Monday, July 28, 2014

Team Umizoomi - Milli, Geo, Bot and You!

Sully doesn't hide his love of Team Umizoomi.  Everyday he wakes up and says he wants to watch "something" and that something is always an episode of Team Umizoomi.  For Christmas he got a little stuffed Geo that he likes to carry around with him.  He even calls himself "little Geo."  So, for his third birthday we had a lightly themed Team Umizoomi party for him.

I got him a personalized third birthday Geo t-shirt and one of his aunts knit a special Geo hat just for him.  To say he was excited would be an understatement.

One of his cousins baked and decorated cupcakes.  They melted a bit in the heat but they were still delicious.

After a lunch of grilled brats, hamburgers and hot dogs, chips, homemade potato salad and fruit Sully got to blow out his birthday candle.  And yes, I know it's pink but that's because it's the same candle we used when Quinn turned three. 
He devoured his Geo cupcake and turned his mouth blue in the process.
Last, but certainly not least, we opened presents.  Shannon and Quinn were more than happy to help.
After all the guests had gone home and things had been cleaned up I saw this:
Ahhhh, so cleaned off.  By this morning it was already getting more cluttered.  Maren and Sully didn't seem to mind though.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Dining Room Table

We have a very small kitchen in our house. So small that there isn't room for a table. The upside is that we have a beautiful dining room. Last year around this time I posted about bringing dinner back and we have been eating at the dining room table ever since.  Lately, we've even been eating breakfast around the table as a family.  It is nice to come home and have a chance to catch up with the kids and also with the husband.

What isn't so nice, is sitting down to a messy, clutter filled table.  My husband jokes that if there is a flat surface that I will find a way to fill it with clutter.  And you know what?  He's right.  I'm a stacker by nature.  Magazines, catalogs, bills, school papers, all end up in a big stack on my dining room table.  Books to return to the library, art work the kids brought home from a zoo class, boat batteries in need of recharging, shoes that need to be taken to the repair shop, even science experiments that were tried with gram and pop, all make their way to my dining room table.  It really is the center of our home.

Clearing it off is a never ending battle for me.  It should be easy, either put the stuff where it goes or throw it away.  But, it just never is that easy.  My inner hoarder comes out and as I page through the magazines I think oh, I want that recipe, I need to look that up online and pin it (to my Pinterest board of things I will never actually get around to making.)  Or, oh, that's the perfect sweater for Quinn this fall but I don't want to spend the money on it right now so I'll save this catalog to remind myself to go and look later to see if it's on sale.  And on and on until I'm left with a stack about the same size as when I started.

So, my mission this fall is to try and really minimize how much ends up on the table, and even the surrounding surfaces as I have a tendency to clean off the dining room table by simply moving the stacks to other flat surfaces.  Maren is getting old enough to not need the high-chair, so soon she'll be moving into the 6th chair which also happens to be the chair I stack most of the piles in front of.  If keeping her ever wandering hands off my stuff isn't motivation, I don't know what is.

Here's a sampling of recent days:

Sad to say, this is the best of the bunch.  Quinn's Bob Books and Knot Genie , the husband's battery charger and hat, a box to go back to Lands' End, Sully's box of eye patches .  And stacks of stuff.

The stack gets bigger, shoes appear, the diaper bag is waiting to be emptied of filled, I can't remember which and two glass jars are filled with some kind of lava lamp liquid because yea, that's not going to get broken and ruin the table, chairs and floor.

And the perhaps the worst but mainly because I had my purse there (on top of a stack of mail) so I could grab a pen with which to do the puzzles in the paper while I sipped my coffee and ran PerkTV ads on my iPad.

Tomorrow is Sully's birthday party so I need to make a lot of progress on this mission tonight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to School Bento Deal

I've been packing bento box style lunches for my kids for the last year.  It makes my oldest smile to see a panda bear sandwich or little animal picks stuck in cheese squares or grapes.  And, for Quinn, it helps her to eat a wider variety of food, albeit still not wide enough, but I'll take what I can get.  So, I was excited to see a great Plum District deal pop up in my email this morning.

For the next 5 days you can grab a Plum District voucher for $8.00 which will give you $16.00 to spend at Bento USA.  Bento USA sells tons of really fun bento supplies including everything from lunch boxes, to sandwich cutters, to food picks.  I sometimes get lost just browsing their site.

If you've never made a bento style lunch, it can be a little intimidating when you see all the super fancy things some people are doing.  I stick to the more simple stuff as evidenced here.

I've already bought my voucher.  If you're interested in one you can click this link to get taken directly to the deal.  Once you've bought a deal, you can refer your friends and if three friends buy a voucher you'll get yours for free!

(Note: The Plum District links are referral links.  The link to Bento USA is all fun.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

FREE Turkey Dogs

I got a FREE package of Jennie-O Turkey dogs from Target today.  Target sells them for $0.99 a pack and Ibotta has a $1.00 rebate right now.  So, actually, I didn't just get them for free, I earned a penny by buying them!

If you're not familiar with Ibotta, it's an app which provides rebates on typical grocery items, movie tickets, clothing, baby and household items.  While making my shopping list I review what rebates are available and if there are things I need I do the little tasks to "earn" the rebate.  Sometimes you have to watch a super short video, or answer a question to be eligible for the rebate.  It's always easy to do and super quick.  Then, I shop and once home I set aside my Ibotta items.  When you go to redeem, the app prompts you to scan the barcodes on your items to verify that they are the correct items and then you snap a picture of the receipt and viola! money back.  The really great thing is that you can use manufacturer coupons at the store and then come home and still use Ibotta.  Sometimes, all the stars align and there will be an offer on Ibotta, I'll have a manufacturer coupon, a Target coupon AND an offer on Target Cartwheel.  I'm not a super couponer by any stretch of the imagination but I'm willing to do things that are rather easy to do to save a little money.  Right now I have almost $25.00 in my account which I can either get as cash put into my Paypal account, or, use it to buy gift cards to places like Starbucks, Whole Foods or Regal Movie Theaters.

Other shopping apps I use are Checkout51 and Shopmium, both of which give rebates on grocery items by either submitting a picture of your receipt and sometimes also scanning barcodes.

Happy shopping!

(The links in this post are referral links.  If you'd like to sign up for Shopmium, use my referral code, MAKYYYWG, and get a free Lindt chocolate bar.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How I Plan on Getting my Children's School Uniforms for Free

School uniforms.  Some people love them, many hate them, but as a former Catholic school girl I have to admit they will always have a place in my heart.  As someone who still struggles to put outfits together, they made my life easier when I was a kid and now that I'm a mom, they make my life easier by eliminating any morning battles about what my kids are going to wear to school.  The husband was skeptical regarding how easy they could make our lives but he's come around as Maren runs away when she sees a dress she doesn't want to wear or Sully cries because he wants to wear his Superman shirt four days in a row and it's just so filthy it's unwearable.  Not having a choice is sometimes the best choice when it comes to school fashions.

Shannon has been in school a few years now and over that time I've bought many different brands of polo shirts and pants.  He must wear navy pants and then has a choice between white or a dark green polo.  I've found that buying cheap leads to ripped knees and stained/ripped/yellowed shirts that just won't come clean.  So, I've been buying more and more from Lands' End.  First, they are a Wisconsin based company so it's always nice to support a more local business.  Second, their uniform pants have reinforced knees, and for the younger boys, have a hook closure instead of a button which is a big deal when little ones are still learning not only dressing and un-dressing themselves but the art of making it to the bathroom in time.  Third, in the older kids sizes, you can order the pants hemmed (for free, which is simply amazing.)  Based on last year when Shannon only wore Lands' End pants, I found that by the end of the year the pants had faded a bit in color, but not a ton and far less than pairs I had purchased in years past from Old Navy, Kohl's, Target or Crazy 8, and all the knees were intact.  I think there was one pair that perished, but it was ripped when Shannon walked by something and got caught on it, rather than the typical knee rips from playground play.  The remaining four pair are packed away now for Sully to wear when he's older. Now that Shannon is big enough that I can order hemmed pants, I'm hoping I can stretch them out for two years of wear instead of just one.  For the top, I buy the performance interlock polo shirts because I like the feel of them better than the mesh version.  I've found that the white stays white the entire school year and the fabric stays soft.

All of this adds up though.  Even on sale, the pants and polo shirts are a little spendy.  And, when you're buying five pair of pants and then five short-sleeve plus five long-sleeved polo shirts, plus let's not forget Quinn who needs some short and long sleeved blouses or shirts as well, it really adds up.  But, this year I plan on buying everything without spending more than hopefully $50.  How is that possible?  Well, I've been using my Swagbucks and PerkTV points to buy Lands' End gift cards.  I just placed an order for five polo shirts, which I paid $14.18 for, down from a total of $70.90 (sale of 25% off, plus free shipping, $50.00 in gift cards and $6.72 in Shop Your Way Rewards.) By August I should be able to get a few more gift cards so I can buy pants when they go on sale again.  Then, I have a little time before they'll need long sleeves so I should be able to get those totally free by hopefully mid-October. 

If you've tried Swagbucks in the past and never were able to really earn points, Perk might be the better choice.  The Perk TV app runs app and movie trailers, with ads in between, and you earn points just for letting it run.  I have the app on my iPad and let it run overnight and during the day while I'm at work.  There's no daily point limit so just letting it run can really rack up the points.  If you have an old phone lying around you might be able to install the app on that and just let it run.  If you're interested in trying it out, you can get 50 bonus points by using my referral code, 3d5a9a13.  Perk TV can be downloaded from iTunes or from Google Play.  In addition to the Perk TV app, there is also a browser, a search engine and a quiz game, all of which also reward points for using them.  I've been having some fun playing the quiz game at night after the kids are asleep.

Back to uniforms.  Here's a picture of Shannon in his at the start of last year.  He's standing as though he's off to military school instead of first grade.

And Quinn.  Too bad they don't sell the uniform dresses at Lands' End.

 I can't wait to compare pictures from this year.  They have grown so much!

Please note that the Swagbucks and Perk links are referral links but all the others are not.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ducks Wandering Out of the Row

I guess it's just too much to hope that things stay all lined up and ready to go.  My list of things to do before proceeding was the FET was all checked off.  Save some money - check.  Lose weight - check.  Good pap test - check.  Get the okay from hematologist - check. 

As of today, my ducks are running for the hills.  I've spent some of the money I saved, I've gained 10 pounds and when I requested a prescription for Lovenox from the hematologist a nurse called me back and said I had to come back in for another appointment.

The appointment I had with the hemo in April was pretty complete.  We discussed my history, my DVT, what the suspected cause was, how I'd used Lovenox in all of my subsequent pregnancies without incidence and how moving forward I would do the same during the FET.  Before leaving I was given the a-okay to proceed and told to call when I needed the blood thinners.  So, not sure what there is left to be discussed, but whatever it is it's going to cost me $35 to find out.  At least I was able to get an appointment for this week as I'm on track to start the meds for the FET at the end of the month.

The plan is to do the FET mid-August so I figure I can hopefully take off the 10 pounds I've gained by then.  I'm rededicating myself to eating better and eating less.  I have some Brewer's games and Sully's birthday coming up but I'm confident that I can power through and let myself have just one treat at the ball games, instead of every treat.

Which would also help push another duck into line - my spending.  I have a definite pattern of doing well with saving, clipping coupons, not needlessly spending and then it's like the dam bursts and I start buying everything in site.  I'm smart enough to recognize the pattern but not smart enough to stop it which just frustrates me all the more.

So, I'm engaging in a no-spending challenge.  Nothing crazy like going an entire month, more like just this week and then I'll re-evaluate for next week.  I also am going to set aside a little time this week to really review my budget.  I already know where I've gotten way off track but I want to analyze what I have allocated and see if there is a way to move some money around and really better prioritize where it all goes.

If anyone has any great tips or stories of how they stopped needless spending, I'm all ears.