5/31/08 - Bulk is not always better

So I actually have my wonderful dad to thank for this post. Because it is his fault that I am the way I am. For me, going to the grocery store is not a trip to purchase food, it's an opportunity to work on my math skills. As nerdy as that sounds, it's the truth.

I have several memories of when I was younger, getting the chance to go grocery shopping with my dad. I had to make sure I didn't have anything else to do for the rest of the night, because I wouldn't be home for a couple of hours. This did of course have as much to do with my dad having to buy groceries for three boys, plus himself and my mom as the fact that he always made sure to get the best bang for his buck on EVERY product that got put in the buggy.

This, of course, was nearly 20 years ago when you would get a better price per unit purchasing the bulk item rather than the smaller size packages of the same product. My dad always checked the prices on all the sizes, so I'm sure he probably recognized this shift in marketing long before I did. For me, though, it was just about 2 or 3 years ago that I noticed a huge change in unit pricing. Suddenly, there were quite a few bulk items that were more expensive per unit than their smaller counterparts.

I believe the first time I noticed it was for a bottle of Suave Shampoo or Conditioner for my wife. They had a two pack deal where the bottles were larger. Instantly, I picked it up and checked the price. After a few quick division problems, I realized that for the money, you could get more product by purchasing the smaller bottle.

More recently, I started eating eggs for breakfast every morning and then sometimes for dinner. At the time, Cristi and I would buy a dozen eggs basically every week during our shopping trip and it would last a week. My diet change required us to buy two and three dozen a week. I had never priced the bulk egg packages because I never felt that any price difference would merit having such a large number of eggs on hand. When I did finally price the eggs, I was surprised that the 2.5 dozen egg packages were more expensive per egg. It was a differnece of only about a penny or two per egg, but the principle was still there.

For me, the bulk egg packages came off as "off-brand" products, so I was expecting an even larger discount. Most other consumers probably thought the same thing. In fact, every time I've seen someone purchase the larger package of eggs, they appear to be living on a very tight grocery budget. I base this primarily on both the food they already have in their cart, and their clothing (very superficial, I know, but without taking a poll, it's all I've got to go on).

My last example is a comparison of Tide laundry detergent. We get the basic Tide product, mainly because I'm apparently allergic to all the other scents and special versions of Tide. Cristi and I have a Sam's Club card and use it quite often. Primarily we have used it for chicken, but more recently, diapers and wipes (which I will have a future post about). Every once in a while, we will price shop an item or two and compare it to Wal-mart prices. These are tyipcally non-perishable items such as detergent, batteries, etc. One of our price comparisons was for detergent and other laundry related items. Of the three items (Tide, Downy, Oxi-Clean), we expected Sam's to be greatly discounted because you were buying such a larger quantity. We were suprised to find that only one was a significant savings. The five pound box of Oxi-Clean saved us several dollars overall. Downy saved us about 25 cents a month on average and the Tide was actually more expensive (by only a fraction of a cent per ounce).

What brought this up is that one of the rss feeds that I read noticed that at many supermarkets and grocery stores, when product sizes change, they don't adjust the unit price. The example used was for Breyer's Ice Cream (I think) who recently changed their packaging from 1.75 quarts to 1.5 quarts without changing the sale price. My exact numbers might be off, but it made a significant difference in the unit price which could cause a consumer to purchase this new package thinking it was cheaper than another. I'm sure this is an honest mistake, but it makes me feel better about always checking and double checking the store posted unit prices.

In summary, I don't really trust unit prices that the stores put on their products. On top of that, many times, they don't provide this information, especially for non-grocery related items. At the end of the day, I might save 2 dollars every trip to the grocery store, but that can add up (assume the savings is put into a Roth-IRA diversified over multiple mutual funds averaging an annual rate of return of 8%) to the tune of $8 tax free (after 35 years). But really, it's my way of sticking it to the man, and that makes me feel good.

Next time you instinctively pick up that large bottle of (insert item here), think twice about whether or not you are getting the best deal. And on the other side, just because the bulk item is cheaper, doesn't always mean that you need 10 gallons of mayonnaise.

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5/30/08 - Lanolin product review

Anyone who has ever breastfed knows that you get sore nipples. Now there is a product called lanolin that is safe to use. You don’t have to wash it off because it is safe for the baby. It works really well to soothe sore nipples and help them heal. There are several different brands but I like, Lasinoh is one of them. The hospital gave me a brand called Purelan 100 which I don’t like as much. It is very thick and dark yellow and it stains my nursing pads. I also don’t feel like it works as well. The Lansinoh brand lanolin looks a lot like vasoline and has the same consistency. It is very effective and I use it often. I would highly recommend it. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a perfect product, I would have to rate this item a 9.

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5/21/08 - Have I mentioned I hate the dentist?

So yesterday, I went to the dentist for a routine checkup. It's been about a year since I had been, and I had noticed a rough spot on one of my teeth I wanted to get checked out so I set it up.

Now, I have to say, I have several strange fears. Holes in clothing for example freaks me out. Spiders terrify me and strings in general bother me quite a bit. But of all of these, my biggest fear is teeth. It's difficult to explain. Some people hate the thought or feel of metal on their own teeth. That only bothers me when someone else does it. I can rub a fork along my own teeth all day long. Some people are simply disgusted by dirty or dead teeth. For me, it was difficult to even type that line, in fact, I got the chills before it was finished. At the end of the day, I can do anything to my teeth, but no one else can get near them, and no one should ever have to touch anyone's teeth but their own.

Because of this, my trips to the dentist are horrible. I'm nervous from the time I walk in the door until I walk back out after the appointment. Several trips ago, I found that holding a wash rag in my hands helps, although my hands are sore from squeezing by the end of the visit. Lucky for me, my teeth were actually pretty clean, so she didn't have to scrape (typing that makes me cringe) very much. She did use a chocolate flavored paste to polish my teeth so that was a positive in the trip, it tasted great.

The bad news is that I need a filling that will be completed in about 6 months when I have to go back from my next cleaning. I've already signed up for the gas because it does help a little. The last time I had work done on my teeth, I got the gas, but I still had plenty of anxiety during the procedure. In fact, I had everything going for me, they had ESPN on the television, I had my mp3 player blaring music in my ears, and I was sucking in laughing gas like it was going out of style. On top of that, they were pumping the max amount of gas to my nose that their system allowed. Still, I was cringing, squeezing the rags and shaking through the whole thing.

I don't even want to think what this next one is going to be like because they don't have cable and they only run...get this...video of other patients who had really bad teeth. So they show before and after shots of some really bad teeth. Also, I should mention that most places have pretty pictures of like the beach, or relaxing type scenes hanging on the wall. Not at this place, they've got all sorts of teeth advertisements showing what your teeth will look like before and after using their product. I'm just hoping that I can stay focused on the gas enough to virtually put me unconcious through the whole thing.

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5/20/08 - Makenna has gained the weight

Since last week, Makenna has gained 8 ounces. The goal was 6 ounces so the doctor was very pleased. He said he is comfortable with Cristi continuing breastfeeding and no formula supplement will be needed. He did say that when we go back in two months, that he would like to see her around 10 pounds or so. That means that Cristi's schedule is going to have to continue to be very frequent which means in turn that she is going to not get much sleep for a while.

The biggest thing that we learned from this is that it is very important that young babies eat at least every two hours when breastfed. They should also be woken at least every three hours at night to feed, regardless if they act hunger or not. We realized recently that many of the signs that Makenna was giving off were actually signs of hunger and not sleepiness. Since we started listening better, she has more energy and is a much happier baby.

Thank you for everyone who was praying for us and thinking about us. We still need prayer as it will be difficult to keep up this feeding marathon and make sure Makenna is growing the way she should.

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5/19/08 - Short weekend...but nice

Friday night, I went to the massive Arkansas town of Monticello. I headed down 530 through Pine Bluff and then I believe it was 425 to Monticello. There is nothing down there. I went down to watch my of my favorite people graduate high school. Cheyenne was a junior bridesmaid in my wedding and we have been great friends both before and since then. She was in fact the valedictorian of her class of I believe 142 and has been accepted into OBU with a very lucrative scholarship. I know she's going to have a blast down there. (plus, she said she would get me tickets to Tiger Tunes next year).

While I was down there, I ate at a place called Ray's. I don't think it was Ray's Diner or Ray's One stop. I think it was just "Ray's". Whatever the case, I had high hopes because Cristi and I have been watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food network with Guy whatever his name is. They always have great food, great atmosphere, and so on. I was not so lucky with Ray's. I asked the girl at the counter to order for me and get whatever was best. I ended up with a barbecue sandwich and an order of onion rings, both of which I typically love. The onion rings were supposedly homemade, and had more fried batter than actually onion ring. I would not recommend them. I thought the sandwich was very good, but it just tasted like the barbeque you get in a cafeteria when the stuff is made in mass quantities. It filled me up, but didn't leave me begging for more.

Saturdsay was completely uneventful as I hoped it would be. Cristi and I stayed in bed with my wonderful baby girl until around noon. We watched TV, talked, laughed and basically just "wasted" time. Around 2:00 or so, we headed up to Kroger to get some groceries and when we got back, I helped a friend of mine move his two incredibly awesome new TVs into his new house. I can't wait to see them hooked up. I had another errand to run after that, but was home not longer after. The rest of the night was spent hanging out with Makenna and then my parents came over and my dad helped me run surround sound in the living room. I finally finished it all last night, but it sounds AWESOME.

Sunday, we made it to church for Bro. Horton's last sunday as the church's pastor. It was a really cool service and very touching as he passed the torch to Bro. Jason. Afterwards, our sunday school had a picnic in Toad Suck (yes, that really is a place) on the river. We had hamburgers and hot dogs and basically just talked. I did find out that my website apparently has more fans than I realized. After we got back home from the picnic, I spent the afternoon spreading mulch in flower beds and then taking my parents out to eat for dad's birthday and a late mother's day dinner.

Next weekend is Memorial Day which means a 3 day weekend. I'm hoping that we will be able to get our pool setup over the weekend, although I'll probably start doing some of the work as early as Tuesday of this week. I'm really excited about getting the pool setup because this summer, my job is offering flex time which allows you to work four 10 hours days and get a day off every week. I get Wednesday's off so hopefully every Wednesday for the rest of the summer will be nice and sunny so I can hang out by the pool with Makenna and Cristi.

Softball game tonight which should be interesting because it's at 8:30, I'm already tired and I'm trying to get sick. I do have tomorrow off for doctor's appointments so it's not as big of a deal that I'll be getting to bed late, but I don't want my fatigue to have a negative impact on my performance this evening.

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5/16/08 - Breast pump review

This is obviously another guest post from Cristi as she reviews the breast pump she has been using.

Since I’m going back to work in a few weeks I have started using a breast pump to build up a supply of breast milk for when I go back to work. I use the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. I love it. It comes in a very stylish bag that is not too big or too small. The pump is inside the bag, but you never have to take it out to use it. The front of the bag has a zipper that you unzip and there is the pump, ready to use. The instructions were very simple and it is very easy to set up and use. It comes with a cooler and ice pack that fits the four 5oz bottles that come with the pump. It also comes with a pack of cotton washable nursing pads and a package of disposable nursing pads and some plastic storage bags for freezing milk. Although it is expensive I would highly recommend this product to everyone. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a perfect product, I would have to rate this item a 10, it really is that great of a product.

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5/14/08 - Makenna's doctor update

Yesterday afternoon, Makenna had her second wellness checkup. She is in perfect health from head to toe with the exception of her weight. She currently weighs 6 pounds 14 ounces (12 ounces without a diaper) which means she has only gained a total of 2-4 ounces since birth.

There is no question that she is eating. Cristi feeds her every three hours, sometimes two. For some reason, she just isn't getting the calories and fat that she needs.

For the next week, Cristi is going to start feeding every two hours and she will start waking her up every three hours or so to feed her at night. The goal is to gain roughly 6 ounces by next Tuesday. If she can do that, we won't have to start adding two ounces of formula after ever feeding.

This is really important to Cristi that she be able to breastfeed only, so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. After these couple of trials, if Makenna is still not gaining weight, we will have to run more tests to see what's going on.

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5/13/08 - I'm busy

Seriously, way busy. I took on a landscaping project that has taken up more of my time that I thought. I haven't been on my computer at home in over a week. I haven't turned on the 360 since probably last Wednesday.

Quick notes, that I'll go into more detail hopefully sooner rather than later. The landscaping job is pretty cool, we got our economic stimulus payment, makenna is awesome, scholastic books has already upset me, medical bills are ridiculous and not just because of prices, it's the inability of companies to properly handle and process through insurance, and more things that I can't think of right now.

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5/7/08 - Nipple Shield product review

As you will probably quickly notice, this is another product review from Cristi. She has written several more posts that I will put up over the next several days.

The first week that Makenna was born I had a problem with my nipples cracking. This is VERY painful and I didn’t know what to do. Someone told me to try a nipple shield. This product turned out to be a curse and a blessing. I use the Medela contact nipple shield. When I first started using it I thought it was great because although it still hurt to breastfeed, it was much less painful and allowed my nipples to heal. I thought once I was healed I would go back to nursing as usual and get rid of the shield. I was wrong. What I didn’t know is that once you use the shield you are stuck with it. After a week of using the shield I tried to nurse without it and Makenna wouldn’t nurse. She is almost 7 weeks old and I have tried numerous times to get her to nurse without it and she just won’t do it. So, I guess we are stuck with it. At home it isn’t a big deal to use the shield, but in public it is just one more thing to mess with and makes nursing very difficult. The next time we have a baby I will not be using the shield unless absolutely necessary. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a perfect product, I would have to rate this item a 7 because it's very effective for it's intended use but then the baby relies on it.

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5/6/08 - Today is a good day

So far, today has been great. I have nothing really to share with anyone, just that it's a good day.

A while back Cristi had some pictures taken of makenna, and they are now on the photographer's website.

Makenna pictures

I haven't been posting, simply because I've been pretty busy. Softball has been awesome and lawncare, although not taking up ALL my time, has consumed a fair amount. On top of that, I haven't really had anything to share. Also, with the PayPerPost deal, for some reason, they lowered all my rankings so I am no longer eligible for any of the offers. That really sucks, because I don't know what happened to cause my rating to drop.

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5/2/08 - Goings on

Wendesday was one of my the best days of my life. I guess that is actually an exaggeration, but it was a great day. Well, that evening was nice. Here's the story. Cristi's mom came in that afternoon, so it was nice to see here again. She'll be here for a week so she can spend some time with Makenna and of course Cristi. Since she flew in, she didn't feel like cooking so Cristi decided she wanted to eat at Bennigan's. We used to have one in Little Rock off of University, but it closed and a new one opened off of Pershing attached to the Holiday Inn.

I've eaten there a few times and enjoyed it, but never wanted to go out of my way to eat there. I perused the menu, and decided that a hamburger sounded pretty good. After looking through my options, I came across this gem: GUINNESS® GLAZED BACON CHEESEBURGER - A juicy grilled beef patty brushed with our Guinness Stout Glaze and topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy fried onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles. Served with a side of Guinness Stout Glaze. Not only was the description incredible, there was a picture of this half pound monster. I couldn't resist even at the seemingly overpriced $8.29.

That's about the time the waiter walked up and took our drink order. He also kindly let us know that Wednesday nights at Bennigan's, all of their hamburgers (not including their pitaburgers) are priced at $4.99. EVEN THEIR GUINNESS® GLAZED BACON CHEESEBURGER. Needless to say, I ordered it basically on the spot before he could change his mind. Cristi's mom also ordered the same and Cristi got the Monte Cristo.

The burger was incredible. The fries were cooked and seasoned perfectly and the glaze made for a wonderful dipping sauce. All said and done, we all ate for less than $20 and took about a full order of fries and half the Monte Cristo home which is large enough for another meal. I HIGHLY recommend that if you are in the mood for a burger, head over to Bennigan's, especially if it's a Wednesday.

In other news, one of my favorite sites, Digg has now been blocked at work. I don't spend much time surfing the web at work, but when I do, it's for a pretty good reason...my brain is pretty much fried. It is a social networking site that allows the users of the site to submit news stories and then vote on them. The most popular stories get promoted to the front page so other users can then quickly get a glimpse of the most popular things happening at the moment. I'm very saddened by this turn of events.

Hopefully within the next couple of days, I'll get some more product reviews put up from Cristi. She wrote up four of the items she's used for breastfeeding that hopefully someone, somewhere will find interesting.

Quick, brief Makenna update. She's been really good. She has struggled with stomach aches (she can thank her mom and dad both for that) the last couple of days which has kept her pretty fussy during the day. At night though she has averaged about 9 hours of sleep every night so we can't complain about that. She is really starting to be able to hold her head up on her own which I assume is good since she just turned 7 weeks old on thursday. She has a doctor's appointment on the 13th, so I guess we'll find out then if she is developing on schedule and stuff. She still weighs under 8 pounds the last time we weighed her even though she eats almost non-stop.

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