Diapers Galore: My Recent Diaper Hauls!

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I thought I would follow my diaper stockpiling blog with some recent diaper deals to help you get a feel for what to expect in your future endeavors. (Plus, I want to brag about my awesome hauls!) 

My first haul is from the week of April 26, where CVS was offering $5 Extra Care Bucks when you spend $20 on Huggies diapers. I try to never buy diapers unless there are reward bucks or gift cards involved. You always want to be able to roll your rewards when possible! Here’s my breakdown:

  • (2) Huggies Lil’ Movers Diapers $8.99 each
  • (1) Huggies Lil’ Swimmers $8.99 each

Subtotal = $26.97

Coupons Used: 

  • (2) $3 Huggies coupons
  • $1 Huggies CVS coupon
  • $2 Huggies Lil’ Swimmers coupon
  • $1.50 Huggies Lil’ Swimmers CVS coupon
  • $10 ECB (Extra Care Bucks from previous purchase)

Total = $6.47, Get Back $5 ECB

Unfortunately, this transaction did not go as smoothly as I would have hoped but I ended up getting the deal anyway. Sometimes in couponing, you have to be prepared for the unexpected problem (or problematic cashier…).

Next haul was the following week, not quite as good of a sale (Huggies always has better deals) but I love Pampers and prefer them to Huggies when possible. Again at CVS, Pampers were 2/$18, Get Back $3 ECB when you purchase 2. (This deal was limit one, so even though I purchased 4 packs of diapers, I only got back $3 ECB.) I had also been saving one of my CVS coupons for such an occasion, a $6/$30 diaper purchase. Breakdown was as follows…very simple!

  • (3) Pampers Swaddlers diapers $9 each
  • (1) Pampers Baby Dry diapers $9 each

Subtotal = $36

Coupons Used:

  • (3) $1.50 Pampers coupons
  • (1) $1.75 Pampers coupon
  • $6/$30 diaper purchase CVS coupon
  • $5/$15 just for you CVS coupon 
  • $10 ECB from previous purchase

Total = $8.75, Get Back $3 ECB

Ok, these next two are from Target – *insert heavenly singing* – my favorite place to shop! Now, this is probably the most complicated haul I’ve had, so try to stay with me. I’ll put the breakdowns back to back because I rolled gift cards and catalina’s (you know, those paper coupons you receive with your receipt after a purchase) from one transaction to the other. Here goes…

1st Transaction

From the weekly ad – buy 2 boxed diapers, get $10 gift card back. 

Also, from following a Target couponing group on Facebook, I discovered that if you printed a baby registry at the store, it was printing a coupon for $10 gift card when you purchase $50 or more baby items. That is why I also purchased wipes to get my total over $50.

One more promotion – when you buy 2 Huggies boxed diapers, a $10 catalina coupon would print with your receipt. 

  • (2) Huggies boxed diapers $24.99 each
  • (1) Huggies wipes $5.69 (the small wipes were all sold out, so I had to purchase a 3-pack of wipes)

Total = $55.67

Coupons used:

  • (2) $4.50 Huggies coupons
  • $.50 Huggies wipes coupon
  • $2.50/2 Huggies Target mobile coupon 
  • (2) $1 Huggies Target coupon
  • $10 gift card with $50 baby purchase
  • 5% Huggies diapers Cartwheel
  • 5% Huggies wipes Cartwheel
  • 5% REDcard savings

Total = $37.51, got back (2) $10 gift cards and a $10 catalina coupon

***Note: There was also an Ibotta rebate for $3 when you purchased 3 Huggies products.***

2nd Transaction

  • (2) Pampers boxed diapers $24.99

Subtotal = $49.98

Coupons used:

  • (2) $3 Pampers coupons 
  • $10 gift card with $50 baby purchase
  • (2) $10 gift cards from previous purchase
  • $10 catalina from previous purchase
  • 5% REDcard savings

Total = $13.28, get back (2) $10 gift cards (no catalina with Pampers)

I will have to say I’m awfully proud of myself for getting those transactions to work out correctly. And yes, I was that woman holding up the line because of my coupons!!

This should give you a good look into preparing for a diaper haul (or any haul, for that matter). I took a list with me and had my coupons in order before I got to the register. All of these transactions could have been disasters had I not been organized! And remember, BE NICE TO YOUR CASHIER!!! 🙂

Happy couponing!

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Secrets To a Diaper Stockpile

As a mommy-to-be, there is no way for you to fathom the amount of diapers you are actually going to need, just in the first year of your child’s life. However, as any seasoned mommy veteran can tell you, diapers are, by far, the most essential must-have on your baby registry. When we were expecting little man, we were very blessed to receive diapers in such a great quantity. I don’t think I actually needed to buy any until he was about 6 months old. That, in fact, was when I discovered the joys of couponing and just how much it can save your budget when it comes to diapers.

 

Here are a few tips to get you started and help you save a bundle on your little bundle!

  1. Join a Facebook group.  There are tons of Facebook groups devoted to couponing and you can usually find a group dedicated to one particular store. I have found that CVS is the BEST place to find diaper deals, followed by Target and Walgreens. It can be quite challenging, especially in the beginning, to research the weekly ad and coupons that go with it to find the best deal. That’s why these groups are so helpful. You can see what deals everyone else have been getting and any problems they may have run into. Usually, your fellow couponers are willing to help you if you might have questions or problems. WARNING: Since most couponers are women, these groups are full of DRAMA! Not much can be done about that, so just stick to the facts and avoid the conflict. Another great thing about these groups is that you can post your own deals, which will definitely boost your ego as a couponer. 
  2. Start printing and clipping coupons. Find a good coupon database (My favorite is here at Southern Savers.) and start searching for your favorite brand. I am a loyal Pampers mom but I will tell you, Huggies does have the best deals and usually has better coupons. The general rule is that every IP, or Internet Printable, coupon can be printed twice per device. My advice is to print every Huggies and Pampers coupon (or your favorite brand) that you come across. You might not need it today but you will probably need it soon. Huggies usually has a pretty great deal somewhere every few weeks. If you buy the Sunday paper, check the coupon inserts for diaper coupons as well. Let your friends and family know you are in need of diaper coupons if they come across any. Get a good coupon organizer for your purse (I got mine at Target. Here’s a link.) to keep yourself organized. I always have mine with me, just in case! 🙂 Trust me, this will help your sanity! 
  3. Know Your Store. It is very important to know the coupon policy at each store where you coupon. Also, become familiar with their rewards programs, so you can use them to their fullest benefit. For example, CVS has an Extra Care Card that keeps track of your purchases and will give your coupons based on your shopping habits. Every Sunday (the beginning of the weekly ads), you can go to your local CVS, scan your Extra Care Card at their Coupon Center (also known as the redbox) and in store coupons will automatically print. Next, you can download the CVS app and link your Extra Care Card and on Monday mornings, new coupons will be added to your card (you can also see these on their website). Both of these are CVS coupons that can be combined with manufacturer coupons. It will be slow going but after a few shopping trips for diapers, you will start to get coupons just for a diaper purchase.
  4. Be Prepared. Make a list before you go shopping. Write down what items you will be purchasing, the coupons you will be using and any rewards you should be getting back from your purchase. That way, if you know what to expect and how much to expect. It may seem like a lot of work, but this will keep you organized and make the trip quick and painless.
  5. Be Organized. You have to understand what goes through the cashier’s mind as you walk towards her with your coupons. Let’s face it, people are rude! And couponers are the worst! So, number one rule is to be nice to your cashier because she can make or break your deal. Before you enter the checkout line, make sure you have all the products you came for, get your rewards card ready (if applicable), get your coupons together and have your phone ready for any mobile coupons you may have.
  6. Pay Attention. Watch as your cashier rings up your products and scans your coupons. Make sure everything come up for the correct price and that your coupons all scan correctly. And because you are organized, you will know if something is wrong if the total is not what you expected. Remember, if you see something wrong with your receipt after the fact, you can always go to customer service or back to the cashier and try to figure out what happened.

Anyone can do this with a little work, so don’t be intimidated, be determined. You don’t know just how good you will feel to save money on something so necessary. I posted a few of my most recent diaper hauls in another post here, so go check them out to get a feel for how this work. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to help! Happy Couponing!

6 Must-Have Cash Back Apps

Technology. Where would we be without it? I can’t tell you a moment in time that I am not using it for some reason or another. I wake up to the alarm clock on my smartphone, turn my husband’s Xbox on to watch T.V. in the morning and turn on Pandora on my iPad when I’m cleaning the house. I set my little man up in his playpen to watch VeggieTales while I exercise and watch Netflix on my iPad while I run. Even my fitness comes from my iPhone. So, it’s not a surprise that the world of couponing as moved into the age of technology. The newest improvement on saving and making money – cash back applications for your smartphone.

I’m going to share with you 6 of my favorite money saving apps that even a beginner can use. I promise these are so easy, you would be crazy not to use them. Among the 6 of them, I have made $243.33 since August. Exciting, huh? And this is no get-rich-quick scheme obviously. Now, $243 is a lot for me but not exactly enough to quit my day job…oh, wait…nevermind, back to the point.

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ShopKick. Now usually, we always save the best for last but who’s to say you won’t get bored half way through the post and move on to something else? So, I will start with my favorite. This has got to be the most fun I have had making money. This app will bring up a list of stores in your location (if you have Location Services turned on or you can use your zip code) and will let you know if there are any kicks available for you. Target is my favorite because, well, who doesn’t like shopping at Target and if I’m going to get rewarded for it, all the more reason to go.

Start by clicking on Target (or whichever store is available). On the left you will see Walk-In Kicks available. Yes, easy as that. All you have to do is walk in the store with your app turned on (also, make sure your WIFI and Bluetooth are turned on when you are doing this) and you are given “kicks” or points.

In the middle, you will see any scans available. This one can be a little harder because you do have to find a certain product in the store and scan the barcode. Not necessarily a difficult task but sometimes it can be time consuming. You will be asked to answer a few questions when you scan regarding whether or not you purchased the item you scanned. Feel free to answer them but it is not necessary to get your kicks. You can simply “x” out of them if you prefer.

On the right side, you will see Kicks for Purchases. This means you will be rewarded for any purchases made at this particular store. This is done by linking your MasterCard or Visa to your account and using that card when making purchases. Unfortunately, this is not available at every store but I have gotten a lot of kicks from stores like Best Buy, Carter’s and Old Navy.

You can then exchange you rewards for gift cards but only in certain increments. My advice is to view your rewards and decide on a goal so you can have something to work for. With this app, I have gotten $68 in gift cards, mostly to Target, of course. Now, use this link (you get points for referring with your link) and go download the app. It’s FREE! Why not??

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Checkout 51 is super easy. You get a new list of offers every week, running Thursday to Wednesday. Just use the app to take a picture of your grocery receipt and select the offers you purchased. Bam! Money back! Usually there are limits to the number of items you get credit for but there are no store limits, so you can download a receipt from anywhere! So far, $29 from this app.

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Saving Star is also a grocery app. This one is sometimes a slow earner. The thing to do is to make sure you add any items to your list that you might purchase, so they don’t disappear before you redeem them. With this app, you can link your store loyalty cards or download your receipt. This app does have store limits, so make sure the store your buying from is on this list. I’ve earned $46.27 since I started.

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Ibotta. My second favorite. This one is slightly more complicated but also has a higher earning potential. With this app, you can view rebates based on which store you’re shopping at. Same as the Saving Star app, you must unlock these rebates to save them to your list before they disappear. When you make your purchase, you must scan your product and then download your receipt. You also get bonuses if you and your team (linked from your Facebook friends) meet the monthly bonus requirements. My total earnings from this app are currently at $59 and still growing. If you’d like to sign up, my referral code is 2hdzg.

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Snap by Groupon is rather new but it’s simple. You have a list of offers and you must download your receipt. Pay close attention. This one sometimes offers great rebates on diapers. I’ve made $23.50 with this one.

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Jingit can be a great app but it does take time for you to earn because its doesn’t update its offers as often. The cool thing about this app is not only does it offer apps on items you purchase but you can watch videos for cash back and you can check-in an item at a particular store (just like ShopKick). Just like always, snatch up a rebate while it’s available. These offers disappear fast and when you add an item to your list, you only have 1-2 days to redeem it. I’m still waiting to cash my first check from this app. I’m currently at $17.56. 

I know all that information was a bit overwhelming. Just try these out and I’m sure you will love them. Besides, who doesn’t like free money for things you are already buying? Happy Shopping!

New Year, New You!

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It’s January again. Christmas has come and gone. New Year’s Day is over. This is about the time we all forget those oh-so-important New Year’s resolutions we made 28 days ago. It’s the same thing, different year. Why is it that we make such a big deal about the promises we make ourselves, yet have no follow through? How is it that year after year, we promise to do better, to be better and somehow we end up at the beginning of another year unchanged? Simple: WE ARE LAZY!

I know, that was hard to swallow. I am the first one to admit my laziness. To be honest, the first 3 months I was home with my newborn, I did nothing but sit on the couch and binge-watch How I Met Your Mother and Desperate Housewives, while stuffing my face with Pringles and Coke. I had been so motivated when I was big and pregnant. I couldn’t wait to start exercising again and getting back into my clothes…back to myself. Yet, here we are, almost 11 months post-baby and I am not back to myself. However, I have finally decided to take control of my life and change. I am now stay-at-home mom to a fully mobile child, with a household to take care of. No more lazy days. I have responsibilities now.

In my efforts to become a better person, (**insert Master of Disguise voice**) I have decided to share a few of the tools that are helping me to be accountable to my New Year’s resolutions. Hopefully, we can stick together on this and encourage and motivate one another.

First, if you are not following Clean Mama on Facebook and Pinterest, DO IT! She is incredible. She has tons of printable lists and helpful hits to keep your household clean and together. I got a bunch of free printables from her website.

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If you don’t get anything else, print this! It gives you a big chore to do every day of the week, that way you don’t get overwhelmed and you can stay on top of cleaning. 

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Spring Cleaning Checklist. This will be very important here in a few months when spring gets here!

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I admit it. I HATE water! But again in an effort to be more fit, I am doing my best to drink 4 bottles of water a day (equivalent to 8 glasses). I do, however, use Kool-Aid water-enhancing drops to hide the actual water taste (bleh!) but good news, it really has nothing in it! This is a great way to keep track. 

On top of being lazy, I am terrible with money. However, now that I’m not working, I’m in charge of the checkbook (funny, huh?). Got a little one, so it’s time to save some money. We try every year to save money but somehow end the year with a massive credit card bill. This year, I’m resolving to try to get ahead of the game. I found this on Pinterest but I’d heard about it on Facebook the last few years.

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It starts small but if you can stick with it, you can save $1378 by the end of the year. Even if you can’t stick with it the whole year, you can still save a good chunk of money. This week is Week 4, so it’s definitely not to late to get started. 

As far as fitness goes, this is a never-ending battle with an infant. Seems like I can never find time to exercise. Unfortunately, this has led to getting up earlier than I ever cared to but after working out in the morning, my entire day is more energized and I really get motivated to get things done.

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I discovered Tone It Up 2 years ago and I am absolutely hooked! In addition to their website, they have tons of free YouTube videos and even an app. The great thing is the workouts are geared towards women and how we exercise. Just check it out, try a video and see for yourself. I love it! 

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I know not everyone is a runner or even likes to run. However, we all know that cardio is the key to weight loss and overall fitness. This is the chart I used to prepare for my first 5K a few years ago. Since my pregnancy, I’ve had to start over but it is a great way to get yourself acclimated to running. Plus, it’s great for the treadmill, which is what I use. I also downloaded the app GymBoss, which is a running timer to keep track of your walking and running intervals.  

Lastly, we can’t forget about our spiritual fitness. This is a major struggle in my life – devotions. Again, it all boils down to time. The thing is, if there is anything we need to make time for, it is God. I recently watched Courageous (from the makers of Fireproof) – two great movies that you definitely need to see, both of which have books to go along with the movies. I have started reading Resolutions For Women by Priscilla Shirer (here’s the link). It is inspirational, encouraging and motivating. A must read. Also, to touch on Fireproof’s book, The Love Dare by Alex & Stephen Kendrick (here’s the link), I absolutely recommend it to every single married couple in the world. There are no words to describe what is can do for your relationship with your spouse. Give it a chance. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s to a new year with new possibilities. Here’s to trying to better ourselves and be happier. Not only will I try to curb my lazy ways, I will strive to get fit, healthy and most importantly, to cherish every moment. Life goes by so fast, we can miss it. I have learned this hard lesson from the last year of being a parent. So, Carpe Diem! Let’s take over our lives and have an amazing year!

How My Dogs Prepared Me For Motherhood

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These are my Velociraptors, as my mother so thoughtfully nicknamed them.

 My husband and I hadn’t been married a year when we adopted Casey,  my now 4 year old Blue Heeler. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her at the animal hospital where I worked. She had been bought for an older lady by her daughters who thought their mother needed a companion. If you know anything about Blue Heelers, this is not the dog for just anyone! (This speaks a lot to breed research before you adopt, but that’s an entirely different subject.) A few weeks after her first appointment, she was brought in to be surrendered by this dear lady. As luck would have it, I was the one who helped her that day. The rest is history.

As for Shelby, well…she was a necessary addition to our family. As I said, Blue Heelers are a special breed and poor Casey was driving us nuts being an only child. So, we went on a hunt and found a little black and tan shepherd mix on PetFinder.com at a local animal shelter. Funny thing was, when we made the 1 1/2 hour trip, we were actually planning on adopting Shelby’s sister. We brought Casey along to make sure they got along. Unfortunately, Casey and Shelby’s evil twin did not get along. Shelby, however, sat quietly on my lap and watched her sister run laps around the front desk of the shelter. It was meant to be.

Anyone who has met my dogs knows how nuts they are. They’re misbehaved, too hyper and when talked to in a high enough pitch, will pee all over your shoes. They escape from the yard, they chase the mailman and eat the strangest things. But they are like my children and I love them. I’ve always told my mom that my dogs were preparing me for having children. However, until I had a child, I didn’t realize how right I was.

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For the last several months, I had become acclimated to rocking my little baby to sleep, ensuring plenty of tummy-time to strengthen his muscles and rejoicing when he discovered he could roll over. We had waiting for a long time to see him crawl for the first time and tried to help as much as we could. Unfortunately, I was unaware of what these milestones were leading us to. My epiphany came as I walked into the bathroom this afternoon, following the trail of Puffs and spilled sippy cup, and discovered my son standing up at the toilet…PLAYING IN THE WATER! I immediately thought of my  dogs. I had scolded them numerous times about drinking from the toilet. “Get your head out of the toilet!” had now turned into “Get your hand out of the toilet!” Same problem, different species. I then began thinking of all the ways my dogs had been conditioning me for motherhood.

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1) Sleep Deprivation. I was a first time doggy mom and had never raised a puppy on my own. (I didn’t quite realize how much my parents had been helping me.) Casey was less than 3 months old when I brought her home. The first few weeks were filled with sleepless nights and midnight walks that eventually led to her sleeping in our bed. Sounds familiar, huh? Yep. Honestly, I think I had better sleep with my newborn than a new puppy. And no matter how bad it got, my son has never slept in the bed with us.

2) Cleaning up. Dogs are naturally messy. I’ve cleaned up more dog pee, poop and vomit than I care to admit. I’ve disposed of dead squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits after they met their unfortunate end in my back yard. I’ve scrubbed butts, brushed squirrel-breath teeth and spent hours picking burrs out of the fur of a dog who insists on exploring. NONE of that, however, could have prepared me for baby messes. Humans are supposed to be cleaner than dogs, right? Well…apparently, not in the beginning. Our first week home with little man, he peed on my Grandmother, my bed, the dog and his own head. Not to mention the spit up (thanks to our few weeks of supplementing formula). And there have  been a few times (explosion, rather) that required an immediate bath (clothes and all) and then a GOOD bleach-scrubbing to the bathtub.

3) Discipline. Two things that apparently fascinate both boy and dog are dishwashers and toilets. The first spanking my son got was because he continued crawling onto the dishwasher and pulling things from the utensil holder. My dogs also are constantly in trouble for trying to clean my dishes as I put them in the dishwasher. Same thing for the toilet. I guess to both hem, water is water. You would think I’d have learned how to prevent this behaving by now…

4) Food. Sadly, my dogs have failed me in this department. From squirrels to insulation, my dogs never meet an object they don’t at least consider trying. Whereas my son is a challenging eater. I’ve already blogged about our disastrous nursing experience but his food aversions don’t stop there. He refuses to drink formula unless it’s warm (almost hot). If it gets the least bit cool, he won’t touch it. He does not like slimy things (i.e. sliced apples in juice, packaged deli meat) or oddly enough, potatoes (mashed or baked). He has discovered how to make his food disappear when he doesn’t want it. And I wondered why the dogs were getting fat!

5) Picking Up After Myself. I have had dogs all my life and one thing you learn quickly is to never leave something valuable in a dog’s reach. One of my dogs loves to eat socks, another underwear. Trash is always up for grabs if available and unless there is a force field around me, there is no personal space when I’m eating. As my son has now become mobile, I find myself finding more things everyday that need to be moved out of his reach. Remotes and phones are his favorite but if there is a cord in sight, he is all over it. Another difficulty is his fascination with the dog bowls. Now, my dogs are pretty good about their food. Shelby has actually let him get food out of her bowl while she is eating without complaint. This leads to chewing on the dog bowls (gross, I know!) and what had become an almost weekly occurrence…dumping the water bowl. Still learning here!

6) Mommy guilt. That’s right. I feel so horrible when my dogs get in trouble, which is probably part of the reason they are such a mess. This has, however, taught me to be consistent with punishment. But there is no greater guilt than punishing your child for doing something dangerous and making him cry. I now understand the phrase “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.”

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As my son grows and I continue to learn how this mommy thing works, I’m sure I will find more lessons I’ve been taught by my dogs to handle my son. And when I have another, I will know how to handle sibling quarreling. You can break up a fight with the broom, right? Unfortunately, I do realize I will not be able to make them sleep outside!

Makeup Review: Covergirl Full Lash Bloom

Before I give my review of this product, I would like to say a quick word about Influenster. After going over my blog posts, I realized I have never written about them. Influenster is a different kind of social media platform, where you have the chance to be part of a community of fellow reviewers sharing their opinions on all kinds of products from baby items to favorite cereals and the newest tech and gadgets. On top of that, you can be selected to review boxes in the mail full of new products waiting to be tested and reviewed. It’s absolutely free and the more you participate, the better your chances for getting selected to receive a box. You must give it a try!

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That being said, thanks to Influenster for sending me a new product from Covergirl: Full Lash Bloom Mascara. Now, I am very picky when it comes to mascara. I have short, stubby eyelashes, that tend to be uncooperative and fall out at the worst times! As luck (and genetics) would have it, my brother has the most beautiful eyelashes you have ever seen. Go figure! Anyway, when I found out I was getting the Covergirl #gobloom Voxbox, I wasn’t very excited. I don’t have a lot of luck with mascara in the first place and for a mascara that boast to be light and weightless – forget it! Might as well call this one a bust. But, since I had been slacking in my online participation, I hadn’t gotten a box in a while, so I decided to give it a try. Plus, it was so cute and pink, I just had to open it!

Now, when reviewing for Influenster, you are not required to praise the product you’ve been given or even give it a good review. What good would this service be if we weren’t entirely honest. Having said that, I LOVE this mascara!!! I goes on smooth, no clumping, and barely feels like it’s there. On top of that, it comes off super easy, so you don’t have to worry about losing eyelashes every night when you’re taking your makeup off. Also, Covergirl’s website states “Full Lash Bloom Mascara is also safe for contact lens wearers and is ophthalmologically tested” which is great for a contact wearer like myself.

In summary, Covergirl Full Lash Bloom Mascara gets an A+ from me! Don’t forget to check out Influenster.com!

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

You’re going to breastfeed, right?

I recently read an article entitled “This Blog Is Going To Embarrass My Husband”, a great article about loving your body. (Check it out here.) And while the subject matter is somewhat different, I can say the same for this blog. By now, I have rewritten this blog about 10 times. Why? Because I know there are struggling breastfeeding mom’s out there who may need it and I am amazed at the lack of information and support for this subject. Yes, there is an over-abundance of material available for the breastfeeding mom and advice from activists about the important of breastfeeding. By the time you have your child, you have decided one way or another on this matter. However, just because you made up your mind doesn’t make it so.

It’s the same sad story. You hear it everyday, especially when you’re pregnant. A veteran mom explaining her breastfeeding woes and how she had to resort to infant formula. She assures you everything will be fine and it will not be a disaster if you aren’t able to breastfeed. Well, I don’t know about you but in the back of my mind, I could not understand why it would be so difficult? Oh, little naive first-time mommy! My son, for reasons unknown, would not nurse. He wouldn’t latch properly, he would scream when I tried to position him and he wasn’t getting enough milk for sufficient weight-gain. I was so afraid of putting him on formula because I wanted the best for him. I felt like a total failure for not being able to do what is so natural for many women. That’s when I found Kelly Mom: a breastfeeding/parenting site. Here is the link where I finally found some answers. I saved my life…and my sanity.

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Kelly Mom (whoever this wonderful person is) introduced me to the world of Exclusive Pumping – an alternative to traditional breastfeeding.  My advice is to start there if you are considering giving up breastfeeding. She explains how it is entirely possible and can be very successful to pump milk for your newborn, without having to nurse or switch to formula. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is hard. And it may not be for everyone. It takes a lot of dedication and determination, which normally, I do not have! And what works for me may not work for you. However, it is definitely worth it and looking back, I would do it all over again.

I hope to write more blogs going into depth on this subject at a later time but for know, we will skim the surface and hopefully, provide some helpful information. (Lots of my info is taken from Kelly Mom’s blog and websites like it. I will post my resources as we come to them.)

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The most important thing is to have a good breast pump. For me, I borrowed a Medela Pump in Style Advanced. It’s a double electric pump that came in a backpack, which made if very convenient and discreet to carry it with me.

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Another lifesaver if you are exclusively pumping is the Medela Hands-Free Pumping Bra. I know it looks silly and you will feel like a milking cow every time you put it on but believe me, it is a lifesaver. You can put this on and start your pump, and have your hands free to feed your baby at the same time (which is important to keeping your pumping schedule). I will also admit that when I was slammed for time, I wore this while I was driving (with a cover, of course!). And remember, you will be following your baby’s feeding schedule with your pumping schedule and after 48 straight hours of pumping every 3 hours, your arms will be tired from holding your pump. So invest!!

Those are the 2 main items that you will need to get started but there are some other thing that are just as important and some that just make things easier.

  • Storage bags. Chances are, you will eventually be pumping more than your little one eats at one feeding. These are great to freeze for later use, when you finish breastfeeding or for when you return to work. (Fact: Frozen breastmilk can be stored for up to 6 months.) Now, these can get somewhat expense when you are exclusively pumping and are constantly storing new milk in the fridge. Amazon has a great price on the large boxes here. I also found that you can purchase cheap bottles at the Dollar Store, take the nipples out and use those as your fridge storage. (These, of course, will not work for the freezer.)
  • Sanitizing bags. Medela has Quick-Clean Micro-Steam bags that can be put in the microwave to sterilize your pumping accessories as well as bottles. Here is the link to them on Babies ‘R Us.
  • Brushes. You are going to be washing your pump parts and bottles a lot at first, so stock up on bottle brushes!
  • Nursing cover. Udder Covers offers a free nursing cover to all new mommies. Chances are, you probably got emails about this when you were pregnant but you can always find this deal online. All you have to pay for is shipping. Great deal! Click here to check them out!

These are some simple rules I learned while I was pumping:

1) DO NOT SHAKE BREASTMILK. Be sure to swirl it in the bottle and NO microwaving.

2) Drink lots of water. I hate water and I absolutely cannot drink it without some kind of flavoring in it. When it comes to breastfeeding, you will find out quickly that if you don’t stay hydrated, you are in big trouble. I kept a bottle of water with me at all times – in my purse, in the diaper bag. I even carried my bottle of flavoring with me. It doesn’t matter how you get it down, make sure you are constantly drinking water or it will affect your milk supply.

3) Stress is the #1 milk supply killer. Make sure you are relaxed and stress-free when you’re pumping. Read a book, watch a movie or talk to your baby to keep your mind distracted.

4) Keep a strict schedule until you establish your milk supply. This is VERY important when exclusively pumping! This blog explains how milk production works and will better help you understand why you need a schedule.

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Head spinning yet? It’s a lot to take in and a big thing to take on, so do your research before committing to it. You don’t want to jump head first only to discover this is not for you. The most important thing is to be happy with your decision and to get the most time with your new little one while you can. Before long, they will be all grown up and you will long to have those days back. Happy pumping!

Also, check out these great blogs while your searching for answers!

Happy Home Fairy

Naptime Tales

Onto a New Chapter

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Week one of being a Stay-At-Home Mom has come to an end. While I did stay home for 12 weeks on maternity leave, I knew it was just temporary (we decided before I had Lucas that I would be staying home) and I counted every day that brought me closer to going back to work. I made the most of my days and my time with my new little miracle. But now, there is no expiration date on my time here. So, after two days of digging myself out of the disaster my house had become during my brief time back at work, I settled comfortably into “lazy couch potato” status. While I might have been able to do this when I was on maternity leave, when the baby slept most of the day and could be left on a blanket in the living room floor while I ate breakfast and watch the Today Show, I now have a “crawler.” Not only that but a “cruiser” which has quite rapidly turned into a “bruiser.” I am honestly beginning to worry that with every tumble to the ground and thud I hear of his head hitting the hardwood floor, the more brain cells are escaping his brain and we can’t have that (because my son is going to be a doctor, of course!).

But nevertheless, our time at home has already been full of excitement. First day home – Monday morning. (Who said the dreaded Monday morning curse can’t strike those of us at home too?!)  He had spent the whole night awake (we had a very busy weekend and he was quite restless) and when he doesn’t sleep well, he wakes up EARLY! So, here comes 6 a.m. and my child is standing in the crib, looking at the monitor, waiting for me to come and rescue him. I sat him in the floor at my feet and began fixing his bottle, while chasing him from one side of the kitchen to the other. First, he stood himself up at the stove and was making his way to the kitchen drawers (which had not been baby-proofed yet). Next, on to his favorite activity…playing in the dog’s water bowl. He proceeded to turn the bowl completely over and soak my kitchen floor and himself, which scared him. So, I pick up this crying child, soaking wet from his belly down, his cereal and bottle and head for the living room. (He likes to watch VeggieTales while he eats. 🙂 ) I sit down on the couch and place the not-yet-mixed cereal down on one side and the baby on the other side with my arm around him. The next 15 seconds are a complete blur – I am still not quite sure what happened or how. First, the cereal ends up falling off the couch and is being licked up by an anxiously awaiting dog. As I reach for the cereal bowl, arm still around my son, he lunges for the high chair. He falls head first, hitting the high chair and then the ground with his forehead. He only cried for a few minutes, but almost a week later, still has a bruised knot on his forehead and a scratch on the side of his head.

Day One: Failure

Day Two started at 1:30 a.m.  I had stayed up late to shower and do some laundry (because, yeah right, when would I have time to take 5 minutes of my day to shower?!?), so I had not been asleep long when  little man woke up. As soon as I walked into the room, I could hear him breathing through an incredibly stuffy nose. Sick again. Great. I picked him up and pulled his paci out of his mouth. (He hasn’t quite figured out that he can breath though his mouth when he can’t though his nose.) Between the hours of 2 and 4, I cleaned out his nose (not so fun for either of us) and tried to put him back to sleep IN HIS CRIB multiple times. We ending up sitting on the couch, watching Gilmore Girls until we both fell asleep. That’s the way daddy found us when he got up at 6. Thankfully, I was able to put him back in his crib then and sleep until about 8:30. However, the day did turn out pretty good – a lot of wiping noses and cuddling.

Day Two: Not a Totally Failure

The proceeding days were not too exciting but something different everyday…which also usually brought a new scratch or bruise. And while, sometimes, I feel kind of like a zombie wandering from room to room, I know I have made the right choice. Because when my son falls down and begins to cry, I can be there to kiss his boo-boo and hold him until the sniffling subsides. When he learns something new, I can see it firsthand instead of hearing about it from someone else. I want to be there for every moment I can.

Now to follow this somewhat controversial topic, I know all the feminists in the world shudder to think of a woman actually wanting to stay home, with her husband, kids and household as her job. I mean, after all, look at how far women have come and how much has been sacrificed for us to be treated more equally with men. But here’s the thing…we are NOT men! We ARE women!

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Now this is, of course, not what I meant! But it is time that we, as women, stop thinking we need to constantly prove we are no different than men. God made us to be different. So, if you want a successful career and a family, you can do it! And if you want to stay home and have an equally important job, do it! The important thing to remember is that we need to support each other, as women, with whatever decision is made. Now, I know there are some who would like to stay home but can’t and I will admit, it was a difficult decision for us to make. And it doesn’t come without sacrifices. Just know that you never have to feel bad or guilty for your decision or circumstances.

When I temporarily went back to work after maternity leave, I felt the pain of leaving my child with someone else. For the first week, I cried every night when I got home because of how little time I actually got to spend with my son. And from talking to full-time working moms, I understand the difficulties of trying to do everything and make money to pay the bills. I will share a little insight with you, though. Being a stay-at-home mom comes with its share of troubles. For me, it’s a struggle to stay motivated to get things done (I work much better under time constraints!). And you would be surprise to find that you do need a little alone time occasionally. However, the hardest part of it all is the lack of support from family, friends and worst of all, other moms. To some, they simply cannot understand how you don’t lose your mind being home all day with no one but a 9 month old who isn’t the best conversationalist. Others automatically assume you must be wealthy. My favorite response – “Must be nice. We can’t afford to do that.” Yes, I know that for many, it really isn’t an option and some situations can’t be helped, but cutting your household down to one income is a scary and sometimes, painful thing. We dropped cable and opted for cheaper options like Netflix and Hulu Plus. We don’t have a home phone, only cell phones. We try to limit our restaurant eating to once a week. I also started couponing to save on our essentials. And those are just a few…

I apologize for my rant. I spent too long feeling guilty for picking the “easier” route and worried about what other people would say. In the end, I want what is best for my child and I will do whatever it takes to give it to him. I look forward to the memories we will make and also expect the difficult days we will have. I am accepting the new path I’ve been given and intent to make the most of it!

Welcome to the Extreme Couponing World!

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This is probably the picture that pops into your mind when you think of extreme couponing. And to some, this is a perfectly normal way of life. For me, honestly, I don’t have the desire to buy 47,000 bags of Cheetos at a time (or ever, for that matter).  I will confess though, it is very addicting and I can see how easily someone can go from the occasional $1 off coupon at the grocery store to 4 buggies of toilet paper for $3. If you are interested in that kind of shopping – hours of coupon clipping, building an extra room on your house for your stockpile of 100 bottles of Pantene (and don’t forget the 47,000 bags of Cheetos), and frequent brawls with store managers over taking your expired coupons – then this blog is not for you. However, if you are interested in saving some money (some is more than none!), I will be happy to share what I have learned over the past few months.

Let me be very honest – I am not a couponing expert and I make plenty of mistakes but this process is all about learning and getting into your own shopping groove. I will share some lingo, sites I visit and groups I follow on Facebook to get you started.

Now, there is a lot of information out there when you start couponing and I was very intimidated when I started. It’s easy to say “the heck with it” and give up in the first week or two. And yes, it can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing but don’t let that stop you. By the time you get a month into it, you will start to get the hang of it and when you go on your first successful shopping trip, you will be hooked! Today, we will discuss some lingo and learn about my favorite site, Southern Savers.

So, let’s get comfortable with some lingo to start off. It will make your life much easier if you can follow the conversations of fellow couponers.

(This list is courtesy of SouthernSavers.com)

Types of Coupons

  • B1G1, BOGO, BIG1F – Buy one, get one (free)
  • .50/1 – Fifty cents off one item
  • .50/3 – Fifty cents off three items
  • Catalina – coupon dispensed at the register at the time of purchase
  • Tearpad – pad of refund forms or coupons found hanging from a store shelf or display
  • IP – internet printable
  • MFR or MQ – manufacturer coupon (you will see this a LOT)
  • PG, P&G – Proctor & Gamble Sunday insert coupons
  • RP – Red Plum Sunday insert coupons
  • SS – SmartSource Sunday insert coupons
  • Peelie – coupon that you peel off the package
  • Blinkie – coupon dispensed near product, in that “blinking” red box on the shelf
  • eCoupon – found on the internet but different because it is uploaded to a card
  • FAR – free after rebate
  • MIR – mail-in rebate

Store Specific Coupons

  • FLIP – Food Lion Internet Printable
  • IVC – Instant Value Coupon (Walgreens store coupon, found in Walgreens Easy Saver Catalog and on in-store tearpads)
  • +Up – Rite Aid Plus Up Rewards
  • ECB – Extra Care Bucks (CVS)
  • RR – Register Rewards (these are Catalinas that print out at Walgreens)

Common Phrases

  • OOP – out of pocket
  • Regional – coupon value only distributed at a certain time
  • WYB – when you buy
  • WSL – while supplies last
  • Raincheck – an assurance to a customer that an item on sale that is sold out or out of stock may be purchased later at the sale price
  • Stackable – coupons can be combined with other coupons or discounts.

Southern Savers is a great website to keep you organized and to learn how to get started couponing. The lady who runs the site, Jenny, has set it up for everything you would need to get started. First, go to the Southern Savers YouTube page and watch some of her videos. I would start with Introduction to Couponing (it’s a 3 part video series). She explains all the basics and how to get started without getting overwhelmed. Then, move on to the videos for each specific store. The drug stores are the ones you want to start with (Rite Aid, CVS & Walgreens).

Go ahead and sign up on the site (totally free), so you can save weekly lists and favorite stores. The homepage is set up kind of like a blog. She posts things daily, from weekly ads to special deals you don’t want to miss. There is a coupon database that will allow you to search for a coupon for any particular brand. It will either give you a link to print or tell you which Sunday insert it can be found in. If you are looking for a deal for a certain item or brand, there is an item search bar that will pull up any current deals available.

Some other great perks to this site:

Savings Tracker allows you to track your saving by adding receipts from all your shopping trips

Saved Lists is pretty self-explanatory. Your lists are saved with coupon-printing links or insert information under each deal.

So, check it out, watch some videos and be sure to visit the “Learn To Coupon” link on the homepage to get started. Happy Couponing!

Here Comes Baby!

When you find out you’re pregnant, you think “This is the best day of my life!” For the next 9 months, your world is filled with nursery decorating, baby shower planning, gear shopping and lots of anxiety. Your feet swell, your legs swell (um, no one told me about this!), you eat like a horse and feel like a beached whale. You finally give in to packing away your cute tops and skinny jeans and resort to maternity shirts and baggy sweatpants or jeans, complete with belly band. By month 10, you’re counting the days until you feel somewhat human again. You can no longer see your feet, so you rush to get a pedicure days before your due date (because your feet are, of course, the main focus of this upcoming event! :P) You pack your bag and place it at the door and wait.

My day came at exactly 12:00 am the day after my due date (my son clearly got his promptness from me!). I laid in bed for a while, trying to find a position that would alleviate some of the pressure and pain I was feeling. I was used to feeling terrible, so I thought nothing of it. After about 20 minutes, I decided to get up and get a snack, sit on the couch and try to get my mind off my misery. But as I sat on the couch, timing my contractions, I got the strangest feeling that this was not quite normal. Finally, I woke my husband up and told him I wasn’t sure but I thought we might not be sleeping that night. We got to the hospital around 3:30 and by 5, family had been called. We were going to have this baby today!

I will admit, when I had discussed my fears of labor with friends, family and co-workers, I took comfort in their assurances that this wasn’t as bad as most say.

“Not to worry.”
“You can handle it.”
“Wait to get the epidural as long as you can.”

And I will now admit, I was not prepared. I believed the lies of these other mothers, snickering behind me as they gave me false hope. I got to about 4 cm before I got my epidural. Those were the worst hours of my life. I have never in my life felt so much pain… To those of you who have bravely gone through childbearing “medicine free” or “naturally”…you are crazy! Good for you for proving to the rest of us how wonderful modern medicine can be. I would never belittle this quite magnificent feet that some undertake but I will say, personally, I have nothing to prove to anyone by not taking advantage of the great medicine discovered in the last few centuries.

My experience with the epidural was quite wonderful. I recommend it to all the pregnant women I know, who are unsure of what they want to do. I feel like by having some pain relief, I got to enjoy the day a little. I could visit with people and even rest a little. By NO means did this make it easier but definitely an appreciated addition to my day.

That day was nothing like I had planned or even thought it might be like. Don’t feel like a strong woman? Have a baby! By the time you’re finished, you feel like a superhero. It’s amazing the strength you find in yourself when another life is in your control. And ladies, you will be amazed by the strength of your husbands. Mine was rather worried about the whole experience and before that day, I pictured him, at some point, lying on the hospital floor, passed out cold. But he really surprised me. He became strong enough for the both of us. Pregnancy can really test your marriage. And I have found, in our case, it made us so much stronger. We discovered what true, unconditional love felt and looked like.

Yes, being pregnant is hard. Having to take someone else’s need into consideration in everything you do. Avoiding too much caffeine. Kissing exercising goodbye. Laying aside your wardrobe. Living completely for another person. But when you finally get to hold your living, breathing, healthy baby, you realize just how worth it the whole experience was. And you discover that you were meant to be so much more. I finally felt like I had found what I was meant to do with my life – why God had put me on this earth. It was to be Lucas’ mom. And I couldn’t ask for a better job. 🙂

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