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Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (child)

I haven't blogged since January b/c I've been too busy twisting, jumping, diving and darting from curve balls in my constant game of Dodgeball that is life.

But lately, I'm winning the game.

I'll update more on Josh and what's going on with him later, but today is about Ava.

I'm sure you've all heard the saying that three's are worse than two's. I couldn't imagine 2 year old temper tantrums getting much worse. But it DEFINATELY did get worse. Whoooooaaaa, Mama, did it get worse!

Ava is incredibly passionate for such a little thing, and also smarter than her years, and it became a REAL problem for us. Pre-school last year did help some, however we also added more home therapies for Josh, and she had a very hard time adjusting to "teachers" coming into our house with Toys for Josh and not for her. Her 3 year old brain did not take to it too kindly.

So we brought in a child psychologist to our therapy regiment, and I dubbed her The Supernanny. She was so great in pointing out all of Ava's positive traits, while explaining to us that her bossiness needed to be addressed ASAP or she would be a lonely child in school. She gave us some strategies and tips, and also talked and played with Ava too.

Now as we approach her 4th birthday, I am finally exhaling with her because I see her maturing emotionally very rapidly. She is slowly understanding the need for Joshy's "helpers", and is excited to be one of the "helpers" too. She also is sharing much better, and interacting with other kids without totally controlling what they play.

I had to also take a good long look at how I could parent her differently too, and analyze my weaknesses. I had to develop a stronger backbone, and with so much going on with Josh, it got too easy to give in. I'm not embarassed to admit that a solid dose of anti-anxiety medication, and an occasional xanax helped me with this. Is that sad, or what??? For those of you that have heard Ava's howling when she's placed in the corner, you understand!!!! I'm a tough cookie, but now and then I need some intervention too!

Yes, she was THAT bad.

What I've discovered with Ava is that she truly is very advanced artistically, and she doesn't respond to threats of taking toys away, time-outs, etc. But take her crayons and markers away..... she'll be an angel for you to get them back! Also... the idea of using SANTA is a tried and true successful parental tool that should always be utilized.

So I combined the tools.

I came up with a little something that has been working wonderfully all week, and teaching her LOADS of great behavioral lessons.

I bought a little notebook or journal book from the Dollar Store, a glue stick, and some kid scissors. She's writing several letters of the alphabet, but no words yet... so writing a Christmas list for Santa is out of the question. We're dealing with the constant barrage of t.v. ads for Pillow Pets, Mighty Beans, Squooshees. I keep telling her "well, we'll let Santa know you want that..." .... and I'm getting worried about her desiring too much without earning it.

So she has a special drawer for her Dollar Store journal book, glue stick, and safety scissors. When I get the Sunday ads, or magazines, she gets to cut out whatever she wants Santa to bring her and glue it in her book for her "Christmas list". Then at Christmas time, we will "mail" it to Santa so that he can have his "Elves" make 10 of the toys on her list to bring to her for Christmas.

I thought it was a good little idea... but I didn't realize HOW good it was until we were walking through the store and Ava shouted... "Hey... look at this, Mom! Maybe I can find a picture of it to put in my book to Santa!"


So then she even decided... on her own... to make a page in her book to Santa for Josh, Mommy, and Daddy too.

She cut out some coffee mugs for Santa to bring Mommy, and a collector's knife for Adam. How cute is that?

It's funny how the best solutions are RIGHT in front of you, but you have to be tuned in to see them.

Hope you mom's of little ones give this a try, because if it can work on MY little "angel" Ava, then it will certainly work for your kid too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Everyday I'm a Hustlin' (with Coupons that is)

I've received 4 or 5 emails about where I think the best places to find coupons are, and about how I personally coupon. I think it's b/c it's still the first of the year that people are determined to start the year off saving some money. I emailed each of my friends back seperately with tips and tricks, but I thought I'd just go ahead and blog it for the rest of ya.

I'm not gonna lie.... I FLIPPIN' HATE couponing. I'm starting to hate it more and more b/c it's turning into a job. That being said, I'm quite good at it though. I only grocery shop twice a month and I save $50-$75 every shopping trip, so that's up to $150 month of savings from being inconvienenced throughtout the month.

Step 1. Stick to a budget no matter WHAT. My budget is ALWAYS $300 every two weeks. That sounds ASTRONOMICAL, I know.... but here's my breakdowns:
$150 a week in groceries for a family of 4
$21.50 per day for a family of 4
3 meals a day for each of us is only $2.50 per person PER meal,
AND! I have a second toddler that I also have to feed lunch to 4 days a week with babysitting too included in that and it also includes all my toiletries, diapers, lightbulbs, etc.

I allow myself some "extras" at the store too--- Wine, magazines, chocolate and yummy snacks. Since I'm holed up in the house all week long, dammit, I better have some goodies to keep me satisfied!

Step 2. Subscribe to a variety of different coupon websites. None of them have you do those lame surveys, and they are ALL totally legit. Some people use a second email address for spam stuff, but I DON'T recommend it for these particular sites (I do recommend it for others though). These sites send you reminders when New monthly coupons are up and reaady to be printed at home, and I am so busy that I NEED the reminders! Also- investing in a good printer is totally worth it and recommend. We bought a wireless one around Christmas time for $79, and I LOVE IT. It sounds cheesey, but it revolutionized my whole couponing!! All I have to do is click a button and it prints from the other room!

Great sites: --- site will keep you up to speed on all the new savings tips! (this site links e-coupons to your Jewel card and are all paperless)

Step 3. Subscribe to a Metropolitan Newspaper. I get the Chicago Tribune on JUST SUNDAYS. I think I paid $16 for 16 weeks. Go to this site to see what rates currently are-
The Metropolitan papers have 10 times the coupons that our local Region papers have on Sundays.... and not only that, they are WAAAAY higher value coupons with lots of BOGO offers (Buy 1 Get 1). They also have tons of coupons for TOTALLY FREE products that are just being introduced. Since I am also a News junkie, I get the Post-Tribune and Hammond Times as well, so we get Sunday coupons up the wha-zoo.

I also subscribe to All You discount tip magazine. It too is chocked full of coupons each month- up to $50 each month. You can go to for subscription info.

Step 4. Make your grocery list. I start one as I see stuff we run out of... dish soap, cooking oil, etc. Then once I get my weekly grocery store ad, I see who's offering the best deals of the week according to what our needs are. Most of the time, I'm a Paylow or Jewels girl. Making my list is a pain and takes about a half hour b/c I try to meal plan as best as I can too.

Step 5. The step I HATE the most. I tend to print my coupons, and stack my Sunday coupons up all week, and then I cut them all up during nap-time or something. I bought a coupon organizer from the Dollar Store. I go thru EVERY SINGLE divider one coupon at a time to make sure I didn't miss anything and I pull it out and stick it in an envelope to take to the store with me. I also WRITE DOWN every coupon that I have on a seperate piece of paper (usually backside of my grocery list paper) so that I - a.) can price compare to see if coupon is even worth it, and b.)so I don't forget that I have it. This is the MOST time consuming process and it makes me very crabby.

Step 6. If your list has a few higher priced items on it that you DON'T have a coupon for... like Swifter Refill spray... just go to their website and see if they have any to download or print! This is also time consuming, but just about every consumer product has a website with coupons!! You can sign up for, or, or even These kind of sites tend to send you a lot of junkmail, so I would recommend creating a junk email account for these... but again, TOTALLY WORTH IT!

All in all, I probably spend about 2.5 hours on my coupons every 14 days, and that time saves me almost $150 a month, so I guess it's all in a days work.

Plus, it's kinda cool when you have people oohing and ahhing behind you in line at the store. I've gotten to know the cashiers and they get excited to see what my savings are each time.

Hope that helps some of you all now!
Let me know if you have any tips for me!!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year.... new starts..... what's a girl to do?

Well, this blog has been floating in my head for months. Literally. Some people call me overly sensitive.... and I guess that's a correct judgement.... however I think it more or less just stems from me being overly passionate, and sometimes my passion falls into ridiculous categories. Prime example is how often I get pissed off so easily. I mean REALLY pissed off. Sometimes i get so pissed that I bawl my eyes out b/c I don't know how NOT to be pissed and can't shut it off. It's no secret that 2009 was probably the worst hand that life gave me to play thus far, with a lot of disappointments (and subsequent pissy emotions thrown in). If there's anything that can be said about what '09's shit hand dealt to me is that you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

So 2010 is going to be my year to figure that out. I'm not trying to speak in riddles, I'm just trying to avoid any further drama for 2010. I've been deeply hurt and down-right disappointed by many of friend and family member in 2009.... and even sprinkle a few customer service representatives and health professionals in there as well. The bottom line is that virtually EVERYONE has been leaving me extremely unimpressed, hurt or upset in one way or another and I have been in a reactionary state for months and months. Definately not good for my psyche, nor my relationship with Adam, whom has to put up with the subsequent mood swings.

Two of my good friends have offered some advice, both that I've taken to heart. One says that I can't change everyone around me, nor their crappy behavior, but I can change my behavior and how I react to it. I totally get it, but that's much easier said than done

The other person, that has known me for more than half my life and knows me inside and out, had the most challenging bit of advice to give me: Lower my standards to what people CAN meet. I respect this person and her advice over just about anyone's, so I've been kicking this around in my head for a good long while now.

Her theory is that I live my life and hold people around me to too high of a set of standards. I wasn't offended at all by ANYTHING she said as she was merely truely trying to help me out of a dark, disappointed place. She was worried that if I continue to hold everyone around me... friend, family, co-worker, etc.... to a standard that is impossible to live by, than I would end up being a very lonely person as I grow older and will inevitably push some good people away from me. I took this to heart, and took some time to think about whether or not I am "too hard" on those around me.

So the New Year's here and I've come to a few conclusions. Nothing set in stone b/c I'm obviously still a young grasshopper and still learning as I go.... however I have made one concrete decision. It may be out of my innate stubbornness, or the fact that I'm a Scorpio, but I've decided that I absolutely CANNOT lower my standards. I can promise you that I have thought VERY long and VERY hard and have lost many a nights sleep pondering what ways I can give people a little wiggle room to screw up and not be upset, and in what ways I can relax my expectations of people.... and the final answer that I came up with is that I CANNOT bend. I cannot compromise my standards, nor the principles behind them, just to make OTHERS around me more comfortable. I WILL NOT.

However, as I recognize that this may alienate people further and very well could lead me to being even lonelier, I have also come to some conclusions in regards to this. I will try even harder to hold MYSELF to the same standards that I give the world and will try to not allow myself to be a hypocrite in anyway. I can't say that I've looked at myself under the same microscope that I've looked at the world, so I will start doing that as well. By doing this, I can hopefully lead a better example of what it is I want around me. I will follow through with plans, I will return phone calls and emails, I will be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I will be more appreciative of the handful of people that are ALWAYS there to lend a hand, and will continue to be supportive of them.
I think that one of my greatest attributes is also my biggest fault : Loyalty. I have to learn to tone it down a bit, or at least learn better who to give the greater part of it to. People will make mistakes, and I will be forgiving of that, however I will not accept anyone's 2nd best when they are giving others their 1st on a consistant basis.

Here are some examples of what has upset me the lately, so there is no question of what it is that gets me all worked up :
Please be on time.... I'm sorry that I have children, one in particular, that absolutely HAS to be kept on a schedule. Trust me, it's not much fun for me either, but you really screw up my whole day when you show up an hour late. Please honor the fact that we are family as much as I do. It really hurts me that I feel you don't respect the term "family". Please don't tell me you'll babysit my kids only if they are not sick when I am really having an emergency and need a sitter. I know that everyone is broke, but it really hurt me when my son only received ONE Baptism card while my daughter has 25 in her baby book. And yes, it was only ONE. Please SHARE your free time with my kids. My son is 2 this week and has NEVER slept anywhere but at home and at Gramma and Grandpa Florida's. When one family member is having a crisis, don't take for granted that Adam and I will help pick up the pieces time after time. Call that person and offer help or some kind words too. I don't need to have Cheerleaders for everything positive that I do, but some simple acknowledgement would be nice now and then. I realize that I'm an adult and not a kid, but everyone needs a little pat on the back sometimes.

I will try to stifle my sensitivity, if you will try to increase your attentiveness. Maybe we can get half the world off of xanax and anti-depressants if we all raised our standards a bit and actually LIVED BY THEM. Oh, a girl can dream, no?

So here's to new beginnings..... I hope this is a resolution that I can stick to, and now that I've posted this, feel free to call me out on any future bullshit or hypocrypsies. (cuz now you know that I DEFINATELY will do that to you! ;)
Now, backing up to Adam.... who has been on one hell of a rollercoaster ride being married to me.... I have to say something special about him. I have to thank him for allowing me to be "me" for going on 9 years. This year we enter our 7 yr. itch in marriage... and it's more like a nasty rash. LOL! I love him just the same as I did nine years ago when we met, however I haven't had the time to show that to him as much as I used to. We've experienced more bad luck and unfortunate circumstances than most people experience in a lifetime of being married and we're still holding on strong. I think one of the reasons is because Adam always lets me be me and does not try to cage me in anyway. Lord knows I've had more Lucille Ball moments and should keep my mouth shut more often than I do, but he accepts me just as I am, and I hit the jackpot with that. He may seem quiet and soft-spoken to some of you, but believe me, he DOES hold me to his own higher set of standards as well and doesn't let me off the hook when I've screwed up either. I appreciate that about him too, as much as it also makes me want to ring his neck. No one should be in a relationship that isn't a comfy fit. Adam is that favorite pair of yoga pants w/o the drawstring. Ahhhhh.... a good, comfy fit. I couldn't get thru half the crap wearing an impossibly tight pair of muffin-top jeans. I also can't worry about fighting him while fighting half the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

Do You Hear what I hear?

Yep, it's the sound of Visa's being approved, Maalox bottle tops being opened, and UPS packages making a "thud" on my doorstep. It's the sound of LOVE at Christmas time.

In the midst of a terrible economy and Adam and I still getting our sea legs with Parenthood, there are certain things that I WILL NOT compromise on. One of them is Christmas.

My parents may not have made every single cohesive and correct decision raising a blended family of FIVE kids, but one thing that I can absolutely say that they ALWAYS got right was Christmas for us kids. All of my very best memories from childhood involve Christmastime w/ my family, and the magic that my parents were always able to pull off year after year.

There are certain sacrifices that have to be made in order to raise five children.... especially five children in a SEVEN year age gap. Our needs were always met, and met very well, however we were not kids that had 30 pairs of shoes.... we had 3 or 4. We weren't the 7th graders w/ 5 pairs of Z Cavaricci's, we were lucky to have one pair each. We were not given a car for our 16th birthday. As a matter of fact, we were not ALLOWED to test for our driver's license until we had a job and was able to prove that we could afford our own car insurance..... even if that meant Mom and Dad driving us to and from work. (which, by the way, my first job was a bus girl at The Sherwood Club).

My siblings and I were already often placed in awkward situations by the 'rents because neither Mom or Dad were big on showing affection or emotions. However there was ALWAYS one time of year when all of us knew, and knew without question how much our parents loved us....... and it was Christmas time.

It was the one time of year that I can honestly say we were SPOILED BEYOND BELIEF!!!!

On average, my Mom and Dad had under the tree Christmas morning a dozen or more presents for each kid. Multiply that times 5 kids and you are looking at buying 60 to 70 presents on just your children alone. Mom and Dad took turns giving a "Big Ticket" item to each kid year after year, such as a new bike, video game system, or television. Even as a child, it was understood to not be jealous or upset b/c we knew that our turn would come around again. Sometimes they'd surprise us and be able to get us ALL a big ticket item, but none the less, there was ALWAYS an abundance of gifts.

Having learnt not to ask for a new toy or CD every time I went to the store with my Mom made me appreciate the decadence and extravagance they showed us at Christmas. Mom did most all of the shopping and wrapping, while Dad had the quiet comfort of knowing how hard he worked to give us everything we put on our Christmas lists.

Having small children of my own has made Adam and I discuss how we want to handle the Holidays for Josh and Ava, and figure out what direction that we too want to go. Both of our parents seemed to of had the same philosophies at Christmas, so we too have decided not to hold back for this very special ONE time each year.

From the ages of 4 until about 8, kids really do believe in Miracles, and that is something that I want to place in my children's hearts as well. Understanding how stressful providing this can be gives me even MORE meaning and appreciation for the holidays. It must have been VERY hard to do that year after year, yet I only have memories of my Mom baking away to Motown hits in our kitchen and had NO clue about the stresses they were under.

If my parents were able to hide SEVENTY plus wrapped packages each year then SURELY miracles exist. In all my years I do not recall ever finding any Christmas gifts, nor do I recall waking up to hear them put them under the tree. I only hope to be a Master Jedi like they were around the Holidays for Josh and Ava. And I also hope that they too will appreciate it one day just as much as I do now.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and if you can't afford to give lots of material things to your kids right now, just remember to give them the gift of always trying your best for them!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tired of all the usual New Year Resolutions? Let me make a recommendation!

During the early infant months of Parenthood, I caught the Oprah bug to help cure new-mom boredom and I watched a heartbreaking episode about extreme levels of poverty within the United States. A few of the places highlighted were American Indian Reservations. Prior to watching episode, I felt fairly well-versed in the plight of the American Indians, as my Dad is a bit of an Aficiando and Old West Buff. However, seeing the images thru the eyes of a new Mother suddenly made me much more affected by their conditions.

Some simple, but major statisics are:

- 80% Unemployment (also interesting FYI- of the 200,000 jobs created by Indian Casinos, only 25% of these jobs actually went to Indians)

-23% Graduate High School and only 17% go on to college

-60% of all Indian Children are currently born out of wed-lock

-Indian teens commit suicide at 3x the nat'l teen avg.

-Average Life Expectancy for Sioux is only 48 years old!!!!!!!!!!!

-Land Indians were moved to is 30-90% less productive than other farming areas within U.S.

So you ask yourself, how can I help if the Indian's choose to be Sovereign from us?

Well, I happen to be a person that truly believes that education is the backbone and inspiration behind most human advances. The Indian's have very little access to Captalism, and that is including Human Capital in the form of educational needs.

I have been donating what little I can spare from paychecks here and there for a few years now to several different Indian Schools. I went to a few of their websites and found that Campbell's Soup Labels and Box Tops for Education were also strongly encouraged to donate. The Reservations receive very little Federal funding, and it is mainly is given for meal rationing. The United States is willing to Bail out every Tom, Dick and Harry, however we give LOANS and CONTRACTS to the Tribes that we screwed in the first place.

Since I am fortunate enough to live in a Region with top rated schools, I made a conscience decision to collect Box Tops and Soup labels for the Indian Reservations and their schools. This is my second year in a row doing this, and I have managed to send off $48 worth of box tops this week in addition to my bi-monthly donations. Feels great to be able to give these kids a small Christmas present as well, at no additional cost to my wallet!

Each Box top is worth 10 cents and are located on various cereal boxes, diaper packages, snacks, etc. They are even on Cottonelle Toilet Paper wrappers. When I put my T.P. away, I immediately cut out Box Top and place it in cookie jar on kitchen counter. I cringe when I see them thrown in the trash now b/c it is essentially the same as throwing a dime away to me. At the end of the year, I place them in a sandwhich baggie and mail them off to School. School sends them in and gets to trade them in for equipment for their schools. Some items are as small as new crayons, to new computers.

So there you have it, a New Year's Resolution that's not about YOU for once and hence, more likely to stick to! LOL

For more info,