Monday, December 8, 2014

How I Lowered Our Dish Bill By More than Half!






We have Dish Network. Like many people, especially large families living on one income, we've been trying to cut expenses wherever we can to trim down our budget as baby expenses continue rising. One of the items we discussed was cutting our cable bill. After several years of being a loyal customer, our bill had crept it's way up and I'll admit I didn't really stay on top of keeping the cost down as much as I should have. If it were up to Adam, we would have cancelled it completely. However, the TV has become my friend during the day. I love my babies so much and wouldn't have it any other way than spending my days with them. But they don't talk back to me and sometimes, I just want to hear other voices. So I pushed back on cancelling all together although I knew we were going to have to find a way to cut back somewhere. 

When I received a Black Friday flyer in the mail from DirectTV and idea hit me. "I wonder if Dish would be willing to negotiate with me in order to keep my business", I asked myself. So, one night, after everyone was in bed, I picked up the flyer and my phone and called in. I told them right away that I was calling to cancel. When the representative asked me why, I told him that I had received a flyer from Dish offering over 150 channels, 3,000 Titles on Demand, free HBO, Showtime & Cinemax for three months, Free Genie upgrades AND $100 prepaid Visa Card all for only $29.99 a month and I'd be silly not to take their offer. Immediately, he told me they didn't want to lose our business. He asked to take a look at our account and see what he could remove to bring down our bill. I told him, no, I didn't want to lose any of my channels. He then assured me that I wouldn't lose anything. 

Slowly, he started whittling my bill down bringing my cost down for $20 and adding the movie channels free for six months. I continued to push back telling him "I really appreciate you trying to compete, but the DirectTV offer is still a lot better". He came back with an additional $20 off with not a lot of pressing. I decided to push harder. He came back with another $10 off. Knowing that I really didn't have anything to lose, I pushed back one more time telling him that I knew he'd given me a lot of savings but it seemed the DirectTV offer was just too good to pass up. This time, he told me there was one more savings he could offer to me but he had to get approval. He asked me to hold while he got his supervisor to approve an additional $20 off for me. Of course, I obliged and patiently waited the few minutes for him to gain approval. He was gone only a brief moment (Did he really need approval? We'll never know.) before coming back on the line to tell me I was all set. I was able to negotiate my way down to matching the DirectTV promotional price for 6 months. The only thing I didn't get was the $100 gift card but honestly, they would probably get that in fees anyways!

The only caveat is that my new price is only good for six months but now that I know this little trick, I've already put it in my calendar when I need to call back and negotiate again. It's definitely worth a short call to save money on our bill!

Don't have Dish? I'd love to save you and me both $50! Here's a code to help both of us save: VCD0012511623.  You can order by calling 855-318-6900 or visit dish.com/refer to order Dish.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making Formula by the Batch AND Pampered Chef Giveaway







Remember the other day when I posted that my must-have for multiples gadget, the Baby Brezza Formula Pro was officially on the fritz? Well, I'm still making bottles by hand and mixing up formula by the batch so I thought perhaps it was a perfect time to write out instructions for how to make formula by the batch AND I've partnered with my friend and Pampered Chef Consultant, Brelee Hull, to bring you a special giveaway! More details about that later! 

Making formula by the batch is much easier than mixing bottles individually. Right now, we go through about 112 ounces of formula a day. This post tells you how to make 90 ounces of Similac Advance at a time. We currently have one baby who is on a combination of formulas so his bottles are made separately. However, these instructions can easily be modified to fit your formula needs. 

I like to use my Pampered Chef Quick Stir Pitcher when making formula. This pitcher is AWESOME! Before I got my bottle maker, I bought this pitcher after spending an hour a day making and pouring bottles because it mixed the formula so much better and faster than a regular pitcher and a spoon. I can't remember seeing clumps in a bottle since using this pitcher because it mixes so well. With a regular pitcher and spoon, that was not this case! The pitcher works great for all drinks that require mixing - KoolAid, Sweet Tea, Lemonade, you name it. It also works well for mixing hot beverages too!

So let's get started on making that formula:

First off, please remember - once mixed, powdered formula is good for 24 hours when kept in the refrigerator. Don't waste it! Only mix up what you're going to need in the next 24 hours.

Step One - Gather your required materials: Formula, Water, Measuring Cup or Pitcher, and Pampered Chef Easy Stir Pitcher (you could also use a regular pitcher and a spoon for stirring but you'll soon see why I asked Brelee to join me with a special giveaway). 




Step Two - Calculate how much formula you will need. Most formulas require one scoop of formula mixed with two ounces of water. In my case, one can of formula makes 90 ounces of formula. There's 45 scoops of formula in a can. 


Step Three - Dump the formula into the pitcher.



Step Four - Add required amount of water. In this case, 90 ounces. 




Step Five  - Mix. This is easily done with your Pampered Chef Quick Stir Pitcher. The pitcher features a built in stirrer and all you have to do is pump the pitcher until all of the formula is dissolved (about 10-15 pumps). 




Step Six - All done. Pour up your bottles and store in the refrigerator. 



Special tip for an easy way to warm your bottles: use a small crock pot of water kept on low. Just drop your bottles in for a couple of minutes. However, be sure you test the warmth on your wrist before you give to baby so you don't accidently burn baby.




Pampered Chef Quick Stir Pitcher Giveaway



Now - for what you've all been waiting for. It's giveaway time!!!  Brelee Hull and I are teaming up! One lucky Lotsobaby Lane Reader will win a Family Size Quick Stir Pitcher (Valued at $24.50) as pictured in my tutorial This Pampered Chef pitcher features an exclusive plunger tjat mixes juice, powdered drinks and more with a few tugs of the handle. Ingredients that settle to the bottom of the pitcher between uses are quickly and easily remixed. Oval design allows convenient storage in door of most refrigerators. The pitcher also accommodates hot beverages; perfect for preparing iced tea or iced coffee. Ergonomic handle. 1 gallon (3.8 L). Dishwasher-safe.

There's several ways to earn entries into the raffle: leave a comment below about your favorite Pampered Chef product or one that you'd like to try (1 point), visit and leave a comment on Brelee's Pampered Chef Facebook Page (1 entry), on Lotosobaby Lane's Facebook Page (1 entry), follow Lotsobaby Lane (2 entries), place a Pampered Chef order of any size here (5 entries), or speak with Brelee about hosting your own Pampered Chef party (5 entries). The giveaway will end at midnight on December 15, 2014.  Winner will be contacted to make arrangements for prize delivery and for permission to share their name on the blog.

To make sure you receive proper credit for your entries, please use the Rafflecopter Widget below. If you have trouble with the widget, leave a comment below and I will manually enter your entries in for you.

Good luck! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway







**Disclaimer - The Pampered Chef Quick Stir Pitcher pictured above was purchased by myself with my own money. Opinions written are my own and I was not compensated in any way for them. The Pampered Chef Pitcher being given away is donated by Brelee Hall. I will receive Pampered Chef credit for any orders placed through Lotsobaby Lane and this giveaway. Thanks for supporting me!




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why It Is a Bad Idea to Cram Little Behinds into Diapers a Size Too Small



It's every parent's worst nightmare. Times two! You guessed it, the BLOW OUT diaper. If you've got a child, you know the one I'm talking about. The one where you pick your child up and immediately know something's not right.


It happened to me today. Twice! I don't know what it is about car rides, but for us, not only do they have a calming affect on our children, it also seems to clear up any issues with, ahem, regularity, for our little squad. I was proud of myself for disassembling all four car seats, washing the covers, wiping down the plastic parts of the rest and then reassembling everything. Today was our first day out sporting clean car seats. I knew the babies were appreciative of their clean seats. I mean, if you'd seen the funk they'd been sitting in, you'd understand. I dressed everyone in brand new outfits that Grammy bought them, strapped them in, and we took off for errands in the van. About an hour and a half later and one trip through McAllister's Deli drive-thru for Mom, we returned. I couldn't wait to dig into my Savannah Chopped Salad but before I could, I had to get everyone situated. That's when it happened.

I set about lovingly taking each child out, putting them in a jumper or a swing or on the floor with toys so they could play for an hour while Mommy ate. Two babies in, it happened. I didn't see it coming. I picked up my daughter and felt my hand smoosh into something warm and sticky. Could it be? NO!!!! In fact, it was. All over her brand new pants. All over my hand. All over her leg. All over her freshly washed car seat. This is one of those that took half of a package of baby wipes to clean up. That diaper didn't even stand a chance against it. 

Once we got her all cleaned up and in new clothes, I moved on to the next baby. Imagine my surprise when I got the same "surprise" from him! At least I was prepared this time. 

So, I've learned my lesson. You see, as much as I'd like to blame the diaper, it was my own fault. Diapers are expensive. Especially times four. So when I found two boxes of size 2 diapers we had outgrown and the stores wouldn't exchange them for me, I did what any penny-pinching quad momma would do; I slapped those babies on their little butts and went on with life. In hindsight, maybe it wasn't such a good idea. But, I guess two pairs of dirty pants, two car seat covers and a box of wipes is the price I pay. Good thing we've got a good washing machine! 

What's your best penny-pinching fail story?

Until next time,
Love & Prayers,
Misty

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Clean House Makes a Healthy Home!



It's officially cold and flu (and strep and some other nasty bugs) season. I'm a big believer that a lot of sicknesses are preventable by keeping things clean and sanitary. With four little ones starting to crawl, I try hard to keep our floors clean along with other objects they come in contact to regularly. One sick baby in our house means four sick babies here so it's extra important for mommy's sanity to prevent as much as we can. But it's also the first of the month! Time to remember all those things a new month brings! I use the first of the month as a reminder to clean some of those things that often get overlooked! 

I've been busy this morning cleaning house after having company for a week but I also have a few items that require regular cleaning, some of which I didn't initially think of when it came to cleaning. Here's a few that are on my list:

  • Bottle Maker - I posted previously about my Baby Breeza Formula Pro. I did a lot of research prior to purchasing and read a lot of online reviews. One thing I learned, it that a lot of people complained about clogs and it stopped mixing bottles properly. This is actually not a flaw in the product but due to lack of properly cleaning. Once a day (usually at night when I run the dishwasher with bottles), I was the removable parts by running them through the wash in the top rack. I also wipe down the machine and use a dry paper towel to clean off the dispenser per the directions. However, once a month, the machine requires complete dis-assembly and cleaning including removing the water reservoir and the formula storage.
  • Keurig - Did you know these things need to be cleaned? Me either, until recently. We started noticing our coffee didn't taste right and then there were black flakes floating in our drinks (Gross, I know). Turns out, these things need to be cleaned. They make a special solution to clean them with but I found that running just plain old white vinegar through it works just as well at fraction of the cost. Also, check your machine's specific directions. Mine has a needle area that needs to be cleans and a removable part that was collecting all those black flakes and needed to be removed and cleaned. You can also find some helpful tutorials on YouTube if you need specific directions for cleaning yours.
  • Car Seats - I don't think there's any set guideline here on how often these should be washed but my goodness they can get filthy if you don't pay attention to it. We have a baby with reflux and we don't really put them in the exact seat every time. So before I know, there's a build up of spit up in the liner that has sometimes accumulated between the liner and the seat. Talk about disgusting. I recommended washing the cover at least once a month. Wipe down the seat with a wet rag and mild cleaning solution but be very careful not to use harsh chemicals or submerge the straps in water as this can damage them and cause them not to be as safe. If you get the straps wet, you'll have to order new ones from your manufacturer which in our case, cost $30 each. Ouch! 
  • Baby Swings & Jumper Seats - Just like the car seats, these can accumulate some pretty funky filth. I like to remove the covers once a month and toss them in the washer and then give everything else a good wipe down with an antibacterial wipe.
  • Boppy Pillows - We use these to drink bottles in so it goes without saying, these get a little not so fresh. We have spare covers but I still like to toss the entire pillow into the wash about once a month (or more often when there's accidents). 

While we're at it, I thought I'd take a minute to share a few other items around the house you should be cleaning but might forget (I'm guilty of some of these):
  • Sheets (Once a week) -  Sheets should be washed often to remove a buildup of debris, dust, sweat and other icky things. Use hot water (130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit) and a hot dryer cycle to kill all germs. I find this one to be pretty important especially with the babies' 
  • Mattress (Every six months) - Believe it or not, the big, bulky bedroom essential is one of the easiest-to-clean items in your home—and it should be done twice a year! Simply vacuum the top of the mattress using the upholstery attachment. Then, remove stains by wiping down the surface with a cloth lightly dampened with cold water and a small amount of upholstery shampoo. Be careful not to soak the mattress (moisture can create mold and damage the padding). Protect your mattress from dust mites and stains by buying a quality mattress pad. And guess what: There's no need to flip your mattress! Instead, rotate it head to toe every six months for even wear.
  • Pillow (Once a month) - Don't forget the pillows too! Just like the mattress, pillows accumulate sweat, drool, and all kinds of other funky stuff! If you've got cheap ones, you may choose to replace them but if you're like us, you like to get as much use out of everything as you can. Most pillows can just be tossed in the wash. Use a hot setting in the dryer to be sure to kill all the germs!
  • Trash Can (Every couple of weeks) - No matter how good our aim is, this is probably one of the dirtiest places in our home. And taking out the trash isn't the same as cleaning the trash can. Since little hands will soon be all over our entire house, I'm in the habit now of spraying down the can with disinfectant spray as well as giving it a good wash down every couple of weeks with a bleach based cleaner. 
  • YOUR PHONE, especially your cell phone (OFTEN) - I put that one in all capitals for a reason. Your phone is dirty! Think about everywhere your cell phone goes with you. One recent study actually indicated that the majority of cell phone actually have fecal matter on them. Eww! A few alcohol wipes should take care of your home or office phone, but your cell phone, unless it's protected in a waterproof case like mine is, requires a little more tenderness. Use a microfiber cloth to take care of dirt and oil every couple of days, especially if you have oily fingers. A 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar should handle the rest of the yuckies lurking on there! Personally, since I have a waterproof case on mine, I give it a good wipe down with a disinfecting wipe daily. 
What items are on your list to clean regularly? I'd love to hear any good cleaning tips you've got in your pocket!

Until next time,
Love and prayers,
Misty