Thursday, June 21, 2007

Things I HATE to spend money on…

Call me what you want... cheap, frugal, penny-wise... there are just some things that I hate buying, because I think they are way overpriced.

Toilet Paper – It’s obviously a necessity, but I honestly couldn’t care less whether my butt-cloth is “kitten-y soft”, and I can’t see spending more for a name brand. If I can get an 8-roll pack for $2, that’s a good deal (25 cents a roll). I try to get as close to that as possible. It’s quite the treat at our house when “the good stuff” is on sale!

Laundry Detergent – seriously, when you have three kids, one of them still in cloth diapers, you do a lot of laundry. The name brands are all at least $9 a bottle, which seems insane to me. Even though that works out to only $0.28 per wash, the thought of shelling out $9 for a bottle of soap pisses me off.

Sunscreen - What’s in SPF anyway? A comparable size of body lotion would be $3 (because sunscreen comes in the most ridiculously small bottles), but with that crazy SPF stuff, it’s $10. I have to buy it, but I hate it just the same.

Disposable Diapers – I’ve done the cloth diaper thing with all of my kids, for the most part. I will use disposables for outings and for nighttime, once they get to the stage where they’re waking up soaked every morning. It’s shocking to me how expensive disposable diapers are. Thankfully, I’m only buying them every 6 weeks or so. Once Maggie is potty trained (which should be within the next 4 months if she’s anything like the other two), I won’t have to buy them at all!

Appliance Service Calls – My clothes dryer was down for more than two months as I researched what was wrong with it and endeavoured to fix it myself (I did mention that I use cloth diapers, right?). Alas, I had to call in a repairman – I knew what was wrong, but it involved fiddling with natural gas, which I’m not qualified to do. I phoned around to find the best price (avoid the guys who tell you “it’ll cost ya $75 just for me to pull in your driveway, then there’s the actual service charge on top of that…”). In the end, it cost me $85 to change a $12 part, which took a total of 20 minutes. Scandalous.

Cereal – We eat cereal like crazy at our house. It’s not just for breakfast… it’s also a staple for snacks any time of the day. Cereal is something for which I never, ever pay full price. Right now, our cupboard is filled with a variety of Cheerios (regular, honey nut, apple cinnamon, multigrain…), because I got them for $1.99 a box. My limit on cereal is about $4 a box for the really good stuff (like Mini-Wheats..mmmm), and $3 a box for the other stuff.

Bottled Water – As a rule, I don’t buy bottled water. We certainly don’t buy it by the case. I’m pretty satisfied with my municipal water supply, so that’s what we drink.

Fads – Swiffer comes to mind. It’s a stick with a cloth on it. I can’t believe people pay good money buy those silly, disposable cloths. A damp (almost dry) cloth attached to your own stick will pick up the dust and hair just as well, and it can be cleaned in the washing machine and reused.

Greeting Cards – hmmm should I buy this flimsy card with a cute verse in it, or this paperback novel with 300 pages of story? They’re practically the same price… it’s crazy! I’ve started doing “photo” greeting cards. It all started with Thank You cards after Maggie was born. I printed a good picture of her at Wal-Mart (19 cents a print), glued some pink paper to the back of it and then punched a couple of small holes in the top through which I weaved a small pink ribbon. I wrote my message on the back and popped them in an envelope (which I had purchased in a pack of 50 for $4.99.) I figure the whole thing cost me about 35 cents a card and they were way nicer than the cards with the rattle and diaper pin picture.

Cell Phone service – I’m not ancient. Really, I’m not. But, I do not like cell phones. And worse than cell phones with the annoying ring tones and life-disturbing presence, are cell phone service providers. I had a cell phone when I was pregnant with Bart. I hardly ever used it, but Homer thought I should carry it, just in case I needed to call for help. Well, the day came when I did need it… and it didn’t work. I was 8 months pregnant, stranded at the side of the road with a flat tire. AND IT DIDN’T WORK. Seems they allocated my last payment to my husband’s phone (their mistake), so they disabled my service. The next day, I waited on hold for more than an hour, to hear that they were very sorry for the mix-up. To make a long story short, I was released from my 3-year contract (I had 2 years, 9 months to go!) when I explained that they would be seeing my big pregnant gut on TV sharing my flat tire experience with the world. Now, I do the pay as you go thing... it costs me $11.40 a month.

How about you?

Monday, June 18, 2007

On kids and pools

I have a love/hate relationship with my swimming pool. I love its refreshing, therapeutic value on a hot summer day. I love the way our backyard looks with a pool. I love pool parties, pool toys and poolside snacks.

I would happily fill in my pool tomorrow, cover it with grass and never look back.

You see, the hate part of my relationship with the pool is so overwhelming that it completely overshadows the love. I’m consumed with thoughts that there will one day be an “accident” and someone I know or love will drown in my pool. Morbid thoughts, I know, but thoughts I just can’t shake.

After our first summer with the pool, we removed the diving board. I was afraid someone would dive and break their necks. Not in my pool.

When Lisa was old enough to walk, we installed a fence around the pool (there was the statutory fence around the yard, but the pool was still accessible from the house).

Later that year, we installed alarms on the patio door and sun porch doors at the back, just in case she did manage to get out of our sight.

Last year, we installed a new lock on the sun porch door, thinking a sturdier lock would be an extra measure of protection.

On Saturday, Bart scaled the fence and entered the pool area. We were back there with him (as we always are), but it was a scary reminder of how it is that 58 children under 14 in Canada drown every year in backyard pools. Kids are tenacious and they just do not understand the danger, nor the consequences of their actions. You can put in all the safety devices you want. The reality is that there is nothing safer than respecting that pools=danger, so you need to be aware of where your child is at all times.

Here are my safety tips, whether you have a pool of your own or are visiting a home with a pool:

- Whether there is a fence around the pool or not, parents should always be in the backyard with their preschool children

- School-age children must understand the consequences of entering the pool area without parental supervision or consent (e.g. Lisa knows that if she breaks into the fenced area, even once, that there will be no swimming for her for the rest of the summer).

- Have a properly-sized life jacket for each preschooler and for any weak swimmers. They should be wearing the life jacket any time they are within the pool enclosure.

- When young children are in the pool, the adult’s one and only activity is watching those children. Not reading. Not talking on the phone. Not weeding the garden.

- If your child is missing, check the pool first.

Apparently we missed Safe Kids Week 2007, but this website has some good advice as well.

Happy Swimming!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Where you'll find me this weekend...

… with my monsters in my pool.

Yes, that is one dirty pool. Just a word of advice: mature trees (lots of them) and a pool in the same backyard... not a good idea.

Happy Fathers Day on Sunday!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Soccer Mom

Soccer season is back! This is my third season as a soccer mom and I found myself really looking forward to it, even though it marks the end of any evening routine, at least for three nights a week.

I think I was most excited for this season because it is Bart's first and he has been waiting patiently for his moment on the field. He took his first steps kicking a ball across the kitchen floor (true story); he has been able to drop kick a ball since he was two; and he can dribble the ball clear across the field and kick it right into the net. For the past two years, people have been saying “wait until he gets to play – he’s going to be amazing!” We believed that.

Lisa has more of a delicate style. She understands the game and is always in exactly the spot the coach has told her to play. She talks a good game on the way to the field, telling us that she will surely score a goal tonight, but once she’s in the game she seems afraid of the ball. Maybe not afraid of the ball as much as afraid of making a mistake or getting in the way of someone else. We’re always encouraging her from the sidelines, but can’t help laughing at how tentative she seems.

So, imagine our surprise when the 2007 season opens with Lisa scoring a goal and Bart acting like an airhead! In her third season, Lisa has figured out that you have to actually kick the ball to score a goal; that the team will cheer for her if she shows some aggression. Her technical skill has caught up to her theoretical knowledge of the game and she is, in fact, good! Bart’s skills remain quite good, but once he gets into a game situation, he would rather entertain his adoring fans with a silly dance or a somersault. He seems oblivious to what is happening elsewhere on the field.

We were able to laugh at Lisa, but we find ourselves exasperated by Bart’s behaviour (and laughing a little too, because he is pretty funny!) I think all those other soccer parents built up our expectations for Bart, so we’re a little disappointed that our little guy isn’t the soccer phenom we had hoped for… yet. As my husband says, we still have one kid left to get it right. By the time Maggie gets to her first game, they’ll be trading her up to the 5-year-old league. I’m pretty sure of that.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

3:25 AM

3:25 AM. That's what the clock said when I woke up this morning.

Who knows how long Maggie had been awake, but by the time I heard her, she was in full-on, desperate, screaming mode. I flew down the hall, plucked her from the crib and let her dry her wet cheeks on my shoulder.

I sang and swayed and whispered sweet nothin's in her ear for about 20 minutes until, finally, I heard the comforting snore of a baby in deep sleep. I swayed for a minute or so more, then gently placed her back in the crib, covered her with a blanket and tip-toed out of the room.

I had just crawled back into bed my self when WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! The screams started again. "I'll let her cry it out for a bit", I thought. Then, I heard little Bart footsteps. He said absolutely nothing, didn't even look in my direction, and just crawled in between Homer and I in the bed, covered himself up and fell right back to sleep.

Maggie wouldn't let up, so back I went and tried the singing/swaying technique again. She wasn't falling for it this time. She was both signing for milk and whining "baaahbo, baaaahbo". We headed downstairs and I gave her a bottle. I'll just lay down in my bed with her and hopefully catch some sleep while she finishes her bottle.

Back upstairs, I see that Lisa has now joined the party in my bed. Finding no room for me and Maggie, I head for Bart's room and lie down there. Maggie is not content to lie down beside me. No, she must be on top of me, with her cheek on mine and cold milk drips running down my face. I sat up and properly cradled her so she could finish her milk. Finally, she had drifted off to sleep again and I carefully, carefully, put her back in her crib.

I went back into my room to turn off the alarm clock, as I would be sleeping in Bart's room. It's 5:02 AM. I just got back under the covers and WAAAAH! MaaaMaaa! WAAAH! MaaaaMaaaaa!

"Fine, Maggie, you want to be up? We're up! We're totally up!" I plucked the overtired baby from the crib and carried her downstairs. I finally got to watch the season finale of House, which I had PVR'd, and I folded a huge pile of laundry. Maggie happily played, helped me fold and occasionally came over and put her head on my lap. We ate some Cheerios and yogurt, got her dressed and she helped me put the folded clothes away.

When I left for work, my early morning playmate was sitting in her highchair, eyes closed in a deep sleep.

I resisted the urge to scream "Wake Up!" in her ear, because that's the kind of mom I am.