Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Day at the Office

I understand you'd like a loan from our institution.

I will have to give the matter some thought.

What's that? The loan will fund infant stabilization devices for at-home photo shoots?


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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My baby smells like chicken.

Not chicken chicken, really. It's more like chicken flavoring. Like Chick N Biscuit crackers, or bullion cubes or something.

I sense something sinister about this, like it's the next step in my vampiric transformation.

Or maybe Miles just needs a bath.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

When children fight

Which academy award is more likely--best actor and actress or best cinematography? You should see the results when we actually try. ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

An offer you can't refuse

This is a post about bargains. And to start out, I want to pitch the idea of going to Disney World. It's the perfect time around, say, February or March when the crowds will be small and the weather will be perfect. Your tax refund from all those stimulus funds will have just arrived, and your kids will be itching for an early Spring break.. Hotel tickets and park passes are buy 4 days and get 3 days free right now for that time frame, so it's a definite bargain. And, the best part of all? We'll be there to hang out with you (restrictions may apply). Go ahead and book those tickets now. And if you can't come, that's okay, neither can our dog. By the way, can you watch our dog?

Ok, moving along. Last year we did nearly all our Christmas shopping online, and we mainly did it that way because we found really good deals. Here are a few sites and tips for your online Christmas shopping.
  1. is a great site to watch. The best of the best from around the web gets posted on the homepage, but you do well to watch the forums too since the best deals sometimes dry up by the time they get so popular that they reach the home page.
  2. has everything, and if you watch carefully you'll find what you want at a really good price. Shipping is always the rub, but if you sign up for an Amazon Prime membership you get free 2 day shipping on all your purchases. You get a month of the service free with a promotion they seem to have perpetually going on. Last year we signed up for our month at about this time and got all our holiday stuff shipped out free. Just remember to cancel if you don't plan to shop online as much the rest of the year
  3. Bing cashback is a concept you should definitely know about. When you do a search on Bing for different gifty things like "digital camera" or "mp3 player", the sponsored results will often have a store that offers cashback on purchases. Last year I got several hundred dollars back on purchases that I was already planning to make by just searching through Bing first. Ebay "buy it now" was giving 30% cashback for a while last year. You can get a 10% cash back on purchases from Walmart online right now too. Just read the rules and understand them and you'll be all set.
  4. Many credit card companies have a similar cashback system where you access merchants through the credit card's storefront site, and you get a rebate. Discover is the one that seems to have the most generous offers, but several others do it too. If you're buying anything online from Dell, HP, Apple, Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Old Navy... etc., then you might as well buy it through a site like this and get money back.
  5. Price match your Walmart Black Friday stuff. My plan this year is to avoid the 5:00 am chaos by strolling into the store at around 8 or 9 with a competitor ad in hand. They tell me that they will price match other Black Friday deals, as long as you have the competitor local ad, it's in the appropriate time window where the prices apply to the competitor, and it's the exact same model/item. Of course, for this to work, you have to know that Walmart carries what you want, but I figure competing for those items featured at other stores and not the actual Walmart Black Friday items will make for a nice sleep-in.
  6. Buy Ooma for Christmas if you have high speed internet. I found it on Amazon for $160 (including the scout that connects all your phone jacks throughout the house), and I figure cancelling my phone service will pay for that in about 6 months or so.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Halloween Story

Last week I took the kids to The Great Pumpkin Farm, an activity that has become an annual tradition for us since we moved to Buffalo. (Only, apparently it is not an annual tradition for us to share pictures of that event because I never blogged last year's trip. Which was cute. Sorry.)

Anyway, the kids did the usual pumpkin farmy related stuff.

Posing for photos:

Playing on the wooden train:

And feeding the animals:

(Actually, only Grace fed the animals. After insisting that I purchase a 25 cent handful of dried corn, Sam realized he didn't want to risk getting licked by a goat. Grace had no such qualms.)

We also picked out little pumpkins for Grace and the new baby. (And just so you won't believe his claims of favoritism and neglect, Sam had already picked a huge one at a local farmer's market, and a second on a kindergarten field trip to a farm.)

Then we headed into the big barn store to pay for our pumpkins and choose a treat. True to form, the kids opted for candy, and pointed out their choices from the bulk candy jars on display. As usual, Sam was very specific, right down to choosing individual red gummy bears and mallow creme pumpkins. (The clerk cheerfully indulged him, and put just the right selection of candies in his little bag.) Also as usual, Grace was much easier to please. Candy flavored? Dump it right in?

Sweet teeth satisfied, we browsed the gift shop, which happened to be running a 50% off sale on all their Halloween crafts and decor. I had an eye on a few little things myself, and to make the minimum purchase requirement for the deal (20 bucks, which was really 10 bucks), I was willing to let the kids pick out something. At first, they both set their sights on a stupid witch lawn ornament, and though I dragged them through the store to find something better, nothing else would satisfy. With resignation, I gathered our purchases and set them on the checkout counter. Only then did Sam see the display of Halloween head wear that changed his life: A pirate hat headband! And a floppy pumpkin beret for Grace!

I was good with that. Both choices were cheap. Even better, Sam declared that he'd rather be a pirate for Halloween than a ghost, thus saving me the trouble of inventing a portable levitation device.

So we left with the pirate hat and the pumpkin hat, and happy plans to complete the costumes with little bits of this and that at home.

I should interject here that I'm probably more opinionated about my kids' Halloween costumes than I should be. I like to have a family costume theme, and usually try to convince them to wear something we can all work around. But as my children have developed their own ideas about what they like to wear (the nerve!), I've become less convincing.

I'd resigned myself to random costumes this year, but in the spirit of faking a theme when you can't make one, I observed that pirate and pumpkin both start with "P," and that maybe we could all be a "P" word. (Think you know where this is going? Not there, you bunch of pervs!) Sam was intrigued but skeptical. "Like what?" He wanted to know.

"I could be a pregnant lady." I said.

"But you already are." He said. "So you can't be that for your costume."

I could see his point, but still. "That's why it's a good costume. It's easy."

"No, that won't work." Declared Sam. "Maybe a popsicle."

(The truth is that through all of this discussion, I fully intended to not be pregnant when the time came for donning costumes. I'd either be in the hospital having a baby, or cheerfully holding a new cherub after a fast and painless birth. My real dilemma was whether I needed to come up with a "P" costume for the baby too.)

But my plans did not go as planned, and so I donned a cop-out costume: a glow in the dark skeleton onesie pinned to my belly. It was cute(ish), and more importantly, easy. And although I generally subscribe to the idea that a pregnant woman can pin pretty much anything she wants to her belly and call it a costume, the reality is that mine fell far short of the truly great (with child) preggo costumes I've seen. Like this one executed by my friend Ben for his wife FoxyJ; a much more elegant version of the idea I was going for, I'm sure you'll agree. Or this one my friend D wore to a party last year. She's smiling because she just ate Grandma. Oh yeah, and stole her clothes. And I have to mention this one from my friend Erica, possibly the best preggy costume of all time, and not just because it includes the belly daddy in frighteningly authentic Pee Wee Herman attire.

But, as I said, easy especially important to me this year, so despite Sam's objections I went as a pregant lady. Coach was a paparazzi photographer.

Which means we got some pretty great photos out of the deal. Like this one:

And this.
Arm yourself. I think this is some kind of ninja-jedi-pirate attack on its way.

And candid shots like these.

And since it's taken me more than a week to publish this post, I might as well include the shots that didn't make it in before the Halloween deadline.

Like these.

My costume looks way better on him, I promise.


Grace is like the quarter placed in the picture to show relative size.

Grace does not like being the quarter. She'd rather have chocolate.
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This is Miles Henry

You may notice a certain fullness to the cheeks that was not there a few days ago.

He likes to eat.

Watch out. He's got his eye on you next.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

I think he looks like my Sam.
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It's a boy!... still.

I mean, you knew it was a boy already, right? Well now it's official. Baby is 7 pounds 3 ounces and 21 inches. I have photos but no USB cable. So, stay tuned.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If I make a list of things I've been meaning to blog about, does that count as blogging about them?

1. I'm getting stupider.*

2. Grace can talk now, and she says anything that pops into her curly little head. **

3. Sam wants to be a ghost for Halloween.***

4. Pregnancy is emotionally confusing.****

5. Coach and I went on a little vacation a couple weekends ago, sans children.*****

* This is not without precedent, but Coach says it's got nothing to do with being pregnant. It's because I'm not blogging enough.

**For example, last week I farted, (This may be a shocking admission to some of you, knowing my delicate sensibilities about this sort of thing. But we have a strict family policy of Flatulence Integrity, and I'm not about to risk another writeup from Human Resources.) and when Grace caught wind of it she said "Mommy, you smell poopy. You go inside take bath and potty." I laughed, continued up the steps toward the house, and turned to wait for her on the porch. She refused to budge. "You go," she said, standing at the bottom of the stairs looking stern. So I went inside, and Grace followed eventually. (And although I did use the potty, I didn't take a bath. Don't tell Grace.)

***This may sound like a boring costume to you, but remember this is Sam we're talking about. Of course he has something ingenious up his sleeve: levitation. So far, he's suggested a sort of miniature remote-control crane, rocket boosters, and/or helium balloons to get himself airborne. I'm running out of ways to shoot him down. At least ghost costumes are easy to sew.

****Like what's what all the inappropriate crying in public? Like in the Apple store when I was browsing videos on the new ipods, and stumbled upon this video and before I reached the minute mark I was literally sobbing. Or when I couldn't decide if I was too tired to see the Cleveland Botanical Garden, so instead of deciding I sat down on a bench and cried. Even weirder, what's with the inexplicable composure in more stressful situations? Like when the kids decided to "wash [their] fingernails" in the upstairs bathroom while I was doing laundry in the basement, and the sink overflowed onto the floor and dripped through the tile, down to the dining room, through the dining room floor, and down to the basement, where (remember) I was doing laundry. Did I cry? No. Did I scream and yell? No. Did I clean it up? Yes. Did I grumble as I re-washed every formerly clean towel in the house? Yes I did. Or, how about when our van was broken into and our GPS unit was stolen and we lost most of a day of our precious vacation cleaning up glass and trying to figure out how to get around Cleveland. Did I cry? No. Back at home, can I successfully navigate to the dentist without the GPS? No. Does that make me want to cry? Yes.

*****It was awesome. We still love each other. And we still think we're funny.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm nesting

So I'm trying to get rid of stuff and make way for a new baby. And what better way to get rid of stuff than to give it to you?

First lot on the table: Grace's baby decor.

Check out my other blog if you're interested.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Lots of Fun Stuff

Summer is short in Buffalo. The weather is one thing -- we often get snow until April and frost until May. And the kids don't get out of school until the end of June. So looking at the calendar today (dude! July is so last month!) (and school starts next month!), I had a moment of panic. What have we done with our more-than-half-gone summer?

Turns out, we've been busy. I decided before school let out that I needed to come up with a plan so that we wouldn't end up watching TV and playing X-Box for two months straight. I wanted to keep the kids on a fairly normal sleeping schedule, keep Sam in the habit of doing school work, and maybe help push him over the edge from pre-reading to reading. The plan was to work on sight words every morning at breakfast, spend time on his workbooks before bed, and read lots and lots of books together. Plus, I had a lot of my own projects to get done. And maybe we needed clean clothes to wear every now and then. So I came up with a schedule of weekly activities, and so far we've been pretty good at sticking to it: On Mondays we do a craft project. On Tuesdays we go to the library and/or to a free kids movie at Regal Cinemas. On Wednesdays we have playgroup. Thursdays is for laundry, chores and projects at home. Friday is field trip day, sponsored by our family membership to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, in Dayton Ohio.*

I haven't been very good at sticking to the early bedtime plan, or at getting any of our regular chores done. And the sight words for breakfast and workbooks for bedtime plan hasn't really flown either, so Sam still can't read. And it's all my fault.

But on the other hand, my kids are tan and (mostly) happy**, and have enjoyed lots of fun stuff. Like crayon day.

First we took our bucket of broken crayons outside and traced different textures. Then we pulled off all the wrappers and sorted them by color in a cupcake pan. After about 30 minutes in warm oven, the crayon bits melted into colorful crayon patties in the shape of reese's peanut butter cups. Oh, wait. But before we got to the solid patties, the kids painted with the liquid wax. This was a step I was not very excited about. It was messy, and I was sure someone was going to get burned. But I caved to the pressure, and we ended up with some wonderfully weird designs.

Here's Grace showing you her creation.

She also wants to show you her froggie purse, complete with disembodied doll limbs. My apologies to sensitive viewers.
The next week we made salt art, an idea stolen from this clever lady. There was some trial and error involved in this project. I had gel food coloring, not liquid, and it kept making little clumps of brightly colored salt instead of distributing evenly throughout the mixture. After dirtying half a dozen bowls, I discovered that the best solution was to dissolve the gel in a tiny bit of water, and then use my kitchen aid to mix the colored water in with a cup or two of salt.

Despite his unenthusiastic mug shots, Sam was really quite happy with this project. I'm not sure what to do with all those jars of colorful sand now . Maybe homemade play dough for some future week. Would that work?

Another week we painted some little benches for our new backyard patio.

The foot painting was Grace's idea, and not one that I was particularly excited about. I doubted my own sanity at several points during this project. But in the end, all the paint came off their bodies and stayed on the stools, and that was the whole objective.

I'll admit to doing some paint smoothing and redistribution while the kids worked. And sometimes I pointed out spots they missed. But other than that, it was all them. And look how great they turned out.

(I need to write a whole post about the patio, and all of its associated projects one of these days. I made sweet Coach work like a dog this spring to get it in, but we sure have enjoyed it!)

As for field trips, we've been on lots, but somehow I always leave the camera behind. We've been to the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo Botanical Garden, the Strong Museum of Play, and the Buffalo Museum of Science. A couple weeks ago, some Frogmorton aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents came to town, and we got to enjoy the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

It was interesting, trying to expain the pageant to Sam as it was performed. He kept asking "Is that real?" I hadn't thought before about how confusing that kind of thing must be to a child -- fictional portrayals of real events. He was really worried about people being burned and stabbed and thrown off of cliffs. If it hadn't been for all the candy and snacks and cousins, he might have been disturbed by the whole thing.

(Sorry about cutting off everybody's heads (not literally) in these shots. I swear they were there when I uploaded the photo! Anyway, the important thing is that you can see that everyone is smiling and having a great time.)

Speaking of having a great time, grace got her hands on the camera, and took some shots of her own. (And she's not at all sorry about cutting off heads.)

That same weekend as pageant, we also visited the Erie Zoo and the Strong Museum of Play (again) with cousins. Sam was beyond thrilled to have so much time to spend with that fun bunch of boys. If only they lived closer!

I have a few more things planned before we say goodbye to summer completely, but I feel pretty good about what we've done so far. If we could just figure out that early bedtime thing, I think everything would be just about perfect.

*We've never actually been to Boonshoft, but we learned about it when we lived in Akron. Several of our friends had memberships there, and used the reciprocal membership benefits to get into local zoos and museums. It's a great deal because for the price of family membership (about $100), you get reciprocal benefits at zoos & aquariums, science centers, and children's museums across the country. Check it out if you're interested.

**I should note that Sam might not agree with my description of him as "mostly happy," on account of how I hardly ever say yes when he asks if we can catch the ice cream truck. And we haven't had nearly as many parties, or ventured off as many camping trips as he had planned for the summer. And we always leave his favorite destinations before he's ready. In fact, he'll probably tell you he never gets to have any fun at all. But don't believe him.

"Cheese me!"

That's what Grace says when she sees me with the camera. And with that face, she usually gets what she wants.
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