Archive for May, 2009

I put a romper (a onsie with legs) on Gideon this morning. It buttoned on the bottom ok. When I stood him up, he kept trying to lift his arms above his shoulders… and failing. They only came about halfway.

I think that one may be too small.

We found another instead.

Gideon had his one year check up on Thursday. He weighs 25.1 pounds, almost exactly what I thought. He is a stately 32 inches which is tall for his age. The doctor said that being tall and walking is good because most kids that are tall have trouble with their balance.

Ries told him to enjoy being tall now as we Smiths tend to be tall early and then just stop growing in middle school as all the other kids surpass us. He tells the truth.

It is Saturday and I have to go cook breakfast or I may be replaced by a better Wife/Mom.

–Michelle, making breakfast tacos


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In the morning, I am often awakened by a rolling baby with a big two-toothed grin. Sometimes, Gideon even pats my face and turns my head so that I will open my eyes and look at him. It is the sweetest morning anyone could want.

Ries has an altogether different experience.

In the morning, to wake up Daddy, Gideon employs the following methods:

    1. Lean back on Mommy, with feet near Daddy’s face. Kick vigorously until he looks at me.
    2. Poke my finger in his nose. See how far up it goes. Maybe I can put two in there.
    3. Next, try the ear.
    4. Stick my finger in my mouth, and then re-insert my finger in his ear.
    5. Put my head on Mommy and then stick my stinky, full diaper in Daddy’s face until he complains of the smell.
    6. Roll around.
    7. Repeat steps 1 through 6, until Daddy gets up.
    8. Smile innocently.

It amazes me that this early babies treat their parents so different. Obviously, my small nose and ears are less fun that Daddy’s.

Gideon has also recently learned how to give zerberts. He has employed this method of making sure I am awake a couple times.

–Michelle, prefers zerberts to wet willies

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This is the second in a Things You Can Do series that I am experimenting with.

There are a lot of things that you can do to keep your grocery bill down, but one thing, done in any area involving money, will help you save your pennies.

Get organized!

There is a reason why frugal people have budgets. As Dave Ramsey says, every dollar should have a name and this holds true in your food budget as well. If you are tired of getting out of the grocery store will a huge bill and little to show for it, here are a few things to help you get organized and spend less. Yes, these require some energy on your part and we are all busy, but being a responsible adult was never advertised as easy.

Make a realistic meal plan. You should make this plan with the weekly add to your local stores or favorite store in hand. Plan meals using the meats, fruits, and vegetables that are on sale. Do not plan elaborate meals for days when you have late activities or other things that will make you too tired to cook. Plan on having leftovers at least twice a week. If you cook a whole chicken in the crock pot (a great easy and cheap meal), plan on making chicken tacos or chicken salad the next night. Be creative!

If you do not want to assign certain meals to particular days, just make a list of meals and then decide each day what you will make. This will give you some flexibility. Just make sure that if you are making a meal with a delicate ingredient, like cilantro for instance, that you make it early in the week, before your cilantro gets sad and wilty.

Make a list. Make your list for the store using the meal plan you have proudly displayed on the fridge. Add items to the list that are standard needs in your house. When you go to the store, do not forget your list. Try to only buy things that are on the list. This will cut doen on impulse shopping and thus a larger bill. Exceptions would include staple items that you keep in the pantry that are unexpectedly on sale.

Have an ace in the hole. This one may be the most important. For many people, their meal plan goes awry because they are too tired to cook that day or they do not want what is on the list. They end up going to the store for things to make a different meal, buying things not on sale, and spending a lot more than they intended or they go out to eat instead, again spending more. While going out to eat is fine (as long as it is in the budget), you should have a simple to prepare meal always in your pantry. A well stocked pantry can save your budget.

Besides the usual staples, (flour, bread, etc) a well stocked pantry will have the ingredients of two or three of your family’s favorite, simple meals. At our house, those meals sometimes include frozen pizza, soft tacos, or spaghetti. On days when I am too tired or do not feel like making whatever is on the list, I bust out one of these ace in the hole meals. Everyone is happy and I did not have to work hard to feed us. I do not often put these meals on the actual meal list unless we have not had them for awhile.

Other ace in the hole things to keep are things like frozen vegetables or black beans for a quick side and chocolate chips. You never know when a batch of cookies will be needed.

These are the big things we do, but there are a ton of small things that can reduce your budget as well. Small things can go in a later post. For our small family, we spend, including cleaning supplies but not including beer, about $300 a month on groceries. I do not use coupons so I think we do great.

How do you save money on groceries?

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Everyone needs an easy to make and versatile side. This Tex-Mex salsa is easy to modify, depending on your tastes and love of heat. It is a hit where ever it goes. It is great with chips, on top of fajitas, or on a salad. This recipe makes a lot though so cut it in half if you are not feeding crowd. Use fresh tomatoes instead of diced and change up the peppers as you choose.

Black Bean Salsa

    2 cans black beans, rinsed
    1 17oz package of frozen corn, thawed
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 can diced tomatoes with chipolte chilies (or use rotel or another can of plain)
    1 small can of diced green chilies
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
    1 1/2-2 limes, juiced
    1 tbls red wine vinegar
    salt and pepper to taste
    garlic powder to taste
    taco seasoning to taste
    Optional: if not using the chipotle tomatoes or if you want to add heat, add 1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Keeps great for about a week or so.

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Some Days


Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre

Some days I look at my life and feel so blessed. Why the Lord has entrusted this family to my care I will never know, but I am grateful everyday.

Blessed, even running on so little sleep that the weariness is like a pressure behind my eyeballs. Gideon is a bit phlegmatic and was very restless last night in addition to being wide awake from 12-2am. Ah, parenthood.

I know a lot of moms have mixed feelings about motherhood, heck I have mixed feelings everyday, but one thing is always the same: this is the best job in the world.

Today, I am packing and getting ready for a weekend at the lakehouse. I hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day as much as I am going to… with a drink in my hand, of course!

–Michelle, bring on the lazy

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One Day in Carboy

Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre

My favorite thing about brewing beer is that during the boiling and transferring our house smells like beer and bread. Delicious! Oh, that and the great beer, of course.

We transferred the Dunkel into the carboy last night. We had some concerns about the yeast, so we “took it for a walk” before siphoning it. To “take the wort for a walk” means to stir it or, in the old days, roll the barrel around to agitate the yeast which settles to the bottom.

We found, belatedly, that this yeast does best below 70 degrees or so, which it barely gets here in the winter. Ok, so maybe it is 68 sometimes, but who is tracking? As a result, we walked it and we may put a cold towel around the carboy as well. What we really need is some sort of refrigeration area for fermenting.

Alas, that is not in the budget… yet.

We also saved a yeast starter from the bottom of the primary fermentor and that is hanging out in our fridge. We will try another wheat beer or perhaps a cream ale next and use that yeast.

Today, the yeast appears active but slow.

–Michelle, likes the new hobby

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I know Michelle gave an update on our new bed time routine but I thought I would give it from my perspective.  Especially since I am the one taking on more of a burden.  I say burden, and admittedly I thought that way at first, but really it is not.  The first thing I had to do was change my mindset.  This was not a chore I have to do, this was quality time I get to spend with my son.  I am learning that this kind of time will soon be gone and I won’t be able to get it back.  Here is our routine in bullet form (the best kind of form).

  1. Dinner, then clean up the boy.
  2. Bathtime.  I have been doing this, but we have recently decided that there is no reason that Michelle can’t do it so we are going to switch off.
  3. Lotion up the boy, diaper up the boy, and put on some pajamas.  This is really kind of his last time for playing as we don’t rush through this part.
  4. Night time book.  Michelle insists that the book selection has to be a book about going to bed.  He has about 4 or 5 that belong in this rotation.
  5. Michelle comes in with her “Milk Bags” and I take the puppy (he has usually joined us for lotioning time) and say goodbye.
  6. Sometimes at this point, he just falls asleep at the teete (that’s right I said teete, hee hee).  But most often not.  That is when we proceed to the next step.
  7. Imperial March:  Now hopefully no one will have to be exposed to my horrible singing at the beginning of this step.  I take that boy in my hands and then I begin to walk around in circles, sometimes in the living room but usually just in his room.  He is usually crying at this point after the hand off from Mom to Dad.  He knows what’s coming and he doesn’t want to go to sleep.  I start out by singing Edelweiss.  Why Edelweiss?  I don’t know, it just seems right.  I do this a couple times, then I move on to that song in Superman when Otis is going to see Lex Luthor.  I don’t do that for very long, that’s just for fun.  But then I move on to the big guns.  My closer.  The Imperial March from Star Wars.  John Williams, you are a genius.  As soon as I start into this you can see his eyes starting to close.  He fights it sometimes, but the song always wins and he succumbs to the dark side.  It must be something about the bass in my voice and the vibrations in my chest as I do the Bum, bum, bum, bumba bum bumba bum.
  8. Before long, he is a sleep and I transition to the chair where I hold him for a bit to ensure a deep sleep.  This was a step I used to skip out of impatience.  I have noticed that I have become more impatient since marriage.  I’ll blame it on the wife.  My schedule seems so filled these days that I have to spend every available second getting some stuff done or fitting in leisure time that I usually hurry on to the next step.  I have realized that this is one of the best times of my day.  I get to hold my son in my arms and watch him breathe (a big deal for me, when all I prayed for in his first day of life was that he would be able to breathe on his own) in and out peacefully.
  9. The put down:  This is an acquired skill and very delicate.  You have to bend down just right, put his butt on the bottom of the pack-n-play, and then slowly put down his head while pulling your hand out.  Give him a little pat on the chest to assure him it is okay.  Wait a second to make sure he is not stirring, put on his blanket and slowly and quietly leave the room.  This step is so crucial that if you botch the put down you will likely have to start over again.
  10. Reassurance:  Usually about an hour or two later we will here him fuss.  He usually just wakes up and doesn’t get up.  You simply have to pat him to let him know you are there, then he usually likes it if you turn him.  Then you can pat him again and he will be back to sleep.

If all this goes well, then he has been sleeping pretty well through the night, with maybe one or two feedings during the night from Michelle.  It turned out to be not that big of a deal for me but it has been a tremendous load off for Michelle.  She was frankly miserable there for a while.  She felt overwhelmed.  She has been much happier since the routine started.  I am still just as confused about how to handle women.  They tell you that sometimes they don’t want you to fix their problems, they just want you to listen to them whine.  But when you are able to fix their problem it makes them much happier.  Whatever.  I listened to my wife.  I saw she was in need and I did what I could to help.  He is my son too and she is not the only parent.  Even though she is more effective at putting him to sleep it is still a job that I can do.  So I do it.  And life is that much better in the Smith household.  So husbands, take heed.

-Ries, Bum bum bum bumba-bum bumba-bum

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