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December 30, 2010

My First Household Notebook

Since having a baby everything about my life has become way less manageable.  I have discovered that without routines and plans everything just falls apart despite my efforts.  And you know, all this is very normal.  This is what having a baby does.  It changes your life so you have to figure out what your new life needs to look like.  At first Mark and I struggled with this because we kept trying to go back to our "old life" with the addition of a baby.  But now, I think we are finally figuring out that the old life is gone.  And I can only speak for myself but I am learning and loving to embrace the new life, crazy and disorganized as it may be. 

Over the past few months since returning to work I've been pondering ways to become more organized and efficient.  So far here is what I have come up with:

1.  We hired someone to clean our house twice a month. 
2.  I realized that I needed to organize myself a little better and combine my many lists and calendars. 

With #2 came the discovery of Life As Mom and her fabulous ebook.  I purchased this a few months back and have been diligently working on using it to create my very first Household Notebook.

What is a Household Notebook you ask?  Great question!  If you "google" this phrase you will find all sorts of blogs and discussions on the topic.  Quite honestly every person's Household Notebook will be different based on what that person needs it to do for them.  For someone else it may include homeschooling plans or sports schedules but for me it is simply calendars, menu planning helps and weekly cleaning helps plus a few introspective pages to help me determine my priorities and set goals for each month or quarter.

I took my notebook to FedEx Office today and had it bound with a plastic cover so that it will hopefully make it through the year.  I also had them insert colorful pages to separate the months and I had already added tabbed index pages for each quarter.  Here are a few photos of my notebook (these aren't the greatest but you'll get the general idea):





What's in Shannon's freezer today?

So, I've been making my own baby food for about 2 months now and I am totally in love with it.  It just makes me feel good.  As I've said before there is nothing wrong with jarred baby food I am just enjoying this as a creative outlet right now in this season of my life.

Up until the past week Olivia would eat a little bit of solids, about one cube two times per day.  Since her 6 month birthday though it's like she finally gets it!  She has increased that to three cubes two or three times per day so I've been working on adding to her palate and increasing my freezer stock.  Right now I need to make sweet potatoes and green beans again but here is what my current stock of veggies looks like spread out on the counter (along with the fabulous "cookbook" that my brother and his wife got me for Christmas), and then in my freezer (the two green topped trays and the container behind them) and lastly, the newest food Olivia will be trying this week - bananas!






The current tally of foods that Olivia has tried includes:
-sweet potatoes - yum
-butternut squash - yum yum
-green peas - yum
-green beans - yum only when mixed with something else
-pumpkin - yum
-avocado - no yum
-boxed baby cereal - no yum
-carrots - yum



I heart CVSing

I keep a list of things we use frequently so that I can be on the hunt when a deal comes along.  If we run out of these items and I have not found a good deal then I will just buy them in bulk at BJs or Sam's Club but if at all possible my preference is to get them for free or pocket change in advance so that I don't have to do that.

CVS is my favorite place for such deals and this week I was able to get two items on my "running out of" list plus an extra goodie for myself. 

My deal:
Bought a great smelling exfoliating Tone body wash on sale for $3.88 and used $1 off coupon.  Got back $3 in Extra Care Bucks (ECB).  Then bought 2 small Dawn dishwashing liquids and 3 boxes of Puffs with lotion which were all on sale - used the ECB from the previous transaction plus $1 in manufacturer coupons.
Total out of pocket was $4.22 for all items.  (Photo below of the Dawn and Puffs)

December 29, 2010

Great Kite Deals Going on Now at Amazon

OK so my favorite hobby, of which there are many, is flying Kites unfortunately I don't get to fly as much as I would want because the winds here in Raleigh are just not as consistent as one would like to truly enjoy hobby on a regular basis. But I do get to fly several times a year when we go to the Outerbanks of North Carolina and I have built up quite a quiver of kites over the lasts several years. Why would you need more than one kite? Well because they can be beautiful to look at but more importantly you need to have the right kind of kite for the wind that you will be flying in. There are kites designed to fly indoors with no wind, in low wind, in medium winds and even in high winds. So if you really want to be able to take advantage of the wind presented to you on a particular day then you will want to have the right kind of kite in your quiver to fly in that wind. You can however as a beginner buy a kite that will have a broader wind spectrum but obviously the performance level of those kites will not be as good as one designed specifically for a certain type of wind. As you progress in the sport you will want to start building your quiver for the various types of winds and flying styles you prefer.


Now the type of kites I prefer to fly are two line stunt kites mostly manufactured by Prism out of Seattle, Washington. I am a big Prism Kite fan, I guess because the very first stunt kite I bought was a Prism Quantum and thus I became familiar with the line and the level of support offered by the company. I have just about every Prism kite they make both stunt and single line with a few exceptions mostly on the Parafoil end. I do own a few other brand of kites though but my favorites are always the Prisms.


I happened to notice today on Amazon that there are quite a few Prism Models available right now at greatly reduced prices and thought I would share them with you incase someone might be interested.


The first model is the one that I first purchased back in 2004 from Kitty Hawk Kites which is the Prism Quantum and back then it retailed for about $80 bucks but now they retail for $112. Amazon is selling a few Prism Quantum models in the low $60 range which is a great deal on this entry level kite. It is big, durable and has a strong pull so it is easier to control because you feel the movement of the kite. It also has a built in shock absorber in the spine to help ease the effects of the inevitable crashes that beginners will have. It also has an adjustable bridle that allow for more radical settings one you progress in your flying skills. This kite performs well in a variety of winds although Prism states as little as 3 mph I would suggest 6 mph or more to be more realistic. I have flown this kite several times in high winds around 25 mph and been very pleased with it. I highly recommend this kite to anyone as their first kite and at this price it is very hard for even me to resist buying another one. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon http://www.blogger.com/www.amazon.com/Prism-QUANTUM-Quantum-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003H34NBO/ref=pd_sim_sg_1 and your price will vary depending on the color you chose but there are some colors that are really great deals.


The second model is the Prism 4D Ultralight Stunt kite and Amazon has one of the Yellow color for sale around $80. This is a pretty nice deal based on the retail price of $105 for this kite. As the name implies this kite is for low wind or even an indoor kite and actually is quite a good kite for flying in Raleigh as the winds tend to be relatively low here. I don't have this particular model but I do have it's predecessor the Prism 3D Ultralight and have been very pleased with it so far. I just want to mention that since this kite is designed for little to no wind it's construction is not going to withstand the physical abuse most beginner fliers will give a kite so I don't recommend this one as your first kite but if you have been flying awhile and are ready to start building your quiver then this is a good first kite to add. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon www.amazon.com/Prism-4D-Ultralight-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003L2THA8/ref=pd_sim_sg_5 and as mentioned the Yellow color is the one that is on sale for the best price.


The third and final kite I am going to mention is really more for the intermediate to advance fliers but it also is my favorite kite in my quiver and that is the Prism Zephyr.This kite retails for $280 and right now Amazon is selling the Prism Zephyr in the Eggplant color for about $146. This is an amazing price for this kite and probably your best overall deal as far as the savings are concerned. One of the biggest things I like about this kite is the wonderful hard shell kite case that comes with it. The case alone is worth $50 so you are getting a really superb deal on the Zephyr kite at this price. In my Zephyr case I can carry all my line sets, the Zephyr and one other kite and that is usually the Quantum. I can also fit my Prism 3D kite on the outside of the case strapped on by the the bungee cord lacing down the side if I wish. The kite itself is a low to medium wind kite and there is also an included weight set that can be put in the spine to help in the higher wind range. Being an higher end kite you will have some features not available on the lower end models such as a fully adjustable bridle, adjustable leech line and leading edge tensioners and yo yo stoppers making this a great competition kite. At this price even though it is designed for intermediate to advance fliers I would almost recommend it to new fliers who had the money because it is such a great kite. But my real recommendation would be to buy both the Prism Quantum and the Prism Zephyr that way you have something good to learn on now the Quantum and then also have a kite that you could grow into later the Zephyr and all for about the normal street price of the Prism Zephyr. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon http://www.blogger.com/www.amazon.com/Prism-ZEPHYR-Zephyr-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003L7TQB8/ref=pd_sim_sg_7 and as mentioned the Eggplant color is the one that is on sale for the best price.


As a side note I mentioned having different types of kites in your quiver based on the wind but please also be aware of the need for different types of linesets depending on the wind conditions and the length of line you desire to fly with.

I hope this helps someone looking to buy a kite soon. I don't know how long these prices are good for and Amazon's prices fluctuate greatly so take advantage while you can. Now I just need to resist the urge to take advantage of such great deals myself as I really do not need another kite unless someone really just wanted to get me one for my 37th birthday coming up soon then I could always use another kite.

Second Chances

Tonight my baby girl is having trouble sleeping.  She has actually been struggling with this for a while but tonight I believe it is because her ear is hurting AND she is about to cut her third tooth.  She also has issues with peeing too much and getting her jammies wet - LOL!  So, since putting her down I've been working on a massive decluttering project in the room next to her while diligently keeping an ear to the monitor.

An hour or so ago I heard some cries.  I stopped what I was doing, went to the bathroom to wash my hands and quickly swooped in to see what was the matter.  Baby girl was all wet, down to her jammies as usual so I made haste to get her changed and all dry so that we could get back to the matter of sleep.  She was none too happy about the interruption to her sleep but it wasn't too long before she was snuggled up on my chest ready to head back to her sweet baby dreams.  As I was rocking her I began to reflect on the grace of God and the second chances He provides.

You see it was not that long ago when those cries from the monitor would cause my heart to skip a beat.  I would feel panicked and completely terrified about entering the nursery to see what was the matter.  Becoming a new mom, experiencing post partum depression and having the most unhappy newborn ever stripped me of whatever confidence I may have had in my abilities.  Every cry struck fear in my heart because I knew what the outcome would be - hours and hours of me not being able to soothe my baby.

Tonight as I was rocking her I realized how far I've come....how far God has brought me...and how far Olivia has come.  I was thinking back to September when we took her on vacation to the beach and how awful it was.  I was thinking of how I spent that vacation trying to make an unhappy baby slightly happy and how when vacation was over and it was time for me to return to work from maternity leave, I was thankful.  Thankful and ashamed.

I had big dreams of not returning to work after maternity leave.  We had worked it out with our finances and I was just waiting to have the baby and make sure it was something I still wanted to do.  I was sure that come September I would realize my dream of being a stay at home mom.  I took care to hire a replacement at work for my leave that I thought would be a good fit permanently.  I even cleaned out my office.  I worked tirelessly before my leave to make sure that when I didn't return as planned that the transition would be smooth.  Well, you know what they say about best laid plans, right?

By the time Olivia was 7 weeks old I had conjured up more irrational thoughts than you can imagine, had to be put on medication and knew I was not going to fulfill my dream.  Making the decision to return to work was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do that I didn't want to do that I knew I needed to do (is your tongue tied yet?!).  Not only did I have to make that decision but also knew that I wasn't even going to make it through 12 weeks of leave as the sole caregiver for my sweet baby girl.  I actually had to hire a part-time caregiver before I even went back to work.  Talk about shame.  I was filled with it. 

But tonight I was reminded again of the love of God and His amazing ways.  Sometimes you have to go through something really hard in order to appreciate it the way you need to.  I don't know if God purposely allowed me to go through what I have or He has just worked it for my good but I can tell you that I find joy in being a mother to Olivia in ways I don't think I would have if it were not for what I've been through.  I appreciate God's grace towards me and see His provision of a second chance at embracing motherhood and treasuring even the cries of my baby in ways I would not had I not been through what I have been.  It's hard to even think this but sometimes I am actually thankful for the hard road for we would never appreciate the easy road had we not walked the hard one.  As a famous poet once wrote "I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

December 17, 2010

Save 25% on all your Sam's Club / Walmart Purchases for the Year

So this year Sam's Club is running a "Gift of Membership" promotion for members through December 24th and possibly extended through the 31st. With this promotion for every Advantage Plus Gift of Membership card purchased you receive a $25 Sam's Club/Wal-Mart gift card - or- for every Standard Gift of Membership card purchased you receive a $10 gift card. The Advantage Plus Membership is $100 and Standard Membership is $40.

That is a pretty nice deal in itself if you were planning on giving away Sam's Club Memberships to friends or family.   You would receive a 25% bonus that you could save for yourself or give away. But the hidden jewel here and the reason for my blog is that the Gift of Membership cards are really just glorified gift cards. So, if you are attentive enough to read the back of the card you would see that it states "This card may be used for purchase of merchandise at Sam's Club, or any retail format of Wal-Mart stores, INC. in the US and Puerto Rico."

When I discovered this I confirmed with the Sam's Club manager that they can indeed also be used for purchases at either Sam's Club or Wal-Mart. So really in effect you are buying $125 in gift cards for $100 (Advantage Plus Gift of Membership card). Do this enough times and the savings can really add up!  It is equivalent to saving 25% at Sam's Club or Wal-mart, your choice.

For my family we buy a $250 Wal-mart Gift card each month to be used for groceries so I know in advance that I am going to have at least $3000 in expenditures at Wal-mart this coming year for groceries so I purchased 24 Advantage Plus Gift of Membership cards.  This came to $2400 and I received an additional $600 in gift cards which totaled $3000 - the amount needed for 2011 at a savings of 25 %. That $600 in savings is a new HDTV, Computer, Ipad, Digital SLR or just over 2.5 months of free groceries for my family.

To avoid confusion with the the cashiers I would suggest that you quickly convert the Gift of Membership cards to traditional gift cards by going to Wal-mart.com and just purchasing new gift cards using those Gift of Membership cards as the payment method. I can just see trying to explain to a cashier for 20 mins that the cards are also good on purchases. As a small bonus right now Wal-mart.com will ship the gift cards to you for free which saves you the regular $.97 delivery cost for gift cards.

I will admit I tried to do something similar last year using Microsoft Bing Cash back when it was still around and offered 20% cash back on Wal-mart.com.  I bought a year's worth of gift cards then after waiting 3 months to receive the cash back found out that Bing invalidated the transaction because it was apparently not applicable to the purchase of gift cards.....should have read the fine print.  So this year I got wiser and got my savings up front versus waiting til later.

I know that $2400 seems like a lot of money and it is to us as well but when I compared keeping the money in savings longer, earning a measly 1% interest, to pre-purchasing the gift cards (that I know will be used), earning a 25% return, the choice was simple.

December 12, 2010

Gratitude

I put my sweet baby down for a nap almost an hour ago and while she has been sleeping I have been filled with gratitude. 

3 weeks ago we made the decision to move Olivia from an in-home daycare situation where she was the only child being cared for to a regular daycare facility.  Making this decision was difficult because it meant doubling our childcare costs but also because we had originally felt it was best for her to have one on one care and we were not entirely certain that the change would be okay given her temperament.  Additionally, this change meant exposing her to lots more children which would mean more illnesses.  On top of all that making the change meant there would be a lapse in childcare so Mark had to take unplanned time off to be at home during the lapse.  But for a number of reasons we both knew Olivia needed a change in her daytime environment so we forged on with the decision.

It has now been 2 weeks since Olivia started at her new daycare and I am simply amazed at how much she has changed.  By being around other children she is developing at an appropriate pace and learning to play and both those things make for a happier baby.  She is much less fussy than she had been, is not as demanding and is able to nap which in itself is reason enough for me to be ecstatic!

So, I am filled with gratitude to God.  Gratitude that He gave me the discernment that Olivia needed a change, gratitude for the changes in Olivia that are enabling us to enjoy her more and more and gratitude that He led us to the right daycare.

December 08, 2010

Lovin' Me Some Printables and other deals

Something I've found recently that I am loving is free printables.  I got introduced to these on an awesome blog Craftily Ever After.  I just framed my first one this weekend and am hoping to get another printed up and framed.  MAYBE they will grace my wall by Christmas!  Right now this one is just propped up on the mantle.  I have saved ones from Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas on my computer.  I am hoping new ones crop up throughout the year as I am planning to keep the frames up permanently and just swap out the printables with each season.  Here is how it looks at the blog author's home.  I got my frames at Michael's when they were having an extra 25% off of the sale price (40% off) and this printable I got for free at Rite Aid when they had a code for a free 8x10.  I am hoping (fingers crossed!) for another free code soon so I can get "Keep Calm and Merry On" to go next to this one.  At some point I'd like to add a third frame like the one on the blog but they only had 2 left when I bought mine.


Another cool deal this week was at CVS, my favorite deal gettin' place!  I wish I had a picture but we have a new camera now and Mark is hogging it.  I got 3 12-packs of soda, a package of diapers, a box of wipes, baby nail clippers and baby oragel toothbrush for $3.26!  How you ask?  Well, it was a combination of extra care bucks, CVS and manufacturer coupons and gift cards received for purchasing a new prescription there.  I held out on these purchases until it was just the right buying time and yes, I scored!

Works For Me Wednesday

Today I'd like to review FLYlady's feather duster.  This is another product that is a winner for me!  Honestly, I've never had a feather duster so I really have no other duster to compare it to but my experience has been positive.  I really didn't think it could possibly make a difference - it's just feathers, right?  But, it actually does a fantastic job with dust, and let me tell you we have alot of that so I feel qualified to speak on this topic!  So, here is a silly picture of me and my purple feather duster - obviously a pose, but it's a good representation of what I've been doing constantly since the duster arrived in the mail.  I bought two - one for upstairs and one for downstairs and I can tell you that I've dusted a lot more than I used to because the feather duster makes it so much fun.  Hubby giggles at me when I start going with it but it's perfect for someone like me that likes quirky things!  Two thumbs up for the feather duster!  You can go HERE to purchase your very own FLYlady feather duster!

It's never too early to start reading!

The Benefits of getting up with the Baby at 4:00 am

Sometimes getting up at 4:00 am in the morning pays off and today was one of those mornings. I have told you my fondness of finding good deals and usually some of the best deals are to be had in the wee hours of the night before they get well publicized on the various deal sites and most people like myself included are generally aspleep. Today was just such a day but as luck would have it in this case I was actually up.


After spending about 30 minutes to get the little girl back to sleep, I decided I should probably stay up just a bit longer to ensure that she really was fast asleep. No sense putting the head back down on the pillow and just about to fall asleep to be awoken by an upset baby. So I decided to go to the office in the next room and check on my favorite deal site http://slickdeals.net . This was the right thing to do because as it just so happened I was able to get in on the ground level of a deal before it went on fire.

Amazon.com was selling Battlefield Bad Company 2 Ultimate Edition for $28.96 normally about a $60 game while at the same time offering a Trade-in credit for the game of $27.00. Just at a base level it looks like ok nothing really special here I could play the game for a week and then return it only losing a dollar but the kicker here was that this game qualified for Amazon's current promotion of Buy One Video Game or Accessory and get the 2nd 50% off. So by buying two games for just about $40 bucks I could then turn around and ship them back to Amazon for a trade in credit of about $54 in amazon gift cards.

Before proceeding with the purchase I needed to lock in my trade-in credit price because it was surely about to plummet once the market got flooded with a bunch of other Slickdealers doing the same thing. The only problem with this was that now I was locked into a seven day window in which the games must be shipped out back to Amazon and I didn't have the actual games in hand yet. The one good thing about most of the online trade-in sites is that they provide you with a prepaid shipping label so the package only has to be postmarked by the deadline not actually received. But if I were to miss the seven day window I would forfeit my guaranteed trade-in price and would be stuck with what ever the current market price was at the time received. Luckily though I am an Amazon Prime Member which means I am entitled to free 2 day shipping . So I should be able to get the games in hand before I actually need to send them back. This netted me about $14 and so I decided to repeat the deal once more but this time with the XBOX version since Amazon limits the number of trade-ins it will accept from a single user of each title. So in the end I had about $28 in credit coming to me for about 15 mins work.

As expected by the morning commute all the trade-in sites were flooded with the game and of course the premiums went down accordingly. So I got in early before the word got out all because my sweet little girl couldn't sleep and needed her Daddy at 4:00 am .

On a side note Amazon doesn't just accept trade - ins on games but also some books too. Another good site for trading in games and electronics that I like to use is http://gazelle.com . There you can get cash delivered to your Paypal account and they will sometimes even offer you a bonus amount if you accept a giftcard to a certain retailers like Amazon.

December 02, 2010

FLYing update

I previously promised to display pictures of the areas I was working on in my house at the end of the month....well, I haven't done anything further to those areas so there is no point in posting any photos! 

So, what am I doing?  Well, right now I am in the process of creating a Household Notebook for next year.  I learned about this from my Organizing Life As Mom eBook.  The eBook contains a number of printable documents to help you put your own Household Notebook together so I am slowly working through them to determine what my notebook will need to contain.  Once I have it all together I am going to get it spiral bound at FedEx Kinkos.  I am looking forward to seeing how this helps me to bring my homemaking tasks under control in the New Year.  I think just having everything in one place will be helpful in itself.

Other than that I have been working on decluttering areas of my house when I have time.  I have decluttered and reorganized two large cabinets in our kitchen and the drawer in the living room that holds the baby's bibs, burp cloths, etc.  I also have finished some craft projects that now need to be hung.  I am really excited about begging asking my husband to take care of that so I can show you! 

Also, I am excited to tell you that we have found someone to start helping with getting our house clean again.  Ever since the latter part of my pregnancy the house has just gone to pot!  Seriously, it is nasty.  Sure, it looks fine on the surface but the dust bunnies have multiplied so much that they recently attacked the dog and cobwebs have totally taken over all the light fixtures.  My hope is that after a few months of regular help I will be at the point I can maintain it myself.  I realize that having paid help is a luxary in a world where there are children who don't even have enough to eat.  I am thankful beyond words for God's provision in my life.  Kelly Blowe of Kelly's Cleaning Closet will be starting in about a week and she will be coming three times in December.  After that we'll see where things stand.  I am hoping that with the basics getting done (as well as some desperately needed deep cleaning) I'll be able to focus more on the decluttering that is needed in order to scale back our belongings to make room for Olivia's things as well as my sewing projects.

Works For Me Wednesday

Okay, first let's just get it out of the way...yes, I know it is Thursday.  I'm a day late, so shoot me!

I have agreed to review some FLYlady products for my FLYbaby group so rather than just post my thoughts there I decided it made more sense to post to the blog and then post that reference to the group.  My plan (ha ha!) is to blog on Wednesdays about a different product I am trying until I have covered all the ones I have.....don't hold your breath....my follow through is notoriously poor!  (Just a comment, I am not being compensated for this review.  This is a product I purchased for my own use and I am just sharing my thoughts about it with you.)

So first up is the Rags In A Bag product.  This is a set of three purple microfiber cloths that arrive in a mesh laundry bag with zipper.  I have been using these for a few weeks now and have decided that they are a winner!  I really like them.  I have used microfiber cloths before but these truly are a superior product in my opinion.  One thing I am really loving about them is that I can dampen one corner and clean mirrors or glass without using any cleaning products.  If necessary I will wipe over at the end with the dry end to make sure there is no smearing.  Something like this really comes in handy when you have a child.  Seriously, who has time to go get the paper towels and glass cleaner?  Not me!  I also like that they are generously sized whereas ones I have purchased in the past were not.  The only negative thing I can say about them is that they do shrink in the dryer; however, I failed to read the instruction about air drying them so I am entirely to blame!

You can find this product in the FLYshop for $9.95 plus S&H.

Let's talk about Christmas cards...

It's the time of year when we begin asking ourselves what to do about the annual Christmas card.  Should we get boxed cards, write a Christmas letter or take a Christmas photo and paste it inside a card?  Decisions, decisions....

Personally I like to take as much of the work out of it as possible!  If you are like me then can I be bold and suggest an idea to you?  Shutterfly!  Have you used Shutterfly before?  If not, now is definitely the time to try it out.  I use Shutterfly for anything I want to look really nice.  I have used it for countless cards and photobooks.  I posted one of my favorite projects recently and I wanted to share the Christmas card we designed for our first married Christmas as well but it has been discontinued so I cannot post a link to it - boo!  It was cute though!

So, I'd like to show you a few designs that I think are worthy of your consideration -

For those who cannot decide between doing a Christmas card or Christmas letter -
there is a hybrid available!

For those who want to share about their family but not in letter format,
here's a very playful option

For those with larger families,
here is one that spotlights each member

Shutterfly also has a selection of faith-based cards but honestly,
you can make most any of their cards reflect your beliefs
because of the personalization each one offers.

So, as you can see there is something for everyone at Shutterfly - that's why I love it so!  AND, if you have a blog there is an opportunity here to get 50 free holiday cards for yourself (hence the reason I am posting this entire blog about Shutterfly's holiday cards though seriously, I do love them and would use them even if there were no free cards!)

I am looking forward to designing mine soon.  I am always excited to get my products in the mail - Shutterfly photo cards and books ook so professional!  So, check Shutterfly out and see what you think! 

Can you believe it is December?

I am flabbergasted to realize that the year is almost over and in a few weeks my baby girl will be 6 months old!  People tell new moms all the time "it goes fast" or "she'll be crawling before you know it".  Well, I can tell you that in the throes of PPD it went slow as molasses and I prayed daily for time to speed up!  Looking back now I realize it did go fast and what seemed like an eternity was just a breath.  It's very healing to have a different perspective now, almost 6 months later, and realize that period didn't last forever and God did see me through.  He is so very faithful!

So, lo and behold Christmas is just around the corner.  Do I have a tree up?  No.  Do I have a stocking for Olivia?  No.  Do I have a plan?  No.  In short, this mama is way behind!  The only thing I can proudly claim is that most of my Christmas shopping is done.  That is a first for me - normally I wait til the last minute because I haven't made it a priority but this year I had an idea and ordered a variation of it for almost everyone on my list which made things rather simple.  I have a large extended family that I like to do a homemade project for each year and just this week I settled on what I'm going to do for that so I'm well on my way to being completely done with the gifts but I have no tree to put them under!  Oh well, I'm not overly worried about it.  Olivia will see plenty of trees and lights even if they are not at her own house! 

I did put up the adorable Little People Nativity Set I got last year when I knew I was pregnant and would want my baby to have his/her very own nativity set.  One of my childhood memories is of having a small tree of my own in my room each year.  I'd like to do that with Olivia but using the nativity scene so I can incorporate the real meaning of Christmas into her bedtime routine as she grows up.

One of the things we also have not done yet is take a Christmas picture for our Christmas cards.  We have had a Christmas dress for Olivia for a while but just have not had a chance to get a photo.  Mark ordered us a new NICE camera this week so we'll probably wait til it arrives to take our photo.  I'm just hoping and praying we get it done in time for me to create and order our cards!  And speaking of that, I'm going to write a whole separate blog post regarding the use of Shutterfly for your Christmas cards so stay tuned!

Olivia's Birth Announcement

Just wanted to share the birth announcement I created for Olivia that we sent out to immediate family.  I heart Shutterfly!

Storybook Setting Birth Announcement
Customize your own baby announcement at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

November 25, 2010

More DEALS!

Stacking manufacturer coupon with Target coupon got me the first cookie dough roll for 96 cent, then I got a Catalina and was able to stack that with a manufacturer coupon to get the 2nd for free.  Then I got another Catalina so hopefully there will be some more free cookie dough for me soon!
FREE with my ExtraCare bucks at CVS!

November 24, 2010

Telling Yourself the Truth

This past week I took a day to declutter in anticipation of a visit from my mother-in-law and just simply because I've begun to get very frustrated with anything in excess.  I think having a baby has made me want to simplify my own life and belongings as much as possible.  I can't really control, nor does it bother me, that Olivia has a million things all over the place at home but me and my husband's clutter is stomping on my last remaining nerve!

So, I started in our office.  As I've mentioned before I am learning to sew.  Our house is a small starter home so there are not many choices for a sewing area.  We decided to donate the PC that was on my desk to someone in need and give the monitor to my brother since it is nicer than what he has but looking around the room I knew there was no space for a new hobby without some major purging. 

Up until having Olivia I have always been an AVID reader.  When we got married I sold most of my beloved books in yard sales since we were merging our homes.  However, I kept a full bookcase of those I couldn't part with.  But, on this day I realized it was time to let go of old things if I wanted to have some new things.  So, I parted with things I NEVER thought I would!  Specifically, I shredded all of my personal journals and my written-in bible studies.  Even just typing that out is making me have slight heart palpitations! 

When I was single I journaled like a mad woman....I had stacks and stacks of notebooks filled with my thoughts, dreams, prayers and of course all my hurts and disappointments as well.  In an instant I just knew it was time to get rid of them....and the bible studies too.  I have done more Beth Moore bible studies than anyone I know, some I've done two and three times!  I had them all on my bookshelf...reminding me of what a wonderful spiritual person I used to be.  Truth be told, since getting married, I have really forsaken my relationship with God.  I haven't become a heathen or anything like that but I just have stopped making time for Him in lieu of all the other stuff that seems more pressing.  In some ways I think that holding onto those bible studies somehow still made me feel like I was the same person who made time for God first.  But the truth is that I am not and I need to come to grips with where I am now, let go of the past and make a new present and future.  I need to truly start putting God first, then my husband and then my child.

November 23, 2010

The little booger is sick....

So many things about being a mom are hard but I think the top two must be not knowing why your baby is crying and seeing your baby sick.  Olivia has been just beside herself for the last several days.  She is always a fussy baby but even she has her limits!  This past weekend was extremely traumatizing.  She screamed, screamed and screamed some more.  She wouldn't eat and then would be starving.  She was incredibly congested but wouldn't let anyone come near her nose.  And the worst of all, she was totally exhausted and would barely sleep.  I knew something was wrong with my baby and not knowing what was hard.

PPD runs the gamut in terms of how it manifests in each person.  For me alot of it is feeling like I'm not good enough, not a good mom.  Feeling like she would be better off without me.  Some of this stems back to issues I've battled for many years thanks to an ex, some of it comes from being a new mom and not knowing any better and some of it is just plain hormones or lack thereof.  Either way, for someone fighting off irrational thoughts it is really hard to have days on end when you can't seem to comfort your baby.

So, today was finally the time to go see the pediatrician.  I knew something was wrong several days ago but without getting into all the details I knew we needed to see a specific pediatrician in our practice so I delayed the visit until he was available.  As usual Olivia was just flirting away with the pediatrician - she is such a funny little girl - and my feelings of failure as a mom were put to bed when he informed us she had an ear infection.  I had begun to suspect that towards the end of our wait but up until the point an actual illness was confirmed the voice in my head was telling me not-so-nice things about my abilities as a mom.  So, the little booger is sick and is starting on antibiotics for 10 days.  Poor baby - but at least now we know what the problem is and can fix it!  And, once again I am reminded that I am a perfectly good mom.

I'm really glad that we got in to see someone today so we can nip this in the bud before Thanksgiving and also because my sweet baby girl is starting daycare next Monday and I'd hate to have to delay her due to illness.  I am so excited about the place we have chosen.  There is a much longer story here but being that this is a public blog I'm just going to skip that part.  The new place will have lots of stimulation for her and lots of communication for me.  I will even be able to watch her live online if I want to!  The location is in our neighborhood and right next to our gym which will also make it convenient to start working out again.  I am really looking forward to a more structured environment for her and one in which I can be more involved.

November 18, 2010

Organizational Tools

I want to share some things I've been finding online to help me get my home/personal life better organized.  I have just recently come across these materials so I cannot yet comment on how user friendly or useful I find them but I plan to post in the future and share my thoughts on them.  I just love sweet folks I only encounter online who create these routines and forms and then make them available for free.  I believe that is an example of focusing on your gifts and sharing them with others.
  • FLYlady.net is helping me to build routines into my daily life that keep my house going (we have also decided to hire someone to help clean our home until we get it under control and I can manage it myself again!).  I am signed up for her daily digest email which contains all of the emails for the day in one.  The emails include basic plans for each day, special challenges and testimonials.
  • Awesome free printables for planning everything from Christmas gifts to weekly menus to instructions for babysitters to birthday lists and on and on
  • Free Thanksgiving Your Way 2010 eBook which contains recipes, traditions, craft projects, decorating suggestions and has links to free printable planning sheets at the end
  • Free Christmas Your Way eBook which contains tips for organizing and simplifying Christmas with links to free printables planning sheets at the end 
And, lastly a resource that is not free but that I have purchased and am exploring - Organizing life as Mom eBook.  I found this about a week before I stumbled onto all these freebies.  Had I found those first I doubt I would have paid the $9 for the eBook.  However, I am glad it worked out that way because this resource has more written content and the printable forms are actually modifiable so that you can change them to fit you and your family specfically so in the end I may find that this was the best find of all. Stay tuned!

November 17, 2010

A few memories from Labor Day vacation


Olivia's first time for toes in the ocean water!

The gorgeous view of the sound from the back of our rental house

Daddy feeds the munchkin outside the aquarium

Olivia's favorite activity on vacation - laying on the couch!  She takes after Mommy!

November 16, 2010

FLYing projects - beware!

Here are a couple of FLYing projects I am working on - truth be told I've been working on them for weeks and haven't made much progress but I thought if I blogged about them it might help me get embarrassed motivated enough to work on them again!

So, here is a corner of my kitchen.  Can you see why I need help????  I am a hopeless clutter-holic!  I hate clutter yet I cannot seem to keep it out of my home and often I am as much the culprit as Mark.  I should add that Olivia's things also seem to be contributing heavily towards the clutter ratio as well.



And here is a cabinet where we store Buddy's stuff (our dog).
 And the top of the cabinet where all sorts of stuff seems to gravitate.

The only thing I've made progress on so far is the inside of the cabinet - below is the AFTER photo.  I'm going to make it my goal to post an updated photo of the other areas by the end of the month.....stay tuned!

Deals, deals and more deals!

Harris Teeter - Super Doubles Trip #1  $8.57


Harris Teeter - Super Doubles Trip #2 $2.49





Target - $0.15
 


Kroger $16.93



And lastly, my favorite deal, which I do not have a picture of, was at Walgreens - 1 toothbrush, 2 flosses and 1 hydrogen peroxide for $0.57


Where in the world is Shannon?

I've not been posting much lately and I thought I'd share some of the reasons why with you today:

-I cannot seem to find time to download the photos I want to include in my blogs but I don't want to write a blog and leave out the photo(s) either so today I have downloaded all the photos/videos and hope to catch up quickly on the happenings of the past few weeks.

-I am exhausted!  Olivia has been going through the "4 month sleep regression".  This is a term given to the period of time somewhere between 4 and 5 months when there are so many developmental changes occurring that a baby actually regresses in their sleep patterns.  She went from regularly sleeping 10 hrs per night in her crib to maybe 1 or 2 hours at a time.  Towards the latter part of this experience I figured out that if I moved her to our bed and cuddled close to her she would go back to sleep and stay that way til morning.  The other change I noticed was how upset she would be in the morning when she woke up - prior to this she would normally be happy and giggly in the morning.  So, this regression has been going on for the last week or so but last night, the 10th night, she returned to her normal sleep pattern - woo hoo!  I have to admit that as tired as it has made me I kind of missed our snuggle time last night but when I saw my giggly girl this morning I was so so very happy!

-I have taken two sewing classes in the past week.  My Christmas gift from Mark is a beautiful Brother SE400 sewing and embroidery machine.  He was kind enough to get it for me early so I could learn to actually use it before Christmas.  So far I have taken a 2 hour basic machine class, a 6 hour garment sewing class and I am scheduled for a 2 hour sewing fundamentals class in a couple weeks.  I have already bought the patterns, fabric and other materials for the first few projects I want to do.  The biggest question is WHEN will I have time to sew?!  LOL!

November 12, 2010

Meal Planning and Recipes

Me and a group of moms I have developed friendships with online are all contributing together to a Meal Planning and Recipe blog.  I hope you'll check it out HERE!

November 10, 2010

Surprises

I will have to admit that I have not had very many surprises in my life. Ranging from Christmas to Birthdays the majority of the time I knew what gifts to expect and as in my adult life I have even purchased my own gifts on the behalf of family members!


Being a deal hound I can't stand the thought of paying too much for something. Probably something instilled in me from a very young age. Christmas and my Birthday were so close that my Father would often combine the two which meant waiting till after Christmas to get a bigger gift for half off instead of smaller gifts at regular price. So growing up it was always cash was king in our family as Christmas presents. So other than a few small things I was given cash to spend post Christmas when I could get more for my money. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this but the most obvious disadvantage is the surprise factor or rather the lack of it. But by waiting I always got what I wanted and more because the money went further.

Flash forward to my married life where my wife for some reason doesn't seem to ever know what to get me (I like RC Planes/Helicopters and Kites - any will do) so I make it simple on her by buying my own gifts at the best price and then tell her it is for "insert holiday here". She hates this so much that it has been a point of contention in our marriage thus far. Last year for Valentines we tried something different and she picked out a surprise gift and I must say although not something I was expecting it was a very nice furniture grade Watch Box to keep my small collection of watches in and on display instead of just my sock drawer. I enjoyed the little experiment and the surprise but I still needed some kind of bigger surprise to make up for all those years of always knowing. That opportunity presented itself in several big ways last year.

The first big surprise was how quickly God blessed us in our attempts to conceive. With both of us being in our mid thirties, Shannon and I had imagined several months of trying. This thought became even greater when we found out at the start of our attempts that I would unexpectedly have to attend an out of state training session for 6 weeks. But fortunately, after just one month of trying and on the day before I was due to leave for my trip we found out that Shannon was pregnant - a wonderful surprise and relief for both of us. That surprise really helped me get through 6 weeks of being away from my wife and also help strengthened our marriage while we were apart when the distance would have taken a toll on some.

The second surprise and the greatest of my adult life was deciding to wait till our baby was born to know the gender. As impatient as I am, I was determined to have one major surprise in my life and this was the perfect opportunity and thankfully Shannon agreed with my decision. For me I had no doubt about the fact that I didn't want to know but then after about 2 weeks of making the decision I got worried that I may have forced Shannon into it. I realized I sort of just stated the fact that we would not find out the gender till the baby would be born but I never really asked for any deep thoughts or concerns about it from Shannon. So I addressed the issue again with her and she assured me that she too didn't want to know. I realized that waiting till you actually have your baby to determine the gender is a thing of the past and very few people do it but to us it was very important to NOT know. I can't even put into words how it actually really felt to know all at the same moment that my wife was OK, my baby was OK, and that I was the father of a baby girl. The feelings of each thing just compounded upon itself exponentially. To hear "it's a girl" come out of the Doctor's mouth and to have the feelings I did was just beyond belief. It was so pure and so wonderful. We both enjoyed it so much that I am pretty sure that although impractical that we would once again wait till find out the gender should we chose to have another child.

The last big surprise was just how hard being a parent really is. It is nothing like what they say in books or training seminars. With Olivia being such a "high needs" baby, she really has just brought out so much in us that we both didn't even know we had. I have now seen my wife blossom into the most wonderful mother, full of strength and tenderness and myself love another person so wholeheartedly. I will have to openly admit that Shannon has really felt the lion share of the struggles with raising our child. She was the one at home the most during those fist months, the one who always got up in the middle of the night to feed Olivia or soother her. I really was shielded from a lot of the bigger struggles of caring for a new born because she so willing and actively took on those chores as loving mother. I could not have been blessed with a better wife and mother for my child.

So all these surprises combined have really made for a wonderful year and have made up quite a bit for what I have been lacking all my life in the surprise department.

November 07, 2010

How's it FLYing?

It has now been several weeks or more since I began intentionally trying to create new routines and patterns of doing things in order to keep my home from imploding!  Some new things are working and some are not.  In fact I learned one day last week that sometimes you just have to leave your house in shambles and not worry about it because you did the best you could. 

New routine #1: 
I wanted to experiment with making a weekly calendar for household chores, appointment reminders, etc.  The format and items included have evolved several times over but I think I am finally happy with the version I am trying out for next week.  Essentially it's just a table created in Microsoft Word that lists all the appointments for the week, the household chores that are needed (a rolling list so if something doesn't get done I just carry it over to make sure I don't forget) and a place to write my dinner plans in so I know what to thaw/buy at the grocery store.  I also make notes of any special household projects I want to tackle.

New routine #2: 
Doing a load of laundry a day is working well.  I no longer find myself with multiple loads of laundry to do over the weekend which is wonderful.  The folding is another thing though.  My goal is to wash and fold one load per day but on occasion the folding gets put off til the next day.  This week that happened a few times and tonight I realized I had three loads to fold.  It took a long time - waaah!

New routine #3:
Meal planning is the "November Focus" on FLYlady.net and it came at a perfect time.  I had just gotten to the point where it was either start meal planning or start working two jobs to eat out all the time!  Last week I made a complete plan for dinners for the whole week AND put the needed items on the grocery list BEFORE we went to the store.  That might be the first time that has happened in 3.5 years of marriage!  It felt really good to have a plan and work my plan so I will continue to work on this.

New routine #4:
Using my time wisely is working though it does make me resentful at times so I know I need to find a balance.  What I mostly mean when I say "using my time wisely" is that I don't spend time watching TV regularly anymore.  I used to be a huge TV watcher, huge.  I easily spent 10 or more hours per week watching TV shows.  I do still watch TV but it is probably more like 3 hours a week and rarely on the same day the show airs.  Instead I now take every opportunity to get my "To Do" list done.  The downside to this is that I am very unbalanced right now in "taking care of myself".  I need to work on finding the balance but overall I am happy with my progress in this area.

On my next FLYing update I hope to post some pictures that just might make your hair curl!

November 04, 2010

Sweet moments...

Here are a few of my favorite recent Olivia moments...


Sweet sleepy girl (during the day)....a RARE moment!


Olivia is LOVING bath time these days and
she is finally noticing her rubber duck! 
She smiles, giggles and kicks at him - it's so cute!


November 03, 2010

New Adventure: Baby Food!




I was so excited to see these baby food freezer trays on my doorstep today!  I bought some sweet potatoes earlier in the week and have been dying to try my hand at making my own baby food.  So far I've tried Gerber rice cereal and mashed avocado with Olivia and she has not seemed too impressed with either.  I am hoping that sweet potatoes will have a better reception. 

I have been reading books and online articles for weeks about making your own baby food and decided it was something I'd like to do.  I had a rather devastating failure with breastfeeding so I feel strongly about making the time investment to do this for my daughter.  I don't have anything against jarred food and I'm sure we will use it occasionally so don't be offended!

So tonight while I was getting Olivia to bed Mark was baking the sweet potatoes in the oven.  When I came downstairs they were ready to be peeled and pureed.  I used our KitchenAid mixer and then pushed the sweet potatoes through a mesh screen colander to make sure all the fibrous strands were removed.  It was a little more work than I thought but I ended up with 32 squares of sweet potatoes which will last a LONG time at the rate she is going!

Here is one of my trays - a little messy but fun!


HT Super Doubles


Super Doubles at Harris Teeter can yield lots of free or significantly reduced items!  A lot of what I went for was already gone but I got 3 cans of cream of mushroom soup (which I need for a recipe next week), 2 lbs of spaghetti, 10 oz bottle of soy sauce, 3 pack of popcorn, tic tacs, advil (had coupon for free bottle), scrubbing bubbles toilet gel discs and frozen pierogies and refrigerated creamer (which I left at work) for $7.10 (would have been $30 at regular price).  Yay for deals!

November 01, 2010

Weekend Wonders


Is this the sweetest little cow or what?   Olivia had her first Halloween party on Sunday afternoon, hosted and attended by church friends who have babies around the same age.  We dressed her as a cow since Mark loves cows and also in attendence were adorable monkey girl complete with cute tail and VERY sleepy dragon boy!   Dragon boy was born on the same day as Olivia and in the same hospital.  They both have jungle themed nurseries and Daddies with Jeeps!  Monkey girl has beautiful blue eyes and LOVES her carseat!  (Wish she would teach Olivia the joys of the carseat!)

On Saturday morning I noticed that her SECOND tooth had made its appearance!  They are the sweetest little teeth just barely poking out of the gumline.  It's so exciting to see her changing and growing!  What a sweet blessing from God!

Now to switch gears  I want to talk about something more serious.  One of the primary reasons I started blogging was to share my journey through postpartum depression (PPD) in hopes that I might help someone else....a friend or family member who reads this blog or a stranger that just stumbles across it.  I have many embarrassing things in my past and current life but I've always been an "open book" to others because I believe that God uses the 'weak' things to show His strength.  So, with that being explained I'd like to share a little with you today. 

It is so embarrassing to have PPD!  No one talks about it for that very reason.  What mother wants anyone to know she is not blissfully happy about her newborn?  It is devastating to realize that one of the most wonderful things God has ever allowed you to experience is also causing you to become inexplicably saddened, filled with anxiety and thinking completely irrational thoughts.  It is equally embarrassing to have to be put on medication for 6 months to a year in order to deal with those feelings productively.  It's just embarrassing, embarrassing, embarrassing - there is no way around that but in order to get "better" I need to be open about my journey so that I can get the help I need and do what is best for my family.

So, how do you know when you are getting "better"?  I think it is when you are willing to try "new things" you were too afraid to do before.  For me, one of those things is taking my daughter out for an entire day including being in the car alone with her beyond the 5 minutes it takes to get her to and from her nanny.  Why would that be such a big deal you wonder?  Well, for me it is huge deal because in the early months of Olivia's life I was terrified to go anywhere with her.  She was sooo unhappy and cried all the time.  I could not handle it emotionally so eventually I just stopped trying and stayed at home all day everyday while I was on leave and even since returning to work have not been able to be out with her. 

This weekend I knew that Mark would be busy all day and most of Saturday so I decided it was time to try a "new thing".  In truth I felt afraid to be with my daughter alone all day (that's a "new thing" yet to be accomplished) so I decided I needed reinforcements.  My mom will not drive to Raleigh because she hates traffic so I knew I would have to go to her instead.  First I confirmed that she would be home and then I called my sister-in-law who is wonderful with my baby girl.  She said she could come - yay! - but then I started thinking that two extra people might not be enough so I asked her to bring her mother too!  I was getting an army together to help me with my first "new thing" because I did not want to fail! 

So, Saturday I fed Olivia her first morning bottle, managed to keep her happy until the next bottle and after that we set out on our adventure.  During the one hour drive she did exactly what strikes terror in my heart - screamed the entire way - I thought I was going to die.  But somehow we made it to Rocky Mount and she promptly fell asleep until we pulled up in the driveway.  Whew!  Made it through the first leg of my "new thing"!  There were 4 adults and 1 child total in addition to my girl when we set out to enjoy lunch.  Between all of us we managed to keep her from screaming for a few hours.  We went back home afterwards and my brother also joined our army and we kept her relatively happy for another few hours and then it was time for me to head back to Raleigh.  I climbed in the car knowing the trip home might put me right over the edge and I was right, she screamed for 40 minutes straight (while I tried every music station and noise I could think to make) before she conked out.  My nerves were in pieces but I made it home, got her ready for bed, fed and put her to sleep.  It was rough but I did it - I tried a "new thing" and saw it through to the bitter end!  I'm making progress people....slow as molasses but progress all the same!

October 29, 2010

Babylegs 75% Off!

Babylegs.com a company that sells these utterly cute leg warmers, tights and socks is currently offering 75% off any order $75 or more when you purchase items from their Costume selection. Enter code SPOOK75 at checkout. Shipping is FREE.


I was very giddy when I found out and I bought 7 pairs late last night for $20.50 shipped. They had a few none Halloween looking ones which were the ones I bought. Some have sold out so the selection now is getting very limited so if interested act quickly. I think our daughter Olivia is going to love these and they well help keep her warm and protect her little legs when she starts to crawl. Shannon probably thinks I am crazy and is not too sure what to make about them but I just adore them.

Here is one of the pairs I bought called Candy Apples


I am also very tempted to try out one of these WooBee Blankets which they have on sale right now with an additional 25% off using in code WOOBEE25 and also free shipping. I really would like the Cow Pattern one to go with Olivia's new Cow Pattern Car Seat.



To See they 3 different types and determine which one is right for you go to



Or if you are already familiar with them you may go here to shop directly.



They normally range from $30 to $64 and now with the discount are going from $18 to $36.