Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eavesdroppings

Here are some recent entertaining words from the Nugget.

Anvil's flipping like a pancake! Do the trick again, Anvil. Whoa! A somah-sault!

I saw those dolphins go Spee-lash! Wow! And they went jump, jump - whoa. And they kicked ball! (wild hand motions)

Hey, I hear Daddy talking. (We were upstairs, and Daddy was on the first level.) He's talking. Hey, Dad. Dad, I coming to see you! HI!

Daddy in shower, washing. He getting all bubble-ly and clean. Mommy, you wanna take a shower now? Get all bubble-ly?

(after putting on clothes in the morning and surveying his outfit) I am looking awesome, Mom.

What flavor would you like? Ok tortoise, you can have strawberry. Yum-yum, it tastes good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Under construction

During the summer, campus is filled with heavy construction vehicles and caution tape. It will look picture-perfect by the time the students arrive in the fall: golf course-lush grass, just the right amount of ivy creeping up the brick buildings, the fountains skimmed of seeds, and mums all in bloom. But right now, it's jack hammers and digger trucks, just the way the Nugget likes it.

On Father's Day, we took both Nugget and Doggie to campus for a bike ride/walk. As it was Sunday, all the construction vehicles were carefully lined up in a row, behind the temporary barricades. The Nugget spotted them from afar and furiously motored right over to gawk.

N: They're not moving. Digger trucks taking a rest. 1-2-3-4 digger trucks. They all taking a rest. Digger trucks need giraffe, blanket, pillow, binky.
Me: Hmm, I don't see any binkies. Where would a digger truck put a binky?
N: (Thoughtfully scrutinizes the diggers, then takes a pretend binky out of his own mouth) Here's a binky, digger truck. (holds the pretend binky up to the first truck) Put it in mouth. There you go. Here's another binky, another binky, another binky. (Distributes a pretend binky to each truck.) Night night, digger trucks.

Then he scooted off, satisfied that the diggers would rest well.

*Oldie but goodie photo. The Nugget's onesie reads, "Work in Progress"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bargain Hunting

My friend S just asked me to please share how I find the sales. Most of it comes naturally from years of my parents' frugal training, so I kind of have a nose for a deal, but I will try to break down my basic shopping strategies.

1. Shop in advance. When the Nugget went into his 5T clothes, I immediately started shopping for size 6. I keep a notebook of birthday/wedding/baby gifts I'll need and start looking at least 2 months ahead. The less time you allow yourself to shop for something (say a party that afternoon or a baby shower this weekend), the more you tend to spend. If you have time, you'll be more aware of what's a good bargain vs. the stress of needing SOMETHING and needing it NOW.

2. Plan out your priorities. I like the Nugget to have new shoes and not too many plastic things. So I save my splurges for soft comfy shoes for his growing toes and a single Klean Kanteen. On the flipside, I almost never pay retail for his clothes, and he owns just that one water bottle, not 15. Those are MY priorites, but everyone needs to identify their own. Perhaps yours are professional-grade art supplies for your budding artist or Mustela toiletries for your sensitive-skinned child. Figure out what is worth full price to you, and what you can pick from the bargain bin.

3. Get friendly with those aforementioned bargain bins. Every store has a system for their clearance. Target keeps several end-caps for their markdowns. Gymboree has some round racks and stacking plastic bins for their deepest discounts. Check these spots before you check-out; often you can sub a full-price item in your cart for something from the discount spot.

4. Don't buy something "just because" it's on sale or you have a coupon. If you don't actually need it or thought it was kind of ugly but they were practically giving it away, just leave it there.

5. Before making any online purchase, go to Google and type in (store name/product coupon code) and see what pops up. Most of the time you can at least get a 10-15% off or free shipping.

6. The #1 rule for coupons is clip them ONLY for things you buy (or want to try) ANYWAY! Actually, all my shopping nowadays is with a purpose. I sometimes come away empty-handed, but each foray into a shop is for a specific item or because that store is having a killer sale.

7. Get a coupon keeper from the Dollar Tree and label each divider. My sections are Baby, Food, Clothing, Toiletries, Target, and Misc. When I clip something or get something in the mail, I try to put it right in the keeper. The keeper lives in my purse. It used to live in my car, but I'd always forget it there. I go through it about once a month to pull out and recycle the expired ones.

8. Maximize your coupon sources. Find your favorite restaurants and stores online. "Like" them on Facebook, join their e-clubs, and sign up for their mailing lists. Keep a zippered pouch in your purse for all those annoying frequent-buyer cards. If you're anal like me, alphabetize them so you can find them easily at the register. If you frequent just a few stores (for me, Target and Old Navy), consider getting their credit card. Store credit cards, when used wisely and paid off each month, are a great source of recurring deep discounts and sale notifications. Flip through magazines, and you'd be surprised at how many coupon codes are hiding in the advertising section. Coupons.com is another good source.

9. Aim for the triple-threat: coupon, sale, gift card. When I can finagle this trio, I make Hubby high-five me. Yes, it's usually unattainable, but if you're striving for this, you are usually saving money. If you have a coupon, try to wait until the store is also running a sale. For example, I saved a 20% Gymboree coupon from Parents magazine until I saw that Gymbo was running their Big Red Balloon Sale (up to 70% off regular prices). I walked away with a pair of shorts and 2 pairs of pants for less than the retail value of the shorts alone.

10. Be shameless. When I get a coupon for a free panty from Victoria's Secret or a free travel size lotion from Bath and Bodyworks, I know it's because the marketing department thinks I'll go in for the freebie and get suckered into buying additional items. But I don't! Never turn down a freebie. JC Penney has amazing ones in their mailers $10 off any purchase $10 or more. I don't like JCP clothes usually, but they have a baby section chock-full of Carter's. So I walked in with the intention of finding something as close to $10 as possible and found a 2-pack of Carter's knit baby pants on sale for $9.99. Voila, part 1 of Baby Cupcake's Christmas gift. They were regular price $17.95! When you have coupons/points/bucks that are basically free money/store credit, write those in on your calendar so you don't forget to use them.

11. Try not to pay shipping. I wanted a travel potty for $24.95 from One Step Ahead, but the shipping was going to be $15 unless I hit the $85 minimum. I asked my friends if they wanted to join my order, we got over that $85, and we all got to benefit from the free shipping. Sometimes, the free shipping minimum is set such that you could buy items A and B and with shipping it will be $50. But if you buy A, B, and C, you hit that minimum, and your total is actually $45. So click through, and before you commit to buy, make sure you aren't getting hosed on shipping.

12. Buy in bulk. Identify the things you go through often - if you're loyal to certain toiletries, a 3-pack on Amazon will likely be cheaper than picking them up once a month at the grocery store. I try to get children's birthday gifts once a year from an online retailer, and I always ask if there's opportunity for a bulk discount.

13. Check Etsy for a homemade option. You'd think that handmade would be more expensive, and sometimes it is, but about half the time, it's way cheaper than the mass-produced, and you can feel good about your purchase too. Etsy sellers are usually great about that bulk discount; it never hurts to ask!

14. I love buying items second-hand. There are traveling consignment sales, garage sales, Craigslist, eBay, half-priced bookstores, diaperswappers.com, freecycle, and Once Upon a Child. When you buy used, you are helping save the planet, giving a discarded thing new life, and we often find that, "they just don't make'em like they used to". That said, there are some things that just aren't safe to buy used - like cribs, painted toys, and car seats (unless of course, you know the original owner and are willing to scour the internet for recalls).

15. I try not to take the Nugget with me. Hubby knows that part of date night each week is usually devoted to a quickie bargain hunt, and my grocery time is Saturday morning. Kids need your attention and you will be too focused on getting out of there instead of getting the best value.

16. If you have outlets nearby, put aside a little cash each month for an outlet trip. Outlets offer incredible savings, but they are a big upfront spend for a greater gain over several months.

Now who wants to go shopping with me?! Add your own tips or questions to the comments.

Second City

We leave the Nugget's old highchair folded up near our table. We host a lot of playdates and it's nice to have it ready to go for the littler ones. The Nugget's friend, Baby J, is a frequent user of the highchair. So much so that the Nugget calls it, "Baby J's chair!" and sometimes likes to pretend that Baby J is taking meals with us in between visits. One day we were enjoying a special treat of cupcakes, and the Nugget pointed to the chair and said, "Baby J is having a cupcake too." Daddy asked, "Does he like the cupcake?" The Nugget looked solemnly at the highchair for a moment, as if waiting for feedback from invisible Baby J, then turned to Daddy and said, "Yeah."
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The Nugget pointed to a neighbor's car parked on the street and said, "That's a race car, Mom. It's probably going to Chicago."

While watching a squirrel scurry and leap from tree to tree, the Nugget remarked, "That squirrel is funny. It's a good climber, Mom. It's probably going to Chicago."

When admiring an airplane soaring overhead, the Nugget made his own airplane noises and observed, "That's a silver plane, a jumbo jet....going to Chicago."

Apparently, all roads don't lead to Rome...they lead to Chicago.
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At our neighborhood picnic last week, the host kindly handed out popsicles to the kids. You get what you get and you don't get upset (one of my favorite rules) was in effect. The Nugget, his friend W, and Daddy all got orange popsicles. W exclaimed, "Look, we all have orange!" The Nugget cheered, "Lots and lots of orange ones." They banded together, giggling and slurping, bonded by the food coloring in their popsicles, for a full 8 minutes.

Which reminds me that the Nugget requests a/c in the car by saying, "Lots and lots of cooling, please. More cooling."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Dear Dad,

Thanks for all the hard work you did and still do for us. From bringing home the bacon to horsie rides, from loading the car to playing catch in the backyard.

True, we missed you a lot when you worked long hours, but we were simultaneously so proud of you for saving lives and helping to gently walk both patients and their families down the long and sometimes painful road. We have no way of knowing how many lives you have touched with your gentleness and generosity, but we have a pretty good idea from the way you are bombarded with, "Thank you, Dr. M"s, everytime we walk the aisle of the grocery store. Not only do your patients and their loved ones sing your praises, but your nurses do too. After working in the healthcare field for just a few months, I now realize how special and unique that makes you in a world full of many conceited, clipboard-hurling, god-complex physicians.

The precious hours you were home with us, you made every second count. You seamlessly jumped into every bit of family life, from baths and bedtime tuck-ins, to books and games. The only time you ever "pressured" us was when you suggested that we somehow find a way to make our lives' work, "helping people". And I know that was less about your dreams for us and more of a way to ensure our own fulfillment.

We love you!

Top 10 Childhood Memories with my Dad:

10. Lots of lazy trips to the library.

9. Playing tiger hunt on the floor with my brother and I tackling and attempting to ride you. Umm, sorry for contributing to your future back pain, Dad.

8. Your Merman impression. "I want to rrrrrule the worrrld!"

7. Getting to visit you at work: spinning around on the office chairs, coloring with crayons and papers the nurses kept just for us, eating chocolates given to you by patients, and solemnly trying out the microscope and stethoscope.

6. Standing at Mr. Donut, selecting treats after Mass. Well, on days that we were "good" anyhow.

5. The eccentric music you play in the car, from the Roaches to Tom Waits. And fighting over who "had" to ride with you with said music blaring from the speakers. You know we loved having Dad-time, even if Tom Waits was in the car too.

4. One of my earliest memories is you making my stuffed raccoon, Kenny, dance along my crib, singing, "Neer-neerneerneer-neer-neer, neer-neer, neer."

3. You waking us up singing, "Good morning to Muppies, good morning to you."

2. You singing, "You're my little potato. You're my little potato. Dug you up. You come from under the ground." Hmm, you sure sang a lot of random songs.

1. Your sychronized swimming routine in the pool, complete with big hairy legs doing graceful scissor kicks, followed by bursting out of the water with arms up in a V, ready to accept our applause and hysterical laughter.

I love you, Dad! Thanks for everything!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Up with your chinny-chin, chin up!

In the Nugget's words, "I'm fee-wing better now."

I'm putting away the tiny violins of my last post in favor of counting my blessings, in no particular order.

1. The Nugget clomping around in "Daddy shoes".

2. Free birthday entrees for date night 2 weeks in a row. And a free sundae tonight to ring in my 31st. And the Nugget's, "I doing an ice cream dance."

3. My friends and family who make me feel so loved, through cards, emails, comments, FB posts, hugs (virtual and in-person), and phone calls.

4. Our collective family health.

5. Those beautiful babies (as alluded to in the previous post)...while they may crank up the heat on my own baby fever, first and foremost, I am so much more aware of the blessing and miracle they are to their parents and siblings and so grateful for their presence.

6. The sleep I am getting now and the lightness of my diaper bag because I know both will be gone in a flash once Lil Sib arrives.

7. The special feeling of having one child, like the Nugget and I are partners in crime, setting off relatively carefree (well, with snacks and change of clothes). I have really had the chance to relish in our time together, just the two of us. Nearly 3 years of weekday mornings and afternoons, all to ourselves. It's been hard and heavenly. Someday it will be over, never to be gotten back. I don't want to lose anymore of this time feeling sorry for myself.

8. The way the Nugget whispers, "Nuzzle noses," when we tuck him in at night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the valley

We've been waiting 15 months now for Lil Sib, with one disruption nearly a year ago. I admit, I am starting to wonder where the light at the end of the tunnel might be. I am surrounded by beautiful new babies everywhere, and I am at a low point, another valley on this roller coaster ride.

I try to remain focused on giving the Nugget all of our love and care, and on living in the moment. I accept that God/the universe has a plan for us that it out of our hands. I know there have been families waiting longer than we have. And I would rather wait another year or two rather than be chosen and disrupted again. I know the Nugget will be just fine if he ends up being an only. And technically, he will never be an "Only" because he will always have Little Baby Cupcake.

All those good, peaceful, logical thoughts up in my head....yet....

Our hearts are longing for Lil Sib. Please come and make us complete.

Summer Essentials

The Midwest has hot, muggy summers. Humid doesn't even begin to describe it accurately. Luckily, most of us Midwesterners have a/c. We don't like to crank ours up too high though, so we get a lot of use out of our ceiling fans. And the best thing ever for summer: chambray sheets.
Chambray is my favorite summer fabric - it always feels cool against your skin. And it somehow holds the fresh-from-the-laundry scent longer than other sheets.

Get your sheets:

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conversations with the Nugget

Me: How are you doing, Nugget?
N: (grins, runs to bookshelf and grabs a toy flag) Actually, I have a flag, Mom.

Backstory: I call a U-pick strawberry farm to confirm it's open and rush the family there in the drizzle, a 20 minute drive, dangerously close to dinnertime, so the Nugget can have the joy of picking strawberries in an open field. Picking produce from the plant/tree is one of his greatest thrills in life, we've been talking about picking strawberries at a farm for weeks, and I just found out that the strawberry season is going to come and go in about 5 days, so time is of the essence. We arrive only to have the owner tell me that the person I spoke to on the phone was mistaken - they are closed. I head back to the car disappointed to put it mildly.
Me: I am so sorry but the owner said there was a mistake, and they're already closed today. I'm very sorry to have you boys drive all this way for nothing. I know you are hungry and tired, and I'm just so so sorry. We'll go right home and have dinner. I feel terrible.
N: It's ok, Mom.

N: (going into his tent) This my kaah-coon, Mom.
Me: Your cocoon?! Are you a caterpillar?
N: Yes. A caterpillar going night-night. I need my giraffe. (runs upstairs and returns with giraffe) I need my Grammy blanket! (repeat) I need my turtle blanket. (repeat) I need my pillow! (repeat) I ready now. Honk-shooo!
Me: Goodnight, caterpillar.
N: (coming out of tent) I a beautiful butterfly!

Me: Ok, it's your turn to stir the batter.
N: You're a good mom.
Me: Thank you! I love you.
N: I love you. You're a good mom.

I am 99.9999% sure that I'm the luckiest mom on earth.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I making a dance



The Nugget was born dancing. Both his Tummy Mummy and Poppy were accomplished dancers in school, so I like to think that the Nugget is made partly of music. Here's what he likes to say,

"I making a dance."

"I doing a stretch now." (pictured above, the Nugget shows off some yoga moves)

"I playing that music."

"I want listen that music song in cd player, please."

And like any good dancer, the Nugget loves his leg warmers. He calls them leggies and requests to wear them nearly every day. The Nugget's natural charisma allows him to pull off pretty much any fashion risk. This is especially fantastic for me and has allowed me to score him great deals on flashy apparel like orange shoes, kelly green shorts, and some seriously look-at-me stripes. Most people leave the crazy on the racks, but I know immediately that the Nugget will make the crazy look amazing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The role of men in adoption

I just read a very interesting and important article about men's reproductive rights. Before we began the adoption process, the topic had never entered my stream of consciousness. This article deals mostly with abortion vs. parenting, but for the interested, I'd like to give you the adoption POV.

Adoption laws vary widely by state, and as our adoption agency performs adoptions for 2 different but neighboring states, we had to learn the laws for each state. Most were very similar, but there was a huge difference in birthfather's rights.

State A (which turned out to be the Nugget's state) gave birthfathers the same rights as birthmothers. Birthfathers were supposed to be notified of the pregnancy and adoption plan, and if they wanted to parent, their rights were respected. No adoption could happen without the birthfather's support and consent. If the birthmom didn't know how to get ahold of the birthfather, advertisements had to be made in the local paper for a month before the state would agree to terminate his rights without his signature. Maybe not the best venue for information in this day and age, but a big effort nonetheless.

State B treats fathers like an afterthought. A birthfather may not block an adoption unless he is married to the birthmom OR can prove that he has financially and emotionally supported her throughout the pregnancy.

I feel very torn about this topic, and I don't believe either state has it completely right. It takes 2 people to create a baby, and whether they choose to parent, abort, or plan an adoption, it feels like they should both get a say. Our society holds high expectations of men but does not give them the tools nor education to figure out what it means to be a man in a family, how providing for your children can mean so many different things. And indeed, sometimes providing for your child means planning an adoption.

Ideally, the future of a child's life should be a joint decision, but what happens when the man and the woman have different opinions? Do you think the woman's say should count "a little more" since she gives so much more of herself to the pregnancy, and often, to the care of the child should she decide to parent?

In State A, a man can block an adoption without any intention of helping the woman raise the child. He can refuse to sign the consent to terminate his rights, then he could vamoose. However, a woman could get an abortion without even informing him of the pregnancy. That double standard doesn't seem fair to the woman nor to the child. Why is it legal to end a life without father's consent, but it's illegal to plan a safe and loving plan for the baby's life without his consent?

In State B, the men get the short end of the stick - if they don't know about the pregnancy, they have no rights at all.

Is there a perfect solution or does it not exist? Because women bear the trials of pregnancy, labor, and very often serve as primary caregiver, does that give them more of a right to make the tough calls?
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We feel tremendously thankful that the Nugget's Poppy was an active participant in his adoption plan and that we still have contact today. I know it was very difficult and scary for the Nugget's Tummy Mummy to tell him about the pregnancy and adoption plan and risk him saying, "No." But we are so grateful that she did, and that he chose, "Yes." We know that despite the pain involved, he feels peace in that he got to help choose a family for their son and that he can also have the opportunity to watch the Nugget grow and thrive. Many adoptive families and many birthfathers are not so fortunate. We may not get to see or hear from the Nugget's Poppy often, but he is an important part of our family and always in our hearts.

Sound Bites

More sound bites from the Nugget:

"Another one, please. More ones."

"That dog's moving! It's moving!" (said frequently when Doggie walks past)

"(Neighbors) M & C aren't outside. They're inside. Inside maybe eating breakfast. Probably eating oatmeal."

"I do'd it. I do'd that."
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We took the Nugget to ride his bike on campus today (a favorite fair-weather activity in our household), and he spotted a patch of sidewalk just covered with rust-colored seeds. I'm no tree expert, so I'm not sure what species shed them, but they made soft fluffy piles. The Nugget exclaimed, "Wanna dig those seeds!" and thunked his bike down in a hurry. He scampered over to the patch of seeds, bent over and started digging just like Doggie; he used his hands to push handfuls back between his legs. When his pile shrunk, he'd pivot and start again. Several passerbys paused to giggle with him. A few minutes later, he said, "All done!" and started back off on his bike. On his way back to the parking lot, he rode his bike carefully through several empty bike racks, his head ducked for the low clearance. At the end, he beamed like a gymnast who'd completed a flawless routine, and an elderly couple clapped and cheered for him.

I'm guilty of letting our daily routine ratchet up my anxiety level. In fact, on the way out the door this morning, I turned my back to put on a sweater and found the Nugget had dumped the bowl of sliced grapes I'd prepared for him to eat in the car. I wish I had dug deeper to find the endurance to encourage him to help me pick them up and rinse them, but instead I snapped and scolded (and later apologized). I'm so glad we have this haven of campus nearby - being there really helps me feel the calm and peace I need to refocus and be truly present instead of just existing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Printer's printing

The Nugget likes me to feign sorrow. He'll say, "Mommy sad? Mommy have a tear?" Lately he's added, "Printer's printing?" At first I was baffled, but then I remembered that in March, the printer was acting up just as I needed to print a multitude of projects for Baby Manny's shower, and I did indeed cry while trying to get it to work. Obviously he remembers and thinks that the thought of a printer printing (technically I was despairing over it NOT printing) will open my floodgates!

Today, the Nugget looked at the word "VALUE" painted on a window. We were inside and it was painted for the folks on the outside, so the letters were backwards and EULAV from our perspective. The Nugget correctly spelled it out, V-A-L-U-E and asked us what it spelled. I am really impressed that he not only recognized the backwards letters but also somehow knew how to read the letters right to left when normally he reads them left to right. Hubby also told me that he's seen the Nugget spell words correctly when he sees the letters upside down. In other spelling news, the Nugget looked at his copy of Goodnight Gorilla yesterday, and confidently told me, "G-O-R-I-L-L-A spells gorilla." Whoa. Scripps, here we come.

The Nugget has had some interesting breakfast conversations with fruit this week. Yesterday, I overheard him introducing his half-eaten banana to the salt and pepper. "Banana, here's the salt. There's the pepper," He held up his banana stump close to each spice grinder, presumably so the banana could get a better look. Today, he was putting strawberry slices into his empty milk cup, one by one, "Now it's your turn. Wait, strawberry. Ok, it's your turn now. Go ahead, strawberry." I used to personify some of my food too, but I remember not being able to eat it after talking to it. The Nugget does not share this aversion and cheerfully consumes the fruits he's been conversing with, just moments later.