Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday

Maggie has not yet met KittyFish.  She may have seen him streak past and clear the downstairs baby gate (not an easy feat) when she came downstairs yesterday morning.  He has a keen baby avoiding sense and spends all day happily upstairs and then strolls downstairs to play with Sadie until bedtime and then follows me around until it's time to begin mousing when night falls and the babies are safely tucked in bed.

He's such a cuddly friendly cat that I imagine sooner or later he'll warm up to our littlest family members (and he lays right next to Patrick when Patrick is nursing), but for the time being he's keeping his distance.

Among the words in Patrick's rapidly growing vocabulary are the words "Kitty, kitty, kitty."  Apparently the very short amount of time he spent with KittyFish made quite the impression and he's been calling him to come downstairs, despite the fact that he was absolutely terrified when KittyFish tried to cuddle with him the first night he was here.

Last night I woke up to find that I'd fallen asleep while Patrick was still in the big bed, which hardly ever happens since he's so wiggly, and he'd scooted over to find the cat and sleep next to him.

Sorry.  This is just the first of way too many kitty selfies that were snapped yesterday.

But wqrk... work can be a challenge.  Because I always have help:

And on days like yesterday the kids are like...
Yesterday was a day to be survived.

It looked like this... Therapy with me and Maggie.  Therapy for Mae with Maggie's therapist (running interference to keep Patch out of the way since the baby gate is broken and all he wants to do is be in the middle of therapy all. the. time.).  A phone call with a dietitian discussing supplements and Maggie's diet.  A meeting with one of Mae's therapists to discuss therapy going forward, what we're looking for and who's going to be working with her from now on.  Then it was on to a meeting with our couch from MSU (I finished the school work part of the program yesterday morning!) where we came up with new goals for Mae.  After that we had about an hour until it was time to get dinner ready, then it was dinner, bedtime, cleaning the house, calling to cancel the last meeting of the day (at least for me) because my head was killing me, although after that it was still  time to get to work because I have orders that need to go out today... with a migraine and morning sickness.

The migraine is gone today.  And the pace is going to be much, much slower (my schedule looks like: therapy, school with Sadie, clipping coupons, errands, dinner).  Here's hoping yesterday's morning sickness was more migraine and less a glimpse of what week 7 is going to be like.

Why is it that the low battery fire alarm beep always starts in the middle of the night in one of the rooms with a soundly sleeping child?

I don't think it's ever, in the entire history of being me being mom, happened during the day, at a reasonable hour, when changing the battery wouldn't involve waking every single person in the house up (and inevitably it always happens when Paul's not here!).

I'm happy to report that, after roughly two weeks of being missing, I found my camera stuffed under a couch cushion.  This makes me feel infinitely better after turning the house upside down looking for it because now, at the very least, I know that I am definitely not the one who put it there.  My money is on the not quite 16 month old.

I have yet to stumble upon a half eaten mouse in our house, but I do hear a great deal of chasing and sliding into things going on downstairs at night and when I've peaked down there I've seen some serious stalking going on.

And after seeing two mice a day on average for quite a while, I haven't seen a single mouse since KatFish arrived, so whether or not he's caught any mice, he is definitely doing his job by keeping them from strolling comfortably around the house out in the open!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Patrick Dances

Because Patrick was being way too cute to keep it to myself.  After watching his sisters dance around the room every single day he's coming up with his own dance moves:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Introducing Kitty Fish

I don't see many mice in my near future.  At least not scampering free.

Our cat search yesterday afternoon was a success, which is amazing considering there was one type of cat that we were looking for that we thought might work with Sadie's allergy (and that we might actually find in a shelter).  We were searching shelters for a Russian Blue, because Russian Blue's produce much less of the enzyme in their spit that most people with cat allergies are allergic to (or something like that, I just could not find the article I was reading a few months ago that talked about it), but after driving an hour to see a Russian Blue that was supposed to be in a not-so-nearby shelter and finding him gone, we were discouraged.

We went by Petsmart and a worker there gave us directions to another shelter where we found not only a Russian Blue, but a Russian Blue who jumped up on Sadie's lap and cuddled with her while she didn't have her typical non-stop-sneezing-watery-eyes-can-hardly-breath-through-her-sniffles-reaction.  So Paul quickly paid the adoption fee and we whisked "Kat Fish" home.

He came with the name and Sadie loved it, although she almost immediately began calling him "Kitty Fish" and "Fishy" as she rambled on non-stop about him.

He explored the house for hours after Maggie and Patrick were tucked in bed and any questions I had about whether or not he'd be interested in chasing mice have vanished.  He's does regular checks on all the vents (which I've thought is the mouse super highway) and even squeezed under the couch to check and make sure they weren't under there.  He can definitely smell them and has done some stalking and holding very still, although he hasn't gotten any yet.

But I also stayed downstairs much, much later than I've dared do in a while, and I didn't see or even hear a mouse last night so... our first night was a success.

I'm not too worried about any mousy presents.  After all, we've tried various traps (including super expensive poison) and I've been tripping over dead mice for three months...  although apparently they reproduce so quickly there are always more.

Up until the last few years I've had cats my entire life (I believe Kitty Fish is #13), so I actually have received plenty of Kitty Gifts (they were indoor-outdoor cats, although Kitty Fish won't be, so the gifts I received growing up included bats, snakes, mice, birds and an insane number of extremely ill tempered alligator lizards who almost always crawled up into couches to die), and have a fairly good idea of what we're getting into.

I'd hoped to postpone getting a cat until we owned our own place but... the mice... they've declared war.

Before Sadie went to bed she and Kitty Fish tore around the house together with him following her closely, practically attached to her heel.  They even played on the ground together, which was hilarious to watch.  I'm not sure I've ever met such a good natured cat.

And when Patrick started to cry Kitty Fish tore upstairs and stood by his door until I got there and then followed me downstairs and sat next to Patch while he nursed.

He wouldn't even eat the food I gave him until I brought it into the room so he could eat it next to me after I realized that he stopped eating and followed me every time I left the room.  During the night when I'd get up with Patrick he'd come running from whatever he'd been doing and walk with me to and from Patrick's room and lay in the bed while Patrick nursed and then walked back with me while I put him in his crib.  It's like having a little furry guard cat keeping me company wherever I go.

And who knows?  Even if he isn't great at catching mice I'm sure his presence as he runs from room to room with be a deterrent!  I have a feeling I won't be running into them over and over again anymore and at very least they shouldn't be strolling into the room in the middle of the day anytime soon!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Totally Random Roller Coaster: A Doctor's Appointment, A Cat (and 1000 mice), and one busy day

We're kicking today off to an early start and hopefully it will all go smoothly and work out the way I'd really, really like it to work out.

It's been a roller coaster couple of weeks.

My favorite part of today is how it starts.  I have an OB appointment this morning with the nurse practioner at my OBs office for my first appointment and while I know today will be mostly paper work and answering questions it still puts me one step closer to the appointment I really can't wait for, which will be the one at twelve weeks when we have an ultrasound.

Four-years-ago-me was all about passing up ultrasounds.  Me-that-saw-Christian's-little-60-beats-per-minute-heartbeat-at-12-weeks-and-got-the-news-that-all-was-not-well is all about hardly being able to wait until that ultrasound to make sure everything is all right.  If all goes smoothly hopefully this baby will have far less than the dozen or so that Patrick had over the course of my last pregnancy (not done frivolously, but because of spotting at 6, 10, 16 and 20 weeks and then more during the hospital stay and amnio four weeks before he was born and then to figure out what kind of crazy position he was in when I was in labor although we still missed that we was transverse by the end), but I'm still counting the days until I will hopefully relax a teeny tiny bit and stop worrying so much because I worry now... oh how I worry!

In totally unrelated news, we may be adding a new member to our family today, because yesterday, the mice broke me.

Sure I could (barely) handle a mouse jumping out at me while I was sitting at my sewing machine.  I could even almost not have a nervous break down about one jumping into a bag sitting next to my leg.  At this point I hardly flinch when they'd run across the room at night after the kids were in bed or skitter by when I walked into the kitchen.

But yesterday at 4 pm a mouse ran across the room in front of me and Sadie and Maggie and Patch and I was done.  This is not part of the you-don't-come-out-before-bedtime agreement we had.  Did I mention that Terminix didn't show up to our appointment last week?  Because they didn't.

So I messaged Paul on Facebook and told him that if he found a Russian Blue (one of the cats that our children may not be allergic to), we could get it, provided Sadie didn't have a reaction when we went to see it.

Because these mice.  They are insane.

It took him about a minute to find three shelters claiming to have Russian Blues.  And so this afternoon we will be driving around seeing if any one of these thankfully full grown cats is a good fit.  Hopefully if we find one it will also be a good mouser.

And the roller coaster part?  I had to make a few tear filled phone calls/texts/and emails yesterday and then have Paul call to ask that one of Mae's therapists be replaced.  It just wasn't working and had become a nightmare for everyone involved and was effecting every aspect of Mae's life and so I finally had to overcome my not-hurting-someone-I-likes feelings and do the right thing for Mae.  But oh it wasn't easy.  And this whole thing has me asking so many questions about types of therapies and what's right for us... but that's another post.  Now to get ready to go to that appointment!

Monday, February 24, 2014

My 5 Favorite Books to Read while Pregnant

When we found out I was expecting Sadie we were about twelve hours away from getting on a plane to leave for a pilgrimage to Israel.  After two beautiful yet miserable weeks (8 weeks pregnant morning sickness does not go well with 12 hour a day touring of religious sites) we were back in the states and one of the first things that I did while waiting to meet my parents for lunch to tell them the big news was to go to Barnes and Nobles and pick out a couple books.  One was a pregnancy journal that I haven't seen in years and can barely remember (I think it was green) and one was What to Expect When You're Expecting.

I read What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Expect in the First Year more than once pouring over the words and I loved them.  I thought they were the greatest books ever.

But as I've gone through each pregnancy I've found I like the book less and less (and it's not just because I've read it so many times.  I have another pregnancy book that I've read during each pregnancy that's now so well worn it's tattered and torn, and I still think it's one of the greatest pregnancy books I've come across).  And so here are the books that I pour over when I'm pregnant, because even though this is my fifth pregnancy, I still love reading about what's going on with the baby each month.

Image from Amazon
I first saw this book at my NFP doctor's office in Florida and I flipped through it quickly with Sadie.  We both loved it.  She loved all the pictures of babies in utero and I loved that it offered so much more information than pretty much every other pregnancy book I'd ever read.  It's overflowing with pictures and facts and the moment I found out I was pregnant I found it and started flipping through the pages.  It goes from the start of the cycle a baby is conceived ,through conception all the way through the months that follow and child birth.

Photo from Amazon
If I love the previous book because of the enormous amount of information it offers, I love this book because it gives me a page to read about what's going on with baby every single day.  Sadie and I actually sit down together each day and read about the baby, and during the first twelve weeks there are weekly to scale graphics showing the baby's size that Sadie loves pouring over.  This will be my second pregnancy reading Pregnancy Day by Day and picking this book up each day is something I really look forward to doing.

And Patrick spent Sunday morning repeatedly kissing pictures of babies in this book and giggling, which means it definitely vies for a top favorite pregnant book position!

Photo from Amazon
This is the book that I've poured over through each of my pregnancies.  It has a page that keeps falling out that an over enthusiastic toddler tore out at some point.  The babies in it have been kissed repeatedly by Sadie back when she was Mae's age.  I've nearly memorized the information.  And yet I read each section thoroughly (I think of it more as a month by month than a week by week guide, because the sections are broken up by month) and I still love looking at the pictures, because apparently I just can't get enough of reading what baby is doing right this second!

While this book isn't quite about pregnancy it is an awesome book to read while pregnant.  Or just because.  I preordered this book as soon as I heard about it and poured over it with no baby on the way, because it's just too much fun (okay, I love thinking up baby names, so it's my idea of fun and if it's your idea of fun too than this is the book for you).  From names you hear all the time to names you'll struggle to pronounce this book have everything!

Image from Amazon
I think I read this book cover to cover twice when I was pregnant with Sadie, which was a very good thing because I needed to remember all the benefits that I'd read about when a certain one month old nursed for seven consecutive hours (literally).  Reading it helped me get through the first couple difficult months before we got the hang of nursing and it is definitely amid my favorite books to read while pregnant.

Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) pregnancy book (or books!)?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Worth Its Weight...

I was hoping that Paul and I had dodged this latest round of fever/coughing/general miserableness that's going around, but last night it became clear that that wasn't going to be happening and so we're staying home this Sunday to attempt to not share the fun with our fellow parishioners (and also because I can't imagine wrangling Maggie while feeling like this).  

Still, with Patrick napping and the girls playing in their "fort" it's a particularly quiet morning.  The stroller has just proved to be useful in another way:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another Day of Couponing

Over the years I've been asked quite a few questions about how we make ends meet on a limited budget and I've always meant to post more about it.  In the past, coupons have been a big part of that strategy and so in addition to hopefully writing other posts about my savings strategies I've decided to do a (possibly) weekly posts on our couponing adventures to share one of the main ways that we save (that possibly is there because the moment I try to do every week posts I almost always forget or have something come up and don't get around to the next one).  

Today was our weekly shopping trip and I'd carefully planned and plotted an extra stop at CVS to do a little couponing.  I had $26 in extra bucks from last week to use, plus quite a few coupons that I was hoping were going to be problem free (and they were).  

I actually wasn't planning on buying diapers today, but when I saw the sale price plus the gift card back and thought about the extra bucks I already had I decided to get them now, while they're a fairly good deal.  And we needed wipes, which is why those $3.99-not-a-great-deal-wipes made the cut (I'm always grateful when we do have extra bucks when there's something we need that I don't have a great coupon/sale combo for!)!  

Here are today's deals:

3 packs of Pampers Swaddlers at $8.99 each ($26.97)
I used 2 $1.50 manufacturer coupons (-$3)
And then got a $5 gift card for the purchase (-$5)
Which brings the cost to $6.23 a pack

1 Pack of Pampers Wipes ($3.49)
$2 off manufacturer coupon (-2)
Final Cost- $1.49

1 Large Pack of CVS Wipes ($4.99)
CVS $1.50 off CVS Wipes Coupon (-$1)
Final Cost- $3.99

After adding the diapers and wipes to the cart I got back to the task of finding the deals I'd carefully planned out.  The main thing that I needed to get was a razor for Paul, since apparently we're not in couponing razor season (is that fall?  I was trying to remember because I know there's a month where men's razor blades were pretty much free on a weekly basis, but I think we're still a ways off from that time of year).  Then I found the other super deals on my list and it turned out like this (these are the prices after receiving CVS Extra Bucks back on the receipt):

The deals were (and these deals are good through tomorrow):

Birthday Cake M&M's ($.75)
CVS Extra Bucks Back $.75 (-$.75)
Final Cost- Free

Culturelle Probiotics ($10)
CVS Extra Bucks Back (-$10)
Final Cost- Free

Colgate 2 for $6
CVS $1.50 off toothpaste coupon (-$1.50)
CVS Extra Bucks Back $3 (-$3)
Final Cost- $.75 each

Tresemme Shampoo and Conditioner 2 for $8 x 2 ($16)
Manufacturer Coupons 4 x $2.00 (-$8)
CVS Extra Bucks Back $5 (-$5)
Final Cost- $3 or $.75 each

Gillette Venus Razor $11.49 x 2 ($22.98)
Gillette Fusion Pro Razor $9.99 ($9.99)
For a total cost of $32.97
Gillette Venus Razor Coupon $4 x 2 (-$8)
Gillette Men's Razor Coupon $4 (-$4)
CVS Extra Bucks buy $30 get $10 back deal (-$10)
Final Cost $10.97 or $3.66 each

Before coupons the items rang up in the triple digits.  Even with the coupons in my hand that always makes me nervous.  Then I handed over the coupons and that knocked off $58.50.  I paid $47.35 and then got back $36.75 for my next trip.

Not a bad day of couponing!  I'm not quite back to where I was when I'd been doing it for a few months but I feel like I'm starting to get back in the swing of things!

The Stroller

It's here and I'm a little bit in love.  

Okay I'm in love with the idea of how much freedom this stroller is going to give me and the kids just as soon as its not 0 degrees and there aren't 50 mph winds being predicted on a daily basis.

I don't think I'd be this excited to get a new car.

The stroller is here.

And I've been pushing it around and it's every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be:

Here it is with its sun shade down.

And here it is with the flaps folded up... oh and the basket off of it because
a certain three year old kept trying to ride in the basket.

Another picture.  The basket usually fits between the back wheels.
So far the reviews that I found seem to be pretty accurate.  It is easy to push and to turn.  To give you an idea of how easy it is to push Maggie was pushing Sadie around the house in it for quite a while this evening.

When Paul brought it into the living room the kids all clamored to get in it and then proceeded to sit in it until we left to go run a few errands (and there were tears over leaving it).

When we got home from our weekly shopping trip they got back into it again and Patrick spent a good portion of the afternoon insisting on being put in his seat (I kept trying to take him out of it and he kept crying and trying to climb the wheel until I would lift him back up).

In case you're wondering, that is a maternity shirt, because I generally break my maternity clothes out about five minutes after I find out I'm pregnant (slight exaggeration).  I'm always amazed when people say things like "I'm 20 weeks and I'll be breaking out my maternity clothes soon!" because 20 weeks is around the time when people say things to me like "You're about to pop, aren't you?"  

I feel like I start to look pregnant about ten seconds after the pregnancy test shows two lines (I think I'll blame five pregnancies in a little over six years). In the first trimester I may not gain a pound but my stomach muscles seem to give up the fight these days almost instantly and while I can fit in my non-maternity clothes, I'd just as soon make the trade since they're more flattering early on.  It doesn't hurt that I like my maternity wardrobe quite a bit.

One of my favorite things about the stroller is that Sadie actually fits in the seats and her legs aren't cramped.  She's almost four feet tall, so that's pretty good.

And here they all are with the canopy down.  I can hardly wait for the weather to be nice enough to take them all on a walk!

Now I am so, so, so very ready for spring.  It doesn't even need to be that warm.  Maybe just warm enough not to be slipping and sliding in ice and slush (okay, no slush might be asking for too much). 

7 Quick Takes Friday: Michigan Weather is Insane Edition

The weather here has been promising to be extra crazy all week.  The Governor gave a press conference to talk about how dangerous it was going to be and then I saw the forecast on our local ABC affiliates facebook page and thought, oh wow, that is much, much worse that I thought after listening to the Governor's talk about flooding and general mayhem.  It said:
"If I had a kitchen sink advisory I would throw that in as we will see a bit of everything the next 30 hours. Winter Weather Advisory until Friday evening. This is how it lays out. Rain moving in at sunrise will become freezing rain as temps will not climb above freezing until around lunchtime and northern areas may take until afternoon. The rain and warming temperatures will cause widespread fog until a warm front moves north toward evening. That front will bring temps near 50 degrees with a few thunderstorms. It will also bring strong winds to push out the fog but with gusts to near 50mph Thursday evening into Friday morning wind damage is possible. NOT DONE YET... around 4 AM friday a cold front will zip through and change winds to the west causing temps to tumble and bring in snow showers off the lake by dawn and all day Friday. High on Friday near freezing. Told You.. kitchen sink..Andy."
And so I kept watching out my window and waiting and trudged down to the basement and tried to guess where the flood waters would start seeping in this time and moved boxes away from those places while bracing myself for mice jumping out at me, but after twenty-four hours nothing happened.  Well, not quite nothing.  It snowed all morning yesterday, but snow is hardly shocking at this point.

Then I saw another update yesterday:
"Please no sharp objects around as you read this. Halfway through this crazy weather pattern. The other shoe will fall around 4 AM when the cold front moves across the area. As Ernie Harwell used to say " get your scorecards and pencils ready for the lineup". Here goes... Warmer air is still on the way late evening and the first part of the overnight. A warm front is moving north and will put us in the 40s to near 50 degrees by midnight. That combined with more rain and snow cover, look for some fog. The cold front will cross the area around 3 to 4AM. Along this front will be showers and storms and quite windy conditions. It will not make it through unnoticed. From that point on temperatures start to fall and winds will get very gusty to near 50mph and remain that way through Friday. Snowshowers will develop and will coat the ground again by the morning rush hour. We all will wake up to temps near 30 degrees. Yep from 30's at dinner time to near 50 at midnight and then near 30 at dawn. So do you really want to hear about Friday now?? Well I am paid to bring you the weather so here is the rest. Friday has on and off snow showers with blowing snow as well. Temperatures will be in the upper 20s during the afternoon and winds still gusting between 40 and 50mph. This means Wi .... Wi.... Windchills (there I said it) head back down to near zero by evening. The topper to all this is we then will stay below freezing the next 7 days at least. Andy."

Yes that would be a weather report that starts with "please no sharp objects around as you read this" because the temperatures were supposed to be rising up to fifty degrees, followed by 50 mph winds, before plummeting below freezing again with temperatures feeling like 0.

Did I mention that we had a thunderstorm last night too? And that right now as I type this I hear the wind howling around the house, doing it's best to deliver those promised 50 mph winds?  

I don't even want to think about what the ice is going to be like out there today.

You win, Michigan, you win.  This is the weirdest weather I've ever seen.

Best Husband Ever...
because wait...
there's more to the story.
Paul and I were messaging each other back and forth last night before he left the law library and he kept asking me if there was anything that I felt like asking him to bring home, because he knows that my hormone fueled cravings are off the charts.

I think it's a combo of a certain toddler deciding his primary calories should still come from nursing, along with growing a baby, even if that baby is teeny tiny itty bitty right now.

Anyways, I've had the appetite of a NFL player lately and I am pretty much starving all. the. time (yes, yes I eat protein... and am still starving and eating a ton and not yet gaining weight, thank you very much Boomer-don't-worry-I-don't-need-lunch-I-can-just-have-milk-Xavier).

I was trying so hard to be good though and not devour a late night snack when Paul asked a third time if I was sure I didn't want anything, because he was leaving the law library soon and I was like "Wait!  Quick!  Go by McDonald's!  I need a McDouble without cheese right. this. second!!!"

A different night when we had problems getting the van
to move.
Then Paul called sounding less than happy and said that upon leaving McDonald's the car had started to rumble and he'd pulled over and found one tire was completely and totally flat.  So in the dark and cold and wet he had dug through the back and found the spare and changed it.

But the really, really bad part is that when he called my first reaction, for a split second was "Oh no!  The McDouble is stuck and can't get to me!" and then the concern for Paul changing a tire in the dark and cold kicked in a split second later so that I could fret and fret until he finally made it home.

And he did make it home safe and sound and smiling.  He handed me a McDonald's bag (and I added super hot hot sauce to the meal) and we settled down to watch Dr. Who while I pondered how to control the Roku since a certain 15 month old absconded with the remote and it's currently missing.

While I was thinking this conversation happened:

Paul:  "Why are you making that face at me?"
Me:  "What face?"
Paul:  "The angry face."
Me:  "This isn't my angry face. It's my thinking face."
Paul:  "I think I can see where most of the disagreements we've had in our marriage have come from then."

When I told Paul later that I was going to blog about the conversation above he asked me clarify what I'd said because apparently he thought I'd said that it was my "thanking face" not "thinking face."

That really would be a problem.

Because I guess my "thinking" face looks something like this.

Apparently I have lost my rosary making calluses on my hands and that has seriously slowed down the production of my Indigogo thank you rosaries and chaplets!  They're getting finished, and I'm getting faster each night as my hands are getting tougher again but wow!  I cannot believe how wimpy my hands got after a year of sewing and knitting and not making many rosaries!

I need to add an update to last night's post, but a call was put in to the credit card company yesterday and they agreed that what the Lansing Best Western Plus had done was fraud and refunded the amount that they took out of the account last week.  So thank you to everyone for the advice because Capital One got done in an hour what we'd been trying to do for months through Best Western.  Now to watch the card and make sure they don't try anything funny again...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Lansing Best Western Plus: A Warning

I thought I'd post a Best Western update for anyone who wondered what happened after the last post went up and Best Western said that they would be issuing a refund.

Oh how I wish it was that simple.

I'll start by saying that I will no longer dismiss the idea of staying at a Best Western out of hand.  The corporate office has been on the phone with us again and again trying to get this worked out, but they can only do so much when a franchise manager is lying to everyone involved on a daily basis, about what she's doing.

Let me recap.  We stayed in the Best Western Plus in Lansing, Michigan for six nights back in December during an ice storm.  The stay was a nightmare.  The thing that stands out, amid the days without running water and the other days without hot water, the days without maid service (a few would be okay, but after five days of five people eating, sleeping and living in a room clean sheets, floors and taking out the trash is greatly appreciated), being repeatedly locked out of our room, and having to stand in line for extended periods of time at the front desk, is the treatment by the staff.  When someone politely asks you if someone could make up the room after five days you don't get angry and snap at them.  When a parent and child comes down for a breakfast you've just served the other parent and kid you don't say loudly "sorry, you didn't pay enough to get breakfast."

Obviously we were extremely unhappy with our stay.

On the day that we left we were told that we'd been given a $25 credit for each day that we were there.  That would be $150.  That means that the hotel still got over $60 a day for our stay.  It was certainly fair for the Lansing Best Western.

Over the next month we were told repeatedly that they had just or were about to refund the money.

When they didn't I wrote my post.

A bit after my post went live the corporate offices said that we would be getting a refund for four days, or $100, since Lansing Best Western claimed that we only stayed there for four days.  It was better than nothing and we waited for it to go through.  It didn't.  After many emails and phone calls and corporate repeatedly telling the Lansing Best Western Plus to refund the money we received a refund for $50.  A second phone call went to corporate and we were assured that a second refund would be going through.

And that's when things got really bad.

Because instead of refunding another $50 they charged our card for a little over $51.  An odd amount to go through accidentally although I suspect that they might have been stealing not only the first half of the refund that they had promised us, but the credit card transaction fees as well.  Upon seeing the bill one can't help but have the feeling that it was intentional and rather sneaky (and thoroughly dishonest).

I informed corporate of what had happened, because now they'd actually taken more money from our account than they'd refunded, and this time they called the Lansing Best Western Plus and stayed on the phone while the Lansing Best Western Plus supposedly refunded the full amount plus the extra they'd taken.

Today the actual amount that they've refunded went through and while telling the corporate office that they were refunding $102, they refunded $50 (which means that at this point we've received $48 of the $150 we were told had been refunded us the day that we left).

I'm at a loss.  Lansing Best Western Plus has gone beyond bad service and has behaved dishonestly by now charging our card for roughly $52 when we hadn't stayed with them again, a month and a half after our stay ended.  It doesn't make me feel really great that they have our information.

I contacted Best Western corporate again, but with the level of dishonesty that the Lansing Best Western Plus is showing I'm not really optimistic... If you're thinking about staying at this Best Western I would think twice.  Or pay cash.  This business clearly can't be trusted with financial information, since their bad financial practices seem to be nearly as bad as their bad customer service.

Two Little Ballerinas (and their shoes!)

We've had a tough couple of days.  Mae is having tummy troubles at the moment, and is feeling pretty crummy, which leads to things like three hour tantrums that can make a day feel much, much longer than twenty four hours.  But a box arrived today and it was a little bright spot that had her up and beaming with joy for about an hour before she started to feel badly again.  It started when I handed her this box:

And suddenly she was glowing and laughing and staring at her feet:

She has wanted ballet slippers for so long.  She has put a good deal of energy into trying to steal her sister's shoes.  And so when I saw a special sale online for ballet slippers I took advantage, knowing that she would be thrilled when they finally got here.  And she was.  Her little face lit up when she saw them slide onto her feet!


Then they started to dance.  And do you see that picture above these words.  I asked her to do that and she did it!  Which, around here, is huge!

She even held still and smiled and let me take her picture instead of just sprinting past at 100 miles per hour.

Patrick did wonder where his slippers were... but then he started dancing with his sisters and forgot about being upset.

There was running, twirling, dancing and laughing...

Now to get these guys dinner.  Here's hoping we've survived our tears for the day and that the hours up until bedtime will be better.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (A Maggie Update)

You guys.  You guys!

I just heard Maggie sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the first time.  She's done it the last two days in therapy, but I hadn't actually heard it yet, until today.  I haven't heard the whole thing yet but she did sing "Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.  Up above..." before her voice got so soft that I could see her lips saying "diamond" but couldn't make out the words.  She's holding a little toy star in her hand as she sings and it's incredibly cute.

We've also found that when they're trying to get her to say words or imitate actions the best way to convince her to do whatever we're asking is to ask Sadie to do it first.  She's way more excited about imitating her big sister than she is about imitating us grown ups.

That is my Maggie update of the morning!  Now back to school with Sadie!

Patrick's Puppy (or how a toy is saving my sanity!)

Photo from Amazon
When this dog arrived as a Christmas present for Patrick I didn't give him much thought.  I thought it was cute as I squeezed it's paw and it began to play music but it was a toy amid a pile of toys and it wasn't until this past week that I realized that it is quite possibly the best toy in the history of toys, at least for our Patch.

You see, in the past six years I don't think there's ever been a single toy that has accomplished the super (almost) miraculous task of letting the rest of us sleep more while entertaining a child who's still waking at night.
Last month Patrick went from sleeping through the night or only waking up once or twice to waking up every single hour and screaming his head off to nurse. He wouldn't fall asleep in the big bed, he'd try to get up and play.  He'd close his eyes the instant he was back in his crib, but within sixty minutes he was screaming again.

It was exhausting.

Then I moved his Christmas Dog upstairs and my life was transformed.  I would hear Patch wake up but instead of calling for me he'd start to talk to his dog.  The dog would sing and talk and I would brace myself for the screaming demands that Patrick was practically starving to death in his crib, but they never came.  Eventually the singing would stop and they would both be asleep again.

Patrick has a half dozen light up singing toys in his crib, but this one is the one that makes all the difference.  When I put him down for bed now he gets a sneaky little smile on his face as he pretends to go to sleep, and then I hear his dog start to talk as I close the door to leave his room.  In the mornings I hear his dog singing in his room (and he's started sleeping a full two hours later than he was pre-Christmas Dog!).  And throughout the night periodically I'll hear his puppy talking followed by silence as he goes back to sleep.

Yes, Patrick's Puppy is definitely a life saver these days.  Who'd have thought a toy that looks so bright and busy would actually help the rest of us get a little more sleep?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sadie and the Baby

Lobbying heaven
for another sister?
As you can probably guess, Sadie is obsessing over her teeny tiny growing sibling.  Her conversations at the moment pretty much revolve around whether or not the baby is going to be a boy or a girl (she's definitely on team girl, although occasionally in moments of sympathy for Patch she'll say that she guesses he can have a baby brother first, words which are usually accompanied by a dramatic sigh).

A couple of days ago as we were getting ready in the morning she announced:  "Mommy, I think Daddy should have a talk with God and tell him the baby needs to be a girl.  God listens to Daddy." in a matter of fact way, while I explained that God had already sent us a boy or a girl, we just have to wait to find out which one our baby is.

She's been busy worrying about the baby being too squished in my tummy, despite my insistence that he or she is roughly the size of an apple seed at the moment and saying things like "well, when the babies legs get too crunchy, he'll say 'I'm outta here!'"

If you're wondering about the "crunchy" legs thing it's because when Patrick was born with his typically baby bent knees Sadie thought it was very, very strange and apparently it made quite the impression.  She worried that he must have been much, much too crowded since he had such bendy knees for such a long time and she's already worrying about the amount of space that her future sibling as (which I would say is ample after all the stretching my muscles have done... after all Patrick had enough room to turn transverse in the hospital at 39 1/2 weeks and just under 9 lbs after they did a sonogram confirming that he was head down when I showed up in labor).

She also said:  "Be careful baby!  You better stay warm in Mommy's tummy!" in her bossy big sister voice as we walked out the door for Mass yesterday... it may be a long pregnancy with all of her worries about the baby's comfort!

And now she's drawing picture after picture of an imagined baby sister in a princess dress...

Yes, she's definitely on Team Girl this time around.

Patrick, Maggie, Sadie and Sadie's imagined Princess Little Sister who's
clumsy and is knocking her brother and sisters over.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Stroller Obsession (or how my husband is awesome!)

Strollers are big in our little world.

I don't go anywhere in the car with the kids by myself.  The possibility of Mae eloping while I'm trying to get Patrick into his car seat, at least while Patrick is too little to stay put himself, is too great.

As a result, when there isn't a foot of snow on the ground, we walk a lot.  During the last year it wasn't unusual for us to walk three miles one direction and then three miles home to go to a place we wanted to visit.  We went on these same walks throughout my pregnancy with Patch (at least when I wasn't on at-home-bed-rest for that month) and I'm hoping to pick them up again as soon as the snow melts and the temperature decides to rise above freezing.

It's good for the kids to get out of the house and they even take turns walking.  I'll bring the monkey leash for Mae and a carrier for Patrick when he needs a change in location (or a nap) and Sadie would usually walk three or four miles before becoming so tired she'd perch by her sister's feet while Mae would try to dislodge her every chance she got.

Maggie was not impressed
with the sit and stand.
But with two toddlers who will definitely need a place to ride for long walks, and another on the way, I began to dream of a new stroller.  As the dream (and online dream shopping) went on I imagined a quad stroller, where a tired Sadie could join her siblings instead of complaining that she was exhausted for the final mile of the walk, stretching out the last steps with sighs and claims that she can't go another step.

Yet the market for quad strollers is somewhat lacking.  Most of the strollers have itty bitty wheels and weigh a little over 60 lbs.  While I can imagine a 60 lb stroller with great big wheels (tires) it was hard to imagine how the little plastic ones would hold up, especially in our pot holed city where many of the sidewalks (like the one we live on) have roots pushing up through the pavement that I was somewhat skeptical those wheels could overcome.  Plus, I'd be adding at least 110 lbs of kid to the mix (adding up their combined weights from their last doctors appointments).  That's 170 lbs of kid and stroller.

I needed tires.

And then someone on the blog Facebook page suggested the Runabout (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and provided a link to a review.

This one tried to tip over
if the ground wasn't
perfectly level (side to side).
I'd seen them before in stroller search results, but I didn't usually pause to look at them more closely.  They aren't cute.  They aren't pretty.  They're about as practical and utilitarian looking as a stroller can be.

Then I read the review.  The stroller was ten years old, held 4 kids, was easy to push and could turn with one hand.

I had to have it.

For about ten seconds.  Then reality sunk in. I knew that I'd raised my eyebrows over the cost of those strollers in the past when I'd breezed past them on Amazon and they are not cheap.  They are most definitely not in price range, or even in my dream-maybe-I-can-convince-Paul-if-we-sell-our-double-BOB-on-facebook price range.

Today we walked and walked and walked around a local mall after Mass but before the stores opened, to keep the kids from going stir crazy.  They enjoyed the malls stroller cars and as we walked back out to our car I suggested to Paul that we drive by the local second hand baby shop.  I remembered they'd had a big not-cute stroller and I knew that it hadn't been twelve hundred plus dollars.

I popped out, raced up to the window and stared.  There it was.  A three seat Runabout.

Of course the single BOB was a favorite...
We could do three seat, I quickly justified the idea to myself.  The baby will be in a carrier for month anyway.  And we'd use it this summer.  And by the time the baby is riding in it Sadie will be able to walk even further and Mae will probably be wanting to walk even more too.  They can take turns!  And the baby will obviously be in the carrier a lot for the entire first year!

My plan was perfect.  I returned to the car and told Paul that I needed the stroller.  I could not live without it.  It would be a literal "push" present.

He saw the crazy look in my eyes and told me to stay in the car while he went in and bought it, but told me we wouldn't be hauling it home today with all the kids and that he'd come back later in the week to pick it up.  I hemmed and hawed over going in and finally sank back in the seat to wait for him to return.

He was gone for a long, long time.  Much longer than it takes to purchase a stroller in a not all that busy shop.  I waited.  And waited. What was going on?  Had he gotten lost in there.

And it'll be nice only packing
along one stroller for outings!
A while later he returned and proudly handed me the receipt.  "You got it!"  I said with relief.

"Do you see the price?"  He asked.  I had.  It was a fraction of the price that it retails at.  It was $100 less than the original second hand list price in the window.

"You negotiated?"  He answered happily that he had.  Negotiations has to be one of the most valuable classes that he's taken in law school (at least from the point of view of his wife). "That's why you didn't want me to come in? Because you knew I'd be like 'my dream stroller' and ruin your plans?"

And that is how the perfect stroller at the perfect price become our new mode of getting around town when the snow finally melts this spring.  I can hardly wait now!  The babies will be stir crazy no more!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Restarting my Couponing Adventures

One of my not-really-a-resolution-New-Year-ish-Resolutions was to start couponing again.  So I've been steadily clipping and watching online couponing sites and yesterday I took my lists and a pen and little bags of coupons that were sorted by store and I went out and searched for deals.  I put away yesterdays couponing finds before taking pictures, but I pulled out the things I got today before putting them away and snapped a couple of pictures.  It wasn't anything spectacular like the couponers you see on TV, but I feel like it was worth it...  So here was the (re)start of my couponing adventures.

I'll start with toothpaste.  My rule is that I never pay more than 99 cents for toothpaste.  When toothpaste companies release new products (which they do really, really frequently) they send out high value coupons to get people to buy them.  Combine that with a sale and you have a $5 toothpaste for less than a dollar.  

Sure you might have instances where you think you might have accidentally squeezed Icy Hot onto your toothbrush (new flavors and all) but overall I definitely prefer trying a new toothpaste every few months to paying way too much for it!

Here's an example of how it works:

Mouthwash: $3.99
CVS Extrabucks: $3 back
Coupon: 75 cents
Final cost: 24 cents

Toothpaste: $4.99
CVS Extrabucks: $3 back
Coupon: $1
Final cost: 99 cents

The products below were deals that worked in the same way.  Sadie was super, super excited about the leave in conditioner in the pink bottle (which works out just fine because her long hair definitely could use leave in conditioner!).  And the Eucerin was actually a little under 81 cents a bottle because I forgot to factor in a small trial size bottle I bought to put the amount over the number required to get $10 back for the lotion purchase.
And that is how my second day of my first week of couponing worked out.

Now for a few random coupon tips that I've picked up over the years:

Every week I buy four papers.  I panic when I forget them, because I know it will throw my couponing off for a month to come.  I "clip" deals online too, but over the years I've found that most of the coupons I've used are the ones from the papers and the savings makes the $8 a week expense more than worth it.

I clip almost every coupon in the papers and sort them into various categories.  The only coupons I don't clip are pet food (since we don't have pets and I've never seen a money maker pet food) and laundry detergent (since we use homemade stuff and the price never goes low enough to tempt me to buy it).  But I do clip coupons for things that I would never, ever think of buying...

And the reason?  Because I've seen too many "monkey makers" (items where the coupon price is more than the product price due to a sale, meaning you can roll that amount over into other items) that I threw coupons away for because it was something I would "never buy."  However, while I'd never buy contact lens solution because we don't have anyone with contacts, I'll absolutely buy it if I'm getting paid to (and then donate it, because I'm sure someone else will use it!).  So I clip everything.

Now to go look up next week sales... because couponing does take quite a bit of prep work!