Friday, March 27, 2009

Cheap Tip- Part V

This week's tip is from experience.
Yesterday, Memaw and I took the kids to the airport via public transportation. We took the local train to the transfer station where we picked up a bus. At the airport, we ran around in the play area, had lunch, and reversed our trip with bus than train. Now, mommy is a complete lunch snob, so we bought lunch but if you took a lunch, obviously the cost would be much cheaper-basically just the cost of two bus tickets.
Asa thought this was the neatest activity. He looked out the window, talked about Thomas the Train, and waved at people. He like the bus as well. Part of this was his age-I just can't see an older kid having as much fun. But the big thing is novelty. In talking to my sister, who has her kids riding the bus weekly, I realized that for my nephews and niece, this activity would not be as much fun for them. However, for my little suburbanite, the train and bus are truly special.
I have to be honest, the experience was not as much fun for me. Going was fine but coming back everyone was tired and cranky. It was raining cats and dogs waiting for our transfer, and when we got on the train all the seats were taken but one. Of course I let wiggly Asa have it to keep an eye on him. God Bless the woman who got up to give me her seat. Truly, God Bless her. I thanked her MANY times, and profusely. With a 20 pound baby in my arms, I must have looked as tired as I felt. And for the record, not one of the men stood. Half way home, the train had to wait due to police activity on the tracks ahead. Oh joy-one crying baby, one cranky toddler-I counted to ten over and over and over and over again. Then I notice that the guys across the aisle are laughing, and I hear snickering from down the way. I look at Asa and he is LICKING the plexi-glass. The guy DIRECTLY behind him was not amused, and I realized I was cranky AND grossed out. But it did keep Asa quiet and isn't this why we have immune systems?
So the tip this week is bus/train/mass transit rides for kids who never get the chance. I guess for the kids who ride mass transit a lot, maybe a car ride would be fun for them?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Entertainment Tip o' the Week- Part IV

Memberships, Memberships, Memberships.
A lot of people don't consider this a cheap tip. And clearly, the intial pay-out can be daunting. Bust the question to ask is: how often will I use it?
I got a membership for a great, local institution but it wasn't age appropriate for Asa and the distance was kind of far for a small child. After the first year, I dropped that membership. The zoo however is always a hit and we have the benefit of not feeling pressured to see the whole thing in a single shot. We also have a place we can always go in and utilize the facilities if we need too (restrooms, stretching legs, etc.)
Another thing to keep in mind is if the facility has partnerships with other institutions. We have a membership to a museum an hour away, but it is partner's with a nearby museum and we can use that for free now. Basically the use of two museums for the price of one. Aslo on our trip to Canada last year, we used our Portland zoo membership to get a discount at a zoo in Washington. A great benefit when planning a low-cost vacation.
Another tip-thanks to "blended families", the whole family doesn't have to have the same last name. Do you have another family you do acitivites with often? A grandparent in the area that tags along all the time? One thing my mom and I did was split memberships. I got the forestry museum membership, but put her name on it (Nick hates that place). My mom got the history museum membership and put my name on it. We got two museums, but we each only paid for one.
Also check how many kids can be on a membership. Often, the family memberships allow up to 4-5 kids. If you have a small family, you can buddy up with another small family and add extra kids onto a membership, getting at least part of the second family in for free.
When deciding if a membership is good for your family, do the math. It would cost our entire family about $25 a visit to the zoo. That is just admittance fees. Without a pass, we would go to the zoo at least three times a year. At $75, a membership makes total sense and we visit more because we have already paid for it.

Monday, March 23, 2009


When I was 10 years old, I remember going to see "Xanadu", with Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, and a bunch of people I had never seen before. I thought this movie was the bomb!! Cool clothes, roller skating, and a cute leading guy-we were besides ourselves with the coolness of this movie. Thanks to the beauty of cable, Nick and I saw part of this "classic" last weekend.
Gene Kelly, as always, was a class act. People wonder why he did this film-for the love of his job. Acting is acting and he still shined, even in this. The music still rocks. Jeff Lynne did most of the music and if you love ELO, go get the soundtrack.
The rest of the movie? Other than Olivia Newton-John, who the hell were these people? And who thought that was acting?!?!?! I have heard better script writing on "Sponge Bob Square Pants" and my 3 year old puts on a better act when he is trying to con me. When I think back to when I was 10, I can still feel the magic, but I have to ignore the grown-up side that says "pee-ew-eeeee". Watch "Grease" if you are having Olivia Newton-John withdrawl's (do those exist?) and watch "Singing In The Rain", "Anchors Aweigh", or "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" if you need to see Gene Kelly.
I feel better now. Thanks Blog!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Father's Day Early

I just finished reading Tim Russert's book "Wisdom of our Fathers: Lessons and Letters From Daughters and Sons". People sent Tim Russert's letters that they wrote their father's and he compiled them into a book. It was pretty good, and a nice read for someone with two young kids. It got me thinking about what I would write, or say to my dad. Isn't that the point of books like this?
So, I gave it a lot of thought. There are a lot of things I could say but why state the obvious. Yes he was kind, and there for us. He was loyal, and fun to be around. But when I thought really hard there were really only two things I could say about my dad that didn't also describe the family dog.
My dad taught me that success isn't measured by achievement, but by trying even if you fail. Hip hip hooray for losers!! Just kidding dad.
My dad is an only child. My dad didn't date much. My dad's knowledge of women is a lot less than what he knows about hunting and cars. And yet God blessed him with two daughters. It is what we call "irony". Growing up in the 1950's and '60's did not help his cause. Sexism was taught, accepted, and totally legal. In the 1970's when I was born, a "modern" dad hugged, told his kids he loved them, and that was the end of the expectation. Oh, sure, many, many dad's did more than that, but just as roles for women have changed, so to have they changed for men, and in the '70's, I had a lot of friends who didn't do much with their dad beyond simple conversation. My dad may have been clueless about girls, but that didn't stop him from forging a relationship with us. He stole our toys, took us camping, and came to our piano recitals. We did his hair, made fun of his clothes, and asked him to buy us stuffed animals. He was way out of his league, but he still kept plugging along. As he said to me once, what else could he do? It wasn't perfect. There were some tears when the wrong things were said, and Pollyanna could have given us a lesson or two. But I will always, always be glad and grateful that my dad gave it his best shot and stuck in there, even when the going went through puberty (ugh-not doing that again)!
So, dad is an only child. My husband is an only child. My mom has two sisters, neither of who had children of their own. I have a sister. My mom was raised by her single mom after grandpa passed away when my mom was young. My family is female orientated. It wasn't planned, it just happened. I have two little boys. God must be in hysterics by now. This was brought home to me one night when Noah was first home from the hospital. Asa runs by me drooling. Why, I thought, why is he drooling!? Then just as I catch a whiff of what is in Asa's pants (oh yeah) Noah does a big "sssqqquuiirt" on my lap. Who knew being a mother could be so much fun. I caught myself saying "now what?" and almost immediately it was followed by my dad's voice saying " do what you have to." I may not know jack diddly about boys, but by golly, I won't let that stop me. Having girls didn't stop my dad, and my sons will have a relationship with me, even if it involves tears.
The second thing my dad taught me was that no matter what the outside says about you, it is how you feel on the inside that determines our age. My mom has taught me this to, but with less scaring involved. My dad is forever 21-drinking beer and doing dumb things. He was well over 50 when he fell off the houseboat and bounced off the deck below, only to land in the water with a broken femur. He was past 60 when he biffed it on his new ATV and had the thing land on him. He cracked his helmet and bruised so badly he had a pint of blood rolling around under his skin. The dog was never that dumb.
I hope my son's get the same things from me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tip o' the Week-III

A lot of times, when you say the word "volunteers" people either conjure one of two images. 1) You are a do-gooder, out to change the world with your super good ways, or 2) the old Tom Hanks movie where he heads off into the Peace Corp with John Candy and a good looking woman at his side. However, volunteering is a grat way to do things on the cheap.
Volunteering is a great way to check out a new activity, without paying a new price. When I was in middle school, I remembering being the usher at plays in downtown venues, so we could see them for free. And when I got out of college, and had lots of student loans, I volunteered at the local art musem and science museum so I could see their exhibits for free. Most public institutions of any kind have some type of volunteering opportunities, including those for families. Make sure to check the age though-for insurance purposes, often times it is only older children that are allowed to volunteer, although I have seen things for all ages. It just depends.
The hidden bonus of volunteering is that you do help the community at large, and for kids it can be a great way to explore a career. I have heard of teenagers volunteering at both, the Oregon Humane Society and the local zoo, to see how much they enjoy working with animals.
Do not let living in a small community deter you. Although a metro area will provide more opportunities, smaller communities have the luxury of working with you. For example, I did an internship at a rather small nature center in central Pennsylvania. Although small children could not do much, they were free to play around the kids area while their parents volunteered, giving the whole family access to a great resource. Believe me, a big metro musuem would not allow that.
And this is another area where doing something old, but in a new place (like playing with toys at someone else's house), is going to go along way. Think outside the box. Hate the mess of crafts at your house? See if a senior center is looking for a regular arts-n-crafts activity. Want to sing? Check out local religious institutions. Coffee bars are also starting to have open mic nights-without the stale cigarette smoke of tavern! Does your garden runneth over from to much love? See if a neighbor might like some help in landscaping. The same neighbor might love help with home repairs if you liek woodworking/fixing things.
A lot of groups are always looking for leaders so you can probably find an organization to fit your hobby with a little research. The local Audobon chapters hold annual plant sales-a great time to volunteer and talk about the love plants all rolled into one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Survey Says...

Okay, I am taking this to the "blog streets". Nick and I are in the middle of a disagreement. I want to get our two sons a kitchen set to play with. Not a Barbie-centric, pink frilly thing that sings when you push a button. I just want a neutral, plastic thing in the general shape of a stove, oven, and refrigerator. My feeling is that one day my sons will need to know how to cook. And maybe one day they will have a family that they will be responsible for. A kitchen set will let them know that the kitchen is for everyone, NOT just the women folk. Nick thinks I am getting them girly toys.
Now, no one will change my mind, but I need to know what the wider world thinks. Leave me a message, e-mail, or call me-I don't care. Just let me know if you think this will send my sons to therapy, or if I am brilliant for thinking of it. The more ammo I can use the better, because if I think I am right, I will do it anyway.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Show Me The Money

Okay, I am not an economist. However, I fail to understand why some states are refusing bail out money from the government economic stimulus package. Oh they say they have good reasons but what it comes down too is that once again, the guy, or girl, who needs help the most won't get it because someone who has never missed a meal feels they don't need it. If Texas, South Carolina, and whoever else don't want the money, can Oregon take it because I know we have use's for it.
And the conservatives can say what they want about who is to blame for this economic mess. I have heard Clinton, Bush, foreign markets, the auto industry, NAFTA, and it goes on and on. But I say this: regardless of who started this mess, you cannot deny that the BILLIONS we spent on WAR last year, would have gone a long ways to fixing this mess if we had spent the money here at home instead of overseas. .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Smell of Love

This week has been difficult. Noah was diagnosed with a massive ear infection and it has been five nights of sleeping in a chair because the pressure is to great for him to lay down. I wouldn't call our family environmentalist but we seem to be recycling the same cold over and over again. We are going for our third swoop and I am finally inspired to actually clean to get rid of this damn bug!!!
So yesterday was day 5 of no sleep. I never showered, was sticky from trying to get a 6 month old to take medicine, I had baby drool AND vomit on me (coughing just brings up whatever is in Noah's stomach), and I was wearing the same clothes from the day before. The only luxury I took was clean underwear. Nick got up (he works nights now) and when he looked at me he said I looked really cute! Okay, maybe we are both sleep deprived and glassy eyed, but my heart did do a little pitter patter. When a man thinks you look cute when you feel like the hairball a cat choked up, he is a keeper.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tip o' the week for you

This is what happens when you have a sick baby all week-your brain goes numb!! Noah was diagnosed with a massive ear infection today. We will all recover for brighter tommorrow's but right now we are sleep deprived!
So cheap aactivity of the week is a no-brainer: go to the park!
It amazes me when I tell people this, I usually get one of two responses-either they already go and the kids are tired of it or they never thought of it in the first place.
So to add to that tip-go to a new park! Especially if you live in a metro area, or you are traveling and looking for a spot to stretch some legs, most cities have multiple parks. We have 4 parks in a 10 minute radius of our house, that we alternate between. And then with in a half hour radius we have about 10 more. And parks are a lot like toys-since we don't go to the same one everytime, it seems like there is something new to do (just like your regular toys suck but your friends toys that you don't see as much totally rule!)
To really make this a truly economical activity, bring some toys. Frisbees, balls, chalk if the park is okay with it, and bubbles are just a few activities that work well in the park. Again, these can be done at home as well, but in a new setting, sometimes it is that much more fun.
Speaking from experience, a new park is a big hit with kids and definitely in our budget-everytime, and an added bonus is that it encourages nap time. Touchdown for mom!!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Everybody's Talking

You would have to be an idiot living under a rock in the Antarctic not to know the economy is a hot topic right now. My opinion is mixed on how things are. On the one hand, things are bad. Prices are up, wages are stagnant-if you even have a wage. Just yesterday I read about more banks failing and the word "depression" is starting to be thrown around. However, flip the coin over and there is actually good news. Some business'es are thriving, and I think it is pre-mature to say it is 1929 all over again. Just off the top of my head I can tell you that it is a different world than 90 years ago.
However, regardless of what you think, it never hurts to save money, so to do my bit, I am offering an "economy tip of the week". Ok, this isn't actually my idea in full. A couple blogs I read have "cooking tips of the week". Not much I can tell you about a microwave. But when it comes to doing things on the cheap, I am all over it. Some of my ideas may seem obvious, but when I mention them to people I get looks of awe. Apparently I am the only one traveling in my circle. Some of my ideas are only cheap compared to the alternative (example-the beach two hours from house my house versus Spain). And some of my ideas are cheap, if you have the money to start with (example-renting movies. Great idea if you already have a VCR/DVD player). However, all my ideas have one thing in common-they are better than what I read in magazines. One article that caught my eye was how to do Disney World cheap. I got excited till I realized every family they interviewed lived in Florida. Coming from a national magazine, I thought that was a mean teaser. I have also seen articles on doing cruises cheap. Um, I still have to fly to wherever the ship leaves since I never see cruises out of the Oregon Coast.
So first idea I have is: the local library. Almost everyone I know goes to the library in tough times to check out books. Not a bad idea but especially in this area, that is waaayy UNDER-UTILIZING this resource. Our local libraries (Portland-Metro area, Oregon) have dozens of FREE activities, for kids AND adults. There are story times in different languages, reading groups, basic computer classes for all ages, plus lots of guest speakers. And if an activity does have a charge it is pretty inexpensive compared to other forms of entertainment. I know people who have shelled out over $100 PER ticket to see singers. An author coming next month is $12. One library near us does a pajama party every Tuesday night for kids under 6. And at the end of this month the Oregon Zoo will bringing out it's traveling animal exhibit for kids. The possibilities are endless, and cheap, cheap, cheap.
Now, those of you who are "in the know", realize that many bookstore also have this kind of entertainment free. Story times, arts-n-craft session, and touring authors are just some of the things I have seen advertised. For an addict such as myself, a bookstore is a dangerous place. Granted it is great cheap entertainment, but I usually blow my budget anyway buying books. I think the library is a safer place for me to be, but those of you with more resistance should do just fine in a bookstore.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Makes a Mother Proud

Lat Sunday we had a birthday party to go to. Since the birthday boy was turning 4, it was a theme'd party-Super Hero's.
So Saturday we go looking for a birthday present, confident in the knowledge that we will find some really cool super hero stuff. We get to the store and immediately get bogged down in the Thomas the Train section. Asa is pretty confident that the birthday boy wants Thomas stuff. After a couple go-arounds I say "Asa, I talked with the mommy and she said that we should get super hero's." Asa replied "Well, I talked to the mommy too and she said Thomas!" Right. So much for trying to outwit Asa. So daddy gets the toy while we dream of Thomas toys.
Before bed that night, we talked about the party the next day and how we treat our friends, so Sunday Asa is pretty excited. He knows we are going to play. Being the militant mom I am, I say no to sweatpants. I don't force him into nice pants often, but I thought that at the very least we could put on regular pants. Then we get to the shirt. Hoping against hope, I ask Asa if he wants to wear his super heor t-shirt daddy picked out for him months ago. Nope, dinosaurs, again. I try again, mentioning how cool super hero's are. Nope, dinosaurs. Finally in exasperation I say "Asa, don't you want to wear super hero's? Everyone else at the pary will be wearing super hero's." Asa looks me in the eye and says "Not me mommy."
Okay, I melted. Granted his stubborn streak drives me nuts, but got to love a little boy who can resist peer pressure-even when it comes from mom. It gives me hope for high school. and yes, we wore another dinosaur shirt. And no, even at the party Asa was fine in his dinosaur shirt. He never even asked for one of the extra mask's or cape's.

Monday, March 02, 2009

P is For Perry Mason

It is ironic that just as I list the tv show "Perry Mason" as something that makes me happy, an article on the show is in our local newspaper. Guess what? I am not alone in my "Perry Mason Geek-dom".
When the station Perry run's on hired a new manager 6 months ago, they told him one thing-you can change anything but Perry Mason. It has run at 12:00p noon on that station since 1970, except for one season when it started at 12:30p. Apparently in this area is it VERY popular.
All can say is, thank goodness!! I have been terrified that one day I will turn on the tv and find Perry Mason gone. No one I know but me likes it-or at least no one who admits it. How long can a black and white show from 50 years ago last? Even in re-runs? (Perry Mason ran from 1957-1966; it was in the article). Hopefully for many years to come.
So what is the allure? Why is an out-dated tv show so popular? In this area, 1 in 11 people are watching it on any given day. I can't answer for all of Portland but I know what I think, even as I watch an episode where I remember the murderee, murderer, and reason for the killing.
I don't remember the first time I saw Perry Mason, but I do remember coming home at 5 years old and being grateful I hadn't missed that day's episode. It was on when I was sick, home from vacation, and every reason in-between. I have good memories of being snuggled up on the couch watching these old shows with my family. Even my sister, who never cared for the show as much, turned it on when she was home, sick from work, long after she moved out and lived on her own. It is almost a ritual-if you are home at noon, turn on Perry Mason!
My kids don't know it yet, but they are fourth generation viewers. I get a kick knowing that I am not only doing something with my kids, that I did with my mom, but also something my mom did with her mom.
But the biggest reason for watching Perry Mason is psychological comfort, pure and simple. I don't know what the future holds. I hope everyone I know remains healthy, and we all keep our jobs. I hope we clean up the environment and bad people go to jail. But the world is an uncertain, uncontrolable place, and I don't know what will happen. On Perry Mason, it is not the real world. In this racist (although ahead of it's time-I have seen a black cop on episodes) and chauvinistic, world, where people smoke and married women rarely work, I know the bad guy will get caught and the good guy will go free. Perry Mason will defend truth, justice, and the American way, and so will his staff. We know who the enemy is, and there is no room for fudging on who the good guy is. Most episodes end up in court half thru and the murderer is revealed with about 10 minutes left. There is NEVER a part 2, so I don't have to worry about tuning in the next day to see the end. There is a comfort knowing that while my world can change on a dime, Perry Mason is the same till the end.
Is it silly. Yep. Would I watch it if I didn't like it-no way. Is it cheaper than drugs or alcohol? Absolutley. Long Live Perry Mason.