It's been over a month since the last post. I suppose the busyness of the season and other distractions have kept me from posting.
-Good news today: our house was appraised by the bank- hopefully, all is well with that.
-My parents are in town for the week. We'll also be spending the Christmas holidays with them this year so there will be lots of grandchild-parent bonding!
-My birthday was last week. A friend came over and brought lunch with her. Sometimes the smallest gestures mean the most.
-It was 40F last week and 60F today. Guess which temperature I prefer?
-the UPS man is almost finished delivering my no-tax/free-shipped Christmas presents. Finally, most stores have clued into free shipping:-)
-a few days/weeks left of 2010. Russell reminds me everyday that it's almost time for him to change his calendar.
-there will be no Christmas card/picture/letter this year. I ran out of time and motivation of trying to get it together. Maybe next year!
Last Halloween, I was nine days post partum with an infant girl to care for. Russell had the croup and Dan was tired out- no wonder! So, this year we attempted our first Halloween trick-or-treating with a few of Russell's friends. We met up at a friends' home and enjoyed a pot-luck chili supper before heading off at 6:30pm for the 'treatin'. Dan took Camille home at that time since her bedtime is about 7pm anyway.
(He charges $5/hr... a steal!)
At first, Russell refused to go with the group to the front door and say "trick-or-treat" but after the fourth house, he realized his box wasn't going to fill up on its' own;-) As long as I held his hand, he'd at least stand at the door although he never did say the magic words. He was so happy to be out... "It's very late, isn't it Mom? It's so late! I'm never going to sleep again!" He could have kept going all night but after 1.5hrs, all of us parents were ready to call it a night.
I love you, Russell, and I'm so happy you faced your inhabitions and had a wonderful night!!
Oprah is well known for her favorite things. Since she doesn't announce her "favorite things" episode until the audience is seated, can you imagine the thrill of finding out that you are part of THAT show? Each audience member goes home with at least $5000+ worth of items.
Well, I concede that this blog isn't half as exciting as going home with a new car, iPad, or Kindle but I wanted to list a few of my favorite things that have made my life easier- and cheaper- this year...
Swagbucks.com : I tooted this horn a few weeks ago but I'm loving it now, even more, as I'm beginning to redeem my Amazon.com gift cards for Christmas purchases online. Don't forget, you can only redeem two 'items' from their store a day, up to a total of five per calendar month. Swagbucks is a search engine that randomly gives out 'bucks' that can be used to earn Amazon.com (or .ca for my Canadian friends & family) gift-cards (!!!) or iPads or anything else. Click HERE to sign up. Use their tool-bar daily for 1 point, enter the daily poll for 1 point, and check out the surveys daily for another point. If that's all you do, you'll earn 1000 points per year. If you refer a friend, you also get a matched total of their first 1000 points. I love Swagbucks!!
Groupon : a new deal (or more) per day per area. Groupon's expanded into Canada, with local sites in Vancouver, Victoria, and Edmonton. Also, American cities like Salem and Eugene, Oregon, for my Oregonian friends;-) They offer restaurants, fitness classes, online store products (like Picaboo.com!!), and swim schools (like ours!) for 50%-80% off the regular price. I even was able to score a boat tour around SF Bay when my parents came in August. I've never had a problem using the Groupon.com coupons and most companies are thrilled to see that you bought their ticket item. Sign up HERE for your daily posting.
Ebates.com : I hit this site before I do ANY online shopping- even Groupon.com. If you sign up thru this site HERE, then click on you desired company (Groupon, Gap, Sears, REI, United.com for airfare!- anything- except Gymboree:-(, you'll score a percentage back from 2% to 10% cash back. The checks are mailed out every four months, I believe. You get $5 just for signing up:-) I've had no problems with this site and it's great to get a check in the mail that I deposit into my thrift-store account to dip into later.
ShopAtHome.com : a rival company to Ebates.com . Hey, I don't mind! They also are a cash-back company that combines their site with online coupons. Click HERE to sign up. Sometimes they'll have a higher cash-back percentage so I check both sites before shopping online. Both these sites are SO easy to use, it's just a waste not to take the 20 seconds to shop via their sites.
All this to be said, I've come to appreciate the time that these sites have allowed me to have this year. Instead of dragging the kiddos from store to store, I can do my shopping online during room/nap times and usually my packages are delivered free of shipping or a nominal fee- less than the cost of gas to get to the stores:-)
I hope this coming Christmas season is a blessing to you and not a burden. It is wonderful to show others we love them through the ritual of gift giving, but going into debt over it does not say "I love you." You might not be able to save enough points, bucks, etc. right now in time for this holiday season but you'll be thrilled when next year's birthdays and holidays come around and you can cash in your balances for free or cheaper items. I hope you enjoy a few of these favorite things- just in case you don't make it onto Oprah's "favorite things" episode this year;-)
Today, our Princess Camille turned one year old. What that really means is that it's been one year since my waters broke and then waiting for ten hours for labor to start and feel painful and then for two hours of intense pain before Camille was born. That also means it's been one year minus one day since Russell succombed to croup. Ah, memories!
Camille's 12-month stats: 18.2 lbs, 28" in length, and 25% overall in size. She's the same size that Russell was at six months of age. I'm glad she has her big brother to take care of her! Russell took the above picture of Camille with our camera at our latest camp-out at HMB.
We haven't officially bought Camille a present yet. Russell plans to buy her a pink purse. She's always into mine and he figures she needs her own;-) What we hope to buy her is a castle.
In the last five years, our rent has gone up $250/month since signing our original contract. Thankfully, at this time we are not in contract so if we move, there is nothing to break. We've reached our max in this condo. I've loved most of the memories here... the friends & family visits, the births of our two children (well, at the local hospital), and the awesome location; close to San Franscico and close to beautiful views of nature. The straw that broke the camel's back was just two months ago when we received our latest notice of rent increase.
At that time, Dan started researching VA loans and we talked to a finance guru who told us how much we qualified for in purchasing power. In the last few weeks, Dan and I have viewed homes in our price range and last night we put in our first offer. If this offer isn't accepted, that's okay. We'll keep castle-searching and place another offer. VA loans are tricky to work with so that will be our "fleece" with a potential purchase. As we read Russell his nightly devotions, it is amazing how the bottom line of most Biblical stories is obeying God and His directions.
We cherish your prayers for our family during this time. We won't be leaving the Bay area but we will be moving 25+ miles south of here- which means eventually finding a new church community. In light of our family/married life this will be a small move but for now, it seems so overwhelming. I'm just glad we'll still be close enough to keep in easy contact with our current friends.
I love the summer months- mostly by staying home and enjoying our complex's pool and local friends' get-togethers. But, in consolation of the pending autumn season, I relish the month of September when we can travel without higher costs and without the busy crowds.
This September I was lucky to be a part of a girls' only trip to Seaside, Oregon (via Portland) to celebrate the pending motherhood of my dear friend, Laura. Fourteen years of friendship only gets sweeter. Laura and Alysun (above) were two of my bridesmaids eight years ago. Come November, there will be six children between us all! I enjoyed four days/three nights with these friends. Ah- the coast!
Rogue strawberry plants. So pretty.
Oh, the adventures to come for us! It was so nice to be with the girls.
We left for San Diego a week after I returned from Portland. On the 14th we celebrated our eighth anniversary by packing for our trip south. I dreamed of living in San Diego as a teen during my summers at a summer camp in the area, and I lived that dream for 2+ years after Dan and I married. It is an incredibly beautiful area and just visiting feels like going home.
We rented this middle house with two other couples and their families, so there was a total of six adults and five children (between the ages of 4.5 and 10 months). Ciaos? Yes. A slice of heaven? Definitely.
... Camille's feet.
She wasn't impressed by the sand and wanted to stay on her beach towel instead;-)
Leaving on our delayed anniversary-date-night to Humphrey's. What a hot date:-) I love this man.
Hometown friend, April, and I went to breakfast one morning and then returned to just chill. That's a good friendship:-) No entertainment needed.
My friend Sarah and her mom, Anne (Canadian ex-pats), and miracle twins Katalina and Kody- born at 27 weeks gestation (two days after Camille's birth), came to visit as well. Such wonderful people and I miss seeing them.
"Surf & Turf" dinner (prawns and steak) with the gang and the kiddos. Life doesn't get much better than this.
My angel girl.
I love this!!
Never enough sunscreen. Obviously, he didn't burn at all but I did a little and it has ripened into a nice tan... just in time for the fall;-)
I will admit that I've felt quite lonely lately, with friends either drifting away or moving away. It takes so long to establish a friendship and to break beneath the surface talk... at least three to five years, I'd say. And in that time, friends have moved away and new people come,-changing the dynamics of a group. I'm learning to cherish those that stay close- those that call for no reason and those that love you enough to say, "let's go on a vacation!" Thank-you, friends, for the sweet times:-)
Once Dan got home from work on Friday, we headed out to Half Moon Bay's state park/beach for another camping trip. It was quite windy but the fire kept us warm and toasty. Dan set up the tent while I held Camille in the van since I didn't want her to get too cold. Russell was dancing around the whole time because he was just so excited to be at the beach. We met up with Dan's cousins who were visiting (a sweet coincidence) HMB for their daughter's sixth birthday. We ate hotdogs and chips for supper and s'mores for dessert. I headed home about 7:30pm since Camille was tired and fussy but Russell and Dan stayed for the night and came home the next morning about 11am. Sweet memories for them!
Can you tell these two are cousins? Dan's dad and Jon's mom were siblings.
We'll do one more camping evening/night in early October and that will be it for this season:-)
We've had an HP inkject printer that we purchased soon after we got married- the fall of 2002. About two months ago, Dan started encouraging me to get a new printer as soon as the cartridges had emptied. I veto'ed his idea since the printer was just purring along. Soon, the cartridges had emptied and I purchased a double pack of black HP ink from Amazon.com.
Then, NO kidding- I installed the cartridges and the printer jammed up about five days later. Upon Dan's Google research, it was a known problem and a documented flaw with the inkjet model. I called HP (okay, India...) and was told that our 'lifetime' warrenty had ended six months previous. The best HP could do was to offer me a $50 deduction on one of two models they offered me- neither of which I wanted. I didn't really care about the price of the printer since it was less than $100 originally but I was upset about the $55 worth of ink I was out.
Dan called Amazon.com and they told us to return the two cartridges- one opened and used, the other still packaged... who does that? Then today, I find a refund in my account for $45 for the ink.
Yes, I love Amazon.com.
PS- we did purchase another HP printer because if I can get another eight years out of their product, that's a good deal:-)
Just a reminder to those that have signed up at Swagbucks.com... each Friday is 'Megabucks Day.' The bucks earned are in higher denominations... which means you're closer to that iPod or Amazon.com giftcard, etc. Don't forget this is open to Canadians as well! There aren't too many online sites that are Canadian-user friendly:-(
Here's a few other ways to earn bucks...
Searching- Use Swagbucks as your search engine (1 buck per day)
Referring – Refer your friends, you’ll earn every buck they earn up to 1,000 Swagbucks.
Shopping – Shop and earn. You earn $2 Swagbucks for every $1 spent through the Swagbucks site. (To be honest, I don't usually do this since there are better ways of earning cash back like using Ebates.com or ShopatHome.com)
Trade-Ins – Have any old electronics lying around? See how many Swagbucks it’s worth.
Swag Codes - Every now and then a new code will be posted by the Swag Guy on Twitter, the Swagbucks Blog, or in the tool bar – follow closely to earn even more with these.
Daily Polls – Swagbucks has a Daily Poll, by answering the poll each you can win more Swagbucks. If you SUBMIT a poll and it is used, you’ll be paid 100 Swagbucks!
Trusted Surverys- I have never qualified for one, but you are rewarded 1 buck each day for checking:-) Filling out your Profile will also earn you bucks. I filled them all out with exception of the financial one because that data just isn't worth sharing online.
In more important news, Dan and Russell are off for a night of camping tonight!! The coast will be cool but after this week's 95F+ weather, it will be welcomed. I've stocked up on hot-dogs and buns, chips and potato salad, and marshmellows /chocolate /graham crackers for s'mores. Yum. I'll return home with Camille to enjoy a quiet night at home. That's my style of camping;-)
Only two more months until her first birthday. She's not crawling yet but her loud opposition to any position but the standing position tells us that her mind is ready but her body isn't! We're hoping she starts crawling soon because we don't like listening to her complaints from the floor;-) We love you, Sis!!
From my obvious lack of posts, life has kept us busy this summer year. We only get 24 hrs per day to play, and I've been using my time a little differently this season... planning ahead so that playing can be a little more cost-effective...
While speaking with a friend at church, I was convicted by our discussion of finances and spending. As in many homes, the spouse that manages the home usually manages the finances as well. In this case, that's me. I'm responsible for buying our clothing, food, household and toiletry items and managing any monthly bills (car, rent, cable, etc.). We live in an extremely high-cost-of-living area (half-decent house would be $800k+) and in order to allow for more savings, we have to pinch expenses a little tighter than we would if we lived elsewhere.
My new hobby has been to follow websites like TotallyTarget and Hip2Save to learn how to save on items like toiletries and dry goods and online sales since there just aren't coupons for other necessities such as freshly grown produce. This summer I've learned how to stack coupons and TotallyTarget lists when items are on sale. So, say toothpaste is usually $2.99/tube. It's on sale for $2.49 but you have a manufacturer's coupon for $1 and a Target coupon for $1 (which you can stack together) so now instead of paying $2.99, I'm paying $0.49. It doesn't seem like a lot but for someone who can easily spent over $100 at Target per trip, but our household expenses have dropped by about 40% this summer. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it's easy to do when you're watching TV on a Sunday night:-)
I've also fallen in love with Swagbucks.com and Points.com. Both sites allow you to convert points/bucks into free merchandise. I found out about Points.com while searching for a way to use Dan's mileage points before they expired in a few weeks. Now, we finally can redeem random hotel points, etc. for useful things like Amazon.com and Starbucks gift-cards. It is easy to feel guilty spending hard-earned money on non-essentials so it certainly helps to have a few gift-cards to redeem:-)
I enjoy signing myself up for sites such as these, to follow and learn from, or just to enjoy their rewards. I know this isn't for everyone but being more conscientious of where our money is being spent has been a huge lesson for me this summer. I don't mind spending money but I'd just rather spend it on our upcoming vacation in San Diego than on household items at Target:-)
My parents came into town last Saturday, the 14th. We spent a few days north of San Fran near Santa Rosa and had an opportunity to visit the Charles M. Shultz museum. It was a fun trip but I didn't get much of a chance to read the displays due to the kiddos- but outside on the patio was a cute display of characters:-)
Later in the week, we did "A Day on the Bay" and took a boat tour of the Bay. It's been a few years since I did the trip but it doesn't get old. The Golden Gate is as magestic as it ever was and when the sky was as blue and warm as it was, it was a delightful day.
We ended our morning with lunch at the Boudin Cafe (famous for their sourdough bread). The kiddos fell asleep on the car-ride home so I knew they had a great day, too!
It was great to have extra hands to help with Camille, and Russell enjoyed having his grandparents around, too. He's old enough now to anticipate their arrival even though it takes him 48hrs to get used to them again but that will change as he ages. My parents left yesterday for the drive back to B.C. I'm so glad they take an interest in the kids and make the effort to see them:-)
Yes, finally, a company that caters to my lovely American and Canadian friends and family!!
I signed up at Swagbucks.com four months ago. It seemed simple... download their tool bar and use their search engine for everyday searches. Random 'swag bucks' are rewarded on occasion for searches... I've been rewarded for addresses, misspelled words, and sites like Facebook.
Fridays are considered MegaBuck Days. Instead of the usual smaller bucks (5- 30), larger bucks are rewarded (10-100+). In the four months I've been collecting Swagbucks, I've earned 2245 (and counting). To give you an idea, $5 Amazon.com gift cards (or Amazon.ca for my Canadians) are 450 pts. This means, I have at least $25 in FREE money coming to me. My goal is to save until the Christmas season and redeem my Amazon gift cards at that time:-) There are also Apple items, Target gift cards, and endless other items to earn.
At this time, if you SIGN UP HERE you will not only will you get 30 Swagbucks just for joining, but when you enter the code BackToSchool, you will receive an extra 40 Swag Bucks! This will give you 70 Swagbucks to start.
One of these cool promotions is their new Back-To-School themed Swag Buck bills in varying amounts. If you collect them all throughout the week, you’ll earn yourself a 50 Swag Buck bonus!
Yes, I'm shamelessly plugging this company and I hope you join! If you refer on a friend (or hopefully more!) then you are rewarded with matching points up to their first 100.
PS- I'll probably repost this post on occasion to update you of other ways to win bucks (like daily polls and surveys)
The nine-month milestone is a little special because now it means that Baby Sis has been living on this earth just as long as she was living inside of me:-) She is 16.4 lbs (10% group) and 27.5" (50% group). The ped wants her to gain more weight but with her chunky little rolls, I don't see why. It may just be that she was sick for the last 10 days with a bad cold/cough and she lost a little. Hmm. Oh well. She's definitely more vocal about her likes/dislikes and I will soon be weaning her as she's almost lost interest in breastfeeding unless it's a random 2am wake-up or her first morning feed. Once she's ten months, I'll start feeding her whole milk.
She's not crawling yet but she rolls around the house like a champ and loves to pull up on her toys with some assistance. The big difference from Russell is her love of swings. Even now, he's not a fan of them. Her, on the other hand, is just thrilled with the motion. Ah... our wild child;-)
We left last Friday, the 2nd, on our 600+ mile roadtrip to Oregon to visit two very dear friend-families. It is a gorgeous drive in the summer but during the winter, the Oregon-California pass is a safety hazard. It's been three years (Aug. '07) since we drove up. Not much has changed with exception of the two little people in the back seat. Russell is old enough to be excited for the trip and Camille is young enough not to know better;-)
Strawberry picking in the U-pick farms. Russell and his friend did just great:-)
Outdoors is a perfect place for small children to play. I wish we had this opportunity close by!
Our '10 Christmas picture...
During our infertility struggles, Anne was one ear that was always willing to listen and cry and pray. Both our girls are miracles babies (as each child is!) and it was so sweet to have a picture with all FOUR of us!!!
On Sunday morning- after a dead-battery-jump-start (thanks!!), we headed a little farther north and landed at the home of our other Oregonian friends. We enjoyed their hometown parade and the heat was enough to rival California's. Again, we were assisted with another jump-start and headed back to the farm. Dan and Jeff then headed off to WalMart for a new battery. Gotta love vehicle maintance!
The Cabbage-Patch doll I never had;-)
Two beautiful princesses...
... and their prince! Baby Rem is an amazing army-style crawler. I think Camille was a little envious of his freedom but she wasn't too jealous and gave his a huge smile whenever they were together. Rem is older by 17 days. Alysun was the (crazy) pregnant friend who flew down last August to take my maternity shots at the beach.
Thank-you to our gracious hosts who loved on us while we visited. I know it isn't easy to have more people in the house but Russell enjoyed the playmates and we're all looking foward to a visit in the future.
On Wednesday, we loaded up the van once again (including 5 pints of Alsyun-assisted fresh blueberry jam, 20+ lbs of freshly picked Oregon blueberries, and 5 lbs of u-pick strawberries) and in 11 hr and 52 minutes, we were home;-)
One Canadian girl and one American boy who met and married in 2002. We lived in San Diego until November 2004 and then moved to the SF Bay area. Blessed with a son in January 2006. After many miscarriages and early losses, we were gifted with a baby girl in October 2009. Little Brother joined us in January 2012. Thanking God for our miracles!