Sunday, September 30, 2012

Second Hand Rose

Buying things second hand is a great way to save money and get some "new" items for your family. I have several friends who also like the "green" aspect of it, and I guess that is a current trend.  What I like most is saving money and being able to get my kids some cute clothes without breaking the bank! When my oldest was a baby, my friend introduced me to eBay.  I had never used it before and it was a great source for quality, name brand baby clothes.  I would score Baby Gap and Gymboree brand items for dollars.  Then, through my mom's co-op group I was introduced to consignment sales.  Our local Loudoun Moms of Multiples Club does a fantastic sale twice a year.  When my twins were newborns I would go to the sales regularly.  I remember one year spending around $25 and coming home with a van full of items including a excersaucer, many toys, Halloween costumes and Christmas Outfits.

As the kids outgrew baby items, toys, clothes etc.  I would always pass them on to friends or donate them.  Recently I have started selling a few of the nicer items on eBay or craigslist.  I have also been very happy to sell some of my own clothes on eBay that are now too big!  This is definitely a great way to clean out your closets and make some extra cash.  I prefer eBay vs. consigning.  For me, to consign at an area consignment sale is not worth it.  It is too time consuming and there are too many restrictions.  When you need to be there, when you need to set up, when you need to clear your stuff out, percentage of profit, etc.  Yesterday I did take 2 bags of my own gently worn items to a new consignment store.  I went to this store first a few weeks ago and spoke with the owner, and checked out the merchandise.  Then I called the store and asked questions on their consignment policies.  This particular store did not consign items from sellers, but instead would flat out purchase them.  This is good and bad.  It is definitely more convenient, but I don't think the profit margin is as great as if you would have sold the things on eBay.  Also, it was a little personal.  This particular woman made faces, wrinkled her nose and even turned up her nose at some of my things (I have very cute boots I will be listing on eBay this week!). (Having spent many, many years working in the customer service industry I am a firm believer in always treating the customer with respect no matter what the situation.  Your job is to serve the customer and make them want to come back, whether it be retail, a restaurant or hotel.  I digress - but it is true. Everyone has bad days, but in customer service you need to leave it off the floor.) I did end up selling a few of my items at the consignment store yesterday and do regret it.  One -  the woman was very rude, two - I know I would have made more selling them on eBay.  If you do consign and don't like the person or don't feel comfortable, take you stuff and leave!

I really do prefer eBay.  I like the flexibility it gives me.  I can do it from home at my convenience.  I even can schedule package pick up from the post office.  I also like that I  can get the kids involved.  When selling items, they help to display the items and take pictures. They also help me package them up.  They love looking at the auction items and picking out their own clothes.  You can also buy things on eBay that are new with tags (nwt) and still in the original packaging.  I just recently purchase two very cute Halloween Tu-Tu style skirts for my girls for $6 each.  Last year my daughter had a ballerina themed birthday party and I was able to buy pink tu-tus for $2 each to give out to all the guests.  When you list your items on eBay, you want to be descriptive, positive and upbeat.  You also want to be honest.  Does the item have spots or stains, has it really been worn. You also want to tell about the type of environment it comes from: clean, smoke free, pet free home.  Right now I have some very cute baby boy clothes listed.  Mainly 2T - 3T, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren, Crew Cuts.  There are some good things listed!  One rule I do have, is that I do not sell items that were passed on to us.  They contine to get used and passed on! Do check out my listings!  My eBay user name is kat9275 and I do combine shipping! 

Craigslist is a great resource as well.  We just bought some amazing bunk beds for the twins at a steal.  I have sold bigger things on craigslist as well, like strollers.  The downside of craigslist is the pickup. I do not like to have people come to my home or go to a strangers home.  I prefer to meet in a public place always during the day.  Last year I bought a double jogger and met the woman at the grocery store!.

I purchased this outfit on eBay new with tags from Crazy 8 for $5!!

I purchased these Baby Gap matching dresses on Ebay for around $15.  One was new with tags, the other in excellent used condition!

Happy shopping and bidding! Thanks for stopping by & have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

1000 Hours

I read on a friend's Facebook post yesterday that election day is coming up in a little under 1000 hours.  I am so happy about this.  (Yes, I am happy that the TV ads will stop, my phone will stop ringing off the hook, etc.  I will be there lined up to vote on election day with all four of my kids - you should be there too!).  Anyway, I digress.  I'm kind of over the election.  What I am most happy about is that in a little over 1000 hours my husband and I will be going on vacation.  Yup, that is right, just the two of us.  This will be our first trip without all four children.  In November, we will be celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary.  We will be going away for a long weekend sans kids to New Orleans.  Now, I have never been to New Orleans (I don't get out much these days!).  So, if you know anything about it, please do share!  I have been doing some research and we have sights picked out that we want to see and my husband has a long list of restaurants to try.  He has been there before and is looking forward to showing me around.  You know what I'm looking forward to, the plane ride there.  (Go ahead and laugh at me now).  I am not a huge fan of flying.  But, I am looking forward to being able to sit for 2 1/2 hours and have nothing expected of me.  No one to take to the potty, no one to entertain.  Just sitting and reading my book (and chatting with my husband of course)! 

My freak flag has already started to fly when it comes to leaving the kids. I must have sent my sister a dozen texts over the weekend, and we both know that there will be a lot more to come!  My sister  has graciously agreed to come in from California to be the zoo keeper in our house while we are away.  I know she will be great, the kids will be fine, and it is so great for them to have this time together.  I am also lining up a list of reserves that will be available to pitch in and help out - Grandma, Aunt Bean, Uncle J, neighbors, friends etc.   I am very lucky to have wonderful family and friends that I can count on, knowing that my children will be in excellent hands.   You know how I love my lists and I have already started quite a few mental ones - the kids schedule for school and activities, driving directions and addresses I will need to leave, dishes I can make ahead and freeze beautifully, etc., etc.

When was the last time you and your partner went away without your children?  How did the kids do?  How did YOU do?  Would love to hear your tips!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Featured on Multiples Monday - please be sure to check out the great blogs at:

multiples monday with capri +3

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall Harvest

Yesterday was the first day of Fall.  My favorite season!  The kids and I spent the afternoon apple picking, in the heat!  It was in the low-80's yesterday where we live!  This was a first for us five.  First time I took the kids apple picking by myself.   I managed to find the place just fine and navigated the bumpy terrain, crossing the run (Crooked Run the actual run, is a tiny tributary of the Goose Creek Scenic River System,)on a wooden plank while herding all four kids and carrying close to 28 lbs of apples!  We had great picking yesterday!

We go to a great local, family-run orchard in Purcellville, Virginia: Crooked Run Orchards.   The land that is now an orchard, was first settled in the 1700's.  We love this place for a few reasons - it is close to us, it is family run, the products are excellent, the prices are great (I paid $1 a lb for tree apples and $.50 a lb for ground apples) and there is no admission fee.  Many of the farms near us are "agrotourism" farms.  They are working farms that feature petting zoos, hayrides, etc and promote tourism by charging an admission fee.  Don't get me wrong, these are great places where you can go and spend the day.  But, when we just want to pick, I don't want to pay twice - once to access the land and once for what we pick!

The kids had a great time!  Everyone had a job.  My oldest was in charge of reading all the signs, telling us what kind of apples were down each row.  My second oldest was in charge of telling us the different color apples, and finding the rows.  The twins also helped identify the color apples and pick up the ground apples.

Last night we made an apple crumble and my kids paid me the highest complement ever.  They told me that I was the best "scratch cook" and that the loved when I "cook from scratch".   I have come along way with my culinary skills from the girl who would only have mustard and vodka in her fridge!  This morning we made mini-apple muffins.  They just came out of the oven and the house smells great!  I need to research some more recipes on what else we can do with our apples. I would love to try to make apple butter!  Please share any of your tried and true apple recipes!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Buy local  - support area businesses and reduce your family's food miles from farm to table!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Making a Mess!

I am starting to come to terms with the fact that my house will never look like a page in the Pottery Barn Catalogue.  No matter how hard I try, or how much I wish, it is just not going to happen.  My kids are too young and there is just too many of us!  I can barely stay on top of the laundry and keeping correct sizes/season in the closets, let alone keeping the house in perfect, tip top,  ship shape, shape!   It is nice to look at the catalogues and dream about a perfect house.  A house that is always clean.  A house where no one makes a mess.  I would love for my girls to have a room that looks like the ones below, but I realize that the drapery would become costumes, the nice slipper chair a stage, and you can just guess what would happen to the chandelier! We live in our house!  My kids are not neat freaks like their mom, but they all have wonderful imaginations and can turn an everyday object into something spectacular.  (Or not so spectacular, like a sword or weapon!)  How do you reign in the mess in your house without stifling your kids?  It is very important for children to play.   What is the difference though between playing, making a mess and being creative?  Does the one toy out at a time rule work?  Do they put that toy neatly away when done, then take out another one?  We use baskets and hidden cubbies and trunks in our house and kind of have a scoop it up and hide it system! Not ideal, but it works for now. I would love to hear about your toy storage tips! We have tried to limit toys to one room on the main level and keep them primarily in the basement.  But that is not working out so well.  I read an article the other day by a famous mom of multiples and she mentioned that her kids can have one small box of toys in their bedroom and that all other toys need to stay in the basement playroom.  I would love to get to that system when my kids are a little older.  Right now they play all over the house.  Under the dining room table is a secret cave, the office floor is a restaurant and when I last checked the family room was a train station!   

I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!  

Today is my 100th blog post and I appreciate you stopping by!!

I wold love for my girls to have a room that looks like this!
Or a room that looks like this!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Because....

Please go to your children and hug them and tell them that you love them.  No reason, just because.  There are things in your life and in this world that will make you feel powerless.  Unfortunately, we cannot solve all the problems. But we can be powerful when it comes to our children and to our family.  We can show our kids the power of love and the power of prayer. 

I will ask a favor of you now dear friends and readers.  Please pray for a little boy who may be very sick.  His parents will not know until his test results come back.  Please pray for his parents to have the strength and courage both in themselves and in God.

Now, this child is not one of my four, but a child my family knows.  His story I heard this morning and his story is not mine to tell.  But I believe in prayer, and the power of prayer. I am fortunate to have readers in almost 50 different countries....that is a lot of prayers that we can get answered!

Many thanks.....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Multiples Monday

multiples monday with capri +3

It is Multiples Monday on:

Please be sure to stop by and check out all the wonderful blogs by fellow mom's of multiples!  Also, if you haven't already done so, read Theresa's story.  She is the founder of this group and has had an amazing journey to becoming a mom to her Capri+3.

Have a great day!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Snack Attack!

My kids are snackers.  When we have "good" snacks in the house, they have been known to go through several boxes in one day.  Their definition of "good snacks" equals primarily name brand snacks (I buy a lot of store brand items!), cookies, especially Oreos and potato chips.  We do buy in bulk, but often end up throwing out that ginormous bag of veggie straws half way through because it has gone stale and the kids are sick of them.  I have also bough the individual bags of snacks, but really do feel like you end up paying more for the packaging.  We do keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand too.  These are always at easy to reach spots for them: goldfish, cheerios, carrot sticks, apple slices, etc.  We recently purchased a hot air popcorn popper.  Did you know that one cup of freshly popped popcorn (when using this type of machine) only has 20 calories per cup?!  We use the popper several times a week and the kids are having fun experimenting with toppings.   The other morning I was so happy to see one of my twins get a plastic cup out, then go to the fridge and fill it with baby carrots.  He did this all by himself, too!  (I was watching from around the corner!)  Independence and smart choices!

On Friday afternoon the twins and I made homemade oatmeal raisin cookies.  I was trying to accomplish a few things:
-surprise our big kids when they got off the bus with baked goods
-have something somewhat healthy for a snack
-come up with a breakfast cookie recipe that my oldest could have on mornings when we are running late for the bus

I found a recipe on the back of the Old Wessex Ltd. Irish-Style Oatmeal carton and adapted it.  This is what I made on Friday.  It was very easy and the twins were able to do most of the work! (with assistance of course!) 

3 cups uncooked Irish Oatmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, set aside.  Mix agave nectar, vanilla and butter until smooth.  Add egg.  Blend dry & wet ingredients.  Once mixed add in raisins.  Place on greased cookie sheet, bake for 10 minutes.  Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

The cookies were okay.  They were very dense.  My taste test group was split - I had 6 kids try them.  My four, plus two neighborhood kids.  Half the group thought they were not sweet enough/crunchy enough.  The other half said they were fine.  Not great.  When I make these again, I am going to try adding in the following ingredients:  dried cranberries, Cinnamon, replacing the agave nectar with honey and replacing the flour with whole wheat flour and reducing to 3/4 cup.  You could also add in nuts.  We are nut free since we have a "peanut allergy kid".

I would love to hear from you!  Please share what works in your house for snacks.  How do you keep the kids happy without spending a fortune!  Also, if you have any easy "healthy" cookie recipes you would like to share, we would love to see them!

Thanks & enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rock YOUR Vote

We still have about six weeks left (give or take a few days!) to election day.  I am tired of the endless ads by both parties being shown on every channel. I am at the point where I turn off the TV, I really don't need my children asking me during breakfast what birth control is and why that lady can't afford it.  Seriously, I just want to see the weather!  I am tired of the endless phone calls we are receiving telling us about various candidates and rallies to attend.   I am annoyed by the people who knock on my door and leave fliers for their candidates.  I was really annoyed by being stopped four times on my way into back to school night and offered fliers for candidates.  Twice by each party. Really it was back to school night, a night about our kids.  NOT the president. Sometimes I do get a chuckle on the Facebook banter, but even that is turning in to too much and getting ugly!(I rarely chime in on friends' political comments on their wall. I have done this twice now, both times in jest and someone with way opposite views then mine who was a friend of a friend of a friend took it way too seriously!)

Living in a swing state I can only imagine that this is going to get much worse in the weeks to come. I have stopped answering my phone, turned off the TV, am spending less time on Facebook and only opening the door if it is someone I know.   I don't think any of these are necessarily bad things!

But, I will vote and you should too.  I don't care who you are voting for.  Who I vote for is none of your business.  Just go vote.  Someone said to me the other day, my vote doesn't count, it is decided by the electoral college.  Well, your vote does count.  Also, there are other elections going on besides the Presidential one.  Your local ballot will most likely also contain senate seats, maybe a congressional spot and questions that do affect you and your community.  Like bond referendums.  Like funding for schools.

Do your homework.  Learn the facts.  Go Vote!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Memory

In Memory Of
Joseph Tirella
Died September 11, 1981
Loving Father, Husband, Brother, Son & Friend
WWII Veteran - Purple Heart Recipient
mio padre รจ nel mio cuore

Friday, September 7, 2012

A regular day

Before September 11th became 9/11/01 or "September 11th" it was just an ordinary day.  It was a day when babies were born, when toddlers took their first steps and when loved ones took their last breaths.

I vividly remember September 11, 2001.  It was a perfect fall morning in Washington, DC.  Not too hot, not too cold and the sun was shining.  At the time, I was living in Arlington, VA, just off Columbia Pike, walking distance from the Pentagon.  I was working in downtown Washington DC, across the street from the White House and if running late for work (as I usually was) would cut through the parking lot at the Pentagon.  On September 11, 2001, I was up early with the dogs, got my workout in and headed to work - early for a change.  I remember hearing on the car radio the horrors in NY and my goal was to get to the office and call family and friends to make sure loved ones were safe.  I grew up in NJ and knew many people living and working in NYC.   The World Trade Center was a place that we would visit on school and church trips. Enjoying time on the observation deck. Shortly after I hung up the phone that morning, the building where I worked was evacuated.  I remember calling a co-worker to let him know not to come in and he told me of the explosion and ground shaking he felt in Arlington, and the rest, as they say is history.  This is a history that I pray never repeats itself for our Nation.  It is a history that I pray my children and my grandchildren never have to experience first hand.  Recently, there was a clip on the news of one of the planes hitting the towers, my son innocently asked if that was a commercial for a new action movie.   I had hoped to wait until he was a little older, to shelter him a little longer from the evil and ugliness of our world.

Tuesday will mark the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  May we never forget the extraordinary heroics of our first responders and emergency personnel.  May we always remember those who lost their lives on that day.

For my children, I will try to make this Tuesday an ordinary day.  We will keep the TVs off, we will go to school, we will bake cupcakes for a friend's birthday, we will say a prayer for the loved ones we have lost.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Art of the Play Date

Now that school is back in, my kids are coming home pretty much everyday and asking to have a play date with a friend.  Play dates are great.  It is fantastic for the children to make friends and interact with other children. I have a love -hate thing going on with play dates.  There was a time not that long ago when I simply could not host play dates.  When my twins were babies, they were either always eating, sleeping or having their diapers changed.  I could barely keep an eye on my own kids, let alone someone else's!  My goals were getting through the day and protecting nap times.  I am very fortunate that I have fantastic friends and live in a great neighborhood.  They welcomed my older children into their homes and I never felt like they were "keeping count"!  I am also fortunate that with four kids in our family, my kids have built in play dates! Now that the twins are older, age 3 1/2,  they want to have play dates of their own and I have new challenges.  Do I invite a friend over for each twin, do I just invite one friend over and have all three kids play together? But, three usually never works out!  What about the older kids, they need to have their friends over too. This is new territory that I am navigating here.  I am learning that for my 5 year old, it is best to have play dates in the morning before school.  She has afternoon kindergarten and is up by 7am.  It is a long stretch of time until the bus comes for her at 11:24am! Even better is to plan something on the mornings the twins are at school.  This way no one "bothers" her.  I do need to say that she and her friends are great sports and are always quick to include the twins in a game of hide and seek or Barbies!  For my twins, I think it would be best if they had their play dates when both of my older children are at school.  For my oldest, he is really limited to just after school and he is very good about playing XBox in basement, riding scooters outside or Lego's in his room - activities that my little ones have no interest in.

What about play date etiquette?  Is it up to you to correct someone else's child?  I really think that is a case by case situation.  If it is a "toy dumper", I usually let that go if it is age appropriate.  A two year old dumping out every toy bin in your house is much different than a 13 year old!  Obviously,  if the child is exhibiting inappropriate behavior (hitting, breaking legs off a barbie,etc.)  and someone could get hut (feelings or physically), definitely step in.  It is your house and you are the parent!  But if it is a case of toy squabbling, I usually let the kids work that out themselves.  Here are some tips that work for us in our house to help us prepare for the play date:

-Put away any toys that your child does not want to share.  If your child has a special toy or lovey and will freak out if another kids looks at it, let alone tries to play with it, put it away.  The blankie or American Girl Doll can survive for an hour or two on the closet shelf!

-Plan snack ahead of time and let your child be involved.  Also, check with the parent of the other children about any food allergies.

-Set a start time and end time.  Believe me, you may just be happy to know that the end time is coming!  If things are going well, give the other mom a call and you can always extend the play date.  We have done that and I always laugh when the mom is surprised that her kid is doing so well!

I would love to hear from you on what works for your family,  I would also love to hear how you handle play dates with multiples.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!!