olive oil? for me? no, i'm good. thanks.

I was such a Meijer slacker this week! I knew they had olive oil for 50% off again but I'm still way stocked up from when it was free a month or so ago. Imagine my angst when I discovered, tonight, the store coupon for $2.00 off. Talk about a mad scramble to the store once the kids were in bed. The loveliest surprise, however, was that Ronzoni pasta was .99 and I had about a kazillion 1.00/1 coupons which got me 11 free boxes. I also left a few coupons there in my wake. Green Giant Steamers were a decent deal too so I snagged a few with coupons. For everything above I paid 7.82 and saved just under $50. Yes, you read that right. I am a maniac.

I realize that this is not my savings blog but a girl can only keep up with so many blogs so you'll probably see me posting the occasional shopping brag here from time to time. Also I owe you an update on Christmas shopping I believe.

I'm done!! I had to make a few adjustments to the plan but it ended up working out better this way. I got Ocean's Spinbrush using Extrabucks, so that was a freebie, and I ended up finding a new tube of Tom's kids' toothpaste in my stockpile which will go in Ocean's stocking. It snowed here and Ocean needed winter boots with a quickness so instead of the sweet ones I wanted to get him for Christmas I got him some boring winter boots on sale, and for Christmas I bought him a new pair of frog rain boots for the spring. His old ones ripped up the back a few weeks ago and he cried. So a new pair it was, to the tune of $16. Also, instead of getting Iris that cute Gap winter hat I ended up finding one at Kohl's, along with some elephant jammies, and used a second $10/$10 rewards card that was mailed to me (I'm not sure how I ended up on that list but Hallelujah!). I paid like two bucks for both, which means I didn't spend that extra $10 dollhouse money at Gap.

As far as the kids' gifts to each other, Ocean bought Iris a Lightning McQueen rug at Bed Bath and Beyond using a $5 coupon, which made it $15, and Iris bought Ocean a Lego knight and horse set for $10 on Amazon. I used a Swagbucks giftcard for half of that so their gifts to each other only cost a total of $20, and as I mentioned they've been doing a great job of helping me out around the house with simple chores in order to earn the money for each others' gifts.

And remember when I said I had a stocking plan? I sold 3 bins of the kids' old clothes at Children's Orchard, used a coupon for 50% more in store credit and ended up with a store credit of a little over $80. So I got them some really awesome Melissa and Doug art supplies and fun bath toys for free to fill their stockings. Also for their stockings, both of the kids decided they are into Toy Story (even though they're terrified of the movies) so Ocean asked for a Buzz Lightyear and Iris wanted a Jessie. I used that $10 Toys R Us gift card for a Jessie when she was on sale for $9, and I found a basic Buzz Lightyear figure on Amazon for $10 (there went the dollhouse money!) making my total out-of-pocket for the kids' Christmas gifts this year (DRUMROLL)... $25 and some change. Booya.

I will end with an Oceanism. He and Iris were interrupting me constantly yesterday, as they tend to do. (Having children does not bode well for my pet peeve of being interrupted, it turns out. Shoulda thought that one through perhaps.) I was making lunch and Ocean asked me for some glue. I stopped and said, "Ocean, I do not deal well with..." meaning to finish that sentence with "interruptions". Ocean, without missing a beat, interrupted me and offered, "Kids?"



busy brabbses. and a christmas shopping update!

Dang. We packed a lot of life into the last couple of weeks. Iris turned three which seems impossible since I think it was just a week ago I was giving birth to that little turkey. She had a small Lightning McQueen-themed birthday party with a pinata and cake and then we celebrated again at my parents' house on Thursday with a Spider Girl cake. Iris is pretty awesome.

On Thanksgiving we went to our church in the morning, where our church community extends an invitation to the homeless community of Ann Arbor to join us for a Thanksgiving meal at the church. We send vans downtown and bring people to the church building where they get a hot meal, warm coats, clothes and blankets and the opportunity to watch a little football. The kids had a blast serving beverages, probably mostly because they got to sample the lemonade. A rare treat in our house.

From there we ventured to my parents' house for our own meatless celebration. As a new vegetarian I used to panic about the holidays but it turns out you don't need a turkey to have a feast. Pass the potatoes! The stuffing! The cranberry sauce! The green bean casserole! And the Quorn roast! As I mentioned, we also had another little birthday celebration for Iris since my dad was out of town for her birthday.

On Friday we headed into the belly of the beast, Columbus, for the Ohio State/Michigan "game". (If you saw it, you know why I put it in quotes.) Actually we went there for a myeloma fundraiser put on by the amazing Barb Hess, whose mom was diagnosed with myeloma last year. Barb did everything for the event, only requiring that we show up... and they ended up raising over ten grand for The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center's myeloma department. At least Michigan had one very significant win on Saturday. A huge thank you to Barb, and everyone else who made this event such an overwhelming success.

And here's a little Christmas shopping update for those following along with my self-imposed challenge. I'm almost finished with the kids! Here's what I've spent:

WANT: Rocket Ship with Aliens and Astronauts. This one came with the little figures he wanted but the whole shebang cost way too much. I found a much cheaper version by KidKraft that comes with wooden action figures but knew he really wanted the ones in the first version. I bought him those figures he wanted, on sale, using part of a $50 Verizon rebate Visa debit card that we got when Phil got a new cell phone for his birthday, so nothing out of pocket there. Then I stalked the rocket ship online until it dropped to $79.99 on Amazon with free prime shipping (thanks to Amazon Mom!) and used part of the $100 Amazon gift card I got with our PNC points.
NEED: A new toothbrush. Ocean would like a spinbrush so I plan to use a coupon and CVS ExtraBucks to get him a Spiderman one for free, as well as his own tube of Tom's kids toothpaste so he and Iris don't have to share it going into cold and flu season. It's hard to find a "need" gift for kids since, thankfully, we're able to meet all of their basic needs. I figure grooming and hygiene is a good fit for that category.
WEAR: Ocean needs a new pair of winter boots. I'm hoping it won't snow before Christmas because I'd love for him to open these on Christmas morning. Total cost: $22.99 + shipping unless I can get a good coupon code.
READ: Gail Gibbons is such a cool author. She has books for kids on so many different subjects. I bought My Football Book and My Soccer Book for Ocean using a Barnes and Noble gift card.
Total out-of-pocket: I roughly estimate $28 for the boots.

WANT: The Calico Critters Elephant Family. You know those coupons that Toys R Us has been putting out, spend $75 and get a $10 gift card? I had $40 in gift cards to Toys R Us already so I bought Iris the Elephant family as well as the Calico Critters cottage, plus a big pack of PlayDoh for stocking stuffers. My total was $80.xx and I used my gift cards so I ended up paying $40 out of pocket and got a $10 gift card back. BUT I also sold the dollhouse I bought for Iris last year for $50 on Craig's List which more than covered the out of pocket cost. So I'm actually up $10 on this one, not counting the gift card.
NEED: A hair brush that doesn't make her cry. She has the most gorgeous curls but her sweet little head is a pile of snarls every morning. I did some research and found this brush. I ordered it on Amazon using the rest of that $100 gift card and will get her a bottle of detangler at Whole Foods using a free $10 gift card we will get from a promotion at a local gym. (Local peeps, check the newest Clippers magazine for this one: Arbor Fit Club is offering a free one day pass AND a $10 Whole Foods gift card with coupon!)
WEAR: A winter hat. She can still barely fit in her hat from last year so have no fear, her head is not cold, but I really want to get her a snuggly, well-fitting hat to last her this winter and hopefully next as well. Gap has the most adorable hats for kids right now. They're mostly sold out online but our store still has plenty. I was given a 40% off one item coupon to use on Wednesday. So tomorrow I'll go get her a bunny or kitty hat for about $10 out of pocket. The rest of the dollhouse money will cover that.
READ: Gail Gibbons to the rescue again! I got her the one about elephants, as well as a book called Duck at the Door. Iris loves all things ducks and elephants. I put those on the Barnes and Noble gift card as well.

Besides those toys from Kohl's, there isn't much else a third baby wants or needs. She can't even sit up yet, much less open presents, so we're keeping it lean this year. I imagine next Christmas will be more participatory for her.

And remember that sled from Santa? I bought one at Target for $20 and used the rest of that Verizon rebate debit card plus about $5 out of pocket.

So all told, I'll have spent about $35 total for the kids' gifts this year. That doesn't count stocking stuffers, but I have a plan for those too. More on that later. This nonsense has gone on long enough.

How are you guys faring in the holiday shopping department? Anyone go out for Black Friday or sty in for Cyber Monday? Do tell!


we be shoppin'.

I have a master plan. A master Christmas shopping plan. I'm going to try and get all of the kids' Christmas gifts for under $40 cash. We'll see if I'm as creative and resourceful as I think I am.

How will I do it? I have a four point plan:

#1- I cashed in our PNC points for an Amazon gift card, and I have various other gift cards, store credit and rewards cards from different deals over the last year which I fully plan to use toward the children's presents.
#2- I researched all the gifts that the kids want and found the cheapest places to get them online and in stores. I then made a ridiculous list (Which may or may not be a nerdy spreadsheet.) and matched up the stores for which I have credit/gift cards to the desired gifts.
#3- I am selling last year's Christmas Gift FAIL- a dollhouse (who knew that Iris was terrified of dolls?)- on Craig's List. The money will go toward this year's gifts and is not counted in the $40 budget.
#4- Each kid will get four gifts from us: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. They will get one joint gift from Santa (a sled- shhhh) and can each buy a gift for each other using money they will earn from chores. I'm not gonna count that chore allowance toward the total budget either. Those little munchkins work hard for the money. It takes Iris a half hour just to take all 6 of the kids' dishes out of the dishwasher and put them away, and Ocean is a perfectionist when it comes to folding a clean hand towel.

I'm getting ready to tackle some shopping this week, and in fact I already bought Ruby's WANT gift. I got one of those $10 Kohl's gift cards in the mail last week, hit the 45% off toy sale on Thursday and paid 1.62 out of pocket for two Fisher-Price toys that should have cost a total of $21.

I'm more excited about this challenge than I probably should be, but regardless I will let you know how things are going.

What else am I buying this week? Skippy Natural peanut butter, and lots of it.

It's on sale at Meijer 3/$5. I bought a buttload of $.50/1 coupons on Ebay for $2. Meijer Mealbox also has $1/2 coupons available, which means I can do this:
(2) Skippy @ 1.67 each = 3.34
(2) .50 coupons (two like coupons up to .50 will double)
(1) $1/2 MM coupon
Pay: .34 for 3 jars.

Rinse and repeat.

How are the deals lookin' in your neck of the woods this week? Anyone else have a Christmas plan?


it's about time.

When my house is really messy, as it usually is, I become overwhelmed with the task in front of me and enter into a sort of housework paralysis. Same thing happens with blogging. I have so much to tell you but don't quite know where to begin.

I've felt the need for some privacy over the last few months after a couple of extremely stressful online interactions, right smack in the middle of the worst of Phil's treatment. Thankfully those situations have simmered down and I now feel ready to jump back in. Wheee! And oh, how I've missed putting all my business out there for you all to see.

Ocean will be five in February which is straight ridonkulous. He's in preschool now three mornings a week and loves it. I also love it. It's a lovely thing when I can miss my kids for a few hours a week. Ocean was a spirited baby but he's calming down a lot the older he gets. He loves art and always wants to make something out of boxes, leaves, plastic cups, whatever. He's a little obsessed with super heroes and plays Heroes with his friends at school... but he will only be the good guy, his teacher tells me. He loves his sisters and adores his daddy. I find that delightful. It's also delightful to hear him and Iris sing "California Girls", because he says, "California girls, they're unreliable..." and watching Iris throw her hands up while singing, "West Coast represent..." almost sends me over the edge.

Which brings me to Iris. That one almost completely defies labels. She's like a caricature of herself. My friend Lindsay calls her a Walking Contradiction and that about says it all. She wears gold glittery shoes and Lightning McQueen underwear, is terrified of dolls but babies the crap out of a toy shark and falls asleep in a race car bed while sniffing her stuffed duck's beak. She's all about autonomy ("I want to do it MYSELF!") but has no problem asking me to carry her around the house because "my legs are tired!" She never. shuts. up. and will talk circles around you until she gets her way. Once, during a 15-minute car ride, she said I want my ducky over 157 times. We started counting only after she'd said it at least a dozen.

Ruby is six months old. SIX! MONTHS! What the hecks, guys?! She's been such a peach. She smiles at everyone and is pretty much just happy to be acknowledged. She rolls around the floor and dominates the Jumperoo on the regular and might sit up by the time she's a year old. But maybe not as she seems perfectly content to lay around and watch Her Kids run around as milk dribbles down her chin and oh, by the way, can you change my poopy diaper? I'll giggle at you and try to eat your face off. Thanks! Goo! My goodness, I just want to eat her up.

Phil is finishing up the last leg of treatment, but it looks like he'll have a couple more cycles of chemo than we initially thought. I'm sure he'll blog about that over there soon.

And me? I'm settling into our new routine, am back to doing things I love like cooking and couponing (and blogging-- whutttt) and have started to maybe figure out this parenting-three-kids thing.

Or maybe not. But you'll probably be hearing more about it now.

Please say hi if you're still out there, homies. I'll be back catching up on your blogs too. It's been too long and I've missed you all.



So last week while I was sweating out all of the IV fluids that were responsible for my postpartum hobbit feet and oh, by the way, my milk was also coming in, Iris busted her face open on a swing at the park. Her perfect little cupid's bow was cut wide open in a vertical fashion, so that a plastic surgeon had to be called in to do the repair. Iris, Phil, Ruby and I waited many hours in a tiny ER holding cell. Me, sweating and leaking milk, and Phil in his awesome face mask. In addition to the ouchiness of her booboo, Iris hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and missed her nap also so she was not in great shape. Also, she was dirty and unkempt-looking and pretty much straight ragamuffin which is always the way it happens when you take your kid to the ER, is it not? Despite all of this, she hung in there like a little trouper.

The surgeon had to put her under anesthesia since the cut was on her face and he needed her to be completely still while he did her sutures. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see her like that. Just to get back at us, she decided to keep sleeping for two hours after her procedure. So it was a lovely seven hour visit. With sweat. And milk.

When we left she was still loopy from the anesthesia. Phil and Ruby pulled the car around while I carried Iris. When she and I got outside I told her we would go home and have a movie night and she could eat popcorn for dinner. Then I asked her if she wanted some juice with her popcorn and with her little swollen lip she said, "Juice? Oh, Mommy, thank you!" And my heart just broke into a thousand pieces right there. The ride home was full of proclamations about the sky (Did you know it's bluuuuuuuuuuuue?) and some worry about how my baby would fare overnight. But slightly less sweat.

All stitched up.

The little lady went back to the plastic surgeon's office today to get those stitches taken out. We're hoping the scar will fade within a year's time and if not the doctor said he can revise it if we want to do that. The biggest takeaway, at least from Iris's perspective, was the apple juice and cookie. And you should have heard her chatting up the nurse. Iris told her all about my pregnancy ("I have a new baby sister and she was in Mommy's tummy and then she came out and her name is Ruby and all she does is sleep...") and her injury ("I just hurt my lip at the park and I pushed the swing and it hit me..."). She's such a delightful little person.

After the stitches came out. And all hopped up on apple juice.



It's probably wildly inappropriate that I titled this post after a Britney Spears song about a threesome but the dang song has been stuck in my head all day so I couldn't resist. Plus, you know, sleep deprivation. And... three kids OMG.

Realistically I do not have time to blog but I'm letting the art project mess sit right over there on the table so I can record the latest news from casa de crazy before it all slips away in a postpartum fog, never to be remembered. And it should also be noted that this post will probably take days to complete, as I'm doing much of my typing one-handed, between feedings.

First, the birth story for all of you birth story junkies, like myself. Ruby Carroll arrived on April 29 at 12:13pm. Eight pounds, ten ounces and 21 inches long. Sounds straight-forward, right?


My due date was April 20, so already I felt awesome as you can imagine. Contractions started at 2am on the 28th (full moon!) and things started moving at about 4am. I called my parents at 5 and they came over. Then everything slowed down. I was still having 60-second contractions but they were only coming every 4 minutes instead of every 2. Things started picking up again at about 9am and I called the midwife who suggested I come in and get checked. Long story short, I was at 2cm and not at all effaced so we went home to rest and eat. By the time we got home everything had stopped. I ate, we went for a walk and I took a nap. It was about two hours later that my contractions started up again and I had to get serious about them. At 10pm I knew it was time to go in and sure enough I was 6cm.

I decided a few weeks ago that I have suffered enough over the last couple of years and I didn't really feel like bearing any more crosses so the anesthesiologist was called and I got a spinal/epidural combo which took care of that pesky back labor as well as all of the sensation in my legs. I did listen to my Hypnobabies "Come Out Baby" CD and just as it finished, my water broke. I thought for sure things would move quickly from there but seven hours later I was still at 7cm and Ruby still had not made any type of move. Her heart rate also kept dipping pretty low at the top of contractions and the midwife let us know that the cord was probably around her neck but it happens a lot and they would take care of it quickly once she was born.

Fast forward to 11:30am. I was propped up in a squat, sobbing my eyes out from exhaustion and hunger and aaaaaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh. The spinal had worn off twice (it's really disconcerting to suddenly feel every bit of transition when you've been blissfully unaware of such things for the last umpteen hours) and I was ready to be the crazy lady screaming, "Just cut me open!" It had been 31 hours since that first real contraction and I kinda felt duped, this being my third baby and all. I seriously thought she would just march on out flashing a peace sign at 39 weeks.

My wonderful, beautiful midwife came in at noon and checked me, then suggested I push the baby out. Excellent idea. Ten minutes later, Ruby was born. She did have the cord around her neck, and she was blue and not breathing. They took her to the incubator and tried to get her to cry but she was limp and unresponsive. Zillions of people came rushing into the room and started working to get her to breathe. When she finally took a breath and cried she was wheezing, so they decided to take her to the NICU for observation. Just before they left they asked if I wanted to hold her and I said of course, but only if it's in her best interest. They thought it was and so she and I got to cuddle. Almost immediately her color improved, the wheezing started to subside and her breathing got more regular. The white coats decided not to take her to the NICU, but would continue to observe her breathing to make sure she was okay. It was scary, but she is fine and I am so, so thankful.

Oh and also she had a belly full of amniotic fluid which she later projectiled all over a nurse at 4am. What a delicate little flower. See?

I know... I have no idea where the brown hair came from either but it makes me feel like this one might actually be mine.

Now for the name.

Our kids all have significance behind their names. Ocean's name comes from Amos 5:7-9 in The Message:
Do you realize where you are? You're in a cosmos star-flung with constellations by God,
A world God wakes up each morning and puts to bed each night.
God dips water from the ocean and gives the land a drink.
God, God-revealed, does all this.

Iris is Greek for rainbow and comes from Genesis 9:13-16.
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

And Ruby comes from Isaiah 54:10-13.
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
"O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace."

And her middle name, Carroll, is my dad's middle name, and was his dad's middle name also.

Now a few quick notes related to babies and birthing and pregnancy. First of all, I have a new law. Never say anything to a pregnant or postpartum woman that you wouldn't say to a non-pregnant or non-postpartum person. That means no comments about her body or her shape. I'm small-framed and short-waisted so I carry my babies right out front and yes, my stomach gets quite large. For some reason people feel that they can make comments. RUDE comments. It's not okay. I have belabored the point on Facebook so that's all I'll say about that, except for two stories which illustrate the point. The first is when I was in labor and thought, Finally. No more ass-hat comments about how huge I am or how I'm carrying. I had just checked in to the hospital and we were walking to my room from triage with the nurse when we passed another woman in labor, with her family. Her mom looked at me and said, "See, honey? She's a LOT bigger than you are! And it's definitely a boy!" Second story. At Ruby's one week appointment the nurse took us back to the exam room and asked how old Ruby was. I said one week. She looked at my stomach and, I kid you not, said, "You're not pregnant again, are you?" There are so many things wrong with this that I don't even know where to begin.

On the subject of postpartum bellies, I have been doing this belly-binding thing and it's amazing how much faster things are going back to normal. I still looked 7 months pregnant a month after Iris was born and now, at least according to one nurse, I apparently only look a week pregnant. I do have a significant diastasis which I plan to start working on in a week or two. And aside from re-injuring my tailbone during delivery I feel pretty good now. (And may I just say Benefit's Lemon-Aid helps with the emotional side of feeling good, and it should be given out in labor and delivery units along with those coffee table-sized pads and peri bottles. I'm not being paid to say that, I just really think it needs to happen.)

I have one final thought for today: 36D. So breastfeeding is going well.

Stay tuned to find out about Iris's first (and hopefully only) plastic surgery. She is fine; I still haven't quite recovered.



Now all we need is a baby.