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.