Friday, May 30, 2008

I heard a little voice calling

After I left CVS high on the thrill of my diaper deal, I realized I had about 15 minutes extra to kill before a doctor's appointment. A little voice in my head whispered to me to check out the CVS a few blocks away; I figured I could get some of the remaining Free After ECB deals for May.

When I walked in I saw a bunch of bins labeled 75% off - clearance. Usually these bins are crap, but I decided to give it a cursory look.


Round 1:

Braun ThermosScan Plus ear thermometer - $8 (retail: $44.90)
Psoriasis lotion - $2
Pens - $.50
Glue - $.50
Dry erase markers - $1.25
Four packages of Dimetapp for kids - $2
Subtotal cost: $14.25

Used $5 / CVS 15 coupon (not sure why this worked, but it did)
Used $5 random coupons peeled off of the Psoriasis lotion and the Dimetapp
Net cost: $4.78 with tax

Round 2:

Vicks ear thermometer - $10 (retail: $40 - $50)
Four packages of Sharpies - $5
Dry erase markers - $1
Subtotal cost: $16

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Net cost: $11

I had wanted an ear thermometer but never could justify the cost. Now I have one to use and one to sell on eBay! Both rang up far under 75% off. Too bad there weren't more!

Does anyone have a recommendation on which thermometer I should keep?

A great site

Grocery Guide

You tell them your local store and it lists every item on sale there right now. The good part: when you click on each item you like, it will tell you where you can find a matching coupon!

Since I don't go through the coupon inserts unless I know what I'm looking for, this could be really helpful to add extra savings on top of the sale prices at the grocery store.

FINALLY kicked this diaper deal's butt

It finally occurred to me that I hadn't yet gotten the Free After ECB items on Stewart's account this month. Thusly, I headed off to one of the four local CVS stores that I frequent.

Round 1:

Package of diapers - $10.99
Freestyle Meter - $10
Subtotal cost: $20.99

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 diaper coupon
ECBs generated: $10 on meter
ECBs generated: $2.50 on diapers
Net cost: EARNED $1.51

Round 2:

Package of diapers - $10.99
Freestyle Meter - $10
Subtotal cost: $20.99

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 diaper coupon
ECBs generated: $10 on meter
ECBs generated: $2.50 on diapers
Net cost: EARNED $1.51

Therefore, I got this:

and CVS paid me $3.02 to walk out the door. Happy day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lessons learned, diapers earned

So the Great Diaper Experiment at CVS was a success, despite several mistakes on my part and a few lessons learned. I didn't get them nearly as cheaply as I'd hoped, but they were still a very good deal.

Scenario 1 (two transactions, designed to maximize the $5 / $15 and the Excedrin) went mostly as planned:

Round one:

Excedrin 24 count - $1.99
1 package of diapers - $10.99
1 roll of Bounty (filler) - $2.49
Subtotal cost: $15.47

Used $2 / Excedrin coupon
Used $2 / diapers coupon
Used $5 / $15 coupon
They wouldn't take my $3 / 10 coupon.
ECBs earned: $2.50 (will print out with next transaction)

Net Cost: $3.97

Round 2:

Excedrin 24 count - $1.99
1 package of diapers - $10.99
1 People magazine (filler) - $3.99
Subtotal cost: $16.97

Used $2 / Excedrin coupon
Used $2 / diapers coupon
Used $5 / $15 coupon
They DID take my $3 / 10 coupon.
ECBs earned: $2.50

Net cost: $2.47

Scenario 2 (Designed to maximize the $4 / 20 AND the $5 / 15)

Here's where this one went wrong: The $4 / 20 was expired, and I totally didn't notice. When he pointed it out, I went to the machine and got lucky when a $3 / 10 printed out. Also, since I was buying 2 packages of diapers I figured I could use 2 coupons - nope. They specifically said one per customer. But the deal still worked out to some cheap diapers, so I went ahead with it:

Two packages of diapers - $21.98

Used $5 / 15 CVS coupon
Used $3 / 10 CVS coupon
Used $2 / diaper coupon
ECBs earned: $5

Net cost: $6.98 for two packages of diapers. Still an incredibly good deal. I'll probably try to hit this one at least once more before the week is out!

Garden progress

It is such a joy to go outside to check on the garden; it truly grows noticeably every day.

I am particularly proud of the cucumbers; they're the first vegetable I've ever grown from seed. They're doing great.





Bell peppers:

Everything is blooming and thriving. Everything except for the rosemary. Not a single seed has grown. Odd.

Big guy

Today I moved Jack to his big-boy carseat and he seemed to like it just fine. He fell asleep on the way home from Clemyjontri Playground but actually transferred very easily to the crib and fell right back to sleep.

Proud Mama here.

Jack Stats

Jack had his six-month appointment yesterday, and it looks like one of my kids might resemble their Daddy in some way:

Height: 29 1/4 inches (97th percentile (again!))
Weight: 17 pounds, 2 ounces (25 - 50th percentile)
Head circumfrence: 45.5 inches (90th percentile)

To me this reads: tall, thin, smart.

Just like Daddy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The joys of city living

There is no doubt that city living brings it's share of problems, and I've been it's worst critic at times.

I hate that my boys don't have a big plush green yard to run into whenever they want. I'd kill for a garage, and lots of closets and storage. My car gets broken into if I leave anything visible, and sometimes even if I don't. My neighbors drop trash on the street, on the sidewalk, in our yard; there is drinking and cursing and crappy behavior all around us. Sometimes truly reprehensible behavior - shootings and beatings and drugs.

The other side of the coin is lovely, though, and bears note.

Last night we were bbq'ing some burgers and called our neighbors to see if they wanted in. They picked up some extra food and came over; we all hung out in the backyard until 10, Nate running around and enjoying the company. Our other neighbors (David & David) often drop by with a treat they baked, and always have us over for Easter and other fabulous dinner parties.

Today I put Jack in the stroller and walked Nate 3 blocks to the coop preschool he goes to on Tuesdays and that he'll go to full-time starting in September. Then I walked Jack six blocks to the post office and mailed some eBay international packages. Then 4 blocks to CVS where I semi-rocked a diaper deal (more on that in a few days). Loaded everything into the stroller and walked 5 blocks home. Dropped everything off, walked 4 blocks to the grocery store, and got some great deals on our favorite soup. Lastly, walked the 2 blocks back to the preschool, picked up Nate, and we strolled home.

After lunch we hung out in our teeny backyard and had fun. Sometimes we walk the two blocks to the playground or get together with our friends Carol (the Mom) and Sophia (the daughter, and the love of Nate's life).

We really are so lucky.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cheap cereal!

Two days before the coupons expired, I was finally in a Giant that carried the LiveActive cereal. Cost: $3.69 / box. Coupon: $3 / off per box. Net cost of each box: $.69 (81% off).

Yay for cheap cereal!

Drat, and an intriguing deal for this week

CVS only had two 2-liters of Sierra Mist left, so I didn't get to get all 8 like I'd planned. Still, free soda is free soda.

This week looks interesting. I'm planning to try:

Playskool Diapers (never tried 'em, worth a shot), spend $20, get $5 ECBs

Two transactions (to maximize coupon usage), each one should be:

$10.99 / pack of diapers
$1.99 / Excedrin Migraine
$2.10 filler (probably the $1 Pepsi 2-liters)
Cost: $15

* $5 off $15 coupon (see earlier CVS posts for directions)
* $3 off $10 CVS Brand Purchase (get it from the scanner on each visit; I've been told this can still be combined with the $5 / $15)
* $2 off diapers here
* $2 off Excedrin here
* I'll get $5 ECBs when I've done this transaction twice, so I count $2.50 in ECBs for this transaction.

Net cost for diapers, Excedrin, and two 2-liters: $.50

We'll see if it works!

Coming along

The sleep-training is coming along. I haven't been perfect; sometimes he goes down with the paci, and sometimes he gets nursed if he's too upset. But it seem to be helping: two nights ago he didn't wake up until 2 am, and last night he didn't wake up until 4 am.

It's weird when you're inside a situation that feels so confusing and tangled, and you just know from the outside it's a minor "whatever" and seems really clear. And yet you still can't figure out the clear path!

Hopefully my path, as twisty and circular as it is, is still heading towards clarity (and a good night's sleep for both of us).

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I've been sleep training Jack for a few days now, and though I'm not being perfect (aka: tough enough), we're both definitely making progress.

I've forced him to cry to sleep for his naps for three days now, and today he barely peeped (and he slept almost 2 hours at each nap). I found if I put him down on his side, instead of his tummy, he's a lot happier. I've forced him to do it without the pacifier, since I want him to sleep independently of any intervention on my part, and he's adjusting very well.

He's not liking the idea of skipping the midnight feed, no siree. Two nights ago he cried for over half an hour before I caved, and last night I didn't even make it to 20 minutes. We're closing in on midnight right now, and though he cried for a few seconds a few minutes ago, things are looking pretty good. I'm scared to go brush my teeth (the bathroom shares a wall with his room) for fear of getting too cocky.

But things are starting to feel much less crazy around here. I put him down, I expect him to stay down, and he's doing a damn good job of coming through for me. Thanks, buddy.

Meal plan

This week's meal plan is intended to use up leftovers that are edging towards their death in the fridge.

English muffin pizzas - I've got open tomato sauce, open mozzarella, and english muffins that my dear husband wanted me to buy and has never glanced at since.
Spinach calzones - Wednesday if the spinach will last that long!
Tofu parmigiana - didn't get to try it last week - probably Friday

I'll play the rest by ear.

Free gift card at CVS - move quick!

Move quickly and print out this add:

Free $25 gift card on new or transferred prescriptions

I'll be doing this tomorrow. Can't see the downside. I'll use that gift card to start a new "account" buying items on Stewart's Extra Care Card. I don't think it would be ethical to get 4 or 5 accounts and get the freebies on each account, but I think it's reasonable for each adult in the home to get to take advantage of the deals. And with the gift card, there'll be no "start-up" costs, which makes me happy.


CVS weekly deals - week of May 25th

Here are the deals I'll be working this week:

Free Sierra Mist, Sunday and Monday only:
* BOGO CVS offer (limit 10).
* BOGO online coupon here
* Another BOGO online coupon here (helpful since most places will only let you print 2 coupons - now you can get 4!)

I'll update more as I work them out!

Milestone Moment!

Nate's been sleeping in his bed about 80% of the time, so I decided it was time to say "bye bye" to the crib. I pulled a page from Supernanny and told Nate about the babies who need to use the crib (and the Mommies and Daddies who need the money), and today the new owners came to pick it up.

I had Nate "help" break the crib down and carry it out to their van with them. He didn't seem too fazed by it, though he's asked where it is several times today and again tonight.

My big guy.

CVS weekly deals - May 18 - 24th

Sorry I didn't post this ahead of time; it took me a while to get my act together this week.

I think I finally figured out why people are adding in "filler" and random items - if you can get your total up to $15 or $20, there's often a $4 off $20 or a $3 off $15 that CVS has e-mailed you or that you've picked up online. This week, and next, there is a $5 off of $15 floating around on the internet - get it here. (If that link doesn't work for you, go here for instructions. It takes about 4 minutes and you can print as many copies of the coupon as you want. Easy peasy.)

So if you have a $5 off of $15, and you have $14 in "freebie" items, just add in a $1 item to save $5!

Here are the three scenarios I used today. The first two were items I knew wouldn't be free, but I needed sunscreen for the kids and I knew I could get them at a steep discount. The third was my fun one.

Scenario 1:

Two Banana Boat Kids spray sunscreens @ $9.99 each
Subtotal cost = $19.98

Used $5 off of $15 coupon
New subtotal cost = $14.98

ECBs generated: $7

Net cost for both sunscreens = $7.98 ($3.99 each)


Scenario 2:

One Banana Boat Kids and one Banana Boat Adults (to get total over $20)
Subtotal cost = $20.48

Used $4 / $20
New subtotal cost = $16.48

Used $5 / $15
New subtotal cost = $11.48

ECBs generated: $7

Net cost for both sunscreens = $4.48 ($2.24 each)


Scenario 3:

Four Sobe Life Waters
* On sale for $1 each
* Used 2 online coupon for Buy One Get One Free
* Sobe subtotal cost: $2, ECBs generated: $2 - SUBTOTAL COST: 0

Garnier Nutrisse Conditioner
* On sale for $2.99
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off
* Garnier subtotal cost: $1.99, ECBs generated: $1 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.99

Two Oral-B Indicator Toothbrushes
* On sale for $1.99 each
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off 2
* Oral-B subtotal cost: $2.98, ECBs generated: $2 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.98

Almay Intense i-color
* On sale for $6.99
* Used coupon from Sunday paper for $1 off
* Almay subtotal cost: $5.99, ECBs generated: $5 - SUBTOTAL COST: $.99

Used a $5 / $15. Net cost for whole Scenario: earned about $1.50!!

Love getting paid to take stuff out of the store.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More sleep blather

My Mom helped me figure out why sleep-training Jack is so much harder for me than training Nate was. When baby Nate cried he was mad. When Jack cries he's sad. Boy is there a difference in those two little words.

Nate just wanted a boob in his mouth; anything else made him furious. Jack wants a boob, too, but he wants me there. And I do love it, even as much as I want him to sleep, even as much as I want my boys to be independent. Jack's arms around my neck is better than almost anything.

But it's time to be tough, and I'm doing my best. Right now I'm focusing on letting him sleep unswaddled on his belly and cry to sleep when I can bear it. It's the best I can do right now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jack's Monthly Newsletter, Month Six

Dear Jack,

You are six months old today. Do you know what that means? It means I haven't slept through the night in six months. That's half of a year. Half of an entire year. Can you understand that? I can't.

But about you: you are fabulous. Super-fabulous. I brought you to Grandpa's office, and I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that 8 adults were crowded into one small office, everyone cooing over you. You were you regular happy, grinning, flirty self and you charmed everyone. I am always bursting with pride because wherever we go people cannot get over what a happy, happy baby you are. My Nanny would have called you "delicious." You are.

You started sitting up in the last few days, and today you even managed to right yourself when you started to fall over. I cheer and clap and squeal when you sit up, and you give me one of your squinty-eyed nose-crinkling smiles. I love that smile.

Your need to roll over at every opportunity continues, as does your hatred of being on your tummy. It's perplexing. Also perplexing is your distinct love of sucking, your desire to suck on anything around including my thumbs, your toys, and your toes; everything except the thumbs and fingers that are so readily available to you.

Why do I care what you suck on? Selfish motivation, I admit. As soon as I know you can comfort yourself by sucking on your thumb or fingers, I'm cutting off the night feedings. I can't bear to do it thinking of you crying alone in the dark; at least if you can suck your thumb I know you can help get yourself back to sleep. It's no more complicated than that.

You are the sweetest thing, Jack. When you wake up from your naps and I lift you out of your crib, you put both arms around my neck, grab hold of my hair or my shirt, and pull your face into my neck. Sometimes when you see me you do a little gasp of joy and then grin and grin, and it fills my heart. I give you at least 100 kisses a day, and you smile at each one. I absolutely can't get over you.

As much as I love you, you love your brother. He is your favorite person on earth. You can't do anything but grin at him when you see him, and you could watch him run around all day. He can make you laugh more than anyone else can; your favorite comedic routine is when he slaps his own head and yells "bonk!" You can't get enough.

Last night Daddy, Nate and I went out to dinner to celebrate Aunt Deborah's birthday, and we left you at home with a babysitter. In general, I'm thrilled to leave my kids at night and get away. It certainly made the whole evening easier that you weren't there. But I shocked myself by missing you the whole time. It felt like someone was missing.

You might find out one day that I had hoped to have a little girl, and was disappointed to find out that you were, in fact, another little boy. I admit that that's true. But Jack, I swear this to you: I don't wish you were anybody else than who you are. I can't imagine life without you.

I love you,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meal plan

The meal plan for this week is going to be very sparse; it's a very social week for us.

Sunday - leftover crockpot lasagna. Very bland, but serviceable enough.
Monday - We're out to dinner with family (my baby sister is turning 30!)
Tuesday - I'm out to dinner with a friend. I'll let Stewart reheat something frozen or have a Trader Joe's Indian meal.
Wednesday - Dave over for dinner. I plan to re-make the Spinach Calzones since they were such a hit with Stewart.
Thursday - We're out to dinner with neighbors.
Friday - I'll probably try this recipe for Tofu Parmigiana for the first time.
Saturday - Dinner at a neighbor's house

Not too inspiring, huh?

Out of the mouths...

I'm alone with the boys today while Stewart photographs a wedding. After Nate woke up from his nap and got oriented, I decided we should go for a neighborhood wander. Got Jack and Nate both changed into clothes more suitable for outside, and threw on a white skirt and t-shirt.

I was carrying Jack downstairs with Nate coming behind when he suddenly says "You look so CUTE Mama!" I stopped where I was a turned around to make sure I'd heard him right. He said it again "You look so CUTE!" I laughed out loud and thanked him, and he finalized the deal with "So pretty Mama! So pretty!" My mind is still reeling.

A few hours later we were lying side-by-side in the living room listening to music and he turned sideways and put his feet up on my belly. He giggled a bit and moved around and said "Your tummy is so fluffy Mama!"

My honest boy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CVS weekly deals - May 11-17th

I'm only going to focus on the truly FREE CVS weekly deals, so the weekly lists will be pretty short. There are plenty of not-free really great deals you can find and work, especially when you actually need the item you're buying. Check out Money Saving Mom (in my blog list) for the best deals and links to tons of other sites that specialize in that.

I can only find two FREE deals this week, but they're both great.

* There's a Hawaiian Tropic deal in this week's ad (page 15) generating $10 ECBs when you buy any 2 products (Limit 1). Many CVS stores have a Hawaiian Tropics lip balm priced at $1.99 - buy two for $3.98, and get $10 in ECBs! I could not find the lip balm here in Washington, DC but there are reports of them in abundance elsewhere.

* Buy 1 Colgate MaxFresh burst, Total Advanced clean, Whitening fresh toothpaste (4 oz.), Wave or Sponge Bob toothbrush at $2.99, Get $2 ECBs (Limit 5). Go here and print out the coupon on the left for $1 off a toothbrush, and the coupon on the right for $1.50 off the toothpaste. You're allowed to print each coupon twice. Go to the store and buy two toothbrushes and two toothpastes - the sale price for all four should be $11.96. After the four coupons your cost should be $6.96, and you'll receive $8 in ECBs! (Note: instead of receiving $8 ECBs, my receipt only printed out $4. I took the receipt and my items to a manager who opened up a cash register and gave me $4. I'm confident that these items matched the offer, so you should be okay.)

Here's my freebie photo for the week!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dinner recap

Tonight I made these Spinach Calzones With Blue Cheese - a recipe I found on the Cooking Light recipe pages. It was very easy to make with minimal prep work, and was a huge hit. Stewart said he'd be happy to have it for dinner every single night.

Here's a bad photo of how one turned out:

I'd estimate the cost for all four calzones to be around $12.00, so that's a relatively inexpensive dinner item. This recipe is definitely going into the rotation.

Neighborhood note: just as I was putting the calzone onto a plate for Stewart, my front door opened and my neighbor David just walked in with a homemade french baguette for us. I love this neighborhood.

Selling Out

Did you notice that I've enabled Google AdSense on this blog? Yep, I'm selling out. I am very pro-selling-out in theory, and I've decided to put it into practice.

I have two sons. Two sons who have the potential to be fairly athletic. Nate already is. Being frank, the odds are against either of my Jewish sons being professional athletes is inordinately small. That said? If either of them turn out to fabulous at some sport, and some professional league comes calling and wants to pay them millions of dollars to kick or throw or catch a ball, they're SIGNING. If they have to leave college early? They're signing. If they have to skip college altogether? They're signing. Hell, if they want to recruit my kids out of junior high, bring it on.

They can always go back to college, or high school, or grade school, or whatever. They can't always get a chance to earn millions of dollars doing something inane like jumping really high or wrestling someone else to the ground.

I'm just saying.

Milestone Moment!

Sitting on the potty last night, I did a bit of reading about potty training this older boy of mine. I read the list of "signs your child might be ready to potty train" and Nate fulfilled, um, ALL OF THEM. All except for the one little minor petty one that read "Interested in using the bathroom." Whatever. It's time.

He's been taking his diaper off all over the place. The last two times I picked him up from his little local co-op playschool he's been wearing no diaper at all (interesting point? Neither the teacher nor any of the parents "working" that day saw him ditch it.) He wants to see his poop whenever I change a poopy diaper and he follows me into the bathroom at every opportunity to watch me use it. He's ready. Even if he doesn't want to be.

So today I started a "pants off" policy when we're hanging around the house. And I bought jelly beans. About 20 minutes after the diaper came off, he started pooping in the kitchen. I whisked him off to the potty (just feet away) and he finished up there - it seems like successfully using the potty was a great motivator for him. He went on to pee in the potty three times today! Lots of jelly beans were eaten, lots of enthusiastic songs were sung, and I'm seriously proud of him.

It's about freaking time.

CVS May deals

Each month, CVS has a bunch of "free" deals. They also offer weekly deals, and I'll try to find all of the truly free ones I can find each week and post them up.

In the meantime, here are May's great monthly deals. Don't forget that if you do have coupons for any of these items, you can use them and make a PROFIT instead of just getting the items for free!

Freestyle Lite or Freedom Lite Blood Glucose Monitor (Limit 2)
You Pay $10.00
Earn $10.00 In Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks Back

CVS Allergy Relief 5 ct (Limit 3)
You Pay $3.79
Earn $3.79 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks

Aquafresh Toothpaste Including Advanced Whitening 6 oz or Extreme Clean 5.6 oz (Limit 3)
You pay $2.99
Earn $2.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Use $1.00 off coupons here
Make $1.50 profit in Extra Care Bucks back! Without coupons, they're just free!

Adidas Action 3 Antiperspirant 2.8 oz $4.99 (Limit 3)
You pay $4.99
Earn $4.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks back

Orapik Traveler Twin Pack (Limit 3)
You Pay $2.79
Earn $2.79 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks back

Tums Quik Pak 24 ct (Limit 2)
You pay $4.69
Earn $4.69 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Use $2.25 cent off coupon here
You Pay 2.44 cents
Make $2.25 profit in Extra Care Bucks

Colgate 360 Clean or Deep Clean Tooth Brush (Limit 5)
You pay $3.99
Earn $3.99 in Extra Care Bucks Back
Free after Extra Care Bucks Back

CVS pointers

As I said before, there's no sense in my replicating the good detail work that others have done talking about getting freebies from CVS.

Here are the top pointers I've got, based on what I've experienced so far:

1) I like to have lots of small ECBs, between $2 and $6, instead of one big one for $20. To do this I do several small check-outs each time. Let's say I'm "buying" three deodorants, three toothbrushes, and three aspirins and they're all going to generate $5 each in ECBs. If I buy all three aspirins together then I'll end up with one ECB worth $15. If I buy all three aspirins and all three deodorants together, I'll end up with two ECBs worth $15 each.

BUT - if I buy one deodorant, one toothbrush, and one aspirin in my first transaction, I'll end up with three ECB coupons each worth $5. See?

2) Relevant to point one - I like to go to the CVS stores that have self-checkout. It's a lot less stressful and embarrassing to do several small check-outs and I can take my time.

3) Relevant to point two - I like to go in the evening when it's a lot less crowded and I don't have to rush around or feel like I'm holding people up.

4) I don't go to the store without a list. It's really easy to get confused without one.

5) They don't often put out the yellow sale tags on the items that are discounted, so it's helpful to pick up the monthly deal brochure (usually up front with the weekly add) and carry it around with you so you can make sure you're buying the exact right thing. The brochure has photos of each item in it.

6) I keep an envelope with my coupons, my Extra Care card, my ECBs from previous transactions, and my shopping list. Simple and easy to keep in my diaper bag in case I walk by a CVS and stop in.

7) Brandy asked about giving out my information online to get coupons. Almost every registration page will ask you to fill in your information, but there's no reason you have to tell them the truth. Usually you just have to fill in SOMETHING and then it lets you through to the page with the coupons.

8) To clarify the "free" point - you WILL have to spend out of pocket the first time you start doing this. But once you've "invested" that money, you'll be able to use the ECBs that you earn on one trip to purchase the items on your next trip, which will generate more ECBs that you'll use to purchase the items on your next trip, and so on.

9) This is NOT a CVS pointer, just a general money-saving thing I do: if there are grocery items that you buy over and over, don't forget to buy coupons on eBay or an online coupon store like The Coupon Clippers. I eat a lot of Campbell's Select Soups, so I make sure to buy a bunch of coupons every month and I usually save at least $.50/can. That absolutely adds up. I do not generally clip coupons from my Sunday paper - I don't think the time I expend is worth it. Buy buying 20 coupons for shelf-stable items that I can stock up on is definitely worth it to me.

Please let me know if you have any other questions, general or specific to the week!


No, not thank kind, thank goodness. "Contraction" as the opposite of "expansion."

I posted recently that I'd be adding to the baby talk with talk of the outside world, but I've decided that content would be better off on it's own site.

I put a link to my Little Life Blog in the links section of this blog, and vice versa. Come see me over there!

Free stuff!

In April, I got these monthly deal items from CVS. The merchandise is worth $114.27 and my net cost was $2.38.

In May, I got these monthly deal items from CVS. The merchandise is worth $97.12 and my net cost was $.13. There are additional weekly deals that I got; I'll post those separately.

There are about a million blogs about how to get free, and almost free, stuff from CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. I'm not going to replicate the great posts and the work they've already done, so if you're interested in learning "the systems", check out these sites:

* Money Saving Mom (check the Beginner's links on the right)
* Be Thrifty Like Us
* Centsible Savings
* A great CVS starter guide - step-by-step instructions for May's deals

A lot of these "frugal bloggers" will do scenarios that depend on searching through old coupons from the paper, which I've decided isn't worth my time.

I will try to post the best CVS monthly and weekly deals, only items you can get for FREE, and only ones that depend on coupons you can quickly print online. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

Our garden, phase 2

Alrighty, everything is planted and fertilized and hopefully on the verge of springing to life all over. When I was planning my garden over the past few years, I found very sporadic information on doing vegetables in a container garden; mostly articles focused on potted plants and other wussie flower arrangements.

Here's how it all took shape this year:

I usually order seedlings from Burpee, but there was a problem with the order this year so I was forced to buy the standards that my local nursery had available. Next year there'll be much more interesting tomatoes to report on, I promise.

I punched holes in the bottom of each trash can and used a few inches of pebbles at the bottom to help with drainage. For soil I used an equal mix of Gardener's Gold Potting Soil and Bumper Crop Soil Amendment. It cost a bloody fortune to get all of the cans filled but I don't expect to have to replace the soil again; in future years we'll just fortify the soil with compost (hopefully homemade at some point) and the expense will be minimal.

I mixed Osmocote into the first few inches of soil in the correct proportions for the type of vegetable or herb, and used Bone Meal to keep the blossom end rot away this year.

I've crossed all the "t"s and dotted all the "i"s that I can think of, and if this garden doesn't start producing, and quickly, then you can probably find me out back stomping my feet like a little kid. If it does start producing? Come get some tomatoes. I've got a feeling we're going to be overrun.

Notes from the Sleepland Part 2

After two disastrous attempts to have Jack nap on his belly yesterday, I didn't hold out much hope for last night's tummy-fest. But my boy came through for me - down at 7:30, up for a feed at 11:30, up for a feed at 4 and awake for the day at almost 8. It's the same routine he was on fully swaddled, the one I said I could live with for quite some time. Phew.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Notes from the sleepland

Jack has officially outgorown the Miracle Blanket; he can bust out very quickly and ends up with it wrapped around his neck. Not good. I spent two hours yesterday morning walking to stores that said they carried an extra-large swaddle blanket only to find out that nobody carries this blanket anymore.

He's also seemingly compelled to turn onto his tummy at all costs, which is odd since he seems to despise being on his belly.

Therefore it was decided by the committee (me) that Sleep Training 101 would start last night. This meant that Jack would sleep on his belly, unswaddled, and that I would only nurse him at the standard midnight and 4 am. My intention was to let him Cry It Out the rest of the times he woke up.

Here's how it actually went:

7:30 - down for the night with paci in mouth. It worked.
10:45 - up crying. Let him cry 5 minutes, patted him on the back for 1, let him cry for 5 minutes, patted him on the back for 1 and then gave him the paci (didn't work), let him cry for 5 minutes, then gave him the paci again (worked). It's just so hard to see him miserable and confused!
12:50 - up crying. Nursed him, paci. Worked.
2:50 - up crying. Gave him the paci. Worked.
4:30 - up crying. Nursed him, paci. Worked.
7:30 - up babbling.

Not as good as I'd hoped for but not as bad as I'd expected. I have no idea if giving him the paci instead of the boob will help teach him not to wake up. I'm going to give this a few days and see how things develop. If he just keeps waking up all the time demanding the paci instead of the boob, I'll re-evalutate.

Sleep on!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meal plan

Truthfully, I don't do a ton of "housewife" duties. We have a cleaning crew that comes in every other week, so you will never find me scrubbing a toilet or a shower. I do laundry and re-stock diapers and grocery shop and pay bills and straighten up and make meals and keep the children alive. Okay, I guess I do quite a bit of housewife stuff. Just no deep cleaning.

I've gotten into a routine where I spend a little time on Sunday coming up with a meal plan for the week, grocery shopping, and then prepping the food for the week as best I can. I chop up a bunch of fruits and veggies to put out with Nate's meals (or AS Nate's meal) and I chop up as much as I can for the recipes I plan to make during the week. It allows me to cook much more easily during a hectic week-day, and makes it easy for Nate to help out with the stirring and whatnot.

When I think of it, I'll post my meal plan for the week. I don't plan more than 4 meals each week because:

1) We often have leftovers that we can eat the next night (the is a BIG leftover house)
2) We sometimes decide to walk to a local restaurant for dinner
3) I occasionally just don't cook, leaving Stewart to happily heat up a Trader Joe's indian meal and feeding myself a delicious Lean Cuisine.

This week's plan:

Trader Joe's chili lime chicken burgers w/roasted potatoes (did this Monday, one of our easy favorites)
African Sweet Potato Stew (did this Tuesday for the first time, it went over very well with both the under 3 crowd and the over 40 demographic. We'll have it again tonight.)
Slow Cooker Lasagne (Maybe Thursday?)
Spinach Calzones

I'm always on the lookout for good vegetarian dinners if you have any to share!

Little Daddy

Here's a video of Nate making Jack laugh by bonking himself on the head. Bonus features include the relaxing sound of water running in the background, a zoom-happy videographer, and Nate shoving Jack's toy in his mouth for him.

It gets really cute from the part where Nate gives Jack the giraffe.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books


This has always been a blog about my pregnancies and my babies, and I have conscientiously shied away from posting about myself or the greater concepts of our lives. I know that it's good to keep streamlined so people aren't confused and thrown around all over the place. A person who tunes in to hear how Jack is doing may not be particularly interested in my money-saving ventures or the garden we're planting.

But I do have things I'd like to talk about and document, and theoretically the stories of our lives really are the boy's stories. I'd like them to have a fuller picture about how we spent our time; the details that made up our days.

All of this is to say that I'll be posting a bit more expansively in the future, I hope. There are some neat money-saving methods I've discovered that people may be interested in, and some stories of my own life that I'd like to remember in the future. I thought about starting a new blog to talk about things that are less obviously about the boys, but it seemed like keeping everything together would be a lot easier.

If anyone has thoughts, please share them. Please.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blowing my mind

Okay, Nate officially understands the concept of numbers and letters. He doesn't know one from the other, but when he sees letters on a block he'll identify them as the number 2, or the letter D. Totally wrong every time, but at least he understands the concept.

He also understands 1 and 2, and sometimes 3. Last week he saw an umbrella with the same pattern as my umbrella, and said it was the "sames." And tonight he built a tower out of only blue blocks.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nate phrases

This talking thing is killing me. Here's what Nate has said in the past few days:

* Hey, guys!
* You wanna go bouncy bouncy bouncy with me? (Jumping in the bed)
* Coming downstairs? (Said to me at the top of the stairs, him at the bottom)
* I gotta go in time-out. Bye guys!
* See you later! Gotta go!
* Bye-bye Mommy. I'm going downstairs.

At bedtime a few days ago I asked him if he could read his trucks book to me. He got almost every page right. The kicker? He started it with "Once upon a time."

Saturday, May 10, 2008


This morning Nate was happily watching a slideshow of animal photos on Stewart's computer when Stewart had the audacity to step in the way to get something off of his desk. Nate yelled "Get out of my way!" and, horrified, I said "We do NOT talk to Daddy like that!" Nate's immediate response? "Please get OUT of my way! in the same stern tone. At least he said please.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The most gorgeous baby

It's like the bathtub waters parting

Jack has finally fallen into a nap routine - one nap about an hour and a half after he wakes up, and the other around 1:30 or 2.

Guess when Nate takes his nap - 1:30 or 2.

Do you see what this means? Do you really get it?

They nap at the same time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nate's Monthly Newsletter, Two Years Eight Months

Dear Nate,

You are lucky you have a little sibling right now, because the sleeplessness and turmoil from dealing with him have made you look like a superstar in comparison. You've got it made.

Because without the comparison? Things would be looking a little bleaker for you. You are at a fabulous, frustrating age and when I write these blogs before you're sleeping peacefully it's easy to focus on the frustrating and not the fabulous. Rest assured, we lack for neither around here.

You are a regular little person now, speaking regularly in full sentences and surprising the hell out of us on a regular basis. You pick up phrases almost instantly and use them correctly and it's shocking sometimes. Some of your favorite things to talk about these days:

* Favorites. You tell me that you had chicken for lunch at school, and that chicken is your favorite. "Is chicken your favorite too, Mama?" (Just the fact that you understand that "too" concept kills me.)

* You love to love things. We were reading books before bed last night, and we got to the cement mixer part of your trucks book. Once I answered the often-repeated "What's that, Mama?" question, you responded with a sincere "ooooooh, I wuv cement mixers!" You lay down on the floor next to Jack and said "I wuv you Jack!" on April 20th. I noted it because it was the first time you've ever told anyone you loved them first. You've never said it to me, or to Daddy, without us saying it first, but since April 20th you've regularly said it to Jack and to Bumper. Thank goodness we already knew where we fell in your list of priorities.

Your manners are out of control these days. You regularly ask me "Can I have more juice please, Mama?" and do a very polite "You're welcome, Mama!" whenever I thank you for something. We've been working on "Yes, please" and "No, thank you" and today you used them without prompting for the first time.

You have a funny little phrase: instead of saying "Say hi TO my Mama" you'll tell Aunt Deborah "Say hi for my Mama!" When Daddy comes home, you instruct me "Say hi for my Daddy!" It's fairly adorable.

We don't have to worry about your brain, Nate. You're far from dumb. If we're eating or playing with toys and I have something you want, you get a little gleam in your eyes. You look at what's in front of you and declare "That's not Nate's food, that's Mommy's food." Thus, Mommy's food must really be Nate's, yes? Do I understand correctly? Nice try, kiddo. Well played.

Of all the things I want to talk about, it's your empathy and kindness that fill my heart. You are sweet and loving, even if you're not much for hugs and kisses. At night I read you the purple elephant book and your truck book, and then I lay down next to you and tell you a story about the little boy named Nate. We go through how Nate has a Mommy and a Daddy and a brother Jack, and how he likes to see elephants and monkeys and orangutans, and how he loves to play in his new sandbox and ride his scooter and help Mama cook dinner. We lay inches away from each other, and after each detail you breathe a whispery "yeah!" in agreement.

You are an adoring and giving brother: a few weeks ago you were eating dinner and Jack, in his infant seat, started crying. You got down, rocked the seat for him, and said "It's okay, Jack. It's okay." When Jack smiled at you, like he always does when he sees you, you ran into the kitchen to tell me "He smiled at me!" and then you insisted I come into the dining room to see. That night when it was your TV time, you only wanted to watch if Jack could watch with you.

I had a talk with you last week about how Jack is getting bigger, and someday soon he's going to start playing with your toys. You thought about it for a minute, and decided to give Jack the train you were playing with. You wanted to make it clear that it was your train, but you wanted to share it with Jack.

We are all so lucky to have you in our lives.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The power of language

Nate's talking is out of control. It's almost like talking with a regular person now, though he doesn't always know the words for the things he wants to say.

Two quick anecdotes:

A few days ago we were sitting on the front porch (steps) in the nice afternoon weather. I was drinking a bottle of water, and Nate asked his 48,439th "What's that?" question, pointing to an animal on the label of my water bottle. I looked it over and wasn't sure. "I think it's a moose, buddy." He looked at it again and said "I think it's a deer." I looked again. The animal on my Deer Park water bottle? Yeah, it's a deer.

Yesterday I took Nate to Toys 'r Us to get the sand for his rockin' new sandbox. It was a nice outing together - now that he can talk, and walk with me, it's really fun going places with him. When he's not throwing a fit over the color of his juice cup, or the flavor of his fruit snack, or the atoms that keep hurting him, that is. But yes, we were having fun. We went over a speed bump, one of his favorite things, and he asked me for more speed bumps. I said "I don't think there are any more, buddy." and he said "Oh. Only one speed bump?" He's counting? His counting makes sense? He understands numbers?

You're killing me, kid.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our garden, phase 1

I've been working towards a good vegetable container garden for years, but this year is when it all comes together. I just know it. We finally have a spigot installed in our backyard which will save much back-breaking work hauling water out from the kitchen. I invested in great quality potting soil and soil enhancers and we're set to go.

Today I finished filling all of the containers and mapping out a plan for what will go where. I planted the items that will be grown from seed (cucumbers, basil, chives, cilantro, rosemary) and tomorrow I'll go buy the plants that we'll let the garden center start for us (tomatoes and peppers).

Here's how I'm planning it. I'll take another picture when the seedlings are installed and growing!

And when I say "we"? I mean me and friend Dave. Husband has been no help at all, and I imagine he'll finally get into the game when it comes to the all-important "eat the fruits of our labor" part of the game.