach® mixer, and has lasted us a long time. But it only works for little jobs, and we often make a mess with it. I’ve been very sastified with the brand, but would love to get a big countertop mixer as well.

They are also offering free shipping throughout the month of November. Go check it out. Even if I don’t win, maybe I’ll throw it on my Christmas list. My mother-in-law loves to get us kitchen items.

Holidays hit us hard

The AP has moved a wire story about how to cut your budget around the holidays that I pored over with much enthusiasm, until I realized that it was filled with useful tips like, give to charity throughout the year instead of a bunch at the holidays and limit your outings to just one or two special plays like "The Nutcracker." Hmm.

The only tip on there that I considered useful for lower/middle class us was try making more holiday gifts this year and offer to see a friend and go out for lunch and a movie instead of swapping gifts, as your time is more precious than stuff anyway. I totally agree with the sentiment of this idea, but in my book, lunch and a movie is still quite expensive.

We most certainly won't be spending that much on any one person on our list. It's so huge that we're trying to keep it between $5-10 per person, but it's getting hard. I've spent $15 on my mom, and I still feel bad because I'd love to be able to afford to get her more. There's a DVD out there that I know she'd love ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Never buy a car the same day you start looking!

We realize now that we were pretty dumb to wander onto a new car lot after we'd been married for just two months. I was still in school and my husband was working full time, and had just gotten another job on the side. Our "just looking" trip ended with us buying a brand new car. We didn't know what we were doing at all. We didn't haggle the price, or even try to walk away. We let them bully us around and then we had car payments we couldn't afford. Thankfully, we at least like the car! That was five years ago, and our car is still providing everything we need. But we often think to the future, when we will have another baby (or two!) and our little Mazda will be on its last legs.

We both know a lot more now than we did then, and there's no way that we'd pay full price for a new car ever again. I mean, for one thing, you can do some shopping on line and come up with a Honda Car Quote so that you can at least walk in there and say, "Well, I saw that exact same car online for this price" and then you'll know if they are trying to rip you off. We also might just go with a used car next time. Especially if we can find one for cheap that will serve our needs. I shudder to think of myself driving some sort of gas-guzzling mini-van or SUV someday, but it may be unavoidable. If we end up with three kids, we just won't all fit in a Mazda Protege anymore.

Toddler talk

Ben is starting to try to talk in the beat and structure of adult conversation, but he has no idea what he's doing, so you get things like this.

"Mama lap hold you pick up you computer time mama you play please"

Even if you translate every you to a me, it still is iffy on the making sense scale. I mean, his meaning is clear: "Mama, may I sit in your lap and play on the computer please?" but he's got a long way to go before the grammar, syntax and agreement are all there. And its not like I'm complaining that my not-even-2-year-old son doesn't speak in perfect English. It's just funny to leap from baby talk "Mama up peese. Computer peese" to the rhytem of adult language. I wonder what inspired him to start trying so hard to talk like us? Regardless, its totally cute.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Show your smile!

My history with my teeth is shady at best. After having more fillings than I have teeth (some on baby teeth and many teeth have been drilled more than once) three crowns and a root canal, it’s a wee bit of an understatement to say that my teeth are sensitive.
I don’t bite popsicles or ice cream and I most certainly can’t chew ice the way my husband does! (Not that it’s something I aspire to do anyway.)

And to make my story even crazier, I hate mint. Yes, that’s right, every time I go to the dentist’s office, I have to put in special requests for bubble gum flavored polish and cinnamon floss. I’ve spent my whole life wishing that they’d make some sort of toothpaste that isn’t mint flavored, but also doesn’t come with a bunch of cartoons on the container.

I was thrilled to try out Biotene’s new toothpaste, if not a little concerned about the taste. Imagine how thrilled I was to learn that it really has no flavor at all. After I finished brushing with it, my teeth didn’t taste like anything in particular, they just tasted clean. I’ve used other sensitive toothpastes before, but tend not to keep them around the house because they have all these drug warnings on them about not letting children younger than 12 use them at all. But this Biotene product is just as safe as a regular toothpaste. The back just says supervise children ages 2-6 to minimize swallowing and only give them a pea-sized amount.

Considering how often my (nearly) 2-year-old gets into the toothpaste drawer, this was good to hear. He loves to use Mama’s toothpaste as well, so I will be happy to share this one with him. It doesn’t even have a strong flavor or scent that might turn him off.

As for my teeth, they feel happy and clean, but without any funky chemical aftertaste. I liked this toothpaste so much that after I use up my sample tube, I will go out and purchase more. It is really hard to live with sensitive teeth. Biotene doesn’t just mask the problem, it helps resolve it.

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But my kid is so smart!

My stepmom sent this to me. It's been bugging me all day, in that I feel frustrated and defensive but can't see why I should. I mean, I want to be like, "Dude I was reading at age 2 and I turned out great!" but that's the dumbest thing in the world to say. I was also formula-fed, and that doesn't mean that its OK just because I got lucky and didn't suffer any problems. I am the first person to research these types of thnigs, cosleeping, nursing, letting little kids be little and all that jazz. But I'm so freaking proud that Ben is so smart and that he is not even two and knows so many letters already: B, o, f, and sometimes a and n. We read to him all the time. Isn't that what ALL the experts say? Read to your kids? Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is like his favorite book on the planet. I mean, I'm all for creative art play and playdough and stuff.

I dunno. I think I'm feeling this discontent because she's probably right and I'm probably not going to change anything which is going to make me feel guilty in the long run. I guess.


Hi Suz,
I found the information about early vs later reading.  It basically has to do with where the child is developmentally.  Young children are very imaginative and think in pictures – if you cut this short by moving too soon to reading and other ‘left brain’ activities, then you start losing some of that lovely, imaginative quality to their lives.
What I have found is that parents should ‘follow’ their child, just like you did with breast-feeding; wait to ‘teach’ reading until he is developmentally ready. 
Here is part of the article about Waldorf education, and more importantly, about what is going on with kids at what age.  Of course, they also don’t have kids watch any TV until I can’t remember – 7 or 8?
It is your decision of course – I just wanted to make this material available to you and Stephen, because the culture around us all tends to say: ‘teach em early’.  Just like it says ‘put them in their own bed from day 1’ and other stuff.

An Introduction to Waldorf Education
Don’t Rush the Young Child
Storytelling, songs, rhythmical games, handwork, painting, singing, and lots of free play with toys that lend themselves to many uses, help to develop both imaginative forces and social skills. A child lives with a constantly growing mastery of the physical world. In these early years, a young child’s thought has a pictorial and dreamy quality, quite unlike the thinking of an adult.  Formative forces are still working to mold the young body and brain.  At about age seven, these forces are freed to develop memory and intellect.  Prematurely awakening a child’s intellect by asking the child to focus on academics in what should be the imitative phase, means that full development of imaginative powers will be hampered. The child will become less truly himself.

The value of early academics has never been proven, but its harm has been clearly documented by such internationally recognized psychologists as David Elkind and educators such as A. C. Harwood.  No two children are alike in the way they learn.  Reading, like walking, speaking, and thinking, appears when the child is mature enough to integrate all the skills needed.  True, reading can be hurried, but there is a cost: emotionally, psychologically, and/or academically. 

A study by the Gesell Institute measured reading skills of children who began reading at age 3 to 5, against the skills of children who began reading much later, at age 6 to 8. The study found that by the third grade both groups of children had similar skill level, but the children who began reading later had a much greater interest in exploring reading.

Waiting until a child is in first grade before starting academic work has obvious advantages for an average or slow child who needs the time to gain maturity before beginning reading or math.  But what to do with the bright child who wants to start writing or reading at age three or four? Here is a chance to share their excitement and declare “You will be able to learn all about that when you get to first grade!”.  You need not sit down and give the children formal lessons at a young age, merely because they are interested in letters and numbers. There are many letter and number games for young children that can provide satisfaction.  Songs with rhymes counting can also be an endless source of delight to the young child.Tell a story or read from one book at a sitting, allowing the child to fully enter into the mood of each story.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm floored!

I am so impressed with iFLOOR for offering a $1,000,000 warranty to protect customers who have had problems with their flooring and were told that the warrenty didn't apply because they purchased the flooring online! I would be so mad if something happened to our brand new bamboo floor and we were told our warrenty didn't apply. We did not get our floor online, but I do get a lot of other things there. It's scary to think that a big purchase would be excluded because of where you shop. It's the exact same floor, you know? This press release explains how iFLOOR is going out of their way to protect their customers. Good for them!

iFLOOR, America's largest online flooring retailer, today announced a $1,000,000 limited warranty designed to protect its customers from predatory manufacturer policies that exclude warranty coverage from online purchases.

The policy, which goes into effect immediately, offers up to one million dollars of coverage in the event that a customer's warranty claim is denied specifically because they made their purchase online. It is complimentary for every iFLOOR customer, and protects the buyer under the same terms as the original product warranty.

iFLOOR, Inc. CEO, Steve Simonson, came up with the program to combat "scare tactics" used by manufacturers of hardwood floors and laminate flooring. "Their idea is to discourage you from buying at a discount!" wrote Simonson in his blog "It's About Flooring". "This is not right! You deserve to save money! So we're going to take care of this problem once and for all."

And it would appear that federal law is on his side. Section 108 of the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Act, states that, "In general, tie-in sales provisions are not allowed. Such a provision would require a purchaser of the warranted product to buy an item or service from a particular company to use with the warranted product in order to be eligible to receive a remedy under the warranty."

Under iFLOOR's new warranty, a key provision allows for iFLOOR to "seek justice" on behalf of the customer in the event of legal action. According to Simonson, "I'm putting iFLOOR's money where my mouth is."

About iFLOOR, Inc. *Since 1998, has been the leading online and retail flooring company, with 36 local retail stores nationwide offering more than 70,000 products, including hardwood floors, laminate flooring, bamboo flooring and cork floors. is the largest online flooring retailer according to Internet Retailer Magazine, and was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States for the past three years. Committed to quality customer service, superior selection and friendly expert advice, enables customers to buy flooring both online and in its retail stores at a substantial savings over traditional retailers. For more information about iFLOOR, please visit


I am taking the afternoon OFF!

I'm burning up my overtime, which is sad, because if you're going to work 9 and a half hours on a Saturday, it might be nice to get paid for it. But at the same time, if I put 11 hours or more of OT on my timecard, work would flip, and I did miss out on spending that Saturday with my family. So instead of two weekend days off, I got Sunday and Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. Sometime having the afternoon off is better anyway, because it feels like you're playing hooky. My husband suggested to me that if I went in early (ensuring I'd be done soon enough to take the afternoon off) I could take a nap with Ben. But then I decided to get coffee this morning (mmm ... pumkin spice! and I don't even have to feel bad financialy because I got a ton of Starbucks giftcards for my birthday) so now I'm not really that tired. Plus, I went to bed early too. It's really really nice to not be tired. So I will be enjoying the afternoon with my family. It's hard to be poor, but its also a balance. No one has to be poor if they're willing to sell their souls and become workaholics, but then what's the point of the money, you know? You have to have the time to enjoy yourself and raise your kid too.