How does Mommy look?

Jun 30, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the waiting room of my daughter’s speech therapy building (she has issues with the /r/ sound) when I got up to go to the restroom. I had already, 30 minutes before, met my husband in the parking lot to switch cars (and children), spoken to the receptionist to check Jordan in, and met briefly with the speech therapist as she came out to get Jordan.

Anyway, as I was saying, I went into the restroom and as I washed my hands, I quickly glanced in the mirror. I was HORRIFIED by what I saw. My hair was a shaggy mess, still disheveled from the 30 minute nap I had taken earlier that afternoon and my mascara was smudged under my left eye. How embarrassing. I could not believe that I had been talking to people looking like this. What must they have thought of me? And, why is it that my husband didn’t see any reason to point out my crazy look before I embarrassed myself any further? Was it because he’s so used to seeing me this way that he didn’t even notice? The thought of that made me feel even worse.

And, the thing is, I wish I could say that in my nearly seven years of parenting, this was the first time something like this has happened. But, unfortunately, it seems that more and more often these days, I find myself in a similar situation . . . rushing to get out the door . . . filling sippy cups . . . stuffing diaper bags . . . quieting whiney children . . . and not taking a moment to glance in the mirror or run a brush through my hair. It’s not that I’m so busy that I don’t have time (though, in reality, I don’t). But, it’s more that I literally forget to see what I look like. I am so consumed with the kids and how they look and what they need that the thought of me and my physical appearance completely leaves my mind. I wish it didn’t. Trust me. I really, really wish it didn’t – as demonstrated by my appearance at yesterday’s speech therapy – but it does.

I vividly remember the first time this happened to me. My daughter must have been about 4 or 5 months old. At that time, I was working as a high school counselor and she came to work with me. (The school had a daycare on the first floor.) Getting not just me, but also her, ready and out the door by 7 am was quite a challenge as a new mom. I thought, however, that I was doing pretty well with my new juggling act. That is, until one morning when I was about 5 minutes from work and I happened to glance in the rearview mirror. In utter disbelief, I realized that I had not put on any makeup that morning. None. Not a touch of blush or lipstick or eyeliner. Nothing. Nada. It was not a pretty sight. And, because I am not the type of person to carry makeup with me, I had to quickly pull into the parking lot of a nearby grocery store, grab Jordan from her seat and run in the door. I purchased a few makeup items to help me become relatively presentable that day and got myself ready in the car.

Later that day, I relayed that story to my best friend, Renee, who, by then, already had two kids. I don’t know if I have ever heard her laugh so hard as she did at my tale. At the time, I believe I thought she was laughing because she could just imagine how I looked. But, now, three children down the road, I realize that perhaps she was really laughing because she not only felt my pain, but knew that with every child I added to my brood, I would find myself in a similar state more and more often.

And, it only makes sense that something like this would happen. After all, once you have children, it’s not like an extra 3 hours a day comes with the baby as a bonus. You still only have 24 hours to get it all done. But, now, not only do you have all of your stuff and your husband’s stuff to fit into the day, you also have all those child’s . . . and subsequent children’s . . . needs and wants and desires. Something has to give. For some, it’s their hobbies, like reading or playing a sport. For me, it seems, it’s the act of looking in a mirror.

So, if any of you stumble upon me, whether when you visit my house or see me in a store, and it’s clear I have not seen my reflection in awhile . . . please offer to watch my kids for a moment and then say, ever so gently, “Hey, why don’t you go into the bathroom for a minute.” I’ll get the hint . . . and be extremely grateful to you for the gesture . . . because, I promise you, I do care how I look . . . and, I really don’t mean to look so frazzled . . . I just am!

Chocolate for Breakfast

Jun 29, 2009


This past Sunday morning, my daughter got up earlier than the rest of us. She attempted to wake us, but I “shooed” her out of the room by telling her to go downstairs to watch TV. I then fell back to sleep.

A little while later, she came upstairs, whining that she was hungry. I pulled the pillow over my head to drown out the sound. I heard her ask me if she could get some raisins. I told her, “Fine. Just do it quietly!” and pulled the pillow down tighter.

About an hour later, I was finally up and about. I went downstairs and found the “remains” of Jordan’s “breakfast” on the coffee table. Chocolate milk and a candy bar wrapper! I didn’t see any stray raisins laying about.

“Jordan!” I called to her. “You’re not allowed to have candy for breakfast! You told me you wanted raisins. I agreed to raisins! Not chocolate!”

She looked at me very calmly and said, “I said to you, ‘Can I have raisins or something?’”

That little stinker.

“So, the something was a candy bar?” I asked her.

She looked me squarely in the eyes, said “Yes,” and walked away.

I’d like to say, “When will she learn?” but honestly, I think the real question is, “When will I?”

After all, it seems there is no end to the sneaky nature of a child – especially one after some chocolate.

Swapping Paperback Books

Jun 26, 2009

If you like to read, and like to own the books you’re reading, than I have the website for you!

It’s called PaperBackSwap.com and on that site, you can trade the books you read for the ones you still want to read. And, all it costs is the price of postage.

This is how it works: You need to become a member (which is free). Then, you go through the books you own that you’d be willing to part with and you list them on the website. The site will notify you when another PaperBackSwap member wants one of your books and you mail it to them (with a shippinug label you can print off on your computer at home - thus you don't have to wait in line at the post office). On average, most paperbacks cost $2.23 to ship. For every book you mail out, you get a “credit” on their site that you can use to order a book of your own from the website.

According to the site’s founder, they have “half a million unique titles, including hardbacks and audio” - with the inventory changing daily. In addition, you can "swap" textbooks! What a great way to save money in college!

So, if you’re the type of person who is always going out to buy books and have a whole library at home you don’t know what to do with, you may have just found the solution!

How old is Grandpa?

Jun 25, 2009

I was riding in the car with the kids yesterday afternoon when, out of the blue, my six-year-old daughter says, “Mommy, I know how old Grandpa is.”

“Really?” I said, not paying all that much attention.

“Yes, he told me.”

“Okay,” I said, taking the bait. “How old is Grandpa?”

“Thirty-seven.”

That got my attention.

“Thirty-seven?”

“Yep.”

“Really?”

“Yep. He told me he’s thirty-seven.”

Hmmm.

Now, that was interesting.

“Jordan, how old am I?” I asked.

“Thirty-five,” she told me.

I paused. She didn’t seem at all phased by this.

“So, if I’m thirty-five and Grandpa’s only thirty-seven . . . that means he was two years old when I was born.”

There was a little more pausing.

“I guess,” she said, not at all bothered by that thought.

I just smiled as I continued to drive. If she didn’t think this whole thing was odd, who was I to argue with her?

And, if my dad could pull off thirty-seven, then good for him.

Save Money on Groceries with AngelFood Ministries

Jun 24, 2009

The cost of groceries is really insane these days, isn’t it? And, that’s the last thing many of us need with the economy (and our incomes) being as bad as they are.

So, I have a solution (or at least, a means of assistance) that may benefit many of you and help keep your grocery bills down a little bit.

There is a program call Angel Food Ministries. It is nationwide program where you can order a “box” of food for $30. The boxes generally include a variety of meat, vegetables, side items, staples, butter, milk, eggs and a dessert. It is intended to be enough food to feed a family of four for a week. Pickup locations are usually at various churches across the country.

The way it works is this: You go to their website and find a location near you. Each month’s menu is also listed on their site. When I just went to their website, I discovered that you can now order online many places, so that makes it convenient. If your local church doesn’t offer online ordering yet, you need to go pick up an order sheet from them and drop it off with your $30. You generally need to order by the 2nd Saturday of the month and “Pick up” is on the last Saturday. When that Saturday arrives, you bring a box, or a cooler, or a bunch of canvas bags to “collect” your food.

In case you’re wondering if you have to be “poor” or a of a certain income level for this, you do not. My friend called to ask them that question and she was told, “We don’t care if you’re a millionaire. Anyone is welcome to participate.”

And, honestly, these days, who couldn’t benefit from saving some money on groceries?

As I was glancing at their website, I also noticed that they now carry an “allergen-free box” that does not include any peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustacean, tree nuts or gluten.

In addition, they also have boxes targeted towards senior citizens. As they say on their site, these boxes contain: Ten perfectly seasoned, nutritionally balanced, fully cooked meals—just heat and serve. Each meal has been developed with the dietary needs of senior citizens in mind, and contains 3 oz. of protein, a starch & two vegetables or fruit.

You can also purchase additional “special” boxes which change every month but basically include a box of various meats, or a box of various fruits and vegetables or a box of seafood.

Even if this is not something that may interest you, I bet there is someone you know who would benefit from it, so please pass the information on!

Renting movies

Jun 23, 2009

I love to watch movies. I prefer, of course, to go to the theater but, with three kids and a ton of responsibilities, that is rarely an option. Not to mention, movies are expensive these days! So, more times than not, Rob and I rent a movie if we want to see one. We used to always rent from Blockbuster or Hollywood video, but honestly, I think that they have gotten to be very expensive, too! That’s why, if we’re going to rent, I generally use the Red Box.

I would find it hard to believe that anyone who is reading this does not know what the Red Box is, but I imagine that is the case for some, so I’ll explain. Red Box is a large, red kiosk that is located in over 15,000 locations nationwide. The closest ones to me are in our McDonalds, our grocery store and outside our Walgreens. Renting a DVD costs $1 a day and they have all the new releases. All you need to do is slide your credit card, find the movie you want on their computer screen and use the touch screen to select it. The movie is automatically dispensed from the machine. When you return it, you just slide it back into the box, bar code side up and it registers that you have returned it.

The best part about Red Box is that you can go online and “search” for the movie you want to rent. It will tell you which Red Box near you has it and you can reserve it. Then, all you do is go (with your credit card - they don't take cash) to get it and it’s guaranteed to be there.

If you’re like me, when you have time to rent a movie, you watch it the night you rent it, so there’s generally no need to keep it more than a day. Thus, the $1 plus tax price is extremely reasonable. Many of the video stores cost over $4 for a movie. That adds up over time, especially if you’re renting a few movie for your kids to watch on a rainy day (No that we have many of those in Austin).

One of our other grocery stores has a similar machine called DVDPlay. They also charge $1 a day and if you sign up on their email mailing list, they often send you coupons for less or rent one get one free things. In addition, for every 10 rentals, you get one FREE!

Another place I like to get movies (especially for the kid) is the public library. They usually have some pretty good choices and not necessarily always new releases. Thus, my kids get to watch some “oldie-but-goodie” movies, such as Pollyanna and Pete’s Dragon. The problem with the library, though, is that the DVDs are often scratched and that is frustrating for anyone, but especially a 2 year old! Still, the price is right at FREE and so, when we go, we check out 5 DVDs at a a time (their limit) and I pray that at least 2 or 3 aren’t scratched. Plus, the library lets you have the DVDS (in Austin) for at least a week – so that’s a better option for us when we're taking a car trip.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a movie with your family – even at home! If you’ve never checked out Red Box (or similar options in your town) I would highly recommend that on your next movie night, you do just that!

Children and Grocery Shopping Don't Mix

Jun 22, 2009


When I was newly married, I used to love grocery shopping. Maybe it was because the concept of buying (or maybe it was affording) food on my own was new to me. Maybe it was because I was having a good time playing housewife to my new husband in our new home. Maybe it was because I was, at that time, crazy about using grocery coupons and, in combination with the deals at the Army Commissary, I was able to buy a lot for very little money. Whatever the reason was, I used to love going to the grocery store. I looked forward to lingering down the aisles, checking prices, reading labels and comparing brands. And then, after I made my purchases, I was always so excited to bring home what I had bought and begin cooking.

Fast forward 13 years . . . I hate grocery shopping. Despise it. It is one of my least favorite activities – next to, perhaps, oral surgery and changing poopy diapers. I don’t know when my feeling towards this necessary weekly (sometimes, it seems, daily) activity changed. I think it was a gradual decline, brought on, initially, by the novelty of cooking wearing off. And then there’s the fact that we no longer shop at the Commissary and our current stores don’t “do” triple coupons. Thus, the thrill of getting great deals diminished. But, what really demolished my grocery shopping joy had to be three small, human beings named Jordan, Bennett and Maclain. Yes, I said it. My children have made grocery shopping a nightmare experience and I do everything and anything in my power to avoid bringing them with me.

Did you ever wonder who those people are who grocery shop at 10 or 11 o’clock at night? Well, let me tell you. It’s me – and a bunch of other moms – and some guy who just got off work at the gas station looking to buy beer. But, because by that time, my husband is home and my kids are in bed, and I am “free” to go to the grocery store and shop alone – in peace. It’s not exactly what I want to do with my evenings. By 7 o’clock, I am already exhausted and ready to get in bed, growing increasingly more irritated that my 2-yr-old will not brush his teeth faster. So, by 10 pm, the thought of walking out the door to look at pancake mix and toilet paper does not excite me. All I have to do, though, is remind myself that if I wait until tomorrow to shop, I’ll have to take one or two or even three kids with me. That realization causes me to get off the couch and hop in the car. After all, on my own, I can get the shopping done in less than an hour. With my children in tow, though, a big grocery trip could take hours upon hours and, honestly, I’m just not up for that.

I have been doing these late night trips for years now and so, I guess it was for that reason that, last week, I momentarily forgot how terrible shopping with my kids can be. It was a Saturday morning and my husband, Rob, was going to have the kids all afternoon because I had somewhere (that now escapes me) to go. So, with the good intentions of giving him a break (and only about 6 or 7 things on my list) I said, “I’ll take all three kids with me.” After all, they’re getting older. How bad can it be?

Horrible. Miserable. Horrendous. That’s how bad. BAD.

Let’s begin by the fact that it is always over 100 degrees here in Austin these days. So, by the time I had loaded the kids in the car and then unloaded them at the store, I was already hot and sweaty and tired. I noticed, though, that near my car at the grocery store was a really cool cart that I thought would work for all my kids. (Carts are always a problem – some stores don’t have two seats in the front of the cart and so my 2-yr-old has to sit in the basket portion. This never goes well because there’s no seatbelt there and so he’s always either trying to stand up when I’m not looking or sitting on the bread I’ve just put in my cart or dumping the blueberries all over the store floor. Yes, that has really happened and my cheeks still turn red at the thought of it.) Anyway, the one near my car looked like a regular cart, with one seat for a small child, but it also had a bench attached to the front of it that two other children could sit and be strapped in. I thought, how wonderful! All of the kids will be contained! And, no one will be arguing over who gets to ride and who has to walk (always an issue with my 6-year-old daughter).

So, I went and grabbed the cart and put the baby in the child’s seat and then told my other two kids to hop on the bench. They did and we strapped them in and were all set to go. I leaned over and started to push the cart. It didn’t move. I tried again a little harder this time. It moved about an inch and stopped. “What is wrong with this cart?”I thought. I checked under the wheels, nothing seemed to be hindering them and since I had rolled the empty cart to our car, I knew they worked. I tried again. Still no luck. I thought, maybe the problem is that I’m on a slight hill, so I told my daughter, Jordan, to jump off – just until we got in the store. She did as I asked and we rolled into the building. She hopped back on again and I started to push the cart through the produce section. Except, the cart wouldn’t move. No matter how hard I tried, I could only get it to jerk and inch or two before it stopped. “What kind of cart is this?” I thought.

And then, it hit me.

All three of my kids, together, weigh more than me.

It’s true

They do.

I think they actually weigh about 15 lbs more than me!

And, as it turns out, I am not capable of pushing my body weight (plus some).

So, I did what I had to do, but even as I said it, I knew I was about to cause a big problem.

“Jordan, you need to get off and walk.”

That is where the series of meltdowns we would experience in the store began.

“Why do I have to walk? Why do they get to ride? It’s not fair!”

“True, it’s not fair, but Mommy is not strong enough to push all of you and so, since Bennett will be ripping things off the shelves, he has to ride and since the baby can’t walk, he has to ride and so that leaves you to walk. I’m sorry!”

And, truly, I was. I was sorry because I knew I would have to listen to her whine until we got home again.

And, another reason I was sorry was because, when Jordan grocery shops with me, she is constantly under foot (or should I say, “under cart.”) I am repeatedly telling her to walk behind me.

“Behind me, Jordan!” I hiss. “Not next to the cart. The aisle isn’t wide enough for you and me and another cart to pass. “

“Can I walk in front of you?”

“No! You don’t know where we need to go and I’ll end up running you over with the cart. Walk behind me.”

And so, she does - for a minute or two (or maybe a second or two – that seems more accurate) and then, once again, she’s next to me and I’m apologizing to the people who can’t pass us in the aisles.

“Behind me, Jordan. Behind me!”

And so, as usual, that’s the way our grocery trip began.

I wish it could say it got better from there.

The next issue was, even though the cart was not as heavy now, it was long and big and bulky and really awkward to push down the aisle. The front end of my cart reached the end of the aisle a good minute before I did and so, I had to slowly ease it past the displays to see if anyone was coming the other way as to avoid a collision. Turns? They were close to impossible seeing as grocery stores are very crowded on weekend mornings and this cart needed the length of a football field in order to make a rotation. We just went straight as much as we could – and I prayed I didn’t forget to grab something down a previous aisle.

And then we came upon a “sample” station. You know . . . those carts that give samples of free food as you shop. No one loves to eat more than my kids and so they all lit up with glee when they saw free food. That is, until the lady, who was actually baking some sort of sandwich, gave the first sample to Jordan but then told Bennett that his sister had just gotten the last one. She was going to have to cook more. “Could you come back in about 10 minutes?” she asked me.

“Are you kidding me, lady?” I wanted to scream (as both Bennett and Maclain - who wanted whatever it was Jordan had - actually began to do so.) “Do you not see I have three children here? Did you actually think it was a good idea to give something to one and not the others and then ask them to patiently wait?”

And so, wait we did. Yes, I could have shopped a little more while we waited and used the time efficiently, but how do you explain to a two-year-old that it’s better to multi-task? Shop while you wait? They haven’t yet covered that in his preschool. So we sat (or should I say the boys sat and I stood and Jordan whined that she still had to walk.) And finally, miraculously, after 10 minutes of everyone staring at my unruly kids as they walked down the aisle, my boys got their baked sandwiches and we were on our way.

By this point, I’m not sure I had actually put anything in my cart. I was going to need to speed things up a bit.

I grabbed the needed items as fast as I could, upsetting the baby who wanted to put every box and can and tube of toothpaste in his mouth. He screeched louder with every item that got thrown into the basket.

I walked and pushed as fast as I could. Maclain continued to cry and Jordan continued to whine about not getting to ride and Bennett yelled because he wanted to buy candy and soda and items that were more fun than the Cheerios I had told him to hold. To entertain himself, he began to yank his brother’s dangling legs, which were too close to him for my comfort.

“Stop touching the baby.” I said. “Stop!”

He continued as we got stuck in a traffic jam at the end of an aisle.

“Don’t touch the baby!” I yelled – or at least, I said it loud enough that a man next to me turned around, startled.

“Not you,” I told him, frustrated and flustered, as I made my way down the aisle.

We were almost home free. I saw the checkout lane in sight. And then, we were derailed from our mission, as my daughter grabbed hold of one of the free balloons they give the kids at our grocery store.

“I want a balloon! I want a balloon!” Bennett began to yell.

“No, Bennett.” I don’t even know why I told him no, other than the fact that I had kept walking and didn’t want to (or, in this case with the tank of a cart, wasn’t able to) turn around to go back.

"No balloon." I said. "Share Jordan's."

Yes, it sounded ridiculous to me even as I said it.

As I pulled up to the register, the bagger called out to me, “Trees or petroleum?”

Was this a quiz?

Did he not see that I had three screaming, growing-increasingly-more hysterical kids with me?

The cashier, clearly witnessing that Mommy was about to have her own meltdown, took pity on me. “Paper or plastic?’

Shoot. I had forgotten my reusable bags in my car and, of course, there was no way I was going back out there to get them.

“Whichever,” I said.

The bagger gave me plastic, or maybe it was paper. Who knows. Who seriously cares. I just wanted to be out of there.

As the cashier handed me my receipt, she said, “Have a great day.”

I paused and looked at her and then, simultaneously, we both began to giggle.

Even she could see that what she had just said was so incredibly ridiculous that the two of us could not stop from bursting into laughter.

A great day? At that moment, I would have taken a good hour. Or, even yet, settled for an okay minute.

“Yeah, sure,” I chuckled, as I walked out the door and my kids continued to break the sound barrier. “I’ll do just that.”

Coupon and Promotion Codes

Jun 19, 2009

I don’t often buy things online, but when I do, I find it to be highly convenient. The thing is, though, when I shop, I need it to not only be convenient, but also be a good financial bargain. Many times, online companies have good sales going on and they automatically take their discount off at the “register.” To often than not, though, the online store asks for a “promotion code” upon checkout. For years, whenever I would see those words I’d think, “Who are those people who have those codes and where do they find them?”

Well, now I know.

Before I buy anything online, I always look for the coupon or promotion code on another website. My favorite is RetailMeNot.com, but you can also find coupon codes at CoolSavings.com and or Currentcodes.com. These sites list thousands of coupon codes and you never know, you might find a good one for the place from which you are about to shop!

So before you click the “Purchase” button, spend a few extra minutes looking for a promotion code. You might find a code for free shipping or 20% off your entire purchase, or something even better!

To me, the money I might save is worth a little bit of extra online time.

Baby's First Steps

Jun 18, 2009

This past April, my baby took his first steps. Three, to be exact. It broke my heart.

I remember how excited I was when my daughter (who is now 6) took her first steps. We immediately called all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends . . . our little girl was "on her way."

And then, our first son (now 2) took his first steps. That was exciting, too. We clapped and cheered and sent out an email or two. I felt a pang of sadness at the thought he was growing up, but . . . it wasn't as if I'd never again experience this kind of moment with another child.

But my baby? How could this be happening already? Didn't I just bring him home from the hospital? Doesn't he know he's not supposed to do things quite so quickly? Did no one tell him that his mommy isn't ready for him to grow up? What's the big rush?

And why, did no one tell me, that as exciting as it was to see my first child reach those monumental moments in her life, it would be just as sad to witness my last child achieve those same milestones.

It's not that I want him to have any less, do any less, be any less.

It's just that I am not ready to let him go.

Make Some Extra Cash with Market Research Studies

Jun 17, 2009

Last Friday, my husband and I were rushing around the house, trying to pack up the car (and the kids) for a trip to the inlaws’ house. Suddenly, the phone rang and Rob picked it up. He sat down and began to answer a series of questions, ranging from household income to his experience with the internet. I immediately knew what he was doing and hurried the kids out of the room. After all, I hoped the conversation went well. I could tell by his end of the conversation that he was being screened for a market research study and if selected, he could make some pretty good money.

What’s a market research study, you ask? Well, in Austin, and other places around the country, there are companies that have been hired to test the market to determine the acceptance of a particular product or service, especially among different demographics. One must qualify for these studies, and every study has a different set of criteria, but I have, perhaps a dozen times over the past 4 or so years, been selected to participate.

I have sat on a mock jury for a major trial, given my opinion regarding a new washing machine and even rated how much I liked various country music songs for a local radio station. Once I met with a woman at Walmart and went through the “back-to-school” aisle, giving my opinion on things like crayons and notebooks. Last week, I got called to screen for a grocery study. I didn’t “make it,” but if I had, I would have spent 3 hours with a woman, answering questions about my shopping habits and then walking around a grocery store with her, giving my opinion on products. I’m bummed I didn’t qualify for that one. It paid $250!

My husband’s favorite study was when he was selected to taste test beer (and got free pizza in the process). These studies generally pay, in my experience, between $50 and $300 and can range from an hour’s “work” to a whole day. Once, instead of receiving cash, I was given a $75 gift card to a rather expensive and very nice children’s clothing store. I have always found these studies enjoyable and am excited whenever I get selected for a new one. Not only do I get to meet a new group of people and make some easy cash (that they hand you in an envelope as you walk out the door), but they generally feed you lunch or dinner while you’re there!

So, where do I find these studies? Well, I can give my Austin Friends specific details, but the rest of you will have to do a little research on your own. I’ll tell you that I originally found all of these groups on Craigslist (where else?). I search for the studies in the job section, under “Etc” jobs or “Part time” jobs. If there are no studies there, I go to the search engine bar and type in the key words “market research” or “focus group” or “study” under the general “jobs” category. They post these studies all the time, so you should check for them often.

When I went into the Yahoo yellow pages a few minutes ago, and typed in “Market Research” for the Austin area, I found all of the companies I’m signed up with and quite a few more! (I guess I better get my name on their contact lists.) Once you do a study with a group, or put your name on their “list,” they’ll begin to either send you email surveys or call you to screen you for future studies. Many times, Rob and I do not qualify. I don’t know why. Each time it’s probably for a different reason. It might be something like I don’t shop in the stores they are targeting for this study or it might be that we had too much education or make too little money. It just depends on what demographic they are looking for each time.

In Austin, I am signed up with the following groups: Austin Market Research, Tammadge Market Research, Perceptive Sciences and Think Group Austin. I’d advise my Austin friends to start there.

So, good luck to all of you! I hope you have great success in the world of market research! Keep me posted!

By the way, remember that study I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, Rob wasn’t picked for it. BUMMER! I kept those kids quiet for nothing!

Maybe next time . . .

Why I Love Facebook

Jun 16, 2009

There are certain things that are “staples” in my daily life. Eating, taking care of my family, going to work (or working from home, whichever may be the case on any particular day), sleeping (on the occasion that my children permit me to do so), and Facebook. Yes, it’s true. Facebook is an integral part of my day and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I don’t even feel guilty about it and this is why . . .

I am a “people person.” I like to be around people, talking to people, spending time with people. I enjoy being with others. Unfortunately, the only other “others” I get to be around most days are about 3 feet tall and have limited vocabularies. Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my kids and I like to believe that they enjoy spending time with me, too. But, my two-year-old does not let me complain to him about how he woke me up 3 times last night. And, my six-year-old does not laugh when I tell her how her father somehow managed to screw up buying cupcake liners when I sent him to the store for them at 10 pm. No. My kids are great, but they hardly enhance my daily verbal interactions.

The thing is, I’m a stay-at-home mom , thus I’m home - a LOT. Even if I have on my “work” hat, I am still usually at home – grading papers or writing articles or submitting reports. There is a great deal of time in my day where I have no adult interaction. In fact, sometimes the only adult I see all day is my husband and, for those of you who know Rob, you know why conversation with him may not “fill me up.” Rob is not a “talker” – in fact, I think he feels that once he comes home from work, he has “used up” all the words he had in him that day while he was at work. Thus, when he walks in the door at night, he only has about 10 or 15 words left in him and those generally revolve around dinner.

So, what’s a girl (who wants to interact with friends) to do? My answer: Facebook.

When I enter the world of Facebook, it’s as if I’m not really the only adult in sight. I can find out what my friends are doing that day, where they are going, what’s making them laugh (or cry), who’s ticked them off in the last 24 hours or made their day better. I know whose kids have misbehaved (making me feel better about my own little munchkins) and whose husbands are being even more forgetful or absent minded than my own. I get to hear about their vacations and see their family photos. I can reminisce about elementary school and laugh about old teachers one minute and then, a moment later, be chatting with a former college professor and wondering how his kids, the ones I used to babysit, are now getting married.

And then, a few minutes after that, I can go and unload the dishwasher or put in a load of laundry or feed my children their lunch and be totally present in that moment with them.

The thing about Facebook is, it fits into my crazy, hectic, unpredictable life. I’d love to sit down for hours with each of my 400 or so Facebook friends and shoot the breeze. But, there’s just no time, at least not in my crazy world, to sit down with even one or two of my friends for very long. There are dinners to be made, laundry to be done, toys to be picked up and kids who keep wanting to be fed, bathed, dressed, played with and taken places. There are work schedules and deadlines to be kept, bills to be paid, and repairs to be made.

And, even if I could find the time to hang out with some friends, there is no way my kids would be quiet enough to let us have a great conversation. And then, of course, there is the issue of location, location, location. I live in Texas but many of my grade school friends still live on the east coast, my college friends are spread out all around the country and our military friends are all over the world.

But on Facebook, they are all right there in my living room. And we’re having a great time.

I have also found that, through Facebook, I have been able to answer some of life’s pressing questions -one of those questions being, “Whatever happened to so-and-so?” For the most part now, I know. It turns out that college roommate I lost touch with now lives in Colorado and has three kids. One guy I went to high school with is a published author. What happened to the roommate I had when I was in the NJ Junior Miss pageant at the age of 17? Oh, she’s now living in England. My first real crush, in 7th grade – where did he end up? Well, though we went to school together in NJ, it turns out he now lives just a few hours away from me in Texas with his wife and 4 daughters.

Does Facebook take the place of real relationships in my life? No. In fact, I think if anything, it enhances them. I know more about my kids’ babysitter than I would if I only saw her when she came to take care of my children. I look forward to my high school and college reunions now with an enthusiasm I never had before. Since I already know what these people have been up to for the past few (or twenty) years, I think we’ll all have a much better time when we finally meet up again. And, although I like to think I keep in pretty good touch with all my local friends, in truth, without Facebook, there is no way I would be able to know about or keep track of each one’s everyday lives and activities.

The funny thing is, I resisted getting on Facebook in the first place. My husband . . . my best friend . . . they kept telling me how much I’d enjoy it, but I stood firm . . . until, of course, I weakened. And now, I’m glad I did.

We all need friends in our everyday life. And, I truly believe, though I may not see many of these people in person, or speak to them regularly on the phone, they are real and true friends. If I post a sorrow I have experienced or a frustration I am feeling, they lift me up with their words of encouragement. They laugh along with me at the crazy antics of my children and sigh loudly when my husband once again loses his keys or wallet or cell phone or sunglasses.

And, I do the same for them – at least, I hope they feel I do.

School Book Fairs and Other Expenses

Jun 14, 2009

I hate the school book fair. There, I said it. Gossip about me. Shun me from PTA meetings. But, I can’t keep it in any longer. I hate them.

Why do I hate them? As my good friend Mr. Shakespeare would say, “Let me count the ways.” For the intent and purpose of this blog, I’ll only state a few.

First of all, I don’t know about your schools, but in my daughter’s school, they take the kids to the book fair and have them make up a “wish list” of all the books they want. They are then encouraged to bring their parents back to “buy them” those books. In all honesty, I don’t know how they word it to the children. I’m not in the classroom at that time. But, I know from experience that you can tell my 6-year-old a lot of things, but if you have her create something (like the above-mentioned wish list) then that is all she is going to remember. Thus, in my mind, they are basically telling our kids that their parents WILL be buying those books for them. And, in our house, that is just not the case.

To begin with, I’m opposed to buying books in the first place (someday I’ll write a post about my love affair with the library) But, I do remember as a child the feeling I’d get from walking into a bookstore, or the school book fair, and seeing all those new books. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them and begin reading. It was, to me, a whole world of possibilities and dreams under each cover. Thus, I don’t what to take that feeling away from my daughter (or any of my children). I want them to love books and I recognize that refusing to ever buy them a book could diminish that joy.

But, have you seen the price of the books at that school fair? My daughter never, ever has anything on her list under $17. This year, her first pick was a cupcake cookbook that came with cupcake liners. It cost close to $20! Now, of course, I was thinking that for just three dollars, I could buy her a box of liners, frosting and a Betty Crocker mix with the recipe right on the box.

Her real dream – the book she really wanted - was actually not a “book,” but rather, a diary.

All week long, she kept asking me and begging me and crying to me about how she wanted to go to the book fair with me. I heard about how all the other kids were getting books and she was not. And, to be honest, I did feel kind of bad for her. I wouldn’t want to be the only child in class who wasn’t allowed to buy a book. Peer pressure is tough, even at the age of six. But, $17 is just too much to spend on a children’s book. So, I sat my daughter down and explained to her that I, too, wanted her to be able to get a book, or a diary, if she wanted one. But, that the cost of those things at the fair was just a lot. I reminded her that we wanted to save our money to pay for things like our vacation or for her and her brothers to go to college. I promised her, though, that once her dad came home from work (and could stay with her brothers) I would take her to a store and we would get her something. I was afraid that this wouldn’t be a good enough compromise in her eyes, but instantly, the tears cleared and she was explaining to me the benefits of saving our money.

And, as promised, that evening she and I went to my favorite bookstore in Austin, TX. It is called Half Price Books, and, as the name promises, the books are half price. And, more often than not, I can find great items for even less than that! The kids’ section is especially nice. Whereas, the other sections of the store are usually “pre-owned” books, in the children’s area, I can usually find brand new (or nearly new) books for minimal money. That night, not only did Jordan find a wonderful diary which she loved (and I loved the price of $3.99), but I also allowed her to pick out a hard-covered book. She chose a brand-new book about Senator Ted Kennedy (from his dog’s perspective) and it cost $3.50. The regular price? $17.

I found myself in a similar situation a few months ago. My daughter’s school has an annual dance recital and I have already paid approximately $100 for her two costumes which she will wear for a total of 6 minutes. But, when they sent home a flier, encouraging the parents to purchase trophies to give our little dancers, I’d just about had enough. I knew from last year (because I purchased this trophy) that it was tiny, not personally engraved and, to my horror, fifteen dollars! I spent a night or two trying to find a way of getting out of buying another trophy. “Do you think we can just re-give her last year’s trophy?” I asked my husband. “No,” he told me. “She’ll notice that the year is wrong on it.” And, he was right. She would. She also knows where we keep that trophy and I’m convinced she would want to put her new one right next to last year’s – and how would we explain what had happened to it?

Later that night, I had a revelation. I turned on the computer and Googled trophy stores in Austin. I found one, less than a mile away and saw the options they had listed on their website. The next day, I went down there and asked if you could buy only one trophy. The owner said, “Sure.” I picked out a beautiful ballerina top with a purple pillar bottom (that had silhouettes of dancers on it.) Not only that, but they said they could personally engrave it with her name, the name of the school and the year (the current year). The total cost, including tax, came to $7.32. I left the store feeling very proud of myself. Not only had I saved half the cost, but I had gotten her a much more attractive item and it would even have her name on it. She, I’m certain, is going to just love it. And yes, I realize that her trophy is going to be different than the other children’s trophies, but in this situation, I do not believe she’ll feel self-conscious about it. These are not trophies that are presented to the children by the school, but rather, by the parents after their performance. Thus, my daughter will not stand out as being “different.” I would have rethought this if she would have stood out in any embarrassing way.

I just want to encourage all of you parents out there, who are struggling with ways to pay for “things” so that your kids don’t feel bad or left out or different, that there are ways to “get around the system.” You just need to be creative!

(Now, I want to state that if you are financially well-to-do and you do not need to save for such things as vacations and college and retirement, then please, by all means, go support your local school by buying expensive books at their book fairs and purchasing outrageously priced trophies. I am all for supporting our schools. I just can’t justify paying that much money for little silly items when I know that I can get better items for less elsewhere.)

Kid Speak

Jun 12, 2009

Last week, my 2-year-old son and I were driving by a field that had recently been cleared for construction. Bennett noticed it and this is how our conversation went:

Bennett: Look! A garden!

Me: Is that a garden?

Bennett: Yep.

Me: We have a garden, don't we?

Bennett: Yes, we do!

Me: What do we have in our garden?

(pause, pause, pause)

Bennett: In our garden? (pause) Ants.

Test Baby and Kid Products for Parenting!

Jun 10, 2009

Don’t you ever wonder who those parents are who get to test out new kid or baby products and write about them on websites and magazines? Well, here’s your chance. Parenting.com is looking for Moms to sign up on their site to test out new kids’ products as they come up for review. Once you fill out the short questionnaire, if you’re a match for what they are looking for, they may contact you to test (and keep) the new product. How great does that sound?

You can choose to test items such as toys, games, books, DVDs, strollers and health products - just to name a few. If this is something that interests you, click here and sign up today!



Pooping Kids and Traffic Don't Mix

This is for all of my “mommy friends” – and a few “mommy-to-be” friends. For those of you who are moms, you’re going to empathize. For those of you awaiting that first baby, I’m about to scare the crap out of you! In any case, you are all going to be thankful that you weren’t me on this day a few years ago!

When my daughter was in preschool, she went to school in the heart of downtown Austin, thus, I always had to fight rush-hour traffic both to and from her school each time she went. When I would pick her up, I tried to get her before 5 pm to make it a little better, but on this one day, I had a 4 pm dr’s appt and so I was running late.

When we finally got on the highway, traffic was AWFUL – the worst I’ve ever seen it in Austin. I heard the radio DJ say, “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that there are no accidents. The bad news is that traffic is terrible.” He wasn’t kidding. I’d like to say I was going 2 mph, because my wheels were moving, but my odometer wasn’t registering anything.

Anyway, things were okay for awhile. Jordan (age 4 at the time) was looking at books in the back and Bennett (age 1 at the time) was babbling, when all of a sudden Jordan frantically announces, “I have to go POO-POO!”

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I look at where I am on the road. I’m in the center lane and there is no way I can possibly even move over to the side of the road because the cars next to me are barely moving also.

I tell her, “You HAVE to hold it.”

She says, “I can’t!”

I say, “Jordan, you HAVE to. I can’t pull over. As soon as I can, I’ll pull over to the side and you can go on the grass.”

She tells me okay and we continue driving for about 3 minutes when suddenly, I smell it.

I say, “Jordan, did you just poop in your pants?”

She tells me, “I TOLD you I couldn’t hold it!”

I look in the rearview mirror and I see that she is pushing herself up on her booster seat with her hands, her head thrown back, trying to keep her butt in the air.

Gross!

I tell her to NOT sit in it and that I will pull over as soon as I can. Unfortunately, she had to ride this way for at least 10 more minutes.

Finally, I see an opening and I pull over to the side of the road. I turn on my hazards, get out of the car and get Jordan out. She sits behind me, so I walk her onto the other side of the car. She is frantic that cars are going to see her butt so I open Bennett’s car door to block their view. My plan is that I am going to use Bennett’s baby wipes (thank goodness I had his diaper bag!) to wipe her down, take off her underwear and let her just sit without panties, on her dress, for the rest of the ride home.

Well, I am wiping her down for about 10 seconds when suddenly, she begins screaming at the top of her lungs and starts trying to get away. I don’t even need to ask WHY she is screaming. I already know. The grass on the side of the road was rather high and so we didn’t realize that when we stepped on it that we had actually stepped on a fire ant mound. Ants were swarming (and I mean SWARMING) up our legs.

My first thought, naturally, was a curse word. Fire ant bites HURT. And worse, I am severely allergic to them. The two times I’ve gotten bit in the past, I’ve ended up in the emergency room needing steroid shots.

So, here I am on the side of the highway, in rush hour traffic, with a daughter whose legs and butt are covered in poop, fire ants are swarming up her legs and she’s trying to get away from me by climbing over her brother and his carseat to get back in the car.

I’ve had better days.

And, at the moment I realized, isn’t this the epitome of being a mom? Here I am, wiping poop off my daughter with one hand and swatting ants off her with the other, all the while, standing in the middle of this mound as the fire ants continue to swarm their way up my legs and make dinner of my skin.

But, what mom doesn’t take care of their child first?

Well, Jordan finally got away from me and climbed over Bennett in her frantic dash to get back to her seat. He, of course, begins to scream and then I’m worried that ants fell off of her and onto him. (Fortunately, after a thorough inspection once we got home, he didn’t get bitten.)

I got back in the car after swatting my legs as best I could. I took my shoes off and start to drive. I could feel my foot swelling as I made my way back into traffic. The car, of course, REEKED of poop.

Jordan spent the next 45 minutes (yes, we still had 45 minutes to go) crying hysterically in the back over her bites. I finally said, “You just need to STOP crying!”

She answered back, “Daddy says I can cry if I’m hurt or I’m sad and I’m HURT!”

She had a point there.

To make a long story a little bit longer . . . we got home, she got cleaned up, I took lots of Benadryl. I was then in misery for the next 2 days, with a 102 degree fever from those little suckers and a nasty looking, swollen foot.

See . . . I told you that you wouldn’t have wanted to be me! But gosh, can’t you moms just FEEL my pain and know that, in a heartbeat, it could be YOU on the side of that road???

Free Summer Movies

Jun 9, 2009

I love going to the movies. There is nothing like walking into a movie theater and watching a film on the large screen. I also love taking my kids to the movies. What a fun experience. But, movies have gotten to be so expensive these days! Pay one adult price and two kid tickets and you are easily spending 20 or more dollars. Heaven forbid a family of five wants to go out together! You might as well stay home and rent!

Regal Cinemas, every summer, has a great program to solve this problem for us all. It’s called the “Free Family Film Festival.” In select Regal Cinemas, every Tuesday and Wednesday in the summer, they play G and PG movies beginning at 10 am for FREE! And, I saw the schedule for this summer. There are a lot of great movies on there, like Nim’s Island, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Charlotte’s Web.

Seating is, of course, limited. It is first-come, first-served. But, I know that in the past, in order to entertain the kids and their parents who get their early, they often have games and prizes before the movie starts.

My parents have made a “date” of it with my daughter for the past 3 years. They’ve had a great time, getting in some valuable grandparent/child moments and didn’t pay a dime doing it! To get information on the Regal free movies, click right here.

I know that AMC movie theaters and Cinemark also have good deals for summer movies. AMC charges $1, but the money goes to charity. Their movies are at 10 AM on Wednesdays. Click here for details.

Cinemark also charges $1.00 for their movies, or you can pay for all 10 summer movies in advance and only pay $5 (that comes to 50 cents a piece.) Their movies are also at 10 AM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the summer. You can get their schedule and info if you click here.

So, take your kids to see a few free (or really cheap) movies this summer and enjoy a fun-filled family outing!!

Moms Just Can't Win

Jun 8, 2009

All my kids said “Da Da” first.

I know. I know. You can tell me that this is common, that the “d” sound is easier to say than the “m” sound. I took all those child development classes. I know.

But honestly, I don’t really care about that. It’s just not fair.

After all, I carried those children for 9 months. (Actually, 10 months. And one for 10 months and 5 days if you want to get technical about it.) I gave birth to them. I nursed them, changed their diapers 90% of the time, have been up in the middle of the night nearly every time with every single one of them. I’m the one who wipes away the boogers and dries the tears and listens to the whining 24/7. I’ve been puked on and snot on and pooped on. I buy the formula, make the formula, feed the formula - and then later, buy the food, make the food, serve the food, spoon in the food into their mouths. I’m their all-encompassing “go-to-gal.

And yet, who’s name do they say first? Their father’s.

That’s just downright wrong.

Thus, now that our baby is beginning to say a few new sounds, having, as I mentioned, already mastered “da da,” it’s no wonder I am thrilled beyond belief every time I hear the “m” sound come out of his mouth.

“Ma Ma Ma,” he said at breakfast the other morning. I stopped in my tracks and spun around from the sink. Did you say “Ma Ma?” I said, with a huge smile on my face. He smiled back at me. Did you say, “Ma Ma?” I repeated, getting closer to him. He began to giggle, happy that he’d obviously made me so happy.

My two-year-old, never wanting to be outdone by anyone, let alone his baby brother, said, “I can say ‘Ma Ma,’ too!” he yelled. “Ma Ma!”

Because I am trying to stifle as much sibling rivalry and jealousy as I can, I turned to him and said joyfully, “Good job, Bennett ! Can you say ‘Ma Ma’ again?” He was happy to oblige with a chorus of “Ma Ma Ma’s!”

And then, I turned to my 6-year-old daughter and said to her, “Jordan, can you say ‘Ma Ma,’ too?”

Now, before I go on, I know this sounds strange to ask a child who can already name every state and their capitals if she is able to utter a monosyllabic sound. But, in my defense, when you have multiple children, there is no telling what is going to upset them or make them jealous. The fact that I was fawning all over her brothers because they could say my name might just be the one thing that day to set her off.

So, as I mentioned before, I turned to her and said, “Jordan, can you say “Ma Ma,’ too?”

She didn’t come right out and actually say, “Do you think I’m an idiot?” or even utter the words, “You are an idiot.” But the look she gave me certainly conveyed both messages.

“Yes, MOM,” she said. “I can say it.” And then, she stomped into the other room.

Honestly, there is just no winning with kids, is there? Because, you all know that if I hadn’t included her in our “name game,” our house would have been full to the ceiling with little-girl-drama. And so, I chose the other route and brought her into our fun. That, of course, like many of the tactics I try as a mom, backfired on me and now she’s upset because I don’t recognize what a “big girl” she is.

Maybe I just should have stayed in bed.

Free Donut Deal

Jun 5, 2009

It’s time for another freebie this week!

Did you know that today (Friday, June 5) is National Donut Day? Well, it is – so start celebrating! And, I have just the perfect way to kick off your day!

Both Dunkin Donuts and Krispie Kreme are giving away a free donut in honor of their National Holiday! So, if you have the time today, take your kids to Krispie Kreme for breakfast and Dunkin Donuts for lunch! Yummy!

In the case of Dunkin Donuts, the free donut comes with the purchase of any beverage. Krispie Kreme, though, is just giving them away for free (no purchase necessary – one per customer.)

And, of course, they say something about participating locations and their supplies lasting.

Personally, I’m a “Dunkin Donuts girl.” Unfortunately, the only one in Austin is quite far from our home. During my last two pregnancies, though, I made frequent treks up north to get my fill of Boston Kremes and Chocolate Honey Dips!

Hope you and your kids enjoy the free treats today! Maybe we'll see you in line!

Children are Only Small Once

Jun 3, 2009

My 6-yr-old daughter blurted out an odd and yet, sadly insightful, statement this evening.

“You know what Mommy always says to me?”

“No, what does she say, Jordan?” my husband asked.

“Come on.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her, confused.

Imitating me, in her 6-year-old way, she said, “Come on, Jordan. Come on.”

Oh. That’s what she meant.

I tried to make light of what she said. “Well, I guess that you’re a big slow poke. Either that or I’m in a hurry all the time.”

And then, I changed the subject and we all moved on.

At least, everyone else seemed to move on. I, however, couldn’t stop thinking about what she said. And, to make matters worse, I began to notice, for the rest of the evening, that she was right. I DO say “Come on, Jordan” - and I say it an awful lot.

“Come on, Jordan. Get out of the tub.”

"Come on, Jordan. Get in bed. It’s past your bedtime.”

“Get out of your brother’s room, Jordan. I need to put him to bed. Come on.”

Now, in my defense, Jordan can dilly-dally with the best of them. She can stall turning off the TV after you’ve asked her to 45 times until you’re completely sure she must have hearing loss. She can drag out getting out of the car for so long, it will make you wonder if she’d like to just move in there. And, just when I think Jordan must be completely dressed and ready for bed, teeth brushed and all, I’ll go upstairs and still find her dancing and looking at herself in the mirror – not having moved at all closer to being in her pajamas.

But, I couldn’t help wonder, as I heard myself say it to her tonight, no less than 15 times, what was all the rushing about? Where were we trying to go and why did I seem to think we needed to get there in such a hurry?

Sure, there are times in our busy life, with three children and two working parents, when we need to move quickly. Weekday morning, for instance. On those mornings, it seems we are always running late and I’m constantly saying to my 2-year-old, “Do you want Jordan to get a tardy?” Someday, he’s going to need therapy and the first thing he’ll tell the shrink is, “I’m responsible for all the tardies my sister got . . . What’s a tardy, anyway?” Yes, on those mornings, I know I’m justified when I say, “Come on, Jordan. Why don’t you have your glasses on? You know you need your glasses for school!

And, we need to skidattle when it’s the baby’s nap time and if we don’t get him home in time for it, he’ll fall asleep in the car and that will not just ruin my whole day, but everyone else’s. So, I have no guilt over saying, “Jordan, get off the swing. We have to get home. Come on!”

But, tonight was a weekend night. We weren’t going anywhere. We had nothing that we had to do. We were just hanging out as a family. So, why was I rushing and why, even though I was conscious that I was saying it, over and over and over again, could I not stop telling my 6-year-old to “Come on.”

When my husband was in Iraq, and I was raising, alone, our then 1-year-old daughter, I felt I was just going through the motions of life, but not really living it. I just wanted the 18-month separation to be over so badly, that I was living for the end of each day. Rob used to tell me, in emails and over the phone, “Stop wishing away this time. This is precious time you have with our daughter that I would do anything to have. Don’t wish it away.” And, of course, he was right. Though at the time, the days and months seemed to drag on, now looking back, those 18-months of my now-6-year-old daughter’s life seem to have flown by. And, do I even remember them clearly? Did I ever sit back to just enjoy her or breathe in her scent or put together just one more puzzle with her? Or, was I too busy counting down the days until my husband got back that I didn’t’ realize I was actually counting down the days of my daughter’s babyhood.

That’s not much different than what I’m doing now, is it? Each time I say, “Come on, Jordan,” I am hurrying her out of my life. For, before I know it, she’ll be grown – or, at least, think she’s grown and not want to hang around with “ol’ Mom” anymore. My chance to hang onto to her, to enjoy watching her dance in front of that mirror, without a care in the world, will be over. And, what will I have to show for it? A schedule that we kept. Maybe a kid with the least amount of tardies in history.

But, worst of all, at the age of six, when thinking about what Mommy says to her, the first thing that popped into her head wasn’t, “I love you” or “You’re the best daughter ever” (both of which I say - a lot). No. What has stuck with my daughter is that her mom is always hurrying her along. Never wanting to dilly or dally or linger a little longer together. Is that the memory I want my daughter to have of her mom? Is that the memory I want to have of the way my daughter viewed me when she was a child?

I made sure Jordan was in bed by 8 pm tonight. She does, after all, have school tomorrow. And, I confess, after a very long weekend with all three kids, I was anxious to climb under my covers and turn on Desperate Housewives. We said our prayers. I kissed her goodnight. “Sleep tight,” I said.

“Mommy, can you read me just a little bit of a story.”

Sigh.

“Come on, Jordan. Mommy wants to go to bed, too.”

I almost said it, but I didn’t.

“Okay,” I said. “But just a little. You have a busy day tomorrow.”

She smiled and picked out a book. I lied down on her bed and began to read.

“Come on,” I told myself as I began to read, “she’s only small once.”

Free Root Beer Floats at Sonic!

If you have a Sonic near you, then tonight is your night to take the family out for a treat! From 8 PM to Midnight, tonight (Wednesday, June 3), Sonic is giving away FREE 10 oz root beer floats! What a great way to kick off summer with your kids and not break your wallet!


Of course, it says "at participating Sonics" - so you might want to check your local one. Sonic estimates that it will give away 3.5 million floats, coast to coast, tonight.

Now, we just have to hope the wait for a parking spot there isn't too terrible! I think my kids might be staying up a little bit past their bedtime tonight to get to enjoy this deal!

Remembering Jason

Jun 2, 2009

Today, I just can’t bring myself to write a post regarding money-saving tips or even a cute or humorous story about my children. Today is a day of mourning, because, even as you read this, our dear, dear friend, Major Jason George, is being laid to rest.

My husband, Rob, and I first met Jason during our duty station at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Jason. Rob and Jason were workout partners and belonged to some little dive of a gym in the town of Manhattan. Rob and I were only engaged at the time and so, on one of my visits to see him in Kansas, I tagged along with him to a workout. It was there he introduced me to JG. What a gorgeous man, I thought, when he first said hi and shook my hand. But, it was his personality, his openness and that sparkle in his eyes that truly won me over.
Rob and I were married in November 1996 and almost exactly a year later we were about to celebrate our first “married” Thanksgiving. My fellow Army wife, and now best friend, Renee Lindberg, and her husband were also newly married and so she and I got the “great idea” to cook our first Thanksgiving meal together –not only for our husbands but also a few single officers – Jason included. When you’re in the military, going home for holidays is often just not an option. Renee and I spent weeks preparing, collecting all of our moms’ and grandmothers’ recipes. The soldiers and we attended church together that morning and then, while our “guys” went to serve Thanksgiving meal to the troops, we prepared the meal at her house. The dinner was, to put it mildly, memorable. My stuffing was so dry it wouldn’t stick together and Renee’s gravy was so “clumpy” that when one of the guys tried to pour it on his turkey, the entire boat of gravy dropped onto his plate with a thud. Everyone, though, was a good sport about it – especially Jason. He sat next to Renee and across from me at dinner and kept us laughing all evening long - helping me forget that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. To this day, despite our less –than-perfect meal, that Thanksgiving still stands out in my mind as one of the best.

At some point around that time, all of us in the 70th Engineers were startled to learn that only one officer from the unit was being sent to Bosnia (a hot spot at that time) and it was to be Jason. I remember thinking how unfair that seemed. Not that I wanted my husband to go, but it didn’t seem right that Jason had to go on his own, either. When he returned, perhaps 6 months later, I realized that his family would not be there to welcome him home at the airplane hangar. I “informed” my husband that we were going to be there to greet him. “But, he’s coming in at something like 3 am,” Rob said. “Too bad,” I told him. “Set the alarm.” The alarm was set for 2 am and we drove to Ft Riley to welcome Jason home. I remember holding the fluorescent-green Welcome Home poster I had made for him and screaming his name from the bleachers as he walked through the door. He seemed a little embarrassed by me, but I like to think, maybe because of the shy smile he gave me, that my enthusiasm for him was appreciated. I had put a small heart on the poster, with the words, “We missed you” in it. Jason’s roommate and his Company Commander were also with us that night and they, and my husband, were quick to inform Jason that the heart on the poster was in no way from them – but purely from me!

Our friendship with Jason did not, by any means, die or even really lesson once we left Ft Riley. If I have learned anything in my years as an Army wife, it is that our military friends will always be some of our closet ones. There is a bond between us that can never be broken and we view them, literally, as our family. Now, Rob is terrible at keeping in touch. Staying in contact with people, though, is actually one of my strengths – as it was for Jason. Thus, even though he started out as Rob’s workout partner and friend, Jason quickly became almost more “mine. “ His emails were funny and thoughtful – full of teasing and full of happiness for our family as it grew. He was always asking, “Now, how many kids are you up to these days?” If I told him that I was going to be an “extra” on a TV show, he made sure to record the episode, watch it and then email me the next day to tell me that he thought he “found” me in the show. He never forgot to email me happy birthday. He wrote the longest Christmas letters I have ever seen. Renee and I used to joke with each other, and tease him, that he was worse than a woman when it came to his 4-page, single-spaced, size- 8-font-Holiday Greetings.

Once he moved to Chicago, I was all over him to get me tickets to the Oprah show. I promised him that I’d leave Rob and marry him if he could just pull through for me . . . alas, he never did (perhaps to Rob’s relief – or maybe not . . .) . . . and was always quick to inform me, whenever I begged, that a.) No, he had never run into Oprah on the street and b.) He had never, ever watched a single Oprah episode and never, ever would.

When Jason found out he was being called back to Active Duty, pretty much out of the blue, my husband was one of the first people he contacted. Rob was deployed to Iraq a few years ago and Jason wanted advice on what to expect. I remember unexpectedly coming across Jason’s email to Rob and writing him just a short note that said, “All I have to say is . . . sorry . . . and it sucks to be you.” And, the thing is, I meant it. I wasn’t being flippant. Having lived through a deployment with my husband, I knew the pain and fear involved, for both him and his family. Jason, though, handled the unexpected deployment with dignity and class.

It literally seems like just yesterday Jason was getting ready to deploy - and sadly, in ways it was. He enlisted my help to sell a few of his things on Craigslist before he left, joking about the “scam” emails he was getting, offering to send him “money orders” from 3rd world countries for his items. He questioned Rob on whether or not he should sell his car. He put all his stuff in storage. And then he left for Kuwait and ultimately, Iraq.

He was barely there, literally less than 3 weeks, when on May 21, a suicide bomber targeted Jason and two other soldiers, who were on foot patrol near Baghdad. In a matter of moments, our Jason was gone. Even now, nearly two weeks later, I struggle with the knowledge that this is real. Every time I log onto Facebook, I expect to see him “pop up” to “chat” – just one more time – always beginning with a good-natured wisecrack about my husband (usually revolving around his ever-increasing hair loss). I keep checking to see if he might happen to be “online” at the same time as me. I want to tell him about all this craziness. I want to tell him that for some reason, they keep saying he’s gone.

About 2 months ago, I got a weird email from Jason trying to sell me electronic equipment. I emailed back and said, “Is this really from you?” I thought well, he is trying to sell his stuff before he deploys . . . He replied immediately with, “No, it’s a hoax! Someone hacked into my email.” For days after the news of Jason’s death, I kept checking my inbox, praying to find a similar email from Jason this time, telling me this was all a big, horrible joke. That someone had gotten it wrong or was committing a terrible hoax, but none ever came.

Jason’s funeral is today, but his military burial will be in the new Bakersfield (CA) National Cemetery in July when it opens. We, and many members of his military family, plan to be there when he reaches his final resting place. I ask that any of you who read this post please pray for his parents and family. If this loss is heartbreaking to us, I can only imagine how painful it is for them.

Jason . . . what can I say? I can tell you that we love you . . . that we miss you . . . but none of those words convey the depth of our feelings for you or the pain of our loss. Thank you for being the wonderful, happy, sarcastic, teasing, long-winded-at-Christmas-time, one-of-a –kind man that you were. You will never be replaced in our hearts.

Finding Jobs on Craigslist

Jun 1, 2009

No job is beneath you. Or me, for that matter. At least, that’s the motto I try to live by. Now, that’s not to say I don’t have standards. I do and, as such, there are some jobs I will not take. But, on a whole, I am not above taking a job that may pay very little (perhaps, because it doesn’t involved a whole lot of my brain power), but it will put extra money in our bank account. I am a stay-at-home mom to my three kids and I wouldn't have it any other way. But, as many moms out there will admit, it's hard to make that initial decision to "give up" your paycheck to stay home. We can live on my husband's salary, but if I want to have money for any of the "extra" things - such as nice birthday parties for my kids, Halloween costumes, private school for my daughter, pre-school for my sons, dinners out, presents for friends . . . well, that all falls on me to find a way to pay for it.

And, as with many other areas of my life, I turn to Craigslist to help me with this pursuit. When you go onto www.craigslist.com (and go to your local city), there is a section entitled “Jobs” and you can search by your area of expertise or interest. I generally search the “etc” or “part time” sections at the bottom of the list, because those jobs will most often suit my schedule the best.

I quite often find opportunities to participate in market research or focus group studies (I plan on writing a whole other post on Market Research studies and Focus groups in the near future, because I have a lot to say about them.) But, I'll quickly explain that this is where a company has been hired to test the market to determine the acceptance of a particular product or service, especially among different demographics. Participation in a these studies is fun, painless and pays pretty well.

I have also accepted jobs, though, that have not been quite so fun. Last Valentine’s Day would be a perfect example of that. For some reason, which now escapes me, I thought it would be a good idea, while 7-months-pregnant, to deliver flowers for a local florist on Valentine’s Day. Because that day, and Mother’s Day, are generally so busy for the floral industry, many local stores will hire people to assist them in their overwhelming holiday deliveries. I thought it sounded like a fun idea. My two children were in school on that day and so I didn’t need to worry about childcare. In addition, I figured I’d have time alone in the car to listen to music or a book-on-tape and enjoy the peace and quiet of no children, while making a little extra cash. But, more than that, I thought it would be fun to see how excited people were when they received the flowers.

Boy, was I wrong on all counts. First of all, trying to find the unfamiliar locations was so stressful that I couldn’t possibly concentrate on the radio, much less a book! Parking was terrible and I ended up getting yelled at by a cop for parking in a “delivery zone” when my car wasn’t labeled for deliveries. I said, “What do you think I’m doing with the 30 vases of flowers and 20 balloons in my backseat?” I had to walk, what felt like miles, between my car and the delivery locations, all the while with swollen, pregnant feet. And, as it turns out, most of the time, I never even got to see the person for whom the flowers were being delivered! I would just have to leave them with the receptionist at the front desk.

All in all, it was a long, long, long day for which I was paid approximately $180. At the time, that did not seem like nearly enough money to warrant the grief. But, I kept reminding myself that the money would go to pay for a filing cabinet and long mirror that I had been desperately wanting for our home redecorating. Thus, I kept my goals in mind as I sat in terrible city traffic, all the while being hit on the back of my head by bouncing balloons.

Did I deliver flowers again this year, you ask? Well, believe it or not, I did not. But, it wasn’t because I felt it was too much work and not worth my while. (I may have a Master’s Degree, but I had no other way, at this point in my life, as a stay-at-home mom, to make almost $200 on Valentine’s Day.) As it turned out, with the state of the economy, the florist I worked for last year did not get nearly as many flower orders as he had in the past and thus, he wasn’t hiring additional drivers this year. Had he been hiring, however, I would have been “on the road again” with my deliveries.

For every miserable job out there, though, there are also some really fun ones. I also often click on the link for “TV/Film/Video/Radio Jobs.” From ads posted there, I have gotten work as a regular “extra” on the TV show “Friday Night Lights” and the pilot episode of the CBS show “Swingtown.” I also worked on a BBC TV series called “Wire in the Blood” and shot a commercial for Match.com. (Please note, many postings may not be legitimate. You need to research all ads carefully.) These jobs don’t pay a whole lot – approximately $60 for a whole day’s work – but they’re fun and, as I always say, “Money is money and it's more than I would have made at home today."

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