4/28/08 - We had a great weekend

This past weekend was Makenna's first weekend to be out in the world. Last Thursday was her first day out with a trip to Cristi's doctor's appointment, Corky's for dinner with her dad (ME), and a trip to her Mimi's office.

But Saturday, she went to Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-mart, back to Lowes and Home Depot and finally to Sam's. I was shopping for lots of tools for GrassGuys, so she got to come along. She even got to ride in a wheelbarrow. We forgot the camera, so we didn't get a picture of it. She did really well, sleeping for most of the day and only had to eat once, right before we went in Wal-mart. We left the house at 11:00 that morning (having gotten up at about 8:00 to start getting ready to go) and didn't get home until around 4:00 or 5:00 that evening. We got a lot done, but we were exhausted.

When we got home, I had to put my new tools to use, so I spent the rest of the day working in the yard and flower bed. I've still got several hours of work to go on the flower beds, but everything is really starting to look pretty nice. I've got to prune, weed, till and finally put down a layer of mulch. It will take the rest of the summer I think to get it looking really good, but this was a start and mainly just an effort to get it to a manageable position.

Saturday was the draft, and my beloved Raiders came through and picked up Darren McFadden. I was hoping it would happen, but I just knew something was going to get screwed up. When McFadden declared, my biggest fear was he would get picked up by the Cowboys or the Patriots, but then he is now playing (assuming a contract can be agreed upon) for my favorite team. I'll probably have to order a jersey and get some collectible items for my room. I think what would be awesome is if I could find a half jersey with one side being Raiders and the other being the Razorbacks. It would have to be Raiders black and Razorback red, but that would be an awesome jersey.

Tuesday, Grand Theft Auto IV comes out. I won't be getting it yet, as I want to make sure it's going to be as good as everyone is hoping. From what i've read to this point, it sounds like there is more online stuff than actual game play. I'm hoping that is not the case, but considering I'm hoping to get Live in the next month or so, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

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4/25/08 - Boppy Review

This is the first post, of hopefully many that my wonderful wife will be contributing. I don't use the boppy for anything, but the occassional couch pillow, so she knows much better than I, how it works.

There are things that I like and things that I don’t like about the Boppy. I like that it has a removable cover that you can remove and wash. That comes in very handy. It is also popular so the covers are easy to find. I also like that it is very portable.

However, there are things that I don’t like about it. You have to be sitting straight up on a couch or in a chair that has a straight back in order for it to work properly. If you are sitting in a rocking chair that has a curved back, then it doesn’t work so well. It also tends to slip forward off of your waist, leaving a gap between you and the pillow, which leaves no support for the babies head. When this happens, then you are left holding this heavy babies head for about 20 min or so and your hand gets very tired. The sides of the pillow also seem to fall when you are using the football hold to feed. While doing this hold, the baby is lying on the side of the pillow and the side seems to slide down which makes the baby slide down with it.

Overall I would give this product a rating of 6. I do like it and I’m glad that I have it because you have to have some kind of support pillow when you are breastfeeding. However, I would encourage people to look into other products before they choose the Boppy.

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4/24/08 - I need to write something

I have nothing important to write, but I need to just talk/type, whatever.

Medical bills and insurance are ridiculous. It's no secret that Cristi just gave birth and then only a week or two later, we had to take Makenna to the emergency room with a fever. I had budgeted for the delivery, but the ER visit was fairly stressful for me because Cristi kept trying to prepare me for the huge bill we were eventually going to get. Well, the bills are slowly starting to come in and I'm more frustrated with the process than actually having to pay for the stuff.

For the delivery, I've gotten at least four different bills at this point, I might be forgetting one or two. The lab sent two bills, one each for Makenna and Cristi. Makenna has a pediatrics bill and of course the delivery bill for Cristi. Not to mention, we have already prepaid the OB doctor bills. Now, what gets worse is that I have no idea which of these bills I received have been processed by insurance. Nowhere on the bill does it actually say this. Plus, the lab work for example, was listed on the bill from Baptist AND the actual lab bill. Baptist billed nearly 1200 dollars for lab work, but the lab bill from the laboratory was less than $100. WHAT GIVES!!?!?!

At the end of the day, the bills will get paid. The hospitals will have to write off well over 50% of their charges (which is a different rant altogether), insurance will cover the whole 80-20 deal, and then I just have to get reimbursed from our HSA. The bills are going to be lower than what we had budgeted (I think) so it's all going to work out. That of course doesn't include the hours I will spend on the phone verifying the charges (I've already found over $100 dollars we were overcharges for Cristi's natural delivery) and making sure insurance paid before I send a check.

In other news, I've gotten the itch for a new TV again. We went to Sam's a week or two ago and saw that Samsung now makes a larger DLP. I thought it was a 65", but their website shows a 67". Either way, I realize this is way too big. Here's the next problem. I have been wanting a DLP since I knew the difference because for the same money, you can get a screen over a foot larger. Since the size no longer matters to me as much, although I still have to figure out what size TV will look best in our living room, I've started thinking about going LCD or Plasma. This of course opens up several more options. Cristi and I think that a 50" would look the best in our house and I have been in love with Samsung TVs since Greg's old roommate got his Samsung DLP several years ago. I might spend some time this afternoon researching some stuff. I know that Roxane, over on her website, wrote an article about how she picked out her TV, I'll probably start there.

PayPerPost has confused me once again. Last week, I was eligible for nearly half the opportunities out there. Then, for some reason, they reset my website ranks (which are probably more accurate now). Now, I am eligible for only one offer and it has currently met it's maximum offer acceptance which means I can't get paid for it. What's even more confusing is that I had written and finished a blog post for an offer and went to enter my information, only to find out that I could no longer complete the offer. I'm going to wait a few days to see what happens with my ranking, but regardless, the offers I have completed will still pay out.

If anyone knows anything about 529's, let me know, I'd like to talk with you. I need to set this up for Makenna soon. Every day that goes by is a day of interest that I'm not earning. My calculations show that $20 today will be worth $80 with compounded interest in 18 years. $100 would be $400, so on and so forth.

That's all I've got, I need to get back to work.


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4/21/08 - more new Pictures

More pictures of Makenna. I have this fear that Cristi and I think we have the cutest baby in the world, but instead, she's only cute to the two of us. It doesn't bother me, but I just hope that as she gets older she stays/becomes a beautiful young girl. With piece of my thoughts, here are a few more pictures of the darling child.

She looks her cutest when she's sleeping. That might have something to do with the fact that she isn't crying during that period. Whatever the case, Cristi loves it when she falls asleep with her pacifier and then it slowly starts falling out. She finally grew into one of her hats, so we put it on her and she thugged out for a while.

Because of her yellowish color, we're supposed to keep her in the sun for 10 minutes at a time several times a day. It was really bright on Saturday, so we had to put on her shades, so she just chilled as she sun bathed. Sunday, she was finally fed up with all the pictures, she just couldn't take it any more.

Finally, so far she is slowly becoming daddy's girl. I don't remember the first picture, but I really like it. The second one was right when Cristi got home Sunday afternoon after my first "babysitting by myself" couple of hours. The picture you see here is a summary of what we did. She slept, I played XBox360, it worked out well.


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4/18/08 - Sleeping, Baby acne and a yellow color

I think it's been a while since I've updated everyone on how Makenna has been doing. As of three nights ago, we have decided to completely alter the way we are putting her to sleep. Previously, she went to bed when we did (around 11:00 or midnight). The problem we ran into is that it took her 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep which meant that we didn't get much sleep at al.

We changed this to start putting her down to bed between 7:00 and 8:00. She has been getting to sleep around 9:00 every night and sleeping for a good 6 hours. At that point, Cristi wakes up, feeds her, changes her diaper and gives her to me to swaddler her. After that, she goes right back to sleep and wakes up around 8:00 for a total of about 9-10 hours. We have also started putting her in her own room, in her swing (which I will be reviewing, hopefully this weekend) where she won't be bothered by the noise of the TV or Cristi and I talking before we fall asleep. This has worked out well for ALL parties involved.

Ever since Makenna was about a week old, she has had pretty bad baby acne. Cristi has assured me that this is normal until the last couple of days. It has gotten much, much worse and she said she thinks it might be insert-skin-condition-with-a-name-I-can't-spell-or-pronounce. It's not a big deal, but if it is the case, it would require us to apply a cream to her skin to help it go away.

Also, Cristi mentioned a while back that she thought Makenna was still a little yellow. Her eyes have been yellow since she was born, but I just assumed that was due to being a baby and not having eye color yet. Some of her friends came over and also commented that she looked a little yellow. With that said, I think Cristi might try to take her to the doctor in the next few days to see if we can get a true medical diagnosis and treatment for these things.

In somewhat related news, Cristi has possibly found a position at work that will allow her to actually make more money than she is now, work just about half as many hours and get to be at home Monday through Friday to stay with Makenna. This of course will greatly cut into the amount of time that she and I would get to spend together, but I think it's definitely worth a trial run. It's possibly that this position will be available for her before she goes back to work.


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4/16/08 - Softball Season

Softball season is back and I have been asked once again to play for the FFWBC team. I've played with them for many years now and we've always had a good time. I think it's been a while since we've had a good team, but winning isn't always everything (at least, that's what people tell me). For those of you interested, I have included the schedule on the following calendar. Come on out and watch us play if you want, I am always more than willing to sign autographs after games regardless of a win or loss.

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4/12/08 - New Makenna pictures

Here are the latest pictures of little Miss Makenna.

Sometimes, she just likes to stretch out and fall asleep, other times, she likes to post while she sleeps. And of course, she loves to sleep in her dad's lap. We've also noticed, that she loves to sleep with her mouth open (just like her dad)

One of our favorite things about her little personality, is her facial expressions. These are just a few of the different faces she likes to make. She still has really bad baby acne, which is normal, but that explains the red spots. Last but not least, Cristi dressed her up for me the other day and sent pictures of her in her cute little dress (the hat is still just a little too big.


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4/10/08 - Nail Clipper review

One of the products that I knew we were going to have to have was a set of nail clippers. Not just any nail clippers though, I knew we would need one of those tiny sets. One thing that I've run into when using nail clippers, even full sized, big boy clippers is that I have trouble getting a good grip to get a nice clean cut through the nail.

Cristi and I both agree that we had one basic requirement: it had to be easy to grip. Luckily, advancements in science and technology have allowed companies to put a large mound of plastic on the back end of the clippers which makes for very easy handling. (I need to find these in big-boy clippers too).

These types of clippers can be found all over the place, Wal-Mart, Babies-R-Us, Amazon.com, etc....but there was one that looked really promising. It comes with a magnifying glass on the end which is supposed to give the user a close up view of the nail being cut. That seemed like a great idea and would make our jobs much easier when cutting Makenna's nails. Here's the problem though. The lens is WAY too small to actually be used.

If babies laid still and didn't move on command, that would be one thing, because I can imagine you could lay the baby down, get real close to the nail and use the magnifying lens without much problem. Unfortunately, (at least Makenna is this way), babies like to move around a lot and don't like it when you hold their arms, hands, etc still. They like to try to squirm out of your grip. This makes the cutting process even harder and quite frankly, the little lens just doesn't help. If anything, it makes things blurry.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest quality, I'd give this a 7. The magnifying glass, as I mentioned is a great concept, just not carried out very well. It does move out of the way and stores very nicely on the underside of the cilpper so I can't deny the fact that the large handle works great.


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4/9/08 - ClipX - a great little utility

This post will be slightly nerdy, it will contain computer terms and it is a review of a free piece of software that I have started using quite a bit.

The name of the utility is called ClipX. In it's most simple form, it is a clipboard extender. Most everyone who uses the computer, uses the copy/cut/paste functionality quite often. The problem that I have run into is that the clipboard will only hold one item at a time. If you have three or four seperate items you need to copy, you have to make three or four seperate trips.

With ClipX, all you have to do is highlight and copy all the different items from the source document. Navigate to the destination document and where ever you want to paste one of the items, press Ctrl + Shift + V (that is the default Hot Key and the setting I still use). Upon doing this, you will be given a drop down menu of the last 25 items you have copied in chronological order of when they were last used.

Another awesome feature that I just recently came across is an add-in that you can download from the link I supplied at the top. The add-in simply provides a permanent list of oft used phrases or strings. I haven't had a reason to use this much, but in the past, I can recall times when it would have been helpful.

I don't make a dime from this and I am in no way associated with the company/individual who wrote the program. Along those same lines, I do make money any time you visit the Adsense links (ONLY THE ONES THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU) and when you shop at Amazon using the link at the top right of the website or this link --> Amazon.com


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4/8/08 - Amazon purchases

Quite some time ago, I found out about Amazon's associates program. It's a simple setup, very similar to Google Adsense, except you have more control over what shows up and you can actually put the links in the context of your posts. Of course, with Google Adsense, I make money (about $.02 a click) anytime the links are clicked.

With Amazon.com I only see a return when someone clicks the link I have provided here. I have also put the link in the top right hand corner of the website where I link to other websites that I frequent. Another thing that I do, is that when I review a product, or mention a movie, book or other product, I try to link to the item using a special linking code Amazon provides me. By clicking on those links and purchasing the item, I make money that way as well. Currently, it's only 4% on purchases, but hey, it all adds up.

In summary, if you are going to be doing some online shopping through Amazon, I just ask that you really try to remember to use the link at the top of my page to get to Amazon's homepage and then shop from there. I don't believe that you can bookmark that particular page, I think you have to come through OrtOrt.com each time.


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4/7/08 - Bottled water is not good. Period.

Here's the thing. I don't have any scientific proof for what I'm about to talk about. I don't have any fancy charts or pretty graphs. My research is limited to only what I've read in passing over the last however long I've cared about this topic. I am not an expert on the environment. I have not won a Nobel Peace Prize or studied the effects of "Global Warming". I have never studied directly under Dave Ramsey. I am not a CPA and have never invested in Mutual Funds.

What I do know is that bottled water is NOT good for the environment and is financially "not smart".

I'll hit on the environmental aspect first. Plastic is not biodegradable. Water comes packaged in plastic bottles which are single use entities. Every time you finish off a bottle of water, it gets thrown into the trash, which is then taken to a landfill (or in some cases, dumped somewhere you wouldn't expect). Once in the landfill, that bottle will be there for years to come. I have no data, so I'm not going to throw out any specific time, but I would guess that it will be there for your grandkids grandkids, if not longer.

Financially, it just doesn't make sense to me. I recognize that bottled water is not incredibly expensive and is much cheaper than soft drinks. This does not change the fact that there are other MUCH cheaper options than bottled water. Your kitchen sink is the first that comes to mind. Recently, I decided that I would start drinking a glass of water every night. I have no idea why I decided that, but it seemed like a good idea. Instead of going through a bottle of water, I chose to actually drink tap water, out of a glass and I was amazed that I actually enjoyed the taste better than the bottled stuff. What's even better is that I can add ice cubes in a glass of water, but I have to refrigerate the bottles for several hours to get them chilled.

You might say immediately that to you the quality of the bottled water is much better. I find it hard to believe that that is truly the case. Their are two different bodies that govern and regulate the quality of water both in the bottled water industry and the municipal water sources. From my understanding, tap water is held to a higher standard and is much more readily monitored. I wish I had better facts, but as I said at the beginning of this post, I'm just regurgitating what I've heard in the past.

Evian spelled backwards is Naive. The entire bottled water industry has been increase in popularity primarily from marketing which emphasises both the convenience and the "higher quality" of the companies product. Marketing is an amazing thing, it works, but I believe that this country should be more educated regarding bottled water.

I recognize that bottled water is very convenient. It comes prepackaged, you don't have to fill up anything or worry about spills. But at the end of the day, how long does it really take to fill up a reused bottle. This is what I would recommend, go ahead and buy a pack of bottled water. Put three or four in the fridge and when you empty one of them, fill it back up with tap water (or filtered water, more in a second) and put it right back in the fridge. It takes all of about 20 seconds and in that time, you saved a little bit of money AND helped out Mother Earth. Now, I have read research that states after about 5 or 6 uses, the plastic can start to degrade. I don't even reuse a bottle but maybe four times tops. After that, I throw it away and put a new bottle in the fridge. This is still slightly wasteful, but four times better than not doing it.

Several years ago, Cristi and I realized how silly it was that we were going through so much bottled water. What we did is went and got a Brita filter. It had an easy dispense spout on the front and held a gallon and a half or something like that. We would use that to fill up our bottles and that way, we had the convenience and had the "clean" taste that some people prefer. (I still can't tell the difference between cold filtered water and cold tap water).

Last but not least. Something that I've found works really well to increase the flavor of water that doesn't require any bottles, filters or anything like that is ice. By getting the water as cold as possible (obviously without freezing it) the flavors almost completely go away. Here's my favorite recipe. Take a regular glass, fill half way with ice cubes or crushed ice, top off glass with regular cold tap water and enjoy. Give it a try, see what you think.


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4/5/08 - Simple update

It has been quite some time since I have updated the site. Quite frankly, life has been busy (obviously with little Makenna around) and there hasn't been anything really exciting.

I did get the first two customers of the year with for GrassGuys and I'll be mowing their lawns tomorrow. These two for the rest of the summer won't be enough to break even. I had nearly 15 customers last year and I just barely did. Of course, this year, I've got all my equipment paid for, I'm just paying maintenance costs.

Thursday was a very eventful evening with the weather and stuff. Normally, I would not have retreated to the bathroom until I started getting really worried, but with a newborn baby, as soon as the weatherman said tornado, we were headed to our safety place. For some reason, the sirens near our house stayed on for about 30 minutes after the first wave of bad weather had passed. It also kept going during times of low wind and rain and based on the radar images the local news channels were showing, there was nothing in our area. That was frustrating because I just didn't want to take any chances with Makenna, so we stayed in the bathroom for most of the evening.

We finally ran into a situation where our Dish service became a problem. With the bad weather, we lost signal twice for about 10 minutes at a time. Obviously, we weren't looking for entertainment (although one of Cristi's shows didn't get recorded because of all this), but it would have been nice to have kept up with the storms.

Along those same lines, I am now a fan of Channel 11 news coverage. Growing up, we were a Channel 7 family. We watched the news every night and when bad weather came around, it was Channel 7. Quite frankly, something has changed because 7 sucks. Although we could get 4 and 11 just fine, for some reason the 7 signal was not strong enough for us to pick up. And when we did get it, the information they shared and the radar images they were putting up were useless. I switched between all three channels hoping to get as much info on the storm as possible but eventually, I quit going to 7 altogether. From now on, when bad weather is threatening, I'll be watching Channel 11. Although, I didn't check in on Fox 16, so I might have to give them a chance next time.

Raider had been sick since last Sunday, the day after we brought Makenna back home. He threw up about two days worth of food and so we took his food away so his stomach could settle down. The next day, I heard him drink some water, walk into the living room and throw up all the water he had just drank. Because of that, we took his water away. Typically, after about 24 hours, his stomach settles down and we put everything back down for him to have. He continued to throw up until Thursday night. We called on Tuesday to get an appointment with the vet and Friday morning was the earliest we could get. We did give him water in small quantities to keep him hydrated, but we took away his food. The vet gave him a couple shots and some antibiotics and he hasn't thrown up since (knock on wood). I'm pleased with how Cristi and I handled the situation because the doctor said everything was fine, he was not malnourished and his hydration level was very good. We are going to try to give him some more food this evening and see how that goes.


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4/1/08 - Stork's Choice Diaper Service Review

Cristi's mom, right after we announced that we were having a baby, offered to subscribe to a diaper service so that we would not have to worry about diapers, especially for the first year. We were EXTREMELY grateful as we knew this would save us the trouble of having to constantly head up to Wal-mart whenever we got low, and of course, it would save us the expense. The name of the service was Stork's Choice. We read up on the website, and it looked like the diapers they were going to be providing were very impressive. They almost made it sound like it was a special diaper that they were specially making. In fact, on their products page they give a description of the "Stork's Choice Premium Disposable Diapers".

The cost of this service is $49.95 per month. On their faq, they explain how many diapers you get, which seemed reasonable. They also offer to throw in "Stork's Choice Premium Pop-up Wipes" (also found at the bottom of their products page). The wipes are an extra $4.99 a month, and after reading through a bit more, you find that that only consists of 2 packs of 80 wipes each for a total of 160 wipes.

Here's where it gets really frustrating. First of all, the diapers are not "Premium", they aren't "Stork's Choice", the only thing they are is disposable diapers. You can buy the same brand at Wal-mart (Parent's Choice) for a little less than 6 dollars a pack. And although their faq states they send 8 bags of 26, they don't, they send 4 bags of 56. Still, close to the same amount, but the point is, the same diapers only cost a total of about 24 dollars at your local Wal-Mart. I don't think shipping costs 26 dollars, and even after they get a profit, that is way too high of a markup. Another thing to mention is that for the same amount of money, you can purchase the same number of Pampers Swaddlers at Wal-mart (or as you can see, even cheaper at Amazon.com)

It doesn't stop there. At first, we didn't realize it, but the wipes are a joke. First, they are not "Pop-up", they are not "Premium" and once again, they aren't even "Stork's Choice". We've gotten two different brands in the only two shipments we received. As far as quality, we could probably have gotten away with just wetting down a paper towel or some toilet paper, because these wipes were very thin. In comparison, on Amazon, you can buy 924 Luvs Wipes for $24.58. Find something else on Amazon.com for .42 cents and you get free shipping. Granted, this is about the same price, but the quality (I can only assume) is probably greater online. Besides that, a search for Baby Wipes returns several more options that are either cheaper and slightly better quality, or slightly more expensive and much higher quality.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest quality, I'd give this a 2. The only reason for the 2 and not a 1, is because it is convenient. You would never have to leave the house assuming you use an average number of diapers (of course, wipes you'd have to buy). But at the same time, you can order diapers online for cheaper, so the service is not any more convenient than Amazon.com. The items are overpriced and too low of quality. Cristi's mom has changed her method of hooking us up with diapers, and we thank her for that. I stand by my stance though that Stork's Choice is a horrible deal and should not be used.


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