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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heya Stranger!

Well hello, Blog!  Long time, no post!

Goodness, has it really been nearly two months since a post?  Well, let's catch up!

The twins are seven months old now, and more fun than ever.  Although they keep me very busy and practically don't nap at all, they are turning into very cool little people!  Giggles galore!  Makayla loves her jumper and looks like she might be auditioning for Riverdance when she plays in it.  Austin is scooting all over the place!  It wont be long before I'm constantly chasing after the two of them.  I am also now laughing at how much we tried to protect them from germs in the beginning, since now, everything goes directly into their mouth!

Seven Months Old
We took Makayla to Stanford's Children's Hospital on Wednesday for her MRI.  The purpose of the MRI was to rule out any neurological conditions or more serious factors that may be causing her Nystagmus, such as a seizure condition or a brain tumor.  She was so brave, and did so well.  Even though she was unable to have anything to eat after 5:30 a.m. that morning (since she is so young they had to knock her out for the procedure), she was all giggles and smiles and dancing for the nurses when we got there for her 12:00 p.m. appointment. 

It was really hard watching them put her under, and combined with all the hospital smells, which reminded me of the NICU, I was very emotional. I am very thankful that we have a very amazing friend, Aubrey, who was willing to stay with Austin all day, so that Joey and I could both be with Makayla, and there for each other on this emotional day.  She even cleaned my house while we were at the hospital!

Unfortunately, we will not get the results until August 23rd.

Makayla the morning of her MRI
Thanks to a referral form the Blind Babies foundation, we also have a Vision Specialist and a Physical Therapist, from the school district, coming to visit Makayla (and Austin) once a week.  They have been coming to see her for a little over a month now and are thrilled with the progress she is making physically, and we are learning a lot about Makayla's vision, and the best ways to help her see.  The vision specialist has noted that her Nystagmus has mellowed a bit over the last month, and predicts that we will see much more over the first two years of Makayla's life.  

I've also recently started up a friendship with another mom, Claire, thanks to the Nystagmus Blog.  Her son, Jack, is about the same age as Makayla and Austin, and also has Nystagmus.  She is from the UK, and we chat about being new moms and what Nystagmus means for our children.  Although we are both very busy and have a hard time keeping up with our emails, she has been a great support system for me.

As for my couponing shenanigans?  I'm still at it, and am now really finding my groove.  My poor husband has been such a good sport.  The poor guy, I have switch up his coffee, his body wash, deodorant, and the meals I prepare, but he remains supportive and willing to try whatever I toss his way.  Although I struggle to find coupons for our groceries, I know that the way we shop for toiletries and household items will forever be changed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Extreme Couponing Experiment: Week 2

No, no, this won't be all I blog about anymore, I promise.  But perfecting my new craft and hobby, while dealing with two little twerps who have decided they are too cool for naps, has made me a very busy mamma!

In the Week 1 post, I set a few goals for this week .  I said that I wanted to see a 40% savings at the grocery store, and to get our total purchase under $200, and a 60% savings at Target, spending no more than $40.00 for the week.  Well, turns out I needed diapers and printer ink so we went way over $40 at Target!

This week was rough at Safeway.  I'm finding that actual grocery (not toiletries) coupons are hard to come by.  I did manage to keep my total just under $200.00 though, and I saved a total of $90.48, which was $46% of my bill and meets the goal I set for myself!   

At Target, I saved $67.13, that was 40% of my bill.  Not exactly the 60% I was hoping for, but really, that's fantastic considering that 64% ($107.06) of my bill was diapers and printer ink, which almost never go on sale or have significant coupons.  That means I saved 67% off the rest of my stuff this week.

I also ventured to Walgreens this week.  With the new no napping business we need excuses to get out of the house, and although Walgreens is the furthest store from me, I've been impressed with their sales and coupons in the past two weeks since I started this new adventure.  Boy, am I glad I did it!  I saved $56.63, which was 189% of my total bill!  I swear I even got paid to take a few items home with me!

29 Items = $23.95 - That's like paying $0.82 per item!

A few of my bast deals this week:
  • Diaper Bag = $0.00
  • Complete Contact Solution = (- $1.00)
  • 2 Degree Deodorants = (-0.06)
  • 2 Suave Deodorants = $0.09 each
  • 4 Old Spice Body Washes = $2.00 plus two free deodorants and 2 free body sprays.
Well, we'll never need deodorant again!  But, if we do, I swear, I'll never pay for it again!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Extreme Couponing Experiment: Week 1

So, it's been one full week of dedicating my shopping to sales and coupons.  Here's how it went.

According to this weeks receipts, I saved $100.88 at Safeway, that was 31% of my bill.  I also saved $64.90 at Target.  That was 45% of my bill. Admittedly, my grocery bill was about the same as usual, but I got a lot more for my money this time!  I expect that it will be that way for the first month, while I work on my collection of coupons and begin my stockpile. 

Stockpile in progress
I realized very quickly that this new project of mine could quickly become overwhelming and all-consuming.  Sunday and Monday all of my "free" time (which was is very short supply with two sick, not sleeping, babies) was dedicated to clipping, sorting, organizing coupons and sifting through adds to pair my coupons with.  I was going to have to come up with a strategy, quickly!  By Tuesday, not only had I upgraded my purple 1 1/2 inch binder to a pink 3 inch binder, I realized that I would need to focus my efforts on one or two stores and then maybe visit others stores if there is a deal on something we love that is just too good to pass up.  My two stores will be Target and Safeway.  These are stores I already visit a few times a week, and are closest to me. 

There are a ton of websites online that are dedicated to couponing and provide lots of resources and help sifting through the deals.  I like The Krazy Coupon Lady because I find her site the easiest to navigate.  Also, she is from Northern California as well, so the deals she shops will likely have the same rules as the stores I visit (like no doubling or tripling coupons *super pouty face*).

And so, with my pretty, pink, coupon binder, and my shopping/coupon list, I set out to Safeway and Target.  Here are a few of the best deals I cashed in on this week:

  • 4 Safeway pastas + 4 Classico pasta sauces = $6  Like paying $0.75 each
  • Sure Deoderant = $0.50 each
  • Wrigly's 5 Gum = $0.29 each
  • Gerber Good Start Formula, reg $21.09 = $0.49
  • Acne Free Terminator, reg $5.99 = $1.74 each

I also set out to purchase Ponds wipes (regularly $4.99) that after coupons should have been $1.49 each, but had a mix up and purchased more than I had coupons for, so I paid $2.74 each instead.  Still a good price, but not what I was out to get.  Lesson learned, stick to the plan mapped out on the list, and don't rush through the store.

Our biggest challenges this week have been giving up our brand loyalty.  We have to change the way we think about shopping.  The idea is to purchase whatever is on sale and that you have coupons for, before you need it and sometimes that means buying a different item than you're used to.  We've been used to certain foods and conveniences (like squeezable mayo!) for such a long time, it's hard to switch to the product that's 90% cheaper when it's on sale and paired with a coupon!

Did anyone try this out with me?  What were your best finds?  What's your secret?

I'm already plotting next weeks shopping trips!  Now, I feel like I have a better strategy and will be better equipped to seek out our best deals. This week's goal: 40% savings at the grocery store, and to get our total purchase under $200.  And 60% savings at Target, spending no more than $40.00 for the week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Extreme Couponing

Growing up, my grandmother was the crazy coupon lady. She had an entire spare bedroom dedicated to her coupons and I remember it always having multiple piles, floor to ceiling, of coupons needing clipping, or who knows what.  I also remember her sending me and my cousins in to the stores with our own stack of coupons to purchase items for her in order to bypass the "per customer limit."  Although my family always teased her (ever lovingly so) I remember taking note that coupons must be worth while if she is willing to dedicate that much time and space to it.  

I have always shopped with coupons, but rarely save more than a buck or two.  I have an awful habit of letting them expire, or I end up getting the generic brand instead because a buck off of the $7.99 Advil, isn't as cheap as the $4.29 generic...  However, since I've stopped working, I have been more dedicated to my coupons and am constantly hatching plans to help make up the income I walked away from.  

Just the other night, I went into Target to stock up on enough baby food and formula to get me through the next few days, and I used enough coupons to get $40.00 worth of food and formula for just $13.00.  Another customer in line joked and called me an "extreme couponer."  And I admit, I was pretty impressed with myself and pleased to save that kind of money on such expensive items that almost never go on sale.  

That night, in between my chores, I watched for the first time, the first four episodes of the new TLC show, Extreme Couponing. The show wasn't all that great.  I had expected that they would show some of the secrets on how these ladies walk out of the store with $1,200.00 worth of goods, but pay just $8.74.  But!  It did get me thinking and sorta inspire me to try and be a bit more frugal.  Even if I only save $50.00 off my nearly $200.00 a week grocery bill, it will have been worth it!

Let me just say, I never expect to walk out of the grocery store for $8.74.  Meats, beer, wine, fresh produce, almost never have coupons, so even though I can shop around for the very best deal, I'll only be walking out of the store for under $10 if I skip those things....and nothing is coming between me and my wine!

Today, I'm upgrading my pocket coupon organizer, to a 1 1/2 inch purple binder, organized into 36 different categories.  Tomorrow I will hit up my favorite newspaper giver-awayer from in front of WalMart and try to convince him to give me six newspapers so I can start hording all those coupons.

One thing I did learn from the show is that stockpiling is the key.  Having enough of your regular "needs" on hand so that you never purchase it at full price.  So Over the next week, I plan to clean out and organize our pantry, and set aside some room in our garage to start storing the things we will need.  Now, let me clarify, I will never have 400lbs of toothpaste, like on of the couponers from Extreme Couponing!  Just enough to get us through to the next sale.  If I can't resist a freebie, and I stock up on more than we need, I vow it will go to the food bank or into a care package for our soldiers over seas.

I expect that with two little babies this is going to be a big challenge since getting the best deals means shopping two to four times a week.  But I'm looking forward to it as a great excuse to get us out of the house!

So, Just normal ol' me, your average shopper, a mom looking to save a few bucks and so so on minimal time.  Join and follow me on this experiment and adventure.  Wish me luck!

Monday, May 2, 2011

What A Year!

Today, our twins are five months old, exactly one year, to the day, after we found out I was pregnant.  

A year ago, I day dreamed about what life would be today.  It's fun to look back now and see how close, or not, I was.  Mostly, I was way off.  For starters, I had no idea we would be having twins, and I expected that my baby would be just three and a half months old at this point.  I had no idea I would not be working, and I couldn't even begin to imagine just how crazy I would be about these little people.  I did know that Joey would be an amazing father, and that I would question my mothering abilities every single day.

Austin & Makayla ~ Five Month Old!
Five months old is a lot of fun.  I have to say, it has been a lot of hard work getting here, and still is a lot of hard work, but the work is getting more and more rewarding every day.  They are both smiling and giggling regularly now, and are able to push up on their elbows to explore the world in front of them.  Austin is really enjoying his new exersaucer and Makayla loves shaking the bells she received from Blind Babies.

If this last weekend in any indication, the five month mark may be the beginning of getting a little bit back to "normal life", as well.  On Friday, I took the babies with me for a fairly long car ride to meet more of their great-grandparents.  Although Makayla had a bit of a hard time when we got there, the trip was pretty smooth and I have to count it as a success.  Definitely a trip I'll be willing to make again!

Then, on Saturday, Joey and I took them with us to Chevy's for their great-grandfather's 84th birthday.  This was their first trip to a restaurant.  We were very nervous about taking them, but figured there would be enough capable hands to keep them happy at least long enough for us to tell grandpa, happy birthday, even if we had to come right home.  They were perfect!  They watched the busy hectic world of Chevy's swirl around them, and Joey and I both ate, before making an early exit...because after all, five-month-olds have very limited attention spans.  But in the end, we count this as another great success.  We are glad we took the risk and went.

It feels so good to get out and enjoy doing things as a family.  I love watching Austin and Makayla soak in the world around them, so eager to learn everything they can get into their grasp. 

Happy 5 month birthday, little kidlets! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blind Babies

In the beginning of March, we noticed that Makayla's eyes and vision development was significantly different than her brother's.  We took her to the pediatrician right away who referred us to an ophthalmologist and diagnosed Makayla with Nystagmus.

Nystagmus means a lot of different things, and it seems to be different in every person.  We are still waiting for Makayla to get to see a neurologist which will hopefully give us a lot more information about her Nystagmus, but for right now what we know about Makayla's Nystagmus is that it's "scanning" Nystagmus, so her eyes pan back and forth from side to side, they also occasionally jerk or shake.   Here is a video of Makayla's eyes panning back and forth while she plays on her back.


We also know that Nystagmus almost always come with significant vision loss.  When Makayla was first diagnosed, we were devastated.  I remember coming home from the doctor and trying to figure out if she could see at all, and being convinced that she was completely blind.  But, over the past month, Joey and I have noticed that she does seem to catch things in her gaze from time to time and works really hard to focus on it.  

Recently, our pediatrician referred us to an organization called Blind Babies, a local non-profit organization who works with families of blind or visually impaired children to make sure they have all the resources they need to raise happy, healthy, normal children.  In the weeks leading up to our in home visit with Blind Babies, I have been anxious, to say the least.  I feel like being in contact with an organization called Blind Babies means I'm giving up hope that she can see, like I'm failing her.  I also have felt like they were going to get to our home and show us everything we were doing wrong for her.

Yesterday afternoon, we finally got to meet our "Vision Impairment Specialist" from Blind Babies.  She was very pregnant, and calm and quiet.  She was kind, but I sat there nervously and she jotted down notes and stared thoughtfully at Makayla without saying a word.  Finally, after was was probably ten minutes, but felt like forever, she started to bring out some toys she brought and played with Makayla.  She brought out a bright red, sparkly pom-pom and moved it slowly in front of Makayla line of vision and back and forth.  Makayla followed it, moving her whole head back and forth to keep it in her sights and finally grabbing hold of it once it brushed against her hand.  

My eyes filled up with tears!  She SEES! My baby girl sees! *huge sigh of relief*  I don't know how well she sees, or if she'll see well enough to drive a car someday, but I know that she will know when mom and dad smile at her, and beam with pride and joy.  

The visit was so encouraging and helpful.  The specialist left us the amazing pom-pom and some other useful toys, like a mirror, and some bells for Makayla to shake.  She also brought a very neat quilt that is solid black on one side, making it easy for Makayla to identify any toys that may be lying on it, and on the other side are unique textured for Makayla (and Ausin too, probably) to feel and play with during tummy time.
The tools and toys we received from Blind Babies
The specialist also told us that our dark walls and hard wood floors, make a great home for a baby with visual impairments!  Another relief! As parents we worry so much about weather we are doing enough or doing things right.  It's so nice to have such an important resource available and know that Makayla is getting everything she needs to do well and succeed in this world!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Thank You Letter

I remember throughout my pregnancy, when people would learn that we were having twins, they would tell us to be sure to accept the help of our close friends and family, because, "it takes a village." And, you know what?  They were right!  Let me just say, what a village we have!

The generosity and kindness began way before the twins even arrived, including a very generous shower thrown by our closest friends, where we received so many useful necessities that we couldn't even walk into the nursery once the day was over. 

Part of Austin & Makayla's bedroom after the baby shower
But the generosity didn't end there.  I first realized just how lucky we were when the babies were first born, and still in the NICU.  Joey had already returned to work, so that he could spend his time off when the babies got home, and I was spending my days at the hospital, coming home only to eat and shower.  Christmas was two weeks away, and with our babies in the NICU, we had no Christmas spirit, and no time to fake it.  But, one evening, about three days before the babies made it home (although, we didn't know they were coming home at the time), I came home from the hospital a little early to find that our friends had been sneaking into our home to decorate for Christmas for us.  Not only that, Santa's elves had brought us a tree and gifts for us and the babies, including stuffed stockings for their first Christmas!  

Me & Joey, with Santa's elves, Leah, Katie, Gil, Aubrey & Billy, on the night of the break-in.
Once the babies were home, Nicole and her talented hubby, Ryman, came to our home to make sure tha in all the madness that follows bringing two babies home from the NICU, that we didn't miss the oppurtunity to take those once in a lifetime newborn baby photos.

Austin & Makayla by Ryman Tolentino
Shortly after the babies came home, Joey's sister came up for Christmas, and to meet the babies.  She spent her time here making sure I got showers and naps during the days and that we got dinners in the evening.  Not only did she come bearing lots of gifts, she took me shopping to make sure we got all those things you don't realize you can't live without until the babies are already here.

Over the next months, our friends, and my dad, took turns making us, and bringing us dinners, and taking over the evening feedings to make sure we had time to eat.  They teamed up to watch the babies so that Joey and I could get out for a date night or two, and Gil came over on his week days off to make sure I got some gym time.

In February, when we learned that I would be having surgery to remove my gallbladder, my in-laws where packing their bags, and on their way up to stay with us before Joey could even hang up the phone.  They stayed with us for a week, while I recovered.

When we learned that Makayla may have some vision problems, our friends and family lent us shoulders to cry on and words of encouragement.  Most generously, Denae even offered to take time off work to take care of Austin while we take Makayla to all her doctor's appointments.

And again this last week I was reminded just how lucky we were, when I went back to the hospital for more gallbladder related stuff, and our friends and family stepped up to support Joey while I was away for four days.  My dad, Aubrey and Denae, all taking "work from home" days to work from our home so that Joey could keep working and not have to take more time off from his still relatively new job.  Other friends, making trips to and from the hospital, and helping with the babies when Joey was home since Makayla was going through a difficult time eating.  All the while, Joey's parents and sister were ready to come up at a moments notice in case my stay at the hospital got lengthy.

Almost daily, Joey and I talk about how lucky we are to have so many close friends and family near by and that they are willing to help out at a moments notice.  We try to brainstorm just how we can show our gratitude for all their generosity.  There are not enough words, or enough gifts to express just how grateful we are.  It's not much, but this is my way of saying thank you.  Thank you so very much.  We'd be lost without you.  From the bottom of our hearts, we are so very lucky to have you all in our lives, now and always.  Thank you and we love you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Question of the week: When did it get "easier" for you?

I've been promised by other mothers from my local "Mothers of Multiples" group that is does get easier.  Now, I'm only four months in, but I con honestly say, it hasn't.  I remember when we first got to bring the babies home from the NICU a friend of ours said, "You're really making this look easy" and I told her that I was pretty sure that this was the easy part.  I mean, even though we weren't getting more than 2 hours of sleep at a time, all they really did was eat and sleep and the schedule was definitely predictable, and in sync.  I had visions of it getting harder when they were both not sleeping at all and crying all the time from teething, or even later when they started crawling and walking and were moving quickly in different directions.

Well, those weren't the triggers, but I was right.  It did get harder.  There are things that got better, like the fact that they easily sleep 10 to 11 hours a night now, and I know I will get a shower each day.  But, it got harder once I could no longer keep them on the same feeding schedule, so instead of doing 8 feedings a day, I was doing 16.  Also, now that the babies spend time awake during the day, but are too young to be interested in toys, I have trouble keeping them entertained and stimulated and it feels like they spend all their waking hours crying.

The pediatrician promises that on April 12th, the day the twins turn three months "corrected age" (our twins were 6 weeks premature), our lives will change and it will be the first of easier days to come.  And so the countdown begins, 7 days to go!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love is in the air

Three of my closest friends, and my cousin, were engaged in 2010 and plan to marry in 2011.  The first of which was married on Saturday to her high school sweetheart of 13 years. 

This was the first wedding I attended as an adult, and I have to say, I had a great time!  Leah is one of my best girlfriends, and like a sister to me.  We were very close friends from the moment we met, about 8 years ago, and I had the honor of being one of her bridesmaids.

The beautiful bride and her maids.
Even though the weatherman threatened for weeks that we would have rain and high winds for the wedding, it turned out to be a beautiful spring day, made even better my the gorgeous cherry blossom trees in bloom.  The couple wrote their own vows and spoke about the long windy road that brought them to this day, and for someone who really isn't too teary eyed for the most part, I have to admit, I sniffled through the ceremony and sobbed through the reception!

I am so happy for the new Mister and Misses.  I love them both very much.  A couple that marries after 13 years together is in it for the long haul!  

The happy bride and groom

And a quick thank you to my own wonderful hubby of five years!  I love you very much and am so thankful to have you!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Four months old

Today is a special day.  Not only are we attending the wedding of our very good friends, Leah and Adam, but our twins are also four months old today! 

Actually, I'm not attending the wedding, I'm in the wedding.  This will be the first wedding I'm attending as an adult and I get the honor of being a bridesmaid for one of my closest friends!  But, more about that tomorrow, after the wedding...Today, I'm talking about about Austin & Makayla...again!

Four months old.  Four months???  On the one hand, I can't believe these two are closer to being six month old babies that they are to the day they were born.  Yet, on the other hand, I can't believe it's only been four months!  I can hardly remember what life was before them. Before my day was broken up into two and half hour blocks of time, or what it was like to sleep until I woke on my own just from having gotten enough sleep.

Four month old!

I try to remind myself every day to remember every moment and enjoy these days.  I won't always get to spend all day, every day, with them, and there will come a day when they don't adore each and every kiss I smash all over their faces. 

But as much as I try to make sure I remember everything, and savor each moment, I already find myself wishing I could recall those first few weeks and months more clearly.  And I have to admit, I find myself wishing some of the hard days away and looking forward to a time when they will be entertained or easily distracted from their fits, by toys or each other.

Months 1 through 3
Realizing how quickly these last four months have passed us by, and thinking back at just how few of the moments I can recall in great detail, I'm vowing to slow down and breathe a little deeper over the next eight months, and years to come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Makayla tells us a story

Wednesdays are one of my favorite days of the week, because its one of Joey's days off.  However, today was especially nice, because it was another beautiful day.  

Makayla was a bit uncomfortable most of the day, but, she did stop for a little to tell us this lovely story this afternoon.  <3

Monday, March 28, 2011

Strollin' Strollin' Strollin'

What's that big yellow thing in the sky?!?  SUN, you say?  Hooray!

I usually make it a point to get me and kids (and hopefully the pooch) out of the house at least once a day, even if it's just a trip to Target (don't underestimate the value of a good Target run).  However, the last month, and then some, has been filled with rain and my recovery from laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder, which has kept us locked in the stuffy house.

So, this morning, when I put the bambinos down for their morning nap and saw that that beautiful sun peaking through the clouds, I knew we would getting outside today.  It's going to be a good day!

I took the gang, Makayla, Austin, and our favorite pup, Scout, on our normal route around the park that is nearly across the street from our home.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  Birds singing, sun shining, dogs playing, flowers in bloom, beautiful green hills in every direction, friendly passerbys.

Austin loves his front row seat!

Makayla, trying to keep the sun out of her eyes.

We were having such a good time I even decided to get crazy and let Scout off his gentle leader, which I'm happy to announce, went very well, until the big mean Mastif that lives along our route lunged through the gate at him and Scout lunged back, taking my wrist with him.

Scout, happy to be off his gentle leader

Truly amazing what a little walk can do for you and your well being.  I think we all benefited from the Vitamin D, and the babes were so worn out from all the excitement, they fell fast asleep as soon as we got home.

Fast asleep and snuggling after our walk.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Introduction

So, this is my blog in progress...  Seems appropriate to start with some sort of introduction.

I think, and hope, there are lots of things that define me, but mostly these days I seem to be defined by the fact that I am a new stay at home mom to my very young boy/girl twins, Austin and Makayla.  They will be four months old in just over a week and are my dream come true. 

Austin gives his "big" sister a kiss.

I hope that this blog can be a sort of online journal, where I can vent, brag and share all the ups and downs of my new life and it's adventures.  Although I'm sure I'll have no shortage of things to say and pictures to share of my little ones, I hope that this will also be a place I can write about the other things that interest me.