Thursday, June 26, 2008

Moving Time

While still a little imperfect, our new blog is active, so we'll be posting there to escape the word verification spam blog mess. Join us at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Too Tired to be Tightwads

Tightwad Tuesday is taking a short hiatus due to vacation-induced insanity. It'll be back by next week, we hope.

On the up side:
  • We're having lovely visits with various family members featuring fireworks and planting with my mom and baseball with my dad.
  • Natalie is starting to relax around the dogs, walking by them independently, talking to them, and even offering her hand for them to sniff.
  • The frenzied getting into everything that we witnessed the other day was partially related to fatigue and overexcitement about our arrival. With a little more rest and settling in, Natalie is a little less...manic. Which is nice.
On the down side:
  • The process of importing to WP has been less than smooth, so our move has been delayed. They've reset the new blog now, so as soon as we can redo stuff and (hopefully) successfully import, we'll send you to our new address.
  • My mom has pantry moths. Rather thoroughly. Jen and I spent the afternoon/evening cleaning out the pantry, throwing things away, putting other things in bins for observation, washing shelves, etc. More to do tomorrow, though the really intense stuff is finished. While oddly satisfying, it was also more than a little exhausting.
  • My mom got a call yesterday morning from family in Pittsburgh. My uncle's decades-long battle with HIV/AIDS has ended. This is not unexpected, but still a time of many emotions for my family. We'll have a memorial service full of his music at the end of July.
And now, we're off to bed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cars 2, Vacation 0

Urgh. Now we have a flat. Not only do we have a flat, but I'm pretty sure it's the tire we had to replace a few months ago (when we discovered that our lovely, affordable, decent-mileage, 6-seater-but-not-a-minivan has ludicrously expensive tires). They've been rotated, so I am not 100% sure, but about 98%. Anyway, earlier in the week, Cait noticed that it had picked up a screw in this tire, so before we left I took it by our mechanic, who pulled the screw and said it hadn't punctured all the way through. He put some goop on it and it didn't bubble so no air was escaping. And I made sure to tell him we were driving 600+ miles in the next few days.

So now we wait for the roadside people to come and change the tire. (Yes, we can change a tire but you know, 1. we pay for the roadside assistance, 2. this is supposed to be a vacation, 3. we're indoors with a sleeping child and Internet access, 4. it's raining and 5. does there need to be a 5? Oh, yeah, the lug nuts on these wheels are a total bitch to unscrew, as we learned last time.) Then it's off to the tire store, hopefully to have it plugged rather than to buy another new tire or two.

And there IS NO SUCH THING as a vacation with a 2 year old. Grandma's house is like one big booby trap and we spend all our time keeping her out of stuff. Plus, she's terrified of the big, lovable dog who would love to play with her.

On the other hand, we aren't working, we have tons of relatives around dying to see us, and there are fireworks in our future. It ain't all bad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Indirect Route

I'm glad we didn't continue to blog our road trip via text messages, as we didn't realize they were getting caught in the spam filter. Grrr. The migration to WP will be completed in less than 24 hours, I daresay.

Anyway, we arrived, safe and sound, if a little insane earlier this evening. We did our typical 600 miles in 2 days (stopping over at great-grandma's), with visits to practically every rest stop between points A, B, and C. (A potty training toddler, a rather pregnant mom, and a menstruating mom is NOT a good road trip combo!) Natalie did a great job -- but a great job for a two year old DOES involve a lot of repetitive questioning, insistence on "Natalie music!" at all times, often the same CD, track, or phrase (not always granted), frequent demands to "Eat!", and not much napping at all. Cait and I planned to keep ourselves awake and focused by discussing name options for (not-so?) wee Carbo, but really didn't get much of anywhere (other than Anna... but we couldn't decide on a middle name. One? Two? Onetwothree?).

We did recover from the adrenaline rush and terror of the near-miss at the start of our trip. It was truly terrifying and miraculous. The driver of the SUV lost control of his car, went up on the embankment, struck a very tall (metal) lamppost, and spun across 4 lanes of traffic, slamming into the wall of the underpass and coming to a stop. He did not hit any other vehicles and seemed fine as we drove past (others were stopping to lend aid). The lamppost (at least 40 feet tall) broke in two, hovered above our roof and windshield for a heart-stopping eternity, and then crashed to the shoulder, hitting no one. Natalie was oblivious to the entire incident, I shook and heaved silently for a few minutes after we continued on, and Cait muttered "I can't believe it didn't hit us" repeatedly.

So now we're at Grandma's and we've already paid a visit to Grandpa. We hope to do a lot of relaxing, reading, Samurai Sudoku, and just general hanging out for the next couple of weeks. Midwestern blogfriends, we're also up for getting together - drop us a line if you want to hang out!

Next stop: WP.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Car in front of us spun out of control across the beltway. Sent lamppost flying into the air directly above our car. Somehow everyone ok. Still shaking.

9:51. Before even leaving the parking lot: eat? Natalie music? Green eggs and ham? Gonna be a long drive.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

3 months to go?!?!?

3 months to go?!?!?, originally uploaded by jrustdc.

Holy cannoli. I feel like a whale! I cannot believe I am going to grow and grow and grow for 12 more weeks! I am definitely bigger than I was at this point with Natalie.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tightwad WEDNESDAY: We're from the Internet and We're Here to Help

So far so good - no outages at home or school, and I was even able to upload some files that were so big that they'd previously overwhelmed our outdated upload bandwidth! In honor of this, and since folks were asking for it, AND since it was what was on my mind anyway, we'll make the Internet the focus of this week's TT (or TW, in this case).

How do you use online resources to help you save money? (Or conversely... how does the Internet derail your savings strategies?) Since I haven't beaten the fuel cost dead horse QUITE thoroughly enough, I'll start with two gas related items, but have some others to share as well.
  • There are myriad websites to help you find the cheapest gas station in a given locale. GasBuddy was quite current but its map interface isn't particularly user friendly. GasPriceWatch has a great map interface, but had dated prices in the three test areas I used (my neighborhood, where I work, and Cait's mom's neighborhood, where we'll soon be visiting). Mapquest's site really puts it in context, with national low and high prices listed at the top of the page. Their map is relatively simple to operate (with all of the Mapquest quirks you know and hate) but they don't have a lot of station data. None is perfect, but I went ahead and bookmarked GasBuddy.
  • That $60 gadget I linked to last week? It's SO primitive, compared to THIS gizmo! Again, $160 is not exactly a tightwad approach but reviews and articles I've read suggest that most people would see at least a 5% improvement in fuel economy - so it would pay for itself within a year or two for most people.
  • The best way to save money online, of course, is to shop around. You need to factor in shipping costs, but we have bought all kinds of things in bulk online (everything from OTC medicines to cereal) cheaper than we could have locally. Often the big name sites are good for this, if you know the price you need to beat.
  • Price comparison and product review sites like epinions, MySimon, and the-website-formerly-known-as-Froogle can be useful, too, although I can end up wasting a lot of time and not end up finding much of a deal.
  • Good ole Google is sometimes my best online savings assistant. I try to remember always to search for coupons and deals before buying anything online, and have sometimes come up with really good deals. (And some duds - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.)
There are tons of other sites and ways to save money... what are your favorites?

I plan to update the post with any links you provide in the comments, and will try to do so as quickly as possible. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday: The Curse

I have decided that Tightwad Tuesday is cursed. At least 3 out of 6 Tuesdays since I started this, I've had to deal with an Internet outage. Two at home (maybe 3, they blur together) and this morning at work, we were without Internet (and much of our intranet) access for most of the morning. When I have 3 days left and a giant To Do list, the vast majority of which (ordering books) requires simultaneous use of at least 4 websites. Argh.

And then, the curse continued, because once I got home, I, uh, forgot to write TT. And it is now late and I am very tired. So we'll try Wednesday this week and see if it's any better. (But if my work access is down again tomorrow, I may have to cancel this week!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's the sign for astonished?

Take that, Prizey!, originally uploaded by jrustdc.

So I still may be the Biggest Prizey Loser EVAH! but I don't care!! A few hours after I put up my whiny post about the empty package that came in the mail, I was astonished to get an email notifying me that RACHEL COLEMAN had commented on the post. I was like a giddy kid!

Here's the transcript of the chat I had with Cait seconds later:
cait: what?
me: "Rachel Coleman has left a new comment on your post "The Biggest Prizey Loser EVAH!" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
cait: oh my god
me: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
cait: that's awesome

That alone would have made up for the missing prize, but Rachel generously offered to make us "The Biggest Signing Time Winners EVAH!"... and did she ever come through! Friday we got this glorious package. Natalie had been up too late the night before so we didn't dare open the package before she went to bed, but the temptation was too strong for her bad, star-struck moms to avoid. We opened the box and oohed and aahed and giggled.

Especially at THIS:

When we showed the box and its contents to Natalie the next morning, she bounced with glee. She's watched one video already and has a marvelous new vocabulary of animal signs (we can now ask which animal she wants for her morning vitamin in sign!). And there are so many more to explore!

I am signing a VERY big thank you to you right now, Rachel. This was beyond our wildest dreams!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things We Want to Blog About

It's been a hella busy weekend, so these are just WOUs.

  • The amazing package we got from Rachel at Signing Time!
  • Our CSA report (and how I keep losing vegetables)
  • Marching in the Pride Parade again (Natalie is a total Diva..)
  • 28 week belly pic (I guess we should take one, hmm?)
  • Moving to Wordpress in the near future
  • A bubbly (grand)Father's Day
It's way past our bedtime, so the bullets will have to suffice for now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


WTF! Blogger has decided that AddProbs seems like a spam blog! So for now, anytime we want to post, we have to type that stupid word verification thing in FOR OUR OWN BLOG. Profiling in blogland -- and if you read their info, we don't even fit the profile!

Don't get me wrong - I hate spam as much as the next person. And I like that the WV does cut down on the amount of spam comments we get. But having to do WV for my own posts - aaaack! And as someone noted a while ago, the WVs do seem to be getting much trickier. I usually have to try 3 or 4 times before I get it right. (Already on try two three for this post.)

I so hate how our society has to impose draconian measures on everyone to weed out a few moronic assholes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday: Gas Recap and FREEBIES!

Last week's discussion on fuel economy was lively and useful. I thought I'd highlight a few key tips in case anyone didn't read all the way through the comments. I'll also steer (ha!) in a new direction at the end of the post and talk a little about the possibility of saving money on some fun freebies (so even those who don't drive can get something out of this post... cough! Shelli! cough!).

  1. While many suggestions are debatable, I have yet to see anyone disagree here or elsewhere with the suggestion to keep your tires properly inflated. It may be the simplest and least expensive gas saving tip there is.
  2. The jury's out on whether A/C or the drag from open windows is worse at low speeds, but on the highway you're better off with the windows closed.
  3. Although the highway signs drive me mad (somehow the grammar and/or diction just seem off) Maryland is onto something with their admonition to "drive gently". Gentle starts, smooth acceleration, and engine braking/gradual stopping all conserve gas. In fact, the day after I posted last week, there was a post on a listserv I belong to about a gadget that will "train" you to drive smoothly. The review is promising, as the test drivers did achieve impressive savings the first time they used it. However, I don't know that a $60.00 gizmo is compatible with tightwaddery - I'm just paying attention to the way I drive - but it's cheaper than buying a Prius with its fancy onboard fuel meter (I would so love a Prius... maybe someday?).

Enough gassing about gas - onto the freebies and cheapies!

BPA Free Bottles & Sippies
Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about the hazards of BPA. I've known about it for a couple of years, courtesy of Jo, and have been on a mad campaign to eradicate plastic from our lives (even BPA free plastic, because who knows what may be wrong with it??? Cait thinks I'm a little obsessed...). But I haven't known what to do with our extensive stock of Dr. Brown's bottles (one of the worst offenders) and our smaller collection of sippy cups with BPA. My mom gave us some Born Free bottles and sippies for Natalie, so we'd stopped using the others, but I felt bad passing them on to someone else, and didn't want to just chuck them. So I stuck them in the basement.

Jude tipped me off to an exciting possibility some weeks ago - Babies R Us stores in her area were taking back ANY BPA items for store credit, regardless of age, condition, or presence of a receipt. Unfortunately, our local BRUs and TRUs weren't participating. Over the weeks there has been more attention and pressure regarding the issue, and it appears that BRU's corporate office has stepped in. When I called last weekend, the two BRUs in the area *ARE* now taking back BPA items, even though they had adamantly refused when I asked in May. You're unlikely to get blanket store credit, as the corporate policy is to exchange them for BPA-free items, but I think that's fair, and certainly better than boxes of bottles sitting in my basement. It is worth calling around, as one store insisted that I would have to exchange bottle for bottle, but the other allowed me to get a mix of bottles and sippies (with more new sippies and fewer bottles than I'd brought in).

If you have BPA items sitting around the house, I'd suggest exchanging them NOW, as there's still nothing in writing about this policy, and it may not last, or may get more restrictive. Need to know if any of your bottles, pacifiers, and other feeding items have BPA? Check out Z-Recs. It's a bit tricky to find what you're looking for but it is the most extensive resource I've found.

BPA's Bad for Grownups, Too
No baby bottles? Nalgene, beloved by outdoor enthusiasts/lesbians/weekend warriors (isn't that all synonymous?) for decades, turns out to be a particularly bad offender in the BPA world. They now have BPA free versions, but again, I'm scared about the future, so we have switched to metal water bottles. Sigg's lined aluminum bottles are attractive, and the kid ones are adorable, but there are other options, as they are pricey -- and so much in demand, they're difficult to get these days! I have a slightly less expensive stainless steel Klean Kanteen, but it doesn't handle being dropped well, and I'm a wee bit clumsy (ahem). The bottom is now rounded, despite my efforts to hammer it back into shape, so it won't stand up. Cait and Natalie have Siggs which have survived a similar number of falls without the same problem. However - and here's the tightwad tip - I was tipped off to Ecowaterbottle, a stainless steel bottle with a design very similar to Sigg's, at half the price! I hope to be testing them soon.

Starbucks Iced Coffee
In this hideous heat, what would be better than free iced coffee? How about SIX WEEKS of free iced coffee, from Starbucks no less? This one is a freebie, but with conditions. There was a coupon in our local paper last week promising free iced coffee EVERY WEDNESDAY from now until July 23. I got my first cup this morning, and the deal is as good as it sounds. In fact, they don't mark the coupon or anything, so presumably you could go from store to store on Wednesday until you are a twitchy, irritable, but well-cooled javahead! The fine print on the coupon says it's good "at participating stores* in CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VA, VT and WV" so those of you in the east or eastern midwest are golden! (And Cait and I can continue our frosty coffee ways while visiting the fam.)

If you don't have a card, participating stores were given a limited supply, so RUN, do not walk** to your nearest Starbucks and ask for one. Also, obnoxious people are SELLING them on eBay!! (No link 'cause I don't support that kind of profiteering...). If the store is out, ask for a manager - it never hurts to ask!

So stay cool, stay caffeinated, ease off the gas pedal, and get rid of those BPA-laden bottles, whether baby or otherwise. If you've got an idea for an upcoming TT topic, leave it in the comments!

*They always have to have an out, don't they?
**but don't drive if you can help it! ;)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday 4: Gas Pains

Having driven to NY and NJ for the weekend, the topic for this week's TT was pretty obvious: the skyrocketing cost of gas, and how to cope with it. It's not a subject I know that much about so I may have more questions than answers. I hope we have a lively discussion in the comments with lots of information added by YOU.

We all probably know the main solutions: walk more, bike more, take public transportation, carpool, drive less, drive a more fuel-efficient car. But some of them require a shift in attitude or behavior, others are challenging based on where you live or other circumstances of your life (I do know a mom who bikes with her two small children on a double-trail-a-bike, but that's not practical for many of us), and others are too expensive in the short term even if they save money or help the environment in the long run. We would have loved a hybrid but couldn't afford one that met our other needs (room for 6 for carpooling, etc.), and public transit, while widely available in our area, can cost us more out of pocket (not to mention time) than driving (even with ownership and maintenance figured in).

But as with so many things in life, it may be that the devil is in the details, and that we can make a difference with small changes, too.

Cait and I were debating whether it really saves money to drive with the windows down instead of A/C. Interestingly, I, who LOVELOVELOVE air conditioning, was arguing for open windows -- I think I was enjoying feeling a tiny bit martyred -- and Cait, who gets cold in JULY, was arguing for using the A/C because the open windows make too much drag. Turns out Cait was right as far as highway driving is concerned, but we're unclear about city/suburban driving at lower speeds and with lots of stop & go. Natalie turns out to be a big fan of open windows and was irritated this weekend that we used the A/C. "Put window down. DOOOOOWN!"

I've read a little about hypermiling but think it would probably make me nuts, and not result in much savings, but maybe I should learn more.

I know we should combine trips and plan better, but that's an area we have to work on... seeing as Cait went to the grocery store today and then I remembered something I really, truly must have tomorrow for a work event, so had to go back tonight. D'oh!

So what do you do with the constraints you have to maximize your gas dollars?

Lucky (Blogging for LGBT Families a little bit late)

I snuggled Natalie a little extra long tonight. She was wiggly, and I was still all wound up inside from some stupid cohousing decision-making madness. We rocked, she fiddled with my hair, nuzzled her face into my neck, and we both slowly relaxed. Together we unwound until our breathing became long and slow and the tense muscles began to melt. While both still awake, we had each reached a state of calm that neither of us could have gotten to alone. I tucked her into her bed and left her room with a very physical reminder of just how lucky I am.

I've spent the last few days trying to decide what, exactly to blog about for Blogging for LGBT Families Day. With our internet outage, I've had extra time, but hadn't really reached any decision yet. Because, really, on the average day, we're just a family. We work at ordinary jobs and make far too little money for the energy put in. We adore our child and think that (almost) everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious or brilliant. We wish we had more time in the world to do the things that are important to us. There is far too much clutter on our dining room table, and by the end of the week, we're exhausted and our house is a mess. Nothing about this is unique or revolutionary. It could be said about any family, regardless of parental sexual preference. And this is exactly why we're lucky.

Our families accept our family structure. While it might not have them jumping for joy, Jen's family respects me as Natalie's parent, and my family adores Natalie as their grandchild. We are lucky. We were able to do a second parent adoption, so legally I am as much Natalie's mother as Jen is. We are lucky. Jen's employer offers domestic partner benefits, which make it possible for me to stay insured while I care for our children next year. We are lucky. Both of our schools have been incredibly supportive as we've become more and more "out" in the process of creating our family. None of the families in my class have freaked out that a lesbian is teaching their children, and if they had, my principal would have backed me up as a qualified teacher. We are lucky. Our neighbors are friendly and are thrilled that we're having another child. We live in a part of the city where LGBT families are not uncommon, and we know other lesbian couples with children, and Natalie is certainly not the only child she knows with a family that doesn't fit the traditional mold. We are lucky. We have a child we adore, and another on the way. The dreams we had, independently and as a couple, of having children and being mothers are coming true. We are really, truly, incredibly lucky.

And yet, there are so many things in our life that straight families never have to think about. While I'm covered by Jen's health insurance, we pay taxes on the portion of the benefits covering me. This would not be the case if we were a married straight couple. We were audited by the IRS during Natalie's first year for something that would not have been an issue if we could file jointly. Our financial situation still has not recovered completely from the cost of Natalie's second parent adoption, and we have no idea how we're going to find the money to do it again. But we have to. The alternative is too scary. I carry around copies of the paperwork saying that I am Natalie's mom, and that I can visit Jen in the hospital, make decisions if she can't, etc. But if I ever don't have it in an emergency situation, I could very easily be denied access to either or both of them. At some point our daughter will either be the target of or a witness to some nasty comment (or worse) about her family. And then there are just the annoyances--not having an appropriate option to check for marital status, having to explain one's family to new doctors or random strangers on the street, dealing with quizzical looks when I tell uninformed people that Natalie will have a sibling in the fall.

In one of my "what should I post?" moments, I attempted to video an interview with Natalie about our family. It's so boring I'm not sure it's worth the effort to edit it into a coherent conversation. If only the rest of the world found our family as boring as Natalie does. Then maybe they'd leave us alone and just let us do all of the same things other families do. I'd love to consider myself lucky simply because I have a loving partner and a daughter to snuggle and tuck into bed at night, rather than lucky because being a family with them is not as much of a struggle as it could be.

As a bonus, here's a pic of Natalie this weekend at NJ Pride. She cried when she had to take that shirt off. "Want heart mom shirt."

NOT Blogging for LGBT Familes or TT... yet

We have posts planned for Blogging for LGBT Familes day and Tightwad Tuesday, but our Internet connection went down last night just as we had time to start catching up on blogs and writing our own posts. It's still down.

If I get time at work I may do quick posts for either, but I've hit the busy time of year so it may not happen until tonight - and if the connection is still down, won't actually get posted until tomorrow.

In the meantime, entertain yourselves in the comments. :)