Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fun (and inexpensive!) gifts for teachers

This is the first year I've had a child in my home, so though I've been on the receiving end of teacher gifts for years and years, I've never had to be the one planning them.  I debated going the easy route and just picking up a starbucks card for each, but Pooh has 4 teachers, so that would be at least $20, even if we only did $5 cards for each.  However, with all the great sales this week, I came up with an alternative that I think is cute, as well as easier on my budget:
Regardless of my love for orange, believe me when I say that those ribbons are red!
A few years ago, my awesome niece Brittany made chocolate covered spoons for all of us, and I thought it was an awesome idea.  I was super-impressed with all the time and effort she had obviously gone to for us.  My eyes have now been opened - while I still am super-impressed with Brittany in a myriad of ways, I now know that she did not go to much trouble in preparing them - these spoons were very easy to make!

Basically, you melt chocolate chips (I had 3 bags from my Tom Thumb trip yesterday), dip a spoon in, set it on a tray, and stick it in the freezer to set.  I made 3 flavors of spoons:  milk chocolate, butterscotch, and semi-sweet, since I had those flavors of chips on hand.  I chose to use a tall slender cup to heat the chips, rather than a short squat mug, so that I could use less but still cover the bowl of the spoon completely.  Once the chocolate was melted, I just dunked the spoons in, tapped to get a bit of the excess off, and set them on a flexible cutting board sprayed with cooking spray so they wouldn't stick.
Milk chocolate and butterscotch spoons
One thing I noticed is that if you don't have plenty of chocolate around the edges of the spoons, the chocolate covering the bottom may stick and separate from the rest - that's what happened with the butterscotch one that did not get double-dipped in the pic above.  But other than that, I thought the spoons turned out great!  You could have also gotten much fancier, but that's just not me.

Other than the chocolate, there are only a few things you need for a project like this.  Spoons for dipping, plastic to wrap around the chocolaty part, mugs/cups, ribbon, and anything else you want to put in the cup.  Here's what my supplies looked like:

Everything you need, except the cups
You can see in the pic that I used plastic spoons.  I did end up using some real spoons once I ran out of plastic, but I started with these since I did not have enough real spoons I was willing to part with.  If I had planned ahead more, I could have found some cheap at a thrift store or garage sale, but I've been too busy to plan that way.

I had no cellophane bags to put the spoons in (yep, that lack of planning ahead thing!), and Tom Thumb didn't have any either.  Rather than drive to a bunch of different stores looking for them and getting Pooh out of and back into his carseat multiple times, I instead bought a pack of sandwich size ziplocs, cut the zippers off, and tied them up with red ribbon that I had on hand.  Of course I curled the ribbon with scissors like my mama taught me to do.

I thought about going out and finding some cute Christmas coffee cups, but since I've gotten those multiple times as teacher gifts, I didn't think that was a great idea.  First, it's way too typical.  Every teacher gets several Christmas mugs every year.  Second, Christmas mugs can only be used for a limited period of time.  Third, it would cost me money, and time that I did not have.  Finally, we had an elegant option already in our home.  My sister Amy got married a few months ago, and we shamelessly raided her house for anything we thought we could use.  We had taken a simple set of white dishes, most of which we use regularly.  However, the set has 2 sizes of cups, which I assume are teacups and coffeecups.  We use the larger ones all the time, but have never really used the small ones at all.  So, we simply used those.

While I wouldn't have headed out to purchase more to go in these mugs, I had tons of instant coffee sticks on hand that I got on sale at Tom Thumb this week.  So I took a few sticks of each flavor and added them to the cups.  Then I stuck one spoon of each flavor in, tied a red ribbon around the cup, and it was done! 
The finished product
The best thing about this project?  It was easy!  Sure, I had to take the time to make the spoons and put the stuff together, but it was not difficult, and I did it while chatting with P-Daddy, who, by the way, was completely disbelieving that this was going to turn out to be an acceptable gift, until I finished and he was totally wowed!

Also, it was cheap!  Here's an in-the-ballpark-but-not-exact breakdown:
cups:  free (already had them)
ribbon:  free (had it on hand)
chocolate chips:  $1 (probably less - I paid $0.99 per bag, and I used less than 1/3 of each bag)
spoons:  $1
ziplocs: $1 ($2 for a pack of 100, and I used less than 50 of them)
instant coffee:  $1.20 (I paid $0.99 for a pack of 20, and I used 6 sticks per cup, so 24 total)

All told, that makes the 4 gifts less than $5 total, plus I have about 20 more spoons since I just kept making them until I ran out of the chocolate that I had melted.  Wahoo!  A fun but frugal holiday coffee treat!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My love of coupons

So, I am a cheapskate at heart, I admit it.  It's not that I don't want to pay money for things, though.  It's that I hate to pay a large amount of money for things that I *know* I can find cheaper!  For instance, when P-Daddy calls me on the way home from work and asks me to pick up diapers, I really honestly cannot do it.  I cannot walk into a store and pay FULL PRICE for diapers!  That's about $10 for 30 diapers, and since I'm constantly on the lookout for good deals (and have found some excellent one!), I just cringe at the thought of paying that.  Not because we can't or don't have it, but because if I only pay half that price, then that's $5 to spend on something more important, more meaningful, or more necessary (not to say that diapers are unnecessary, except they ARE, since we have a full stock of cloth ones!)  Plus, if I can buy my diapers on sale cheap most of the time, then when the real emergency happens, we will be able to afford full price, even if I cringe while I pay it.

The same is true for me with coupons.  I love getting a great deal, and pairing a sale with a coupon can often net super-low prices, making it possible for us to spend more on things that may never go on sale or have coupons out.  While a grad student, I really got into couponing and had a great system, as well as a couple stores where I cherry-picked constantly.  Since moving to Texas, I've been so busy that I have simply not organized my coupons and set up a working system.  This is partially because the store I shopped at in Fort Worth was not a major chain, and nobody online was listing deals for it.  Plus, there was NO space for storing things, so stocking up when things were cheap was simply not possible.  But we're in a new house, with 2 major chain grocers super-close, so this past week I revisited my coupon bag, got things a little organized, and headed out.  Oh, it was fun!  I had completely forgotten the thrill of a great deal!  But part of the joy of a good deal is sharing it, so here goes...

Tom Thumb is running daily specials this week.  Monday, it was all-purpose flour for $0.59 for a 5-pound bag.  P-Daddy loves to bake, and Pooh and I love to eat bread, so we stocked up.  We now have 40 pounds of flour, for which we paid less than $5!  In addition, Imperial Sugar was on sale for $1.99 for a 4-pound bag, which I don't consider to be a great deal.  But I had a $0.50 coupon, which doubled, bringing the price to only $0.99 - again, not a bad deal, so I grabbed 2 bags.

Then today, the daily deal was chocolate chips for $0.99 a bag.  Maybe not the greatest deal, but Pooh has 4 teachers in his Mothers-Day-Out program that need gifts, so I grabbed 3 bags (one semi-sweet, one milk, and one butterscotch).  P-Daddy's been asking for decaf coffee, so I strolled over to the coffee aisle, where he was out of luck. I'm not paying 4.57 for a tiny bottle.  No way, nu-huh.  BUT I did find the 20 packs of Taster's Choice sticks for only $0.99!  Since these are typically about $1 for 6 to 10 sticks, I was thrilled!  I'm devising a gift involving instant coffee and chocolate chips...maybe I'll share it later this week.
Tom Thumb = $16.75 total
We also needed nutmeg, so I grabbed some, which was priced $1.29 on the shelf.  Not a bad price, but then when I checked out, it rang up at only $0.90!  Wahoo!  And, I had a coupon for 1.50 off any Kandoo, and they had some for 1.74, so I grabbed that as well, paying .24 for some handsoap that Pooh will think is totally cool.  All told, at Tom Thumb we spent $16.75 for 8 bags of flour, 2 bags of sugar, 3 bags of choco chips, 1 canister of nutmeg, 1 bottle of soap, and 6 boxes of instant coffee sticks!  I was hyped, feeling the thrill, and wanted more.

So, I headed to Kroger.  They have been running a deal where if you buy 10 of a certain set of pre-selected items, you instantly save $5.  I checked this deal out online before going, and spent some time looking for just the right coupons, and I must say, I am pretty proud of how I did!  I did 2 trips, and got more than just the 10 items, so I'll outline them separately.

Trip 1:
Buy 10 save 5 items (price in parens is after .50 is subtracted due to the $5 off):
1 - Bumblebee tuna packet (.50) - .55 q = free!
1 - Barilla Plus pasta (1.49) - FREE q = free!
2 - Ziploc freezer bags (1.99) - 1.25/2 q = 1.37 each (plus, get a catalina for 1.25 off your next order)
2 - Carnation evap milk (.69) - .50 q (doubled) = .19 each
3 - Kleenex tissue (.99) - .50/3 q (doubled) = .66 each
1 - Mom's cereal (.99) - .75 q = .24
Other items:
1 pack Oroweat Sandwich Thins = 2.99 - free q = free!
1 container Cottonelle wipes = 2.79 - free q = free!
1 bottle Star balsamic vinegar = 2.19 - free q = free!
1 package turkey pepperoni = 3.00 - .35 q (tripled) = 1.95
1 pack of mushrooms = 1.19 (produce markdown)
2 packs of orange/yellow bell peppers = 1.50 ea (produce markdown)

Kroger Trip 1 = $11.59 (and in front, Starbucks Via samples, which were waiting in my mailbox when i got home)
Trip 2:
Buy 10 save 5:
2 - Ziploc freezer bags (1.99) - 1.25/2 q = 1.37 each (and got the catalina again)
2 - Carnation evap milk (.69) - .50 q (doubled) = .19 each
1 - Mom's cereal (.99) - .75 q = .24
2 - Nabisco saltines (1.49) - 1.00 q (X2) = .49 each
2 - Emerald peanuts (1.49) - 1.50/2 q = .74 each
1 - Krusteaz cookie mix (.99) - 1.00 q = free!
Other items:
1 bag of ww flour = 2.19 (you'd think that with 40 pounds from Tom Thumb, we would not need more, but we all love whole wheat, and we are almost out.  and since i paid so little for the other - we mix 1/2 ww, 1/2 all-purpose for bread making - i don't feel bad paying this much for the whole wheat)
1 pack of plastic spoons (for the previously mentioned coffee/chocolate gifts) = 1.00
1 6-pack of instant decaf = $1.19 (see?!  that is about .20 a stick, while the other non-decaf on sale were only .05 each!  But, I love my P-Daddy...)

Kroger Trip 2 = $8.91
All told, after using the 1.25 ziploc catalina on my second order, we spent 20.50 for both trips combined.  Plus, I still have my second catalina from the Ziplocs to use next time I shop.  Wow!  that's a lot of stuff!

I love saving money!  Cause I love spending money, and saving money in one spot allows me to spend it on something else (like P-Daddy's Chinese takeout tonight, while Pooh and I went to our foster agency's Christmas party).  Do you share my love, or is couponing way too much hassle for you?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What does a pigeon say?

I have no idea what the *real* answer to this question is, but in our house, it's "Not tired!"  This is due to one of Pooh's favorite books, "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late" by Mo Willems.
I'm a big fan of the pigeon books, which i was introduced to by a dear friend in grad school, who had "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" - it was a great book!

Now, this one is one of Pooh's favorites too - if you haven't read it, suffice it to say that it's bedtime, and the pigeon is not ready to go to bed.  He tries to come up with all kinds of alternate activities, all the time insisting, "I'm not tired!" We happened to first read this book when Pooh was learning animal sounds - he's got a lot of cute ones, including "wibit" for a frog and an adorable fishface.  But the pigeon, well, it's just so darn cute that it's a landslide favorite.

But this leads to the real question I've been pondering:  what are some good, easily read books for young kids?  Like I said, I love the pigeon books, and I've been a fan of Mercer Mayer's Little Monster and Little Critter books for many many years, but I'm at a bit of a loss otherwise.  As a matter of fact, we've started a book recycling bin, in which we drop all the books that we think are probably not ones that we want to read all the time in the house.  Most of the time, books get dropped in because the writing is atrocious, but then there's the one called "We Help Daddy" that's all about the kids helping daddy with manly tasks while mommy cooks and cleans - we don't want Pooh thinking that's what a family really looks like, or he's gonna start questioning why mommy goes off to work everyday while daddy stays home...

I'll admit that it was hard for me to accept the idea of the book recycling bin because it's hard for me to throw books away, even bad ones, but now we are on a quest to find some cool project for the recycled books.  How about a library desk like this one?  We might have to start being much more selective of the books we keep if we want one of those!

Bla kiki peas mommy

So the other morning, I'm in the kitchen making Pooh his everyday lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwich while P-daddy makes the coffee, and in wanders Pooh.  He comes over, stands close, and says "Up, mommy."  Trained by now to stop whatever I'm doing and obey his smallest command Unable to resist cuddling up to him for a few short minutes, I pick him up and hold him close, at which he looks into my eyes and sincerely requests "bla kiki."  Now, brilliant linguist and master wordsmith that I am, I respond with the utterly inspiring "what?" while my brain races to figure out what he's asking for.  He's been trained well, and immediately adds please to his request:  "bla kiki peas mommy."

At this point, P-daddy joins in the fun, asking what Pooh wants.  He (Pooh, not P-daddy) wiggles down and runs toward the computer in the living room.  Since he's recently begun to ask for his favorite shows by name, such as "tummy" (you know, he's a tank engine) and 'bah-ney", we start to go through the things he likes to watch that could somehow be, in a 2-year-old's language, "bla kiki."  This goes on for 10-15 minutes, at which point my sister and her daughter, our father's helper, arrive and try to help us.  We stand around for another 5-10 minutes discussing the possibility, while Pooh becomes increasingly frustrated, alternately repeating "bla kiki" at escalating volume or frustrated whining.  It's no help, we are stumped.

Finally, my linguist brain kicks in. bilabial, plus "ah", followed by a word with two "ee" vowels.  "OMG, he's saying 'watch tv'!"  Pooh's response immediately makes it clear that I am brilliant I have hit the nail on the head.  He yells "yay" as loud as he can (and that's pretty loud!), then begins jumping up and down, clapping his hands and cheering with an excited "bla kiki" chant.  It was hilarious, and completely reminiscent of what we do when he does something well that he's been trying for a while.  He's obviously been watching and learning from us!

And that, let me tell you, is the scary part of the hilarious "bla kiki" story!  This kid is watching everything we say and do, and mimicking everything he can.  We've seen this with lots of things:  P-daddy says "Nice!" a lot when something gets done well, and now Pooh says it too.  I started saying "no poop" on the rare occasions when his diaper was only wet and not dirty, and now he proudly proclaims before a diaper change just whether or not we'll find anything interesting there (though not with any degree of accuracy).  He spits in the sink when he brushes his teeth, just because we do.  And there are many many more.  It really makes a person think:  am I setting an example that I want my kid to follow?  One that I can proudly say "oh, he got that from me" about?  Probably not, but we're learning as we go!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

juggling life

It's been a while since I updated this blog, mostly because things got CRAZY around here!  We decided to buy a house, which would put me closer to school and thus in quick driving range if there was a child emergency, so I got busy with packing up the household.  It won't be news to anyone who has ever moved their whole family, but packing up myself, my child, and my husband was a LOT of work!  This was compounded by being foster parents, so in the midst of the move, we needed to update all of our foster paperwork, as well as get things like fire and safety inspections that most people aren't required to have.  We closed on the house on August 13, and moved gradually over the following week in an effort to (1) let Pooh get used to the new place, and (2) get a few things unpacked so that all of the unpacking wasn't taking place with Pooh running around.  Unfortunately, school was starting for me, so I would go to school all day, then go to the new place to clean and/or unpack, then head home to play with the men, clean, and pack.  Needless to say, I'm glad to be all in one place now!  And, to have started the school year and at least somewhat have gotten in to the swing of things.

But this juggling being a mom, wife, and full-time professor is not easy, I must say!  There are a lot of days when I get home, have an hour or two with Pooh running around, eating dinner, getting a bath, etc, and when he goes to bed at 7, I'm exhausted!  On days when I still have schoolwork to do once I'm home, it's often a struggle to force myself to pick it back up when all i want to do is crash.  Of course, it's also difficult to force myself to pick anything else up, like toys, trash, and my clothes.  So I'm not doing a very good job of keeping a clean house (admittedly one of my greatest problems even before I had a family!).  Since we didn't unpack everything before moving in, it's beginning to drive me crazy (and the hubby is already there).  So I've been trying to figure out a system - a plan to keep my sane, as well as my house clean and my family fed and clothed.  So far, the only thing that's really working is...

washing cloth diapers!  The pail gets stinky and/or we run out of diapers if we don't wash the lot about every 2 days, and I've been ultra diligent about doing it.  This is an especially onerous task because neither our washer nor our dryer work right.  The washer overflows the drain if we just let it run, so we have to be onhand to open the lid (multiple times) and stop the drainage whenever it's ending either the wash or rinse cycle.  And the timer on the dryer is not working, so we can't just turn it on 30 min and go to bed cause it will run all night that way.  Instead, we have to set a timer, and when it goes off, manually open the door of the dryer to stop it.  Now, I know we could go buy a new washer and dryer, but that's not really what we want to do.  First of all, the washer problem is a drain issue, not a washer problem, so we'd be likely to have the same problem with any machine.  Second of all, the dryer works great, it just doesn't time itself.  Third of all, buying new machines seems wasteful when ours work, and with us trying to reduce~reuse~recycle, tossing these out goes against our basic philosophy.

But this is not a post to lament about our w/d situation!  What I'm trying to say is that the laundering of cloth diapers is one of the most onerous (as well as odorous!) tasks around the house, and I've found myself able to accomplish it quite effectively as part of my routine.  So I know it's possible for me to establish and stick with new routines.   Why then, can't I effectively manage other household routines?  I've decided it's that I haven't figured out what I want the routine to be.  I'm a person who likes to plan.  Lesson planning is one of my favorite things about being a teacher.  As a planner, I'm a listmaker  prone to making lists for all kinds of things, and known to add things to my list that I've accomplished just for the simple satisfaction of crossing things off!   So, I'm now on a quest to determine and plan the best routine for making my home a pleasant and better-than-livable abode.  Any suggestions?

Monday, August 2, 2010

New lessons being learned...

but by Pooh, not by us:

(1)  toilet paper goes in the toilet.  he demonstrated this knowledge by tossing a new roll of paper in there the other day when I neglected to put the lid down.  My lesson:  always attach the roll to the paper roll holder.  it won't stop him, but it'll take a lot longer for the entire roll to end up in the toilet.  and let's be honest - it'll be on the floor first, so it may never make it to the toilet!

(2) velcro is fun.  Pooh demonstrates this knowledge by opening any and all velcro fastenings.  it started with his shoes, which are sandals with velcro straps.  then he moved on to his cloth diapers - as soon as i fasten them, he unfastens.  i'm learning to put a cover or a pair of shorts on him really really quickly.  but now he's discovered that his disposables also have velcro fastenings - Pdaddy put him down for bed last night, and this morning we awoke to him, naked, standing in a little puddle.  i think we need to buy more shorts...

Monday, July 26, 2010

and my newest lesson regarding cloth diapering...

is that one should always put pants on over velcro fastened pocket diapers when worn by inquisitive almost-two-year-olds.  Otherwise, one might check on said toddler later only to find him sitting naked, on a sheet that he has soaked, having thrown said diaper out of his crib.  Thankfully Hopefully, there was will be no poop for him to play with!

I was so excited this evening to try out some of the diapers in my new stash!  We had been using disposables for the last 2 days so that we didn't have a stinky laundry area when our agency worker came today, so I hadn't gotten to try a single one previously.  As soon as she left, I popped one of the fitteds on Pooh, stuck a new-to-us cover over it, and let him run around.  Less than 5 minutes later, the cover came off (new velcro needed), so I pulled out one of the covers we already had, and happily agreed when he asked to watch Elmo.  One soaked comforter later, I changed him into one of the bum genius pockets, gave him a bottle of milk, and popped him into his crib for beddy-bye.

Yep, bye-bye bedding!  When P-daddy came home about 15 minutes later with yummy BBQ, Pooh knew it and kept calling him, so P-daddy went in to say goodnight.  He came right back out, doubled over in laughter.   Thus we learned our newest lesson regarding covering velcro tabs with pants or some such thing.  We'll see in the morning (1) whether he's still wearing the diaper, and (2) whether he has leaked through all the layers.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why I love Craigslist.org

More cloth diapers, at awesome prices!

Thanks to a wonderful local cloth diapering mom who is updating her stash and getting rid of lots of cloth diapers, I got an awesome deal today!  She advertised the lot on craigslist as 19 pieces, but she counted the inserts as part of the pocket diapers, and then she threw in 2 extra bumgenius pockets that had stains and needed to be sunned.  So I actually got 25 pieces for $25!  Here's what that included:

- 6 bumgenius one-size pocket diapers
- 2 bumgenius one-size pocket diapers (need to be sunned)
- 2 happy heinys pocket diapers
- 2 other pocket diapers that I'm unsure of the name of
- 1 diaper cover
- 5 doublers/inserts for pocket diapers
- 7 fitted cloth diapers

I'm super excited about these, as I think this gives us a pretty full stash!  Along with what we had before, this gives us the following:
12 pocket diapers
7 doublers/inserts
35-40 pre-folds (not sure exactly how many)
2 diaper pins
2 snappis
7 fitted diapers
9 diaper covers (4 that I bought new, 1 from today, and 4 'plastic pants' that came with the pre-folds)

I'm not convinced that the fitteds will fit Pooh - I think they are smaller than he is.  But I'm washing the lot tonight (after the cloth from the last 2 days finishes - the smell in our non-ventilated laundry room was becoming unbearable), and I'll try them tomorrow.  If they don't work, then my sister D will get them for her youngest, who just celebrated her first birthday.

Another reason I'm excited about these is that I'm hoping they'll help P-daddy feel more comfortable with cloth diapering.  He likes the idea, but he seems to think that putting on the pre-folds, pinning or snappi-ing, and then covering, is just possibly more trouble than it's worth.  He's all about simplicity, and cloth diapering so far is simply not fitting into that philosophy.  But I'm planning to use the pre-folds we already have to stuff the pocket diapers we just got, and then they should be just as easy for P-daddy as a disposable would be! 

One last reason for excitement about these is that we are getting sick of blow-outs with disposables.  We have yet to let Pooh out of the house in a cloth diaper, mostly (for me at least) because I was dreading the thought of changing one when we are out.  So we have been using disposables for the last couple days when we've been out of the house, and we've had several blow-outs:-(  Last night, I went out after work with a few friends, and P-daddy got Pooh ready for bed, so he just put a disposable on him.  We awoke to crying at 2am; Pooh had completely reached the absorbency limit of the disposable he had on - everything was soaked, and the beads in the diaper were literally spilling out (not a problem for Pooh, cause he loves playing with them!).  With the new stash, I'm hoping that we feel comfortable enough to start using cloth in public.

Yay for recycling, for craigslist, and for clothdiapering mommies who clean out their stashes and don't charge "new" prices!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

lessons in cloth diapering

So we've been cloth diapering for a week or so now, and in my mind (though perhaps not in P-daddy's) I'm committed to trying this for 2 months.  Really, in my mind it's that I'll try it until October 1, and if I'm not finding it's working at that time, I'll go back to disposables.  But so far, I kind of like it!  I've now received all 4 of the covers that I ordered (I'll be posting more reviews in the next few days), and I'm starting to learn a few things along the way that are making this experiment more user-friendly:

1) Get some snappis!  I didn't have these for the first few days, so I was using pins, and the snappis are way easier.  Also, to this point, P-daddy had refused to put a cloth diaper on Pooh - he'll take one off, but then put a disposable on.  I'm hoping that the snappis will help convince him to at least try it.  Update:  so far, this hope has not been realized:-( But I'm hoping the new stash will increase his comfort level even more.

2) Use a doubler at night!  Last night was the first night we did this, and when Pooh got up this morning, the back of his diaper was not even wet (it's typically wet front to back and side to side.  We only have 2 doublers, but I'll definitely be using them in his nighttime diapers (or trying other kinds of things to absorb more than just the cloth diaper does alone).  Update:  second day to try this was not quite as successful - still wet from end to end and side to side.  But  I can only imagine how bad it would have been without the doubler in it!

3) Change on a schedule.  Changing Pooh every time he is wet is impossible - he seriously pees at least every half hour.  But I've been trying to make sure that he gets changed every 1.5-2 hours, or when he poops, and the wetness isn't nearly as bad as what it was before.  I think we were changing him pretty often, but not necessarily on a regular schedule, and for some reason, this is working pretty well.  Update:  Pooh is going to be mostly in disposables this weekend, as our agency worker is coming on Monday and we want the laundry room to smell clean and fresh and not like urine and feces.  Today, I noticed that we are changing disposables every hour to 1.5 hours.  The boy drinks a LOT of water, lemme tell you!  But knowing this, setting a 1.5 hour limit on a cloth diaper does not seem unreasonable at all.

4) Find a diaper cover that fits (you'll read more about this in the reviews to come!).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Diaper cover reviews: Tiny tush

A few days ago, I ordered this Tiny Tush diaper cover in a size large, color rose, with snaps.  We put it on him this morning, and so far, it's working fine.  As of 3:30pm, no leaks, even through a 2-hour nap, and he seems comfortable and happy in it.  One thing I don't love is that it sags a lot in the bottom.  Take a look:
I realize that this sagging may be a result of (1) my lack of expertise in cloth diapering, and (2) the use of the size large rather than medium, but it just seems like the rise is a little too long for our little shortie.  All in all, the diaper cover just doesn't look very trim, and would seem too big if it weren't for the front fastenings, which look as if they are too tight, but which in reality are a nice fit:
As you can see in the pic, the trim is rolling as if the snaps are pulled way too tight, but I think the diaper and cover would slide right off his little hiney if I loosened the snaps. 

We haven't gone out in public yet today, so we've been letting him run around in just the diaper and cover, so I can't comment on how it looks under clothes.  Right now, though, regardless of the sagging and rolling, I'm liking this cover - it's got gussets in the legs that give a nice tight (but not too tight) fit, and as I previously stated, no obvious leaking yet.  This is, of course, a first-impression review, which I'll update once I've had a little more experience with it!

Cloth diapering...a green choice, but is it really frugal?

One frugal choice that we've been unsure about making is whether we want to use cloth diapers.  We know they are a greener choice, and they reduce waste in landfills, and that we can re-use them over and over.  But, quite frankly, the better-known cloth diaper brands are between $15 and $20 for a single diaper, and when I can get a pack of Luvs at Walmart for about $4.47 ($6.97 - 2.50q), paying 4 times that for a cloth diaper makes me hesitate.  This is especially true because Pooh is already 22 months old, so paying that much for what may only be a few months use was really making me think about whether this was a good decision for us.

But a couple different things happened this week to convince me to try it out.  First, I found a local cloth-diapering mom who was clearing her stash and had about 40 pre-folds for sale.  Of the 40, about half are in Excellent Used Condition (EUC - an initialism you will get to know very quickly if you cloth diaper!).  About 5-10 have some staining, which I'm going to try to sun out of them, and about 10-15 have no stains but are obviously well-used.  Plus, she had a couple doublers and 4 pairs of plastic pants, so I grabbed the lot and started washing.

Second, my fostercare agency gave me permission to use Pooh's mandatory $40 a month clothing allowance for cloth diapers - he's got PLENTY of clothes, and he'll be able to use the same set of cloth diapers until he's potty-trained.  So, I trolled the internet looking for good deals and seconds; I wanted to try several different economical covers and then be able to make a decision between them and order more of the ones I like best.  I ended up ordering the following:

This tinytush cover (size large in rose) for $5
This LiteWrap cover (size large in barnyard) for $7.95
This Econobum One-size cover (white) for $8.95
This Wonder Wrap One Size Cover (in blackberry) for $11.16
I also got a toddler pack of 2 snappis for $7.55

Altogether, the 4 covers and the snappis came to $40.61, and shipping was free on all but the tiny tush cover, but that was only $0.44 anyway.  In addition to these 4 covers, I've got the 4 pairs of pants that I got with the prefolds, which I've been told are Bummis.  That gives me 8 covers, so I'll probably need more, but for now, it's a good start!

Is it worth it?

A friend asked me this the other day if the process of getting WIC was worth it, and I'll be honest and say I was wondering the same thing myself.  For the unitiated, WIC is a nutrition assistance program that provides vouchers for things like milk, eggs, whole grains, cereal, juice, etc for Women, Infants, and Children.  Foster children, as dependents of the state, are automatically eligible for WIC, so we don't have to go through a rigorous qualifying process.  Still, I once went with my sister to a WIC appt, and it took about 2.5 hours, so I was unsure if it was going to be worth it.  But once I started thinking about it, I realized that, for us right now, it's worth it to get WIC for Pooh.  Here's why:

We received credits to purchase the following items:
- 3 gallons plus 1 quart of whole milk
- 1 pound of cheese
- 1 dozen eggs
- 2 containers of juice (64 oz)
- 36 oz of cereal
- 1 pound of dry beans
- 2 pounds of bread, tortillas, rice, or oatmeal
- $6 in fruits or vegetables

Now, this works out to about $30 in groceries, all staples that we'd be buying anyway.  My appointment with Pooh took right at an hour, so we could figure that to be $30 an hour.  Not bad, but it gets better.  Benefits are assigned for 3-month periods, which means that it's $30 X 3 months, so for my one single hour in the office, we get $90 in groceries for Pooh.  Wow!  In addition, this month we were given vouchers for $10 in farmer's market produce.  So, $100 in food, for one measly hour in the WIC office - an exceptional deal, in my opinion, and one that allows us to use that $100 in grocery money for high quality nutritious food, and the occasional treat, like Blue Bell ice cream, which both Pooh and P-daddy really love!  For me, this is the epitome of frugality:  we use what resources we have wisely, so that we can spend more on things that we need to.

Now, lest you think that all we are getting from WIC is groceries, let me tell you a little more.  We also get the added benefit of their health and nutrition publications, a visit with a nutritionist, the peace of mind that Pooh is at an acceptable height/weight, and the knowledge that his iron levels are great (which they are apparently really concerned about at this age).  Plus, in 3 months, rather than bringing Pooh with me, I get to attend a nutrition class, during which they'll update Pooh's benefits, and I'll learn more about how to get toddlers to eat healthy.  Again, I'll be there an hour or so, and receive benefits for 3 months.

Sure, it means one more card in my wallet, and trying to get P-daddy to be less helpful by dropping by the store and getting milk without the WIC card, but all in all, I'd say it's definitely worth it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We have a kid!

Officially, as of yesterday, P-daddy and I have a foster placement.  We knew this was coming, and since the child is Pooh, he's already been in the house for over a week, but it feels so much more official now!  We got to meet his CPS worker, our own FYS from our agency, and sign all the papers.  I have a WIC appointment on Tuesday to get that going as well.

And since I'm heading off to a conference tomorrow (for less than 48 hours) P-daddy will have some quality time with him while I'm gone.  But that also means that I should post my lessons learned now or they won't get done until later in the weekend.

Lesson #1:  Toddlers (at least this one) are chick magnets.  Since I'm not in the market for a chick, this does not really affect me, but it's funny how much friendlier everyone is - from the check-in girls at the gym to the checkout girls at the grocery store to pretty much anyone who sees this kid.

Lesson #2:  Haircuts are traumatic.  Since Pooh has a myriad of fears all related to strange noises (whoopie cushions, birthday kazoos, etc) it's no surprise that the buzzing of the trimmer right around his head was somewhat traumatic for him.  But he sure looks cute with it shorter!

Lesson #3:  Good intentions don't make for good nutrition.  P-daddy and I eat pretty healthy.  We don't have much in the house in the way of processed food and snack crackers.  Whole grains, home-cooked beans, lots of fruit and veggies.  And what does Pooh eat?  Bananas, bread, and cheese.  "No" he says emphatically to the healthy stuff we offer.  Sometimes when we can get a taste of some stuff into him, he'll accept it and keep going, but the boy has strong opinions, and is unwilling to even taste a lot of things.  Any advice?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things I've learned this week...

So on Monday evening, Pooh arrived to start what we hope is his new family life with us.  Though we've had him short-term on numerous occasions, this now feels fairly official, as his case should be transferred to us this coming week (we are officially on long-term respite for the moment).  Anyway, for most moms, by the time their kids are two, they've learned bit by bit about how to manage life with a little.  For us, it's pretty much sink or swim, but we are enjoying the ride:-)

Through the course of this week, I've learned lots of things!  Here are the top three:
1) Always always always, no matter how short the anticipated trip, pack a change of clothes in the diaper bag (for the child, not the parent, though a change for the parent might not be a bad idea - see #2).  I think our gym somehow provides a natural laxative for Pooh - it's been rare this week that either P-daddy or I have gotten through a workout without having to change a dirty diaper.  The very first day, his diaper (Huggies, no less - I'm going back to the cheap stuff!) leaked and of course his clothes were then a mess.  But at that point, he'd only been in the house for about 10 hours, and I'd forgotten the change of clothes.  Nothing like walking a toddler through a crowded gym in a wet unsnapped onesie.

2) Never never never get dressed for work before breakfast.  While it seems logical that one could easily change clothes at home, it's just not as realistic as it might seem!  Working on a schedule already thrown off by having an extra person around the house and a carpool arriving at a particular time may make that impossible.  But it's okay, if any of my students noticed the streak of oatmeal down my pants, they refrained from mentioning it.

3) No matter how quick the trip, or how few items you are picking up, don't even consider not getting a cart.  Even if it's just a jug of juice, and you have plenty of time so you don't mind letting a child wander through the store at his own pace holding your hand.  You need both hands to pay, and Pooh um, I mean any random child will grab the opportunity to play hide and seek.  If you are lucky you and your child will stick out like sore thumbs in your grocery store; maybe you shop at a store like Fiesta, a local supermarket that caters to the largely Hispanic neighborhood, but you and your child are light-complected and blonde-headed.  Then it will be clear to the nice employee following your child around when you find him that you belong together.

Monday, June 28, 2010

FINALLY!!

Today, I got home from work to find a legal-size envelope in the mail from our foster care agency.  I got so excited that I opened it first, even before the free samples and coupon envelopes!  Sure enough, it was our official license - yay!  This was amusing to me since we have yet to actually talk with our FYS (Family and Youth Specialist) and as a matter of fact, don't even know who that is.  But no matter - when I texted B3, she got so excited that she called Pooh's (isn't that better than the Pooping Machine?!) cps worker, who said it was fine, since we have our license, to do an extended respite.  So we are respite parents for the next 7 days!  This is gonna be fun :-)

Meanwhile, I'm really enjoying making a menu for the week.  Not that we follow it religiously (as a matter of fact, I have a hard time getting P-Daddy to follow it at all!), but it's convenient for me when I'm packing my lunch and getting ready for the day.  And it helps me to think about what's in the fridge and what we have to eat.  This weekend, we made several things:  a big pot of crockpot black beans, crockpot chicken (cause Fiesta had chicken leg quarters for $0.39 a pound!), and cilantro pesto pasta.  Those things are making up a large portion of the week's menu, which appears below.  You'll also notice I added a "C" line to each - that's my attempt to think about cleaning, and to plan at least a quick pick-me-up of different areas on different days.

Monday:
B:  SCO w/ peaches, apples, and banana
L:  spinach frittata, roasted veggies
D:  cilantro pesto pasta w/ chicken
S:  applesauce, carrots, watermelon
C:  kids' BR

Tuesday:
B:  eggs, black beans, tortillas
L:  cilantro pesto pasta w/ chicken
D:  turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks
S:  yogurt, red peppers, cherries
C:  parents' BR

Wednesday:
B:  SCO w/ peaches, apples, and banana
L:  black beans w/ brown rice, avocado, boiled egg
D:  out with students
S:  applesauce, peaches, carrot sticks
C:  bathroom

Thursday:
B:  SCO w/ peaches, apples, and bananas
L:  roasted veggies, chicken
D:  pb&j sandwiches, carrot sticks, red pepper strips
S:  yogurt w/ blackberries, cucumbers
C:  living room

Friday:
B:  eggs, black beans, tortillas
L:  chicken taco salad
D:  potato nachos
S:  popcorn, oranges, jicama
C:  hallway, floors

Saturday:
B:  fruit and yogurt, cold cereal
L:  picnic:  sandwiches, finger fruits and veggies
D:  out to dinner or order in
S:  banana, yucca, cottage cheese
C:  laundry

Sunday:
B:  pancakes w/ fruit
L:  veggie frittata, ww bread; red, white, and blue fruit parfaits
D:  brown rice and lentil casserole
S:  red peppers, carrots, yogurt w/ blackberries
C:  kitchen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Staying out of the kitchen

I mentioned in an earlier post that P-daddy and I spent a couple hours in the kitchen earlier this week in order to avoid having to be there for the rest of the week.  So far, that's working pretty well.  In the 100 degree heat in Texas, no one wants to heat up the kitchen, and in our little apt with no central air (window units in all rooms *except* the kitchen!) we really don't want to be in the kitchen for long!  So I loved that LifeasMom's Ultimate Recipe Swap this week is all about great summer recipes - I'm getting lots of ideas for summer meals and treats!

One of my all-time favorite summer recipes is a cold black bean salad that my dear friend Erin introduced me to.  I've made a few changes, and I don't follow an exact recipe (it's very forgiving!), but here's the basics:

Black Bean Salad
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained (or use 2 if you want)
1 small red onion, diced
2 medium bell peppers, diced (I like to use 2 contrasting colors, preferably sweet) 
2 tomatoes, chopped
chopped cilantro (how much is dependent on your taste)

Place everything in a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Dress with either vinegar (red wine vinegar is my favorite in this recipe) or simply lemon or lime juice, then stick it in the fridge to chill.  Serve with additional toppings, such as avocado, sour cream, or grated cheese.  Good on its own, or on tortilla chips.  We sometimes even use the immersion blender to mush it up a bit as bean dip.

Yum!!  That's definitely on my menu plan for next week!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More menus, and an update!

First the update:  Last night, P-daddy and I had a lovely talk with the director of our agency, who has to approve all the homestudies.  She just had some residual issues to clear up, which we did successfully, and she said she'd approve and pass it on, and we should be licensed by the end of the week if no other issues arrive!  Yay - finally!

And now the menus:
Last week, we did...sort of okay on the menu front.  It was super-helpful to me to have a menu there on the fridge, so that I could look at it in the morning when I was packing my lunch, and know that I was taking enough food.  We didn't always stick to the dailiness of it, and we ended up eating meals on the 'wrong' day, but it was nice to at least have the ideas there for us.  On the weekend, not so successful, but that was more due to the fact that the PM was in the house, and he ripped the menu off of the fridge sometime early on Saturday.  Note to self:  post menu high enough the grabbing hands can't make it disappear!

Yesterday evening, P-daddy and I spent a couple hours in the kitchen, in the hopes that we can spend almost no time in the kitchen the rest of the week.  We chopped and packaged carrots and peppers for lunches and snacks, sauteed a mixture of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, cooked a large pot of curried lentils, made brown rice to go with the lentils,  and made spinach frittata (well, okay, P-daddy made that earlier in the day).  Then I cleaned out and rearranged the fridge so that everything would fit, and we now have most of the week's food ready to go, or at least pretty easy to prepare.  We'll have to do some cooking/prepping on the weekend, but I hope to combine that with next week's food prep to keep us out of the 100 degree heat in there!   Here's the plan:

Monday:
B:  eggs, black beans, avocado, tortillas
L:  spinach frittata, mango
D:  brown rice w/ curried lentils; cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage mix
S:  yogurt, peaches, cucumber

Tuesday:
B:  SCO w/ fruit
L:  brown rice w/ curried lentils; cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage mix
D:  turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks
S:  applesauce, red peppers, cherries

Wednesday:
B:  SCO w/ fruit
L:  spinach frittata, cottage cheese, bread
D:  carrot and potato dumplings, side salad
S:  yogurt, celery, banana

Thursday:
B:  eggs and beans, tortillas
L:  brown rice w/ curried lentils; cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage mix
D:  turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks
S:  yogurt, blackberries

Friday:
B:  SCO w/ fruit
L:  pb&j sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, apples
D:  eat out or order in
S:  applesauce, nectarines, red peppers w/ hummus

Saturday:
B:  cinnamon rolls
L:  salad w/ tuna, tomatoes, and onion
D:  homemade pizza or calzone
S:  yogurt, cucumbers, banana

Sunday:
B:  yogurt and granola
L:  black bean and corn salad, avocado, tortilla chips
D:  MSF spicy black bean burgers, avocado, mixed veggies
S:  applesauce, oranges, carrots
Anyway, we are trying again

Sweetness...

From the very beginning of our relationship, back before we ever had a real date and when we were trying to figure out if we even wanted to, P-daddy and I talked about foster care and adoption.  It seemed that both of us were on the same page in our desires to eventually foster and/or adopt, with each of us individually considering it before we ever even met.  I'm not sure how long it would have taken us to get around to actually starting the process if we hadn't met my niece B3's adorable foster son last Fall.  He was then just over a year old, and we've had the wonderful opportunity to see him grow and change for the last 9 months.  When it became clear that he would likely come available for adoption, P-daddy and I jumped at the chance, found an agency, and started the licensing process.  Since January, we've provided respite for this child about once every 6 weeks to 2 months, and he's a blast to have in the house.  From his first visit, we've referred to him as the Pooping Machine due to the number of dirty diapers we have to change - maybe we are giving him too much fiber with all the apples, bananas, pears, oatmeal...

Anyway, the PM stayed with us this past weekend.  We've started to notice over the last couple of visits that he is bonding with us, which is, of course, a very good sign!  On the last visit, this was evident more in his wanting one of us for comfort, or crying when we were leaving (not a problem since his attention span is about 3 seconds long and he's very easily distracted by anything fun!).  This past visit, though, oh this was special!

On Sunday, we left him in the nursery when we went to church - they have tons of fun toys for him to play with, and he's generally quite happy there.  When we returned, he dropped everything when he saw us, ran full-speed across the room yelling "Daaaaadddddyyyyyyyy", and flung himself into P-daddy's waiting arms.  It almost brought tears to the eyes, it was so sweet!  It gives me joy to know the men in my life love each other so much!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toddlers, Frat Boys, they're all the same thing...

Okay, a friend on FB recently posted this link and it was so hilarious that I had to share it!  The comments are almost as funny as the post itself, but here's the original Top Ten reasons why having a toddler is like being at a frat party, from SuburbanSnaphots.com:

10. There are half-full, brightly-colored plastic cups on the floor in every room. Three are in the bathtub.

9. There's always that one girl, bawling her eyes out in a corner.

8. It's best not to assume that the person closest to you has any control over their digestive function.

7. You sneak off to the bathroom knowing that as soon as you sit down, someone's going to start banging on the door.

6. Probably 80% of the stains on the furniture contain DNA.

5. You've got someone in your face at 3 a.m. looking for a drink.

4. There's definitely going to be a fight.

3. You're not sure whether anything you're doing is right, you just hope it won't get you arrested.

2. There are crumpled-up underpants everywhere.

1. You wake up wondering exactly how and when the person in bed with you got there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

baby crib thankfulness

So a while back, we got this crib on freecycle - it's in decent shape, and it converts from crib to toddler bed to queen-size headboard. Unfortunately, it was missing some hardware:-( Though it has everything it needs for the toddler bed version, it's missing some vital pieces for the drop-down side, which means that it's not usable as a crib.  You can see it here, with the side simply leaning against it (and a super-cute blanket hanging on the back, compliments of my niece B3).

It's an older version, not sold in stores anymore, and the manufacturer is not within the US. Nevertheless, we can order the parts from them for a fairly reasonable price. We've been hesitant to do that, though. I hate to order from a company that I know nothing about, and that does not have online ordering access - we have to send the info about the crib, a copy of all our email exchanges, and a money order to them, then they'll send us the parts and manual. Since the tag with the model number is partially torn off, it's not even clear they will know what model to send parts for, and I guess I have just sort of viewed the whole thing as a recipe for disaster.

Since our agency does not allow foster children to sleep in portable cribs for more than a week or two, using the pack-n-play for an extended period is also not possible. So I've been trolling on CraigsList and - yay! - got lucky last night. A local woman with an in-home daycare was updating some things, and recycling her old stuff to homes that need them - she was very specific about not wanting re-sellers. I emailed her, explained our imminent foster parent status, and she was happy to give us the crib, which she says includes all hardware and is in excellent condition! I get to pick it up this morning - I want to rush right home and construct it, but I will restrain myself, go to work, meet and have dinner with some of my practicum students, and then finally get home, probably too late to put it together:-( But once I do that, I'll be freecycling the first crib, and hoping to bless someone with an older toddler in need of a bed.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Menu planning

One area that P-daddy and I do not excel in is planning menus. We both eat pretty simply, and he in particular is happy to grab some fruit and veggies and make a meal of it. I'm much more of a carb-a-holic, so I need bread, rice, etc., so we've been attempting to find meals that cover both our preferences. This week, we decided to try our hand at menu-planning and see how it goes. Luckily, one of my favorite blogs talked today about just that topic, and even posted some hints and handy-dandy meal planning sheets. So we hope we are off to a good start, though we are not sure how it will turn out due to several issues.

One issue is that we don't always have a ton of variety - especially for breakfast. Both of us would happily eat steel cut oats with fruit pretty much every day, and while we have not yet embarked on once-a-month cooking, we do often cook large portions of things and eat them throughout the week. Plus, we freeze part of that for later use. This week, we are relying on some of these frozen items that we want to clean out of our freezer: black beans that we made in the crockpot, and carrot-potato stew, also from the crockpot. Plus, P-daddy made a delicious frittata today, with caramelized onions, and it smells and tastes delicious!

The other issue is my schedule - I'm teaching a summer-school class from 2-6pm 2 days a week, and even if I eat a healthy lunch before going to class, I'm still starved by the time class ends, as well as so wiped out that there's no way I want to cook (or even prepare) anything when I get home. So we are experimenting with pre-made sandwiches, which I can take to school with me and then eat before leaving campus. So our Tues/Thurs dinners might not look too dinnerish...

But here's the plan:

Monday
B: steel cut oats (hereafter and forever referred to as SCO) w/ apples, peaches, and banana
L: frittata, mushrooms, tomato, bread (home-baked by P-daddy, or sandwich thins)
D: potato and carrot dumplings, broccoli
S: yogurt, apples, cucumbers

Tuesday
B: eggs, beans, and tortillas
L: leftover dumplings and broccoli
D: BLT sandwiches, boiled eggs, carrot sticks
S: yogurt, plums, celery

Wednesday
B: SCO w/ apples, peaches, and banana
L: frittata, tomato, bread (home-baked by P-daddy, or sandwich thins)
D: brown rice, kashmir spinach, cauliflower
S: yogurt, apples, squash sticks

Thursday
B: eggs, beans, and tortillas
L: leftover rice, spinach, and cauliflower
D: BLT sandwiches (or PB&J), boiled eggs, carrot sticks
S: yogurt, oranges, squash sticks

Friday
B: SCO w/ banana (and blueberries if we make it to the store)
L: Morning Star Farms (MSF) spicy black bean burgers w/ (avocado if we make it to the store), mixed veggies
D: eat out (or order in)
S: yogurt, apples, bananas, green peppers

Saturday
B: French toast w/ fruit
L: PB&J sandwiches, carrot sticks, potato rounds
D: southwestern salad (lettuce, black beans, corn, red onion, avocado)
S: yogurt, apples, oranges, peppers

Sunday
B: toast w/ apple butter
L: taco salad
D: bao buns w/ pulled pork
S: yogurt, oranges, carrots

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, June 11, 2010

And the homestudy has been submitted!

Earlier this week, we turned in the very last bit of paperwork we still had pending for our foster care license. Yesterday, Kristen, who did our homestudy, emailed to let us know that it had been submitted to our agency. This means that we should be completely ready, and will be licensed ASAP! yay - we are so excited!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sadness already...

So our contact at the foster placement agency called this morning - I thought at first it was to let me know we were still missing something, but then she told me she was really calling to let us know that she is leaving the agency! Oh no! We've really enjoyed working with her, and we've had very little dealings with anyone else, so we are hoping this will not slow us down any. Hopefully, things will move seamlessly from one person to another...I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I love my Swagbucks!

One way that we've been slowly earning money to use toward larger purchases is using Swagbucks as our search engine. Over the last however long it's been since I signed up, I've earned enough points to get several things free or close to, including 2 huge boxes of Splenda, my mom's 70th birthday gift (this rooster doorbell), part of my dad's gps, and my latest: a carseat for our new fosterkid!

On SwagBucks, I typically always 'buy' a $5 Amazon card whenever I've earned enough SwagBucks (I average about 2 of these a month, with no effort at all other than using Swagbucks as my search engine). I had enough credit in Amazon cards to buy this brand-new carseat, and only pay $10! Shipping was free, because the order was over their $25 minimum, and we thought it was an excellent deal. Granted, we did not get the best one possible, but the reviews were decent, and we have not figured out why we should spend several hundred dollars on a Britax if a Cosco will do the job (no, we are not being unconcerned about child safety, just trying to make the best use of our resources - we have not been convinced that the higher-priced ones are really going to keep the baby safer if we are using them correctly).

Anyway, I highly recommend SwagBucks as an easy way to earn a few extra $ with little effort (but I'll caution you about using the special offers to try to earn extras - they are notorious for not paying out and you may spend a lot of time and effort for no reward whatsoever - take it from me, I learned from experience!). Just click the link below and sign up, and I recommend downloading the toolbar to make searching even easier.

Enjoy! And go get some SwagBucks!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stocking up...

One thing we've started doing is stocking up on things that we know we'll need as we start our foster care journey. We've started collecting clothes, thanks mostly to my awesome sisters Beth and Darrell, and we've started buying diapers. So far, CVS has been the place for this - we got a couple packs of Huggies at about $3.99 each a few weeks ago ($8.99 - $3 Q, plus $2 ECB back), which we thought was a pretty great deal. But then this week I got Huggies for only $1.49 a pack! Only one pack, but they'd been clearanced to $4.49 and I happened to have ONE (and only one) $3 Q left, so I used it, and got them super cheap. I also got the following items, mostly on clearance:

a 3-pack of wipes for $1.72
a bottle of baby powder ($0.75)
2 packs of q-tips ($0.99 each)
a bottle of shampoo (free with CVS Q)
2 packs of candy/gum ($0.33 after CVS Q)

All told, I spent $0.00 out of pocket (OOP) since I had some ECB's to use up. I didn't get any ECB's back, but I thought since we needed everything, it was worth getting all of it anyway. Besides, I did a survey for CVS and got a $5 ECB for it, so I'm still ahead of the game ;-)

On our way!

My husband (let's just call him P-daddy) and I have been slowly slowly completing all the training and paperwork to become foster parents, and eventually adoptive parents. We've taken much longer than we had originally planned to get this going, but since we were doing it at the same time as we were moving to a new state, and thus transferring car registration and insurance, drivers' licenses, etc, plus I was in my first year at a new job, we didn't stress and took our time. As of this week, we think that everything has been submitted (okay, one more piece of paperwork that I'm going to drop off on Monday), we had our homestudy done, and we are hoping to be licensed in the next couple of weeks.

As we begin our foster care journey, we thought it would be good to start a blog that details how we are doing this, especially how we will do this on essentially a one-person income. And, it's mine, not my husband's :-) I'm a full-time prof at a local university, and he works the market, but from home. So he's the stay-at-home dad, and his income gets rolled back into (hopefully) creating whatever we'll need down the road, while we try to use only my income for our present needs.

While we are a one-income family, this fits us well, as we are both dedicated to living pretty simple lives, being comfortable, but not necessarily luxurious. I'm always looking for great deals and ways to make a dollar go a little further, and we are attempting to find more ways to reduce-reuse-recycle and be a little more environmentally friendly. This is an attitude that we also want to foster in our kids (foster, adoptive, birth, or whatever) - take care of your resources. That's what frugality is all about! Wikipedia says that frugality is "the practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal." So, we are not only fostering frugally, but fostering frugality in the kids that will come through our home for the next x number of years.

Join us if you can for the ups, the downs, the cheap, the worth it, and the fun along the way!