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Archive for October, 2013

Parenting in the Digital Age

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Confession: I often resort to pulling up baby-appropriate videos on my phone to keep the baby entertained when we go out to eat. Sometimes I feel a judgmental stare, but most of the time, people will stop and ask us where we got our iPhone tripod and how awesome it is to have access to technology like that whenever, wherever. (Seriously. This happens EVERY TIME we go out and use the tripod stand. People LOVE it and we’ve considered selling them on the side for a slight mark-up.)

And let’s face it, judging or not, just about everyone can agree that they’d rather my child be entertained by a video for 20 minutes than screaming his head off and disrupting not only our dinner, but everyone’s dinner in the restaurant.

Technology and its place in the family is a hotly debated topic, and it will continue to be so until the next attention-grabbing thing comes along. Some of you may remember this post from last year entitled Dear Mom On The iPhone. It made waves several months later among many, MANY bloggers and received quite the response, such as Dear Mom Judging Me For My iPhone.  First of all, this was the first time I ever considered that someone would judge me for looking at my phone while my child played. Second of all, it made me second guess picking up my phone in public while my child played. And to be honest, I feel conflicted about that. On one hand, it’s important for me to be present in my child’s life. I only get a few hours with him after work in the evenings. But that doesn’t mean my attention still isn’t divided between him and running errands to the grocery store (while he gnaws on a cookie in the cart) or fixing two separate dinners (one for him and one for the adults) or trying to put away some laundry, water the flowers, feed the dog, and whatever else I can squeeze into those few hours at home each evening. The truth is, he rarely gets 100% of my undivided attention for the entire couple of hours before bedtime each night. And I’d imagine this is the same story any SAHM would tell as well. It takes a lot to keep a home running, whether you work or not. Also, no one – no matter how many hours they spend at home – are spending their entire days playing with their kids all day every day. And guess what? THAT’S OKAY! (This is what I have to tell myself all the time anyway.)

So when I’m at home, I try to put the phone down and only pick it up when someone calls or texts or when it’s time to play his bath music. Or when I need to snap a picture because that’s almost a daily occurrence. Granted, there are times when I need to be on the lookout for a work email or the allure is too much and I mindlessly open FB or Instagram, but I catch myself within 30 seconds and put it back down. It’s a work in progress for someone like me who treats her phone like her 3rd arm.

But that’s me, and though it’s a daily battle, I feel like I balance my attention to D versus attention to what’s on my phone fairly well. But what about D? What’s too much tech for him? There are some families that don’t even own a TV; some families practice time limits for tech – be it a half hour a day or 3 hours a day; and some, like the home I grew up in, not only don’t enforce time limits, but the ADULTS have trained themselves to not be able to sleep without a TV on in front of them. (While I grew up in that sort of household, let me just say that I do not live this way anymore.) I’m more of a middle-of-the-road type of person. Everything in moderation is my motto. I think technology can and should be enjoyed, within limits.

Then I read this article on Today.com about a family who thought it would be a good idea to go back to 1986 – around the time they were born – and completely do away with all forms of technology beyond a basic tube TV, a rotary phone, and a Nintendo. (I question the need for a Nintendo, but hey, I guess they were around in 1986.)  I was intrigued until I read this paragraph:

Instead, shutting their family off from the normal barrage of technology opened up new doors, both literally and figuratively. After dinner, the family has to find an activity to occupy their time. They adopted a dog so they could go on walks. They play outside or go to the splash park.

So…you had to get rid of modern technology in order to go on walks, take care of a dog, and go to the splash park? We do all of these things quite regularly, actually. And the best part is, I usually have my smartphone there to document it all too. This article did absolutely nothing to prove to me that living a life with reduced technology is any better or more enjoyable. In fact, it sounds a little worse:

“The road trip we recently took to Minneapolis was the worst,” says McMillan. “It would have been a lot easier to hand them a DVD player when they were both screaming about sharing stickers in the back seat of the car.”

So remind me again why not letting them watch a DVD on a road trip is such a noble thing to do? Why you’re a better parent? Or why your kids are smarter/better for it? I’m not seeing how this is a good thing.

I guess I just feel like I read about so many people denouncing today’s technology – either for themselves or for their children – and we glorify it as if they’ve overcome some huge obstacle like losing 100lbs or running a marathon. How many times have you heard (or said) “I’m quitting Facebook!” or “I’m taking a blogging break.” or “The Internet is such a waste of time, I’m going to go off the grid for awhile.” (I’ve actually said all of these things. Multiple times.) And others respond “Good for you!” or “I need to do that too.” or “I wish I was able to do that for a while!” I know everyone needs a break from their day-to-day once in awhile, but shouldn’t this discussion be more about finding balance and using today’s technology for GOOD? Why does it have to be so all or or nothing? Life is filled with gray areas and this is definitely one of them. Expect more on this topic in the future.

Something I really hope to figure out soon is how to use technology to help educate my toddler. My friend Sara posted a list of apps for 12-16 month olds that I’m eager to check out. And another blog I follow, Cool Mom Tech, often features cool apps and tech tools that relate to education, though D isn’t old enough for most of them yet.

So what say you? Do you have a “no screens” policy for yourself or for your kiddos? Do you limit it to say, 1 hr per day? Do you have a list of cool toddler-appropriate apps to share? Or will it be crayons and wood puzzles until your kids are in kindergarten? I wonder how many 2 yr olds will be getting an iPad mini for Xmas?

 

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Fall Fun List

Some people call it a bucket list. I prefer a “Fall Fun List.”  Whatever you want to call it, here’s my list.

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Fortunately, we’ve already done most of these things and we have plans to do all of them by the end of the week! (Yes, even WIN THE WORLD SERIES! Go Cards!)

What’s on your Fall Fun List?

(To make your own, check out this lovely blogger.)

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Adventures in Couponing

This may be one of the most boring posts I’ve ever written but since my little rant last week about budgeting, I figured I’d post a little about my experience with couponing this weekend.

I had one goal this weekend. Make a meal plan for the week, get a Sunday paper, clip coupons, and buy only the things I need this week. Okay so that sounds like a lot of goals, but they all serve one main purpose: To cut back on food costs.

So how did I do?

First, I checked out StlMommy.com. She posts tons of great deals every day. I honestly don’t know how she does it, but she’s a fantastic resource for local deals. It was there that I learned that my closest grocery store was offering Triple Coupons this week, meaning they’ll triple any coupon you bring in that’s $.75 or less. I also spent WAY too much time looking at sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com only to have gotten too lazy to print anything out. Instead, the hubs ran out Sunday morning and picked up a paper for me. After looking at all the ads and clipping the coupons I needed, I adjusted my list a little and made a game plan to go to Target for the $10 giftcard offer on Pampers and their sale on Halloween candy, then to my local grocer for all of my grocery needs (a store called Schnucks for all you locals).

I usually buy my diapers online since I’m an Amazon Prime member and I get free shipping. But with the $10 giftcard offer on two packs of diapers at $25 each, I probably saved an additional $8 than if I would have ordered them online. I also bought some Halloween candy that was on sale and came with a free Tombstone pizza offer, which was valued at about $2.84 + tax. So I saved roughly $11 at Target on things I needed anyway. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes.

Then I went to Schnucks and this is where things got complicated. I don’t use coupons often, but I’ve compared prices enough to know that coupons are only useful when that’s A) a brand you insist on buying or B) it’s the cheapest option, after coupons. And the latter doesn’t happen very often. For example, I had a coupon for Gillette razors but even with a tripled coupon, the BIC ones were cheaper so I didn’t use it. So I took a lot of time looking at my list, checking to see which items I had coupons for, and then price checking everything to make sure I was getting the best deal. This doubled the amount of time I spent at the grocery store and was one of the few times where I didn’t have D or the hubs with me. The result? I saved about $13 in coupons, and another $25 in sales, so a total of $37 savings on a $107 grocery bill. But since I spent the most time on the couponing portion (since I would’ve bought the items on sale anyway) I only count the $13 as added savings. Add that to the $11 I saved at Target, minus the $2.50 I spent on the paper, and I saved $21.50 that I wouldn’t have normally saved.

Was that $21.50 worth the 3-4 hours of extra time? I’m not sure. I don’t exactly enjoy couponing or deal hunting as I’d rather be taking my little boy to the park or being lazy on the couch, but I’m guessing that’s the case with most people and it’s not like we budget because we want to. We budget because we have to. I’m hoping I get a bit faster at this whole meal planning/list making/coupon clipping thing so that it feels more worth it and becomes less of a hassle or chore.

One rookie mistake I made was making my list before making my meal plan. And making my meal plan before checking out the deals/coupons. I ended up changing my meal plan and therefore my list about 3 times in the middle of the store because I found things on sale (like bacon for BLTS) that would be cheaper than my original plan of pot roast and potatoes. Ideally, my goal is to get our meals down to around $80 a week while still incorporating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.  I don’t even know if this is possible, but I’m going to keep trying!

 

 

 

 

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Five on Friday

1. Thanks for the comments/tweets/emails re: budgeting advice. As I was freaking out about finances, I realized I had made plans with one of my besties to go get manis/pedis. It’s not something we do often, but it’s sort of our go-to idea for a girl’s night out. Of course, that little hour of activity usually costs me about $50, so I asked if we could do something else instead and we now have plans for a crafting night using mostly stuff both of us already have. So much cheaper and so much more FUN! I’m excited!

Some of the quick and easy crafts on our agenda:

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I have a bunch of plain white mugs that are just taking up space in our cabinet. Can’t wait to jazz them up and possibly use them for gifts for the holidays.

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I have a collection of old wine corks just collecting dust in my kitchen. It’s time I put them to good, crafty use. Perhaps something like this cute wreath?

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And how cute is this little wrapping paper tree? So easy to make and will look so cute on a shelf or table.

(All images/links found on Pinterest. Click image to access link.)

2. If the above craft ideas weren’t already an indication, I’m entering holiday mode. I know, I know, it’s TOO EARLY but I just can’t help myself. Due to a bunch of upcoming travel before the end of the year, I know I won’t get to relax and enjoy the holidays like I want to, so I’m getting a head start on a few things now.

3. The rest of the weekend will be spent rooting for our home team in the World Series! Fingers crossed for 3 more WINS!

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4. It’s the last weekend of October and I’m DETERMINED to do something fall/Halloween-ish. We could check out Boo at the Zoo. Or maybe just go for a pretty fall drive along the river or out near the wineries. We’ve gone apple picking, but haven’t been to a pumpkin patch, although I have enough leftover pumpkins from our party last weekend to create our own!

5. Speaking of leftover pumpkins, I made sure to buy “pumpkin pie pumpkins” so that people could take their decorated pumpkin home and make delicious fall treats. Since I have a few leftover, I’m thinking I need to make something myself. Maybe mini pumpkin pie bites?

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Or how about pumpkin pie cake?

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Or how about delicious pumpkin scones for breakfast?

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I just can’t decide! But one thing’s for sure – my kitchen is going to smell FANTASTIC this weekend.

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Breaking the Budget

Being an adult is HARD. But you know what’s harder? Being a parent. There’s just so much responsibility, which, DUH. Of course there is.

And then there’s the financial impact. And here’s where I’m struggling.

It’s taken awhile for me to realize this but damn, kids are expensive. (Shocker, right?) Sure, there’s all the initial preparation – the nursery furniture, the diapers, the books, the decorations, the blankets, the bouncer, the swing, the stroller, the car seat, the high chair, etc. And if you’re lucky enough to have most of that stuff given to you at showers, then you’re lucky enough. We were pretty fortunate to have my mom gift us our nursery furniture for Christmas before D was born and my in laws to pay for our stroller and infant carrier. And my SIL gave us more boy’s baby clothes than we knew what to do with. But now that D is nearing a year and a half, there’s a whole new slew of expenses creeping up on us. He needs different foods – and more of it, he needs clothes and shoes, he needs more age-appropriate toys and books, he needs baby gates and cabinet locks for safety, and we had to buy a bigger car seat and a better stroller. He also needs things like shampoo and bubble bath, lotion and laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and basically everything we were given before he was born has now run out and we need more, More, MORE!

And mommy needs more too. My changing waistline, bra and shoe sizes means I practically need an entire new wardrobe every season. Most of my old clothes no longer fit the way they used to, so I’ve had to buy new items here and there every few weeks, slowly accumulating pieces of clothing only to now be pregnant again and start all over. Fortunately I still have lots of maternity items, but for anyone that’s ever bought maternity clothes, you know that most of those things are only meant to be worn a few times because to look at them now, they’re stretched and faded and just one more wash away from ending up in the donation pile.

But none of these things are a big deal, if you have the money. And we used to. As two dual-income twenty-somethings, money was never something we worried about too much. We could pay our bills and go out with friends without ever thinking twice. That’s not say we were eating filet mignon every night while drinking Cristal. Debt would pile up during the more “spendy” months – like when we first bought our house and had to buy all new furniture, appliances and lawn equipment. Or around Christmas, our annual week-long beach vacation, or the month we both had to buy all new tires for both of our cars. Then we’d spend a couple of months paying off whatever we owed and be credit-card-debt-free again.

And then we went down to one income. I say “one income” because even though my husband works from home, he’s an entrepreneur and typically whatever he makes profit-wise is usually invested right back into his business. Such is the case with most entrepreneurs their first couple of years.  So for argument’s sake, we’re a one-income family at the moment. Only we haven’t been living like it. We do what we want and buy what we want whenever we want. And the result is not good, folks. Seeing a balance on a credit card is giving me anxiety. Actually, the upcoming holidays, the idea of adding a monthly preschool charge and an eventual car payment (the hubs’ car is on its last leg) is what’s really giving me anxiety.  Oh and this new baby, who will need a crib and other necessities (although clothing isn’t one of them, hallelujah!!). We may not be in the red zone yet, but our expenses are only going to increase so we need to get this under control NOW.

Our little family needs to make some changes. For starters, I’m tackling our Christmas budget. We typically spend somewhere around $2,000 for close to 35 people. Our budgets for our parents and each other were always a bit higher than for everyone else, but that’s still a ridiculous amount of money and people to buy for. This year, my goal is to get our Xmas budget down to around $200 for about 15 people. The hubs and I have decided not to exchange gifts, as well as my parents, so that will help considerably. And since D doesn’t really get the concept of Christmas yet, we’ll probably only get him a couple of toys and books.

Next up, we need to get organized when it comes to grocery shopping. I confess that I rarely use coupons. I just haven’t had the time or patience to find them and clip them. But I’m going to find the time and make this a priority. But before I can do that, I need to make actual, detailed, meal plans for each of us. This is not as easy as it sounds since we eat different things. The hubs is a grab and go person. His breakfast, if he eats breakfast at all, is a banana or a granola bar and a cup of coffee. I’m a cereal and milk girl. And D is a fruit and granola bar baby. Lunch has been my downfall lately and I’m guilty of dropping about $8-10 a day on a sandwich at the local eateries near the office. And then there’s diner which consists of about 50% eating out and 50% tossing something together at the house.  We’re just not consistent. You may recall that I was doing Time For Dinner every month, and while it helped ease the pain of meal planning, it’s definitely not the cheapest route and I still couldn’t get my act together to even make a decent side dish most of the time. But the real reason I stopped going as of last month is because ever since I got pregnant, I’ve had major, unpredictable food aversions. So I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money on meals that I wasn’t even eating most of the time. More than half of it would end up in the trash because I’d just be suddenly repulsed by it. So back to basics.

(It’s also worth noting that we cancelled our cleaning service. The fact that I even had a cleaning service and I’m complaining about money right now makes me want to punch myself in the face, but I wanted to be completely honest and since I mentioned how much I LOVED having someone else come in and clean our floors and bathrooms twice a month to you guys before, I thought I’d also point out that we no longer have it because the financial stress was causing me more anxiety than a dirty bathroom so we had to make a decision. Fortunately, the hubs said he’d be willing to take on more of the chores and so far, he’s kept his promise. I’ve picked up my own slack too and as long as I can will myself to do just ONE thing every day, I can still spend quality time with D, enjoy my evenings and weekends, and not lose my mind.)

So lay it on me. What are your best budgeting tips, without getting too extreme? (We’re not quite desperate enough yet to cut our cable or ditch our smartphones.) Do you give yourself a cash allowance each week/month? Do you shop at certain stores for the best deals? Do you buy in bulk at club membership stores (and does it actually save you money)? Do you keep track of your spending in a handy spreadsheet? Do you DIY Xmas presents for people? Impose spending limits with friends/family? Forgo spouse gifts like we’re doing this year? Only buy for immediate family or draw names? I’m all ears!

 

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18 Weeks

How Big is Baby:  About the size of a bell pepper.

Big Developments: Ears have shifted to final position and my appetite is supposed to be increasing (I think this happened last week).
Food Cravings:  Nothing consistent. Today I wanted Cheez-Its but that was probably because someone mentioned them and they sounded tasty.
Food Aversions:  I think week 17 was the magic week. My indigestion became more bearable, although not entirely gone. I still have days where I need to pop some TUMS, but it’s not daily anymore, so I’ve been a bit more adventurous when eating spicy foods again, but still staying away from guaranteed belly busters like salad dressings and Chinese food. I don’t know what it is about those two things, but they never fail to make me completely miserable after I eat it.
Other Symptoms: Movement is picking up a little bit this week, but I only notice it when I’m being completely still and paying attention. Nowhere near strong enough to be felt on the outside yet. I also feel the need to move my legs around much more often, especially at night. I change positions constantly and rarely cross my legs anymore. And sometimes I feel like my feet are starting to swell but when I look at them, they’re just fine. I guess I’m just anticipating what’s to come.
Sleep:  Pretty much the same. Get up once or twice to pee. Have a hard time falling back asleep around 4am but seemingly NO trouble being sound asleep when my alarm goes off. I’m trying to hold off until at least 20 weeks to reintroduce the body pillow to our bed because it just takes up so much darn room.
Maternity Clothes:  Completely in maternity pants at this point. I tried on my regular work pants earlier this week and while I could still button them, they were tight and uncomfortable. I also don’t enjoy wearing the belly band so I think it’s time to just bite the bullet and break out my entire maternity wardrobe from last time.
What I’m Looking Forward To:  The 20 week ultrasound in two more weeks. And even though we likely won’t make any progress on the nursery until after the holidays, I’m starting to let myself think about design ideas. Meanwhile, the hubs is looking forward to redoing our guest bedroom into his new office space/guest room. So that transformation will probably take place before we start on the nursery.
Thoughts: We toured the daycare/preschool we’ll be sending D to after the first of the year.  It’s on the higher end, cost-wise, but affordable for us since we’re only going to send him there two days a week. We also inquired about infant care for baby #2 and since they don’t offer a part-time option for infants, let’s just say that my eyes nearly rolled into the back of my head when she told us the price. I’m beginning to see why so many moms (or dads) end up leaving the workforce after the second child. No one can afford the daycare for two (or more) kids full time! Unfortunately, we just don’t have many options when it comes to childcare and it’s stressing me out. We don’t have family that can help out. Hell, we don’t even have a relative that could handle a couple of hours of babysitting, let alone regular childcare.  There aren’t any good daycares in our area with the exception of the one we’ve chosen that doesn’t open until January. (And is out of our price range if we want to send both kiddos.) We don’t have any nearby friends or neighbors that we could nanny-share with. And no one has been able to refer a good nanny in our area, mostly because none of our friends live close or have ever used a nanny. And while I’m not totally against in-home daycare options, we just don’t know anyone that can refer us to one near us and we’re not comfortable just taking a leap of faith when it comes to the safety of our babies.  So…that doesn’t leave us with many options. I honestly have no idea what we’ll end up doing, but I know becoming a SAHM is NOT an option for me, and asking the hubs to give up his business to be SAHD isn’t an option for him either, so we’ll have to figure something out before next June, when I return to work after maternity leave.
Side note: Does anyone really care that I don’t post belly pics with these updates? I’ve just never been into taking belly pics but I know I love seeing them on other people’s blogs, so just thought I’d ask.

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Five on Friday

1. Our DVR is on overload right now with all the awesomeness that is fall TV. My favorite show so far this season? The Blacklist. I can’t get enough of it. The story line is fantastic and James Spader is an amazing actor. Highly recommend. What’s your favorite TV show right now?NBCs-The-Blacklist

2. We finally announced baby #2’s gender on Facebook, with this image. Photoshop pro my hubby is not, but creative? Definitely.

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“Boo! It’s BLUE for baby Skeens #2!”

3. We’re having our annual Halloween Party this weekend! It’s going to be a long day since we’re essentially having a playdate during the day for the little ones, and then a bonfire and booze for the adults in the evening. So it’s almost like throwing two parties in one day. At first, the hubs was not on board with this idea because he knows this only means more work for him, but later as he was talking to his dad, he complimented me saying what a good mom I was for wanting to do fun stuff like that for D and his baby friends. Cue the “awwws.”

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Picture of my evite template. I love evite.

4. I can’t get over this pic of D in overalls. Surprisingly, the hubs dressed him and snapped this pic to send to me this week while I was at work. Even dads like to play dress-up too sometimes. :)

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5. The Cardinals take on the Dodgers again in the battle to get to the World Series. We’re one winning game away from victory, so let’s hope our birds clinch it tonight! Go Cards!

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