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.