Buying on Craigslist

Aug 31, 2009

When my son was a year old, we found out we were expecting our third child. The problem was that my son would only be 22 months old when the new baby arrived and thus, still in a crib. As a result, we were going to need a new crib for this new baby. When our first child was born, Craigslist didn’t exist (at least, not to my knowledge) and, to be honest with you, it didn’t even occur to me to buy “gently used” baby items. (Most of our baby items back then came to us as gifts, anyway.) But, three children down the road, I have learned that you can get some fabulous, in-great-condition, baby items for a fraction of the cost if you know where to look!

Immediately, I began my Craigslist search. For about two weeks, every day, I would click on the “baby + kids” link on their website. Once I did that, I would search for any cribs that people might be selling. I admit. I didn’t want to pay a lot for it. Our first crib probably cost about $400, but I didn’t want to pay more than $40 for this one! Eventually, I came across a crib that was being sold for $10. Ten dollars? I thought, what is wrong with it? The ad said that the crib was in great condition, except that they had lost the lever to put down the side rail and the new owner would have to purchase a few screws to secure the rail (or order the missing part from the company for about $10.) I thought, “In all my years of mothering, I have never once put down the side rail of our crib, so who cares about that?” I immediately contacted the person selling it and we set up a time to meet. (Important: Please note that I also researched the brand and make of this crib to make sure that it met all safety standards and had not been recalled.)

The seller and I ended up meeting at her father’s house, in his garage, because that is where she had stored the crib. When I got there, she had all the big parts of the crib out on the grass for me to see, but was in search of the bag that contained the screws to hold the whole crib together. Her father was out of town and so she couldn’t ask him where they were. She eventually found a plastic baggie that contained various pieces of hardware and told me that she believed these were the correct pieces, but if they weren’t, to contact her and she would send me my money back. I felt rather sorry for the woman. She was so flustered and worried that she was selling me a crib I would never be able to assemble! I told her that it was fine and to not worry about it, but as I was pulling out of the driveway, she ran up to my car and gave me back my ten bucks. She said she was too worried about it and that I could just have crib for free! FREE!!! Now, that’s a good deal.

As it turns out, those weren’t the correct pieces of hardware for the crib, but my husband went to Home Depot and for a few dollars, picked up what he needed and put the crib together himself. It was a wonderful, functional crib that survived a year and a half of my three-year-old son. When he outgrew it this summer, we went and bought his “big boy bed" off Craigslist. It, too, is in great condition. New, it would cost $400. I paid $75 on Craigslist. I have two sons who will use it over time and then, when I’m done with it, I’ll resell it myself on Craigslist – perhaps at a profit.

The crib story is just one of dozens of stories I have of successful Craigslist transactions. I also purchased our computer armoire, my son's scooter, two strollers, a video baby monitor, children and maternity clothes, a chair, a wheelbarrow, a baby swing, a co-sleeper, our car . . .the list goes on and on. And, with many of these items, when we no longer had a need for them, I resold them, usually regaining my original cost or more often than not, making a little extra cash. Once, I bought a piano for one thousand dollars and, when we no longer needed it because my parents gave me my childhood piano, I resold it for two.

I want to make it very clear, however, that when I search to buy things on Craigslist, I have a specific purpose in mind. I do not just scroll through what people are selling and think, “Wow, I’d love to have that.” That is how you waste money on things you not need. I know what I need and begin searching for that specific item. And, there is a good deal of research involved in all of my purchases. For example, when I needed a crib tent for my son (in case you aren’t aware, those are necessary for children who begin climbing out of their crib at an unreasonably young age), I researched how much they cost new. At the time, they were $80 (I believe they have come down in price since then.) I spent quite a few days on Craigslist, searching for one in good condition, at a reasonable price. Also, I had to factor in how far a distance I would have to travel to pick up the item. At that time, gas prices were exorbitantly high and I didn’t want to waste money on travel expenses. Sometimes, sellers are willing to meet you halfway if the two of you live a distance from each other, but not always, especially if the item is a large one. I ended up purchasing a brand new tent, still in the box, for half the cost of a new one - and this seller did agree to meet me half way.

I have also learned that you have to be diligent in your search. When I was looking for a birch-colored dresser for my son’s room, I found that dressers (at least, nice ones) sell very, very quickly on Craigslist. I would email the seller as soon as I saw their ad and, more times than not, I was the third or fourth person who had emailed them about their item. They usually put me on their “waiting list,” in case the other buyer didn’t show up (which happens more often than you’d think). But, it took me a few weeks before not only did I find a dresser that I liked, at a reasonable price, in a fairly close location, but also, where I was the first person to contact the buyer. So, my advice to you when buying: Be persistent! It will eventually pay off!

If you have no luck in your search for a particular item, or you are in a hurry to purchase it, Craigslist also has the “Items Wanted” link. I have only used this link a handful of times, but I have had great success with it each time I have. As an example, I purchase my son’s first real bike on Craigslist, but it didn’t come with training wheels and no one was selling any at the time. I listed in the “Items Wanted” section that I needed some and within a few hours, I had three offers to sell me pairs. I picked the one that was the best price and the closest to me and picked them up that day. I also used this section after I dropped my well-loved and often-used George Foreman grill on our kitchen’s tile floor, utterly destroying it. Within a day, not only did someone email me that they had a practically new grill, but the woman told me I could have it for FREE! She said that it belonged to her mom, an elderly woman, and it was never used and just collecting dust in the cabinet. Once again, great deal. You never know what you might find, at what price, if you just post an ad and ask!

A few times I have listed things I was looking for, people have contacted me to tell me that, though they didn’t have the item, they either knew of where I could buy it inexpensively or to say that they had seen a Craigslist ad for the exact thing I wanted and where I could find the advertisement. You’d be surprised at how helpful others will be in assisting you in saving money.

So, if you are in need of an item, before you spend a lot of money in a retail store, spend a little time searching what people are selling on Craigslist. I bet, more times than not, you'll find what you're needing right there - for a fraction of the cost!

Things I said I'd Never Do When I Became a Mom

Aug 28, 2009

Yesterday, as I was lying in my son’s car bed with him, trying to get him to take a nap, I began to ask myself, “How did this happen?” By that, I mean, before I had children, or even when my children were younger, I vowed that I would never, ever, ever get them into the habit of falling asleep by lying in bed with them. No. They needed to learn to put themselves to sleep. I was not going to be one of those parents who pacified their child by giving into their pleas of co-sleeping. I was going to be firm.

And yet, here I was, my head resting on a tiny Nemo pillow, holding onto a stuffed walrus, wondering, “How did my life come to this?” I had promised myself that I would never tolerate this pattern of behavior. The fact that I was allowing myself to be kicked in the stomach by a squirming child, however, showed me that somewhere along the line, my plans had gone awry.

When I mentioned it to a friend, later in the day, she said, “The one thing I’ve learned about parenting is that you should never say never. It will always come back to bite you.”

Boy, is she right.

Because, as I pretended to sleep in his bed, I began to think about all the other things I had promised myself (before I had children) that I would never do as a parent, but somehow, now find myself doing .

The length of the list is almost embarrassing.

I once saw a show on Oprah about how parents over schedule their children. Kids today are involved in too many activities, they said. There’s karate and softball and book clubs. Whatever happened to just playing in the backyard?

“Yeah,” I thought. “What’s with these parents? Why can’t they just let their kids have fun at home?”

Fast forward a few years. My daughter goes to Girl Scouts and piano and has Spanish four hours a week. I’m trying to figure out if we can squeeze in dance and gymnastics. After all, she needs to exercise, doesn’t she? And, that doesn’t even include church activities and friends’ birthday parties.

How did this happen?

I remember when my daughter was an infant and attended daycare at the school where I was the counselor. I would rock her and feed her, early in the morning, before I had to be in my office and I would see the other parents drop off their kids. I specifically recall one little girl across the hall. Her dad would drop her off every day and every day she would sob and sob at the door as he walked away. I used to think, “How can he just walk away from her like that? I would never leave my child at daycare if they were clearly so upset!”

Today, I went to pick up my boys from their school and found the baby with his head pressed against the window, watching his brother on the playground, crying his eyes out. I knew he would do this. He’s done it for the past week and yet, every day, I drop him off at the school and walk away.

I said I’d never do it, but I do.

I never thought I’d open food in the grocery store and feed it to my kids before I’ve paid for it. I promised myself I’d never bribe my children to get them to behave. I was going to cut off the bottle no later than 12 months. I wasn’t going to let them bring a drink to bed. They weren’t going to ever have soda in their childhood. I swore I'd never make my kids ride the school bus. I vowed I’d never take my kids to the store without shoes. I was disgusted at the thought of plopping them in front of the TV so that I could get a break.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t, but I did . . . I do.

And, I don’t really even need to ask myself why I do these things – these atrocities in which I judged other parents on and for which I thought I would hold myself to a higher standard. I know why I do them. I need to survive.

Because, when you’re a parent, it’s like you’re in a war zone and every day – every minute – is another battle. Some of the battles are easily won. But some . . . well, sometimes, the thought of surviving . . . making it through the moment with your sanity in tact . . . seems more appealing than anything else. Certainly more important than any of those promises you made yourself when you really didn’t know what you were talking about.

I was a much better parent before I had kids.

Weren’t we all?

I have a friend, who has no children, who vows, every time I mention the word, that she will never allow her kids to wear Crocs. I think she views them as evil. Whenever I bring up the shoes, which I’ll admit, all three of my kids own, she tells me how her children will never be allowed to wear them. I hear about how bad they are for the children's feet and arch support. Not to mention, how ugly they are.

“Never, ever,” she tells me.

“Yeah. Sure,” I think. "You just wait. I used to say that, too."

Never say never.

It’ll just come back to bite you.

Work-From-Home Jobs - Tutoring online

Aug 27, 2009


Okay, I have decided to start a new “series” of posts entitled, “Work-From-Home Wednesdays.”

As I’m sure all of you are aware, that a lot of people are out of work. I know that quite a few of my friends have lost their jobs and I'm sure that many of you who read my posts are still searching for new employment. I am also aware that there a lot of stay-at-home moms who’d like to be able to contribute even a little to their household budget. Whether you are looking for part-time or full-time work there are places out there – legitimate businesses – which allow you to work from home.

How do I know this? Well, I am one of those people who work from home. For years, I was a high school teacher and then a school counselor. Once I quit my job to stay home with my new baby girl, I realized a couple of things. One, I missed doing some sort of “work” – not that what I do at home with cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids isn’t “work” – in fact, it’s harder than any employment I’ve ever had! But, I needed to use my brain a little more. And, secondly, I discovered that kids are EXPENSIVE! If I wanted them to attend preschool or ballet lessons or buy birthday presents for them and their friends, we were going to need to have a little bit more income coming in.

Thus, I found ways to make money from home. As the weeks progress, I’ll tell you more about what I do – because I don’t just work for one company. I actually work for quite a few. But, as I said earlier, there are opportunities for nearly everyone to work from home. Will you be making a fortune? Probably not. How much you make will depend on how much time you can devote and what is your area of expertise. But, my theory is “Some money is better than no money.”

Before I tell you about the first company, let me say that working from home is not easy. Sure, it has its perks. I often do my work on my bed in my pajamas. And, I can schedule my time around my kids’ naptime, school time and bedtime. But, when you are in your own home, there are distractions. Often, I know I need to be working, but that pile of laundry or that stack of dishes are calling my name. My friends call and I want to pick up the phone. I feel like I should be making dinner. You need to be a disciplined person and put all of that aside in order to get your work accomplished (and make that cash!)

Now, having said that, the first company I’m going to bring up is called Tutor.com.

This company hires people who have degrees from universities in the US or Canada to tutor students online. They are currently accepting applications for the following subjects: Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Geometry, Algebra 1 & 2, and resume writing.

You do not need to be a certified teacher. You just need to be able to convey information (via the internet) to students of all ages in an area where you have expertise.

You can schedule your own hours, though generally, the best hours to schedule are Sunday-Thursday (4-11 pm) because that’s when the students are home and doing homework! They allow you to work anywhere from 5-30 hours a week.

It doesn’t say this on their website, but from what I gather from my research, they pay about $10 an hour.

There are no fees or costs associated with becoming a tutor for them.

Now, sure, you can tutor on your own and find your own students and probably make more per hour. However, you would have to do all the “leg work” of finding those students, and then meeting them somewhere and then working around their schedule. This company will do all of that for you.

This might be the perfect job for a stay-at-home parent who can go into the home office to work once their spouse comes home for the day.
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I found one mom who works for them who says that she can't devote a whole lot of time to the job, but she makes enough to pay for the family's groceries each month. Every little bit helps, doesn't it?
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So, if you think you'd be good at this type of work and are qualified for it, check it out. (And don't forget to let me know how it went!)

By the way, I realize that my series is called, “Work-from-Home Wednesday” and I’m posting this first one on Thursday. Oops. Sorry. But, I wrote it on Wednesday, so that makes it okay, doesn’t it?

I’ll do better next week!
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Note: I do my best to research all the companies I write about. To my best understanding, they are legitimate. But please, do your own research and NEVER pay money to work for a company!

Kids Eat Free Nights and Restaurants

Aug 26, 2009


Going out to eat is expensive! It's bad enough if it's just you and your spouse, but throw a child (or two or three or more) in the mix and you might as well stay home.

The restaurant business is hurting financially right along with the rest of society. People just can't afford to (or are chosing not to) eat out regularly.

So, many restaurants have come up with a solution and a way to entice families to come back in to their establishments to eat.

Kids Eat Free Nights!

Now, I do not have the time or energy to put up on this blog all of the restaurants which are featuring such programs. But, luckily for me (and you) there are blogs out there which are solely devoted to informing you about where to go if you want to have a nice meal and not pay for your kids.

My favorite one is My Kids Eat Free. Currently, the mom who writes this blog has a list of over 4000 restaurant locations which provide great family deals.

For example, IHOP is currently running a program from 4-7 pm. Fazoli's is another one offering this program on weekend's in August. You can search by your state and the day of the week. Of course, you generally have to purchase an Adult Entree in order to get a free meal for your child. But, if you and your spouse go out and each buy a meal, you can get two of your kids for free.
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Another similar site a friend just passed on to me is Kids Meal Deals.
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The best deal around that I have found is at Applebees. They have a 2 for $20 meal, where you and another adult get a full-size appetizer to share (with 4 to choose from) and you each get a full-size entree (with 12 to choose from). And then, if you go on their Kids Eat Free Night (The day varies from location to location - so check your local restaurant. Ours is on Wednesday), not only do kids eat free, but for each adult, TWO kids eat for free! So, if you have 3 or 4 kids, this is the place to go on Kids Eat Free night. You could feed the whole family (of up to 6 people) for $20! If only you could just convince everyone to drink nothing but water, you'd really be doing good on the bill . . .

Now I, personally, try to never take my children into a public restaurant if at all possible. (I just can't handle the stress!) But, if I am ever so inclined to do so again, I will definitely be reviewing one of the above websites before I do!

My Daughter's First Composition

Normally, I do not put any of my Facebook statuses on my blog. (Though, that might be something to think about in the future.) But, the status I put up yesterday afternoon was so . . . uhm . . . one of a kind . . . that I needed to post it here.

Here it is:

My daughter just composed her first song on the piano. It's entitled, "Is Mommy in a Good Mood?"

Need I say more???

Flat Irons - Don't Pay Too Much for Them!

Aug 25, 2009

For those men out there who read this blog, this post may not be of interest to you. However, if you are a woman who needs to/wants to/MUST flat iron her hair before she is willing to be seen in public, then keep reading . . .

Personally, I have very thick, very annoying, very unruly hair which is wavy in some sections, curly in others and stick straight near my neck. I look at other women with naturally straight hair and think, “Why not me, God? WHY?”

But, since this is how God created me, I’ve learned to work with it.

And, what has helped me immensely in my daily battle with my hair is my flat iron.

About 4 years ago, I purchased a CHI flat iron. (Back then, we had only one child and thus, money wasn’t quite so tight. And, my husband was in Iraq and so we were getting “Hazard Duty Pay” – I bet he doesn’t know that risking his life paid for my flat iron. Oops. Oh, well. He does now. ) Anyway, even though I bought it on Ebay, and thus, paid less than retail for it, I still considered it an investment. It was costly, but worth every penny. I NEEDED that flat iron.

And, it worked pretty well and I was satisfied with it until it just stopped working one day last summer. That was a sad, sad day . . . I had to borrow my neighbor's flat iron until I got one of my own. And, since by then, we had two more children, buying another Chi wasn’t really in the budget. So, I bought a Revlon one at Target. I won’t even discuss that purchase. Let’s just say I “made do” with it for nearly a year.

But then, about a month or so ago, I went to visit my best friend, Renee, at Ft Leavenworth, KS. I asked if I could borrow her flat iron one morning and, despite the fact it wasn’t a CHI, I was shocked at how well it worked. It got my hair straighter than I have ever been able to do on my own. When I was done, I looked like a stylist had straightened my hair. I found out what brand she owned and learned it was a Generic Value Product (GVP) from Sally Beauty Supply.

So, as soon as I came home, I bought one of my own . . . and after that purchase, I now feel the need to impart my knowledge on saving money on flat irons with you.

First of all, it cost less than a CHI. I think the regular price is about $60.

When I used it for the first time, I was happy with how hot it got and how it straightened my hair, but something was wrong with it. It didn’t close properly (not like Renee’s did) and so it kind of “slipped” off my hair each time I tried to grab it. I realized I needed to exchange it.

But, before I returned it, I decided to look on Ebay. A merchant was selling brand new GVP flat irons for $19.99 (plus $6 shipping). I emailed him and explained the problem I was having. I said that I didn’t want to buy one from him that had the same problem. He wrote back and told me that the problem I had was that a plate inside had been inserted backwards. The flat irons he sells were all made that way. I guess he buys the “mis-made” irons from Sally, fixes them and then resells them – for a lot less (about $40 plus) than I could buy them from the store.

I took a chance and bought the flat iron from him. He was right, it works perfectly and I paid a lot less for it than I would have if I kept the one from the original store.

However, if you are a CHI loyalist, and want to stick with their product, I have another piece of information for you. Costco is now selling CHI flat irons for $59.99. That is a GREAT price. Even on Ebay, you can’t get one for less than that.

So, if you are in the market for a new flat iron, consider the two options I’ve detailed. If you’re interested in buying from the Ebay dealer I used for the GVP one, leave me a comment and I’ll get you his information.

If you don’t have a Costco membership, I bet you have a friend who does. Maybe you could give them the money to buy you one there!

Hope you have a great (flat) hair day!

Become a Mystery Shopper

Aug 24, 2009


I have been working as a Mystery Shopper for about 8 or more years now and I am constantly being asked how I “got the job.” So, I am going to use this blog to, once and for all, explain it to everyone!

I first heard about mystery shopping when I took an evening class at the University of Texas. The teacher was a mystery shopper and gave me the names of some reputable companies.

And that is what I am about to do for you. But, before I share the names, let me explain to you what Mystery Shopping entails and why I do it. And then, you can determine if it’s something you’d be good at and enjoy.

The reason I love mystery shopping is that I benefit from it with free meals and services. For example, I never pay for an oil change, a haircut for my kids, a pizza or a spray tan. I get to eat for free in a variety of restaurants – some very fancy and some super casual. Some “shops” do not provide a free service or meal to me. Sometimes I just get paid. Sometimes I get something free and I get paid. It just depends on the assignment.

Let me tell you up front, this is not a way to make a living. Even when I get paid, it is generally very little money - $10-$20. The most I have ever made on a mystery shop was $150 and that assignment took a lot of time over a 2 week period.

But, it can be fun. I enjoy doing new assignments and experiencing new locations. Sometimes, I can even bring my kids along with me. And, of course, I do enjoy getting things for “free.”

But, you know, “free” does come with a price. So, what is required of me, you ask?

Well, I have to be very observant whenever I do a shop. I need to take note of the time, (upon entering, when services are offered and when I leave). I need to remember names and conversations and specific details. I have to save my receipts. And I need to not reveal to the location that I am trying to do any of this!

When I come home, I then have to write a report. Some of the reports are very brief – mostly multiple choice questions with a few short answers. Some, though, take me a few hours to complete and are all in “essay” format. It just depends on the “shop.”

So, if this sounds like something you’d enjoy doing, I’m going to include the names and links to companies which I have found (through personal experience or through a friend) to be legitimate. You can apply to be a shopper online and they will start sending you emails for jobs (which you can accept or not).

Happy (Mystery) Shopping!

The Companies:

Time Alone with my Little Boy

Aug 21, 2009

Years ago, before I was married, I met a mom of two grown children. She shared with me how, with her first son, she took a ton of photos and made sure his baby book was all complete. Regretfully, though, she said that her second child, a daughter, had very few photos from her childhood. And, when it came to a baby book . . . well, she hadn’t even ever started one.

Right then, I decided that if I had multiple children, I would not be like that. No, all of my children would have lots of photos taken of each of them, both professional ones and candids. They would have photos of themselves with their siblings, but also pictures of them alone and, more importantly, alone with us. I did not want any of my kids to ever feel cheated or left out, as if their siblings were, in some way, more important than they were in my eyes.

So, here I am, three kids down the road and I have to say, patting myself on the back, that I have done a pretty good job keeping that promise I made to myself. I take each of my kids to have professional photos done quite regularly. We go for each of their birthdays, have photos taken of each of them in their Halloween costumes and sometimes, just for fun, I’ll have individual photos taken of all the kids. I also always have my camera with me. I make a conscious effort to ensure that that baby has as many shots of him learning to crawl, and then walk, as there are in my oldest daughter’s album. And as for baby books . . . all three of my children have them, in various stages of completion. At this task, I have been determined to not fail.

I must admit, until recently, I have been pretty proud of myself and how I have handled the “fair” issue with all of my kids. I see minimal jealousy between any of them and, to be frank, have attributed that fact to the way my husband and I have treated and respected each of them and their individual personalities.

But what’s that they say about pride coming before a nose dive?

Yesterday, I received one of those phone calls every parent dreads. My 3-year-old son, Bennett, was sick at school and, could I please come get him? Sadly, I got in the car and drove to pick him up – and his brother, too. I was able to get a doctor’s appointment for later that afternoon and my parents graciously offered to stay with the two other kids so that I didn’t have to drag the whole circus along with me.

As I loaded Bennett in the car for our trip to see the doctor, he said, “Where’s Jordan? Where’s Baby Mac?”

“They’re staying with Grandma and Grandpa,” I said. “We’re going to the doctor.”

He looked at me, with an expression of complete confusion and said, “Just us?”

“Yes, honey,” I said. “Just us,” and I jumped in the front seat.

My first thought was to smile at how cute he sounded when he realized we were going alone. But, as I drove to the doctor’s office, and occasionally glanced back at him, I began to really think about the situation. “When was the last time Bennett and I were alone together in the car? For that matter, when was the last time we did anything alone together?”

To be honest, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, the answer to that question would probably be “a little over a year ago.” The baby is just about 15 months old and since the day he came home from the hospital, I can’t really remember a time when Bennett and I didn’t have company on our journeys.

After all, whenever I take Bennett to school, even before Maclain attended preschool there, the baby has always been with us on the drive. If we have a doctor’s appointment, at least two of my kids go together. And, sadly, if I have to take one child to the grocery store, or to run errands, with me (because my husband doesn’t want to be left home with all three), Bennett is never the one I choose. Not to be callous, but let’s admit it, until last month, he was two . . . and now, he’s three . . . which, in ways, is even worse. It’s much easier to grab the baby, or better yet, my 6-year-old daughter who can get in and out of the car by herself. But, Bennett . . . he’s not always so easy to have tagging along.

Thus, when Bennett said, “Just us?” he was sincerely startled. He was getting time alone with his Mommy and the fact that the news of that shocked him made me very, very sad.

Because, even though he and I aren’t “out and about” alone much, I do try to spend quality one-on-one time with each of my kids at home. We play games, we have our own unique bedtime rituals, we do crafts. But, I realized sorrowfully as I drove to that doctor’s appointment, somehow I’ve been failing Bennett. He hasn’t been getting the time alone that he needs with his mom and, because I’ve been so busy being proud of myself that he has photos of himself . . . or even photos of him alone with me . . . I didn’t recognize that what he wanted was actual time with me . . . not a photo making it look like that time really existed.

We had a good hour or so at that doctor’s office (despite the double ear infections). We sang songs as we waited for the doctor to come in, he danced a little for me, we talked about what the blood pressure machine does . . . and he spent a lot of time sitting on my lap.

On our way home, I said to him, “After dinner, you, me, Jordan and Maclain will go back out and get your medicine, okay?”

“No,” he said. “Just us. Not them. Just you and me.”

I wish I could have said, “okay,” but because Rob was working, I knew I’d have to bring everyone along on the trip.

“Not this time, sweetie. But soon. I promise. It’ll be just you and me again.”

And, I meant it. Very soon, he and I will do something very special . . . and it will be just me and my precious little boy, because he deserves more than an album full of photos when he grows up. He deserves a lifetime full of memories.

Costco Membership Plans

Aug 20, 2009

As you may have noticed by now, I am a big fan of Costco. It may have taken me longer than most to jump on the bandwagon, but I am now firmly seated on it.

When Costco first came to our part of town about three years ago, though, I resisted getting a membership. I generally don’t like having to pay for the privilege to shop at a store. My parents, however, joined the first week and began to their campaign to get me to do the same.

For the first two years, I’d go with them occasionally, or ask them to pick up an item I particularly liked from the store. My mom, though, kept insisting that with my growing family, it would be worth it for me to get my own membership. So, about a year ago, I joined Costco for myself.

And, this is what I learned when I joined: Costco offers two different memberships. The Gold Star Membership is the “regular one.” It costs $50 and allows you to shop in their stores. The Executive Membership, which is the one I ultimately ended up getting, costs $100. The reason I went with the Executive Membership is because you get back 2% on most all of your Costco purchases.

In addition, they guarantee that this monetary amount will at least equal $50. (That is the extra $50 you forked over for this membership.) The customer service representative told me that if the check I receive in the mail at the end of my yearly membership is less than $50, I should bring it to the Customer Service desk and they will make up the difference.

That, right there, is what made my decision. I figured that it was a virtually risk-free investment. Worst case scenario: I would get that $50 back at the end of the year and the membership would have cost me $50 – as if it were the “regular one.”

I realized, though, that depending on how much we spent there (and honestly, I didn’t know how much that would be because I’d never belonged to a wholesale store like this before) I could potentially get back most, if not all, of my $100 membership fee.

I decided to write this post today because my membership is up in about a month and I just got my “rebate” check in the mail today. Guess how much it was for?

Come on . . . guess . . .

$116!

Thus, not only did I make back my entire membership fee, I also made a profit of $16!

That means we spent about $650 there a month – which actually, isn’t technically accurate. I’d say we spent about $400 - $450 or so a month there, but once this year, a friend asked me if I would buy a large item for her from Costco on my card (and she paid me back for it.) That item, of course, pushed up my rebate check a little.

But, even if I hadn’t purchased that item for her, I still would have made back about the cost of my entire membership.

To me, taking the “chance” on the Executive Membership (and, as I said, it wasn’t really much of a “chance”) was worth every penny I had to put out up front.

I just encourage you to think about your membership choices if you are debating joining (or renewing your membership to) Costco – or any other wholesale store that might offer a similar deal. If you can budget the money to pay more up front, it could benefit you in the long run.

Recycle Your Plastic Bags

Aug 19, 2009

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a little crazy when it comes to recycling. For the past few years, I have made a conscious effort to recycle most everything in my house that can be recycled. For years, the City of Austin would only take corrugated cardboard, glass, newspaper, magazines, aluminum cans and #2 plastic. But, I had a lot of other stuff to get rid of, such as cereal boxes and granola bar boxes and all those other plastics #1 and 3-9! Who wanted those?

It turned out there was a recycling center in downtown Austin and so, about once a month, I would make the trek up there (not too hard to do since my son went to school a few blocks away) and drop everything off.

But then, a wonderful thing happened. The City of Austin decided that it would accept all those other items and gave a us a huge recycling container to collect it all in. What a relief.

The one item, though, I still couldn’t get rid of was plastic bags. I wanted to recycle them but Austin wouldn’t take them.

And, to make matters worse, I saw an Oprah show last year about the huge landfill of plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean. The mass of plastic bags is TWICE the size of Texas and goes 90 feet deep in some places. If you didn’t see that Oprah show, or just want to read about it, click here.

So, with that terrible information in my head, I set off for a way to recycle my plastic bags – and I found one.

One of our local grocery stores is HEB. Another is Randalls (which also goes by Safeway and Tom Thumb, depending on where you live in the country). Both of these stores have bins set up to collect your plastic bags – right in front of the stores.

Even though these bins have been there for years, I don’t think a lot of people know they are there. For example, when I went to visit my best friend in DC recently, I pointed out to her the bin in front of her Safeway. She had never noticed it before, but was glad to know it was there and (I believe) she now recycles her bags there. (I'll let you all know after she reads this blog post!)

I know. I know. You probably want to say to me, well, I take my cloth bags to the grocery store so I don’t have that many plastic bags to recycle.

I want to ask you, though, have you looked around your house lately? I don’t recycle a lot of plastic grocery bags, either. But still, I usually have two pretty big bags full of “bags” to take down to the store at least once a week. Where do they come from? I’ll tell you. They come from the plastic I rip off the toilet paper or the paper towels. They come from the plastic wrap that goes around the large cartoon of juice boxes or ice tea bottles I buy at Costco. They come from the plastic bag that holds the diapers together in the box. We are surrounded by plastic bags – and I don’t just mean the one that come from Walmart or Target. Take the time to notice how many you go through in a day. You’ll be surprised.

Thus, I encourage you to recycle those bags and to start this by seeing if your local grocery store has a program to help you do so. Also, there is a website called PlasticBagRecycling.org where you can find a plastic bag recycling location in your area. In addition, click here to find a list of the kinds of plastic bags that are recyclable.

Do a little research and make some effort so that the plastic bags don’t end up in that Pacific landfill.

Twice the size of Texas? Have you been to Texas lately? Trust those of us who live here - it's huge.

Market Research Studies (Part II)

Aug 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, I did a blog regarding market research study groups. This post is a follow-up to that one because I have something new to add that might interest those of you out there who would like to participate in a focus group at some point.

Last night, I hosted a focus group at my house. That’s right. I didn’t even have to go anywhere. In fact, not only did I have the study at my house, but I was asked to invite 7 of my friends to participate along with me! The market research study leaders conducted an hour and a half focus group with all of us, brought us dinner, and paid us some pretty nice cash! (I made $160 and each of my guests made $80!)

I wanted to post this market research group on my blog because, though located in Dallas, they conduct studies all over the country and are constantly looking for new people to participate and possibly host the studies in their own home.

The company is called Spearfish and if this is something that might interest you, their website is located right here.

To get on their list of possible focus group participants, email wblainehale@flash.net with your name and contact information.

You never know when you might qualify for a study! But, trust me, you won’t be sorry when you do!

Children and Public Places

Aug 17, 2009

My three-year-old has been banned from Costco. We were asked to never return to the store with him in tow.

Okay, that’s not quite true.

Alright, it’s not at all true.

They didn’t actually ban him.

But, they should have.

If an employee had come up to me during our most recent visit and said, “We’re sorry, but please don’t bring him here again. We just can’t handle it,” I would have said, “I completely understand” and walked out the door.

You think I’m kidding.

I’m not.

It couldn’t have been that bad.

Well, trust me. It was.

When I had my first child and she would throw a temper tantrum in a store, I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. I’m sure that I looked as flustered on the outside as I felt within. I’d start to sweat and shake, worried not only about the disturbance she was causing at that very moment, but knowing all too well that this could be just the beginning. This could escalate rapidly. This could get very, very ugly.

And, on top of the panic I felt, not knowing how to calm her, I’d wonder about what other people in the store or parking lot or church or doctor’s office were thinking of me.

“Bad Mommy. BAD!”

I was certain that was what was going through all their heads.

And, sadly enough, I didn’t blame them. After all, who can’t control their own child? It shouldn’t be that difficult to do. I knew I had to be doing something wrong.

Well, let me tell you, three kids down the road, things have changed slightly.

Unfortunately, the changes haven’t involved a decrease of screaming fits in public places. Oh, no. Those have only increased, because now I have more children to take part in them.

The change has come from within me.

Whereas before, I would become nearly as hysterical as the child, my goal now is to be the epitome of calm. The louder they get, the more serene I try to appear.

For example, when the above-mentioned-three-year-old had a huge meltdown in front of my gym last week because his sister was pushing the baby’s stroller and he wanted to be the one to do it, I very calmly put him in “time out” in front of the building. Yes, that’s right. We all stood there, my 6-yr-old, the 1-yr-old and me, watching my other son throw his body into the stone building, screaming something about it being “his turn,” as I said over and over again, “You need to sit in time out. No, time out is not on that side of the door. It’s over there in the corner.”

Person after person after person walked by us and observed the scene. The more people that walked by, the more gentle and firm my voice became. In between insisting he sit down, as he screamed loudly enough for the people in the gym, with their headsets stuck in their ears, to hear, I would nicely smile, as if this was just another peaceful day and I was enjoying the weather outside.

I kept telling myself, over and over again, “They are impressed with how you are handling this. Those people can’t believe how calm you are remaining. You should be proud of yourself.” I said those words, repeatedly, to myself, until I almost believed them.

Were those people awed by how I handled my out-of –control toddler? Did they go home and say to their spouse over dinner, “You wouldn’t believe this mom I saw at the gym today. Her son was behaving so terribly, but she didn’t lose her cool! No, she handled it perfectly!”

Probably not.

Okay, definitely not.

If anything, they were so traumatized by my son’s ear-piercing wails that they never even noticed me.

But, I felt better knowing that I wasn’t reducing myself to his level. I had maintained some dignity. I hadn’t resorted to falling on the ground along with him, crying my heart out, which I would have very much liked to do.

Because, to be honest, my kids can really embarrass me. And, I think they know this and so they “save up” their worst behavior for the public realm. I am constantly apologizing to waitresses for the mess my kids leave under the table. I seem to always be asking forgiveness from restaurant patrons for the food that may occasionally be flung their way.

The thing I’ve learned, though, is that no matter how much I’d like to control all of my children’s actions – I can’t. I can do my best to raise them correctly, to teach them wrong from right, but when it comes down to it, they have free will. Unfortunately, they generally tend to exert that will in the most crowded places on the planet.

What I can control, though, is me and how I respond to those little instigators. Do I want to scream aloud when they misbehave? Yes. Do I want to throw them back in the car and never take them out into the world again until they are 21? Absolutely. But, I do my best to not let any of this show. Even when a child throws a sippy cup at my head and hits his target, I do my best to just take a deep breath and move on. I don’t always succeed, as I’m sure many of my friends (and strangers) can attest to, but I’m trying.

My theory is that, perhaps if I remain calm in the storm, those around me won’t despise us so much for the noise they are forced to endure in our presence or the mess that remains once we are gone.

I like to tell myself this, at least.

In actuality, though, I’m not sure how well my belief is working, because, after lunch yesterday, I am pretty sure that the baby is no longer welcome at Cracker Barrel.

Save Money on a Gym Membership

Aug 14, 2009

Gym memberships are SUPER expensive. When we were single or newly married with no kids, it was easier to justify the cost. We had less expenses in our life and we had more time to go and work out. Thus, we got more "bang for our buck," so to say.

But now-a-days, it's not easy for me to get to the gym. I try. Trust me. I try to go at least a few times a week, but the thought of paying so much for a membership I wasn't sure I could use every day, or even every other day, was daunting.

And then, about 3 years ago, I had an idea. I went on Ebay and googled my gym's name and, lo' and behold, people were selling one year gift cards to this franchise! (I guess a well-meaning relative had bought them a gift membership and they realized they'd rather have the cash.) Whatever the reason for these people selling the cards, I bought two of them - one for me and one for my husband, Rob. The cost was significantly less than a year-long membership and so I didn't feel as guilty about joining and not going as often as I would like. We both enjoyed going to the gym that year (until this point, Rob had been working out with equipment in our garage). And, I found that I loved going to workout because a.) they had cable TV that I could watch while I exercised and b.) they had free childcare. As I often say, "SURE, I'll work out if I can watch TV and have someone take care of my kids for me!"

That year, though, quickly came to an end and we were faced with the realization that two gym memberships were going to be quite pricey and not really in our budget. And then, I came up with a "Great" idea. Okay, I'm not sure Rob thought it was great, at first, since it involved him, but trust me, it was!

By this point, Rob had become a regular attender of the gym's "spin" or cycling classes. I had a friend who taught aerobics at the gym and found out that if Rob became an instructor there, both he AND I would get free gym memberships. AND, he'd get paid.

It took a little convincing, but Rob finally agreed. He got certified and got a job and we've been attending the gym for free for about two years now. He doesn't make much "cash" when he teaches (he jokes that it just about supports his energy drink habit!) but we figure that the two memberships alone are worth his employment there. Plus, I feel good knowing that he's getting healthier because he has to excerise each week for work! And, I don't feel nearly as guilty when I can't get to the gym as much as I'd like during the week, since we're not paying for the membership. I do, however, enjoy knowing that when I can, I have the opportunity to go and workout and bring the kids along with me. And, I also feel good that I'm teaching our kids how important it is to exercise on a regular basis.

If neither you or your spouse are about to become instructors at your local gym, then I would suggest you check your local Costco (and perhaps other wholesale stores near you). I know that our Costco sells a two year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for $299. That's only a hundred and fifty dollars a year. You have to pay up front, as opposed to month-to-month, but I'm sure it is a huge savings in the long run.

So, if you've been looking for a way to join a gym and haven't known how to "swing it" financially, consider some of the above options. I know we are happy that we did.

Cash in on Your Old Printer Cartridges

Aug 13, 2009


I've faced a dilemma for years now - what to do with my old printer cartridges. I am a little fanatical about recycling, and so it bothered me to just throw them away. I thought I'd found a place that would allow me to mail them the cartridges (in a pre-paid envelope), but that didn't work out so well. And, the City of Austin said they didn't want them either.

And then, the other day, I went into Staples and they solved my problem! It turns out that Staples will not only take your old ink cartridges, they will PAY you for them. (In store credit, but hey, that's something!)

For every printer cartridge you give them, they will give you $3 store credit. Each person can bring in up to 10 cartridges a month. According to the guy at the counter, they mail you a check once a month that can be used at Staples for any item in the store.

Now, personally, I think that's a good deal. After all, I'm going to keep going through ink cartridges - a lot of them, unfortunately. And, equally unfortunately, I'm going to continue to need to buy more (along with a lot of other office supplies.) As far as I'm concerned, this is a win-win situation and so, I'll be heading down to Staples in the near future to turn in my used ones.

If you'd like to read more about the program, click here.

A Difficult Question to Answer

Aug 12, 2009

My life is full of questions. Not ones that I am asking, but rather, ones that I am being asked.

My two oldest children are the biggest “offenders” - constantly berating me with things like, “Mommy, what would you do if I lost my glasses?” or “Mommy, what time will we get home?” or, my personal favorite, “Mommy, why do I have to go to sleep and you don’t?” I try to tune out the never-ending chatter as much as possible, but for the most part, the little people in my life seem to expect a response. So, I have come up with some standard answers.

“I’d be very upset.”

“In 10 minutes.”

“Because I’m the Mommy.” (Gosh, I never thought I’d actually ever say that!)

The other day, though, my daughter asked me a question that could not be resolved with any of my usual replies.

We were in a store parking lot and I was trying to, quickly, in 105 degree heat, load all the kids in the car.

Suddenly, my daughter, Jordan, said, right before jumping into the backseat, “Mommy, what would you do if a car came around the corner and killed me, Bennett and Maclain?”

My first instinct was to say, “Are you crazy? What kind of question is that?”

Instead, though, I paused in the process of strapping in the baby and took a moment to think of how to respond.

“I’d cry forever” is what I’d said.

Jordan seemed satisfied with my answer, got into her seat and was singing along to Hannah Montana in a matter of minutes.

I, however, couldn’t get the question out of my mind.

Because, though I had answered her correctly, I recognized that I had not answered her fully.

What would I do if I lost all of my babies? Or, Heaven forbid, even one. How do you answer a question that conjures up the most horrible image you could ever conceive?

I could have told her that I would die along with them. I could have said that nothing in my life – not my job or my friendships or even my marriage – would mean a thing if those little faces were no longer in this world. I could have told her that without her and her brothers, there would be no life left to live.

But, along with all those horrible thoughts, I also had to wonder, “How did my life come to this?” And, by that I mean, less than seven years ago, I didn’t even know my daughter, let alone either of my sons. I have furniture that’s been around longer than they have. And yet, in such a short period of time, she and those little boys in the backseat have become the most important components of my life. When did that happen? Was it the moment they handed them to me in the operating room, all swollen and swaddled, or did that kind of emotion and love develop over time?

I wish I had an answer for that. Yet, it eludes me. What I do know is this. Every day, I hear stories, on the news or on the internet, about people who have died. Each morning, I think the sadness in the world could not possibly get worse, and yet, somehow each day it does.

The tragedies that everyone seems to think are the saddest, though, are the ones where a child is involved. And, I’m not arguing with that. I can’t imagine, as we have well determined, what it would be like to lose any of my kids.

But, on occasion, I will hear a story about an adult who passes away, and they mention that the person leaves behind a mom or a dad. Suddenly, my heart breaks for those parents. Because, though I know it would devastate me to lose my children now, I also know how, with every day that passes, I love them more and more. When Jordan is thirty-five, or either of the boys are in their twenties, how much deeper will my love be for them? How much more would it hurt to have to say good-bye at that point? How much more of my heart will belong to them? I have friends who have faced this situation – lost a child. Some have lost their only child. I don’t know how they’ve coped. I pray I never have to find out.

“I love you, Jordan,” I call out over the music in the car.

“What?” she yells back.

I turn down the music.

“‘I love you,” I tell her again.

“Oh. I love you, too,” she says. “Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“What time will we be home?”

I have to smile. For, this is a question I am equipped to answer.

“In 10 minutes, sweetie. In 10 minutes.”

Save Money on Cosmetics

Aug 11, 2009

There is an email going around out there that ELF cosmetics (Eyes Lips Face) is changing their packaging and needs to get rid of all their old inventory. Thus, they are selling most of their make up for a dollar. I thought, “Wow! What a great deal!” Thus, I researched it. The bad news is, according to Snopes, it’s not true. They are not changing any packaging. The good news though, is that the REGULAR price of most of their makeup is A DOLLAR! Now, I know you men out there will not understand this, but that’s cheaper than you can buy even the “teen-age” makeup at the grocery store or local drug store. Makeup is expensive and it adds up.

I have never personally bought any makeup from there, but I think I’m about to try. This price seems to include eyeliners, lip sticks, lip glosses, eye shadows, blush, mascara and perhaps much more. Their kits also seem to be pretty inexpensive, at around $5 - $15.

And, in addition, it seems they have frequent “Free Shipping” coupon codes. Go to the Retail Me Not website and search for the most recent coupon code, depending on when you chose to order.

In this economy, cutting back in each and every way is important. And, if we can get cosmetics for less – especially if it’s of a good quality – then why not? There’s much more important (and fun) stuff I’d like to spend that money on. How about you?

Kid's See It Like It Is

Aug 10, 2009

Last night, my daughter went to spend the night at my parent's house.

When it was time for bedtime at our home, I said to her 3-year-old brother, "Where's Jordan?"

"Oh . . . Jordan," he said. "She's at Bamma's house."

"She's at Grandma's house?" I repeated.

"Uh huh."

"It's only Grandma's house?"

"Yes."

"What about Grandpa?" I asked. "Where does he live?"

"Papa? Uhm . . ." he said with a pause. "At the golf course."

Save Money with the Entertainment Book

Aug 7, 2009

I have been getting a copy of the Entertainment Coupon Book every year for at least, the past 7 or 8 and I have never been disappointed.

What is it, you ask? Well, it's a coupon book designed for your area of the country or city. The book usually costs $20 (and often sold through school fundraisers), though you can sometimes get it on their website for $15 plus free shipping if you wait until the "rush" to get them in the fall is over.

What my husband and I like most about the coupon book is the "Buy one entree, get one free" coupons for a variety of local restaurants. We figure, if we use the book just once, we have gotten our money back on it. After that, everything we get is a good deal.

Often times, using that book is how we discover new places to eat in Austin. Let's say we want to go out to eat - we grab the book and see which restaurants have good coupons. Two meals for the price of one is a great way to pay for "date night." And, sometimes, I'll go out with a girlfriend and we'll use the coupon together. So, we get two meals for the price of one and then we split the bill - so we are each really just paying for half of an entree.

There are other great coupons in there, too - such as discounts on movie tickets, retail stores, grocery store purchases, rental cars and vacations. When you register your book online, there are also additional discounts you can print out from the website.

We always keep our book in the car, so that it's handy when we're "out and about." Many times, before we make a purchase, one of us will say to the other, "Hey, check to see if there is a coupon in the Entertainment book for this." Often times, there is.

So, if you've never heard of, or purchased, and Entertainment book, you might want to look into it. The ones for the 2010 year should be going on sale in the near future. Check it out!

Save Money for College with Upromise

Aug 6, 2009

I’d be surprised if there were many people out there who hadn’t heard about Upromise, but perhaps, even though you’ve heard about it, you haven’t signed up. I want to encourage you to get moving and become part of the Upromise community and here’s why:

When you sign up with Upromise, you have the chance to “earn” money for college – for you, if you’ve never gone, or for your children or your grandchildren or the child of a friend.

You earn “money” by shopping at certain stores and restaurants and businesses. Once you become a member, go into you account and “add” your credit card numbers (that’s how they keep track of where you shop), and your grocery store/pharmacy cards numbers.

In addition, whenever you shop online, you should go to those sites “through” the Upromise website. You can earn extra money that way, too.

Rob and I have been “signed up” since before our first child was born. Granted, we have not made a ton of money this way (a couple hundred dollars). I hardly think you’ll be able to put your kids through college on what you earn through Upromise. But, when it comes to college, every little bit helps, right? And, it’s not costing you anything to “make” this money – in fact, I rarely even think about my Upromise account. But, while I’m shopping, it’s earning me a little extra money for my kids’ future schooling.

You can hook up your 529 College Savings Fund to your Upromise account and then transfer the money into there on a regular basis. And, it gives you the option to “invite” people, like grandparents, to participate in saving money for college, too.

So, if you’ve never signed up before, what are you waiting for? It’s easy and FREE. And, if you don’t know any kids who’ll need money for college, let me know and you can start “saving” for mine! J

My Husband's Homecoming

Aug 5, 2009

In 2005, my husband returned from his tour in Iraq. The week he returned, I sent out the following email to friends telling them all about his homecoming. I wanted to post this email to share with those of you who didn't know us then. And, maybe a few of you will enjoy reading about that happy time once again. At that time, we only had one child - our daughter, Jordan. Rob had been gone from the week she turned one until she was two and a half.

Here it is:

Well, it only took a year and a half, but Rob is FINALLY back in Texas - safe and sound (and so are all his soldiers!) YEAH!!!!!

Half of Rob's Company arrived on Wednesday night at Fort Hood (the other half's flight was delayed due to mechanical problems and they didn't arrive until Thursday night.) Jordan and I drove up to greet them that evening. I was so nervous I was going to miss the event. I had heard that it could take up to an hour and a half to get a parking permit to get on Fort Hood and I wasn't really sure what time their flight was arriving.

We got on post and went into the parking permit building and took a number (we had a pretty long wait ahead of us.) I began chatting with a soldier while Jordan ran off some energy. At one point, she came up to me and the soldier, stood right in front of him and said, "Is this my daddy?" If it wasn't such an exciting evening it would have been sad. I said to her, "No, but he's going to look just like this!"

The soldier was so nice that he gave me his number (which was 15 ahead of mine) and told me he wasn't in a hurry. They gave me a pass that was good for 2 years. I told them, "I don't want to be coming here for two years! I never want to come here again!"

We got to the parade field and waited for the unit to arrive. The USO was there serving desserts and drinks, loud music was playing over the speakers and the Cavalry was at hand. Jordan loved petting the horses and dancing (by herself) in the middle of the parade field. It was WAY past her bedtime, but she could obviously sense the excitement and was all wound up.

They announced over the speakers at 10 pm that the soldiers would arrive from the airport on their buses in 2 minutes. We all stood up, ready to watch. Four buses came from the right and parked on the opposite side of the field. The cheering began as the soldiers all made their way off of them. Because the doors were on the other side of the buses, we couldn't see them. Once they were off, the buses pulled away (just like Extreme Home Makeover) and a few hundred soldiers were standing in formation behind them.

The Cavalry and their band led the soldiers forward onto the field. And, it was at that second that I realized I was living the best moment of my life. To have lived for 18 months with the fear of soldiers knocking at my door at any time - and to now know that my husband was once again safe on US soil and this ordeal was just about behind us . . . it's better than any wedding day.

Jordan was BEYOND excited. She stood in front of me, holding her litle sign, saying over and over again, "My DADDY'S in there!"

Some General spoke (about what, I do not know) and then a Chaplain prayed, to thank God for their safe return and then it was announced that the ceremony was over. The soldiers had to be back on their bus by 10:30 pm. I grabbed Jordan - out of fear she would be trampled by the stampede - and hoped that Rob had seen us waiitng for him, because I knew I didn't know where he was in that crowd.

Within 30 seconds, I saw him coming towards us. We reached each other and Jordan went straight from my hip into her Daddy's arms - no uncertainty, no fear. She just kept touching his face and giggling and smiling and saying, "My daddy!" She also kept putting her arms around my neck and Rob's and bringing our heads together and laughing. I realized that the look on her face was nothing short of pure joy.

From there on in, it was a long night. ALL the soldiers had to get back on the bus and drive up to North Fort Hood (an hour drive). We waited for quite awhile behind the buses, in our car, while Rob made sure that no soldiers left in other vehicles. (Jordan was NOT happy that her daddy was not in the car with us.) Then, we followed the buses (and Rob) up to North Fort Hood where Rob got his unit situated in the barracks and I waited in the car until 12:30 am. Good thing I had a good book on tape to listen to and Jordan dozed. Rob came back to us and we got into our hotel room by 1 am. We were asleep by 1:30 and Jordan woke us up at 5:30. Rob had to be back on post at 7:30, so we got ready and took him back and Jordan and I returned to Austin.

Rob now has to stay at Fort Hood until about Tuesday. After that, he has to go up to Dallas (that is where he is actually stationed and thus, has work to do up there.) Hopefully, he'll actually be HOME next weekend.)

Thank you to everyone for all of your prayers and support since November of 2003. I could NEVER have done this alone. All of your emails, phone calls, letters, dinners, etc, have been priceless and really pulled me and Jordan through a difficult time.

We look forward to spending time with all of you - as a family!

Kelly, Jordan and ROB!!!!

Aug 4, 2009

Labels for Kids' Clothing and Items

Okay, I'm going to admit right up front that I haven't bought these or tried these out yet, but . . . it seems like a good idea and I'm going to try it out very, very soon.

If you're a parent, you know the hassle of keeping track of (and not losing) your kids' cups and lunchboxes and sweaters and shoes. It seems every time we go somewhere, we come home with one or two less items.

I own a label maker and have made labels to stick on all the sippy cups and bottles we own, but after one or two uses (and once or twice in the dishwasher) they fall off. So much for them.

Well, there is a company called Mabel's Labels that may just solve this problem for all of us.

A mom where I work uses them on all her kids' items and when I asked her about them, she told me she loves them. And then, coincidentally, another Mom friend, and blog reader, emailed me about the same company the same week. So, I wanted to post the information about the company on my site and let you all decide whether or not they seem like a good product and a good deal.

They sell labels for all kinds of items and they are supposed to stay on, even in the dishwasher. And, the labels they sell to stick on the tag in the clothes are supposed to stay on during the washing machine cycle.

My friend was also telling me how her nephew has a life-threatening allergy to corn and eggs and she purchased, through this company, wrist bands to put on him for field trips that warn of this problem. Once she mentioned it, I remembered being at an allergist's office and seeing another child with a pre-made label (probably from this company) on his back and backpack that stated his allergies, too.

There is a coupon code that should give you 10% off your purchase. It is: strol10

With the new school year about to begin, this seems like an timely item that may be useful in many households. I'm pretty sure I'll be placing an order very soon!

Dreams of Singing

Aug 3, 2009

The other night, my 6-year-old daughter, Jordan, and I were watching America’s Got Talent. I Tivo it and she and I have a routine of watching a few of the acts before she goes to bed each night.

During the show, Jordan turned to me, as she often does while we watch and said, “Mommy, what if I was on America’s Got Talent?”

I gave my usual answer of, “That’d be really exciting, honey.”

We watched a few more acts. On this particular night, it seemed that many of the performances were rather terrible and were being treated accordingly by the judges.

After one incredibly horrible performance, Jordan turned to me and said, “Mommy, what if the judges told me that I was a bad singer and that I should never come back and sing again?”

I paused. This was a tough one to answer. On one hand, I don’t want to squashed her dreams, but on the other . . . well, let’s just say I’ve heard enough singing in the car to know that this could very well be the outcome if she were to someday go and audition for the show.

So, I tried to answer in the most careful way I could. I said, “I would say to you, ‘Honey, the judges are very smart and if they think that singing is not your thing, then maybe you should pursue some other kind of talent.’”

Honestly, I thought I handled that question quite well.

But, at my words, her face dropped and her shoulders sagged.

“Was that not what you wanted me to say?” I asked her.

She shook her head.

“Okay, sweetie. What would you want me to do?”

Without missing a beat she said to me, “I’d want you to punch them in the nose.”

Oh.

I guess I could do that, too.

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