Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trimming the Tree

The kids were so excited to trip the tree. They wanted to put it up right away on Friday after Thanksgiving and talked about doing so all week.

Friday morning came (you know, when I was out shopping) and Alivia had been up half the night with a sore throat and ear ache (something that resolved itself!) and Addison woke up early to the stomach flu.

The tree trimming would have to wait.

But not long.

The kids enjoyed placing their favorite ornaments. At one point, Asher cried out, "I want a hooker! I want a hooker!"

I about died laughing. I believe he meant he wanted a hook for his ornament but maybe I should be talking to Chris about this to be certain. ;)

It is always fun to trim the tree. It is even more fun when Chris puts the tree up and lights it while I nap. :)

* still unable to load pics. I am not liking blogger at the moment.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Shopping 2012

If you know me, I am not a fan of shopping. Period. Shopping for Christmas is really no different. I try to shop so that I am done by Thanksgiving because I despise crowds and the cold, both of which are more prominent following Thanksgiving.

This year, I lost my enthusiasm after beginning my Christmas shopping during Chris' October Florida trip. He skipped going out of town in November, so I just stopped. I had the girls more or less done. Chris said he would shop for Asher. But, as Thanksgiving approached, I could see that Chris was not going to work shopping in before being out of town for most of December leading up to Christmas.

So, last Monday, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I shopped until I could shop no more. I went to WalMart (YUCK! I ended up not keeping a single toy from there after turning the one I did originally buy, and we are stockholders. Really, could they please get a better toy selection or at least make the section look nicer?). After Walmart, I went to Costco, etc. etc, before ending up at Target where everyone was there except the checkers (3 checkers, really? One lady had 2 full carts of food and only 3 checkers!).

In the end, I thought I got what I wanted and called it good.

Thanksgiving  morning, I got up to see if Target listed their black Friday ads online. Sure enough, the iPod Touch for Asher was available online along with the scooter I bought him for his birthday (I originally paid $35 for the scooter but got it black Friday, aka Thanksgiving Day online, priced for $19! Sweet!).  Asher has been feeling left out when on long car rides while the girls are playing away, while Addison plays her addition game, while Alivia texts with her BFF, etc. He said he wanted one. But, really, he is only 5. What can I say, I am a sucker for sweet little boys. So, I pushed the buy button and it is on its way along with the scooter.

Thanksgiving came and went. Thanksgiving night I was blessed to have to work. Oh, the joys of being a nurse. Really, there are few joys unless you find joy and happiness in working nights, weekends, and holidays without getting paid extra. Anyway, while staying up all night, the Kohl's ad was thrown in front of me. I saw the Pirate Ship that Asher saw at Costco (but had sold out so I bought him a baby version of it at Target for $39.99 for my mom to give him). The cooler version at Kohl's was black Friday priced at $19.99! NO WAY! I so wanted that! Bummer, it was sold out online.

On the drive home, I called my mom who wondered what could it hurt to try. So, I braved the crazy people, aka crowds, and the cold and went to Kohl's to find that they still had the pirate ship (at 8:30 AM!) along with a better batman package than the one I had purchased. Score! I used my coupons to make them even cheaper! I have to say, Kohl's was quite organized, having 2 people help at the start of a 2 second line to get you out of the store faster. They actually had items left that were in their ad. I can not say enough nice things about Kohl's at the moment. Afterwards, I took my other, higher priced items back to Target and Walmart. Walmart was EMPTY at 8:30 AM! You could hear a pin drop. I went to Target later in the day (after a much needed nap), and it was a little busier then. But there was no line to return. :)

Now, 30 days before Christmas, I am virtually done shopping. I just have to buy a little something for my Dad, something he has not already bought for himself. Hum...Any suggestions?!

All in all, I will continue to shop online wherever possible. I will continue to avoid the crowds and this crazy Nebraska weather whenever possible. It is best to shop in the store to see what you want, but buy it online. As the kids get older, I find that black Friday is not as beneficial. Good thing, since it is now on Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, my Aunt Marsha hosted Thanksgiving in her home in my hometown in Iowa. We picked up Great Grandma Marci at 10:30 and headed out. The weather was nice, at least initially. Perfect for a turkey dinner.

The food was good, the clean up was long (as usual). By the time the kitchen was cleaned, the boys (my dad, Chris and my cousin Dave) had enjoyed a few too many drinks of some fancy scotch Dave brought out (He is a key account rep for a wine company, so he gets all the "good" stuff). The boys thought everything was funny.

Meanwhile, the girls (and Asher) played outside until the wind and cold blew into town, then they played throw the coins into the cans. Fun, huh?! They actually loved it. Marsha is so inventive.

Then we had dessert before it was time to head home. We were all tired with a turkey coma. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving shared with family.

When asked to name one thing we were thankful for, this is what everyone said.
Alivia: Family
Asher: Family
Daddy: Family and health
Mommy: Family

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Autumn Afternoon at the Forest

I have not really felt like going anywhere, even with this nice weather. But, Monday after school the kids met some friends at a local park. It was so nice to be out at a playground, enjoying this unseasonably warm weather. Love it!

So, yesterday, I took the kids and one of Alivia's friends to the forest. It is always cooler in the forest, but the kids did not appear to notice. They RAN the boardwalk! I mean RAN! Alivia's friend was exhausted just from walking and watching them. It was good for all of them to get some exercise before playing at acorn acres awhile.

We love the forest. It is always a nice refreshing breath of fresh air to visit. Next time, I will have a shoe check prior to leaving. :)

* For some reason I am not being allowed to upload any pictures on this blog. How annoying!!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Monthly Menu Planning

We have restarted our monthly menu planning. I found an APP called Pepperplate that I have on my iPad. I use this app for my grocery list, to add recipes and for menu planning. I like the app. There are things on there I do not like, however, but overall it works good. You can add items straight to the list, or add a recipe and then add the ingredients (and you can always delete the ingredients you already have on hand). I'm now taking my iPad to the store with me and checking off the items as I go. Nice!

Anyway, back to menu planning. I plan a month out. Right now I am slowly working on December's menu. In October, I printed my menu off. This month I just did it on the app. I wish I could share the menu with Chris so he would not ask me what was for dinner. That would be helpful. Perhaps I will have to print it again next month.

Items on our monthly menu:
1. BBQ Chicken Nuggets
2. Spaghetti night is on Mondays. We have a different type of pasta every Monday.
* Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, chilli pepper flakes with Macaroni Grill bread.
* Bowtie Pasta with Garlic (usually some kind of home made bread or garlic toast).
* Spaghetti with Chris' special tomato sauce (I have no idea what is in it but it is amazing! He uses one big can of crushed tomatoes with garlic and oregano in it, wine and who knows what else). Best with fresh home made white bread.
*Super Lazy Cheesy Pasta

2. Breakfast for Dinner (One of Addison's favorites!), includes anything from bacon and eggs, waffles, pancakes and cereal with fruit (which is all Alivia will eat).
3. Meatless Tacos (we used to have these every Tuesday, but Lettuce does not make it longer than a week. So, we have it during the first week of the month only now). We appreciate Taco Tuesday more now that it is monthly.
4. BLTs minus the tomato. :)
5. Homemade Pizza
6. Shrimp (Grilled, in pasta, anyway it is just yummy).
7. Baked Fried Chicken
8. Beer crockpot chicken
10. Salmon: Addison, Asher and I love salmon. Yummy! But, when we make this, I have to find something else for Chris and Alivia. That is just annoying. 
9. Hamburger on bun (for the kids).
On weekends we keep things more laid back and easy...PBnJ for lunch is common or crackers with cheese and pepperoni (kids favorite). We always have a fruit and veggie with our meals. Fresh towards the beginning of the month moving to frozen towards the end of the month. The frozen veggies from Costco last us 2 months sometimes!

So, easy n quick meals other than the ones listed above (we only do easy!).
1. Grilled cheese
2. Chicken nuggets with baked fries (I have so many recipes for these it is not even funny).
3. Costco pizza...when all else fails...through in a frozen pizza! Seriously...sometimes that is perfect on the nights I work!
4. Trader Joe's Orange Chicken and Rice...a favorite!

And of course, we have pizza every Friday from some place different, three times a month. I try and have them skip the pizza on the one Friday night I work a month. Really, it is not fair that they get to eat pizza while I got out and stay up all night working, eating crackers! :)

Every month, I try new recipes to break things up. Some we like and will use again while others turn into favorites. Chris made home made pretzels on Sunday that were a total hit! They were amazing! They were so good nobody wanted dinner. Huh, pretzels for dinner. Gotta love that! :)

So, what do you make for dinner? Anything you would like to share?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Saving Money on Groceries

Pinterst Test: Also seen on my Pinterest Tested By Krista Blog.

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half: Tips and Tricks

 When I saw this on Pinterst, I was quite intrigued. I am the first to admit that I despise going to the grocery store, I feel like that is all I do, and I hate spending money on cocoa pebbles and $10 worth of apples (and getting only 6!). So, I decided to give some of the suggestions a try in October.

First suggestion: Menu Planning.

Menu making is not a new concept for us. We used to make a monthly menu all the time. Then...I don't know...laziness happened? Menu planning is nice because nobody asks me, "What's for dinner" as they just have to check the menu. Nice. It is also nice in that the kids and the hubs can help determine was we have for meals during the month. 

I checked what we had on hand and what we needed, adding to the running grocery list leading up to my visit to the grocery store. I selected meals from Pinterest that we wanted to try as well as old family favorites. For example, this month we are trying a new homemade bread recipe, pasta recipe, chicken nugget recipe, while keeping with our previous taco night and home made pizza. I even through in a non cooking night (we get take out pizza 3 Fridays a month and that is usually the only time we eat out the entire month. Budget: $30!). Planning for the 31 days in October was a lot. Getting food for a family of 5 for 31 days seemed crazy to me. But, I will get to that. 

Okay, so after making a menu, writing my list (including price matching from other stores to Walmart), coupon clipping, I thought was ready. I really had no idea how to prepare for a month. It was really overwhelming. I knew I would be making a trip in mid month to get milk and some fresh fruit (Bread I get a bread store for $2 total twice a month).

The first month was last month, October. I visited Walmart for my main groceries. I know, nobody likes to shop there. I, as a Walmart Stockholder, am the first to admit that it is not my favorite place to shop for food, either. But, they are so much less expensive than any place else. Additionally, I write down on the top of my list the items I want that are less expensive at other stores, and they will price match! For example, honeycrisp apples were $2.67 a pound at Walmart but were $87 cents a pound at Aldi. Walmart matched Aldi's price. That is a huge savings considering I brought home 15 apples!! Anyway, I also went to Costco (but did not get much in October) and Chris got his shrimp from Bakers...all in one day. It was exhausting. But, when you think about it, I was done for the entire month! I can suffer for a morning into the afternoon if I only have to do it once a month.

By the second week of October, we were out of milk, fruit and really low on cereal. I had no idea how much cereal our family eats in a month. It is crazy! My kids want chocolate mini wheats, chocolate chex and honey nut cheerios for eating before school. Then on weekends, they can have cocoa puffs or cocoa pebbles and Chris has been eating frosted flakes (real healthy I know). Oh, and I eat oatmeal every morning. We spent a huge amount just in the cereal aisle! Anyway, I picked up milk, cereal, grapes and apples totally $44.

By the end of October, the urge to hit the store for something was gone, but so was most of our food. I'm sure we saved money in October only because I was horrible at estimating our needs. I did great with having food for main meals, but I ran out of essentials and breakfast food. We ate more fresh fruit and vegetables at the beginning of the month, moving to our frozen fruits and vegetables towards the end of the month. I found we wasted less food because we ate what we had instead of me running to the store all the time to find THE item each of us wanted. Every time I would run to the store in the past, I would end up spending $50 and at least 45 minutes of my time. 

Now we are on month 2. As I mentioned, we were out of EVERYTHING! I spend $490 between Walmart and Costco on November 1. I was exhausted! We do have a walk in pantry to fill, but we only have a side by side refrigerator/freezer. The freezer is filled to the max. Some of the items (such as shampoo, toilet paper, frozen pizzas, laundry detergent, tooth paste, soap) I do not buy every month. I am still on the learning curve as I do not how much of anything we use in a month. I do stock up when items are on sale, but some things I just can not stock up on.

I am HOPING that I am done for the month. Thanksgiving is still up in the air, but I put that in a different category anyway. $400 is our monthly grocery budget, so I went over by $90 so far in November. So, at this point I can not say I am saving much in the way of money. I am pretty sure, however, I was rarely close to the $400 budget before. I was probably over most months (Since I was putting half of the groceries on a rewards credit card, it was difficult to track the budget. I believe I am going to step away from the credit card just so I can better track my budget. And really, I do not see much in the way of rewards for how much I spend in groceries anyway).

Other places I save money:
* Price matching
* Coupons
* Buy generic wherever possible
* I buy limited amounts of snacks. Snacks like fruit snacks, are never in my house. They do not fill up the kids unless you count their teeth. I do buy triscuits and wheat thins (I'm trying generic this month) for cheese and crackers, I bought gold fish crackers for the kids on sale at Costco which is a rare treat, and Chris asked for Ho Ho's (seriously, he eats like a teenager! :) ). I really had one empty bin this month because one bin is full of the kids' Halloween Candy (so I did not any chocolate treats this month, which is generally a must have).

Results: I would recommend once a month shopping if you have the time in one day to do it. I would shop on a week day without kids if possible. I took Asher with me to Costco. It is just easier to shop alone, and I tend to spend less. It is an adjustment, as I felt like I was worthless not being able (or willing really) to run to the store for every little thing. But, we learn to live on what we have and use it up first. When it is gone, it is gone until next month. That is good and bad. I ran out of oatmeal and had to use the generic up. It was gross, but I choked it down. :)  Next, I will be posting our monthly menu (but we eat weird) to give you an idea what I am up against. I will keep you posted!

The blog this pin came from had other posts that I am looking forward to checking out in my free time. Oh, the life of a stay at home mom, right?! :)
Full pantry...and we still have room!

Monday, November 05, 2012

October in Review!

October was another Crazy Month! We kept busy going to the forest a couple times, the Children's Museum a few times, playing outside, Kayak rides, Hockey game, smores, playdates, seeing Grandpa fly his airplane for the first time!, Halloween parties and Halloween! See...crazy! Chris took only a week trip to Florida this month, which was a nice change. He may change it up in November and go to PA before going back to FL in December. He always keeps up on our toes. I'm enjoying my last year at home with Asher, who keeps me busy. Until next month...Happy Thanksgiving!


It's NOT All About Me

There was this shirt that I saw the other day while shopping that said, "It's all about me!" I wanted to buy it to please the sarcastic side of me.

You see, as a mom and wife, really, it is never ever about me. Ever. Let's go back and see what it was like when it was about me.

First, I purchased all my clothes from high end stores, Harolds, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market (this is high end to me anyway). One work ensemble would cost more than I spend in 2 months on groceries now! Crazy now that I think about it. I carried high end purses (Kate Spade was my favorite), wore MAC make up, wore high end sunglasses, bought whatever I wanted really, had my hair highlighted and cut at a high end salon, traveled to Jamaica, Hawaii, California, etc. I hired an interior designer to help me design our previous home (why not, I stunk at it!). We saved nearly half of our income before kids, too. Chris and I did whatever we wanted. We were alone, in love and happy. But, I worked hard making a 6 figure income and did not have kids. Chris did got whatever he wanted to (motorcycle that I bought him for his 30th birthday, Audi TT, got his pilot's license, etc). I mean really, we did not need half of the stuff we had. It was, back then, about us. That is what "It's all about me" looked like...and really, it was about Chris and I.

Then we had kids and I changed...HUGE! MAC make up was exchanged for whatever was on sale at Target, I started to cut and highlight my hair once a year, purses were purchased rarely and from Target, Sunglasses were $10, I clipped coupons and price matched, and I almost completely stopped buying clothes so I could save very penny I made that did not go to daycare so I could quit my job. Chris turned in his sweet ride for a family friendly Toyota Camry (which we bought new with cash!). It was no longer about ME or Chris and I together...it was about US, our family.

I quit my job. Me was then gone. It was now all about US. It has been about us every since. That is my job as a wife and mother, I believe.

Chris and I rarely buy each other anything. We bought each other iPads for Christmas last year which was the first big thing we had really gotten for ourselves in a long time. We have free cell phones that are not even close to being smart (they are the top rated phone for tweens, though), clothes are from Kohls, Old Navy or Gap (although I have been splurging on Athleta recently and have been known to get clothe at Von Maur on sale), and entertainment is a play date with someone I like, too. We do not find this to be a sacrifice as it is what is best for our kids. We will hopefully have many years together where we can do more things with just the 2 of us. The kids will only like hanging out with us a few more years. We have to appreciate the time we have with them while they are young, as it goes by SO STINKING FAST! For now, we are happy watching a movie at home with microwave popcorn after the kids go to bed for date nights. I actually LOVE doing this! See...I'm a changed woman.

Our decisions are always made in the best interest of the kids and our family. If someone or something (like many extra curricular events at night, too many play dates, etc) comes between our family with their unkind actions or words or time wasted, we avoid them. Period. The family unit and it staying intact is too important to me to jeopardize for things or to make other people happy. Again, it is about US, not about ME. But, if it were just about me, I'm thinking my decision would be similar. Before kids, I would not have cared as much about some things that I care about now, as my kids are effected by others' actions now, too, not just me. My kids do not have any cousins or at least any relationship with any cousins. Some would say that is my fault, but I, of course, disagree. But, I am okay with that. We have friends come to birthdays and to play with the kids instead to make up for the loss of extended family. We are surrounding ourselves with positive energy, people who want to be around us and vice versa. Life is too short and our time with our kids being young is too precious to waste.

Next year things will probably change some as I plan on returning to work on some level. With that said, we have learned a lot having me at home. Some things we will never go back to. When I return to work, the number one goal will be to pay off our home, save for college funds and retirement.

No matter where life takes us, however, it will always be about us.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Nice or Creepy

Asher and I had a birthday present to buy today, so we ran to Target after taking the girls to school. On our way out the door, we ran into my friend, Bonnie. As we were chatting, an older gentleman (maybe in his 80's?) approached us telling us that the entry was no place to chat. He was kidding around, the store was pretty quiet, and nobody was around. Anyway, the man disappeared from our point of view and we continued to chat. Then he approached us again, telling me that it was nice to see a slender figure in Nebraska because everyone seems to be obese (or fat I believe he said). I responded with, "We are all working on it, right?"

Bonnie and I exchanged weird looks as the man approached the entry doors. He turned around and said, "Now you can tell everyone that you talked to a dirty old man today."

Seriously, I needed to go. So, we closed our conversation as the man realized that you can only go in the entry doors at Target (unlike Walmart where everyone goes in and out of the wrong doors all the time). So, he was walking along side of me and Asher as we left the store.

He then starts chatting it up with me about his dog in the car, and he waits for me as I help Asher zip up his coat, honestly stalling so the man would just go. Really, the man was nice enough, seemed like a clean man, but he was honestly creeping me out. He then suggested I walk with him to his car to see the dog.

Really, was he kidding me?! Where the hell is the hidden camera?

Low and behold, his black Lexus sedan was parked next to us with a beautiful sheltie dog inside. The man lets the dog out on her leash and shows Asher and I some of the dogs tricks. Beautiful, well trained dog, I have to say. As the man is talking with me, I notice his wife's (I assume)wedding band on a chain around his neck.

In this day and age, we all are so cautious to the point of being scared. Really, I could have knocked this guy out with my right hook no problem if I had to. But that is horrible that I have gotten to be afraid of what was probably a lonely, elderly man who just wanted to talk to someone. I was kind throughout (although I was quite hesitant and perhaps obviously so). In the end, I would have the man over for dinner. I mean he was a very nice man.

How awful is it that the scary, dirty old men come first in my mind versus that a man can just be nice and a maybe a little too honest?

Happy Birthday Cookie Monster!

Today is Cookie Monster's 43rd birthday! Who knew, right?! So Asher and his friend Cameron went to Doodle Cakes to celebrate the big birthday.

The party started at 10:30. Each kiddo got some markers and started to decorate their very own baker's hat. The boys had fun writing their names on their hats and coloring on balloons. Next, we heard the door open and there was COOKIE MONSTER! The kids hugged Cookie Monster and sang Happy Birthday. Next, it was time to decorate the cookie. How fun! Blue fur frosting, marshmallow eyes, frosting dots in the eyes, black frosting mouth and crumbled cookies coming out of his mouth. YUMMY!! The boys did a wonderful job decorating their very own cookie.

Once they finished, their cookie was placed in a box and tied close with a big blue balloon. Very cute.

What a fun idea. Best $5 I have spent today. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

3rd Grade Music Program

Tonight was the Alivia's 3rd Grade Music program. The timing was rough, following Halloween and all, but it all worked out. I know I am more tired than the kids!

Their program featured songs of the USA. It was wonderfully done. It is amazing to see how grown up Alivia is getting. She has surprised us from being so shy to being a little bit more outgoing. She sang the songs and did the actions great! She has many friends, but it is the boys that are friends that are difficult to adjust to. (Gees! Addison is worse! She already names boys that "love" her. Come on! In first grade? I was 25 and married before I had a boy say I love you! :) ).  It was a great program, and our kids will continue to amaze and surprise us for years to come.

Halloween 2012

This Halloween Alivia was a pink batgirl, Addison was the black batgirl and Asher was a storm trooper (his batman costume just did not work...boo). After a day full of fun at school, the kids were completely excited to exit the house at 6pm to get started on trick or treating. We were about 15 minutes sooner than the neighbors, but it turned out to be great timing (and we needed the time!).

The kids ran to our first neighbors, who had a blow up haunted house in their driveway! What a way to begin!! Then we went to the neighbors down Crawford, turning the corner going down Overview and the circle, before hitting up South Shore and Shadow Lake drive (where Chris' parents live). So far, the kids had seen many neighbors leaving candy out in a bowl (like we have to do), many houses looking quite festive with some adults dressing up at the door, big candy bars, a $1 bill at one house (where all the neighborhood kids yelled, "You get a $1 at this house!!!"), and Chris and I BOTH got a Bud Light at one house on Shadow Lake Drive (Called Daddy Juice...but this Mommy took some this year! My first beer in probably 10 years! I needed it!). We worked our way towards Chris' parents house, the long way, stopping there for a bit, before hitting one more street with more smoke, bloody food prints leading to the door and more. Our neighbors really go all out...and it is so much fun! The kids trick or treated for 2 hours. I mean really, they only do it once a year, right?!

Addison tuckered out early, right before reaching Chris' parents (so maybe 7:15). Asher made it to Chris' parents before tiring, but he really got back into it towards the end. Asher would run out from the houses with candy. At first, however, Asher would go to the homes where they had to pick (with the bowl being left out) and come back to Chris and I at the wagon with nothing because, "They don't have anything I like!" I guess that is better than them running out with snickers yelling, "Daddy, we got a snickers for you!!" They did that, too, though. :) Alivia had the most fun, pushing us to go longer. We trick or treated until she said she wanted to go home. Next year I think she should have a friend come along with her. She was all by herself in the end with Asher trailing behind and Addison chilling out in the wagon. I'm not sure Alivia minded, though, as she seemed to have so much fun.

Back at our house, we had maybe 8 pieces of candy left to pass out. We emptied the bowl and turned off the light right after 8. Okay, it was early. But, I had bought 20 BIG candy bars and 4 bags of small with 21 in each bag. We gave out probably 120 pieces of candy. Perhaps next year I need to get more. Crazy! Our first year here we did not get any trick or treaters!! Now we are over 120 (if we assume on the honor system each kiddo took one piece of candy...so who knows really). Anyway, I need to up my game next year. Grandma Bet and Grandpa Bill said they would help us out next year maybe, too. I think I convinced Grandpa Bill with the beer being handed out! :)

What a fun night! The kids ate a few pieces of candy before shower time, brushing their teeth (twice!), and getting tucked into bed around 8:45. I'm sure they were all exhausted, but Addison expressed it the loudest. Chris and I did our annual tradition of taking down all the Halloween decor, too. As we went to bed, Chris asked, joking, "Should I put up the Christmas lights tomorrow?"

Happy Halloween!! Now...off to eating some candy for breakfast!! 

Blow up at the neighbors

Clown Grandma Kathy

Tuckered out

All 3! in the wagon!