Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Couponing - It's not just for Hoarders

A couple of friends have asked me if I would teach them to "Coupon," so here it is...

Here was my score this morning....

It's a lot of food - and it's all name brand, the fruit and veggies are organic, (yes, there are some processed convenience foods, get over yourself). There is 202.70 worth of food here, but I only paid 126.30. That's a savings of 76.40.

My mile-long receipt....

Not my best haul, but it's a good example of a typical shopping trip for me. Once, only once, did I save more than I spent... if memory serves, I spent 104 and saved 107 and on that day I did a happy dance at the checkout.

Couponing is nothing to be ashamed of. I've tried to get friends and family who are struggling financially to take up couponing and they roll their eyes at me or say, "Um, we don't use coupons." So let me get this straight, couponing is tacky, but being on food stamps and government assistance isn't... ok. And I've also had friends and family beg me to teach them to do this and then decide it's too complicated and give up without ever trying.  So here is my tutorial - don't ask me to teach you anymore, just follow these tips and tricks...

One year ago, (and this is embarassing for me to admit) we were spending no less than 150.00 a week on groceries and household items (toilet paper, diapers, etc.) and getting practically nothing. We ate our cupboards bare to the point that by our next paycheck we were eating walmart brand graham crackers all day because that's all we had. I would make a list of food we needed for the week in order of importance and I was never able to get everything on my list. We always made sure the kids had food and diapers but Matt and I survived off of very little. We never had fresh fruit or vegetables in the house because we couldn't afford them.

One day I was flipping through the channels (yes, we had cable but not food... priorities....) and I saw the show "Extreme Couponing" where I watched women walk into a grocery store with a 5 dollar bill and walk out with thousands of dollars worth of food. "" I said to Matt. And I did. I bought the sunday paper and clipped the coupons that I wanted to use, went to the store...and I still got practically nothing and I still spent 150.00. Why wasn't this working?? And then I met my dear friend Aimee, who politely shook her head at me and said, "You are doing it wrong... here let me show you." And my first shopping trip after Aimee's "How to" tutorial, I only spent 100.00 and I saved 80.00.

ANYONE can do this. It's easy. It sounds complicated but after you do it once or twice it becomes second nature and you will never shop the same way again.

Here was what my cupboard looked like one year ago:

Yeah.... nothing. I don't have a picture, but if I did it would be of an empty cupboard with cobwebs hanging from the corners. Imagine a tumble weed and a lone piece of candy corn if you want to.

And here is what my pantry looks like today:

And there is also a top shelf that you can't see with a crap load of condiments. 

I paid next to nothing for all of this. Still think couponing is tacky?

So here are my tips for getting started. 

1. Start buying the sunday paper when there are coupon inserts. You can go to to see what will be in it and if it's worth buying. If there aren't enough coupons that I want to make it worth spending 3.00 on the paper, I won't buy it. If there are a lot of coupons I think I'll use, I'll buy anywhere from 2-4 copies. (Tip: don't clip the coupons, just write the date it was in the paper on the outside corner and file it away. Most couponing websites will tell you where to find a certain coupon by telling you the date it appeared in the paper.)

2. Bookmark websites like and print coupons right from you computer. You can usually print 2 of any coupon. Also go to the website of a particular brand that you like. I like to feed Kellan that YoBaby organic yogurt so I go to and I can print coupons from their website that you won't find anywhere else. 

3. Pick your store. Where I live, Publix and Target are where I get the most for my money. My friends and family back in Michigan, I suggest Kroger. When you are at your store, keep your eyes out for "Store Coupons" (coupons that are redeemable ONLY at that store. At Kroger you have to get a Kroger card and they will send you store coupons in the mail, at Publix they set them out on display at the store) Most of these places will allow you to use 1 store coupon and 1 manufacturer coupon on the same item. For example, let's say Kraft Salad dressing is on sale for 1.99. You have a Kroger store coupon for 1.00 off any one Kraft dressing and a coupon clipped from the paper for 1.00 off any one Kraft dressing. You can use them both and get it completely free - which I HAVE done several times. Salad dressing seems to be on sale a lot. (Tip: some stores will take competitor coupons. My Publix will take Kroger coupons not just for name brand things, but for store brand as well. I get a lot of coupons from Kroger for like, 40 cents off Kroger brand frozen veggies, Publix will honor it on their Publix brand frozen veggies... and they double it so it works out to be 80 cents off...)

4. Find out if your store "doubles." What this means is that they will match your coupon up to a certain amount. For example, my Publix store will double my coupon up to 50 cents. So if Ramen noodles are 99 cents and I have a coupon for 50 cents off, my store will match it at the register and it will be free. 

5. Meal Plan. Sit down and plan what you will make for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week and ONLY buy what you need. If you just go to the store with a stack of coupons and no list you will be there forever and get a lot of crap you probably didn't need. Meal planning is essential to winning this "game." I never go without my list and I rarely buy things that are not on that list. 

6. Use a "cheat sheet" from a website. There are several websites that will do all the work for you. They scan the ads and sales, and tell you where you can find a coupon for these items and how much your final cost will be. Here are some good ones:,,, and I'm sure there are several others, you just have to hunt for them but they will make your life and your couponing endeavors infinitely easier. Facebook is a good resource - if you "like" products that you use a lot you can find exclusive coupons and samples.

So that's the best I've got for you. I hope it helps! You shouldn't be embarrassed to use coupons, the teenager at the checkout making minimum wage will not laugh at you, I promise. I rarely spend more than 100.00 a week and I get SO MUCH food. And you don't have to buy 100 bottles of ketchup and 1000 rolls of dental floss, you can be practical about it and eat well, and every so often you'll score some free stuff. So off you go! Good luck!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

National Geographic presents: Home-schoolers - The Creatures Exposed

It took me two hours to organize this space yesterday, but I am pleased to present our "Learning Nook."

(Note: The dog bone on the floor is NOT part of the "nook.")

In two weeks Shea and I will officially begin our journey into home-schooling. I know, I know what you're thinking. And trust me, you're not the only one to roll their eyes at me or to look at me like I've just said we're converting to satanism. Friends and family have all put in their two cents about me putting my children at a disadvantage by not placing them in public schools or have prematurely predicted my children's future social awkwardness, but I have done a lot of soul searching, a lot of research and a TON of curriculum development/ lesson planning and have decided that my children's absolute best chance is for me to home-school them. And this has nothing to do with our public school district. From what I hear, ours is very good and the teachers are great. Quite simply, we can... so why not? I have a degree in secondary education, English, German and teaching foreign language. I have interned in the public school system as well as taught in a private foreign language school in Japan. I have experience substitute teaching at all grade levels and all subjects. I feel completely confident and competent when it comes to this. I don't think homeschooling is for everyone, but I DO think it is for us.

As I've said before, my kid is a genius. No, seriously - he's incredibly smart, articulate and intuitive. Ask anyone. When we first started toying with the idea of homeschooling, I decided it may help me gain some perspective if I took Shea to one of the local preschools and we observed a class. The school was lovely - it was very clean, the kids were happy, it seemed safe, the staff and teachers looked friendly and caring. But Shea was beyond what the kids were learning. It was the middle of the school year and the kids were learning shapes and colors, which is exactly what preschoolers should be learning... but my preschooler mastered those things when he was 2. (I'm completely serious). Shea was already starting to read, doing first grade math and could tell you the anatomy and physiology of his digestive tract. I decided then and there that we were definitely homeschooling. Shea needs to be challenged to keep this momentum going and we cannot afford a private "gifted" school... so here we are.

I created his curriculum and we will not be learning preschool topics, most of his curriculum is Kindergarten and First grade subjects, that I developed myself. I had a really hard time finding a pre-made store bought curriculum that I liked. Almost 95% of the curriculum for sale was Christian Bible study based (nothing wrong with that, just not for us). And I eagerly began collecting and hoarding school supplies. Here is out Art drawer:

And a drawer full of other teaching tools:

I am so excited and Shea is too. I think there are a  lot of misconceptions about kids who are home-schooled, simply because people don't know what it really is.They think that all home-schooled kids are Amish or something, so let me dispel some of the rumors and accusations I have heard recently....

New List: Common myths associated with Homeschooling (and YES, some of these things have actually been said to me....)

1. All home-schooled kids are extremely religious bible thumpers
      This is not true. While the majority of home-school families ARE christian and may be extreme, there are several families, mine included, who are homeschooling simply because they want to, they enjoy it and they think that they will be able to give their kids an advantage that they won't find in public schools. We are not religious and will not be using a Bible Study curriculum... so this accusation is officially debunked.

2. Home-school kids are behind in a lot of things and when their parents eventually give up and dump them in a public school, they don't know how to read or write and are clinically retarded..... (a teacher said this one to more words or less)

     Really? I've know just as many public school kids who made it to high school graduation who couldn't read or write, what's their excuse? I'm sure there are parents who are currently home-schooling their kids who SHOULD NOT be. I personally believe that it's a great advantage to have some kind of background in education in order to properly home-school, but I've personally known people who did not have a teaching degree, home-schooled their kids and churned out some brilliant, kind-hearted and thoughtful children. Home-schooling is what you make it and the effort you put into it but it is unfair to paint all home-schooled kids with the same brush.... Next!

3. People who home-school are doing it just because they want to sleep in, stay in their pajamas all day and watch TV.....

     I suppose some of them do, but we will be following a structured schedule.... whether or not we get dressed in the morning, well, that's none of your business....

4. All home-schooled kids are weird.

     It doesn't matter if your kid is home-schooled or public schooled, weird is weird. Your kid is only going to be as messed up as you make them. Most "normal" people have this vision of home-schooled kids being locked in bamboo cages all day and reciting bible verses. They think that kids who are home-schooled are missing out on the social aspect of school and have no friends. The truth is, I've met several hundred public school students and would be incredibly proud if my children NEVER acted like them. My kids will have plenty of opportunity to socialize, there are sports and clubs for them to join, as well as home-school "clubs" that organize field trips and play dates to make sure that these kids get plenty of opportunity to spend time with kids their own age.

And my kids will probably get some "real" classroom time if there's ever a subject I don't feel qualified to teach them and if they ever tell me that they want to switch over to public school, I will respect their wishes and let them do so. 

In conclusion, I'm really excited to start this new journey and I think it will be both fun and advantageous not just for my kids, but for me as well. I'll get to have a part in their education and learning experiences and I'll get to watch them grow and acquire the knowledge that they'll use for the rest of their lives. I won't feel like I've wasted a college degree by being a stay-at-home-mom and I'll get to teach (which is what I love to do) without having to deal with other people's crappy kids. We won't have to schedule our lives around the public school's calendar. If we ever want to take a family vacation... Field Trip! So wish us luck and I'll let ya'll know how it goes!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Holy Birthday Party Batman!"

This week was incredibly bittersweet for me. My first baby turned four years old. You get tired of hearing people say, "Treasure these moments, they grow so fast....". When Shea was first born I would get migraines from rolling my eyes so much when people would say this to me, but here I sit with a newly four year old boy and I struggle to remember things.... It's the opposite effect of when you see someone you haven't seen in a long time, and you expect them to still be a kid, because they never grew up in your mind. With your kids I think because you see them every day you don't notice them growing. I can still remember that new baby smell but I can't remember the sound of his laugh when he was a baby. I remember holding him while he slept but I can't remember the weight of him in my arms.... things like that. So anyway.... nostalgia aside THANK GOD we are moving further away from the toddler stage and closer to the kid stage!!!  <-- (doing a happy dance while I type) I love my kids to death but I hate toddlers. They are the most irrational, emotional, ridiculous creatures on the planet. I liken them to Gremlins.... no bright light, don't feed them after midnight and don't get them wet.... Sure they do and say cute things but the other 23 hrs of the day they are most likely screaming, pinching, biting, yelling, having a complete melt down because you gave them a yellow sippy cup and they wanted a red sippy cup... I want them to be just a bit older so I can speak to them intelligently and not dread taking them out in public.

One of my sons is getting ever closer to being in that "age of perfection" that I've been waiting for since he was born. Every year I have a themed birthday party for him. His first birthday was "Yo Gabba Gabba", his second was "Disney's Cars", his third was "Toy Story" and when I asked him what he would like this year's theme to be I was very intrigued when he exclaimed, "Batman!" and then ran around the room with his arms extended making flying noises.... (regardless of the fact that we are constantly reminding him that Batman doesn't fly, sheesh kid, read a book....)

So grab a chair, brace yourself and prepare to be amazed by my craftiness! Drum roll, please! I give you..... The Batman themed birthday party!

Here is the birthday cake - ordered from Publix. I wish I was this talented but I have not yet perfected my baking skills. The Batman candle on top was ordered from eBay as were the yellow bracelets, as modeled by Shea in this picture, that we gave out as party favors. I also found some Batman temporary tattoos to put on all the guests and the "Super Hero Action Words" table cloth and napkins on clearance at Wal Mart. 

Don't bother Shea-Man, he's eating..... And yes, that is a Transformers party hat.....don't ask.....

The balloons were also ordered on eBay for a VERY reasonable price (10.00 for all of them plus free shipping) and filled with helium by the kind people at Publix.

I found yellow streamer printed with the Batman logo on eBay.... very cheap and free shipping.

And here was the snack table. THIS was my favorite part and everyone got a kick out of it....

I made the labels on my home printer. In Microsoft Word I switched my page setting to be a 4x6 size, and used 4x6 index cards - the printer had no trouble with them. Google images provided the cartoon pictures. Here was our "ants on a log" (organic celery, natural peanut butter and Sunmaid Raisins), which we called "Bats on a log."

 I made individual fruit salad cups, we had blueberries, kiwi, organic peaches, watermelon and pineapple. I couldn't think of anything clever to call them so my Feb. 2011 Due Date club girls helped me come up with the catch phrase.....

Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light became Joker Juice....

 And Check mix served in individual cups became "Catwoman Crunchies" as it does resemble cat food....and tastes about the same.....

And here is the birthday boy with his new big boy bike... couldn't find a Batman one....

The party was great, it went off without a hitch and cost less than 100.00 for all the decorations, food and cake. I made most of it myself and used eBay as a resource for procuring Batman themed items. Shea said it was his greatest birthday party ever and I'm so proud of the little guy. He's grown up so much in four years and I'm looking forwards to many more birthday parties in the future!

And yes, that is a Batman onesie on Kellan and a muscled Batman tank top on Shea....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lactose Shmacktose....

Hot fudge sundaes, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, vanilla pudding.... You may look at this list and see a selection of decadent desserts the thought of which cause you to start salivating..... I look at this list and see the top four foods that make me shit my pants. I am lactose intolerant.

 It started when I was in college but wasn't actually diagnosed until recently. I NEVER felt good, my stomach always hurt, I was always sick to my stomach, I missed out on a lot of things, canceled plans all the time because I felt so sick. My weight would fluctuate drastically, (dropping below 100lbs at one point) with no rhyme or reason and I could not figure out why. Those who know me well know that I am a bit of a hypochondriac and that I tend to immediately think the worst, so of course I was sure I was dying from stomach cancer. I went to several doctors and no one could find anything wrong with me. Most of them stopped reading my chart at "Occupation: College Student" and immediately told me it was because of stress. Some of them did blood work just to appease me and of course it would always come back normal.

Some days I would be totally fine and others I would lay in bed fighting vomit and drinking Pepto Bismol straight out of the bottle. I was literally going through  a bottle of Pepto every week or so.... which in turn caused other problems. Then came the miraculous invention of Facebook where you can bitch about your aches and pains publicly and people you never speak to face to face can commiserate and dole out "there, theres." I was complaining about not feeling good (it was the day of my son's first birthday party and I was almost too sick to go) and a friend I've know since Kindergarten private messaged me and said, "Hey, this sounds exactly like what was going on with me. Have you ever thought you might be having an issue with dairy?" .....No.....No I hadn't thought of that.....come to think of it, why didn't any of the doctors I've seen over the past few years think of that? At the time dairy was the biggest part of my diet. I had milk with my cereal, cooked with milk, ate cream cheese on my bagels, ate ice cream like it was my job and had more milk with more cereal before I went to bed. I decided to experiment and cut dairy out of my diet. And you know what? It worked. I've been dairy free for three years now and I have not had one episode of nausea/yucky stomach ever since (unless someone poisons me with milk in a recipe because they didn't know).

The thing about being lactose intolerant though, is that some foods don't bother you at all and others turn you into a green, sweaty mess. And it's different for everyone. For me, I can eat yogurt and cheese all day long but all other dairy kills me. One day we were at our local Target which conveniently has a Starbucks located inside. My husband grabbed a coffee, took a sip and starting moaning and making out with his cup, "Ohmygod, it's sooooooo good! Try this!" I took a big gulp and stopped dead in my tracks. Smack smack....smack smack....(<--- this is me smacking my lips trying to discern the "milky" taste in my mouth.) "Matt, what is this?" "A Latte." "Is there milk in it?" "Yes.NO.....Yes. Shit, sorry." My own husband tried to poison me and I got to lay on the couch for the rest of the afternoon in between bouts of flaming diarrhea.

And it's beginning to appear that Shea has also come down with my affliction. He too is having stomach problems, and I've been experimenting with his diet and have found that on days that he doesn't have "real" dairy, he doesn't complain of stomach aches or have "bad potty." The problem here is that now all four of us drink a different kind of milk - costing roughly 15.00 a week at the market.

As you can see, Kellan (doesn't) drink Organic Whole Milk (he is still breastfeeding so when we pour a glass of traitor milk for him, we end up having it spit in our faces and then a sippy cup launched at our heads), Shea drinks Soy milk because soy is good for boys (bad for women) and he doesn't like the taste of Rice or Almond milk. I drink Almond or Rice milk (because soy is bad for women and because cow's milk is you-know-why) and Matt drinks whatever is about to go bad or whatever swill is on sale that week. It's complicated and expensive.... but so is shitting your pants. And because I can handle yogurt, I eat one cup of greek yogurt every morning as soon as I wake up to help regulate my blood sugar, as I am also hypoglycemic (whole different story) and I cook with it - in place of sour cream, cream cheese or buttermilk. But don't cry for me....there are a lot of new alternatives popping up to make my life more tolerable. They have started coming out with coconut milk ice cream, which is amazingly delicious, unlike soy ice cream, which tastes like baby formula vomit. New lactose free yogurt. Crossing my fingers still for an alternative to cream cheese... I miss it so much! But I feel so much better now... dairy is the devil.

 I'm just crossing my fingers that Kellan isn't lactose intolerant as well..... Here he is enjoying a piece of cheese, which at the moment is the only food he will willingly eat.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hotel Pensacola - You can check out any time you like......

Two weeks ago we took our first ever family vacation. My husband had to travel to Pensacola for work so the boys and I packed up and tagged along. Sounds wonderful, right? It was in fact, the most miserable five days (felt like 5 weeks) of our lives.

Two days before we are supposed to leave, all hell breaks loose. Shea comes downstairs that morning and says, "bobby, cad I hab sub cereal for breakfast?" Matt and I stare at each other in wide-eyed horror, we knew then that we were doomed. You see, my family follows a very strict cycle of sickness. Shea ALWAYS gets it first. Then, Kellan gets it and stays up all night for two nights screaming. Then due to lack of sleep, I get it and am bedridden from illness and exhaustion and finally, Matt gets it, has to go to work anyway and calls me from the office sounding like a hostage while I talk him through taking some Tylenol and making tea, as though I were helping him dismantle a bomb over the phone. It's literally a good solid week of torturous cruelty.

This particular bout of infectious disease, did not disappoint. Shea was buckets of snot and coughing his head off all day and then that night woke up every hour moaning, crying and twitching. I went downstairs to retrieve the Children's Advil, (Damn you drug manufacturers for not making cold medicines suitable for children under 6! Damn you!!!!) I poured the grape flavored syrup into the measuring cap, sat Shea up on my lap, cradled him and told him, "Here sweetie, take this Magic Juice (yes, this is what we call it) and it'll make you feel better" POW! He bitch slapped me and starting screaming and kicking his legs, "NO NO NO NO NO NO NO......." while flailing around like he was having a seizure. In one deft Ninja move I tilted his head back, pried his mouth open and dumped the medicine in. "PSHHHHTTTTTT" and then he spat it all over my face, all over his bed, in my hair..... sigh. Whatever, dude - be sick.

End of night one without sleep.

The next morning Kellan is acting grumpy. Right on schedule. I spend the day packing and cleaning and making sure that everything is ready for our very first super awesome spectacular family vacation! But as night fell upon Georgia, we knew we were in for it. As if on cue Kellan begins to scream. And scream. And scream. I don't know if other people's babies do this, because Shea never did. Shea never got sick until he was almost 2. He never even had a cold, or showed any discomfort from teething - he was an angel baby. One week after I stopped breastfeeding him (yes, do the math and get over your shock) he came down with RSV and had to be on medication and breathing treatments, it was awful. Anyway - Kellan has been sick so many times I've lost count and I'm sure it's because he has an older germy brother who kindly passes them on to him, but he is also the WORST sick kid I have ever seen. Most kids when they are sick just want to sleep. Kellan refuses to. He screams and tries to claw our faces off and nothing we do can comfort him. We were supposed to wake up that morning, have breakfast, drop the dog off at the kennel and head to Florida but I knew that if Matt didn't get some sleep, we would drive off into a ditch - end of Piper family. So I sent him and Shea (who was snoring so loud from congestion that we wouldn't have been able to sleep even if Kellan weren't reenacting scenes from Nightmare on Elm Street) to the guest room so they'd at least get some rest. And I, the martyr of the family, sat up all night rocking a baby who would put Linda Blair to shame.....

End of night two without sleep.

That morning we crawl out of bed, drag ourselves down the stairs, load up the car, and head off TO OUR SUPER AWESOME FIRST EVER FAMILY VACATION EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!!

The drive starts pleasantly enough. Both kids are too tired to throw fits. They think its cool that the dog is in the mini-van with them. But immediately after dropping Osgood off, the screaming begins. Kellan doesn't like his car seat. He freaks out so badly and add sickness on top of that - it was over before it had begun. He screams. And screams. And screams. "DING" - the van starts beeping. The tire pressure light is on. Matt pulls over and discovers that we have a flat tire and there is a big nail stuck in it. We are in the middle of Atlanta, not even an hour into our drive. F*#%! We find a tire place, the guys there are super nice and don't make us wait at all, they patch it and we are out of there in less than 15 minutes. And I'm thinking to myself, "The sickness, the tire.... these are signs from the universe that we are not supposed to go on this trip." But we go anyway. Because we are stupid.

The next four hours of the trip consist of Kellan screaming, stopping at the dirtiest McDonald's in all of Alabama and more screaming. And then I begin to sneeze. Matt cracks his knuckles and looks at me like I'm beginning to turn into a zombie and has that look in his eye like he's deciding weather to end my misery now or wait until I've turned. We keep driving.

When we finally get to the hotel we are miserable, achy from sitting for so long and hungry. All we want is to grab some take out, go to our hotel room and lay in bed for the rest of the day. We grab all our stuff, get our key, go into the room and...... it's one bed and a chair and you can touch both walls with your arms extended. The four of us are supposed to stay here for a week?? Mind you this is an extended stay hotel and this is supposed to be a suite. Matt calls down and we discover that there is a pee wee softball tournament in town and ALL of the pee wees are staying at our hotel and they are booked solid. BUT - they can move us to another one bed suite that's a little bigger and has a pull-out couch. Ok cool. So the next room is in fact bigger, it's the handi-capable room which means everything is wider and lower to the ground, which also means that Kellan can open everything... yay. The first thing I notice is that there is trash still in the trash can. Not a huge deal.... Then I pull some dishes down to make coffee and there is dried old coffee in the bottom of every coffee cup, lipstick stains on the water glasses and dried milk in the cereal bowls. Really? sigh. Matt calls down again and asks them to please call us if a bigger suite opens up.

And then God looked down from heaven, saw that we were on vacation and already miserable, chuckled and threw down Tropical Storm Debby.

 The winds are crazy and the beaches are closed. We go anyway just to check it out and it is pretty cool. The waves are huge, the water pulled back so far from the beach I can't believe it and life guards standing every few feet trying to keep people out of the water. All the shops are closed and there isn't anything to do but sit in our hotel room and listen to the kids beat the crap out of each other. This is a picture of Shea after Kellan hit him in the head with a frying pan:

I'm going to condense the rest of this story because it's quite long, but the rest of the vacation follows suit. Matt had to go to work Monday so I took the kids down to the pool. I put swimmies on Shea and threw him in and sat on the edge with Kellan. I stuck my hand down in the water to grab a leaf out of the pool and came back up with a fist full of someone else's hair. Time to go Shea!

The following day they called us and told us that a bigger suite was open and we could have it. Woo Hoo! We get up there and notice a funky smell. But we can't find where it's coming from. Hmmm... We pull out the sofa bed for Shea and the mattress is so nasty it looks like a hobo donated it and when I got the extra sheets out I noticed a bunch of tiny hairs all over it - like a dog had been sleeping on it, and yes this hotel allows pets.... In the bedroom I saw that one of Matt's T-shirts had fallen between the bed and the nightstand so I grabbed it and out fell a baby's pacifier and a cheese wrapper.... it was not Matt's T-shirt.... and I also found where the smell was coming from. There were two rotten Avacados in the crisper of the fridge. They obviously had not cleaned that room for us. I was fighting tears the whole time we were there - we couldn't go anywhere because of the storm and you'd think that the winds and clouds would bring in cooler temperatures but it was well over 110 degrees the whole time. And do you know how hard it is to keep two toddlers quiet in a hotel room?? I was one "SHUSH!" away from a stroke. We even had someone call our room to complain about the noise. And to top it all off, the storm knocked out the cable so I missed True Blood that week - "EFF this, we are going home".

Matt and I both came down with whatever this awful snot-sickness was and couldn't do much more than watch the kids re-enact wrestle-mania. One of the days I started feeling weird and had this strange pain in my back. By the time Matt got back from work the pain was wrapped in a band all the way around my torso and it hurt to even breathe. We seriously considered finding an emergency room because I couldn't tell if I was passing a kidney stone or what but it was excruciating and I was pretty scared. But I took some Tylenol and ate a cheeseburger from Five Guys and the pain dissipated. It was the weirdest thing.(Note to self: Five Guys' Cheeseburgers cure death......)

 We decided to cut our trip short but we needed to do ONE thing to make our vacation semi-redeemable. We had bought the kids a bunch of plastic sand castle-building equipment and we'd be damned if they didn't get to use it. So we sucked it up, crammed a fistful of Tylenol into our mouths and headed to the beach. And wouldn't you know it - some country star was putting on a concert on the freaking beach. There was no where to park, and the beach was so crowded we wouldn't have been able to find the sand. Matt had an idea - we drove down into the residential part of the beach, pulled off the side of the road, climbed a small hill and found a beautiful, tranquil white sand beach with very few people on it. There was a couple and their family having a beach wedding, a mother and two kids standing in the water and an elderly married couple holding hands and watching the sun set. It was beautiful - the kids played in the sand and it was the first time all week that we had smiles on our faces. 

We were supposed to stay until Friday, but we tucked tail and came home Wednesday afternoon. And yes, Kellan screamed the whole way home.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Look what I can do!!

Hello, my name is Nicole and I am addicted to Pinterest. No no no, I don't actually buy any of the clothes or make any of the recipes I pin, I just electronically hoard cool things that I wish I had/ could make. But Pinterest has given me a lot of cool ideas - for example, this little gem I whipped up today. I call it the Family Message Center.

Here is a little back-story behind the creation of the message center. Last night we drove Shea to Toys R Us - his birthday is in one week and we let him pick out a big boy bike.... and somehow we also came home with a 40.00 Jake and the Neverland Pirates Pirate Ship with actions figures, but I digress.... It was a 25 minute drive which gave Matt and I some time to talk. For once the kids weren't screaming and complaining which almost never happens so this was kind of a big deal. The conversation was pretty serious and very deep, about how we need to be better parents.
 For one, we swear a lot. It's like an infectious disease, one of us blurts out a curse word and then we're just a couple of sailors the whole rest of the day. So we decided to try harder to quit swearing, especially around the kids.
 Secondly, we need to be more careful about what we watch around the kids. We love Vampire Diaries and True Blood and Grey's Anatomy and I could list a lot of others, but those are the main few and we don't wait until the kids go to bed. We are selfish people. We watch them whenever we feel like it. Problem is, our kids see bits and pieces of people swearing, fighting, having sex and biting each other. One day when Shea was about 2 1/2, I sat down to watch True Blood and Shea said, "Oh, is this True Blood? I don't like True Blood, they bite me and smack me in the face and then all my blood falls out onto the ground." ......well then.... lost a couple Mommy points that night.
Third, we decided that we are too hard on Shea. And the problem is that Shea is not a typical 3 year old. (I know, I know, everyone says that, everyone thinks their kid is a genius, but mine actually is.) He is very mature for his age and speaks incredibly well and it's because of this that we are so hard on him. We hold him to impossibly high standards, forgetting that he is only 3. He may be speaking to us like he is an adult, but he is not. And we forget that all the time. So we also decided that we need to remind each other to be more laid back and let things go, not lose our patience so much and to try to be better parents in general. Shea and Kellan deserve that. But then I brought up the fact that this is not the first time we've had this discussion. We say these same things all the time and never put them into practice. So here is where my genius idea came from.
 I decided that we needed to make a vision board. Matt and I needed to sit down together and decide what kind of parents we want to be, write it down and make it happen. I had seen some people on Pinterest who made dry erase boards out of picture frames, so I thought I would utilize that method but turn it into some kind of craft board, where we could write down our daily or weekly goals and hang it on the wall where we can see it every day. And maybe if we accomplish our goal, we get a marble or a ticket to put in a jar and when the jar is full, we can do something fun as a family, like go to the Aquarium, as a reward for our hard work. While making the board, I thought I could make it even more functional if I also designed it to be a message center. There are so many times during the day that I see something and I think, "Oh! I have to remember to tell Matt this!" and then I never do. So this is our Message center:

It cost around 10.00 to make and here is how I did it:

I bought a poster frame from Target, they come in all different sizes, but this one is 20x30 and it cost 9.99.

I already had the scrapbook paper and stickers, but if you don't have a stockpile of scrapbook paraphenalia, buy some.

I cut my scrapbook paper down to 8.5x11 printer paper size, typed in the words in Microsoft word, put the scrapbook paper in the printer and Viola! I trimmed it down even smaller so that it would fit the board. I embellished it with stickers and used a glue stick to attach it all to the cardboard backing of the frame. The front of it is plastic, which works fine with the dry erase markers. I'm guessing that if the marker is left for too long it'll be difficult to wipe off, but we'll jump that hurdle when we get to it.

 I re-assembled the frame and it was done!

And if you can see the top right of the picture, there is a white box with coral colored trees on it - we hung that from a hook and that's where the markers and eraser go - it has a ribbon for a handle and it was 1.00 at Target.

This board is so nice to have and you can leave messages for each other, write nice things to each other or write your personal goal under your name. As you can see, mine says ".... is super cool" but it could (should) say ".... will NOT swear today," or "WILL do yoga today." I love it and fingers crossed it'll help us reach our goals to be a better family and be kinder to each other.

Welcome to the NEW Occupation:Mom

As some of you may have noticed, Occupation: Mom was on hiatus for awhile. I wasn't happy with how things were going....The stories I told were funny and true, but it was also a good wake up call for myself. Reading those stories made me realize that I needed to make some changes in my life and in my parenting style. I don't want to be that mom. I don't want my kids to swear and be weirdos in public. It's hilarious, yes, but what are the long term effects of allowing my children to be the fodder for my comedic stories? = future serial killers? I for one, don't want to find out! So my new page will still be Occupation: Mom, it will still be funny and cute, I'll still talk about my kids, but I will focus less on the embarrassing/hilarious and more on the actual things that we do - Homeschooling (I'll post lesson plans, and anecdotes for those who are interested in homeschooling their own kids, or for those who want to laugh at how much smarter Shea is than I am....) Couponing - (I'll brag about how much money I saved, how I did it and how cool I think I am when I score super awesome deals) and other details of our home life - crafts we made, recipes I tried, DIY things we tried around the house - basically a more holistic look at the lives of the Pipers. I hope we make you laugh and think, try some new things, and I hope that you think we are as super awesome as we think we are. Enjoy!